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Nike+ Feedback April 15, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Technology.
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It occurred to me that I was not specific enough in my review of the Nike+ sensor, app, and website. I need to clear my brain of these thoughts, so here is a list things Nike and Apple need to fix with this gadget interface.

Firstly, I must say that setup for this gadget was amazingly simple. The App downloaded and sync’d to my foot sensor without any issues. So much so that I forget how it worked and hope that I don’t have to resync or change any of that setup. I say this because the interface is equally simple and I have not been able to find any of the setup now that I am off and running with it. These are the three basic screens:

Despite this simplicity, there are some basic functions that do not work. The app allows you to define a custom workout (timed run with a given playlist, for example), but it does not allow you to use smart playlists – it always selects another playlist. And the once created, the workout does not show any details about the configuration despite there being plenty of room for it. See center pic above.

The primary function of the app is to record foot steps once the workout is started. It does force you to quickly sync to the foot pod which works fine. The problem is sometimes, randomly, you can start a workout and it somehow lost track of the sensor and if you aren’t watching, the timer runs, but zero distance is recorded. I have learned to check it once I get a few minutes into the workout. On a couple of early runs, it was recording some movement, but even running at 9min/mi (6.5 MPH), it recorded something like 1 MPH.

As I said in my first review, one of coolest functions of the Nike+ community is the challenges. To me, this should be something that they could build into the app. There should be a tab for challenges that shows where you are (if only at the time of your last sync) on any given sync. It should also provide a way to see and sign up for new challenges. The challenges can only be seen on the all flash website – which means you can not do it from the iPhone OS at all! That is ridiculous to me. This is a joint relationship from Apple and Nike and yet Apple feud with Adobe is cutting off the head of this app.

Now for the website. It looks super slick and clean – but it is slow – thus the reason Apple won’t let you run flash on their phones. However, some basic features do not work. First, on several occasions I have had trouble finding configuration things for my profile. It is not always intuitive. Also, the member search does not work. I have tried to use email and user name and neither work. For a social community site, this should be a required functionality to have working.

Now, since I have only been on the site for a few months (nearly 3 now), I am not completely sure how the challenges are working. I don’t think very well so far. In a recently one that ended last week, I came in second. The challenge was named “First to reach level Green” and the description read: Im taking this challenge so I can advance to level green. Feel free to do the same or just individually run to 122 miles. Now, the winner ran 123+ miles and I only ran 86+ miles, but he didn’t turn green yet. What is up with that? (I did turn green less than a week later.) I think I need to create a challenge for myself and see how that really works, but I am guessing the only criteria that the winner can be evaluated is the distance completed or fasted time not whatever the creator wants. So, when I create my challenge to reach Level Blue, it will be 460 Miles from now, but someone who is halfway there will turn blue in say 200 miles. It is all very confusing, but fun nonetheless and somewhat motivating, which is all that matters really.

I hope in future releases, Apple and Nike work out these kinks so that I can feel more satisfied with this nifty little workout gadget.

I turned Green today – JUST DO IT! April 15, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Family, Fitness, Society, Uncategorized, Work.
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I have now completed 158 miles with my Nike+ and ipod Touch. That puts me into the Green Level… only 463 miles until I move onto Blue.

I ran the trails on the local park. It was a nice day and I managed to push the pace a little bit with a couple of surges. But after about 20 minutes, I started to feel a bit tired and empty.

Today’s listen was yet another Jillian Michaels radio show from a couple of years ago – they really are timeless. There was nothing specific about this podcast that I want to remember, but one thing occurred to me after. She talks a lot about BMR and calories in versus out, intensity of workouts and changing it up to keep the body working harder to adapt. Blah blah blah. What it really comes down to is just doing the work and making the change.

If you want to accomplish something, you have to start somewhere. And you keep going until you get there. If you give up before you have accomplished your goals, you have to evaluate how important those goals are to you. Lately, I have not had major goals to shot for from professional and personal levels. This has gotten me down a bit and level me with a lack to direction. Having recently recognized this, I am trying to figure out what I want and give me something to work toward.

We all WANT a lot of things and we NEED other things. The question is, after you have fulfilled your needs, how to do prioritize your wants and then lay them out in a way that you can be successful in accomplishing them. I think the problem many of us have is that there is no one way to achieve a goal. This is why I think you have to start moving toward the goal, if you don’t know what the step after that will be. Sometimes progress is progress and you can make adjustments along the way.

What do you think?

Friday Run… Cold! March 26, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Technology.
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I generated enough will power to head out into the cold today. It is about 40 degrees, which is still my lower limit on going out in shorts. It felt cold for a few minutes, but after a while only my hands and thigh stayed cold throughout. It was a bit windy, so that did not help.

But I decided that I will try to write one blog for each run to cover the music, podcast or TV show that I listen to during the run. Here is my Nike+ update from Twitter about today’s run: ran 4.57 mi on 3/26/2010 at 12:16 PM with a pace of 9’30″/mi

It was a good run. I tried to keep it light and not push too hard, but my heart rate monitor did not work right for the first half. It slide down to my stomach and registered up to 210 BPM. After I got it situated, I managed to keep it under 160 for the remainder of the run. Assuming that is right, it is about 10 points lower than normal.

On today’s podcast, I listened to Engadget’s audio podcast #188. I am actually three episodes behind, but listened to this thanks to the outstanding buggy ipod Touch/iTunes software. Unfortunately, you can not control the sort order on Smart Playlists. I have four special playlists that allow me to only sync the podcasts that I have not listened to yet. That is a nice feature, but I would like to listen to them in chronological order… thanks Apple!

Anyway, the podcast is over an hour long and I only ran for 43 minutes. In the parts I listened to, they talked about Windows Mobile Phone Series 7 operating system… nice name Microsoft. It sounds like it is going to be a Vista like improvement over the prior version. They have built it from scratch, so rather than just make version 6.5 better, they started over and left some key and touted functionality out, like cut and paste… really? Did you learn from Apple?

By the time I finished the run, the guys had moved onto Palm’s current financial status, which does not sound good. They have been getting tremendous reviews on the Pre Plus, so it is a shame. This really just goes to show that the cell phone market has gotten way to fragmented. Let’s take a look just at the number of operating systems: Palm WebOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows Mobile Phone Series 7, Nokia Symbian, RIM Blackberry, and of course Apple iPhone… that is big list. Now, add to that the diverse set of phones from each carrier and phone manufacturers. It is too complex. I think the cell market is at a tipping point.

As they tout the roll out of 4th Generation cellular networks, it will add even more confusion. And the problem I have most with the cell services and manufacturers is they are ignoring the feature phone market. While they have added 5MP cameras on the expensive smartphones, they refused to move away from VGA and 1.3MP cameras on the feature phones. A year from now, they will still be at the same feature set and ultimately force people move up to the more expensive phones and services… that, to me, is unfair business practices.

Gadget Review: Nike+ sensor March 5, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Technology.
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Let’s start by saying, running and walking are the simplest of all fitness activities. Absolutely no special equipment is necessary to participate and it can be done almost anywhere. Now, that being said, there are plenty of special equipment out there for sale to make the activities more productive, more interesting, more fun, more motivating, more informative. I started running as a kid to get in shape for other sports – soccer, basketball, and even baseball, but I never participated on a running/track team.

Now, I keep running to stay in and improve my fitness. I run to relax, to get away and to clear my mind. Six years ago I got a Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS watch. For five years, it was a motivational factor in getting me outside to run, including my second marathon. For me, working full time and having two young kids, I feel pretty good about putting over 1,000 miles on it. Then last year, I upgraded to a Forerunner 305 that has the same (though more accurate GPS, but it adds a heart rate monitor, foot pod, and cadence monitor as possible accessories.

It made it so much easier to track and monitor my runs indoors as well as out. It is also great to be see my heart rate as I ran and then be able to see it graphed alongside my pace and cadence in Garmin’s Training Center software. I even used it a couple of times to see what my heart rate looked like as I slept.
But is missing from Garmin’s system is a sense of community. It is all good to motivate yourself, but if you are up for a little friendly competition, you need to look elsewhere.

And when my wonderful wife won me a new Apple iPod Touch last fall, I decided I would get the Nike+ sensor. I finally picked one up (for $20) in January. The sensor is just a small disc about the top digit of your thumb. It can fit into specific Nike shoes or can be attached to the top of ANY shoe in a little pouch (another $7). Essentially, there is a iPhone/iPod application that works like a sophisticated pedometer. It can be digitally calibrated, it stores past runs, and displays pace, time elapsed and calories burned. But after all that, it uploads runs to the Nike.com website when you Sync your iPod.

The website provides a way to track and display runs. It provides suggesting training regimes, it allows you to set up goals and share your runs with other Nike+ users. However, what is the most inspirational here is the ability to create and join challenges. Who can run the most miles in the next month? Who can run the fastest 5K in the next year? And these can be done at the team level – my state or country against yours. I am in one for the most active blood types (A+ is in a distant second place to O+).

So far (I have only put 73 miles on the device since January 21st), I am enjoying this extra motivational tool. It keeps me wanting to get running and recording distances for my challenges. There some minor bugs in the iPod app and it could use a little more functionality – like I think it should download current challenge standings when the system syncs. It couldn’t be up to date unless they also sync’d over the network, but at least it would not tie you to your computer. And the challenges have some built in biases that are difficult to overcome. But they are still very motivational to anyone who is a little competitive. And the app does let you play playlists while you run and of course works fairly accurately to record distances. All in all, this is a cool product that is fairly inexpensive if you already have an iPod.