Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nike Training Club - Dubious Beginnings

I hinted at this workout over a month ago - you'd have thought that I would have tried it out and written about it already, right? Well, my radio silence is less a sign of laziness (I have been working out) and more a sign of disappointment. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you all about it.

As you may know, I'm a Nike super-fan. Not so much the gear (which I like well enough but not more than other sportswear brands) but the Nike+ - I adore my Nike+... For those of you who don't know, Nike+ is a kit that attaches to your iPod Nano, that has a sensor that goes in your shoe and tracks your mileage, pace, even calories for your running. When you finish a run, you plug your nano into your computer and it uploads your workout to the Nike+ website where you can see all your runs listed, get training plans, join challenges, all kinds of cool stuff. It's the one training tool I use consistently (to the point where I almost won't run without it. It's true. I'm ashamed to admit it but I have been known to back out of a run if I've forgotten my iPod.)

The Nike+ site is so well designed that when I got the invitation to check out Nike Training Club, I was psyched! I've been looking for a new workout plan and this one seemed great because of its portability (since I'm still traveling far too much). So I immediately signed up, logged in, created myself a mini... (The mini here is actually my second mini, since when I originally signed up for this, my hair was purple and it was much colder so I had a jacket on. Ah, the fun useless details!)

I had the choice of three workout programs: Core, Strength and Cardio. Each program shows you the balance of the different areas of focus it offers. The five areas are Balance, Core, Strength, Cardio and Flexibility.

I decided to start with Cardio since I feel that I've fallen quite out of shape, and figured I'd just cycle through the three programs: Cardio first, then Core, then Strength.

Then I selected a start date (back in mid-March), and an intensity level: Casual (2 workouts a week for 2 weeks), Committed (3 workouts a week for 3 weeks) and Intense (4 workouts a week for 4 weeks). Naturally I chose Intense, cuz I like to think I'm badass. I wonder if I'd chosen Casual, things would have turned out better?

Lastly, I got to invite friends, so I added Tamsen. Not a bad start, the website seemed pretty cool. It had a little radio that popped out and played some motivating music. It was fun watching my little mini jog along on the screen and stretch and whatnot.

So - D-day comes, and I go to check out my workout. This is what I see:
A series of workouts, starting with a 3 min cardio warmup. The titles of the workouts look good (2 Min Squat Switch, Power Row, High Knee Switch) and each one has a little clickable video by the name. Great! I'm all set, decked out in my non-Nike gear. Click on the warmup video.
The lady proceeds to describe four different move, tells me to do each of them for 45 seconds, for a total of three minutes, then the video stops. My jaw drops in disbelief, I stand there staring at the screen. I look around for a "start workout" button, but all there is is a "back to my list" button. I look around the room for something to use as a timer. Nothing. I click back to the list, then quickly scan through the rest of the videos in my workout... They're all short 30 or so second demos of the move, leaving me to figure out the timing.

So I do the only reasonable thing I can think of at that time: close the browser, grab my iPod and go for a run.

I know, I know, pretty lame. But here's the thing: if I just need instructions on what moves to do for a workout, I'd use any of the number of workout books, magazines, or websites out there. I've just found that I workout hardest when someone's yelling at me to keep going, repeat the moves, music's playing and I don't have to look for a clock or a timer to see if I'm done yet. It's just the way I am.

I mean, come on! They've got their trainer and their athletes all decked out in their Nike gear, jumping around demonstrating a move, with pumping music, for a 45 second video. They really couldn't just extend it a touch and make it the full 3 minute or 2 minute move? Shouldn't Nike have the bandwidth for full length videos?

So that was the last time I logged in to the Nike Training Club. Now, in Nike's defense, it is clearly marked that this site is still a beta, so they're still working out the kinks. But all these (too short) pre-recorded videos seem more like an overall design flaw than a mere kink. But who knows? Maybe they'll rethink this design.

Today, a month later, I decided to give the Club a second chance. Mainly because I'm back in Cyprus for a 2.5 week work stint, and while Tamsen and I work out the details of the new 90-min plan we're working, I needed a little kick in the @#^ss, a boot camp if you will. Working in Cyprus seems to be the perfect set-up for boot camps for me, since all I do is work and eat, I manage to fit in one or two workout time slots a day.

So this morning, my jetlag helped wake my up at 7am, and I signed up for NTC again (with new blonde Mini but same Cardio Intense workout plan as last time) and I did the first workout. I found a timer online, that I set to countdown the time that I needed for each move, watched each video then set the timer and started.

The format was kind of annoying, since it was a lot of starting and stopping. We'll see in the next few days, if they repeat enough of the moves, I may not need to watch the videos anymore. I also didn't have music, which kind of sucked, but I wasn't be able to hear the instructor when I played music. The timer I found was OK, it had a visual bar that I could mostly see from a distance as it counted down, but it was not the best... I might have to keep hunting around online for a better one.

The workout itself was actually pretty good. The warmup was fine, but by the 3rd move in, I was sweating. And now, several hours later, I have that awesome warm tingly "I worked out this morning" feeling. It was a short workout though, actual workout time only added up to 20 minutes, including 3 minute warmup and 3 minutes of stretching at the end. But for my Cyprus plan, that's fine, since I plan on running this evening. I'll keep you posted as my week progresses.

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