Review: Adidas miCoach
Fitness and the quantified self is going to be a topic that you will hear more about from the smartphone world in 2014. Getting in on the act over the last few months has been miCoach, a branded solution by Adidas. How well does the app work to encourage you to exercise harder, faster, and stronger?
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
The goal of miCoach is not to act as a statistical analytics tool (there are already a number of apps on Windows Phone that will do this), but to help you work out correctly. Whether it's a short regime of stretching, or an all out push for speed to push yourself to the limit, miCoach will recommend routines, advise you during the routines, and keep track of your progress and alter the workouts as required.
Signing up to the service can be done on your handset, and along with the usual username and details, your date of birth, height, and weight, are asked for, as you would expect.
Next up, you're asked to choose a coaching voice. A number of (Adidas supported) sports stars are available to encourage you along the way - although I'm not sure that the gruff tones of Andy Murray are going to be the perfect pick me up at the end of a long day. Given that Phil 'The Power' Taylor wasn't present, I went with the default female British voice.
First up is an assessment workout that will ask you to work gently and get progressively harder so the miCoach system knows your baseline. This takes around fifteen minutes at most. Once this is out the way you can choose from a free workout or a coached workout.
Each of these workouts can be over various disciplines, such as running, cycling, and walking. Strangely, Nordic Skiing is included as its own category, and you have an 'other' category for everything else. In the free workout you simply set your activity and away you go.
The coached workouts will ask you to choose a 'shape' of your workout, from an all gentle time, to scheduling in medium and hard periods of work where you will be encouraged to push yourself and make your body work harder. This is the core selling point of miCoach, to get your heart-rate into this golden area where you can make a difference.
Yes, it does help if you have the Adidas heart rate monitor and stride sensors (available separately) for improved accuracy, but miCoach will also do its best to work with the sensors in your phone, and you can start tracking and coaching using the GPS and the accelerometers in your handset.
If you think about it, with the app as a free download, it's the purchase of the extra tracking hardware that actually represents the sale, even though the GPS-only option gives you some pretty useful data and allows you to track your progress throughout all your workouts.
The GPS allows the app to derive distance and speed. Alongside time and the previously entered weight and height details you can get a rough approximation of calories burned (and therefore effort put in). While the app is to focused on tracking your progress, you do have a bundle of numbers and charts that you can dig into. Over time these build up to give you (and miCoach) a picture of your progress, and it is this data that is used to improve your performance.
MiCoach also works to make your workout a bit more pleasurable. With audio feedback at key points in the workout telling you your progress (for cycling you get a nudge every kilometre with average speed, distance and calories burned), you also have access to the media controls and you can remain in the miCoach app and start playing a playlist from the music app, or you can stream Adidas's own mixes, which use Nokia's MixRadio platform for free music to exercise to.
The key question is: does miCoach work? In a way it's very hard to answer that, as anyone doing serious exercise will be doing a lot more than just listening to a phone. There is no direct aid from miCoach. But there is a lot of indirect effect. There's no doubt for me that having numerical information and numbers as I am exercising, and the tailored workouts as you progress through will stop you slacking.
Used as part of a holistic effort, I'm sure miCoach is a very useful tool, especially if you invest in the heart rate monitor or stride measurement peripherals. Even if you aren't going all out, the tracking and real-time notes on your progress are a help. For anyone with the fitness bug miCoach is recommended, if only to see if it fits into your own personal patterns of exercise.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at