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iPod nano and the New Nike+ Active – A Perfect Match?

After the latest software update for the 6th generation of Apple’s iPod nano, the Nike+ features have now been extended to monitor the steps you take throughout your day. With the new Nike+ Active your step-count contributes to an engaging online game experience. How well does Team Apple/Nike work?

The iPod nano and its latest software update

I probably don’t need to talk too much about the iPod nano. Most of you already know it is a tiny portable music player that comes with fun add-ons such as different clocks and photo albums. Thanks to the latest software update (Version 1.2) the Nano’s Nike+ feature now has a new function called “walk”. With it, you can easily count the number of steps you take throughout the day with the integrated accelerometer and sync your step-count with your Nike+ Active account. This still requires iTunes and a cable connection, but what you can do with your steps on the Nike+ Active website is worth the hustle.

The new Nike+ Active comes with great gamification features

Once your data is uploaded to the Nike+ Active website, your steps are rewarded with a virtual currency called NikeFuel. For those who are into running or gym, these are additional ways to earn NikeFuel. With this currency, you can play an online game with the aim of conquering cities around the world and encountering renowned landmarks. There you are presented facts and photos of the sights on your route, making it all like a virtual trip around the world. Starting in New York, you move up over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

Nike+ Active, New YorkSource: Nike+ActiveNike+Active, New York, Empire State BuildingNike+Active, New York, conquered

After having conquered one city, you can then move on to places like London, Paris or Tokyo. Several game mechanics such as rewards and leaderboards keep the users engaged in gaining more NikeFuel through their real world activities and make the users stay motivated to sync and play regularly. Additional fun features allow e.g. pasting your face onto the Statue of Liberty and posting the picture on Facebook.

Already known for their mobile apps such as Nike BOOM or Nike Training Club, the company once more has shown that they really understand gamification. Although it is still in the beta phase, the new Nike+ Active is a promising approach to engaging users in personal fitness.

Who is Nike+ Active for?

Unlike Runkeeper or Fitbit, the combination iPod nano/Nike+ is not so much intended for seriously tracking and aggregating general health information. Instead, it puts its focus on having fun, which works great to form a positive feedback loop for your daily walking habits. This makes the Nike+ Active perfect for anybody looking for some motivation and fun on the go. Since Nike+ doesn’t share user data with third party services, its value for Quantified Self purposes is limited. I hope Nike+ will change their strategy and contribute their fitness data to a richer set of personal health information in future services.

iPod or not?

If you’re intersted in first getting to know Nike+ Active you might want to try the Nike+ app for 1.99$ on your smartphone, which is synced with Nike+ Active as well. However, using it 24/7 will quickly drain your mobile’s battery and won’t deliver appropriate results without an accurate GPS signal, for example when you’re indoors. I’ve been using Fitbit for quite some time now and find an independent and wearable pedometer, which doesn’t interfere with my smartphone works much better for the time being. By really counting every step you take, you can get a holistic overview of your over-all fitness efforts instead of narrowing your view on just your weekly workouts.

Once you’ve decided to become part of the Nike+ Active game, I would definetely recommend buying the nano. More than a pedometer, you will get a slim and lightweight music player that allows doing your workouts without carrying the bulky smartphone around. I am sure the visionary Steve Jobs put several more grand strategic decisions towards a healthier lifestyle into place before leaving us. For this, and for so much more, my deepest appreciation goes out to His Steveness.

Nike+Active Badge

My Polar heart rate monitor – Why you should have one

Photo: Polar.fi

If you run five to six times a week, go to work by bike and do strength training in between your running days, you don’t want to spend more time than absolutely necessary at the PC writing all the stuff down. At the same time, it is important to see and calculate progress (or plateauing).

I got the RS300 Polar heart rate monitor to keep track of the kilometers I ran and to see my pace while I am running. After the training sessions, you can see your average and max pace, heart-rate and which sport-zones you used (customizable heart-rate zones). It even has a function that can measure your current fitness level (it’s called OwnIndex and is correlated to your VO2max) and another test that determines your current aerobic zone in the first minutes of your particular run! Two really cool features!

When you start running, as I did about three years ago, you’ll be overwhelmed by numbers. Same goes for other (endurance) sports. So, if you are like me, you start tracking what you can measure – the data will useful for motivation, new training plans, calculating your training load and much more.

At first you want to know how much time you spend on the track. Then you will start measuring your track length and calculating your pace. Soon enough, you buy a heart rate monitor to ensure the right training load and you begin training pulse oriented.

Running in the woods
He wears Polar

If its not enough to write that all down, maybe you want to see an average displayed by week/month/year in fancy, colored graphs, ready to share online with your training partners. Your personal Nyan Cat of data, there you go, the RS300 helps you do just that. Go to the website polar offers you to keep track of your personal goals, trainings plans and much more. Sure, I hear from time to time that people “feel” how much load they take, they “sometimes run fast, other times slower and it works well”.

Yes, it is much better than watching TV. Now consider the following: maybe you want to go faster and farther and run more relaxed all at the same time, get the lost calories counted and do it in perfect alignment with your body – then, of course, get yourself a heart-rate watch. Even with half-hearted endurance ambitions, monitor your heart. (And get a training plan of course, or let the Polar software design one for you based on your fitness test – well done Polar, well done).

Do you already own a heart-rate monitor? Have different ways to stay in touch with your training load? Share your knowledge, write a comment.