Not everyone is a runner. I sure wasn’t for a good portion of my life. I love physical activity, but always preferred sports to the more boring option of simply running by myself.
But then I tried the iPod and Nike+ combo.
Now, I’m not one to blindly credit technology for improving our lives. So when I say that the Nike+ system changed my mind about running, I don’t say it lightly. But the rich visual summaries of your progress, the focus on improving as a runner and the ability to challenge and compete with others cannot be downplayed — they made me want to run more.
Which is exactly the intent of the product. To get started, all you need is to purchase a Nike+ iPod kit and create an account on the Nike+ website. And if you have a 2nd generation iPod Touch, a 4th generation iPod Nano, or an iPhone 3GS, then the Nike+ functionality is already available in your Apple device — all you need is the sensor for your shoes.
If you break the Nike+ system down into components, you basically have the iPod/iPhone portion and then you have the web application.
And the web app is where all the fun happens.
If you’ve used the Nike+ system in the past, you may know that the service is due for a major redesign. It’s been in progress for some time and the new version is now available, but in beta form. The differences between the two versions is mostly aesthetic — all the same options are available, some with a new name.
The new design is similar to the previous iteration and is broken down into several main sections: Home, Runs, Goals, Challenges, Coach, Map It and the Forums.
This is where you can see your history — how much you’ve run, how long it took, how many calories burned — all the information related to your activity. A person could write all this down in a notebook and review it that way, but I found that seeing my progress in a rich visual presentation really added motivation.
I wanted to keep improving.
Want to run faster? Further? More frequently? Set goals for yourself here and motivate yourself. With each goal, you can track your progress and see if you’re on pace or falling behind.
If beating yourself is not quite enough motivation, challenge a friend or acquaintance. You can set challenges to be by invite only or publicly available, and for individuals or teams. Choose people you know already in the system or invite your friends to join. Then get running.
For those are interested in possibly competing in events, the new Coach section is interesting. Want to create a training plan for a local race but aren’t sure where to start? The Nike+ website can help.
In the Coach section you can choose from several different programmes. The most common would be for 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon distances. The application has training schedules set for each race distance that are based on your current running skill level (Beginner, Intermediate 1 and 2, or Advanced). If you don’t have the time to join a running club or clinic, this is a helpful alternative.
It seems that Nike has caught on to the fact that modern web users are social in nature, and so the Nike+ application was designed accordingly. The Map It option allows you to map out your favorite running routes and then share them with others.
If all that isn’t enough for you, there are a smattering of other features in this application. It keeps track of all your personal bests and saves them in a section titled “My Records”. You can see your fastest ever run and furthest run, as well as your bests for the 5K and 10K distances.
It also keeps track of your performance in various Goals you set or Challenges you participate in. It’s a nice way to see the highlights of your running history.
The team behind the app has also created some nice desktop widgets that work with Dashboard for OS X and use the Yahoo Widget Engine for Windows users. These widgets track your Goals and Challenges.
And lastly, you can create your own Nike+ Mini, an avatar that you can use on your own website to share your running information with other people. This is probably not a feature everyone is interested in, but it adds some fun to the experience.
Make the Most of Your Runs
In the end, you still need to get yourself out the door and get running. I can say that as a competitive person who loves a challenge, Nike+ can increase your motivation. But to take full advantage, you need to get others involved.
As I mentioned above, this app was designed as a social tool. For myself, I got into the whole idea when I was visiting my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. She was a runner and, as it turns out, a decent trash talker as well. We purchased our Nike+ kits together and the race was on. Being able to check my progress against hers really made me long to get out and run again.
Even if you are an extremely self motivated person, competing and participating with friends and colleagues will still spur you on. Be sure to get involved with others.
A Word of Caution
I would be remiss not to mention to take care of yourself. If you are going to seriously consider running more or a lot more, then a running clinic is definitely something to check out. When I first started to run, I increased my distance too far and too fast. This will almost always result in injury and that was the case with me. Two years later, I still struggle with knee issues.
Take care of yourself above all else.