Thursday, August 3


I've been using the new Nike+iPod system--or at least a "hack" of the new system. It has been really fascinating, fun, and surprisingly helpful with my training. I admit that at first I really thought it was just a gimmick, another unnecessary gadget. Of course, I am a sucker for unnecessary gadgets, so I went to the Apple Store and bought one as soon as I could. I strapped it on, signed up for the free web-based account, and started running with it. And now almost two weeks later, all I can say is "wow."

For many runners, music is an essential part of their workout. It isn't always for me. I love to run just listening to the sounds of nature. I also don't like the intrustion into my thinking and praying that music can sometimes be. But, even I like to run to Psalms or Hymns or new music every once in a while.

I do understand however, why iPods, have seemingly become both iconic and ubiquitous in the running community. The iPod can hold thousands of digital songs or dozens of e-books or the whole e-Bible or the Scottish Psalter or whatever--and then it can store playlists that you can arrange in strategic order especially for exercising. Various armbands, belts, clips and other accessories make it easy to carry your iPod with you while working out--especially if you have a Shuffle or a Nano (I use the Nano).

With the new Nike+iPod system you can do more than just play the soundtrack to your run--you can actually take along a virtual running coach. Apple and Nike teamed up to create a really nifty gizmo. Now, the iPod can measure your progress as you run, report it to you orally at regular intervals, and then post it to a Web site that tracks your workouts over time.

The $29 kit contains two small pieces: a receiver that plugs into the bottom of an iPod Nano and a small sensor that fits into a pocket in the inner sole of specially designed Nike running shoes. While you're listening to your iPod, the sensor calibrates your pace, distance and other data, and sends it wirelessly to your iPod, where it is stored and even announced every so often as you run. Upon returning from your run, you can plug your iPod into your laptop and load its data onto the free site at, where you can view your progress. The charts, graphs, personal records, challenges, and other features are really informative and very motivational.

Now here's the thing: I don't wear Nike shoes. I wear Brooks. And I have no intention of changing. So, what I do is slip the sensor into a little key pocket that attaches to my laces. It works perfectly that way. Others have hacked the system by attaching velcro or simply tying the sensor right to the laces. Any and all of the above are suitable ways to take advantage of the system without having to actually wear Nikes.

I've been using the system for more than a week now--and I love it. It is as accurate as a bulky GPS, easier to use, contains many more practical features, much cheaper, and lots, lots, lots more fun. Having Lance Armstrong's voice (or Paul Radcliff's) congratulate you on a good workout or a record time is a hoot!

Oh yes, and because it was designed by Apple, it is elegantly, simply, and brilliantly designed. I'm hooked.