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I've tried to be a runner. Multiple times. But for some reason it has never really stuck with me. Or rather, I've never really stuck with running. And it's not that I'm not athletic either. I grew up playing almost every sport there is - basketball, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, you name it... I love sports. But I could never get into running. For me, it's always the scoring that makes it fun. The fact that there's a winner and a loser; the fact that I played better than I did yesterday; the fact that I scored 20 points this time.
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It's not that the fun lies in the numbers, but rather in the feeling of accomplishment when you reach a quantitative goal. I never got that feeling when I went running. I could have always bought a pedometer I suppose, but for some reason I just never did.
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Not until just recently, that is. I saw an advert for the Nike Plus Sports Kit, which is essentially an add-on for your iPod. It collects your running data from a tiny sensor that you place in your shoe. After your run, you plug in your iPod to your computer, and the data uploads to your account on the Nike Plus website. You can view graphs illustrating just how far you ran, or on which part of your run you were the fastest, or when you slowed down. You can see your previous outings, and plan future runs as well. If you input your long term goal (i.e. maybe you want to eventually run a marathon distance), Nike Plus will suggest a running schedule that will slowly build in difficulty until you reach that goal.
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You also can also get feedback during your run as well, by pressing on the center button at any given time. The system will tell you (in a male or female voice, depending on your preference) how far and how long you've run so far. Upon completing your workout, Nike Plus might also tell you that you've run a personal best for a certain distance. This is one of the features that makes the system addictive, because even if you run for just a mile you can still keep pushing yourself to beat your best time for that distance. Whether your goal is speed or distance is up to you.
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Now, the Nike Plus Sports kit costs $29, and that's just the shoe sensor and the iPod receiver. Of course you will need to own an iPod Nano or Touch to begin with. There are other accessories you can purchase if you're really hardcore, such as the arm-band or the Nike Plus compatible shoes, but these are not essential. I usually just hold my iPod in my hand as I run, with my thumb near the center button so that I can trigger frequent updates as to how I'm doing. While I did buy the Nike Plus shoes, these are by no means a must. A regular pair of sneakers are just as good if you figure out some way to attach the sensor somewhere on your regular kicks. I recommend some kind of DIY vel-cro improvisation, or possibly cutting a hole in a Dr. Scholls insert.
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Sensor Battery Life: The big drawback is that once your sensor's battery dies, you need to buy a new one. I hear that the average lifespan is approximately 1000 runs, which is not all that bad. If you like the system enough to get that much use out of it, you likely won't mind dishing out for a new sensor either.
Finalizing Workout Data Could be Easier: At the end of your run you need to press the Menu button and then scroll the clickwheel down to the End Workout option. This can be tough if you are bent over and huffing and puffing in exhaustion, with little to no control over your fingers! (Maybe I need more conditioning!) But seriously, there is nothing as frustrating as pushing yourself on a long run, only to lose your data by accidentally clicking the wrong button upon your return. I think Menu, then hold center button would be a better way to end your workout.
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Despite these few drawbacks, the Nike Plus system very well could be one of the best gadget purchases you might ever make. Software and games and computers are all well and good, but of course your health is something that should come before all of those. I've had that sentiment in the back of my mind for the past few years, but rarely have I ever been moved to do something about it.
While it hasn't turned me into a marathon runner by any stretch of the imagination, the Nike Plus does succeed in getting me out for a run at least 3 times a week. And that's definitely money well spent.