Virgin Health (Virgin Pulse): How to Maximize Healthmiles!

Update: I’ve moved the latest updates to the bottom of this entry!.. Except this! 

Please note! As of 06/2015 WE are  no longer a part of the Virgin Health group of companies. However, please leave comments with any updates or new information as it remains our most popular entry! We will try to contact VHM with any questions you may have and report back and we will continue to update our information as it comes available – Virgin Health has not been very forthcoming in information with third parties in our experience, as the IT department and the HR department don’t seem to communicate. And we continue to hope we can help everyone get more healthy. WE will still contact VHM with concerns as necessary but often there has been, in the past. a disconnect between what they advertise and what works . With the amazing advancement in technology, we hope we can help reduce that confusion and we hope that will no longer be the case in the future. That said…

Your company just joined Virgin Health, or you just started at a company partnered with VirginHealthMiles (Virgin Pulse), and you’re ready to get out there and win some prizes. You want to get to the highest level.  Well, just how you will maximize your miles will depend on what type of person you are.

Maximizing Health Miles

Some key steps apply to all archetypes:

  • Log in and create a profile. Fill it out completely. Upload a photo. Yes, you get lots of miles just for doing that!
  • Take a Health Snapshot. Guess what! 1,000 Miles just for the snapshot.
  • Put in your biometrics (weight/body fat) monthly.
  • Look for your friends and add them. Yes, you get some HM for that!
  • Look under “Challenges”. Virgin HealthMiles will often have weekly challenges. Just following their rules will net you 150+ miles.
  • Order your pedometer immediately. When you get it, start using it!
  • Challenge your friends (500 Miles just for setting up a challenge!).
  • Begin using Runkeeper.com, fitbit, Polar, or other apps. If you’re not familiar, get familiar, as this will be Virgin Healthmiles major “neighbor” in activities. Your activities on runkeeper will sync with Virgin Pulse under certain circumstances which VP has been very mysterious about.
  • If you’re not a runner/walker, you’ll need to invest in a cheap Heart Rate monitor. It’s a great investment for health. But see the section on HRM’s before purchasing a cheap one on ebay!

Jane – A Swimmer/Gym Rat/Bicyclist

Jane is a Gym Rat, who spends a lot of time swimming and lifting weights. Unfortunately for Jane, she’s going to have the most difficult time recording healthmiles, and will have to go outside her normal routine to maximize her prizes.

  • As a swimmer, you will have to enter your workouts manually. Two workouts a day only equals 20 HM.
  • As a weightlifter, you will have to start wearing a Heart Rate Monitor.Sorry, the pedometer simply won’t do enough for you.
  • Start doing Interval/circuit training with the HRM. Make sure to put the Avg HR% as one of your indicators… Make sure it exceeds the “intense” level of HR as indicated by VH (found under “Polar FAQs” or 70% of your max heart rate, found by taking 220 Minus your Age x .7).
  • If you’re a bit short on the Avg HR – hit the treadmill until your HR exceeds “intense”.
  • If you strictly lift, then:
    • Become friends with the treadmill or add some cardio before/after your workout… 16 minutes should do it, as long as your HR exceeds “intense” level. When you work out with an average heart rate of more than 70% of your age-predicted maximum heart rate, it’s considered “intense”.
    • Start/End your workout with 16-17 minutes of cardio “intense” training. It’s good for you! http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/training/a/ExerciseOrder.htm
  • Participate in all the other ways to get HM – join challenges, do the VH weekly challenge, do “Quests”, get a health screening, etc. Since your activity miles will vary, this will help leapfrog you forward.
  • Wear your pedometer everywhere!
  • If you’re going to be on the treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical, then, and only then, place the pedometer on your foot. Or better yet, place it on your thigh (this seems to work best).
  • Place the pedometer on your foot (after further experiments, I’ve found the thigh works best) whenever you go for a bike ride.

Jack – A Beginner On A Fitness Journey

Jack has been sedentary for many years, but has a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get back into better shape. But he hasn’t done much of anything and really isn’t that much into fitness…He’s also very, very busy.

  • You’ll need to work on good habit patterns, and the first step in that process: Wearing your pedometer. Get in the habit at the beginning of the day putting it in your pocket; At the end of the day, plug it in to your computer.
  • Baby Steps: Start with a simple goal of getting 7,000 steps a day. And don’t end up just a few steps short! (Parking farther from the store entrance will net 200-500 more steps!)
  • Make sure to do challenges even if you aren’t going to win. Sometimes just not being last is motivating!
  • Participate in the Quarterly Challenges, and the VH Quests. You’ll get a lot of points to supplement your pedometer habit!
  • Challenge your fellows at HQ with Starbucks and other treats
  • Log in to the website at least 2x per week. Good Habits and it gets points!
  • Join AIDS Walk, American Heart Association Walk, and other Sponsored walks. Lots of steps there!
  • Jog easily in place while doing dishes, waiting for the elevator, and other “standing around” points to make sure to get your step goals!
  • Take a “Health Snapshot” every month or every two weeks. It will get points, and you can see your progress!

Jill – A Runner and Aerobic Fanatic

Jill will have the easiest time of everyone getting the maximum HM, as VP emphasizes cardio workouts.

  • Wear your pedometer on your runs. Afterward, check the active minutes on the pedometer –remember you will be looking for 45+ minutes.
  • Wear your Heart Rate monitor and upload its information along with your steps.
    • You’re a runner and you don’t train by heart rate? Really? Well… Start!
  • Remember to run with your heart rate above 70% of your “Maximum” HR, determined by 220 Minus Your Age x .7. This will be an “intense” workout but still aerobic. You don’t need to run anaerobic!
  • Your Yoga, Gym, and strength workouts can be entered manually, but will only net 10-20 HM’s per day, so make sure to keep your steps above 12,000 per day.
  • 20,000 steps a day is hard to get if you only wear your pedometer during runs. Make sure to wear it all day, and make sure to take the stairs and park far away from your building or grocery store!

Using Heart Rate Monitors

NOTE: Unless you are using a Polar HRM, getting HM via heartrate is very buggy and inconsistent. 

  • Get a Heart Rate monitor (Polar) – These days, heart rate monitors are cheap, but there are some cautions. Before buying one, make sure you can upload the data to polarpersonaltrainer.com, or trainingpeaks.com, or runkeeper.com, or strava.com, etc. If you already have a heart rate monitor, you should be able to make it work with VP as long as you can upload your data to one of those websites.
  • Don’t buy just any cheap Heart Rate Monitor you find on ebay! Not all HRM’s are able to upload to the internet
  • A heart rate monitor is essential to getting HealthMiles if you’re not a walker/runner. It is the only way they can verify you are doing the workout you swear you are doing

Polar

  • If you get/have a Polar, make sure what you get is compatible with your computer and with polarpersonaltrainer.com. There are Polar HR monitors that are compatible with Mac computers. Some of the Polar’s offered by VP are not mac-friendly. Some Polars aren’t friendly with polarpersonaltrainer.com (currently: Polar V800 fits that). Don’t buy those.
    • Mac Compatible Polar Watches:
      • Polar FA20
      • Polar FT40
      • Polar FT60
      • Polar FT80
      • Polar RS300X
      • Polar FT7
      • Polar CS500
      • Polar RCX5
      • Polar RCX3
      • Polar RC3 GPS
  • Sign in to https://www.polarpersonaltrainer.com/ and create an account. Once you do, make sure to look for “Partners” under your name and put “Virgin Health” as one of the sites you are willing to share your data.
  • Virgin Pulse only uses two pieces of data from polarpersonaltrainer: Your average HR and your total time.  It doesn’t care about miles, kilometers, hills, fartleks, intensity, etc. Just make sure to get your heart rate above their low threshold (70%) for the majority of the exercise (if you are doing intervals, make sure they are intense and don’t do too much a rest in between. If you’re doing p90x for example, you may want to keep active during “rests” to keep the heart rate from getting too low).

Garmin

VP has not made it easy to sync data. It is doable, but will require work on your part. Initially, it was thought the runkeeper “syncing” by VP would work, but it appears to be questionable.So your best first bet before doing anything else is to upload your workout to runkeeper.com and see if you are awarded healthmiles. Refer to the Runkeeper section for more details. If that doesn’t work, then… 

  • You can get any Garmin that uploads to Garmin Connect. You’ll have to do some roundabout conversions and convoluted steps to get them uploaded to polarpersonaltrainer.com.
  • Steps to get HealthMiles from a Garmin
    • First, upload your Garmin data to connect.garmin.com
    • Then, export the file in .tcx format from connect.garmin.com to your computer
    • Then, follow the steps under “Timex Ironman Watch” starting on the step for converting .tcx to .hrm.
  • You can also use copymysports.com or tapiirik.com to automatically sync with runkeeper.com and strava.com any files you upload to connect.garmin.com. However, it appears that VP is blocking these files from being awarded HM’s, although they do appear in the “Activity Log”. Numerous inquiries by myself and others have lead to no answers as to why or how this is done or the inconsistent awarding of healthmiles.
  • Since VH has not yet revealed just what/how they will sync with Runkeeper, I don’t have details, but I would assume it will be similar to polarpersonaltrainer.com – average HR and time. Once that goes live, I’ll revise this QRH.
  • VP has said that when it comes to runkeeper activities, for running, you must maintain at least an average of 3-4mph over the entire time of the workout, with NO lost gps waypoints (don’t pause the watch at any time to be certain).
  • Fitbit used to sync steps through runkeeper. As of 12/2014, they now sync directly, but very active minutes do not.

Suunto Heart Rate GPS Monitor (Ambit)

VP has not made it easy to sync data. It is doable, but will require work on your part. Initially, it was thought the runkeeper “syncing” by VP would work, but it appears to be questionable.  So your best first bet before doing anything else is to upload your workout to runkeeper.com and see if you are awarded healthmiles. Refer to the Runkeeper section for more details. If that doesn’t work, then… 

  • You’ll need to convert the workout files to.tcx to upload to strava/runkeeper/Virgin Health.
  • Currently Rubitrack will do it for Mac, and I’ve had good luck with SportTracks 3.1 for Windows. You have to install SportTracks 3.1, then download and click to install the “Export2Tcx” plugin, super easy. Once that’s done, the process after each ride is:
  • Connect watch to computer
  • Launch SportTracks, import the ride from your ride folder on the computer that the watch syncs with
  • Export as TCX
  • Follow the instructions under Timex Ironman GPS Watch to convert to .hrm and upload to polarpersonaltrainer.com.
  • If you are using a Suunto, please contact me and let me know any further details to add to this FAQ.

Timex Ironman GPS Watch

VP has not made it easy to sync data. It is doable, but will require work on your part. Initially, it was thought the runkeeper “syncing” by VP would work, but it appears to be questionable. So your best first bet before doing anything else is to upload your workout to runkeeper.com and see if you are awarded healthmiles. Refer to the Runkeeper section for more details. If that doesn’t work, then… 

  • Congratulations on your new watch, as it natively syncs with one of the best websites out there – trainingpeaks.com. That’s the good news. For Virgin Pulse – that’s the bad news because it doesn’t autosync with runkeeper.com or VH. But there is a way to get your workouts in to get your HealthMiles!It’s a bit convoluted, but doable.
  • Steps to Upload to VP:
    • Get an account at http://www.polarpersonaltrainer.com. This will be used only for your Virgin Health miles, so don’t worry about exploring it too much. Make sure to add VP as your “Partner” and share your data!
    • Go to trainingpeaks.com and under account settings, export data… Export your workout (it will export as a .pwx.gz file).
    • Go to http://pwx.raytracer.dk/ and convert your .pwx to .tcx
    • If runkeeper is not syncing with VH then:
      • Download Ergograph. Convert from .tcx to .hrm with Ergograph (PC-Only), then upload with HRMuploader. NOTE: If you are using Ergograph, you MUST have GPS information – even if you didn’t go anywhere!
      • Download HRMUploader from http://rikara.blogspot.ca/2009/04/uploading-old-polar-hrm-data-to-polar.html
      • Run HRMUploader (make sure you have java installed!) and sign in to your polarpersonaltrainer.com account
      • Upload your workouts.
      • Voila! – It takes about 5 minutes for polarpersonaltrainer to sync with VP (they say 15 minutes).
      • Caution: If you are using this work-around to upload you workouts, please keep in mind that ergograph and Polar do not recognize “starts” and “stops” (ie, pauses) in workouts. Consequently, even if you pause your watch, it will determine average HR from the time you start until the time you finally “finish” (or reset) your workout on the watch. So once you start – don’t stop, or you’ll lower that average HR!

Runkeeper

Update: As of 10/5/2014 Runkeeper no longer syncs for me. I’ve contacted VP without a solution.

(Update 5/2014: ONLY the APP is compatible with Virgin Pulse. Anything else that works is by pure luck!)

With the latest release of the Virgin Pulse, you can now earn healthmiles through activities on Runkeeper app. The functionality for anything else is rare. Wherein I’ll see my “active minutes” in the activity log, it refuses to grant me “healthmiles” for active minutes from Runkeeper. Recently (12/2013) they added a “Sync Runkeeper” button but it has little effect on granting HealthMiles.

  • (As of 12/2013, fitbit steps DO count). If you use fitbit or other devices for steps, those steps do not count for challenges. The only time active minutes or steps count is through the pedometer.
  • In order to get credit from Runkeeper, you must not have any missing GPS points. You must use the app. That means, once you start the app, do not pause the app. Pausing could cause the “loss” of GPS points and prevent credit
  • You must proceed faster than 4mph in order for the activity to count with “at least one validated GPS Tag” no matter the type of activity – cycling, running, etc.
  • HR does not matter with runkeeper.
  • If your device saves your information in .fit or .tcx format, you can upload them to runkeeper, and VHM will show the active minutes in the activity log, but does not seem to grant healthmiles or does so inconsistently.
  • When attempting to sync from other devices, I’ve had the best luck never pausing the watch. This may lead to “lost” GPS waypoints which cause it not to accept the workout.

Endomondo

Update 10/16/2014: According to the VP customer service, this info from the website IS INCORRECT. ONLY steps will transfer!

Virgin Pulse recently added compatibility or “syncing” from Endomondo. I have an endomondo account, and after connecting my account to VP, and going for a run with Endomondo, it did transfer to Virgin Pulse as “Partner Fitness Device Upload > 30 minutes”. It will then apply these rules:

  1. Your step information will transfer from the day you link and forward. Only your steps will be pulled from Endomondo (based on 2,000 steps per mile). Steps are not calculated if the average speed of the session is over 15 mph.

** Depending on your sponsor and the way your program has been set up, this feature may not be available to you. For questions, please contact us.

Please keep in mind… It will depend on if your sponsor sets it up. So, contact your administrator. Then, as always, remember the “syncing” will not always be smooth. Keep that pedometer handy as a backup!

Fitbit

  • As of 12/2013, VP has said that you can connect your fitbit account directly to VP, and you don’t need to use Runkeeper to do it. In fact, all steps counted by fitbit is just as good for challenges and other activities as using the GoZone pedometer. They say all versions of fitbit will work. I don’t own a fitbit (yet), so I can’t verify how it works with active minutes…
  • As of 12/2013, the “Very Active Minutes” recorded by fitbit do NOT translate into Virgin Pulse “Active Minutes”. No word as to why, or when, or if ever, such compatibility will occur. After having the opportunity to speak with Virgin Pulse on a conference call, I learned the potential for having “Very Active Minutes” transfer is relatively small. It isn’t because Virgin Pulse isn’t willing, but instead because FitBit is being rather coy (ie – not telling) about just how they determine “Very Active Minutes”. As far as anyone can tell from what I’ve read… nobody knows or can figure it out for certain. Since VP can’t figure out how they do it, they can’t allow it to transfer. You can’t blame them for that.
  • The only way to get credit for “active minutes” is through the GoZone (Max) or Polar Heart Rate.

Withings

  • Virgin Pulse claims compatibility with Withings WI-FI scales but you will NOT gain any HM for automatically synced weigh-ins with Withings. You must still manually input your weight, body fat, and blood pressure in order to earn Healthmiles, so don’t be deceived into thinking their “compatibility” will automatically get you miles. Not yet, anyway.

MyFitnessPal

  • In October of 2013 Virgin Pulse announced a partnership with MyFitnessPal calorie tracking.
  • According to their recent FAQ’s, myfitnesspal is part of an optional program that your organization may or may not participate in. Mine apparently does not so I can’t tell you much about it.

Windows 8

The old isync software is not compatible. You will need to download the new Virgin Pulse software.. . . Although Microsoft says isync is compatible, From the Q&A from virginpulse.com:

Is the software compatible with Windows 8?

Unfortunately, Windows 8 has not yet been identified as a compatible operating system to use with the iSync software.  While our development team works through improving compatibility with Windows 8, please upload your pedometer to a computer that is running one of the compatible operating systems listed below.

iSync software is fully compatible with:

– Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7

(Note: A new tidbit says you can try the Max pedometer software with the GoZone on Win8. However, they didn’t say for sure it would work.)

– MAC OS X v10.4 or above

Device Guide chart

Virgin Pulse recently issued a chart which has been long overdue, but finally gives a much better insight into how various devices log and relate to Virgin Pulse. For those who haven’t seen it on the site. Of note: NOTHING BUT VP Max gives you active minutes, and only POLAR gets the cardio credits:

Fitness Devices Comparison Chart

VP Max Fitbit Flex Fitbit Zip Fitbit One Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor Misfit Shine
Buy one now
Retail Price $24.99 $99.95 $59.95 $99.95 $94.95 $99.99
Best used for: Walking, Running Walking, Running, Swimming Walking, Running Walking, Running Walking, Running, Swimming Walking, Running, Swimming, Cycling
Tracking Capability x x x x x x
Steps x x x x x x
Active Minutes x x x x    
Validated Cardio Sessions         x  
Sleep Coming soon x   x   x
Calories Burned x x x x x x
Sync Capability with Virgin: Bluetooth and USB Bluetooth Bluetooth Bluetooth USB Bluetooth
Steps x x x x   x
Active minutes x          
Validated Cardio Sessions         x  
Sleep Coming Soon Coming Soon   Coming Soon   x
Calories Burned x x x x x x
Wearability Clip On: Pocket, Belt, Sports Bra Wrist Clip On Clip On Wrist Wrist & Clip On (magnet)
Device Support VP Fitbit Fitbit Fitbit Polar Misfit Wearables

Fitness Apps Comparison Chart

MyFitnessPal Endomondo Runkeeper Moves
Download one now
Retail Price Free Free Free Free
Best used for: Calorie Counting Running, Walking, Cycling Running, Walking, Cycling Running, Walking, Cycling
Tracking Capability   x x x
Steps N/A x   x
Active Minutes x   Walking and Running Only  
Calories Burned x x   x
Sync Capability with Virgin: API API API API
Steps   x   x
Nutrition Calories Consumed & Macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat, sodium) Calories Burned   Calories Burned
App Availability iPhone and Android iPhone and Android iPhone and Android iPhone and Android
App Support MyFitnessPal Endomondo Runkeeper ProtoGeo Oy

 

Updates

Update 12/4/2014: VP has finally issued a chart illustrating how various devices integrate with VP. Essentially, only steps transfer, and only if you use polar do you get the “cardio” credit. Other devices are still unreliable.

Update 11/24/2014: Endomondo has resumed syncing, but other than showing under “Active Minutes”, no HM or other items work.

Update 10/25/2014: My Runkeeper and Endomondo syncing have stopped. After calling Customer Service, they had no solutions. Other than doing what obviously doesn’t work “Wait 24 hours for Runkeeper to sync.” “So what does the ‘Sync Runkeeper’ button do?” “Wait 24 hours…” … Sigh. Anyway, it all started with the “MOVES” sync starting. Not sure if it’s related, but do not rely on anything but the VP pedometer because nothing else works well or gives ACTIVE MINUTES.

Update 10/16/2014: According to VP’s customer service, Endomondo only transfers steps and no other data. There customer service isn’t very well trained, so take it for what it’s worth.

Update 9/2014: Added information about Endomondo. I suspect the 15mph limitation also applies to Runkeeper.

Update 6/2014: Polar just released the V800, the first activity and 24×7 HR monitoring watch. Whether or not it is compatible with VP has yet to be determined, but purely guessing… I wouldn’t count on it right away! 

Update 5/2014: When using Runkeeper, the ONLY part that is compatible with Virgin Pulse is the app. Any other uploads to Runkeeper may/may not work.

Update 5/2014: The company announced “partnership” with Endomondo and the new Misfit. Only steps will transfer. Also, the virgin pulse sync software for windows has been updated to 3.0.20. For some strange reason the software does not yet automatically update –  you have to download the latest version from the website. They have released the android app to use with VP and the Max pedometer.

Update 3/2014: Virgin Healthmiles has issued the new “Max” pedometer. The “Dash” App is no longer. There is an iphone app to use with the new Max pedometer. There is as of now no Android app to use with the Max (no wireless sync on Android phones). 

Update 2014: NOTE: iSync (Gozone) IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH WINDOWS 8. However, the new “Max” software *may* work with GoZone on Win8. It works on my Win8.1 Surface Pro Tablet.

Update 1/2014: Revised section on HRM. Unless you’re using Polar, the use of Heart Rate Monitors is buggy, at best. Updated Garmin section to reference .tcx >> .hrm conversions.

Update 12/2013 (Part 2): For all the fitbit users, don’t get too excited yet. Very Active Minutes from fitbit do NOT translate into VP active minutes. Also added warning about Withings “compatibility” and HM. Added note about myfitnesspal – an new “optional nutritional module”.

Update 12/2013: Virgin Pulse continues to update the site with better integration between Runkeeper and FitBit. Fitbit section now updated.

Update 10/2013: Virgin Healthmiles changed its name to “Virgin Pulse”. Virgin Healthmiles and Virgin Pulse are used interchangeably below.

Update 04/17/2013. VHM has integrated with runkeeper.com. Please see the Runkeeper section for an update on how to use it.

Happy workouts!