Exercise with iTunes: The Nike + and an iPod nano

By Graham K. Rogers

The Nike Moiré
The Nike Moiré

Coinciding with the official release of the Nike + system here, that links certain Nike running shoes with an iPod nano, I had the opportunity to take the whole kit home and try it out. Unfortunately, this coincided with a back problem that meant I was "walking wounded". I was still able to test it out, albeit in a limited fashion. In some ways this demonstrated just how flexible it is.

The Nike+ attachments
The Nike+ Accessories

I started by inserting the Airplus receiver into a 2G iPod nano. In an instant, the menu changed to include an extra item: ""Nike+iPod." I also tried in a 30G iPod but the screen displayed the message, "The currently attached accessory is not supported by this iPod."

On the nano, as part of the calibration, I entered my weight. The figure is relevant for the calculation of calories burned. The iPod can also be calibrated by walking or running a pre-measured distance: the minimum is 400 meters.

I attached the iPod nano to my MacBookPro, which now has all my music. iTunes opened and recognised the nano, but warned me that I had too much music for the device. With a 5G library and a 2G nano, something has to go. Fortunately (and this is part of why I love working with Macs so much), the software created a new playlist that it called "Nike iPod Selection" which had the right amount of data and uploaded that to the small iPod.

iPod warning

In iTunes there was also a new tab item marked "Nike + iPod" in which details of the user's runs are displayed: distance, time, and calories burned. Initially there is no information displayed in the panel, but once workouts are recorded on the iPod, each synchronisation imports workout data. A check box allows that data to be automatically sent to the Nike site. There is also a button to link directly to the Nikeplus.com web pages.

iTunes Nike+ panel
iTunes Nike+ panel

The first time that button is used, we have the offer to register online. Subsequent connections take users directly to their personal pages on the site and the information downloaded is displayed in a number of ways. The default is the "last run." You can also see graphs in a week by week format, or monthly: based on distance covered or time taken.

iTunes Nike+ panel
Nike+ personal pages

The pages are designed to enable athletes (and others, like myself) to gain full benefits from exercise in a gym or outside. On top of the data gleaned from the runs, there are ways to set personal goals. It is also possible to invite up to 100 people to compete against each other, or complete a goal as a team, using this system. All of this is controlled by users from their personal pages on the Nike + site.

Nike+ personal pages
Nike+ personal pages

The personal page also has links to images of sports stars like Lance Armstrong, Paul Rodriguez, Steve Nash and Tom Brady. Each nominates a "Power Song" and gives a commentary on what motivates them: particularly the music they listen to on their iPods.

The iPod receives data sent from a sensor in the left shoe of certain Nike footwear. When setting up a new workout on the iPod, the pairing needs to be activated. Normally this is in a power-off state. As soon as I began to set up the iPod for the exercise, the screen displayed, "Searching for your linked sensor. Walk around to activate your sensor." A couple of taps on the floor was enough to wake it up.

There are several ways to determine the parameters for the exercise: time, distance or calories. The last of these may be particularly useful for those who need to slim down, but I was a little more conservative. Each of the groups has preset targets, or allows us to use a Custom setting. In my case, I began by limiting myself to a 5 minute walk.

As the workout time passes, so a voice comes on, over the music being played, and reports on progress. This voice can be male or female and is one of the changable settings. I was told when I had reached half time; again when 4 minutes had passed; and at the end of my 5-minute marathon. On a couple of occasions, I was able to exceed the time. The iPod continues recording data and you are told the result when you indicate that you have stopped. The data is also displayed on the nano screen, with time, distance and calories burned.

iPod Nike+ display
iPod Nike+ display

While a keen athlete may be able to take full advantage of the data and adjust timing and exercise regimens, even a slowcoach like me has some indication of what more I ought to be doing, while the system has the treble advantages of music, encouragement during a solitary pastime, and efficient recording of exercise data, allowing comparisons and progress to be better gauged.

See also, Nike+ and Apple: Tune Your Run

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

Back to eXtensions
To eXtensions: 2004-05
To eXtensions: Year Two
To eXtensions: Year One
To eXtensions: Book Reviews
Back to homepage