Must Run with the Beat, Yamaha BodiBeat Review

Runners know music can provide that extra oomph to make that last mile. The right music can relax us, put us to sleep, or heal us, so it makes sense it can also energize us. The Yamaha BodiBeat is part DJ, part heart monitor, and part trainer to keep you at your peak performance during workouts. Armed with new running sneakers and a snazzy outfit, I strapped the BodiBeat onto my arm and took to the Los Angeles jungle. My review after the jump.

The Bodibeat comes with reverse earbuds, a clip-on earlobe heart rate monitor, USB cable, velcro arm strap, and software to manage your music. The user-interface is a bit confusing thanks to the non-traditional 2 main buttons. It takes some getting used to but I can see why Yamaha designed them to be pinch style buttons instead of push button. When you have it strapped to your arm, it really is easier to pinch than push. The small monochrome screen is a bit of a cop out since small color screens are becoming the norm but thankfully it’s so bright, reading isn’t a problem.

There are 3 modes to choose from. Free Workout lets you run at whatever pace you want and the Bodibeat will dynamically play a song to match your pace. The Jog and Walk Fitness modes both take your age, weight, and height into account, calculate how fast you should be moving and for how long, then plays a song to keep you on track – literally.

In use, the Free Workout mode was the most enjoyable when doing mundane things like walking to the store or even walking the dog. By constantly monitoring my heart rate, the BodiBeat knew exactly how hard I was working and picked a song accordingly. The only downside is the song will constantly change if your heart rate changes. One minute I’m getting into an upbeat song, the next its switches to a medium up-tempo song. Although you can lock-in the song you’re listening to, it defeats the purpose since I would then just use a regular MP3 player.

The Jog and Walk Fitness modes are unrelenting, but in a good way. I decided to take a quick jog around my neighborhood on Jog mode and it immediately assigned a medium tempo song to get me warmed up and walking. About 5 minutes later it gave me a few audible beeps and a faster song started. The workout seems to be based on the latest fitness science, constantly switching back and forth from a slow jog to an all out run. These burst cycles are much more effective since they shock the muscles, never allowing them to adapt.

The included software is sorta like iTunes but simplified. Just dump your favorite songs into it and they’ll upload to your BodiBeat but be forewarned, there’s only 512 MB so be frugal. It’s also advantageous to choose songs of varying tempos otherwise the BodiBeat will use one of its built-in circa 1990 techno songs to fill in gaps. The software will take both MP3s and AACs but runs on Windows only, sorry Mac users but you probably don’t care anyways with your iTunes and fancy iPods (natch!).

What we liked:

  • Compact design. Solid build.
  • Arm strap works well, refuses to allow the BodiBeat to slip.
  • Earbuds wrap from behind you ear and fit comfortably. They refuse to come out even while running.
  • Clip on earlobe heart rate monitor is very comfortable, small, and lightweight.
  • Works exactly as promised. Songs changes immediately based on heart rate changes.
  • Recharges quickly. Long battery life.

What could be improved:

  • Small monochrome screen.
  • 512 MB is too small. Should be at least 1 G.
  • $299 is too expensive. $149 is more realistic.

My time with the BodiBeat has proven two things to me. One, I can run regularly for exercise and not give up. Two, I can no longer deny how much dance music I listen to. The BodiBeat is meant to be a workout companion; one that offers encouragement with metronome like precision, but at $299 it’s not really affordable. Most people serious about music while working out will probably invest in a Zune or iPod and manage custom playlists themselves. The BodiBeat’s only saving grace is that it does all that for you.

Designer: Yamaha