Gear Review: Mio Fuse Activity Tracker + HR Monitor

With technology becoming more precise and people becoming more obsessed with using data to fine tune their workouts, the popularity of wearables continues to grow.  While it appears that some degree of convergence is taking place, the perfect all-in-one device for the right price point continues to be elusive.  Even for a mountain trail runner and self-proclaimed data geek that is loyal to my Garmin Fenix watch, I still find it to be overkill with some things and lacking in others, such as cross training activities like weight lifting and circuit training.  For one, I HATE wearing heart rate straps.  Second, my watch is really geared toward running-related activities, not those with less forward movement.  It is for these reasons that I ultimately discovered the Mio Fuse.  Initially, I was looking for something that was easy to use that would allow me to keep track of my heart rate without using a strap.  After using it though, I found that I could get much more out of it.  Let’s take a look…

In The Box

The Mio Fuse comes in a very small, eco-friendly package.  It is usable within a couple minutes of taking it out the box after some quick configuration (through the Mio Go smart phone app).  It also comes in two different sizes, based on your wrist size.

MioFuse1

Price: $149, includes:

  • Watch
  • USB Charger

I found the price of the watch to be comparable to other wearables on the market with similar functionality.

Look and Feel

The Mio Fuse is primarily black with an accent color (currently blue for the smaller version and red for the larger).  It has a somewhat wider look to it, being about 1 1/4″ at its widest point.  The band is rubberized, making it comfortable during active and everyday wear.  I have worn it for several days without taking it off with no comfort issues.  I did find that if I wear it too tight, the holes on the band do start to bother me wrist, but that is quickly resolved by adjusting the fit.

MioFuse2

Feature Overview

The Mio Fuse offers a number of benefits, both from an activity tracker and heart rate monitor perspective.

  • The key feature of Mio products are their ability to accurately track your heart rate through your wrist using a sensor on the underside of the device.  YAY, NO STRAPS!  In fact, Mio is a leading patent owner in this technology (many other brands actually use Mio technology).  What’s more, I found the accuracy to be perfect.  When wearing my heart rate strap at the same time, the numbers to be nearly identical, with the strap being more flaky at times than the Fuse.
  • Activity tracker and workout modes allow you to track your key stats.  This allows you to use the device all day.  The HR sensor only functions in workout mode, which allows you to Maximize battery life.  Stats, such as distance and pace are calculated using an internal accelerometer, all based on your movement throughout the day.
  • Touch activated buttons on the Fuse allow you to quickly cycle through your data.  Key information includes:
    • Time
    • Distance
    • Calories
    • Steps (in activity mode)
    • Heart Rate (in workout mode)
    • Goal
  • The battery life is pretty solid, with about seven days during activity mode and over six hours in activity mode.  This on par or longer with many of the other devices on the market.  The USB charger has a small footprint and snaps magnetically to the back of the watch, charging through contacts on the back.

Smart Phone Integration

The Mio Fuse easily integrates to iOS and Android smart phones through the Mio Go app.  I read some unfavorable early reviews of the iPhone app, but I have to say that my experience was quite the opposite.  This tells me that Mio listened to the feedback and made the necessary improvements to the app.  It provides a clean, easy to use interface for configuring the Fuse and provides all of the key data, including steps, distance, calorie burn, average speed, average heart rate, and pace.

MioGo1     MioGo2

Key Uses for the Endurance Runner

As I mentioned, I am an avid fan of my Garmin watch for my running activities, so I wasn’t sure how the Mio Fuse would fit in to what I do.  I did find a few instances were the Fuse is beneficial from this perspective.

  • I have officiallt started to use the Fuse in place of my HR strap on all of my runs.  It easily syncs with my Garmin, allowing me to ditch my HR strap.
  • The Fuse is much better during cross training, where my HR strap would often get in the way and cause discomfort.
  • Many of the higher end watches, my Garmin Fenix 3 included, have a large wrist footprint.  As a guy with somewhat smaller wrists, I have found that I prefer to wear the Mio Fuse for everyday wear.

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • Extremely accurate heart rate tracking through the wrist.  Mio nailed it with their HR technology.  I found it to be as accurate as my heart rate strap and more reliable.
  • Works with my Garmin via ANT+.  This allows me to use it as my HR monitor when I am running in place of the strap.
  • Comfortable for everyday wear.

Cons

  • I have found that the steps and distance underestimate by about 15% compared to other devices.  I understand that this is on purpose as Mio believes other brands often overestimate, but you definitely need to take it into account.  On the bright side, if it gets you to walk even more steps in actuality to meet your goal, that isn’t a bad thing right?
  • No sleep mode.  A lot of people like to track their sleep patterns and heart rate.  I think this a key missing features versus some of their competition.

Conclusion

I also love the innovative mindset of the company and I have really enjoyed my Mio Fuse overall.  As an endurance runner, such as myself, using it in cooperation with my Garmin is fantastic.  I love that I can get rid of my heart rate monitor strap.  I think this is also a strong option for users looking for a solid activity tracker that they can also use to track their heart rate workouts, but don’t necessarily want to break the bank.  The current version of the Mio Go app and its simplicity definitely rounds out the great user experience of the product.  Overall, I would say that given the solid features and functions of the Mio Fuse and the trailblazing approach of the folks at Mio, this product is definitely worth a look.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

My Perspective on Cross-Training for Trail Runners

As a long distance/endurance runner, I find it much too easy to push cross-training to the back burner or skip it all together.  It is not generally an intentional thing, but like most people with children and a full time job that is not running related, I have to balance my time while also maintaining my target mileage each week.  The truth is, I often have to remind myself just how important cross training is for a trail runners overall health and performance.  What many people don’t realize is that by giving a little leeway on your weekly mileage to allow for cross training is critical for reaching your goals.  For someone that is obsessed with the numbers, such as myself, this is easier said than done.  Still, over the years, I have more or less managed to find the right kind of activities and the right balance that works for me and I want to share some of these thoughts with you.  Here are some of the best cross training activities that I have found for trail runners.

Balance and Stability

I list this one ahead of all others mostly because, as a runner with weak ankles, I find it important to focus on my stabilizing and joint-supporting muscles.  This has helped my body handle the obstacles and uneven terrain found on most trails, which has helped prevent rolled ankles, messed up hips, and other alignment-based maladies.  There are a ton of workouts and tools out there to help with balance and stability; Yoga, one-legged strength workouts, and slacklining are a few.  These all help strengthen the stabilizing muscles that aid in balance and stability on uneven terrain.

My preferred exercises: Yoga, One-leg strength workouts
Recommended tools: Wobble board, slack line

Circuit Training

Circuit training typically incorporates quick, multi-directional movement alongside body weight strength exercises.  Most of these workouts provide a good alternative to speedwork because they are designed to develop you anaerobically.  The side to side speed movement often found in these workouts is also beneficial for strengthening the stabilizing muscles.  There are many different forms of circuit training.  I have personally found that using workouts, such as P90X or Insanity, are ideal for me because of their convenience and completeness of the workouts.

My preferred exercises: Home workouts (Insanity, P90X, etc.)

Sports

If you need something a little more engaging or “fun”, playing sports is also a great way to cross train.  The most common for runners seems to be biking.  Perhaps because it is also thought of as an endurance sport and can take place on the same terrain.  My personal favorite is basketball or soccer.  While I am not technically proficient at either, both provide an excellent cardio workout and much of the same explosive, side to side movements found in circuit training.  As team sports, they also are a great social activity…I just wish I did them more often.

My preferred exercises: Basketball, soccer

Strength/Body Weight

Most runners focus so much on their legs and core, but often overlook the importance of maintaining at least a degree of functional strength in their upper body.  Having a strong upper body is extremely helpful in maintaining your form, especially later in a run when fatigue starts to set in.  While many of the previously mentioned methods of training will work the core and legs, they don’t necessarily work the upper body.  I have found body weight-type exercises to be sufficient for most runners.  Adding a couple reps of push-ups, pull-ups, and bicep/tricep exercises in generally pretty sufficient.

My preferred exercises: Body weight exercises added at the end of a run

As a have said, it is difficult for most people to fit it all in while keeping up their mileage.  The approach that has worked best for me is to cut my mileage in half a couple days a week and then pair it with a 30 minute circuit training workout.  I try to stay flexible with what workout I do, but try to focus on things that target specific weaknesses.  Also, whenever I need to take a leg rest day, I will incorporate some level of upper body workout.  This gives my legs a rest day and frees up time to do something harder for my upper body.  During the offseason, I tend to lower my mileage to get some recovery in from running and substitute it in with added cross training.

The purpose of this post was to reiterate the importance of cross training and give you some ideas based on my approach.  In reality, everyone is different and therefore will need to determine what approach works best for them in the time that they have.  What does seem to be consistent across all endurance athletes though is that we all need some cross training to maximize our performance and reduce or even eliminate injuries.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Product Review: Orange Mud Duffel/Gym Bag

Orange Mud’s mantra is “Innovation from Frustration”.  Josh, CEO of Orange Mud and chief mastermind behind their products, gets inspired to create whenever he sees athletes struggle to use the very gear that is supposed to aid them in their endeavors.  He took this to heart with the first HydraQuiver hydration pack and every product that they have introduced since.  Frustrated with the lack of durability, form, and function of most of the duffel-style bags on the market, he wanted to introduce one that was designed by athletes, for athletes.  The new Orange Mud Modular Duffel/Gym bag is the result.  Let’s take a look at it.

Orange Mud Duffel Bag

DISCLAIMER: At the time of this review, I am a member of the Orange Mud Ambassador team.

Product Overview

Product Link: Orange Mud Duffel Bag
Price: $170

As a trail runner that really loves toys and gear, I have a lot of stuff to keep track of.  If you are like me (and I know most of you are), the back/trunk of your car is probably a hodge-podge of disorganized running stuff that tends to pile up with the passing of time.  I have tried to use a regular duffel bag to keep it organized, but still end up spending way too much time looking for the one item that I need within the bag full of stuff.  The Orange Mud duffel bag and its modular design provides the perfect solution.  In addition to the tough construction and high quality that is typical with all OM products, the bag itself has a number of features that you will love:

DCIM102GOPRO    OM Duffel Modular Bags      Orange Mud Duffel Shoe Bag
(Take a look at the full-size pictures by clicking on them)

  1. LOTS of storage space for your larger items in the main compartment of the bag.
  2. A side-accessible, detachable shoe bag that keeps your dirty shoes away from the rest of your gear.  The bag itself can also be taken out for quick cleaning.
  3. Two detachable modular bags inside of the larger compartment to help keep your stuff organized.
    1. If you like to change clothes after a long run, the larger bag is ideal for keeping your dirty, sweaty clothes separated from the rest of your gear.  This bag also has a handle on it, making it easy to carry on its own.  It can also be used as a drop bag too.
    2. The smaller bag is ideal for keeping your smaller items in one place.  Because it resides inside the bag, it is perfect for some of your more valuable items, such as your wallet, phone, keys, headlamp, etc.
  4. Four external zip pouches that allow for additional storage and quick, easy access for all of your essential items.  I use these pouches for nutrition, toiletries, spare socks, gloves, hats, etc.
  5. Durable construction and materials using military-grade canvas for the bag and seatbelt material for the straps/handles.

Conclusion
For the Mountain and Ultra trail runner (which is the perspective I do most of my reviews from), this bag is awesome.  It makes a PERFECT trunk bag (the one you keep in your car at all times and use to organize your stuff), a crew/drop bag on race day, or everyday gym bag.  This is also durable enough to use as a travel bag too.  While the price may seem a little steep, I always believe that you get what you pay for.  What you are getting with this bag is a rough and tough duffel that will last, the flexibility of a truly modular design, and less frustration in those times when you need to find that ONE important thing.  If you are in the market for a bag, this is definitely the one you need!

I hope you found this review informative.  If you like something a bit more interactive (and don’t mind my so-so presentation skills), I also recorded a two-part video review.  They can be found here:

Part 1: Feature Overview
http://youtu.be/XDe3MjcVKu8
Part 2: Loading Up the Bag
http://youtu.be/YEoMa9PzlGI

If you are interested in checking this or any other Orange Mud products #out, swing on over to their site by clicking this link.  You can use the code THEMANJOE to get 10% off of your order.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!