As I mentioned recently, I’ll be running in the 5K Your Way run in October (feel free to sponsor me!) like I did last year. Last year I expected to walk and ended up running the entire thing, but I was in pain for several days afterwards, so this year I decided to train for it. I started in May, as soon as the weather got nice. I chose a path that’s about 3-3½ km long, and started out by alternating walking and running – I would walk for 90 seconds and then run for 60. The idea was that you do this for a week or two, then gradually increase the amount of time you were running until you were finally running the whole thing. I found that this plan didn’t work very well – I found that I hated the running part and while running, looked forward to when I could walk again. Then when my walking time was up, I though “Oh crap, I have to run again”. One time when I was out, I decided “Ah screw it, I’ll just run the whole thing” and I did. My legs hurt a little for a while afterwards, but I preferred just running to alternating, since I didn’t have to keep checking my watch and I didn’t have the dread of having to start running again. I took a break in July when we went to Scotland and then tried to get back into it when we came back, but was having trouble getting motivated. I was well into baseball season at that point, and I didn’t want to run hard enough that I couldn’t play my best. Not that I’m an all-star ball player or anything, but I wanted to contribute whatever I could to the team, and taking myself out of a game in the fifth inning because I couldn’t run anymore wouldn’t be much of a contribution. But then my birthday came, and everything changed.
I went up to my parents’ place the weekend after my birthday, and when it came time to open my gifts, they gave me two little boxes and told me to open the top one first. I opened it and it was a thing called Nike + iPod, which is a little sensor that you put in your shoe that communicates with a thing you attach to your iPod, and it tracks how fast and far you run and uploads that data to the nikerunning.com website so you can keep track of your runs. Very cool, but right on the box, it said “Requires iPod Nano“. My iPod is a 80 GB 5G, but I thought that maybe Trudy (who has an iPod Classic similar to mine) had done some research and found that it works with my iPod as well. Nicky, sitting beside me, grabbed the second gift box and said “Maybe this is an iPod Nano!” I gave a little chuckle and said “maybe”, not for an instant thinking he was right. Of course, he was – it was a beautiful silver Nano.
I don’t wear Nike shoes. I’ve had Nikes before and they never seem to fit my feet properly. But the Nike+ sensor is supposed to go into a little cut-out inside some pairs of Nike shoes, so I had to improvise by stuffing it under the insole in my Reebok’s. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. It’s amazing how much this little thing has changed my workout patterns. I started running once or twice a week, and found that my legs quickly adapted, and while they would be sore for an hour or two after the runs, I was still able to play baseball and didn’t suck any worse than I usually do. By the end of August, I was running at least twice a week, and my distances were growing as well. I don’t think the sensor was completely accurate for me (perhaps it slides around under my foot and that affects its distance calculations) – Google Maps thinks my original route is about 3.9 km, but Nike+ has recorded it as anywhere between 4.3 and 5.48 km. I did run a little further than normal on the second one, but not a full kilometre and a half. I recently bought a Shoe Pouch for the sensor that fits on top of the shoe, which works very nicely. The distances are more consistent now so I end up trusting them more.
The device itself is very cool – you can tell it you want to work out over a predetermined distance or just keep running until you say stop. Then you pick a playlist and say “go”, and it starts recording and playing the playlist. When you’re done, it tells you how far you ran (or walked – it can tell the difference), how long it took, your average pace, and how many calories you burned. You can also choose a “power song”, which it plays if you press and hold the center button down. The idea here is that if you need some inspiration, you can play your favourite pick-me-up song whenever you want. The next time you sync your iPod, it will update your Nike+ account.
The Nike+ site is pretty Flash-heavy but slick, showing each run you recorded, when it happened, and how long you went. It will also show you a graph of your pace throughout the run, with a little mark at each kilometre point, as well as whenever you pressed the centre button during the run (which updates you on how far you’ve gone and how long it’s been) or played your power song. It keeps track of your fastest mile (7’30”), 5k (21’31” – though I think that was based on the 4+ km run I did that it recorded as 5.48, so it’s unreasonably low), and 10k (none… yet), as well as your total number of workouts (15), kilometres (61.50), length of time (5:20:49), calories burned (4989), and average pace (5:13/km). You can set up goals (i.e. run 10 times within 4 weeks (which I just completed the other day! Yay me!), or run some number of total kilometres in so many weeks), or join challenges, which are competitions in which you join a team of people with something in common (could be men vs. woman, or something like fans of different baseball teams) and add to the total for your team.
I hooked up the Nike site with my facebook account so whenever I sync my iPod, it updates my facebook status with the results of my latest run (eg. “Graeme ran 4.41 km on 9/25/2009 at 11:37 AM with a pace of 5’20″/km“). I did this with the idea that if I broadcast to everyone whenever I run, I have some accountability. If I skip a week or run shorter than usual, everyone will notice. Of course nobody will really notice – nobody’s paying that close attention to my running patterns. But it still sticks in my mind when I’m thinking of cutting a corner or taking the shorter path, “people are going to see 3.8 km instead of 4.4 and think I wimped out, so I’ll take the longer route”. And I do, and I end up glad that I did. Amazing, the power of peer pressure, even imagined peer pressure.
If you are a runner, or want to be, I highly recommend the Nike + iPod. Not only is the Nano a slick little piece of hardware, but the Nike+ part is very motivational. Well, not really motivational, but it certainly makes it more fun. I ran 5k once last year, and that afternoon I couldn’t walk down a flight of stairs. The next day I had to work at home. I was in pain for three or four days. I’ve been training with this thing seriously for only about a month, and last week I came within 1 km (4.53, 5.2, and 4.4 km, a total of 14.13km) of doing the 5k run three times in five days.