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Using the Apple iPod Nano and the Nike+ pedometer

I need exercise. Well, OK, we all need exercise, but not everyone needs it like I do. I’m medically obese (but only 1 Kg away from not being!) and a Type 2 diabetic. So exercise is more important to me as it helps me to control my blood sugar levels, reduce my weight, and fight diabetes.

My medical advisors suggested I need do half an hour of exercise three times per week. Anything that got my heart rate up would do, they said – even walking. Well, to begin with, walking was all I could manage! But I wanted to know how far I was going, and if it was possible to measure the calories I was burning too.

So I bought an iPod Nano and the Nike+ shoe attached pedometer. The idea of course is that I buy a special pair of Nike trainers that have a slot for the tiny Nike+ device to fit into. So I paid out about £80 for a pair of Nikes, the style of which I hated, and they didn’t fit very well either. But the shop only had two different styles of trainers, and this was the pair that suited me the most.

Now I like Nike – when I was an athlete all those years ago they were my shoe of choice. My favourites were a pair of Nike Elite racing flats which were light and very comfortable. Since then they seem to have become led by image rather than ergonomics though, because these new trainers were awful to wear. Not only that, but they were really shoddily made as well, with tatty stitching, roughly cut lace holes, and no sign at all that my £80 had really been needed to buy a shoe of such poor quality. I’ve seen £20 trainers that were better finished. I should have kept my money in my pocket.

I persevered with the shoes for a week, but then I found a really neat device called the iRun which is basically a pod for the Nike+ pedometer. It attaches nicely to the laces of my far more comfortable Reeboks, and performs exactly the same function as if it were in the Nike shoes. Except that I can walk further and faster with the Reeboks on because the Nikes are just too uncomfortable.

The shoes end of things wasn’t my only problem though. How do I attach the iPod to myself when I am out exercising? First of all I bought the Nike+ armband iPod holder. Well, that was a waste of money for starters: it wouldn’t even go around my arm! Even if I had managed it it is a huge piece of elasticated textile that is bound to make you sweat, and that brings me out in a rash so I prefer not to do that. Luckily the shop took it back, no questions asked.

Next I bought the Apple armband. Slightly better this time, thinner and at least it fitted – just – but now there was nowhere to plug in the radio pick-up for the signals from the Nike+ pedometer! The bottom of the holder totally blocked the port. Well, Apple, that was good design, wasn’t it? Another waste of money.

Then I found my solution. The XtremeMac TuffWrap Accent. It’s a silicone cover with a clip at the back which allows me to attach the iPod anywhere. It’s really useful – and I can plug in the pedometer receiver.

So how does the collection work in action? Faultlessly. I select Nike+iPod from my iPod’s menu, select the type of workout – Basic (pure measurement of what you do, nothing more); Time (which tells you when your exercise period is complete); Distance (so you can preset how far you go and stop when you have completed it); and Calories (where I believe you can set the amount of calories you want to burn and the iPod tells you when to stop exercising when you have reached that target).

So far I’ve only used Basic, because I don’t exercise in a gym and have landmarks, places and people to give me feedback which I prefer. I’ve had some great walks through the countryside, getting close to nature in its own backyard. That can be so motivating.

I can choose whether to listen to music or not, and if so, which playlist, random or ordered. At the end of each session I get a spoken overview of how far I went, my average speed, and can see on the screen how many calories I have burned. If I have done a record long or record fast session I get a voice over from either Paula Radcliffe or Lance Armstrong giving me a motivatory congratulation. That’s a nice touch.

Overall then I would say getting the iPod and Nike+ was a good decision, but buying the Nike products was not what I had expected them to be. Once upon a time Nike were the Apple of the training shoe industry, now they’re just trading on their name alone and aren’t really producing the goods anymore, from my experiences.

If you are thinking of buying the Nike+, just don’t think you need Nike trainers to use it. There are plenty of ways you can attach it to your favourite and most comfortable trainers. Wearing uncomfortable shoes is not good for diabetics so I am off Nike now.

There is a website which you can connect to and upload all your information to, but personally I would prefer to upload it to my Mac computer, but this seems impossible from what I have found so far. I am not going to add my personal data to any website though! No way!

Marks out of Ten for individual items:

Apple iPod Nano: 9/10
Nike+ pedometer: 9/10
Nike+ armband: 1/10
Nike trainers: 1/10
iRun pod fix: 9/10
Apple armband: 3/10
XtremeMac TuffWrap Accent: 8/10
Nike+ website idea: not for me!

Overall Mark for the system as a whole: 8/10

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