I hope this blogpost finds you well. For many of you following me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve seen my various status updates and tweets about my health and fitness training, especially in the areas of running and weight workouts. You also know, being the techie that I am, the ability to use technology to track my performance metrics against goals, is of great interest to me, and frankly makes exercising that much more fun. You also probably know that I am a fan of the Nike+ fitness tracking system. Well, this post is not about waving the Nike+ banner, but more about my experiences and knowledge gained about the whole fitness tracking phenomenon and how I see it with respect to exercising/training the old fashioned way – basically paper and pen at best!
I’ll start by conveying my experience with the Nike+ system, my likes about it, and convey a little about the dislikes of others about it (in comparison to the competition). I discovered Nike+, not via one of the many YouTube videos or a TV commercial, but by reading an article in Wired Magazine entitled “Living By Numbers”. While the article featured the work of Apple and Nike in developing the Nike+ system, it was also comprised of other articles and examples of websites and apps regarding performance metrics tracking. You can read the article here.
I’ve pretty much worked out -prettttttttttty- regularly since late HS, through college, etc (though I won’t state how many times I fell off the horse and got back on – thank goodness for muscle memory). Finding out about idea of using tech to track my performance was immediately golden to me and obviously, as said above, appealed to my tech side. What I liked (and still do) about the sports and fitness giant we know as Nike, is their entire approach – marketing, advertising, etc to sports and fitness. The appeal to THIS consumer and fan is great. Another company that does the same for me is Apple (as I type away on this sleek black Macbook).
So, Nike has developed this whole system called Nike Plus, or more overall Nike Active. The whole premise (if you didn’t read the article above) is the combination of an iPod nano or iPhone, coupled with a sensor that goes in specialized Nike running shoes, and a sensor receiver that goes into your iPod (which is how it was originally designed). It was first geared towards tracking your run stats. Since then, the iPod nano 6G (v1.2 software update) and iPhone 4/4S with iOS 5.0 do away with the need for the iPod sensor receiver that comes with the Nike+ Sports Kit. Here’s a video (not the newest, but my favorite) about the basics of Nike+
Since 2006, various Nike+ products have come into existence – the sports band, the Nike+ GPS watch. Here’s a comparison chart
For me, the best product is the iPod nano. I’m not at a point where I want to track my routes, nor do I need the instantaneity of posting to the Nike+ site via GPS. I also own an iPhone 4 that I make reference to later in this post.
Nike has upped the bar and added yet another fitness tracking item: The Nike Fuel Band
A really interesting, yet pricey, fitness tracking device that is designed to motivate you to stay active. I like everything about it (sans the price), except it isn’t waterproof and if you like working out to music, you’re out of luck. It’s slated to hit the US market on Feb 22nd. Here’s a good article on it.
Nike+ is great to me, however there are some definite naysayers and disatisfied users of the system. If you are on FB and search on the keywords “Nike Plus”, you’ll find their page. 98% of the comments currently there (they revamped the page over the last two years) center around the following areas”
It appears to me that a good deal of the problem points to the fact that it’s a Flash based site, when many, if not all of the other ones are not. Frankly I like the site, and in the almost two years of running and using it, I’ve never suffered the myriad of problems these people are griping about. Nike did admit, and posted a formal letter, to the issues the site was having. I think that was admirable of them. Not having experienced the issues others have, it’s hard for me to share a sympathetic ear, but I hope that the site issues become minimal.
One of the major capabilities in fitness tracking tech is the use of GPS, especially in running. As widely known, you can track your routes and via GPS upload them to your favorite fitness track website via the accompanying smartphone app. Garmin, of course, is in the game and many fitness sites, along with Nike, like Map My Fitness, GainFitness, Dailyburn, Dailymile, and so on. As you can see from iPhone screenshot, I’ve downloaded a number of fitness tracking apps that, aside from Nike+, have tried yet. Since I workout with weights as well, I’m looking for one that will allow me to success track performance there as well. There are eight so far that need investigation. Assessing each will be a project in itself. Currently, in addition to the Nike+ sites, I am using the online site, Dailymile. It was recommended by a friend of mine who’s done a thorough assessment of the site and what I’ve seen so far, I like. It not only allows me to track my runs, but other types of fitness workouts as well. It crossposts to Twitter nicely, allows for the upload of pics and video, has the ability to import my run data from Nike+. From what I understand, it has great capability for analytics as well. Many of these sites allow for import of data from Nike+ and other sites as well.
Many of the sites mirror the same capabilities so, as said above, the best thing to do is compare and maybe use multiple sites, if necessary, to meet the needs you have for tracking your metrics. This leads me to an obvious aspect of performance tracking – accuracy. Just how accurate is all of this? To quote a friend. “If it’s tracking faulty stats it’s futile”. True indeed. One can, depending on what they want to get out of tracking performance, get VERY hung up on how accurate one device is against another in an apples-to-apples comparison. Then there are those like a weightlifter, whose comment I saw in a forum that was attached to an article about this aspect. He basically said he didn’t care much about tight accuracy because he’s just a weightlifter, but wanted to have SOMETHING to gauge his run performance, something simple he could use as a tool to track improvements. The article by Daily Burn CEO Andy Smith is entitled “DailyBurn CEO: Fitness-Tracking Devices Aren’t Gimmicks, but They’re Close”. The article can be read here. Personally, I think one, especially someone who is highly data driven, can get too caught in the phenomena, losing sight to why they started the fitness journey to begin with.
In summary, I look forward to continuing in the leverage of fitness tech to allow me the added enjoyment of keeping fit. I’m settled and happy with the physical tools (iPod nano and Nike Sports Kit) that I have…I can see a bluetooth transmitter for the nano and an accompanying lightweight set of bluetooth headphones, but other than that, I’m good. As for the apps and websites, research and trial awaits. I’m looking forward to that as well, but in the mean time…it’s all about breaking that 10 min mile and training for my first 5K this year. Hopefully I can find an interesting app to aid in my bodybuilding, or should I say weight workouts. Time will tell. In closing, for all the excitement there is in gaining and maintaining good fitness, I try to keep this thought first and foremost.
Here are a number of popular online fitness tracking sites:
Thanks for reading….