Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of popping over to London for the day for the launch of adidas micoach. The micoach is a virtual running partner that delivers real-time audible coaching. Forget standard heart rate monitors or exercise program utilities, this is a system that monitors your performance and tells you what you need to do to reach your programme objectives. The miCoach interactive training system tells you whether to speed up or slow down by tracking your heart rate, pace, distance and stride rate. The system does this by constantly monitoring data delivered by a small sensor worn on your shoe and a heart monitor worn around the chest. The particular device that I have been using is the adidas micoach pacer.
So what's the difference between the adidas offering and the various other systems on the market?
Aside from the basic way the service works - audible telling you what to do - the most important difference is that this is exactly that, a service. The device that adidas have developed is essentially a very simple data recorder and performance indicator. The real customer value comes from the website and added functionality that adidas provide outside the device itself. adidas's goal is to become the most personalised sports brand in the world by providing an intelligent web platform through which users can interact and educate themselves about how to perform better, train better and, ultimately, run better. In the end, adidas want us to be better athletes.
To achieve this, adidas have created a web platform that acts as an interactive training service that motivates, inspires and enables runners to become better and reach their training goals, whatever they may be. This is the key. For every runner the goals you set and those recommended by the system are completely unique based on your goals, your current level of fitness and what suits you to train. At micoach.com you can create personalised training plans, set goals and pro-actively monitor and manage your progress over time. The platform includes six training plans, ranging from those who want to run faster and improve a personal time, to those who want to lose weight, and you can also create your own personalised training plan. These tailored training programmes are designed around your heart rate zones and will help you achieve your fitness goals more efficiently than traditional exercise regimens. miCoach listens to your heart to determine your personal training zone ranges, each represented by a distinct colour for easy-to-understand and effective training - blue, green, yellow and red. miCoach helps runners set goals and then reach them by monitoring their heart rate and telling them when to slow down or speed up to meet their personal goal.
There are then two options when it comes tot he devices themselves:
- The miCoach Pacer - a small, lightweight device that delivers real-time audible coaching as you exercise via headphones or combined with your own MP3 player. During your run, the miCoach Pacer verbally coaches you (i.e. speed up to green zone, slow down to blue zone, etc.) to ensure that you are staying within your targeted heart rate zone and keep you running at the right personal level.
- The miCoach Zone – an easy to read colour-code LED display on a wristband device provides accurate, real-time coaching making it easy for you to train at the right intensity with the help of a heart rate monitor.
“miCoach makes it easy for anyone at any level to get personal coaching. The instant progress reports help you get the most out of your run and achieve your personal goal,” says Bernd Wahler, Chief Marketing Officer of adidas Sport Performance. “The audible coaching feature of the miCoach Pacer provides a new dimension to any workout experience allowing users of any level to discover their true potential. This product is really about offering our consumers a personal way to train.”
So what's the verdict?
About a year ago I started running. Not long enough, not far enough and not often enough. Then a couple of months before Christmas an old rugby injury cropped up again and I just had to stop. Although my knee got better I simply wasn't motivated to get back into a training schedule. Since I've started using the micoach that has seriously changed. The nature of the service means that I have been easily able to set up a training programme that suits me and when I do go running I have constant motivation and direction as to what I need to be doing. I would definitely recommend the micoach to anyone from dedicated runners who want to improve their style to beginners who want to get fit.
So is that that?
Not by a long shot. Not only does the service have two major updates on the horizon already but the nature of how it's been built leaves it open to almost limitless expansion on a number of different fronts. In June the micoach mobile application will launch. This will be a free of charge download for any smart phone that will allow you to use the micoach service with your phone's GPS. A second June update will also see the introduction of speed training so that the micoach service can be used for short to middle distance sprint training. Of course these are just two of the many possibilities that adidas have revealed. Considering that the web platform already has several options for Facebook integration and data sharing, there's no reason to think that the ability to actually share your results and training programmes isn't on the way. Overall the approach adidas has taken leaves them in a position to change and enhance the micoach service by simply updating the web platform. This means that the device you buy now will remain an active product for the foreseeable future. I for one think this is brilliant. adidas are demonstrating a very real understanding that the modern consumer wants more and demands it.
Basically I'm really excited to see what happens with Social Media integration in the next year. I think adidas are leading the way in sports technology, and showing a level of understanding that the competition just don't have.