It takes a lot of dedication and inspiration to workout on a regular basis. At the end of 2004 when I found out that I was diabetic, I became completely gung-ho on working out and eating healthy. While I still have the will power to eat healthy (no sugar), I fell off the workout wagon after one year. I’m lucky that I have remained at about the same weight and still take 30 minute walks several times a week. But I no longer do my every other day after work workouts. I just haven’t been able to get back into the habit. When Itami contacted me to ask if I might like to review their FiTrainer Virtual Fitness Coach, I was happy to accept. I was curious to see if this gadget could inspire me to get back on the workout wagon.
The main purpose of the FiTrainer is to keep you in your target heart rate zone while you are working out. What is a target heart rate zone? It’s the optimal heart rate (pulse) for you to burn fat and for your heart and lungs to receive the most benefit from your workout. The FiTrainer uses the Karvonen Formula to obtain your THR (target heart rate). The formula is:
THR = ((HRmax − HRrest) × %Intensity) + HRrest
Where HRmax and HRrest are your max heart rate and heart rate at rest.
3.5mm patch cord
Quick Start Guide
At first glance, you might mistake the FiTrainer for a pair of regular behind the head style headphones. That’s the way they are worn, and they will allow you to listen to music, but that is where the similarity ends.
First of all, sound only comes out of one side of the headphones – the Right side. This is also where the control buttons and status LCD are located.
The Left side is where the battery compartment is located. You have to remove the stretchy foam cover to expose the battery compartment, which is opened with a Philips screwdriver. You’ll also need a AAA battery, which isn’t included with the package.
The Left side also is where the heart rate sensor is attached.
The sensor clips on your Left earlobe in order to measure your heart rate and keep you in your ideal heart rate zone while you are exercising.
Having the sensor clipped to my earlobe wasn’t the most comfortable sensation because I have to clip it somewhat higher due to my large gauge ear piercings. It doesn’t actually ‘hurt’, but you do know it’s clipped to your ear.
To get started using the FiTrainer, you must first turn it on by holding down the Start/Pause button for a few seconds. You’ll then see a figure icon and numbers on the small LCD display. The icon specifies the exercise mode that you’ll be doing. There are four modes: Walking, Aerobics, Jogging and Test for condition. The numbers are your age and can be set from 16-79. You can also toggle background music and trainer narration.
The next step is to measure your resting heart rate so that your target heart rate zone can be calculated. To capture your resting heart rate, you want to sit quietly for 5 minutes and then put on the headset, clip the sensor to your earlobe and press the Start button. A female voice will ask you to wait patiently while your heart rate is being measured. About one minute later, you’re told to start exercising. I do wish that it would tell you what your resting heart rate is, or show it on the display. As is, you have no way of knowing how accurately it has been measured. The FiTrainer will prompt you to measure your resting heart rate every time you replace the battery, but there doesn’t appear to be a way (other than removing the battery) to manually reset this setting.
For the review I used the FiTrainer primarily in Walking mode. I tested it with no background music, and with my iPhone connected into the input jack using the included patch cord. Workout sessions begin with a warm up that gets you into your target heart rate zone. Every 20 seconds or so, the female voice will tell you to workout a little harder, workout a little more gently or continue to workout at the same pace. If you have the background music feature turned on, you’ll hear a Blues tune while you’re warming up and then during the actual workout, there will be three different (I don’t think there are more than that) tunes that might play. They get a little monotonous after awhile, but you can turn off that feature if you like.
I tried to test the heart rate sensor by purposely speeding up and slowing down, so that it would then tell me to adjust my speed. From what I could tell, the FiTrainer’s heart sensor does work. But, I just don’t know how accurate it is without another heart rate monitor to test with it in tandem (which I don’t have…).
Walking mode takes approximately 55 minutes to complete, which seems like a long time to me. I really wish there was a way to set your workout duration and have it adjust accordingly.
Aerobics and Jogging workouts are set to let you work out for 15 minutes while your heart is in its target zone. If you go out of the zone, it will add time accordingly. You can also add more time to your workout by pressing the Set button (if you can find it with your finger). Each press will get you 5 extra minutes with a max increase of 20 minutes.
The Test for physical condition mode is a short workout that will tell you your current fitness number from 1-9, with higher numbers indicating higher levels of conditioning. It’s just a number though and not much more info is mentioned about this feature in the user guide. My number was 6.7 for what it’s worth…
The FiTrainer is one of those devices that you’ll either love or hate. I’ll admit that the female voice did start grating on my nerves after about 15 minutes. I think this fitness gadget is on the right track, but I’d like to see some more features in the next model if there is one. It would be nice to have a microSD slot so you could just load your own music on it instead of connecting it to an iPod or other device. I’d also like to know what my resting and THR measurements are. It would also be nice to get feedback on how my workouts are progressing.
If you need motivation to start working out again, this $60 gadget might help get you going. I’m just not sure it will keep you motivated for long. If you’ve tried this product, let us know what you think of it.