How Nike Plus is helping me train for a marathon

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I love sports, but I've always had a love-hate relationship with running just for running's sake. Toss me a ball, and I'll chase it all day--but if you asked me two weeks ago how long it would take me to run 5 miles, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. But now, with the help of a simple gadget, I'm on my way to training for a marathon.

What irked me about the idea of running was that I had nothing to measure my progress against. "It feels good" and "it improves heart health" were too amorphous and unquantifiable for me. I needed something that would keep count the way we keep score in basketball or volleyball, the I know I just climbed a 5-10d at the climbing gym or rocked a double black diamond skiing.

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Enter Nike Plus. It was first introduced in 2006 as a team effort between Nike and Apple--a $30 kit includes a small sensor that fits in your shoe and a receiver that hooks up to your iPod Nano. The sensor in the shoe tracks distance, pace, and time, and measures those up against your weight and gender to estimate how many calories you burned. It prides itself in being the largest running community in the world, and people everywhere from Tokyo to Doha have been seen running with it.

Setting up Nike Plus was easy--I went to NikePlus.com, signed up for an account, put in some personal info included height and weight, and even made an avatar that kind of looks like me. A video tutorial taught me how to sync my iPod Nano to my Nike LunarGlide+. This part was easy--the only real challenge in the whole process is the running. I set a goal online to do 10 runs at an average pace of 7'59" in one month. Good luck to me!

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The first run I did with Nike Plus was with last Tuesday at the weekly Sports Basement Fun Run. Tough debut. There were over a dozen runners, and some are serious marathoners. Lucky for me, my friend Jenny offered to run with me--she's no joke, either, but at least I can tell her when I feel like I'm dying and she won't leave me in the dust. I've eschewed my earphones for casual conversation, but Jenny has Nike Plus, too, and every mile or so she said stuff like: "Lisa you're doing an 8.2 minute mile!" and "Great job!" and it made me a little bit more motivated than I was a second earlier.

Mid-run, the run club coach joined Jenny and me and we started grilling him on how to train for a marathon. He was a friendly triathlete named Bryan and answered all our questions. Here were his five best tips:

1. Do three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off, and so on. Running every day is not good for your knees.
2. Don't worry about how fast you're going. It's more important that you finish than how quickly you did it.
3. Every day that you run, add five minutes to whatever time you did the day before.
4. Don't be afraid to walk. A good brisk walking break when you're about to crack could lengthen your stamina enough to finish the race.
5. Don't use too many gadgets.

It happened to be on an unusually hot day (ninety-two degrees!) in San Francisco, but I manage to keep up with the group and do 3.82 miles in 31 minutes and 50 seconds.

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A couple days later, I ran for almost 45 minutes with Steven. We didn't walk much, but boy did we talk! Who knew running was such a social thing?

When I got home, I plugged my Nano into my MacBook and iTunes automatically updated NikePlus with my most recent run data--I made a quick visit to NikePlus.com and emailed the data to Jenny and Steven.

It's been a week since my first Fun Run, and to my surprise, running is actually fun. I think I can keep this up and do at least a half marathon by the end of summer.

Published by Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.

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8 Comments

  1. Marware makes a nice little pouch for attaching a Nike+ to any running shoe. Useful for those who don’t find Nike’s shoe selection right for them.

  2. So you’re going to tell us if you met your goal or not right?

    I’d be interested in more fitness-related posts, especially ones involving data tracking. I can see myself exercising regularly in order to fill out a data table. I tried to track the number of pullups I did using tweets, but it was ugly and didn’t work well.

  3. If you like data, add a GPS to the mix (I use MotionX GPS for the iPhone, but there are a ton of them out there).

    Dump the data to visualization tool (trailguru.com and motionbased.com are both web-based and free) and you’ll end up with all kinds of pretty maps, graphs, and charts that you can share with your friends.

  4. I can attest to the sheer awesome of this product. It was easily responsible for 75% of my runs during my first six months, getting into competitions with coworkers, looking at my progress, etc. To this day, I won’t go on a run without it. So worth the Nano and $30.

  5. I can’t recommend a GPS highly enough. I’ve become a total data whore, and I’m quite okay with that. I have a $180 Garmin that I can move from a wristband to my handlebars.

    So far this year I have ridden 1,548 miles at an average speed of 14.4mph, and I have skated 265.5 miles at an average speed of 11.1mph. 165.5 miles of that are grocery runs and 670.2 miles are the daily work commute. My average this year on the grocery getter (Bianchi Boardwalk with a large bag setup and a dyno headlight) is 14mph, but 15.7mph on an old road bike I recently fell in love with. This morning I (briefly) hit 32.5mph on the way to work.

    Yeah, a GPS is an awesome toy to get a geek in shape.

  6. Heck, even the G1 has a GPS tracker (a couple, actually) that I live to use. It’s Google My Tracks. Gives you all the data you can use and more.

    My only problem with the Nike Plus is that I don’t think that Nike makes a good running shoe. For my money, Asics have the best line of running shoes. My Kayano 15’s are brilliant. They give me the stability I need with the cushioning of cotton.

    Now, if only the Nike Plus could be used with other shoes, that would be a different story. Running many miles with a giant G1 strapped to your arm is a bit…much.

  7. To thechicgeek, as PhillipB already stated, you don’t have to use Nike+ shoes. A shoe pouch on top of the shoe (such as the Marware) works just fine. The one that I use is from DLO, which I like because you can easily switch it to another shoe, since it attaches to the laces with velcro.

    Also, to Lisa…if you’re training for a marathon (even if you’re not), you might want to invest in a second pair of shoes and alternate them on your runs. You should give your shoes a “rest” so you can give the cushioning a chance to return to its previous state. It will also lengthen the life of your shoes.

  8. Ineed to gewt one of these sport band ive tried every web site and cant find one for sale where do i get one at?

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