Thursday, May 13, 2010

MiCoach and Me

Ever the sucker for more data about what's going on with me when I'm out running, I've started using MiCoach from Adidas. Three runs in, I like it. Here's a sample of its output with the same run as recorded by my Forerunner 310XT and then synced to Rubitrack. I've written about Rubitrack and why I like it before (and there's still no sign of SportTracks for Mac either).

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(figure 1. 6.25km run in 30m 57s - MiCoach output)

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(figure 2. Same run, Rubitrack data)

So why more data? And what's so interesting about MiCoach? Here's what I think:

1. It connects between through your MP3 player (an iPhone in my case) and talks to you through the headphones as you run. Not so good for audibooks (it doesn't pause the audio, just silences it and talks over it) but fine with music.

2. You can use the default zones or set customised ones. In the graph above, I've used a slightly higher rate than the default for my yellow zone (set to 158-166 in my case). In figure 3 you can see a more complicated set of zones - essentially interval training where I asked MiCoach to push me every few minutes, gradually stepping up the pace, and then reducing it again. You'll see that I couldn't get my heart rate down to the blue zone (I'd have been walking). So you'll probably need to spend a bit of time customising the zones. In figure 1, the yellow zone seems to correspond to a pace of about 5min/km +/- 15 seconds/km for me. That's reasonably consistent with figure 3, where the green zone is about 5:45min/km and red is sub 5min/km.

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(Figure 3. 13km run in 1h 8m 7s - MiCoach output)

3. Audio Interruptions are only as often as you change zones or occasionally when you are outside a zone you're supposed to be running in. MiCoach doesn't butt in every 30 seconds if you're way outside of a zone. Those interruptions are brief - "speed up to yellow zone" or "maintain green zone". It will take you some time, I think, to figure out where any given zone is - and because MiCoach doesn't interrupt you too often, you won't always be sure. In figure 1 I maintained the yellow zone around 65% of the time; in figure 3 I'm in zone only about 35% of the time (although at about the 50 minute time I realised I was in for a shot at a good time for the route so I stepped up the pace for the last 20 minutes finishing the last two km in less than 5min/km)

4. Pace data is interesting but I'm often thought heart rate data was perhaps more interesting as you can get a better sense of your level of exertion, particularly as you get fitter. But what is interesting is the audio reporting on how you're doing. And MiCoach does that neatly, only telling you where you are with your heart rate when you need to change pace - or if you press the centre button on the device itself (when it gives you a complete summary).

So far, I'm intrigued by the MiCoach. Of course I'd like a single device that does all this - or, worst case, multiple devices but a single place to view all of the data. This is early days, still, for exercise telemetry and there are too many new entrants to allow for data format standards to emerge, but I hope that they'll emerge. Until then, I'm tracking myself with combinations of:

- Forerunner (and Rubitracks and, as a side effect, Garmin Connect). This covers distance, pace and auto-mapping of the route taken.

- MiCoach (and its own website). Heart rate, distance and pace (via the footpod)

- KiPerformance/Bodymedia (and its own website). Calories consumed and burned.

- Fitbit (and its own website). Steps and distance.

- Nike+ (and its own website). Distance and pace (via the footpod)

- Dailyburn (and its own website). Manual data entry of calories consumed)

- Dailymile (and its own website). Manual data entry of distance and pace.

That's too many! Inevitably, they don't all get used, all the time. I probably use FitBit the most consistently. Fitbit is so good, it could have been made by Apple. It is a zero overhead gadget. All you have to remember to do is take it with you wherever you go and charge it every 10 days or so. All syncing is handled automatically whenever you go in range of your PC or Mac.

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