The Microsoft Band is a good fitness companion. It tracks GPS and treadmill running, biking, impromptu or self-styled workouts, and provides guided workouts. In addition to hammering away at running, I've been testing the guided workouts for a few weeks.
As someone who has experience with exercising, it's important to me to change things up regularly and vary my workouts every 4-5 weeks. Over the years I've developed a system to systematically improve and to challenge myself. I'm someone who has worked out almost his entire life and I'll dig deeper into my experiences with the workout tracking in another post soon.
The Microsoft Health app offers a good selection of guided workouts. It offers weight and body weight workouts and they range from beginner to advanced. There's 125 in all right now and a good portion are based on Tabata training.
Tabata training is a Japanese invention. It combines aerobic (cardiovascular) and anaerobic (muscle) exercises into a short, high intensity session. You take 4-6 different exercises and perform them in a circuit, tracking by time instead of rep. For example, combine pushups, squats, rows, and sit-ups, do each exercise for 20 seconds with only a 10 second before moving to the next exercise, and perform eight rounds. There's evidence to show that this type of workout has immediate dividends. And, of course, it’s a great system for those without a lot of time to exercise.
Of the 125 workouts provided in the Microsoft Health app for the Microsoft Band, 34 are Tabata. Some of these offer only a single exercise instead of a group of exercises. So, it goes without saying, that eventually you'll run out of options with which to vary your routine. I actually found that out pretty quickly. I needed something more challenging, though I really enjoyed the shorter but demanding routines.
A newer app, Tabata+ for Windows Phone, integrates with the Microsoft Band and allows you to create your own Tabata routines.
The app is pretty simple. It needs work, but it has a lot of potential.
When you start the app it connects to the Microsoft Band and tells you when it's successfully connected using voice: "Connected to Microsoft Band." This same voice is used throughout your workouts, giving you a 3 second countdown for exercise starts and finishes and the end of a rest period.
Tabata+ works through a simple screen, allowing you to track by date, show onscreen progress, and to initiate the workout session.
The Settings screen is where you create your own workouts. Here you can customize by adding exercises to create your own routine, modify the time for each exercise, the rest period, and the total number of sets.
The big difference between Tabata+ and the Microsoft Health app, is that workouts aren't downloaded directly to the Microsoft Band. Your phone is required to be within range of the Microsoft Band (30 feet for Bluetooth). The vibration notifications are pushed to the Microsoft Band from the phone. Another difference, is that the Microsoft Health guided workouts track your progress automatically (heart rate, calories, time, etc.), but to track your progress with Tabata+, so that it is stored in your Microsoft Health account, you have to initiate a manual workout on the Microsoft Band. It's really not a big deal, just not as convenient.
The manual exercise tracking feature works great on its own. Here's my latest test using the manual exercise function with a customized Tabata+ routine.
As you can see from my Microsoft Health dashboard, I did hit both the aerobic and anaerobic ranges. Truth told, I didn't feel challenged enough, but using Tabata+ I can adjust that on my own instead of just relying on the ones provided in the Microsoft Health app.
There is one big bug in the app right now, though. No matter how you adjust the Sets function, the app will only go through a single set. It seems the developer forgot to include an IF ELSE loop in the code. To execute a new set you have to actually exit the app, go back in, and restart the routine.
There's some real potential here. The Microsoft Band integration was just added with a March update so the functionality is in its infancy. In the next update I'd love to see the bug fixed and would be extremely excited if customized routines could be downloadable directly to the Microsoft Band and work with the guided exercise feature. I'd also like to see the ability to create and save multiple routines. Notwithstanding the bug and the differences, this is an app to try out, as I'm sure it's only going to get a lot better.
Tabata+ is available for Windows Phone 8.1 in the Windows Phone store: Tabata+