Would you want a personal trainer strapped to your head?


Has anyone noticed how the sun seems to be shining a little brighter these days? The air feel a little crisper, more satisfying? And how about them chirping birds, eh? Loads of them everywhere.

It's possible that this is just my post-triathlon mind breaking free of the memory of being trapped in the Thames, the need to keep donning the sausage suit and throw myself in lakes no longer a part of my life.

Instead it's back to the wonderful simplicity of running, where the only criteria are a pair of trainers, my legs and ideally some clothing (otherwise people throw rubbish at me).


I was surprised to be running in an impressionist's nightmare

But that doesn't mean I won't have a challenge to be aiming for – and it's the same demon that's haunted me for nearly a year. After hitting my goal of breaking 45 minutes for the 10k before I turned 30 in 2013, I've been improving steadily until I was aiming for the 40 minute barrier last year.

I got close: 40.31 in May. Then 40.13 in August. Then in September I ran a near-perfect race in London's Regent's Park… in 40.02. I nearly tore a muscle sprinting for the finish in that one, and I swear I saw a unicorn running alongside me, such was the out of body experience.

But now I'm back. And gunning for that target.

The Coach you can't see

And what's the first thing I'm going to tell you about in this new 'all about running' world? A headset that helps you become a cross training master.

OK, it's not running, but this is a new me, one who's been told by too many people that I need more strength to get faster. With that in mind I headed down to an overly fancy gym in London to attend a training session to check out the new Jabra Coach headset.


If you've heard of the Jabra Pulse headphones (obviously you read about them in my first column earlier this year, because you're loyal and I've always liked you) then you'll get a good flavour about what these are about.

Bluetooth headphones with inbuilt motion sensing technology, they're created to be your own personal 'do more get faster' trainer.

The idea is simple: pair them with your phone, choose one of the four pre-made cross training programs, and just do what the voices in your head tell you.

Each workout is pretty short, with nothing longer than six minutes, although they are slightly brutal, especially for a beginner.

Squats, planks, lunges, kettle-bell swings and more are all in the mix, and what sets the Jabra Coach headphones apart from the rest of the pack is the dedicated button in your left ear to press when you've completed each exercise, pushing you onto the next set.

Press up

Yeah, I'm doing a press up. I can actually do nearly three.

The audio and build quality are also excellent, and help go a long way to justifying the slightly high £120 / $149 price – not too high when you consider the tech on offer, but a tough sell to someone new to fitness.

It's there where I find the biggest flaw in these headphones though – trying to explain why someone should buy them. The free app would work with a normal pair of wired or Bluetooth headphones (although you'd have to tap the screen to progress, which is less desirable), so it's not like the fitness structure isn't there.

And while the Coach headphones have oodles of technology packed in to track motion, that's only for letting you run without a phone strapped to your arm - which cheaper watches can already do.

It seems odd, given the motion tech inside, that these headphones can't track your repetitions of exercises, knowing when you've done the required amount of burpees, sit-ups or squats, giving you a time limit to do as many as possible and tracking your improvement over the following weeks.

I'm hopeful that this could possibly be added in at a later date, which would make these really awesome for someone looking to get in shape. I'm still definitely going to use them to help structure my strength sessions, but I'll use the 'create your own' workout feature as the onboard stuff is far too basic once you've used them two or three times.


It helps if you shout 'KNEES UP MUVVA BRAAAAHN' in the middle exercise

It's a shame there's no progression with the plans either – if only the brand used the fitness test section of the app to assess a new user's abilities at cross training, then gave that person a structured, progressive plan to help build them up - increasing reps and sets as they went.

That would be something. Headphones that can monitor how well you do in your home fitness sessions and provide you with a path to get you into the shape you've always wanted – and there's no obvious reason it couldn't happen.

Here comes the Zoom

I'm going to try to do something I've not really managed before: review a pair of trainers. Like headphones, I've always struggled to tell the different beyond the obvious – option A is bigger than B, but B is sort of louder.

It seems so subjective, and with trainers the amount of consternation about whether to get something that's a low-drop or high-drop or mesh or knitted or whatever makes me want to just tie ham sandwiches to my feet and hope for the best.


These are the trainers

(By the way, I've finally worked out what people are talking about when they speak about the 'drop' in a shoe – it's the difference between the thickness of the heel and the toe sections, essentially, and helps promote different kind of foot striking in runners.

For a better, more intelligent explanation, read this.)

But screw all that – I'm going to try and tell you my experiences about wearing some shoes, and do it in a way that doesn't make you put your phone down and stare idly into space for something more entertaining to do.

What's on offer here? Well, it's only the Nike Air Zoom Elite 8 trainers! Getting past the 9 year old part of me that's screaming YES FINALLY SOME NIKE AIRS, let's get into what's on offer:

Firstly, these trainers weigh very little indeed while offering a plethora of features that promise to help you get faster, run better and generally have a better life.

They have a sole

They have a sole

Nike's big promise with the AZE8's is all about energy recovery, trying to nab back some of that effort you put into forcing your foot into the floor to push you forward. It's a lot like Adidas' Boost foam promise, where helping you run with less effort is the name of the game.

Nike's trying to do it with the construction of the trainer though, using FlyWire technology that springs back when compressed to add force to your stride. As someone who's practically lived in the comfy slipper-like experience of Adidas' Ultra Boost for the last two months, this was going to be a tough sell.

So, what's it's like to strap them on? In an effort to reduce weight, the tongue is pretty thin, which would normally bring up worries of laces digging into the top of the foot over longer runs. But the asymmetric design sees to it that this isn't the case, with the result being a comfortable fit.

After the pain of previous trainers rubbing so hard on my upper foot during a marathon earlier this year that I thought they'd exploded, I'm certainly glad of that – although I've not thrown these through any great distance to check whether they'll offer the same torture. I'm very hopefully they won't though (I still have the scars).

They have a sole

This is the sole close up

What I did find odd in this shoe, touted as lightweight and breathable, was the stiffness apparent throughout the chassis. The first few kilometres were rather clumpy, although after a while they seemed to loosen up somewhat.

I didn't notice a huge amount of springback when using them over a longer distance, but they weren't uncomfortable. They did promote a mid-foot strike (which is a good thing for most runners) but there also seemed to be a fair amount of movement inside, leading to a slightly sore foot.

They aren't as breathable as other trainers on the market either, despite being promised as such, with my feet getting a little toasty over time – which didn't help the soreness.

But I'm a long way from bedding these fancy trainers in – and for looks alone, they're definitely some of the better trainers I've strapped on.

They have a sole

This is the side of them with the FlyKnit bit

I'll be giving them a speed test at the Parkrun on Saturday (and I can't tell you how happy I am to be getting back to being averagely stuck in the middle of the pack each weekend – beats being in a river) and the long run on Sunday, which I'm dreading thanks to not doing more than 10K for about two months.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.