This Simple New Habit is a Game-Changer

You may know this by now as I don’t really keep it a secret, but I hate steady state cardio. The thought of it creates a sense of dread in me. Just imagining doing the same, boring, painful thing for 30, 45, 60 minutes or more conjures up feelings of a whiny, tantruming toddler in me. For instance, when people tell me they “loooove” running, I think to myself “Really? How can this be? Why on Earth…?” Some people have told me that they use that time to think. All I’d be thinking about is “Why am I doing this?! This hurts! Ugh! It’s only been 5 minutes!?” You know, miserable stuff like that. (And I know this because I too used to be a “cardio bunny.”) Due to these negative feelings, I just don’t run unless I plan on participating in a 5k or something. But there is one steady state cardio activity that actually gives me more positive “feels” and that is….. Wait for it….

Walking.

What am I? An 80 year old woman? Hey man, walking is awesome! It doesn’t hurt… It won’t damage my joints… It won’t age my skin (yes, high impact exercise can cause a jolt to the skin which can cause collagen breakdown)… It’s relaxing… And I can multitask when I walk. Multitask? Yep. I can read my e-mails. I can get through a couple chapters in a book. I can dictate blog posts. I can watch YouTube videos. I can do all sorts of things! Mind you, I’m doing this in the comfort of my own home on my treadmill. OR I can do nothing except walk and just let my mind wander. Later in the day I take my dogs for a walk through our neighborhood, otherwise they’ll drive me nuts. There’s no multitasking on those walks. There’s only dog-wrangling and picking up poop.

For the last few weeks I’ve been getting up a little earlier, pouring myself a big ol’ coffee, and hopping on the treadmill with that and my iPad for at least a 30 minute walk at a relaxing pace (3.0-3.5). It has been such an enjoyable way to start my day. Normally I would have my coffee and do my morning reading on the couch with the news on, so now I’m just doing the same thing but I’m not sitting on my ass! And by mid-day I’ve already gotten in my 10,000 steps or more! I’ve been enjoying it so much that I think I might keep it as a (mostly) daily habit.

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One key to creating a new exercise (or even non-exercise) habit is to find something you love (that also moves you towards your goals) and then find a way to fit it into your routine! It takes a while to form a new habit, but give it a few weeks of consistent work and you could soon be doing it for life! For a while it might be necessary for you to actually schedule your new, soon-to-be habit into your day. Then it’ll eventually become part of your daily routine. Remember, no one HAS time for exercise.

We MAKE time for exercise.

I don’t care how busy or not-so-busy someone is. Schedules can always be tweaked. You can always wake up juuuuuust a little bit earlier or go to bed a liiiiiittle bit later if you have to. My husband and I used to get up at 4:45 AM to fit our workouts in. He would set our coffee pot to brew at 4:30, so that there was an additional incentive to get up. We also moved the alarm clock across the room to force him to physically get up. Utilizing little tricks likes these to reinforce your new habit can be very helpful!

The point of this message isn’t to dissuade you from running and convince you to walk instead. The point is to give you permission to discard the stuff you hate and make a habit of doing the stuff you love, especially with exercise. If you dread a certain form of exercise and never look forward to doing it, then you have to ask yourself “why” you’re doing it in the first place. There are loads of ways to fit fitness into your life! Just find something you love doing that moves you closer to YOUR goals and DO IT CONSISTENTLY. Make a fun ritual out of it. For example, I drink my coffee and play on my iPad or listen to podcasts while I walk. Those things make it so much more fun to me! So I actually enjoy getting up a little earlier to fit it in. It’s my quiet “me-time.” It may not be “hardcore” or extremely challenging, but that’s not the purpose of it. That’s what my weightlifting is for. Walking for me is more restorative and is a nice way for me to get my blood flowing in the morning. Plus, because of my Fitbit, I am much more conscious of how many steps I’m taking in a day. My morning walks ensure that I hit my personal step goals.

As an aside, as I was discussing this blog post with my husband he said that what I was saying reminded him of the book he is currently reading: Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project). I’m very interested in the development of habits as I truly believe that developing habits is the key to living a healthy life…forever. I’ve decided I’m going to give that book a read as well! If you’d like to join me, you can pick it up here!

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Most Women are Making This Huge Mistake…

You may have heard the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy,” and often it’s used when people are comparing themselves to others. But what if you aren’t necessarily comparing yourself to others… You are instead comparing your current self to your old self.

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As a trainer, I often hear something along the lines of “Oh, I was 10-15 lbs. lighter when I got married. I want to be there again.” Then I have to go into a lecture about how much their lives have changed in those 10+ years. Oh, you know, just reminding them about the numerous kids they gave birth to, the lifestyle changes, the cross-country moves, the stress of their jobs, the hormonal changes brought on by age…the list goes on. These are important factors that DO play into the current status of your body.

I also ask them how much they were working out when they were 10-15 lbs. lighter, and it’s usually a lot more than they are now! Why? Because it was easier to set aside more time for exercise at that point. They didn’t have a husband and kids to chase around at that time. They might have had fewer responsibilities with regard to their job at the time. Our priorities change throughout our lives, and getting to the gym is not always going to be #1. And you know what? That’s okay! And it should be that way!

Yes, staying healthy is very important. It’s important to keep yourself in shape so that you can bring your best-self to the world. Being healthy makes you a better spouse, a better parent, a better employee/employer, whatever your title is, it makes you better at it. By exercising and eating healthy you have more energy to push yourself through life. You’ll also have less stress and get sick less often. You’ll look and feel better, thus pushing your confidence through the roof. So yes, your health should be one of your priorities, especially since no one is going to take care of you better than you can take care of yourself. But at busier stages in your life, you may have to get a bit more crafty with finding the right balance of exercise + work + family + personal time + whatever.

I really think we should be more compassionate with ourselves. Many of the women I work with beat themselves up on a regular basis. Why aren’t they giving themselves credit for all of their accomplishments? They’re all intelligent, independent women but then they spend so much time talking crap to themselves in the mirror because of some extra fat on their stomach or thighs. I have to admit that I’m guilty of this as well. And I haven’t met a single woman that isn’t that way. But when you look at it as an outsider, it really does seem ridiculous. We’re way more than just our bodies. We have much more than our physical attributes to offer the world. It’s time to put the old you to rest and embrace the new you, whether you prefer its appearance or not. If you don’t like the appearance of your new self, then work to improve it, but there’s no point in comparing it to your old appearance. That’s just simply not fair to yourself and you’re not giving yourself credit for all the things that have happened between now and then.

We’re not plastic. We’re complex beings that are affected by age and we wear with life. Comparing ourselves to our 20 year old selves is just like comparing ourselves to 20 year old strangers. It’s nonsense and doesn’t do us any good. Where ever you are in life, you have to work with what you’ve got and just do the best that you can. Do your best to stay healthy. Do your best to stay strong. And do your best to stay happy, despite not looking like your 20 year old self. Besides, at this point I know I’m smarter, wiser, happier, and I have waaayyyy more muscle. 😉

 

What’s the Best Time of the Day to Exercise?

ParkWorkout“What’s the best time of the day to exercise?” I get asked this a lot, and my answer is ALWAYS “the time of the day that you’ll actually do it.”

If I don’t workout sometime in the morning, it just ain’t happening. I know myself pretty well at this point and that’s just the gosh darn truth. I’ve been forced to exercise in the evening on occasion and I have always dreaded it alllll day. All I want to do at the end of the day is go home and wind down.

As the day goes on, other things come up and generally they’re more “important” than getting a workout in. While I always feel pretty good after a workout, sometimes they’re harder to justify, especially if you’re already in pretty good shape. The thought “I’m not going to lose muscle in a day of not working out” easily comes to mind and I move on.

Others prefer to workout in the evening. That schedule just works better for them. And that’s okay too! I’m personally a bit of an early bird so I like to knock out very important tasks in the morning; exercise being one of them…to me at least.

The key to finding a good daily or near daily workout time for you is to find a time where there are usually no other distractions; a time where generally nothing else is going on and nothing and no one can get in your way. That way you have very few excuses to cancel on yourself. And that’s another point right there! If you are not already in the habit of working out, actually sit down and SCHEDULE your workouts. Make them like meetings that you can’t miss with yourself unless you’re sick or something entirely unavoidable comes up. If you have to miss a session, then you just reschedule like you would any other appointment.

I try to drill this into the minds of my clients. Most of them I only meet twice a week, but I try to urge them to get in workouts on their own. But like I mentioned in my post last week about motivation, real, lasting motivation can’t come from an outside source, it has to come from within. So often my words go in one ear and out the other. If you haven’t built your me-time or gym-time into your day, it’s easily going to be bypassed or it’ll be something you do for a while and gradually you just stop working out altogether. Developing the habit is crucial to your success. Eventually it’ll just become something you do regularly without thought. It’ll be a no-brainer.

Once you have decided on the “perfect”” time, set yourself up for success. My husband makes sure to set the timer on the coffee pot to brew the coffee before he gets up so that there’s something to look forward to when he wakes up at the ass-crack-of-dawn. Have your gym bag packed or set your gym clothes out the night before. Create a routine. Build it into your day. Make it just a little bit easier!

For those of you who have been successful with creating the habit of working out regularly, what do you do or have done in the past to make building this habit easier? I would love to hear your ideas!

There is No “Wrong” Motivation

It seems lately that a lot of fitness peeps have been spouting out that you shouldn’t let your physique or appearance be your #1 motivation when trying to get in shape. My question is “why the hell not?” It’s not that I’m particularly a VAIN person, but when someone finds something that motivates them to get in some vigorous exercise and start eating healthier on a regular basis, why are physique goals not good enough? In a country where more than 1/3 of adults are considered obese, I think we have to take what we can get! And if the idea of looking hot in a pair of jeans is what gets someone off their ass, then so be it!

Most trainers will say that overall health and general fitness should be your “primary” goal. And yes, while I wholeheartedly agree with that, someone who is slightly overweight might not see it that way. They might be relatively healthy but they just want to finally see their abs or look cute in shorts because they have a vacation coming up. If that’s what keeps you motivated for the time-being, then that’s fine! It’s no one else’s business what your motivation is, whether it’s completely superficial or 100% honorable.

It’s true that you will never find peace and happiness when your appearance is always your #1 goal, because perfection just doesn’t exist…and it’s hard to achieve something that doesn’t exist. But I would also argue that if it’s strength you’re after, where does that stop? One can become so obsessed with getting stronger that they start accruing life-long injuries… One can become so obsessed with “general health” that they start going off the deep end and become an orthorexic. Extremes can occur anyway you look at it. Just because you started with one motivator, doesn’t mean that it will always be your #1 motivator. When something sparks you in the moment to get up and go for a walk or get in a quickie workout, run with it (literally)! Motivation can be hard to find, so when it comes along, take advantage of it. But remember this, the best motivation is the motivation that comes from within. No one else can truly motivate you. Not your significant other, not your trainer, not your friends. Any motivation that stems from them will be short-lived. And that’s okay! Sometimes we have to seek out motivation every day to keep moving forward.

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For example, I haven’t seen my husband since June of 2014. He’s due to be coming home shortly and you better believe I want to look good for him when he arrives! So right now, that’s guiding my motivation to put in an extra ounce of effort. That’s the one little thing that is pushing me to get in a couple conditioning workouts a week (along with my 4 weight training sessions) and really eyeball the food that I’m putting into my mouth. Thankfully I stay pretty close to my “happy spot” year-round, so I never have far to go when I just want to tighten things up a little bit. But this motivation is going to be short-lived. Eventually my husband will come home, we’ll go on a vacation, and then we’ll get back to normal life. That’s when my motivation will change. Maybe I’ll just want to focus on getting a little stronger or improving my endurance. Who knows? We’ll have to see what sparks me at the moment!

Remember, this is a journey with no end. Your goals and motivators will always be fluctuating depending on your situation in life at that one moment. The key to success though is to pick a goal….seriously go for it…conquer it…and move onto the next goal. Don’t flounder from goal to goal, program to program, and never actually accomplish anything! And always remember what got you started on that goal in the first place…that original motivator.

Since I mentioned that I’ll be putting in a little extra effort over the next month, I thought it might be fun to see what that little extra effort might actually do and share it with you all! This photo was taken this morning and I also weighed myself. I was randomly up 3 lbs., probably retaining some water, so here I weigh 143 lbs. I also took circumference measurements, so I’ll be tracking those as well. Along with my 4 weight training workouts, I’ll be throwing in 2 weekly conditioning workouts. So that might be sprints, a barbell complex, a ladder workout, or something of the sort. I will also actually be tracking my macronutrients and calories. Should be fun to see what happens!

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Is Fear Holding You Back From the Body of Your Dreams?

This past week I was interviewed for a local magazine regarding exercising in your home and one of the first questions was “why might someone decide to exercise at home rather than at a gym?” In my response I mentioned the obvious answer, that it might be more convenient for busy individuals or new moms. But in the other part of my answer I said, and this is somewhat sad, that some people often feel uncomfortable going to a gym. Sometimes they are ashamed of the way they look and oftentimes they are afraid that they will appear like they don’t know what they are doing.

While it’s not necessary to go to the gym to get in shape, it certainly might make it a little easier. There’s more equipment, more space (generally), and I tend to get an additional burst of energy and motivation when working out in a public gym instead of my own home. Although I can completely understand why someone might feel self-conscious in a gym, do you go through the rest of your life thinking this way? Do you stop yourself from going to the grocery store because you’re concerned about what other people might think about what you’re putting in your cart? Do you hold yourself back from clothes shopping because you’re concerned that someone might not like your taste in sweaters? No? So why would you be so utterly concerned about what other people might think of you in the gym? We’re all there for the same reasons…and that is to better ourselves.

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Yes, some people might judge you in the gym, but they’re also going to judge you on the street. Those people are probably jerks anyways, so who cares what they might think? You can’t let the potential thoughts of others keep you from living your life and attempting to meet your goals. I personally like seeing out of shape individuals going to the gym and trying to better themselves. How could I possibly laugh at that or view that negatively? We all started somewhere. I wasn’t in shape when I started working out. I couldn’t run long distances and I didn’t know how to properly use machines or weights. So what did I do? I eased into it. I did what I could figure out on my own, watched and learned from other people, and began picking it up myself. Now I’m at a point where I’m the teacher. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you just have to have the confidence to go in there and say “Screw what everyone thinks! I’m doing this for me!”

Like I said earlier, it’s okay if you prefer to workout at home, but don’t do it only because you’re worried about what other people might think or say. You can’t go through your life that way. If you’re not sure how to use the equipment, grab a friend or hire a trainer to show you the ropes. Watch videos online. Pick up some magazines with workout programs and photos in them to help guide you. Take some group classes that your gym offers. It’s a great way to meet people and they can be really motivating! There’s tons of ways to learn the basics, and it’s the basics that are going to take you the farthest.

Remember, don’t be scared! We’ve all been there.

Not-So-Secret Diet Killer: Boredom

There you are…sitting on your magnificent leather couch, getting sucked into another episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills…which just so happens to be a re-run that you have seen 3 times since it originally aired. Your mind starts to wander and drift and you mechanically move yourself from the couch straight to your pantry. “Wait..why am I here?” You ask yourself. “Maybe I’m hungry…? Oooo…Quaker Popped Cheddar Cheese chips…” (Seriously, these things are delicious, ya’ll…) And boom, you find yourself back on the couch mindlessly munching away, dragged into another argument between Kyle and Brandy.

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Does that story sound very vivid and detailed to you? Yes? That’s because it’s a true story and something that even happens to me every now and then. I find myself slipping into this state periodically with my husband being gone. While I’m still very busy, just due to the fact that my husband doesn’t come home at night (he’s deployed at the moment) I have added free time on my hands! And sometimes a girl just needs to veg out.

I believe these habits formed when I was growing up an only child on a quiet street. Building forts alone in the woods wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, so I would spend more time watching television and mindlessly gobbling snacks. Eating filled the boredom gap and was comforting. I wasn’t so extreme that I became obese from this, but I was a little bit…”chubby.” Still to this day, even being a bit of a gym fanatic, these habits can creep up on me. And I know I sure as hell am not the only one this happens to. It’s so common and we’ll joke about it, but really, it’s not a very healthy thing to do, especially if you have fat loss goals. Some people may even go as far as eating the whole pantry! That’s a whole different monster on it’s own called “binging.” I’ve never been at that point but I know many people in the “fitness community” have been there (or still are). This generally stems from other things such as over-restricting food and other issues. But I’m not going to touch that as it’s not my expertise. But eating out of boredom, that’s an animal I can attack.

Here are some of my tricks to prevent myself from falling into this trap:

1. Stay busy: Run errands, do chores, find a hobby, go for a walk, DO SOMETHING. These are my favorite tactics because they’re productive and can actually be fulfilling. Ever notice that when you’re super busy you forget or can’t be bothered to eat?

2. Or do NOTHING: And by this, I really mean GO TO BED! Especially if you’re a nighttime snacker. That’ll take your mind off of food for sure! Plus the extra zzz’s will help you burn more fat and recover from your workouts. Triple whammy!

3. Keep the food in your house ALL THE TIME: If you keep the food in your house all the time, you reduce your sensitivity to it. The more you eat it, the less exciting it becomes. My personal tactic is when I get home from the grocery store, I divide these foods up into single servings in little plastic baggies and treat myself to one baggie each day…unless I find I don’t really want it. This way, if I do go creeping into my pantry I’ll just have one serving and if I want another serving, I really have to think and be mindful. This sure beats eating the entire bag in a single sitting. I usually get my fill of that snack by the time I finish a serving anyways. Anything beyond that is mindless munching…

But if you still just cannot control yourself…

4. Get the food out of your house: If you try step 3 and that doesn’t work, you might want to keep it out of the house for a while and completely break the habit. I used to be that way about peanut butter. I could seriously sit and nibble on a jar of peanut butter for an hour. I had to stop buying it as it was getting a little out of control. Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since then and a single jar of nut butter will last me several weeks.

I have to admit that I don’t have it all figured out, but I sure have experimented with a lot of tactics to get me to where I am now. These tips have definitely helped me in the past (and even today). But I think it’s important for everyone to understand that it’s not just fat loss that is the challenge… Once you get to a point where you are happy and don’t feel the need to alter your body dramatically, where are you going to pull your motivation from? Maintenance can be just as difficult as fat loss. Every day can still be a challenge. There are always choices to be made about the food you put in your mouth and choosing the healthy more moderate way of eating is not always the easiest. You might always need some little tricks in your toolbag to get you through. Hope these help you as much as they have helped me!

 

Review: NEW Fitbit Charge HR

FitBitChargeHRI don’t often do reviews, but this is a product that I’m really enjoying and truly believe it COULD help people increase their overall activity, which is huge for general health and fat loss. One doesn’t need to go crazy and “workout” 7 days a week to start losing fat. Some moderately intense exercise is great, but increasing your NEAT can be just as beneficial!

What’s NEAT you ask? NEAT stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.” This is essentially all the movements you make in a day that aren’t standard “exercise.” So this includes walking around the office, running errands, doing chores, cooking, jittering your legs while you sit, everything! You’re always burning some calories as you go about life. Some of these will burn more calories than others though.

First, let me explain what the Fitbit is. The Fitbit is an activity monitor that you wear somewhere on your body. It measures how many steps you take in a day, how much (and how well) you sleep, how many flights of stairs you climb, the distance you have walked, it’ll estimate how many calories you have burned, AND EVEN tell you what time it is! That is a general overview of the majority of the Fitbit styles. But recently I got ahold of the Fitbit Charge HR, a brand new model of the Fitbit, and I have to say, I am very impressed!

Please note, I have not tried any other activity monitors but have done a lot of research into the best ones and decided on Fitbit because of all the positive reviews comparing it to others on the market. I will also be comparing the Fitbit Charge HR primarily to the Fitbit One, which was a clip style best worn on your bra or pants pocket and also the first style I owned.

The Fitbit Charge HR is a watch style of activity monitor worn snuggly (but not too snuggly!) around the wrist. It has a very sleek, modern appearance to it and comes in a couple of colors. I chose black because it will match just about anything I wear. (I’m practical like that…) Just like the Fitbit One, the Fitbit Charge HR measures how many steps you have taken, how many flights of stairs you have climbed, how far you have walked, how many calories you have burned, how long and well you sleep, AND the time! BUT, it will also constantly measure your heart rate throughout the day, and this is HUGE when it comes to estimating your calorie burn, and also the main reason I wanted to upgrade from the Fitbit One. It also has a Caller ID capability on it, which might be useful and noteworthy to some people, but I haven’t really played around with that as I don’t like getting phone calls.

The setup for the Fitbit is very easy. There’s no additional software and you don’t have to pay a monthly fee like some others. When you get your Fitbit, they give you an online link to follow. Once at their website, they take you through a few easy prompts and you give them some simple statistics about yourself. Male/female, height, and weight. You can also plug in some goals. What’s your target step-count for the day? (Mine is 10,000…a lot harder than it may sound if you’re not a runner.) How much weight do you want to lose? Stuff like that. You can also input how much water you have had to drink and how many calories you have eaten (or you can easily link up your MyFitnessPal account to it). I don’t use those two features much, but I like that they’re an option!

One huge positive about the FitBit is that it has a little screen on it that you can simply scroll through with the touch of a button that tells you all your stats so far for the day! It ALSO has the capability to sync to your all your devices WIRELESSLY! Yes, no more plugging in your activity monitor throughout or at the end of the day to see where you’re at with your steps and calories. This is a great motivator to keep you moving more during the day! When I see that I only have 4,000 steps so far, that pushes me to start walking. Your FitBit will come with a little “dongle” that you pop into your USB drive on your computer and whenever you are near it, it will automatically sync to your computer, tablet, or phone (if they are somewhat near to your computer).

Your FitBit will also come with a little USB charger. I have recently been plugging my charger into a wall outlet adapter and have been charging it while I’m in the shower, since you should not wear it while in water. It’s water/sweat resistant, but not waterproof, so you do not want to soak the thing. You should also occasionally wipe it down with a damp cloth and a mild detergent just to keep it clean and avoid getting any weird rashes, plus it’s good to let your wrist breath a little.

My husband purchased himself the FitBit Surge (which is currently on backorder so he won’t be receiving it for a while). The FitBit Surge has a built in GPS and is pretty much the ultimate fitness tracker. It’s a bit better for the cardio enthusiast who does a lot of running. It also costs an additional $100, so I figured I didn’t need those extra features because I’m a bit more of a “brah” who just likes slinging iron in the gym.

So here’s the final round-up:

Pros:

-It’s worn as a watch, therefore you don’t have to remember to take it off your clothing when you change. (You don’t want to throw Fitbits in the washing machine or forget to wear it!)

-It has all the features of the Fitbit One (steps, distance, flights of stairs, calorie burn, sleep, time) plus a good heart rate monitor (which matched very closely to what I manually measured with my fingers).

-It has a caller ID option.

-Wireless syncing capabilities.

-Very easy to setup and use.

-Screen on watch shows all of your current stats for that day.

-It will give you positive messages throughout the day and cheer you on!

 

Cons:

-Not waterproof.

-No GPS, so you’ll have to dish out an additional $100 if you want that.

-Not SUPER attractive. I wouldn’t exactly want to wear it when going out for a nice dinner or something. (But you can stick it in your bag and it might give a good estimate of steps taken.)

-VERY ADDICTIVE! I hate when I forget to wear my Fitbit! It makes me feel like all my steps were a waste if they weren’t counted! (But this just goes to show how much fun it is to use!)

I’m really in love with this product and it’s definitely a great motivator to get you off your butt! If you are required to do a lot of sitting during the day (office job), a tool like this could be very beneficial to you. Also, if you’re trying to lose weight, it can give you a very good estimate of how many calories you’re actually burning in a day (many people overestimate this). If you wanted to try counting the calories you’re eating in a day, the FitBit could help you see where you need to set your calorie goals (to maintain, lose fat, or even gain weight). So definitely a very useful tool if you’re trying to make progress with your health.

If I failed to answer any of your questions, feel free to ask or you can check out the product comparisons at the Fitbit Store

This was not a sponsored review. We purchased these products with our own money because we love them and find them to be a lot of fun to use. All of the above are honest opinions. Hope you found this review to be helpful!