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Using the New Nike+ FuelBand SE Fitness Tracker

For fitness-minded people, the new Nike+ FuelBand SE is much more than a high-tech fashion accessory. When worn throughout the day, it monitors how much you move, helps you set and achieve fitness goals, and then enables you to track your progress from your iPhone. Jason R. Rich takes a look at the latest generation FuelBand SE and discusses when and why it should be used.
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When people look into the mirror, they might wish they could be thinner, more muscular, healthier, and perhaps have a different hairstyle. If you want to change something about your hair, visit your favorite barber or salon. For help getting or staying in shape, staying motivated, and analyzing your fitness-related progress, the newly enhanced Nike+ FuelBand SE (figure 1) can be a useful tool that works in conjunction with your established fitness, activity, and workout routine(s).

Figure 1 Photo © Nike

For almost 2 years, the original Nike+ FuelBand bracelet was available. However, in November 2013, Nike improved this fitness tool with better technology and an improved iPhone app. If you're not already familiar with this $149.95 device, it is a high-tech bracelet that's designed to be worn throughout the day. It is made using rubber and plastic on the outside, so it is water resistant and durable. Built into the FuelBand are sensors that monitor your activity and work in conjunction with an easy-to-use and proprietary iPhone app, as well as other optional Nike+ fitness equipment.

Using the movement information that the FuelBand detects, it converts your activity into "NikeFuel," which according to Nike, is calculated the same way for everyone. This makes it easy to compare activity and progress with friends and other Nike+ members.

Although the iPhone app helps you define your fitness goals and track your performance over time, the FuelBand monitors your actual daily activity and provides subtle feedback using its colored LED display and audible tones.

So, whatever you do for fun and fitness—whether it's walking, running, aerobics, working out at a gym, or almost any other activity—the FuelBand is designed as a motivational tool that will potentially encourage you to stay focused and realistic when it comes to managing and achieving fitness goals.

Unlike something you might see in a TV infomercial, however, simply wearing a FuelBand does not make you healthier, build muscle, or automatically cause you to lose weight. It's simply a monitoring tool that's designed to be used in conjunction with whatever fitness activities you already engage in.

What You'll Need to Start Using the FuelBand SE

The Nike+ FuelBand SE comes in a small box that contains the FuelBand bracelet, a USB charging cable, and a size adjustment tool. When purchasing this device, it's important to select the right size to ensure a proper and comfortable fit. The product is available in small, medium/large, and extra large, and comes in several colors. A convenient wrist size chart is displayed on the side of the box. Be sure to use it when choosing which size FuelBand to purchase to avoid having to exchange the product later.

To set up and properly use the FuelBand, you'll also need an Internet-connected PC or Mac computer, as well as an iPhone or iPad. Due to its size, an iPhone is more convenient, but the Nike+ FuelBand app works on any iOS mobile device. Begin the setup process by visiting http://www.nikeplus.com/setup from your computer and downloading the free Nike+ Connect software.

Once the software is downloaded and installed, you'll be instructed to connect the FuelBand bracelet to your computer's USB port using the supplied USB cable. Follow the on-screen setup process. The FuelBand's LED lights will illuminate and display the Nike logo, followed by the battery indicator. At this point, you may be required to install a firmware update to the device. When you click the Download button, this process happens automatically.

Within a minute or so, you'll be ready to create an online-based Nike+ account, so you can begin using your FuelBand. While keeping the FuelBand connected to your computer, click the green Log In button that's displayed on the computer's screen to continue. Next, click the black Join Nike+ button to set up your free account.

You'll be prompted to enter your full name, email address, date of birth, zip code, and gender. Part of the initial account setup process allows you to link your Nike+ online account with your existing Facebook account. If you do this, as you begin using the FuelBand, progress reports can automatically be published on your Facebook wall and shared with your online friends. Click the Facebook button to link your accounts, or click the Skip For Now option to continue.

Next, the Nike+ website will ask for your height and weight, and whether the FuelBand will be worn on your left or right wrist. You'll also be asked to name your FuelBand, so you can easily identify it if multiple family members will be using their own FuelBands with the same computer.

At this point in the setup process, the Nike+ Connect software will ask you to Set Your Daily Goal by entering a number between 2,000 and 5,000. This represents an amount of NikeFuel, which is a uniform measurement of how much you move throughout the day. The on-screen slider will recommend a daily goal, based on your age, height, and weight, but it can be adjusted by dragging the slider left or right. To learn more about NikeFuel and how it is measured, visit http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/nikeplus-fuelband.

The final step in the setup process allows you to sign up for daily emails that will report your progress. These emails will ultimately contain the same information that's available to you from the iPhone app, so you can decide whether you want this information sent to your Inbox as well.

Within another minute, your FuelBand will be ready to use. At this point, it's a good idea to leave the device plugged in to your computer until it's fully charged. However, the LED display built into the FuelBand will display an animated message that says, "Just Do It [insert your name]".

While the device is still connected to your computer, use the Customize options of the Nike+ Connect software to personalize what information the FuelBand will display, as well as when it will generate alerts for you. For example, you can have it display calories burned, steps taken, and/or hours "won."

You can also decide whether you want to hear audible alerts to remind you to get up and move throughout the day. It's also possible to manually set the day and time, or allow this information to be automatically synced with your computer.

This is a good time to download and install the free Nike+ FuelBand SE app onto your iPhone or iPad. To do this, launch the App Store app on your iOS mobile device. Within the Search field, enter the search word "Nike". From the search result listings, be sure to select and download the Nike+ FuelBand app.

Using the Nike+ FuelBand App on Your iPhone or iPad

Once the app is installed, log in to your newly established Nike+ account by using your email address and password. This is done on your iOS mobile device. When you're ready, place the FuelBand on your wrist. The two devices will automatically and wirelessly establish a connection via Bluetooth. This connection won't be established if the FuelBand is still connected to your computer.

When the iPhone's screen displays a message that says "Found," tap the Get Started button on the smartphone screen. After displaying a few minitutorial screens, the Nike+ FuelBand app will begin tracking your movement, in real-time, throughout the day; and will display movement-related information on the app's screen.

As you're using the app, tap the Menu icon that's displayed in the upper-left corner of the screen to access customized progress reports that display the current day's activity, for example. You can also use the new Sessions feature of the app when you're about to engage in a specific athletic activity.

Any time you engage in a Session, you can have the app record your time, activity level, and location, plus share this information online or with specific friends. As long as the FuelBand is turned on, has battery power, and is being worn, it automatically tracks your movement throughout the day, whether it's wirelessly linked with the iPhone app. The two devices will automatically share information when a connection is reestablished (the next time you launch the app).

Wearing Your FuelBand

Just like wearing a wristwatch or bracelet, for the first few hours you're wearing the FuelBand, it will be noticeable on your wrist. After a while, however, you'll get used to wearing it, and you'll discover it's both comfortable and unobtrusive. At anytime throughout the day, tap the black button on the FuelBand to activate the display.

Depending on how you have the FuelBand set up, each time you press this button, a different piece of information is displayed, including how much NikeFuel you've earned, how many hours you've "won," how many calories you've burned, how many steps you've taken, and the current time.

If you turned on the audible alerts during the setup process when the FuelBand was connected to your computer, it will periodically beep if and when the device notices you haven't been moving for a long time.

Throughout the day, the Nike+ FuelBand app sets hourly movement goals. A red light displayed on your FuelBand indicates that a goal has not yet been met. As you're moving throughout the day, the red lights will change to yellow and ultimately to green once you achieve your goal. Each hourly goal is associated with one LED light. When the green lights all begin flashing, you've achieved your movement goal for the day.

What's New with the Nike+ FuelBand SE?

For the same price as the original Nike+ FuelBand, the new Nike+ FuelBand SE is now available. This new model comes in a variety of colors and offers improved movement-tracking technology built in to the device. The iPhone app has also been enhanced to include new features that the previous FuelBand model didn't offer, including the Sessions tool and the Win The Hour feature (which is a motivational tool).

Although your friends might think you look cool wearing a FuelBand throughout that day or at the gym, the positive impact it will have on your overall fitness is up to you.

If you use it in conjunction with the app to monitor and track your activity and progress, and then utilize the feedback it provides, the fitness activities you already engage in will be that much more effective. Plus, the FuelBand, in conjunction with the app, allows you to compete or compare your fitness-related progress with online friends, which can be motivational.

However, if you just wear the device and ignore the prompts and information it offers throughout the day, the FuelBand will serve as little more than a high-tech-looking fashion accessory.

Other Fitness Tools Available for Your iPhone

Beyond what Nike offers, several other companies, including Jawbone and Fitbit, offer several different fitness-related devices that are designed to be worn and that share activity and movement-related information with proprietary iPhone apps. Jawbone, for example, offers its newly redesigned Up wristband; Fitbit offers several different devices that offer similar functionality, all priced between $100 and $150.

Within the next year, it's believed that Apple will release the iWatch, which will be a Smartwatch capable of running apps and that has a variety of different sensors built in. It's very possible that this Smartwatch will provide similar functionality as the Nike+ FuelBand SE while also serving as a communications, productivity, and organizational tool that freely exchanges a wide range of app-related data with your iPhone or iPad.

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