The Awesomeness of Training Technology

By: Miro Gladovic

As an athletic kid growing up who played a variety of sports as a teenager, I was always so fascinated and envious whenever I saw a sports star in a movie in some intense and dramatic training montage.  The star on the big screen would be wired to all sorts of electrodes and connected to NASA-caliber computers and analyzing performance and all sorts of other data, going as far back as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

Well a recent trip to Beaverton, Oregon, the world headquarters of Nike, changed my fitness life forever. It finally delivered me my life-long, boyhood fantasy of Ivan Drago-type monitoring technology.  I was introduced to the Nike+ FuelBand, a wristband that you wear around the clock. It measures daily activity and movement, tabulating it into a “Nike Fuel” measure in real time. It also tracks calories burned, steps taken – oh, and it tells time, too.

Okay, so maybe what I just described about this device and the data it captures is not as dramatic and detailed and intricate as those hi-tech gizmos the Drago camp had in Rocky IV. But it has heightened my awareness about my daily activates, my workouts, and has totally revolutionized the way I exercise.  You start by setting a daily fuel point goal based on your lifestyle and level of activity, then input your sex, weight and height.  You can sync the FuelBand to your computer or your iPhone via Bluetooth, and away you go. I have inspired numerous friends to become a part of the FuelBand revolution, and I, like my friends, constantly find myself checking my Fuel points more often than my cell phone. My friends and I compare our figures throughout the day.

On top of my FuelBand, my trip to Beaverton exposed me to the second element I’ve factored into my workout regime: the Nike+ Running app. After all, I couldn’t walk away from the Nike Employee Store, being a lifelong self-proclaimed Nike junkie, with arms full of footwear with no Drago-type data capture and analysis. I had heard of the little chip you put in your running shoes and I was adamant about adding that to my new Nike+ FuelBand technology to begin the new Drago-esque, technological training chapter of my life (minus the cumbersome electrodes and NASA-sized mainframe computers that could fill a room, of course). But then I found out that I didn’t need that little chip after all. Enter the Nike+ Running app.

Nike+ Running not only tracks your running distance, time, calories burned, and pace via GPS, it can post your run route and all of this data directly to your Facebook or Twitter. It also allows you to add Facebook friends on the app, so you can compare runs and compete with your friends online. It also gives you audio updates during your run and a lovely gal’s voice chimes in every mile and every hour to give you motivating data on your run, such as your average time per mile. It also gives you post-run data, a map of your run, and don’t be surprised if you hear Tim Tebow or Dirk Nowitzki congratulating you on reaching a new milestone, telling you that you’re “unstoppable.”

So how does having this sweet gal’s voice interrupting your music every mile, and at every milestone on your run, affect your performance and effort?  Well if you’re like me, you’re a sucker for bettering yourself and taking your workouts to the next level. When that gal says I’m averaging my best time per mile so far, I suddenly lose the desire to take that pause during my 13-mile run, where I would normally walk for a little while. Suddenly, my tightening muscles aren’t a good enough reason to stop. My brain’s attempt to convince me that I’ve trained hard enough (and should go for that margarita I had planned for the end of my workout) is dismissed and forgotten.

So now that I had become this exercise-app-armed athlete, I had all the technology to track my gym, other workouts, and runs. But there was one element still missing for me. I was not about to embark on any exercise or workout without having optimal monitoring. Oh no! The last frontier was cycling. I ride my bike 30-50 miles a week sometimes, and I would be damned if I was about to put in all that hard work without having it recorded and analyzed.

So after a quick visit to the App Store I found an iFit Cycling app that pretty much did the same thing as the Nike+ Running app in terms of measuring distance, speed, performance and all that other great stuff. I have now progressed from being enlightened and astonished by these data-collectors, to totally demanding and expecting of these technological bells and whistles.

Weeks after that illuminating trip to my athletic mecca in Oregon, I have stayed as true and determined and focused on my new training technology, as Drago was committed to ‘breaking’ Rocky Balboa.  Between the Nike+ FuelBand on my wrist and my running and cycling apps on my iPhone, my training regime has categorically elevated, and my understanding of activities and what works best for me has heightened immeasurably. Above all though, my desire to surpass my training benchmarks and daily Fuel point targets has absolutely propelled my already heightened motivation for exercising to a new level.

Here’s an example of my new mindset. The other night as I sat on my couch, I was checking my Fuel points, which reset every midnight when a new day starts. I saw that I was at 4,900 points, or 100 short of my daily goal of 5,000 with just three minutes to go until the end of the day. I was not about to let a “goal” day slip through my fingers, so I got my butt off the couch and started doing jumping jacks in my living room. My points started to elevate as the minutes and seconds counted down to midnight, and inside the remaining few seconds of the day, my FuelBand flashed “GOAL.” I was a happy camper.

This is an example, and is indicative of how all of this new data and monitoring has jolted me to another level. It’s that five minutes of jumping jacks when you least expected to be doing them. It’s that extra steam in your stride when your Nike+ Running app gives you a motivating audible during your run. It’s that glance to your iPhone when you are cycling like you’re racing the Tour de France as you’re approaching a new milestone.

It’s a new attitude, and a new burst of technical-data-inspired mojo during your workout, that gives you a perspective on your training that you never had before, making you feel like that star on the big screen in that dramatic training montage.

If only Ivan Drago had access to today’s wonderful and readily accessible technology, he may just have beaten Rocky Balboa that fateful day…

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