Tricking the Microsoft Band into Quicker Paces and Shorter Treadmill Runs

Tricking the Microsoft Band into Quicker Paces and Shorter Treadmill Runs

The Microsoft Band is a fantastic fitness device and I swear by it. And, I fully expect the second version to be an even bigger success and a much improved device. Even since the secret launch last year, Microsoft has tweaked, adjusted, and greatly improved the first version through firmware updates.

That said, it does have some quirks. And, one of those quirks can lead to some very inaccurate results.

Those that have read through some of my previous Microsoft Band articles, know that I generally refer to the treadmill as the dreadmill. I'm not a treadmill runner and will generally only opt for it when the weather is just too horrible, or some other factor keeps me holed up inside like not knowing the area when traveling. I don't know about you, but I feel like if I don't run outside I haven't run for the day. It's just not the same. Call that my own quirk.  However, after killing my last treadmill after 10 years of Ohio winters, I finally snagged a new one, which actually makes the experience less dreadful. I've run on many different treadmills while traveling, so you could say I've spent quite a bit of time with hands-on research. The new treadmill has a built-in speaker (for streaming Netflix from my Surface Pro 3), one-touch controls, a two-speed fan, LCD screen, adjustable surface rigidity, and other things. It’s a luxury item compared to the original one.

Summer in Ohio over the last couple weeks has been wet. Torrential downpours and flooded roadways have landed me on the treadmill more often than normal for this time of year. One thing I've noticed and spent a few rainy days testing is the discrepancy between what the treadmill readout displays and what the Microsoft Band records. I've noticed this since owning the Microsoft Band, but just decided to dig a bit deeper into the whys and wherefores.

The Microsoft Band uses GPS, pace, heart rate, elevation, and etc. to pull together some pretty accurate tracking statistics. There's been articles recently telling how, for runners, the Microsoft Band is a much better choice than the Apple Watch according to results. Others have reported that the Microsoft Band is also extremely close in precision to the purported most accurate devices from Garmin. The Microsoft Band uses the GPS-collected data to learn you over time (pace, effort, etc.), and apply that to your treadmill runs, and it's supposed to get more accurate over time. But, unfortunately, the Microsoft Band doesn't take into account that not everyone runs in the same style.

I have a couple different running styles that I utilize – on purpose. For faster runs I carry my arms a bit differently than for runs I've planned to be longer and slower. I also consciously change my style and form for hills for speed and duration. These are things that I've learned over the many years of running through trial and error. For me, it works. There are those that say you should not run every day, but I do. And, the reason I'm able to without injury or fatigue is simply because of my personally concocted running style. I'm not the person to analyze another's running style and make suggestions, I just know what works for me. Believe me, there are many styles and I see them regularly spending time in hotel gyms.

All that leads to this: a simple change in your arm position during treadmill runs alters the pace at which the Microsoft Band records.

For longer, slower runs I dangle my hands right around my waist area, and I allow my arms to swing from my shoulders effortlessly. This allows me to run more miles without getting shoulder cramp – which leads to quicker fatigue. For shorter, faster runs, I pull my hands just under my chest and use my arms for momentum, almost uppercut punching the space in front of me.

Switching between these two different arm locations when running on the treadmill (without changing the speed of the treadmill belt or my foot pace), alters the Microsoft Band's pace by almost exactly 12 seconds every time.

So, maybe the Microsoft Band is doing too good a job, recognizing my different running styles and applying those to my arm position? Or, it's quite possible that the sensors in the Microsoft Band are tuned according to a single running style. I say that because additionally, running style seems to have another unexpected result for treadmill running with the Microsoft Band. When I run, I always take short, quick strides. This seems to confuse the Microsoft Band somewhat as it considers I'm constantly covering more ground than the treadmill thinks I am. When the Microsoft Band tells me that I've completed 5 miles, the treadmill says I've completed 4.5 miles. And the longer I run, the more I seem to outpace the treadmill according to the Microsoft Band.

When GPS is involved, the Microsoft Band is fantastically accurate (or, so it seems). However, when GPS is off and the treadmill is running, that seems to be a much different story. I'm not ready to ditch the Microsoft Band because of this, because I don't believe there's any sure alternative. Tracking non-GPS related activities is going to be tough for any fitness tracker manufacturer unless the devices can be paired directly with the treadmill itself. And, that's what I'm hoping for, really. It would be great for Microsoft to partner with leading treadmill manufacturers to provide Bluetooth connection capability for the Microsoft Band, or even a direct Microsoft Health integration. Another thing for the Microsoft Band v2 wish list.

How about you? Have you noticed the same discrepancies?

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