Technology We Love: How Nike+ Changed My Life

Just before Thanksgiving, New Relic published a blog post on 10 Technologies We’re Thankful For, shared by the people who build and support New Relic products. Not everyone got to participate, however, so we wanted to revisit the idea:

If a run isn’t counted, does it still “count?” That’s been a conundrum for me—and lots of other people—ever since wearable fitness- and run-trackers became available a few years ago.

Technology changed my life

It goes a lot deeper than that, though. More than just my favorite technology, the data supplied by Nike+ has literally changed my life. I use it to track time, distance, pace, and calories burned during my runs, jogs, and walks, and that helped turn me from a spectator into a participant.

runfeetIf we were to meet, you might not think I was a runner—I don’t look like famous runners Kara Goucher or Shalane Flannagan. I’m the girl who in high school couldn’t finish the 1-mile run in less than 20 minutes. I never saw myself as someone who ran, let alone ran 13.1 miles on purpose. But now I’ve run eight half marathons, two this year: The picture at left is from Portland’s Holiday Half, on Dec. 14, 2014, and I also completed the NikeWomen DC half in April.

Thanks to Nike+, I’ve lost 80 pounds—and kept most of it off. I still have more to go, but I know now it’s possible. In fact, I’d say that Nike+ has helped me discover that I can do almost anything if I put the work into it. I can’t just wake up and run 13.1 miles, but I can run 3 miles, then 5, then 10… and on race day I can make it to 13.1.

Just as important, in a year full of significant professional uncertainty (including joining New Relic!), I could always count on running to keep me grounded and focused, and without Nike+, I would not have kept it up. As a confirmed data nerd, tracking my runs gave me the gift of accountability, reinforcing success towards goals and providing reminders when I got off-track.

The data shows that some of my runs are slow, some not as slow—but either way, with the help of this technology, I’m continually motivated to keep running. I was hooked by the instant gratification of real time feedback (a voice in my ear buds telling me how far and how fast I’d gone) and the tracking capability.

The technology

My go-to Nike+ device is the Sportsband (the version I have is no longer in production) or the Sportwatch GPS. It’s always on my wrist. I own at least three shoe sensors, to ensure every pair of my running shoes has one available. Setup was easy—connect a transmitter to an iPod or smartphone, pop a sensor in your shoe, and voila! Different devices use different technologies, but the key is that your steps are being counted.

But that’s only the beginning, most pedometers could provide the base level data. It was Nike+’s advanced tracking and sharing that made all the difference for me. The data is tracked at the Nike+ site, which also has a social media platform. Sharing allows friends from across the country to encourage you, or even provide a well-deserved kick in the pants.

When it first launched in 2006 (while I was working at Nike), I would challenge friends to mileage goals—one of our ambitious early goals was to log 100 miles in a month. I tracked (almost) every step I took that month—even doing laps at Target to ensure I got in the mileage when the weather was especially bad.

runtweetMore recently, a friend noticed that my training mileage for an upcoming half was off. Way off. While I was leading the monthly mileage amongst my Nike+ group, I was well below the half-marathon training plans. After receiving her text, I refocused on my efforts and increased my mileage and intensity—I only wish she’d texted me sooner.

Tellingly, just 36 hours before my recent half marathon, I panicked when my watch went MIA. I was minutes away from running the nearest Nike store to buy a new one when a friend texted to let me know she had it safe and sound. I wasn’t OK until it was safely back on my wrist.

Motivation by the numbers

Now, instead of team challenges, I set monthly goals for myself. I am very motivated by beating the goals I’ve set week over week, or month after month. If I fall behind, I have real data to use to guide my path back to success. It’s working, and I’ve got the numbers to prove it.

The Proclaimers sang, “I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more.” Well, so far I’ve logged a total of 4,840 miles. In 2014, alone, I’ve run, slogged, or walked my way through 695 miles. That is well above my yearly average (368), but at a slower pace than I’ve been at historically (15 min/mile).

Tracking my run data has become so important to me that it doesn’t feel like un-monitored runs “count,” so on more occasions than I care to admit, I’ve actually retraced steps with my sports band on to ensure the mileage was logged.

Morning runs are my most popular at 34%, with only 6% late at night. I’ve run in 8 different cities this year, including Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Buffalo, Scarborough, and Todos Santos, Mexico.

I sometimes ponder what it would be like to run without tracking the data for a constant reminder of my pace and time elapsed. For now, though, untracked outings are limited to strolls or long walks on the beach. When I run on purpose, I collect the data to make sure it counts.

As HR Business Partner for New Relic’s Portland office, Julie DeBuhr supports the engineering and support teams with all things HR. Before joining New Relic, she spent two years working at Cole Haan, as the company divested from Nike, where she worked for the previous twelve years. View posts by .

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