My Two Months With 17 Wearables and a Personal Trainer

(Bloomberg) -- I love exercising and I love spreadsheets, so I've naturally been obsessed with wearables ever since the first Fitbits came out —which has also meant that I've been disappointed each time these gadgets failed to change my life.

A couple months ago, I convinced my editor to let me ask for review copies of the latest devices on the market. I worried that I would end up writing about why all wearables are terrible. But once I started testing them, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of these weren't mere activity trackers: they actually tell you what to do. 

I hope you'll check out my article (that includes a photo of me looking, in my wife's words, "psychotic") and video, but for now, here's what you need to know about my No. 1 pick: a heart rate-monitoring chest strap that connects to an app that coaches you through outdoor runs, indoor cycling workouts and bodyweight exercises. What's most notable about it is that the readings aren't intended for you to pore over after your workout. The measurements lets the app encourage and scold you during your workout. It surprised me how much these quips, delivered in a computer voice monotone, not only made me laugh but made me pump my legs faster.

Did this gadget make me work as hard as a personal trainer would? That's the focus of our latest Decrypted podcast episode. A widely-reported study from 2013 predicted that there's a 9 percent chance that the job of a trainer could get automated within the next two decades. That estimate seems very low, now that I've experienced a robo-trainer. That's not to say that exercising with any of these devices is as great as getting your butt kicked by a real instructor. It's not. But is it worth paying (a ton) for the extra attention that a human can bring to your workout, when the much-cheaper computer-guided workout might be good enough? 

This episode is the second in our series on automation in the workplace, and these questions show how we're all going to need to think about our own professions, regardless of how safe our jobs seem today. As my own news organization races ahead to automate the production of more news, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I uniquely bring to the table that a computer still can't. After all, it's pretty awesome that I get to play with all the latest technology for a living. I'm not ready for the day that my boss sits back and thinks, maybe a robo-journalist is good enough. 

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To contact the author of this story: Aki Ito in San Francisco at