I’m a runner and a gadget freak, so when Apple announced the “Nike + iPod Sport Kit,” a $29.95 gizmo that hooks up to an iPod Nano on one end and to your running shoes on the other, I was immediately interested. The most appealing promise of the product was accurate measurement: I like to run wherever I happen to be, and go in whatever direction I want to go. But I also like to keep track of how far and how fast.
A Garmin Forerunner 201 that I tried six months ago was a massive flop; even running down a tree-free road on a sunny day, it was so grossly innacurate as to be entirely useless. Other products didn’t seem to offer much better in the realms of reliability or accuracy. So I had given up.
But within a half hour of getting the Nike + iPod, I was out the door and walking (I’m currently injured and can’t run at the moment), and the kit was working. Music was pumping through my headphones, and when I pressed the center button on my Nano I’d hear a firm female voice: “Two minutes, thirty seconds. One-tenth of a mile. Pace of 25 minutes per mile.” Then the music would ramp up again.
I walked on a measured course (I used Google Earth to measure it), and within a tenth of a mile I knew that the system wasn’t properly calibrated. By the time I got to the quarter-mile mark, it was telling me I’d walked .35 miles. So I stopped, selected the “Calibrate” option on the iPod’s Nike+iPod menu, set it to “walk,” entered a point-to-point distance I knew for sure (four-tenths of a mile from that point to another), and got started again. At the end of the four-tenths mark, I pressed the center button.
I walked on for another eight-tenths of a mile, and the combination wireless sensor-receiver was spot-on accurate. Drenched in sweat, I took a quick shower and headed over to my Mac (not required: the package works on PCs, too), and plugged in my iPod. Immediately, iTunes opened up and, and sensing that I had used the new add-on device, asked me if I wanted to sign up at for a Nike.com account to track my workouts. I did, and within seconds my workout data had been transferred to my own personal workout database.
Although Apple is known for the simplicity of its products, and I’m a veteran Mac and iPod user, I was still surprised at how well this worked out of the box. I expected a glitch somewhere – that the wireless sensor wouldn’t work; that the iPod software would be buggy; that the Nike Web site would be a Beta Nightmare. But things went smoothly ,and for this reason I’d unequivically recommend the product.
Also this: I don’t own a pair of Nikes. For decades I’ve run in New Balance and Asics, and had no intention of switching to Nike to give the product shot. But I had read that what makes the Nike’s “essential” to the whole package is a little pouch that’s built into the brand’s running shoes to hold the quarter-size transmitter perfectly. But at Podophile.com, I found a terrific “how to” about modifying the Nike + iPod to work with other shoes. Fifteen minutes with velcro and thread, and the transmitter was snugly attached to my Asics 2110s.
Today I’ll walk another couple of miles – I’m in rehab, and at the end of each workout (so far), Lance Armstrong has said to me, through my headphones, “Great job. That’s your longest workout so far!” Who knew he cared?