I’ve mentioned a few times already that I purchased an 8 GB iPod Nano recently, and along with it the Nike+ system. I’ve had the two for several weeks now, and have used them both a number of times on training runs, and finally feel comfortable posting some thoughts and impressions. In short, the Nano and the Nike+ are a match made in heaven.
I won’t comment much on the iPod itself. By now everyone knows what the device can do, and it’s widely considered the best music player on the market. It’s certainly the most iconic and well known. The new Nano is small, light, and easy to use. It sounds great, and can store plenty of music. It’s flash memory based, so it makes for the perfect workout companion, unlike the hard drive models that can skip or be damaged by moving while running or doing other exercises. The Nano is so small and light in fact, that when coupled with a good armband, you can put it on, and almost forget that it’s even there, while it happily pumps out tunes for you to listen to.
The real product of interest here is the Nike+ system, which consists of a sensor unit that goes in your shoe and a wireless receiver that collects data from it. The new Nike+ line of shoes have a special slot in the sole of the shoe, under the footpad, that you can place the sensor in, but since I don’t own a pair of those shoes, I had to come up with something different. There are various suggestions floating around the web on how to use the sensor on non-Nike+ shoes, but I decided to invest $10 on this, the Marware Sportsuit Sensor+, which allows me to move the sensor quickly and easily from different pairs of shoes, no matter who makes them. It was well worth buying in my opinion.
Once you’ve got the sensor secured in (or on) your shoe, you plug the receiver into the docking port on your Nano (it should be noted that the system only works with iPod Nanos) and turn the iPod on. After powering up, you’ll see a new option on your main menu that says “Nike+”. If you select this option, you’ll find various sub-menus that will allow you to select different types of workouts, configuring various options, like selecting your Power Song, and calibrating the system. Calibration consists of running or walking, over a set distance, so the system learns your stride and running pattern. I found that the unit was fairly accurate out of the box, without any calibration, but worked better after you’ve completed calibrating it. To do so, you simply select the option to calibrate over a distance of your choosing, then run that distance at a normal pace. When you’re done, you tell the Nike+ that you’ve finished and it then has a more accurate understand of how you move while running. There are seperate calibration settings for both running and walking, and I took the time to do both. It’s also very important to be sure that the distance you select for the calibration process is the actual distance you run. The more accurate the better.
Once you’ve finished the calibration process, you’re ready to go. Now when you set off on your run, you simply select the type of workout you want, and get started. You can choose workouts that are a set distance, time, or calories burned. The iPod will then inform you when you’ve reached your set goal of say 3 miles or 20 mintues, or what ever. Alternatively you can select an “Open” workout, which simply allows you to run and at the end, it tells you how far and how fast you went. I generally select the open workout right now, as I’m never too sure how far or fast I feel like going, especially as I continue to struggle with shin splints.
While running, the system will inform you regularly about your progress, both on the Nano screen and through auditory updates. It comes with two built in voices, male and female, that inform you of your progress throughout the workout. The voices sound very natural and pleasant and are not at all jarring while you are concentrating on your run. You can also get an update on your progress at any time by pushing the center button on the Nano. The voice will then tell you how far you’ve run, how long you’ve been running, and what your current time for running a mile is. It’s slick and easy, and actually does help to keep you informed about how well you’re doing. It’s also interesting to see how your workouts can vary from day to day based on other factors, such as what you ate, how stressed or tired you are, etc. The goal is to be able to workout consistently, but we all know we have some days that are better than orthers. When you’ve completed your workout, you simply tell the system that you’re done, and it saves the record of your run for later review. The record includes, time, distance, speed, and calories burned.
The next element of the Nike+ system is the Nike Plus Website. When you plug your Nano into your computer, either to recharge it or sync with iTunes to add music or podcasts or what ever, the system automatically uploads all your workout data to the website. You create a personal account, and all your data is then stored for review on your computer. You can use it to track your progress over time and compare different workouts. It even allows you to set goals and track progress to those goals, or if you have a friend who has the Nike+ you can challenge each other to various types of runs for distance or speed. It’s an excellent way to see all of your cumulative data, and stay motivated. The website is free, and included with the device, but is also very well designed and integrated. Of course, it’s also a place to sell you more Nike gear as well.
There are a couple of other fun features to the Nike+ system as well. I mentioned that allows you to select a Power Song, which is one song in your library that you can designate at a “pick-me up” while running. You can hear that song at any time by pressing, and holding, the center button on the Nano. The song will kick in and play, and once it’s over, you’ll return to the play list that was already in progress. The Power Song can give you a lift (I highly recommend Eye of the Tiger by Survivor), but I can’t help but wish you could choose more than one, and have the system randomly pick one for you. The other cool little feature I didn’t know about until I had used the system was the surprise celebrity athlete messages you get from time to time. For instance, after one of my runs, I got a congratulatory message from Lance Armstrong telling me that I had completed my longest workout yet. It wasn’t anything major, but it was still fun and unexpected.
If you enjoy running, walking, or hiking, I highly recommend the Nike+iPod system. It’s a very well designed product that is easy to use, offers great value, and should be a benefit to anyone into fitness. It’s online portion should also help you track your data over time, set goals, and make progress in increasing your distance and speed. The system itself costs $29, but of course you’ll need the iPod as well, which ranges from $149-$249 depending on the storage capacity. I added the $10 Marware sensor pouch as well, but that’s optional and you may find other ways to attach the sensor if you don’t own the Nike+ shoes. If you have any comments or questions, drop me an e-mail or post a comment to this review. I’ll be happy to respond or post updates here. But just in case you couldn’t tell, I love the Nike+ system and feel like anyone who is a runner, or thinking about starting to run, will enjoy it as well.
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