Last year I decided to get healthy and take up running. Being a gadget lover, I had been researching the iPod nano and Nike+ sport kit.
I liked the idea of being able to record my progress, set myself challenges and map my routes etc, see http://nikeplus.nike.com/nikeplus/ for more details.
The thing was, I already had an iPod classic which was too bulky to run with, and not compatible with the Nike+ kit. I didn't really want to fork out for another iPod just to take out for a run, so I was pleased when Nike released the SportBand, I ordered one and started my training.
That was about a year ago, and I've been using the Nike+ SportBand for all my runs since, clocking up over 300km in that time.
I thought I'd write a quick review of the product to share my experience with the SportBand and the Nike+ website, which forms an integral part of the product, since all your stats are uploaded to the site.
The hardware included consists of a watch and shoe adapter. The shoe adapter is designed to fit into special Nike+ running shoes, which I had already had. If you don't want to purchase Nike+ running shoes search on eBay for "nike+ sensor" you can buy sensor pouches that fit on your shoe laces instead.
Before each run you have to hold down the big button on the face of the watch to sync the shoe adapter to the watch, then after a few seconds when you are ready to run, you just press the same button again briefly to start and stop the clock.
After using this for a while you wonder what Nike was thinking when they designed the watch. First of all its not very sturdy, my LED broke after a few months use (see photo, left-hand side), the angle of the screen and reversed LED display are not at all easy to read when you are running. Personally I would have been willing to pay a little more for a better watch.
Software and Website
When you get back from your run, you simply detach the watch from its strap and plug it into your computer's USB port to upload your run data. The software driver that you install on your PC allows you to calibrate your device as well; however I found that its not very accurate and if you increase your pace you need to recalibrate the device.
The Nike+ website has been produced in Flash and looks visually impressive, but I find it to be a bit cumbersome to use and personally I would prefer an HTML website with embedded Flash graphs etc.
All your runs appear in a bar chart, with a calendar running across the bottom. When you hover a run you get more details for that particular run. If you click on a run you get a timeline for that run with km/mile marker points and your pace at those positions.
You can also map your runs before or after a training session to either gauge how far a route is or to assign certain runs to a particular route. This is useful so you can see your progress over the same route.
The nike+ website also has a social element to it, allowing you to challenge other nike+ users and run routes others have mapped. However the interface isn't as intuitive as it could be. You can also create widgets to allow you to show your training overview on your blog or social profile, take a look at mine on the "About Me" page. They also provide a FaceBook app, but I have never managed to get this to work.
Nike+ isn't perfect and I think that professional runners should probably look elsewhere, but for people like me who just run to keep fit and don't take it too seriously I find it helps me keep track of my progress and keeps me motivated.
Being a developer it would also be nice to get access to my run data through an API. There are ways to do it, but it would be nice if Nike were to publish an SDK or API documentation to make this a little easier. Services such as Twitter have thrived on 3rd party applications which leverage the Twitter API, what are you waiting for Nike?