On just about any other weekend in Singapore, you'll find at least one marathon or walkathon happening. Not all of them are on the same scale as the Singapore Marathon but there's definitely a running trend here. Capitalizing on this, adidas' miCoach Pacer is the latest entrant to the electronic fitness tracking scene.
Consisting of a heart rate monitor, a stride sensor (which is essentially a pedometer) and the miCoach Pacer itself, the control and coaching module, these three devices work together, with the Pacer as the receiver, communicating wirelessly with the other two to collect vital stats like your speed and heart rate. From these stats, it can calculate the amount of calories burnt, and plot your workout visually on adidas' miCoach website. That's not the best part though, as the miCoach Pacer can provide audible coaching during the workout, and you can even choose from a number of pre-recorded voices, including both male and female voices for the coaching.
Before we get to the coaching and fancy plotted graphs however, we had to set up the Pacer, which can be a bit intimidating. Unlike its main competitor, Nike+, which only has a pedometer and a receiver, and plugs into Apple's iPhone/iPod, and syncs with iTunes, there are three separate parts to the miCoach Pacer bundle, which is literally a handful when bringing it along to a workout. In fact, our biggest worry was whether we would lose one of the three devices on the way.
Charging the miCoach Pacer initially takes around two hours, but it should last for at least 10 hours. You will need to sign up on adidas' miCoach website for an account, after which, download the miCoach Manager software that will sync your Pacer with it.
What adidas offers online are training plans designed for various goals, from losing weight to preparing for a race. Users select from these plans and customize them further to fit their own schedules and training intensity levels. It sounds rather complicated but helpful hints are found on the website and there's a forum for related questions and discussions.
Next, sync the training plan with your Pacer by connecting it to the PC and miCoach Manager. Your plan will now be stored in the Pacer, which connects to most MP3 players for those who need the musical inspiration. Attach the included earpiece to the Pacer for real-time audio coaching during the workout. This feature ensures that you're sticking to your plan by telling you to slow down or speed up. Our only complaint is that the earpiece provided is not exactly the best fit nor was it very comfortable and kept slipping out during the rate. However, this is moot if you use your own MP3 player. A Free mode is also present if you just want to monitor your stats.
The heart rate monitor goes around your chest while the stride sensor is attached to your shoelaces, where it felt very secure, or within a cavity in certain adidas compatible footwear. The battery on the stride sensor is removable and should last at least five months. Finally, strap the Pacer onto an armband and you're ready to go. After the workout, sync the Pacer with the miCoach Manager and your stats will be reflected on your account. Along with the real-time coaching, it's this element of being able to track your training that's the main attraction of adidas' miCoach.
Overall, the adidas miCoach Pacer is a more complete fitness tracking system than Nike+, thanks to the addition of the heart rate monitor. Unfortunately, it also costs around US$100 more, which is likely to deter the casual runner. Those who can invest the money and the time to train properly will however find the Pacer an excellent companion.