Wahoo Run/Gym Pack Review

Earlier this year, my fit-as-a-fiddle brother in-law with beach body physique got me started on the “Insanity” workout.  I was halfway through the 10-week regimen when a nasty wrist injury decided it was time for me to find a less aggressive form of exercise.  So I started counting my calories and logged my less strenuous exercise with an everyday chest strap heart rate monitor.  But was I counting my calories burned accurately?  Then the Wahoo Run/Gym Pack came my way.  Apple iPhone/iPod integration?  Sounds neat!

The kit comes with a chest strap and iPhone/iPod dock dongle.  The chest transmitter is ANT+ compatible, which works with other ANT+ devices found on other heart rate monitors, including gym equipment.

The ANT+ transmitter snaps onto the elastic chest strap.

The transmitter is about the thickness of a Sharpie pen.

The Wahoo dongle fits nicely in the iPhone 4, even with the bumper case on.

View of dongle and iPhone 4 without bumper case.

No iPhone? Works with the iPod Touch!

Side view. The dongle is about as thick as the iPod Touch.

When you first plug in the dongle, you’ll see this warning screen.  I downloaded the free Wahoo app from the App Store.

Note that many other compatible apps can be found from the Wahoo App webpage.

Many, may different apps available from Wahoo.

There are a thousand and one different settings on the Wahoo app.  I was a little overwhelmed, but I wanted to try this thing against my trusty Polar heart rate monitor.  I found the Wahoo setup page, entered my age, height, gender, weight and max heartrate.  I didn’t know what my max heart rate was off the top of my head, so I let the app auto calculate it for me based on my age.

Testing

To test the Wahoo versus my Polar heart rate monitor, I wore both.  Yes, I strapped TWO transmitters on my chest.  Since the Wahoo and Polar use different protocols, they can work side by side.  Perfect!  I hopped on my elliptical machine for a while to see what happened.

The Wahoo app gives you a choice of different screens to swipe through, much like an iOS or Android homepage.  If one screen isn’t useful, there’s bound to be one that suits you better depending on your preferences.

Notice how some screens list GPS?  That’s because if you’re exercising outdoors, you can use the iPhone’s GPS to track your progress.  Since I was indoors, I didn’t try this.  Wahoo also sells a stride sensor or bike cadence sensor as well.

I don’t listen to music when I exercise.  But if you do, the Wahoo still routes audio through  your headphones as you’re working out, with an additional feature:  You can program the device to give you voice announcements on an endless array of things, triggered by time, distance, etc.

You have two voice choices: Male or female. They both sound clear and non-robotic.

Just a FEW of the things the Wahoo app will speak to you as you work out.

Test Results

What I really wanted to know is how the Wahoo heart rate monitor manages to calculate calories burned vs. my Polar heart rate monitor.  Obviously, neither of these are completely accurate when compared to professional methods (room calorimeter, carbon dioxide measurements).  But I knew these MUST be more accurate than the calorie counter on my elliptical machine, that doesn’t use heart rate to calculate calories burned.  I find it gives me way higher numbers vs. my Polar heart rate monitor.  I’d rather err on the conservative side, and not fool myself into thinking I’m doing more than I really am.

After a very short workout, here’s what I found:

Elliptical Machine:  210 calories

Wahoo:  203 calories

Polar:  134 calories

Huh?  Yes, the Wahoo was actually much closer to the elliptical machine’s calorie estimate.  I emailed Wahoo for some answers, and was told that I needed to update to the latest app for more accurate readings.  But I was already running the latest version, so I asked what formula the Wahoo was using to compute calories burned.

I was surprised when the responded.  According the Wahoo, the formula they use is:

(for men)

calories burned = (0.2017 x age in years + 0.09036 x weight in pounds + 0.6309 x average heart rate – 55.0969) x elapsed time / 4.184.

(for women)

calories burned = (0.074 x age in years – 0.05741 x weight in pounds + 0.4472 x average heart rate – 20.4022) x time elapsed / 4.184.

Wahoo actually pointed me to this Livestrong web page with the formula they use.  I manually calculated the calories burned by taking my age, weight, average heart rate (reported by the Wahoo app) and elapsed time, and got nearly the exact same figure of 203 calories burned.

Since both the Wahoo and Polar use the same user parameters (age, weight, gender) I can only surmise that Polar uses a more conservative algorithm to calculate calories burned vs. the Wahoo.

Conclusions

The Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym pack is a neat way to visualize your workout progress.  If the standard Wahoo app doesn’t cut it, there are dozens of others (some free, some paid) you can try.  The ANT+ protocol ensures you can use other manufacturer’s transmitters (just not Polar).  And if you wear headphones, the voice notifications are a neat touch.

For me, I don’t listen to music when I exercise, and my Polar combo (chest strap and watch) is a far smaller package for me to carry.  But if you’re already working out with an iPhone/iPod Touch, this might be a good thing.

 

Product Information

Price:$119.99
Manufacturer:Wahoo Fitness
Requirements:
  • iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, iPod touch, iPad
Pros:
  • Many apps to choose from. ANT+ protocol means you can use your own sensors if you have them. Voice alerts are a neat touch.
Cons:
  • The stock Wahoo app calculates calories burned higher than the Polar heart rate monitors. An iPhone/iPod Touch is bigger and heavier vs. a watch-based heart rate monitor.
Posted in: Health, Fitness, Sports, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Reviews

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • thsu October 4, 2011, 8:05 pm

    I did Insanity for a while too. It really helped with my cardio, but didn’t do much for my overall weight.

    Then I really started looking into weight loss, and my main discovery was that lifting free weights and eating right crushes aerobic exercise when it comes to weight loss.

    Once I started the free weights and eating better, the results were much more dramatic. Note that I do not diet, I just eat healthier.

    1
  • Jack October 5, 2011, 4:58 pm

    All that expense just to go jogging is insane :(

    2
  • Uggi June 14, 2012, 5:21 am

    There is another option you dont mention.

    Since you use both monitors at the same time – did they read the same heartrate!?

    The algorithm could possibly be the same if your polar had a different pulse reading than your Wahoo that would be a difference.

    @Jack

    Depends on what your aim is with jogging

    A heartrate monitor will allow you for much better training, Id actually say beginners get an even better benefit than pro´s by using one. Why?

    Beginners dont know their body and it´s limits very well, this is the main reason they get injured or train in a way that gives them MUCH less progress than they should be getting.

    A heartratemonitor will offer you all this – you will be able to train at your best levels, this will give you less fatique, faster recovery, mimize risk of training too hard, which will help you avoid injuries.

    A heartrate monitor could quite possible be just as good an investment as a good pair of shoes – and yes you can do without, just like you can run barefeet, and get benefits from that.

    But IMO. a heartrate monitor used properly gives motivation, and just the data you need to get the best from your training.

    That money is well spent.

    3
  • 1932 February 20, 2013, 3:39 am

    What is the transmit. range (meters) of Wahoo chest belt?

    4
  • Andy Chen February 20, 2013, 10:08 am

    The Wahoo website says 10 feet, unobstructed.

    5

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