This is one of the more challenging reviews I’ve done. Here’s my story…
I have never been able to run. Last year, I considered it a real victory to “Jwog” (walk/jog) home from yoga. (2 miles, mostly uphill.) There was pain involved; there was agony of the mind, it felt like stomping puppies in my head. Back even further… In highschool, I was on track and field. I made it very clear that I was on the FIELD side of the equation and would be more than happy to run 100 yards or less, for the purpose of launching myself into a sand-filled pit or over a bar, but please don’t make me run more than once around the track.
Fast-forward to about a month ago and my renewed attempt to get myself into shape. Here, we have the realization that, A) Smurf often enjoys multiple cocktails on Saturday night, and B) Smurf gets up early on Sunday mornings to watch Rob play soccer for an hour and a half on a field where there is a perfectly cushy, synthetic-surface track. So, I decide I shall jog. This will serve the dual purpose of keeping my Saturday nights in check and adding one nice, big cardio workout to the mix.
Somewhere in my Web travels, I find out about PodFitness.com, a site that syncs trainers up to the music you have in your iTunes. So, they’ll put a trainer telling me how to do the intervals over the top of nonstop Erasure or Bikini Kill. Awesome, yes? They have a ten-day free trial, so I give it a shot.
Initial reaction: Man, is this thing a pain it the ass to get set up. So much so that I cancel my trial membership after the first download. It SUCKS.
But, I hit the track with my iPod the next day. Frankly, a little hung over. I expect very little but a scuffy chug, but I start to RUN. Three songs into it, I notice that I am still running, and really feel like I could keep going. The trainer (Bas Rutten, who is a championship MMA fighter), is cheering me on. I realize that The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” is the best running song ever for a sunny afternoon in the South Bay. Before I know it, I’ve run– like really RUN, with some sprints, even– for 40 minutes nonstop. My estimation is that I’ve gone probably about 4 miles, and my heartrate monitor tells me I was in the 170-180 range nearly the whole time.
I feel victorious; until the ride home, when everything crashes. I can’t move. My face is numb. I think I might vomit. But, DAMN, I feel good! This is the BEST! I can’t wait for the next Sunday. But what to do about the PodFitness thing?
Thankfully, the Universe intervenes and mid-week, I get an email from the Discovery Health Body Challenge telling me I can get a 2-month free membership to PodFitness, so I decide to put a final decision off and sign back up. The next week, I get a pedometer and realize I’ve gone 4.4 miles in 30-something minutes. The week after, I try a new trainer from the PodFitness corral (Jeanette Jenkins) and go 5.75 miles in 50-something minutes. This Sunday, I ran 5.75 miles again, despite the 88-degree heat, and got my heartrate up to 186 on the sprints. Much to my shock, I am loving running for the first time in my life, thanks in large part to the encouragement of the PodFitness downloads.
But, I’m also noticing these things:
1) The cost of membership is $59.85 per quarter ($239+ per year! That is the same as I was paying for my 24 Hour Fitness membership.) Since I am doing P90X the other six days, I am only using the service for one run/workout per week. It appears that the only pricing structure PodFitness offers is tailored for people who do only PodFitness workouts all the time. That offer is totally useless to me. That means I’m paying nearly $5 per run to download ONE freaking workout. Which leads me to point two…
2) The workouts, at least the running ones, are pretty much identical. The only reason to keep updating them is to change up the music. It does offer you the option to update the information and “change your intensity” after you download each one. Which leads me to points three and four…
3) Unless you completely disable cookies on your computer and keep them off, the system doesn’t recognize that you’ve already downloaded and done a workout, so you can’t get to the “improve my next workout” option, which means you have to decide between having this ONE site work right, or being able to auto-log-in from your home computer to MySpace, Facebook, Gmail, any of the other bajillion sites that you use every day. AND…
4) Even if you do “Improve the Workout,” all it really does is scooch the dial. So, Example: I am running intervals. This means I go from four or five intensity to nine or ten, with recovery periods back at four and five and whatnot. Instead of giving me a more interval-intensive workout when I ask for a “more intense” workout, it ups the intensity of the whole thing, so the intense parts of the workout stay maxed out at a 10 and it dials up the 4s and 5s to 8s and 9s. Which, A) is not physically possible, and B) is not an interval workout!
5) You should also know it will crash your system nine times out of ten. Completely. Saturday night, I crashed and then had to disconnect/reconnect the mouse because PodFitness somehow made it stop working. It is not pretty- Oh, and any music you’ve bought off iTunes can’t be used in your workouts unless you run it through a third-party ripper to make it work.
So, with all that said, I have a bit of a crisis of faith figuring out whether I can recommend it to you all. I mean, I love it, but it is a kind of guilty indulgence, like buying $9/pound organic heirloom tomatoes when there are totally tasty $1/pound locally-farmed tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market. As much as I love the workout, I really can’t justify the price they are charging for buggy-ass software that really doesn’t offer an evolving experience. If they were to reduce the price a bit and launch in Beta until they get their software worked out and offer a pay-per-download option, I would recommend them wholeheartedly.
I’d love to hear what you folks think of it! If you want to try it out for yourself, here is the link to the 8-Week Discovery Health Challenge offer.
FINAL WORD: PodFitness is a great idea with loads of kinks to work out. It’s a shame they want the consumer to pay a pretty penny for what is essentially their beta period. If they were to reduce the price a bit, launch in Beta until they get their software worked out and offer a pay-per-download option, I would recommend them wholeheartedly.