Sunday, 30 June 2013

What I think of the Nike Training Club App

The moment I heard about the NTC app, I got really excited. I was eager to switch up my workouts at the gym, adding more High Intensity Cardio intervals and some new ideas for core and weight work.

Generally you don't need any fancy equipment. Mostly, you'll need some sort of weight (dumbells, medicine ball), sometimes a mat to lie down on, and enough space to jump around, lunge and do pushups. I have no weights at home, so I used a juice bottle. Apple Mango got SO lifted.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the sequencing of the standard routines.

Here are the home screens:

My translation of the 4 categories:
Get Lean = "Omg that was only 15 seconds? Ican'tbreatheIcan'tbreatheIcan'tbreathe"
Get Toned = "Am I doing this deadlift right? I don't feel anything."
Get Strong = "Oh gawds THE BURN, give me some cardio I can't do this anymore!"

Each category has 3 levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Steven and I tried the "Get Focused" Ab Burner workout first. As a "Focused" workout, it does not have levels; you just plunge in and do it. Unfortunately, both Steven and I got pretty bored quickly. Once we realized that the workout is just 3 repeats of the same sequence, we stopped the workout and continued our regular P90X-inspired core workout, which has more variety and challenge. There is only one core-focused workout pre-loaded in the app, though there are other bonus core workouts you have to download.

Despite a bad first workout, I was determined to try the others before giving my verdict.

The workouts in the other 3 sections (Lean, Toned and Strong) are very good. They are challenging with diverse movements and plenty of cardio bursts (like high knees, tuck jumps, ski jumps, etc.) that work into a full range of motion. I was plenty sore after all of my NTC workouts, even if I only completed 20 or 15 minutes of them ---> I think this has more to do with my general suckiness at High Intensity Cardio though.

Here are a few things I'd like to see changed:

1) Better Warmups
Nearly all the warmups are silly things like jogging in place for 2 minutes, or straight leg lifts for 2 minutes. Do you realize HOW BORING it is to jog in one place it is?! Or Slide and Glide (which does nothing for me, frankly; I might as well stand around) for TWO minutes?! Please let me do ANYTHING else, or just skip this completely... which leads to #2...

2) Why can't I skip anything?
Usually, I'm already warmed up from a run or ab work before I start on the NTC workouts. However, there are only 2 buttons on this thing: Start and Stop (ok, there's a Pause as well). I'd like to see a Skip button please for activities I don't want to do. For instance, my most recent workout had a 2 minute recovery. By 30 seconds I was bored of standing around, I had caught my breath, and yet I couldn't do anything to speed up the damn app.

3) Shorter Workouts
All workouts are at minimum 30 minutes long. In some cases this is too long for my short attention span, or if Steven wants to leave the gym early or I'm low on energy that day. It gives me a stinking sense of failure when I see "Workout Incomplete" when I Stop the Workout. I wish there were shorter workouts where I could just get to the juicy bits and be done with it.

4)  My boyfriend won't do any of this with me
To be honest, a lot of the exercises are plyometric body weight exercises, and Steven won't have anything to do with them. Even the "Get Strong" series of workouts incorporates plenty High Intensity Cardio, which Steven is strongly against (even though he really shouldn't be....*ahem* IT'S GOOD FOR YOU BABY!). He wants weights and lifting and growling and grunting and chest-pounding... which I'm quite happy to do if it were offered.

Nike, please make an app that my boyfriend will do with me.

5) If I lock my phone, the app pauses
I'm not sure if I like or hate this feature. For instance, I can see that it's a great shortcut to pause the app and grab any equipment, like heavier weights, you might need for the next exercise. However, what if I want to stick my phone in my pocket while I'm lunging? I'm not just going to leave the screen active. Maybe this should be something each user can customize in a "settings" page, which is currently non-existent.

6) You want me to do a what?!
To get the most out of the quick intervals, you should be prepared to get familiar with the most common exercises before you start the app. For instance, I had no idea what single leg dead lifts were from the picture, so I needed to play the video before I could do the exercise. This means I basically have to pause the app, watch the video, and then restart once I knew what I was doing. Because I'm a left-right retard, I also had to play the '360 lunges' instructional video like 5 times before I caught on to the purpose of it. Now that I've done about 5 of the workouts, I'm finally comfortable moving from one exercise to the next without playing every single instruction video first (Don't worry, you will probably be better at this; heck, I didn't even know what a deadlift was when I started... still not sure I do).

Otherwise, the app is great for times you're stuck at home with nothing but soup cans or juice bottles as "weights". You will definitely get a sweaty workout, even if you only built juice-bottle strong muscles.

I'm looking forward to doing the additional "Bonus Workouts" named after famous athletes. So far, I've only done Kara Goucher's Pro Running Stretches, which I found terribly lacking. Hopefully, the other workouts are better.

Would I recommend the NTC app? 

Hell yes, I've already recommended it to a bunch of yoga friends! It's free, simple to learn, definitely gives good workout, and generally fulfills it's purpose. Like anything, it could use some improvements, but I'd like a higher IQ, and we can't get everything we want, can we?

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