An iPod Touch And A Nike+ Sensor Track My Fitness Progress

Nike+ Sensor With iPod Touch In Nike Workout Application ModeAt end of November I decided to take a more proactive stance on my fitness level, or rather lack there of. So I have been forcing myself to use the treadmill that my roommates have available in the house. Granted prior to this decision, I’ve probably used the treadmill a total of three times since I moved in.

I definitely needed a better motivator for getting on the treadmill with some semblance of regularity, as telling myself I should was not translating into finding myself anywhere near it. So I decided I was going to have to forcefully create some motivation by creating a negative consequence for failing to do so. And so as of November 30th, 2008, I employed the strategy that I was not allowed to touch my computer until I had done at least one mile on the treadmill. At least until the being on a treadmill enough times had become habitual enough that I wasn’t going to avoid the treadmill by getting caught up being online.

The first week was a struggle, as everything tends to be when you start something new and want to make a habit out of it. I spent the first week just adjusting the speed of the treadmill up and down sporadically as I needed but aiming for one mile as my target goal. Each day I progressed a bit further in my ability to either stay at longer durations at higher speeds or pushed it further to higher speeds. And to make the sessions more tolerable, I employed the use of my iPod playing sections of various custom made music mixes I’ve made over the last decade.

With my second week, my roommate had suggested a plan which he uses which makes it easier to track progress, and that’s to use three different speeds, one at a slow pace as a more of a warm-up walking pace, a medium pace to be more of a faster paced walk, and a fast pace where its a run. And then doing each of the three paces for specific durations building up to the fastest pace and taking it back down gradually to the slowest pace, then after a week or two tweaking the distance as my fitness level improves.

The first week on this new program was good, I felt like I was making progress because I was hanging on to the handle bar for dear life the first day but by the end of the week I was “cheating” and starting the faster paces sooner and holding the fastest pace for a longer duration and not even holding the handle bar at all. So it felt like good progress and I was ready to move on to the next level that my roommate mapped out for me for the following week

Again, the next week started out as a challenge as now my sessions were going to be for a mile and a quarter instead of a mile and all of the increase in distance was going to be at the faster pace, so instead of half of my original mile being at the faster pace, it was now going to be three quarters of a mile. Boy was that a struggle the first couple of days, but in a good way.

During this week I had picked up a new iPod Touch as something I opted to get partially with a bunch of gift certificates I had earned for free, which covered about half the price of the iPod. The new second generation of the iPod Touch features built in support for the Nike+ sensors which gives the iPod the ability to track progresses for running. So instead of getting the kit that includes the Nike+ sensor and a transmitter to attach to the iPod, this one already could do that, I just needed the sensor and a quick trip the Apple store at the nearest mall fixed that. Ideally, the sensor is supposed to fit inside a compartment inside special Nike shoes and measure the impact of your shoe with the ground and send the data to the iPod via a wireless connection.

Well having done some research online, it seems there’s ways around the Nike shoes with the specialized compartment as those would have set me back about $100. Well I wasn’t interested in spending $100 on shoes just to run in when I have a perfectly good pair of $20 Costco shoes that I’ve had for years but rarely have worn. I tucked the sensor in under the shoe laces and for the first few runs, it tracked just fine.

One of the problems with using the shoe laces to hold the sensor in, is that it’s possible for the sensor to wiggle it’s way out and fall off the shoe and so it was a good thing I was on the treadmill and just about to hit my fast pace when I noticed the tracking on my iPod had stopped and sure enough a quick look behind found the sensor lying on the carpet just behind the treadmill where I quickly got off, tucked it back into the laces and completed my run even though it was missing about a quarter mile of my actual time on the treadmill.

I did find some suggestions online of inexpensive ways to attach the Nike+ sensor to my shoes online, and one of them suggested finding a protective case for USB thumb drives that closes with Velcro, and I found one in a nearby store for $3. Not a bad deal. I slipped part of the case through the laces and put the sensor in the other and sealed up the Velcro and haven’t had a problem with the sensor falling out of my shoe again.

One of the nice things about using the Nike+ sensor with the iPod is that not only does it store the data, but when I sync the iPod with my computer, it transmits the data to my account on the Nike+ website and allows me to store all my runs online. So I can track my progress and it keeps a running total for me (no pun intended) of the distance I’ve run in total since I started using the sensor and allows me to look at statistics. They have a bunch of other things you can do but I’m just happy to see it track the distance run and look at the graphic representations of each run.

One of the things the Nike+ site does to allow it to be a motivator is that you can share the data on social networking sites like FaceBook or even put it on your own website (as you can see here, I’ve done this) so you can have family and friends check in on your progress as a box that shows your previous runs or even a mini character like the one that’s supposed to somewhat represent me (although I think it’s hair came out more red than brown looking.) And you can customize how much you want to share. So it works out as a nice way to have people send you encouragement.

So even though I’m not running marathons and most people will probably laugh at how small the progress is I have at the moment, but I’m taking the steps to bring about positive change in my fitness level. And now that it’s been a full month since I started, I can report that I’ve gone from doing one mile mostly walking sessions to mile and a half sessions which are half run and half walks. I still don’t enjoy the process of running at all, but thanks to an iPod full of great songs to get me through it and the Nike+ sensor to keep track of it, I’m getting physical activity that I wasn’t getting before. Who knows maybe I’ll even learn to love the running and sign up for a 5 or 10K run by the end of 2009.

If you’re interested in getting your own system, you don’t need an iPod Touch, the Nike+ system is also compatible with most generations of the iPod Nano. If you do get an iPod Nano to try the Nike+ system, you will need the kit that includes the wireless receiver that attaches to the docking port on your iPod in addition to the sensor. And of course, there’s also the fun iPod Touch if you’re interested in that route as well. Below are some links to that will get you what you need if you want to join me in my journey to better health and fitness.



2 thoughts on “An iPod Touch And A Nike+ Sensor Track My Fitness Progress”

  1. Congrats Ryan!

    I’m allergic to activity & exercise, but I live vicariously through those who are insane enough to give both a go! Woo hoo!


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