Ah, the fitness elite. Those chiselled few with the boundless energy of young labradors and the bodies of Roman statues. These superhumans are able to run, jump, lift and leap for hours, pausing only to dab a slight bead of sweat from their foreheads as they sip on lean guarana smoothies.
Competing with such beasts of fitness-fuelled finesse seems a fruitless task. At least, from where we’re sat. On the sofa. With half a chocolate bar.
What’s that? MyZone’s MZ-3 wants us to take on these gym-going gods? Impossible as this might sound, it’s as true as a toning kettlebell swing: the MZ-3 is all about individually weighted effort – meaning you can top the charts, no matter how fit the competition.
It’s effort that counts
How does one go about defeating fitter friends? It’s all about MyZone Effort Points (MEPs).
On first glance, the MZ-3 is a chest strap heart rate monitor, the likes of which you can scoop up from any sports store. What makes it special is the way it cogitates your sweaty data: unlike most movement motivating systems, MyZone is all about your ‘zones’.
Accounting for your weight, height, age and the like, it learns both how fit you are and your peak pump rate from your workouts, to calculate five colour-coded zones specific to your level of fitness. Get your beat into the zones and you’ll score points.
In real world terms, this qualified approach to tracking your ticker means an unfit person speed-walking to the bus could expend the equivalent effort to an elite athlete doing a serious sprint: if they’re each in the same colour zones, they’ll be experiencing the same physiological effects. Apparently.
Strap on to start
Want to experience the effort rewarding revolution? It’s as easy as slapping the strap by your sternum and popping the MZ-3 module onto its button mounts.
Seriously, that’s it: there’s no button to start and you can’t select a specific activity in-app. As soon as the module’s attached and you’ve heard the beep, it’s sensing your strain. When you stop? Remove the module to turn off tracking.
This means the MZ-3 has to become a part of your gym kit. Despite suggestions from MyZone that you might want to wear the strap at all times and pop the module on when you want it to monitor your moves, the reality is that day-long donning of a stretchy chest-wrapper isn’t the key to comfort.
Whacking it on for a workout is convenient enough, though, and means the only data delivered to your device is the points-scoring good stuff. Oh, and the battery lasts an age - so you can leave it with your shoulder satchel for several weeks, no sweat.
Effort stream, data stream
When it is delivering data, you can check it out in realtime. Hit the Effort Stream tab and your phone will show live feedback from the belt – complete with a colour panel, so you’re never in doubt what zone you’re in.
Not keen on holding your handset as you high jump? The MZ-3 can store up to 16 hours of workouts – though, of course, that means you don’t get as-it-happens heart rate info (unless you stream it to a MyZone watch or Apple Watch).
The only real downside? Swimming isn't catered for as an activity. Still, watching the display on dry land is a satisfying solution that genuinely motivates: staying in a particular effort zone racks up points per minute – with green being the best. Going below means fewer points; hitting yellow or red means capped scoring – because MyZone doesn’t want you doubling over after dumbbell overexertion.
After the fact, you can check out your latest stats in the app – as well as your friends’ – and MyZone will also send you an email, with everything from calories burned and MEPs earned to heart rate figures and zone times. Your effort over time is also presented in graph form, though a bug means rotating to see detailed data doesn’t quite work.
A hands-off training game
So, the MZ-3 suffers from no data dearth. In fact, its straightforward, effort driven approach converts to actual in-gym drive like few other wearables we’ve strapped on.
The only real problem is its simplicity as a standalone coach. Sure, you can strap it on for an abs-burning gym session, but then it becomes a backseat monitor of your levels – it doesn’t change the way you work out.
You could, instead, use the level-based approach to structure your workouts, but doing so makes it difficult to set quantifiable rep and resistance levels for the gym gear. Where it works best is pedalling the pavement, freestyle.
Oddly, whilst MyZone was born in the gym, the reason the MZ-3 works as a motivator is not because it structures your sessions – like the Moov Now, for example – but because its points system is addictively competitive.
Pushing through a power session is made properly appealing by the prospect of scoring points – and triumphing over your buddies as you do so, with the option for your fellow fitness fanatics to like, comment and compete with your latest effort scores.
Unlike standard social sharing based on calories, speed and distance – all of which are relatively unqualified measures of fitness – MyZone tallies your team’s effort on a monthly leaderboard.
Does this motivational trickery work? Yes and no. If you have a network of mates all using the MZ-3, you’ll barely be able to go a few days without wanting more MEPs to keep pace with everyone else. That said, few training squads are likely to all own a belt.
A little un-app-ealing
If you’re training on your lonesome, the MZ-3's app doesn’t offer much in the way of motivation. Navigating around it can be a counterintuitive experience and working with detailed data can be a chore.
If you do desire to really dig into everything that’s been captured during your training, you can do so through Apple Health, which the MZ-3 is happy chatting to. In fact, you can use the belt with Strava, or almost any other activity app you’re invested in. MyZone’s app makes much more sense if you see it simply as the hub of your social effort score.
MyZone MZ-3 verdict
Is that hub enough to engage reluctant gym-goers? We reckon so. It’s the only consumer fitness package on the market to channel World Health Organisation targets for monthly movement – so, whilst it won’t tell you how to work out, it will make you want to, over and over again.
The lack of discrete activity tracking, training and GPS route recording all fits within this concept. However you choose to break a sweat, effort is what counts – and the MZ-3 has effort-based buddy-beating nailed.
If you already get your excersise kicks on the regular it’s a good accessory for an active lifestyle; if you’re a sedentary soul who wants to move more often and for more months, the MyZone MZ-3 is the real deal.