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Monday, June 13, 2016

Spire Activity Tracker

So yes, in a bit of self indulgence, I bought myself a Spire.  I've been using it for about 10 days now. 

I've been a Fitbit girl for about 15 months now.  I bought a Fitbit activity monitor when I decided I needed to lose weight and get healthy.  My device of choice is the Fitbit Charge HR, a device worn on the wrist, which monitors heart rate, steps, calories burned, sleep quality...very useful device for someone just starting out on a fitness plan, good feedback.   When I was still a member of Weight Watchers, I linked my Weight Watchers online account with my Fitbit account, so that my "activity points" would be calculated automatically.  Now that I'm using My Fitness Pal as a food diary instead of Weight Watchers, I linked Fitbit and My Fitness Pal, so that the calories I burn from exercise show up in my diary at My Fitness Pal.

But the Spire ... Yes, it's an activity tracker.  And no, I don't need it to track steps/calories. Fitbit clearly has that covered.

The Spire's focus is on breathing.  Are you calm?  Tense?  Focused?   Spire will alert you to breathing patterns. 

We're all familiar with Dr. Lamaze and his breathing exercises to relieve pain during childbirth.  Breathing exercises are also useful in stress management.  Researchers are now developing similar techniques for chronic pain management, as a way to avoid opiate painkillers.  And there is evidence that breathing techniques can even help lower blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. 

The only other tracker that concerns itself with breathing patterns, Bellabeat's Leaf,  tracks breathing during guided stress management exercises.  Spire, on the other hand, tracks breathing throughout the day.  You can set the device to vibrate when you're tense, focused, calm.  The device can be programmed to remind you to get up and move, or to take a deep breath.

But Spire goes beyond simple breathing exercises.  Spire is also part of the "mindfulness" trend.  The app is pre-loaded with a series of mediations and lessons on what "mindfulness" is.  As a newbie to the concept of mindfulness, I'm finding the lesson to be interesting and enlightening.  The guided meditations are similar to what I've found on the website/app Stop, Breathe and Think -- a gentle voice guides you into closer observation of your surroundings, assessing your feelings, calming your mind. 

I found several free apps that guide you through breathing exercises and mindfulness training.  So no, I don't really need a Spire.  But it is making me more aware of my emotional state.  No, I didn't really need the Spire to tell me that I was tense during the climatic battle scene in the X-Men movie.  But overall I am finding the feedback useful in discovering my stress triggers. 

Bottom line?  It's a toy, but a useful toy.  I 'm enjoying playing with my Spire. 

Practical matters:   You wear the Spire clipped to your waistband or bra (I prefer the latter, it feels more secure).  The devise pairs with an IOS app (the manufacturer indicates an Android app is in development), and the app is necessary for the full use of Spire's features.  I have an Android phone, so I've had to pair my Spire with my iPad mini.  A little bit inconvenient, especially since Spire can only hold 6 hours of data.  And no, the data does not back up to a Spire website. Battery is rechargeable, a charge lasts about 7 days.

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