Suunto Ambit Review
This review is still in progress and I'm updating and adding new impressions regularly as I gain more experience with the Ambit and Movescount.
The Ambit allows you to keep tabs on all kinds of data as you exercise or train. Iím a ski tourer and mountaineer, so Iím writing from that perspective, but it works just as well for running, cycling, trekking, indoor training, or many more activities. I'm also very interested in how to ensure that I'm optimizing my time spent training in the gym, so I'll look at it from that point as well.
Logging Your Training
You can monitor around two dozen things, including heart rate, calorie consumption, distance, attitude, speed, and location via GPS. There is really a substantial amount of information at your fingertips.
Keeping all of this organized and easily viewable while youíre working hard might normally seem a challenge, but Suunto has done a phenomenal job of helping with this. Through the Movescount software, theyíve given you the power to completely customize what particular data the screen shows Ė and to add multiple screens that you can quickly cycle through at will with a button press. It is really impressive and works well. Read more about this on the Movescount page.
A very unique a valuable piece of data is the Peak Training Effect. The Ambit uses an algorithm to give you an idea of how much your workout is taxing your cardiovascular system so you know whether youíre working at a level that will merely maintain your current fitness or push you higher to the next level. At the end of your session, it also gives you an estimated number of hours of recovery time that your body will need.
However, these readings are only estimates based upon the information you give the Ambit to work with via settings in Movescount (i.e. Age, gender, and current fitness level) so itís important to ensure your settings are as accurate as possible.
With the Recovery Time, Iíve found that for short gym-based cardio workouts, the recovery time value seems reasonable. However, for a 7.5-hour ski mountaineering trip with a backpack and thirteen pounds of boots, skis and binding attached to each foot and doing 1173 meters of ascent, it gave me a Recovery Time of 119 hours. Iím pretty sure this kind of trip would really knock some people on their buttís for four days (or more!) I think it might be a bit excessive for me. I might have underestimated my fitness level in Movescount, so am playing with the settings a bit.
Optimizing Your Training
I am really excited about using the Ambit heavily in my cardio training in the gym. By working with the Peak Training Effect and Recovery Time numbers I can now understand if I'm not pushing myself hard enough to improve and ensure that I don't over train. It will hopefully simply allow me to optimize the overall gains made from my time spent suffering in work outs (just kidding ;-)
I've also found that Suunto has several great training guides which you can download from their website that go really in-depth on this subject. One shorter one is called the Suunto Training Guidebook and a much more comprehensive one is written for the older t6 instrument (How Not to Rely on Luck When Optimizing Your Training Effect) and still seems quite relevant to the Ambit, in my opinion. I really think Suunto should take the time to edit it to remove the tight ties to the t6 - I almost didn't look at it because of this. It talks about all of the metrics that the Ambit measures beyond PTE and Recovery Time, like EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), VO2, Respiration, and R-R. It explains the different ways in which they measure the effect of exercise on your body along with ideas as to normal values for each gender and age group.
Looking at this data once I've uploaded it to
Movescount, I can see it displayed clearly in graphs. In the screen shot
to the right, with two button clicks I've configured the graph to layer
EPOC over VO2 consumption. Once you've read and understand what these
values mean, this provides an incredible window into what was going on
with your body during your exercise. Incredible.
Also notice the bottom of this screen shot shows the amount of time spent during your exercise working at Easy, Moderate, Hard, Very Hard, and Maximal levels.
But you can view it live by clicking here; you'll even be able to interactively play with the graphing of the data!
Itís also worth mentioning that tracking of speeds and distance is made more accurate by what Suunto calls FusedSpeed, which employs a combination of GPS and wrist acceleration sensor readings with an algorithm.