Though I am now four weeks into my Wedding Day 5K training, and I can now run more than three minutes without sweating like Shaq in the fourth quarter, I still require major prodding to get off my (slightly less bulbous than it was a month ago) bottom. miCoach by Adidas is an app that doesn't just track your exercise; it wants to be your personal trainer, too. And backed by Adidas money, it's loaded with features and functionality that you aren't going to get from many other free apps.
But--and here is the real question for all of my lazy readers--how well does it inspire the slothful among us to run?
I used miCoach (pronounced "My Coach," which goes against everything I learned in high school Spanish) three times this week: once for a training assessment so that miCoach could learn my current condition and plan accordingly, and then the first two runs on the workout regimen it had mapped out for me.
BEST REASON TO GET OFF THE COUCH: miCoach Can Get You In Shape For Anything In Any Amount Of Time
Okay, that's an overstatement. It probably can't get you from couch-to-marathon in seventeen nanoseconds (still waiting on Adidas for comment). But the range of events and sports you can train for, and the way that it can adjust your workouts based on your timeframe for getting in shape, is terrific.
For example: I'm training for a 5K on Aug. 27, which means that on Monday, Aug. 1, I had four weeks of training left. Rather than start on Week 5 of the nine-week Couch to 5K program I profiled last week, I simply told miCoach that it had four weeks to whip me into shape; so it compressed its standard 12-week 5K training regimen into my remaining four weeks, scheduling me for five workouts per week for the rest of the month. I also filled out an (optional) survey before I ran, with my gender, birthdate, height and weight, so that miCoach could more fully understand who I was and what I was capable of doing, exercise-wise.
The app syncs with the Adidas miCoach website, so that everything is accessible online. Here's the schedule miCoach made me; the different colors within those little bars show how fast I am going to be running in the intervals that make up my workouts:
Also like C25K, this training schedule is automatically synced to your smartphone, so that when you begin a workout, the program tells you what to do, both on screen and in your earbuds: how fast you are running, how fast you should be running, how much time you have left, how far you've run:
I liked the workout planning of Couch to 5K, but miCoach blows that regimen away. The ability to customize the distance you are training for -- in addition to providing workouts for biking, soccer, basketball and more -- all for free, all synced to your phone, makes miCoach a powerful and convenient app for the lazy person who is apathetic about how he gets in shape, as long as he does.
BEST REASON TO STAY ON THE COUCH: With Almost 17 Billion Dollars In Worldwide Revenue For 2010, You Would Think Adidas Could Afford Some Better Graphic Design
Okay, that's harsh. But the design of miCoach is befuddling at best, confusing and frustrating at worst. Sure, the app is absolutely overflowing with great features and functions; and it's free and is definitely worth more than $0, so complaining that Adidas bungled the interface of miCoach may seem slight -- but my God did they bungle the interface.
Let's take a look at another screenshot of the app in action (this time from someone actually running):
Here's what I dislike about the miCoach main screen:
- The colored bar that tells you how much farther you have to run in each speed zone is impossible to read. It's too small, and it doesn't give you any idea of how many more minutes you actually have within a zone.
- The music player is hard to get to, especially when you are tired and your hands aren't as steady. You have to unlock the phone and press that little musical note in the top righthand corner to access your controls.
- The gray on gray is ugly.
- Okay, this isn't an aesthetic design complaint, but a complaint in general: The state of iOS GPS has not advanced to the point that a running app can track you second by second, but the entirety of miCoach, as an app, depends on just that. See, you have to run within certain speed "zones" for proper training with miCoach, and the app tracks how fast you're going with its in-phone GPS. As I ran, though, the speed-meter was so funky that I was constantly being told to slow up or speed down; I would be running 14-minute miles one second and 6-minute miles the next.
Perhaps that last one is a problem with my iPhone 3GS. In any case, it presents a fundamental problem for those who live in low-GPS areas who want to use the app.
Frankly, it is so incredible that an app with so much functionality is free, that even if you do live in a heavily-forested area, or somewhere rural, or inside some kind of grain silo of some kind, miCoach is worth a shot. The schedule and structure it provides, together with how personal it can make that schedule and structure, are worth the price of admission ($0 and 12 minutes of your time for an assessment workout) alone.
However, the app comes with a few caveats, including the clumsy design, the GPS-dependency, the fact that those celebrity voices it advertises don't say very much (they do not give your in-run stats to you: NBA player Derrick Rose basically said hello and goodbye to me and was never heard from again).
But, again: Free, totally personalized, and with enough add-ons and in-exercise fluff to keep you distracted as you struggle through your workout. Now if we could only get it to pronounce the Spanish "mi" correctly...
Adidas miCoach ESSENTIALS: Listed In Bullet Form, For The Lazy
Platforms: iOS, Android
Clout: 6,000 'likes' on Facebook
Things It Can Do:
- Mobile sync to web
- GPS sync to measure distance, pace, calories burned, and elapsed time (but no time remaining)
- Customized workout regimen planning for several sports, events and goals
- Voice-spoken updates in earbuds
- In-app music controls
- Option to track shoe wear-and-tear
This is part of a series of articles profiling fitness apps for lazy people. I am training for an August 27th 5K, despite my better instincts. For the introduction and mission statement, click here. You can follow my progress on Twitter @gilbertjasono, or by "liking" my reporter page here. Stay tuned for next week's Fitness Apps For Lazy People series installment when I review Nexercise, a game-based exercise app for iOS.