From Roller Coaster #Fitness to Tech: Couch-to-5K and Jawbone’s Up Band

My fitness journey looks more like a trip on a roller coaster than any kind of straight line. When I was younger, my level of activity was very high. In the downtime where I wasn’t playing organized sports, I went to the gym, or played pickup volleyball and pickup basketball until it was so dark that we were bouncing balls off each other’s heads.

Things slowed down when I got to law school, but I was able to keep up with the pickup basketball and trips to the gym with friends. By the time I started my first job with the law firm, I dropped the pickup basketball and kept the trips to the gym with friends. Now, as the owner of a small law firm, I don’t even go to the gym anymore.

If you’re following the “roller coaster of fitness” analog, you recognize that I’ve run completely out of steam these days and I’m hoping that my momentum will allow me to coast into the station for the next run.

Being a geek, I’m always looking for ways to get technology to intersect with daily life, and I found two pieces of tech that I want to share with you in the fitness realm. The first is a running app for the iPhone called Couch-to-5K by There are many such apps available for your smart phone, but this is the one that I like the best. It takes you through a progressively more difficult training regimen to prepare you to run a 5K race. The settings allow you to choose from five different trainers who encourage you along the way (although two of them include a zombie and a dog). Each trainer has a different method for motivating you, such as being encouraging or demanding. (If you want to know, my favorite is “Billie”, the no-nonsense cheerleader).

The app also allows you to track your route using GPS to show the distance that you covered and your running pace. The app also tellsl you when you’ve run your best distance or your best time (and for those of you who like that sort of thing, you can also post your results to Facebook). Finally, the app will give you local 5K races that you can register to run to keep your motivation going.

I started using this app in the summer before obligations to prepare my house to sell, 95° weather, and the loss of one of my employees in the office caused me to only get as far as about 2K. However, I’m confident that I’ll pick this up again when it’s not 5° outside (as it currently is as of the writing of this article), and hopefully I’ll make it all the way to the end. (In fairness to the application, when I opened it to review for this article, it informed me that it “had been a while” and I “might want to start my training over”!)

The other tech toy that I’m using right now is the Jawbone Up band. Similar to the fitness plan reviewed by Mark Metzger here, the Up band tracks your physical activity and movement with a slick companion app in a cool-looking package that is part- steampunk. It comes with an advertised 10-day battery, which in my experience is an accurate claim of battery life.

In addition to counting steps, it has a few functions that are helpful, including a setting that buzzes you when you’ve been sedentary for too long. You’ve probably read the recent rash of articles showing the dangers of sitting all day for your work. The Up band helps keep you moving, and will monitor your sleep activity to track how much time you spend in deep, restful sleep versus light, fitful sleep, even letting you set an alarm that will wake you within 25 minutes of your time when you’re in your lightest sleep. Finally, if you want to take a mid-afternoon siesta, the Up band will let you sleep for 25-40 minutes, again waking you when you are in your lightest sleep.

The Up band comes with a companion app for your iPhone that looks glorious. This is where you can see your activity (sleep or movement), as well as allowing you to track what you eat. Jawbone gave this a really slick interface, letting you enter food information either by hand, or using the bar scanner. If you scan something that’s in its database, it imports the nutritional information for you. I like this part of the function because it tends to help me make smarter choices about what I eat if I have to keep telling the app. (I get embarrassed easily by the judgment of inanimate objects). You can also input any other exercise, like a trip to a gym or a pickup basketball game.

The band is waterproof and comfortable enough to wear all the time. The one downside is that the Up band doesn’t have Bluetooth, which means you have to plug it in to sync.

I’m hoping to start the roller coaster again and get to the highest peaks, using tools that are fun and interactive. Let’s just hope I don’t go too far off the rails.


Image credit: Couch-to-5K app

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