Running may well be a fantastic way to get fit, shape up and de-stress, but it can be intimidating for the novice; those shuffling, sweating hardcore runners you pass on the road in the early morning hours or on a miserable winter night have a level of commitment that's likely to terrify the potential round-the-block jogger.
The good news for the reluctant runner is that we now have non-judgemental support and encouragement in the form of Nike+ for the iPod touch. The system acts as a knowledgeable, always-there trainer, ready to guide you in anything from a shuffle around the local park to the London Marathon, if you're willing to shell out for the Nike+ Sport Kit.
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I've tried the Nike+ system before, but now that the new iPod touch has the receiver built in, I thought it was time to take it out for another run.
Would the bulkiness of the iPod touch cancel out the loss of the tiny receiver? Would the innovative Multi-Touch display revolutionise the Nike+ experience? Would my quest for physical perfection ultimately be brought down by Mr Whippy? I decided to spend a month training with Nike+ and my iPod touch to find out.
I'm slightly worried about this running lark, and the track gear I've purchased is triggering flashbacks to high school PE lessons. Thankfully I've acquired a pair of Nike+ running shoes that are far cooler than anything I owned as a teenager. The Air Equalon +3s are a recent addition to the range and boast an array of features I never knew I needed: arch support straps, reflective piping and, interestingly, an outwardangled heel to counteract the wonky, tipping gait of the habitual jogger. I'm not sure if I actually have a tipping gait, but I'm glad Nike has got my podiatric interests at heart. It's surprisingly easy to fit the sensor from the Nike + Sport Kit. Ready to use straight from the box, the sensor slips into a nook under the inner sole and will live there happily for the length of its battery life – a thousand hours of active workout time, according to Nike – and because the new iPod touch has the receiver built in, that's all I have to do. My newly-synced touch is revved up and ready to go, demanding that I 'walk around to activate the sensor' and making me scroll through a depressingly long list of body weights to enter my current heft. I head out for my first lap around the block, which I'll draw a journalistic veil over in order to spare your mind's eye.
My first few runs have been distracted affairs, mainly occupied with exploring the system and despairing at my weak calf muscles. The Nike+ gear is easy to use, which is good news for the techno-tentative. The easiest option for newbies is to select the Basic workout, in which you simply pick a playlist and start running. The female voice I've chosen is certainly friendlier and more encouraging than scary old Mr Marshall, although I find myself carrying the touch in my hand as I run in order to check the screen displaying my time, pace and distance. Today I try a calorie-burning workout, with the touch prompting me to select the calories I'd like to burn during my run. I choose 100, slightly more than a Marks & Spencer Operetta chocolate. The spoken prompts really come into their own in this mode, with the silky voice piping up to inform me when I'm halfway to my target, and again when I'm within ten calories of it. I'm perturbed to find that I have to run over half a kilometre to burn off 100 calories; no more Operettas for me, then.