Comparing the Garmin Forerunner 235 and the Xiaomi Mi Band (Optimized Version)

One of the great things about running and exercising these days is all of the technology and analysis tools that are available. I’m not super hardcore into tons of running tech or anything, but I do appreciate a nice running watch. For nearly two months, I’ve been using the Garmin Forerunner 235 to track my runs and also as my activity tracker throughout the day. I am far more interested in tracking the data on my runs, and the activity tracking that Garmin included on the device was a nice little bonus (and an occasional motivator to get out of my chair and walk around).

I also have the Xiaomi Mi Band (the original, optimized version with no heart rate monitoring and all-white LEDs) at home and it wasn’t getting much use at the moment, so I decided to compare the two devices. Keep in mind that the Mi Band only uses an accelerometer to track movement, distance and steps, while the Forerunner 235 uses GPS (and GLONASS, if you choose) to track distance and speed during runs and other activities; otherwise satellite tracking is turned off and it uses an accelerometer to track steps.

Another major difference between the two devices is price. The Forerunner 235 retails for $330, while the original Mi Band is around $25 and the Mi Band 1S with a heart rate monitor is between $20 and $30. While the higher price of the Garmin might put off some people, the Mi Band is relatively inexpensive and is an easy introduction into the world of wearable fitness trackers.

For the comparison, I put on the Forerunner 235 and the Mi Band around 9 p.m., then went to sleep, woke up and went on a 6.6-mile run in the morning. I wanted to compare the two devices on their sleep tracking and also on the way they track steps. Here is the data that I got from the Garmin Forerunner 235 and the Xiaomi Mi Band after my run:

 

FR 235 Mi Band Difference
Total Sleep: 7:02 6:59 3 mins
Deep Sleep: 3:00 1:55 1 hr, 5 mins
Light Sleep: 3:57 5:04 1 hr, 7 mins
Steps: 11,964 11,282 682 steps
Time: 52:28 1:23:00 ~33 mins
Distance: 10.64km 10.2km 0.44km (0.27 miles)

Sleep
The two devices were very similar in estimating sleep time; only three minutes different from each other. However, Garmin and Xiaomi must use different algorithms to estimate light and deep sleep, as those numbers showed some significant differences.

Steps
Total step counts weren’t that far off from each other either. I would guess that Garmin’s step count is a little more accurate as during runs, the Forerunner is tracking cadence (e.g. the number of times that your feet strike the road per minute). However, the Mi Band seems alright, especially considering its technology and price.

With the Mi Band, you can’t press a button or anything to indicate that you are starting a run like with the Garmin. Instead, the Mi Fit software estimates your total active time and also your distance based on the information from the band. For around seven minutes or so before and after my run, I walked around to warm up and cool down, and perhaps the Mi Band was tracking this as part of my activity (and technically I was active, just not running).

Distance
When it came to distance in this activity, I am amazed that the Mi Band held its own, despite no satellite tracking technology. It was only a couple hundred yards off in estimating my running distance. Quite impressive for an unassuming little band.

Personally, I’m gonna stick with with my Garmin as my primary activity tracker for everything, but for folks who are interested in wearable fitness tracking, the Mi Band is a great device with a very low entry barrier. I’ve given several to family members as they have a great price point and provide some interesting data.

 

2012: The Year I Became a Runner

Summary of my running accomplishments in 2012.

I started running with the intent to improve my aerobic performance for badminton. However, at this point in my life, running has taken over as the main sport in my life. And this past year, 2012, is when it happened.

In the latter half of 2011 I started casually jogging around a track that was across the street from my office in Saigon. On my first day of running and walking, I wasn’t sure if I could complete one lap of 250 meters. However, I surprised myself and was able to do it.

It took me six months to work up to running 5km nonstop. On February 23rd, 2012, I finally accomplished this feat, the day before my 29th birthday. On February 27th was the first time I timed my run and started recording times and distances to track my performance. I continued tracking times and distances for the rest of the year.

So here are a few stats from the data in 2012, the year I became a runner:

  • Total recorded distance (actual higher): 492 miles (792km)
  • Longest run: 13.2 miles (21.3km)
  • Fastest time: 7:30 per mile for 3 miles (~4:40 per km for 4.8km)

As we’re getting into this new year of 2013, I’m happy to say that I’m going stronger than ever. I’ve registered for a half marathon here in Eugene, and I’m thinking about running the Seattle half marathon at the end of the year as well. My goal is to run a full marathon in 2014.

I’ve gotten this far with the support and encouragement of numerous friends and family. Thank you; you know who you are.

Catching up

This post has been long overdue. There have been so many tremendous changes in my life recently that I’m not sure where to begin. I’ll organize this post into a couple sections.

Current location:

We are now living in Eugene, Oregon, right next to the University of Oregon campus, where Ngân is studying her master’s in international studies. We arrived here after a 5-day road trip from Ohio and it was spectacular to see to much of the country. I’m still trying to get used to the weather here, which seems to be mainly overcast with light rain, but there are some days with sunshine, such as yesterday. There does not appear to be a substantial Vietnamese community here in town, but there are a couple restaurants. However, Ngân has been making better Vietnamese food at home anyway. There are no “quán nhậus” in the Vietnamese sense here.

Employment

Find a job is tough. I don’t know how many job applications I’ve filled out and how many resumes I’ve sent. All with barely any response or acknowledgement. It’s a bit of a downer, but I’m following up on leads and continuing to search. I’m also doing a bit of work for several Vietnamese firms. The one issue is that they really can’t send me my wages because of Vietnam’s ridiculous banking system. It guess it’s a type of forced savings for when I get back to Vietnam.

Health

The beginning of October marked one year of me not smoking. Now, over the course of the year, there were a couple times when I had a cigar in the midst of revelry, but like Bill Clinton said, “I did not inhale.” There were times, especially in the first few months after I quit, when I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stay away from cigarettes, but I have for a year now. And I’m proud of it.

Running

Last June, I ran in my first race ever, the 10k challenge at the Phu Quoc Half Marathon. Well, I decided to push it up a notch and I have since registered for the Eugene Half Marathon which will happen in April. For those of you who aren’t too sure on the distance, a half marathon is 13.1 miles, or around 21km. Right now, I’m working up to that distance and then I’ll start training for it. I’ve realized that running for the sake of running doesn’t motivate me much. However, the motivation of finishing a race with a decent time motivates me to get out and run and train in all kinds of weather.

Vietnam

I’ve mentioned to a couple people that I am still in the honeymoon phase here in Eugene and am liking everything a lot (except for the lack of employment). However, I’ve been in the U.S. for nearly two months now, and there are times when I miss something about Vietnam, like cheap coffee on the street, constant warm weather or a good laugh with friends. I hope culture shock doesn’t hit me too hard, but I’m fully expecting that it will, sooner or later. I just have to remember that I will be back to Vietnam in the future. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Signing off.

My Amazing Race

On Sunday, June 17th, which was also Fathers’ Day, I ran in my first race ever. The event was a half-marathon, and I registered for the 10km challenge. I’d only run 10km a few times leading up to the race, so my goal for the day was just to complete the race.

Let’s step back and look at my running history first:
-I ran a mile a day for about six weeks in 2001.
-I ran a kilometer a day for two days in 2005.
-I started running more seriously in late September/early October, 2011. This was when running ¼ of a kilometer was a big achievement for me.

Health history related to running:
-I smoked rather heavily and regularly for more than 11 years.

Not a very nice picture of running health, is it? However, I was determined to at least finish this race and made a training schedule for the five weeks leading up to the race that had me training over 120km, so I thought that would be worth something. Training was tough. I had to run in the rain more than once, but stuck to it as I wanted to have a decent showing in the race.

In the week leading up to the race, I was tapering off my long runs to allow my legs to recover and be ready for the 10km. However, during this final week, my shins started to feel sore when I tried to run faster, which was worrying to me.

I was also concerned because this race was going to be on a mixture of asphalt, gravel and dirt roads, and I had been training on a concrete track across the street from my office. There was also a slight incline at the end of the race, and I’d had no experience tackling inclines either.

Before the race

Finally, the day of the race was upon us. Lillian, a friend of mine and a very experienced runner who was also running the 10k with me, gave me some pointers on strategy. The night before the race it had rained, so we had no idea what kind of condition the route was in. But then the air horn sounded and we were off.

Getting off to a good start

I started out slow. I was worried about my shins getting all sore. Suddenly, I noticed that I was passing a few people. And then a few more. By the time I hit the 2.5km mark, I was only passing people, and kept on doing it. I even passed up people right in the final kilometer of the race. My shins felt great and the different running surfaces posed no problem to me.

When I finally crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch and realized I’d done it in less than an hour, faster than I’d ever run on the track. Things had paid off.

After finishing

I didn’t realize until the day after the race that I had actually finished third in my category, something that I hadn’t even dreamed of achieving in my first race ever.

Mud from the road on my legs after the finish

The list of people I have to thank is very long and in no particular order, and is probably incomplete, but here goes:

-Ngân, my wife, for hanging out and waiting for me to finish my training on the track five days a week and encouraging me. Without her support I could not have completed my training.
-Trúc, a former colleague who inspired me to get out onto the track and run in the first place.
-Alicia, my college classmate and uber-runner who is always very encouraging.
-Galen Doug, a college buddy who sent me some brief emails that helped me get some of the basics of running down.
-Lillian, who signed up for the race with me and helped ease my nervousness before the start.
-Cheryl, my former boss and editor at the Mount Vernon News who is a superwoman runner and very encouraging to a beginner like me.
-Joseph Hainline, an old friend who I really haven’t seen for years who posted some encouraging messages on Facebook.
-My parents, who encouraged me from 12 time zones away.
-Angela, who posted a link on Twitter so that I knew about the race.

Souvenirs from the race


One Minor Downside to Exercise

For most of my life, I have not been a very physically active person. Then, in 2009, after some persuasion, I started to play badminton, which I still very much enjoy. Last fall, around late September or early October, I finally started running to increase my stamina. Not long after I started running, I started going to the gym to lift weights a couple of times a week.

All of this physical stuff is relatively new to me, and I do like the way I feel. However, a slight downside to all of this are the injuries that accompany it.

Not long after I started playing badminton, my knees started to hurt badly. The court where I was playing had a cement surface (as opposed to a slightly softer surface which most standard courts offer) and I was only wearing normal sneakers when I played. The pain continued for around a month and finally subsided after I bought some new badminton shoes with flat soles and little lateral support.

Luckily my running has been mostly injury free (still soreness at times though). However, about a month ago, I was out walking around District 3 in Saigon with Tyler and we were taking pictures of historic buildings. At one point, I was trying to frame a shot and not looking where I placed my feet and stepped on a part of the sidewalk that was broken and loose. My foot twisted sharply to the right and I felt a brief, shooting pain. However, we kept walking and my foot seemed to be fine; I even went running that evening. But then the next day my foot hurt like hell. I couldn’t even walk normally and was really freaked out. I took a week off from running and the pain disappeared and I have been running normally since.

One injury that has been plaguing me since December and I have still not been able to overcome is something that I never thought would affect me: Tennis elbow. For someone like me who didn’t really know what it was, I’d always thought that tennis elbow was some kind of minor annoyance for people who played tennis. I never thought it could be this painful and long-lasting.

In my estimation, things started to go bad after I went back to the U.S. to visit my family for Thanksgiving. After two weeks off of weightlifting, I dived right back in where I left off. I did something wrong with dumbbell curls which strained something. Then I went to play badminton as if everything was fine, smashing and twisting my forearm which is part of the normal movement for the sport. My arm really, really hurt.

I finally reached the point where I took a some time off from badminton and completely stopped with dumbbell curls. I bought an elbow brace. I used a variety of creams and sprays to reduce the pain. Finally, after more than two weeks off, my forearm felt fine and I played again. And my arm was killing me afterwards.

Searching online for treatment, I finally found this website and am following this regime. I hope to ease myself back into the game and eventually be pain free.

A harsh and jealous mistress

As I am writing this, it has been 29.5 days since I had a cigarette. It seems like I’ve been trying to kick this habit since I started, and I sincerely hope that this is my last attempt to quit. About two years ago, I had basically gone the same amount of time without nicotine, about a month, but just one offered cigarette from an old friend sent me back into the cycle of craving.

My companion for several years in Vietnam.

It seems to be even harder to quit in Vietnam because cigarettes are cheap and there are many places where smoking is not banned. Finally, after an evening where I had a couple cigarettes with some beer, I went for a short run after work and I felt terrible. That seems to have been the last straw. I haven’t had a smoke since then.

About a week ago, I came down with something. One of the symptoms was a rather deep cough, and I attribute this to kicking the habit. Nicotine is a harsh and jealous mistress, and I hope I am done with her forever.