This is an exercise package for the serious athlete who wants to measure the cardiovascular exercise they’re getting rather than just the general level of activity. You get a GPS/accelerometer stride sensor that fits in between the laces of your running shoes, a heart rate monitor that straps around your chest (you have to wipe the rubber surface with a damp cloth for it to pick up your heartbeat) and a Pacer module that they both connect to using the low-power ANT+ wireless standard. Instructions come through headphones to put you in the right heart rate zone for each part of your workout (and you can load it with your music to play during workouts).
You have to connect the Pacer to your computer to download the workouts you choose from the miCoach Web site, and getting connected requires Java to run the sync software, which is inordinately slow to setup.
This is a lot to set up and strap on, compared to the simpler everyday systems, and we found starting the workout, recording data from free running sessions and syncing the data to be confusing at first. We either lost or never managed to record the data from our first three sessions. The USB cable fits into a port that’s identical to the headphone socket, which is also confusing (the Pacer charges over USB, the stride sensor and heart monitor have batteries you can replace).
Once you master how to use it, miCoach is a good system for traditional exercise. There are plenty of coaching options including getting workouts mailed to you in advance as a PDF, email reminders if you've not worked out for a week or more and an online coaching circle where you can share tips and encouragement. The difference from just running with a stopwatch or using one of the popular audio runners training programs is that if your heart rate is too slow – or too fast – for the section of the workout you’re doing, the miCoach Pacer will interrupt the instructions to tell you to speed up or slow down, in real time. Looking at the charts and maps afterwards lets you do longer term analysis – and see how you’re progressing.
Adidas is working with game publisher THQ to make the miCoach system work with sport training games for Kinect and PlayStation Move. We should see the end result of this partnership some time in 2012.