Adidas miCoach is a fitness activity tracking system similar to Nike+, except it gives you more data—including heart rate information—and has a sexy voice to guide you through workouts. Yes, it costs more, but it also does more.
$140 may sound like quite a bit to spend on a fitness activity tracking system, but you are getting everything you need to get started with a running program:
- A stride sensor
- A heart rate monitor
- An online workout manager
- Enough data and charts to satisfy even the geekiest runners
I've used Nike+ in the past and I recall opening up a box to find nothing but a stride sensor and some instructions, but with miCoach there was a small pile of straps, gadgets, and cables to deal with. This might almost be sufficient to scare off new users, but the whole system fits together easily.
To start, you'll plug the pacer unit—the brains of the operation—into your computer using the included USB cord. This'll charge the device and give you a chance to get some workout plans onto it using the lil' syncing application you'll download from the miCoach website. That same application will pull your running data and update your miCoach account each time you decide to sync the device.
Setting up a miCoach account, charging the pacer unit, and getting everything synced barely takes any time. After that's all done you plug the included single-earphone into the pacer (or use your own headphones), clip the unit to your belt, attach the stride sensor to your shoelaces, wrap the heart rate monitor strap around your torso, wait for the pacer to recognize the other parts, put on some tunes, and run.
Ok, ok. It sounds like there's too much that needs to be done each time you go out for a run, but in reality it's a process that takes a few seconds. The heart rate monitor strap is quick and comfortable to put on, the stride sensor clips to your shoelaces securely, and the pacer recognizes both almost instantly.
Unlike Nike+ which integrates into specific music players, miCoach can work with any device-including my ol' Sony MD Walkman. You simply use the included male-to-male cable to connect your music player to the pacer unit and plug your headphones into that. That's it. You can hit the track now.
While running, you can use the miCoach in one of two modes: free or coaching. In the free mode, the device will simply monitor your activity and save it for later syncing. In the coaching mode it'll do that and chime in to guide you. This might sound like it'd be annoying, but there's actually a variety of almost-sexy sounding voices to choose from and they only butt in to provide the stats you need or to tell you that you're running too fast.
After you finish your run, you'll plug the Pacer into your computer using the included syncing cable. No worries about whether you've got a Mac or a PC, because there are apps for each. (Sorry *nix lovers.) For whatever reason I struggled to get my computer to recognize the Pacer the very first time I tried to sync it after a run, but didn't encounter a single issue at any point after that.
Cheesy as it sounds, Adidas got it right with their miCoach website. It's ridiculously simple to use and is designed in a way that those requiring guidance can get it, but those with a sense of familiarity can just skip to the steps they want.
If you want to use one of the workout plan, you can select and customize them through the site. I highly recommend giving those workout plans a shot, especially if you're a beginning runner—I've spent far too much time training people for a large gym chain and seeing them struggle to figure out what to do if attempting to start without set plan or schedule.
Speaking of schedules, you can view your workout calendar, track data uploaded from your Pacer, and those unfamiliar with running or in need of a refresher can get some tips and pointers.
The only thing missing from the miCoach site right now is a social aspect. I want to be able to share my workout plans and data with other users in hopes of shaming myself into keeping pace. Adidas says that such a feature is in the works though, so we'll see if I'll get my wish.
It's already tough enough to eliminate every excuse against going for a run at an ungodly hour and the last thing I need is for my activity monitor to give me one by requiring a charge just as I'm tying my sneakers. I was surprised to realize that over the weeks that I've used the miCoach system, I never needed to purposely charge the pacer unit. The specs claim that a full charge should last for about ten hours and I've certainly used the device for more than that. It seems that daily syncing maintains a good charge and that's one less hassle to deal with.
The stride sensor's battery isn't rechargeable, but—unlike the Nike+ sensor's—it is designed to be replaced. For whatever reason, opening up the battery cover proved to be a bit of a challenge, but that may have had more to do with a fear of breaking a nail than with a flaw in design.
As Goldfrapp sings, I'm in love-I'm in love-I'm in love with a strict machine. Since receiving a miCoach to review, I've tossed aside my Nike+ and used the new gadget. I've gotten more satisfaction out of my runs because of the additional data and also discovered that I wasn't pacing myself properly. It seems that the miCoach has improved my running experience and that in turn prompted me to actually get off the couch—or out of the office chair—more often. Two sneakers up.
Replaceable battery on the stride sensor (though I did struggle a bit to open the battery compartment).
It's compatible with any music player
Data. Data. And some more data. Plenty of stats are available, but none are forced down you throat.
Great battery life.
The Pacer unit can be plugged into a USB port for recharging.
Plenty of workout plans are available on the miCoach site for those who want to use them.
The system has a lot of parts and may seem overwhelming to new users. Perhaps the heart rate monitor and the Pacer unit could be combined into one piece in future versions.
No social aspect to the miCoach site (though Adidas says this will change).