This is really cool. For quite some time I've been wanting to do more exercise and lose some weight, but I find it really hard to get motivated. Well, all that's changed since I've been exposed to a really clever concept from Nike. There are several facets to this, so we'll start at the beginning, work our way through the middle, and we'll stop when we get to the end.
First of all you need an iPod. I don't know if this works with any old iPod, but I do know that it works with my iPod nano (3rd Generation).
Next, you need to buy something called the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit, which costs around $29. This involves a small sensor/wireless-transmitter that goes in/on one of your walking/running shoes and a small wireless-receiver that plugs into your iPod. If you have the "official" Nike shoes, there's a place for the sensor inside them; otherwise, for a few dollars, you can buy a little doohickey that holds the sensor and attaches to the laces of any-old-shoe (I'm wearing a "cheap-and-cheerful" pair that I acquired from Wall Mart for around $18).
Once you've plugged the receiver into your iPod, in addition to the usual "Music", "Video", "Pictures", and so forth options, you'll now see a new "Nike+" item. When you select this little scamp, you'll see options to "Start", "Pause", "Resume", and "End" a workout. Now, when you are ready to go walking or running, you select whatever you want to listen to (I'm currently working my way through the unabridged version of the audio book "I Am Legend" that I purchased from the iTunes store), then you select Nike+ > Start Workout and get going.
Your iPod now keeps track of how far and fast you are walking (or running). This information appears on the iPod's display and – whenever you press the center button on your iPod – a voice tells you how long you've been walking, how far you've walked, and your current speed in terms of minutes-per-mile. The iPod will keep track of hundreds of such workouts, but that's not the cool stuff...
The point is that I'm a little competitive and I like to have some target to aim at. This is where Nike have come up with something really clever in the form of their www.NikePlus.com website. When you connect your iPod to your main computer, you are presented with the option to upload the stats relating to your latest workout(s) to this website (if you haven't previously created a free account on the site, you are prompted to do so).
Once you have such an account, you can issue and/or receive "challenges" from your family and friends. My wife's family has just such a challenge running at the moment. It started on the 1st January 2008. The challenge is the first person to walk 60 miles (the prize is a big "hurray!").
This is great. You can log onto your account and see who is doing what and how well you compare. That's why on 1 Jan 2008 I walked 6.5 miles in freezing weather and why I'll be going out again today as soon as I get home (I have to, I just saw that my mother in law has walked over 12 miles in the last two days, so I've got some catching up to do).
I love this motivation (there's no way I would drag myself away from a warm fire if I were doing this on my own). And as soon as this challenge ends we'll set another one up. For example, the "girls" (the female members of the family) are talking about doing a "boys versus girls" challenge to see which group can average the most distance in a month – the reason they are so "gung-ho" about it is that the girls are currently well ahead of the boys in the current challenge.
Well, I don't know about you, but I think this is a really good idea on Nike's part (the other training shoe manufacturers must be gnashing their teeth and rending their garb in envy). But I can't stay here waffling on any longer ... I have some serious walking to do!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at email@example.com). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.