Every Step You Take...
High-tech meets high-intensity workout with the Nike+ Apple Sport Kit.
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By Justin Luciani
October 4, 2006
Just do it. Nike’s genius motto is easier said than done—especially when it comes to getting up early for a brisk jog before work. We all know that 30 minutes of exercise a day helps you lose weight, decreases blood pressure, and fight heart disease. But with our hectic schedules, who has time for the rigors of strenuous exercise?
What if a technology came along that made running something enjoyable, that aided getting your exercise regiment on a consistent schedule, that allowed you to workout with your buddies halfway across the country, and that provided the services of world-class coaches? No, it’s not some futuristic virtual robot suit that I’m talking about. It’s actually a current technology that can be purchased for under $30: the Nike + iPod Sport Kit.
The Sport Kit consists of two components: a sensor/transmitter that you attach to your sock or running shoe, and a receiver that affixes to your iPod Nano. If you want to go the extra mile, purchase a pair of Nike+ Ready Shoes—the Air Zoom Moires ($100). These surprisingly lightweight and flexible shoes come equipped with a small compartment located under the sole of the left shoe made to house the 6.5-gram transmitter.
With my shoes laced tight for my first run, I simply attached the 3.4-gram receiver to my Nano, pressed play, and began tracking my performance. The entire setup time was less than 5 minutes, and the learning curve was truncated by the famous usability of the iPod.
After cooling down from my workout, I popped the Nano into my computer. Within seconds, all of my workout data seamlessly uploaded to the Nike+ website, graphically presenting the time, distance, calories used, and pace of my run.
After completing my first run, I compared the distance recorded by the iPod with the actual distance I ran. Surprisingly, it was accurate within 1/50 of a mile without even calibrating the sensor! The accuracy is the result of a piezoelectric accelerometer (tech-speak for a device that measures your running speed) embedded in the sensor that measures pace and distance by calculating the amount of time your foot spends on the ground, combined with the time between foot strikes.
My first workout with the Sport Kit was definitely positive, but it wasn’t until a few weeks of data began piling up that I really began to understand the true value of this tool. Watching the graphs of my daily runs add up on the Nike+ website allowed me to clearly monitor and take pride in my progression. A considerable body of research supports this idea: individuals who set and keep track of behavioral goals perform better than others who don’t.
The Nike+ web application fills this niche perfectly, allowing users to set weekly and monthly goals aimed at running more often, farther, and faster. At the end of a workout, you’re presented with a graph that shows how much farther or faster you need to run to hit your goal. When you achieve your goal, you’re presented with a virtual medal and a brief congratulatory message from Lance Armstrong or Paula Radcliffe. These may seem like trite motivations (they did to me at first), but trust me, you reap what you sow. All the effort put into achieving your goals makes these virtual rewards just as prized as any real-world possession.
Recently I’ve begun using some of the more advanced features of the Sport Kit: Challenges and Nike Sport Music. The Challenges function on the Nike+ website allows runners to challenge up to 50 friends to a distance race—a 5k, a 10k, or the most miles in a given period of time. What better motivation than a competition with friends across the country?
New to competitive running, I need all the help I can get to improve my endurance and speed. Who better to help me train than marathon champion Roberto Salazar? Of course I wouldn’t last the first 100 meters on a track with Roberto, but with Nike Sport Music, I’ve downloaded a workout that mixes fast-paced music with Roberto’s voice coaching me through intense interval training. Believe it or not, having someone let you know to “push it” the next three minutes really comes in handy.
Before I began using the Sport Kit, I thought that it would simply be a neat little toy to occasionally play around with. Surprisingly, it has become a significant part of my daily jogs. Knowing that every step is being monitored incentivizes each second of my workout. No longer do I find myself taking the easy way out and letting up a bit on the last mile. Instead, I’m pushing myself longer and harder. In fact, I’ve increased my average weekly miles 2.5 times over, and knocked two minutes off my average mile time during my first seven weeks using the Sport Kit!