Last month was my mother’s 80th birthday, which the family celebrated at my house in Mumbai. Siblings, cousins and friends with their assorted appendages, such as spouses and children, came visiting or stayed over. All this meant a lot of food, drink and noise. A week later saw the family in Bhuj to celebrate the Raising Day of my father’s old battalion—the 10th Garhwal Rifles—which again meant eating a lot of meat and drinking with the faujis. And then, Dussehra being the most important festival for us hill types, a lot of deep fried, incredibly tasty stuff was washed down with copious amounts of brew suitable for the time of the day. And did you know some food tastes even better the next day?

Well, I can report that the good life does take a toll on your body, as shown by the inexorable upward march of the malevolent red blinking digits of my bathroom scales. Not quite like the Sensex these days…but then you get the idea. Help has come in the form of the new Nike + iPod Sport Kit, which has motivated me to get off my lardy, dimpled butt and hit the road running…er, power-walking.

The Nike + iPod kit records the time, distance, pace and calories burned in real time as you run or, in my case, power-walk while listening to your favourite playlist on the iPod Nano. After your workout, simply connect your iPod Nano to the PC, transfer data to the Nike website at and track your progress and results. It is fun, simple and elegant, with music and exercise going hand in hand.

The set-up is quick and easy. Insert the pebble-sized sensor into the pocket below the insole of the Nike shoe, attach the receiver to the dock connector of the Nano, both of which wirelessly talk to each other to record each step. Once initialized, a new Nike + iPod menu pops up on the Nano screen—select it and press the iPod’s menu button to customize a new workout according to specified goals. You can select time, distance or calories burned. Choose “Basic" if you prefer an open-ended workout.

A hidden pocket houses the sensor; Attach the receiver to the iPod Nano; Hit the ground running with transmission

Choose your PowerSong—a track that gets you pumped when you are running on empty— which is invoked automatically when you press and hold the Select button. The system actually talks to you in a male or female voice while you are running. When you press the Select button briefly, the music fades into the background and the voice tells you the distance you have gone, your current pace, and how long you have been running. Break any personal records, and Mr Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, will congratulate you on your achievement!

I selected a Basic workout, then picked my favourite running music playlist and PowerSong. Next, I walked around a bit, as prompted, for the receiver to pair up the transmitter in my shoe. Afterwards, I just pressed the Select button to start my workout. The Nike+ shoes are very comfortable and astoundingly lightweight. I noticed that if you are using the Nano without the optional armband, you will often accidentally press the other buttons around the click wheel, which pauses your workout. The iPod earbuds were also a loose fit and kept falling out, so I substituted them for my favourite and stickier Bose in-ear headphones.

At the end of my 30-minute walk-run-walk, I hit Menu to end my workout. It gave me the total distance travelled and calories burned, as well as my average speed per minute. When I plugged the iPod to my iMac, iTunes (version 7.0 required) started up and immediately sent my workout data to After logging in with the email address and password I had pre-registered on the site—a simple and free process—my recent run came up in a colourful graphic showing my distance, speed and the spot in my run I had pressed the Select button to hear my PowerSong.

The number of ways you can sort and analyze your running data on the nikeplus website is pretty cool—you can compare your runs, set goals and track your progress. A very good community feature lets you set up challenges with other users, and even charts the total progress of all Nike+ users around the world, and there is even a special Nike+ podcast that you can subscribe to. I am looking forward to challenging a friend from Boise, Idaho, another wannabe runner, to see who finishes a modest 50km first. It is a fun way to motivate myself to push my limits as much as I want to, with or without a competitive aspect.

There are a few issues though: First, once the sensor’s non-replaceable internal battery dies, you need to buy another Sport Kit—Apple, however, says the 1,000-hour battery is designed to outlast the shoes. Second, the kit requires either purchase of a pair of Nike+ shoes or an adaptation of your existing shoes. And third, the kit is only compatible with the new iPod Nano—a limitation that appears to be without justification.

The kit itself costs Rs2,000. But you will have to supply Nike+-ready running shoes such as the Nike Air Zoom I wear (prices range from Rs4,900-8,900). Of course, you will also need the new Nano (Rs8,800). Perhaps it takes this sort of financial investment, instead of a series of hollow promises, to get yourself on the road to physical fitness. The kit does not work with other iPod models, which is a strange way to reward people who have put down serious money for full size iPods. The Sports Kit is available at Nike stores as well as stores selling the Apple product range.

Running is not actually fun for me with my creaky knees, but the Nike + iPod Sports Kit adds an extra element that can actually inspire and motivate you more than simply listening to music and timing yourself. Certainly one of the coolest gizmos of 2007.

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