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Review | Pulse perfect, but perplexing: Adidas miCoach

Review | Pulse perfect, but perplexing: Adidas miCoach
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First Published: Mon, Mar 22 2010. 08 19 PM IST

Fitness button: Cricketer Suresh Raina tries out the new Adidas miCoach.
Fitness button: Cricketer Suresh Raina tries out the new Adidas miCoach.
Updated: Mon, Mar 22 2010. 08 19 PM IST
Many will attest that the most difficult part of working out regularly is that first step—the initial spark of motivation that will get you off the sofa. When you first open the Adidas miCoach pacer box to reveal the small, sleek device with many gently glowing green lights, you may be tempted to think that the spark you were looking for is right here, fittingly technological.
The Adidas miCoach pacer is a small, oval device that includes a heartbeat sensor and a “stride” sensor (essentially a pedometer). It monitors your vital statistics (heart rate, distance jogged, pulse) as you’re working out, and then offers you running commentary (in a choice of superb accents) on how you’re doing. The commentary even works above any music you might be playing on an MP3 player (more on that later). Connect the device to a computer, and you can track your progress, set goals and let the miCoach figure out a schedule for you.
Fitness button: Cricketer Suresh Raina tries out the new Adidas miCoach.
It sounds easy enough, but unfortunately, this initial enthusiasm dissipates over the next half-hour, as a more detailed search of the miCoach box reveals two more sleek devices that look bewilderingly similar to the first one, about three swathes of wire, a belt and two kinds of connectors. This is before a cursory glance at the instruction manual that offers an “easy”, 12-step process on how to get started.
Hopefully, you have a reasonably fast Internet connection handy, because using the miCoach requires you to sign up at the Adidas website, and then download a 9MB installation program that syncs data between the main miCoach device (the largest of three devices in the box, called the pacer) and the computer (why this could not be included on the device, which has a generous amount of internal memory, is not clear). After you’ve set initial goals (the website, for some reason, suggested the “lose weight” program based on my vital statistics. A most grievous insult this, since I weigh a paltry 55kg), it shows you a calendar with your regimen, which can be modified, and you’re good to go.
Here’s where things get complicated. You attach the second small black device (the heartbeat sensor) to the belt, splash some water on the sensor area on the belt buckle, and strap it to your chest. Next, you remove the third black device from its clip (the stride sensor), insert the battery (a mystifyingly difficult process because of its minuscule size) and reattach it to the clip, which goes above the laces of your shoes. After this, you take your MP3 player, attach the sound cable that comes bundled with the miCoach into it, plug the other end into the main black device (the pacer), and then plug headphones into the auxiliary output of the pacer. If you find your spirit flagging by this point, take heart. You’re almost ready to get started. Now, turn the miCoach on by dragging the slider, turn on the music and listen to the impeccable voice greet you: “Welcome to miCoach.”
After all this rocket science, you’re probably expecting some profound workout advice. “Speed up to Blue Zone” was the only thing the miCoach said to me on my first try. Pressing the centre button on the device gives you an update on your heart rate, distance travelled and time—but as far as advice went, the device wasn’t any more forthcoming. The Blue Zone, I discovered later, is a personalized “heart zone” relating to your cardiovascular fitness that the device identifies. As you spend more time with the device, it urges you to try more intense workouts, going up to a Green Zone and an ominous Red Zone. At the time, I had no idea, so I spent the first 3 minutes running around the neighbourhood wondering what the device wanted me to do. Then it said “Slow down to Blue Zone”, which was satisfying, because I’d presumably moved closer to this hypothetical zone it kept going on about. Two minutes later, it said “Speed up to Blue Zone” again, and I was very confused.
But five workouts later, the miCoach began to make sense. It’s excellent at tracking statistics and progress, and the website interface is clean and easy to use. Its customized workout regimens are well thought out and dynamic, and it works around even the toughest of schedules. Have only 10 minutes to spare? No problem for the miCoach.
There are, however, three glaring problems. The initial complexity will throw off a lot of people, and it may seem like too much bother for too simple a task. Second, the price is a bit steep. The pacer retails at Rs8,999, which is costly for what is basically a statistic-tracking device. And third, I’m still really cross about that whole “lose some weight” suggestion. The miCoach is available at all Adidas stores countrywide.
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First Published: Mon, Mar 22 2010. 08 19 PM IST