The New Digital Athlete

Space-age body-fat analyzers, futuristic pedometers, Internet bike racing... they're here, they're gear—get used to it

Feb 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

FS-1 ($200; 800-419-3667; Until now, runners have gotten short shrift when it comes to electronics for accurately gauging pace and distance. Enter FitSense's FS-1, a watch-cum-workout-computer. While the wireless "accelerometer" attaches to your shoelaces, measuring each individual stride, the dashboard-style wristwatch displays total distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and heart rate (with optional chest-strap transmitter). Sure, the watch is about the size of a dashboard, but you gotta start somewhere.

Aquapacer Solo ($100; 011-44-1467-629-360; Want to swim faster? Don't just swim harder. You need to refine your stroke length and pace to maximize your hydrodynamic efficiency. Mount this doohickey on your goggle strap or tuck it into your swim cap, where the Aquapacer Solo will emit a steady auditory signal to match your target stroke speed (like a metronome, but you're not playing piano, you're doing intervals!). Program the Aquapacer to cue you for complete workouts, including rests, or plug in your optimum stroke frequency (instructions included), turn it on, and go.

UltraCoach NetAthlon Software ($90; 800-400-1390; It's no mystery why your treadmill, rowing machine, or stationary bike has become your clothes-drying rack: no scenery, no competition, no fun. Fitcentric's NetAthlonaims to change that by linking your basement statuary to your PC, allowing you to ride, run, or row on virtual courses ranging from Arizona bike trails to the course of the Boston marathon. Load the software, patch your machine into the system, and watch your "live" character (and up to six competitors) race along the animated course. UltraCoach displays real-time stats, including pace, distance, and heart rate, and you can store workout performances and race yourself later in the week. Or, if that can't motivate you, use the company's Web link and e-race a friend in Toledo (or Tunisia) on the same virtual course.

BC1 ($300; 800-321-1218; www.stay Forget skin-fold calipers and those oh-so-impractical water displacement tests; simply clasp the silver receptors on both sides of Stayhealthy Inc.'s BC1 (for Body Composition), and it sends an electrical charge through your body to quickly and accurately measure body-fat percentage, muscle mass, and hydration level based on the amount of resistance the charge encounters. Don't worry, it's painless, which is more than we can say for the results. Use the unit's pager-size sister gizmo—the calorie-tracking CT1—to rein yourself in.


Seriously: The Vivonic Fitness Planner ($230; is not a toy. Well, OK, it looks like a toy—part Game Boy, part Tamagotchi—but this fitness-specific digital assistant packs your personal trainer, workout buddy, and dietician into one hand-size, 2.2-ounce package. Log the foods you eat, check their calories, protein, carbs, and fat, then calculate the myriad ways you can burn them off. (Erasing that Big Mac at lunch, by the way, is going to require 65 minutes of swimming.) Vivonic's Web site offers downloadable fitness plans, such as a beginning triathlon program, and Fitness Planner software for a Palm handheld ($50). Finally, a reason for gadget geeks and fitness freaks to unite. —James Glave

1) Central to the Fitness Planner is its touch-sensitive screen; use the stylus to input meals, snacks, and workouts. There are no character-recognition snafus á la Palm's units; just tap your way through a series of on-screen lists and prompts. The screen then shows you, with a simple calories-in/calories-out bar graph, whether you are gaining blubber, or dropping it. After a week, you may find yourself more consciously stocking the fridge and sticking to your program. If not, put the Fitness Planner to better use by wedging it under the leg of a wobbly table.

Vivonic's focus-group work is most palpable in the Fitness Planner's design. Grasp the ergonomic rubber-wrapped sports-grip housing and admire its decidedly unisex plum color—clearly the R&D team was aiming between jazzy iMac styling and the serious utility of, say, a geiger counter. A single button serves as both power switch and contrast control for the LCD screen, and a rakish waistband holster (included) frees your hands as you pump it up in the weight room, recording sets and reps as you go.

3) This cable (included) connects the Fitness Planner to a desktop mother ship and allows it to "sync," or swap updated information, with a Windows program. (Vivonic, owned by Windows-oriented giant Intel, claims a Mac version is in the works.) Aside from producing charts and graphs of your fitness progress and dietary intake, the desktop software contains the same food and exercise database as the handheld unit, with full calorie/protein/fat/carb specs on everything from Pop-Tarts to sushi, and burn rates on every activity from leg extensions to lawn darts (an hour of the latter will allegedly burn 217 calories).

4) The plastic stylus feels like a cheap toothpick in big athletic hands, but those who opt for the Vivonic Fitness Planner hardware—and not the software for Palm handhelds—get an onboard bonus: an electronic pedometer. Switch it on, hit the hill, and presto, your walking distance and intensity are immortalized in the log. All that's missing is an altimeter to remind you why your lungs feel like they're collapsing.

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