Enhanced Training With Your iPod
By Mike Martin

The Apple iPod is an incredible device. Unbelievably sleek, shockingly stylish and constantly increasing in storage space and capabilities, the iPod has taken pop culture by storm in the past 8 years since its inception in 2001. As the popularity of the iPod has grown, so have its capabilities. As a result it has become an increasingly important part of our lives and people are always looking for new and innovative ways to use their iPod devices in their daily lives.
Athletes, are no different. In fact, athletes, and more specifically, motocross riders, may be some of the biggest users of the iPod devices. They help keep us motivated, organized and can teach us new ways to workout. In case you’re not already using your iPod in your active lifestyle, here are seven ways to integrate your iPod into an active lifestyle.
1. Music (All Models)
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Apple's iPod is the dominant mp3 player on the market today!
Obviously, music is by far the most used feature on any iPod. It is the reason most people buy iPods in the first place, and it is one of the most feature-filled parts of the iPod operating system. Every iPod on the market can hold at least 12 hours of music, which is more than enough for a single workout. Listening to music while working out is extremely popular, and the iPod makes it even easier. It is incredibly easy to find, download and organize new music with Apple’s iTunes  software, so you always have new music which ensures your workouts will never be boring. Furthermore, the iPod interfaces (except for the screen-less shuffle, of course) make finding your music very quick and easy; perfect for changing the song in the middle of a run or ride when you’re fatigued and oxygen deprived.

The iPod and iTunes pair is incredible at managing your music, but the music itself adds a whole new dimension to workouts. The catchy and fast moving tunes help keep you motivated at the end of a long workout. The last thing I, or any of the athletes I know, want to be thinking about at the end of a 2 mile climb on their road bike is the pain and the burn of the lactic acid in their quads. Music helps to keep your mind off of the pain and on the uplifting emotions as you crest the top of a long climb. As a result, listening to music on your iPod can be infinitely useful whether you are out on a quick evening jog or in the middle of a 4-hour trek through the back roads on New England on your road bike.

2. Playlists (All Models Except iPod Shuffle)
The default iPod music functionality is great, however, manually selecting a song or a band can get monotonous and downright annoying after a while. This is where playlists come in. Playlists allow you to manually or automatically set up a list of songs to play on your iPod. This allows you to select a list of predetermined songs and listen to them throughout your workout without worrying about changing the artist.

However, not all playlists are created equally. Apple has split playlists into 3 main types: manual, smart, and genius. Each kind serves their own purpose and work equally well in their domain.

  • Manual Playlists: Manual playlists have been in iTunes the longest and are by far the simplest form. They allow you to create a list, add music to it, and sync it to your iPod. No fancy automatic sorting, just your music, in your order on your iPod. If you’re all about being in control, they are probably the choice for you. However, if you want a little more flexibility in your playlists, keep reading. You can create a manual playlist by going to File>New Playlist.
  • Smart Playlists: Smart playlists are a favorite among iPod and iTunes gurus. They are similar to a manual playlist in the sense that you “decide” which music will be in the list, but in an indirect manner. When you set up a smart playlist you set up a series of parameters. Any music which fits the qualities you determine, are placed in the playlist. These must be created within iTunes and then synced to your iPod. Due to the options Apple gives you in the iTunes Smart Playlist creator, the complexity of your smart playlist is limited only by your imagination. You can create a smart playlist by going to File>New Smart Playlist.
  • Genius Playlists (Requires iTunes 8): Introduced in iTunes 8, Genius Playlists take a page out of Pandora’s box in that they analysis each song and come up with a list of matches to that song. For the most part, I have found them to work incredibly well. However, they do require that you have a relatively large iTunes library, or the “genius” may have a tough time finding songs which match your original choice. Genius Playlists can be activated through Genius Icon in the lower left hand corner of the iTunes window
  • 3. Music-Infused Headwear (Nano or Shuffle)
    One of the most annoying parts about using an iPod while running, or cycling is actually finding a place to put the device. It is a little easier while cycling because cyclist have the luxury of using the back pockets of their jerseys. However, for runners, carrying an iPod around can get very cumbersome. Especially when the headphone wires begin to get caught up in your arms as you run.

    That is where iThreeSixty “Music Infused Headwear” comes in. iThreeSixty is a relatively new start-up producing very innovative headwear specifically built to hold your iPod. They feature a pouch which you place your iPod in and it has an internal wiring structure linked to headphones built right into the headwear. The system is great if you’re trying to clean up you’re running attire and would rather not worry about wires and headphones falling out of your ears. Currently, iThreeSixty offers only a headband , however, they have beanies and hat beanies coming soon. Want to see the iThreeSixty in action? Check out Steve Runner from Runcast.tv using his in the frigid New England winter.
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    iThreeSixty makes headbands, beanies and beanie caps to hold and listen to your favorite tunes!

    4. Better Headphones (All Models)
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    Upgrading to premium headphones is like putting an aftermarket pipe on your bike....it just sounds better!
    The stock iPod Headphones are cheap, sound horrible and have no sound canceling capabilities at all. This makes them a terrible choice for exercising. The aftermarket headphone market is vast and there are literally thousands of options. However, if your main use of the headphones is exercise, I recommend in-ear style earphones with a metal body. The in ear aspect keeps out outside noise such as the whirl of a set of rollers or a trainer, or the howling wind during a run.

    That being said, there are a few headphone options which I believe stand out form the crowd. These include:

  • SkullCandy Full Metal Jacket
  • V-Moda Vibe
  • Maximo iMetal
  • RadTech ProCable

    All of these headphones feature metal bodies and in-ear, sound isolating construction. This means that they will be able to survive the bumps bruises that they will almost certainly encounter out on the road and that you will be able to listen to your music at a lower volume, which is always a good thing. Switching to some of the more advanced headphones on the market can make your experience while using your iPod to exercise 100% better.
  • 5. Exercise Case
    “Naked,” the iPod is very slippery, hard to hold, and prone to damage. Unless you’re using something similar to the iThreeSixty headband, they can be a challenge to hold onto. This is where a quality exercise case comes in. While traditional cases are good, some cases even come with straps which allow you to attach the iPod to your arm. This allows you to forget about your iPod, but it keeps it in close proximity so that you can change the song, playlist, or volume at will. If the iThreeSixty products don’t fit into your lifestyle, then exercise cases are the best option.

    Similar to headphones, there is a vast market for iPod cases. Some of them are great, while others are not so great. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Marware Sportsuit Convertible
  • Otterbox Defender with Armband
  • Belkin Sport Armband Plus
  • DLO Action Jacket
    Armband/Sport cases for your iPod are a great way to keep your iPod protected and out of the way while jogging, cycling, or hiking.
  • Want to win your very own Marware Sportsuit Convertible? I have one for the iPod Touch 1g that I really want to give away to a deserving reader. How do you enter to win? It's easy, simply join twitter , make a free account, and post the following tweet: @mike868y I want a Marware Sportsuit Conver. for my iPod Touch! Check it out at http://www.racerxvt.com/virtual_trainer/ipod_fitness.html. (just copy and paste the blue text ) On March 18, I will review all the tweets with this text and choose one at random. You can enter as many times as you want, so don't forget to send out the tweet!

    6. Clock Application (All Models Except Shuffle)
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    The clock app may be the most simplistic app offered by Apple yet very effective!
    Every iPod comes with a simple clock app, and a rudimentary stopwatch. While their functionality in this regard is very bare bones they can act as a great way to time your workouts. Obviously, they are not as exact or precise as more expensive cyclometers or watch based exercise computers, but they are a great solution if you do not want to carry around another piece of technology on your run/ride. I use the clock on my ipod touch daily in a number of different applications. I time my rides on the rollers with it, time my push ups and sit ups with it, and use it to time my runs so I can tell by how much my speed is improving. The clock on my iPod has been infinitely useful during my exercise regime, and it is one of the number one reasons why I believe the iPod is one of my most crucial pieces of training equipment.

    7. Nike + iPod (Nano or 2g Touch)
    The Nike + iPod system is one of the most innovative 3rd party accessories for the iPod. It is a small dongle which you put in your shoe and it can track your runs through your iPod. In addition, it can link up to certain gym equipment and send the data to your iPod. Not only does this allow you iPod to send you small, yet informative audio messages regarding your workout through your headphones, but you can also sync it to your computer and upload the data to Nike’s servers where you can track your workout and compete with friends. Furthermore, the entire system costs only $30 (plus the cost of the iPod and compatible shoes).

    If you love analyzing data, the tracking capabilities of the system are top notch, and the motivational messages it sends you at the beginning, middle and end of a run are perfect pick me ups when your really feeling the burn. You can glance at your iPod’s screen at any time during your run to view an array of data including time, distance, pace, and calories burned. The Nike + iPod kit is an incredible way to transform your iPod into a true exercise computer. The kit takes the iPod from a purely entertainment device to a full on information powerhouse.

    Want to see a real life testimonial of how the Nike + iPod kit can transform your life? Check out popular technology blogger Paul Stamatiou's story: my Nike Ad. Apple’s iPod device has created a huge subculture of athletes who actively use the device to train day in and day out. Using the iPod during training helps keep your workouts fresh and exciting and motivates you to go for a run or a ride even on the toughest days. Hopefully these seven ways will help you to integrate your iPod into your training routine. Have further ideas for using your iPod while exercising? There are more of these articles coming, so email me at mike868y@gmail.com with your ideas.
    That's it for now. Until next time, good luck with your training and remember, VT can always be found on the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum . In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section . Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.
    Have a Question? Check Out the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum !

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