Plug 'N' Play

Put a coach in your iPod, a heart-rate sensor in your shirt, and more

Sep 29, 2006
Outside Magazine
Adidas Fusion

TALKING THREADS: Adidas's Fusion shirt measures your heart rate.

Attention, fitness instructors: You're being replaced. A slew of digital audio workouts are putting coaches into iPods, allowing A-list trainers to reach the masses at D-list prices. These three customized personal fitness routines make the local spin coach obsolete.

iTrain: Through its L.A.-chic site, iTrain offers ten categories of à la carte programs divided by type of workout, with instruction and motivation for everything from strength training (iStrength) to stair climbing (iClimb) coming from Hollywood's top trainers. From $3.99 per download;

Podfitness: Want control of the playlist? Instead of utilizing preset songs and beats like iTrain, this service lets you use iTunes (check the site's new Sport Music service) to choose music that is then incorporated into specific exercise routines, fading in and out with the trainer's voice. It's more expensive, but you can get new workouts and build new playlists every day. $20 per month;

Carmichael Training Systems: Ride seven stages of the Tour de France—on your indoor bike trainer—with help from the ultimate insiders. Chris Carmichael and OLN commentator Bob Roll use a combination of music, Tour stories, and route details to make getting to the top of l'Alpe d'Huez much more pleasant than it should be. CTS has also launched a new audio/video service that allows you to download coach-crafted routines and use iTunes to build indoor cycling workouts from 64 training plans. $0.99–$9.99 per download;

Equipment and electronics makers have teamed up to create the world's first . . . well, we're not sure what to call these category busters.

Nike+iPod: With this system, your sensor-equipped shoes talk to your Nano during runs, so in addition to tunes you get real-time voice updates on data like distance covered, pace, and calories burned. Every time you sync your Nano, it automatically transports the numbers to your computer-based training program. Shoes with underfoot sensor pocket start at $85; adapter kit (includes sensor and wireless receiver), $29; iPod Nano not included;

Adidas+Polar: Now it's your shirt that's communicating—to your heart-rate monitor. Adidas has outfitted its adiStar Fusion running shirts and bras with soft textile sensors that relay your heart rate, via a removable chest-mounted transmitter, to your Polar wrist-top computer. The line also includes shoes with a built-in Polar stride sensor that measures pace, distance, and more. Shirt, $65; shoes, $120; Polar RS800 computer, $489;

Like my grade school classmates, I wore my thumbs raw on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! So when I unwrapped EyeToy: Kinetic, which uses a motion-capture USB camera (included) to transport your image into a fitness-oriented PlayStation 2 game, I thought I was ready to kick ass. Then this cardio/video combo kicked mine.

The "game" is really an exercise program divided into four categories (Cardio, Combat, Toning, and Mind and Body). Your trainers—Matt, a buff American, and Anna, a svelte Brit—lead workouts that require you to jump, punch, and kick through a video starring . . . you. After some initial futzing to get the camera just right (your space needs to be well lit but not overexposed), I was cavorting around my living room, doing squats and slides while playing Ricochet, a virtual game of dodgeball. Then I busted through bricks in kickboxinglike Combat Wildfire. The aerobic mayhem was followed by a tai chi–inspired routine called Reactivate, and the program ended with a set of body-weight-only toning exercises like push-ups and dips.

Verdict: Playing EyeToy was the most fun I've ever had training indoors; my sore muscles erased any doubts about getting a real workout; and I was glad the curtains were drawn, as it might be hard to explain Ricochet to the neighbors. $50 (requires PlayStation 2);

Take the number-crunching nerd from your high school cross-country team, cram him into your hard drive, and you get Training Peaks, a Web-based program that turns fitness data into porn for trainers. In minutes you can analyze two years of exercise and nutrition data to find out why you've peaked—or plateaued—at certain times. Plus you can do digi-tricks, like locate a road you passed on a ride and build a new route with Google Earth. Geeks, beware: It's so fun you might lose training time. $20 per month (Athlete Edition);