Half Marathon Training with the Nike+ Running App

Posted on December 17, 2012

Part two of my half marathon training series is about technology and community via the Nike+ Running App. I’m almost two weeks into training which means I’m already better off than I was at this point last year. In case you missed half marathon training part one, last year I trained for two weeks, peaked a 9-miler two days before the race and somehow managed to not die.

Not my brightest moment. So this year I’m showing up prepared and bringing my brain with me, too. I’ve already made a habit of a water-only liquid diet to reduce the amount of processed, sugary crap I used to drink, and now I’m getting smarter about my actual training. With the help of a free (woohoo!) app and Mr. Tebow’s sexy voice cheering me on, I’ve been able to track and analyze my progress over time. Tim is no Barry White, but hell, after a 10 mile run even Gilbert Gottfried’s voice can begin to sound attractive.

I’m a chart nerd/ After two years of working in digital marketing, I’ve come to appreciate numbers, charts and analytics, um, a lot. I first started using a free exercise app called Endomondo which did the job, but then switched to Nike+ when it was released as a free app. I like free.

Fact. Nike+ makes working out more rewarding and fun. The tools bundled in the app gave me the motivation I needed to tell the voice in my head to shut the hell up. There’s nothing like coming back from a run all nasty/sweaty/gross and hearing Tim Tebow congratulate me and tell me he might let me touch his Heisman. (Enter completely inappropriate comment here.)

Nike+ Running App for Half Marathon Training

Nike+ Running app home screen

Nike+ is more than an exercise analytics platform since they’ve built up a community of like-minded athletes that care about their bodies. Adding a whole new dimension, Nike has done an amazing job of assembling a rich community behind its product. While there were some kinks in the beginning, they’ve nearly perfected the app. Unless you’re a serious athlete, you don’t necessarily need to be shelling out $150 for a watch or any other gadget that will do the same exact thing this free app will do.

As with everything, there are a few downsides. As pictured below, there is no easy way to track speedwork without monthly/overall statistics being skewed. You can see on Thursday I did some speedwork which involved 5x400m repeats. Unfortunately, there’s no lap functionality on the app so when these runs are factored into my monthly and overall stats they’re essentially rendered inaccurate. Is this a huge deal? Absolutely not. I just wanted to point out that if you’re looking for a full featured training system, the Nike+ app may not be your best bet.

Nike+ Running App for Half Marathon Training

Nike+ Running app activity screen.

If you’re on Twitter, I highly recommend sharing your workouts and including their handle (@nikerunning.) The magic that happens next is pure marketing brilliance. Most likely using a high-end social tracking system like Radian6, they’re able to log conversations and “remember” details about you like when your next race is or how you mentioned your ankle was bothering you back in September. They’ll even offer tips and are incredibly helpful in directing you to support if you were to run across any issues. Nike+ isn’t just an app or product, it’s a full-fledged experience that has changed the way people approach running making it much easier and more enjoyable for all levels of skill. To be honest, if you aren’t interacting with them on social media you’re missing half the game. It will definitely get you excited to hit the pavement more often.

Here’s one of my many memorable interactions with Nike Running:

I don’t recall how we started competing, but the incredible Chris Harrington once mentioned that we should challenge and push each other each week. I’m sure Nike Running was in on the conversation and was taking notes because then this happened:

Nike+ Running App for Half Marathon Training, Twitter

Nike+ Running is amazing on Twitter

Minutes later the wife and I laced up and headed out the door. If Nike hadn’t “remembered” Chris’ and my conversation then this wouldn’t have happened. They then took it a step further to include my handle and initiate the challenge. BOOM – customer for life right here. That’s all it takes. A little initiation, personality and a different approach than the rest.

So then we responded:

Nike+ Running App for Half Marathon Training, Twitter

Nike+ Running Twitter brilliance

Bravo, Nike community managers. It didn’t take much effort, but you were there to make this more than just a product. You made it experiential, and that’s when brands win customers.

Half Marathon Training with the Nike+ Running App by

6 Replies to "Half Marathon Training with the Nike+ Running App"

  • Bo
    December 17, 2012 (4:49 pm)

    I was just wondering the other day if Twitter has peaked and can slide into irrelevance. Used correctly it can be sheer genius–marketing that pulls you in rather than assaults you. Well played indeed, Nike.

    • Zack Sylvan
      December 17, 2012 (9:55 pm)

      You nailed it there. The key is the “used correctly” part. Finding that friendly medium is essential. This list could go on and on, but being annoying, too transcript-y, or being present for your own purposes counteract the goal of social media.

      Nike Running’s community managers are obviously given a little freedom and are encouraged to have fun. When you take the time to care about people first, it naturally excites those you touch. (Tried to be careful with the wording there, no way to avoid that one.) Anyway, companies don’t care about people, right? People care about people. When you can prove that, as Nike Running does, that’s when the magic happens.

      • Nathan Maxwell
        December 18, 2012 (2:52 am)

        Well said Zack! Love this blog post and your feedback to how Nike is doing an amazing job engaging with twitter. For my job, I manage eCommerce marketing. I love it when I see other brands take it to this kind of level. It means a lot when a bigger brand like nike steps down and spends time with a single consumer. Brand building. Lifetime customer.

        • Zack Sylvan
          December 18, 2012 (2:30 pm)

          Thanks, Nathan! I feel the exact same way. The fact that a huge brand like Nike can scale consistently great customer service is amazing. Other brands need to take note and see that it isn’t all that difficult to simply pay attention to their customers.

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    […] Picture courtesy of Zack Sylvan. […]

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