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Samsung MiCoach: A Stroke Of Genius

Posted by on 10 September 2008

After reading about the latest collaboration between Adidas and Samsung — the MiCoach phone a.k.a. Samsung SGH-F110 — I was crazy enough to ask the friend of a friend to buy me the whole setup, all the way from Germany (she’s a student there). You see, Samsung has no plans for now to launch this gadget in Asia. That’s why I went through all the trouble of getting the phone from Europe.


The Samsung MiCoach gear — phone, heart rate monitor, stride sensor, earphones and USB cable. Arm band not shown in the photo. Laptop not included in the MiCoach package ;)

The phone looks nondescript, at first glance. True, it’s a small and slim slider phone, but with its black colour and simple design, it’s not bound to turn any heads, unlike, say, a Sony Ericsson or a Motorola.

I’m more accustomed to Nokias and Motorolas, so I’m having some difficulty adjusting to the MiCoach’s short message system input method. I find it quite bewildering because I need to press the ‘0’ key to change the word when using the T9 method and the ‘#’ key for space.

The phone comes with a 2-megapixel camera which can also take videos. Aside from the fact that you can zoom in a bit while taking pics and videos, there’s nothing to shout about its camera.

However, Outlook users will probably appreciate the fact that it can synch with Outlook effortlessly. You have the option of synching just Contacts (which I did, for fear of overloading the phone’s memory) and/or the Calendar and/or Tasks (which I also did).

So let’s get one very important thing straight: as a phone, it’s pretty standard, but as a fitness tool, that’s when the Samsung MiCoach truly shines.

For best results, buy the phone together with the Adidas heart rate monitor (the type that you strap on to your chest) and the Adidas stride counter that complete the set. Oh, and it comes with standard USB cables, earphones and an Adidas armband with a small pocket for the phone.

Step 1: Connect to the MiCoach website and sign up for a free account. You’ll have to enter your date of birth, sex and weight. You’ll also be asked if you exercise regularly and if you can walk for 30 minutes. I answered ‘no’ to the last question. (*Sigh* I am so out of shape…) MiCoach’s website classified me as a Beginner, a piece of information that I’ve always known even without the MiCoach :P

Step 2: Download the free software that will enable you to synch the Fitness features of your phone.

Step 3: Wear the heart rate monitor. For best results, dampen the electrodes slightly. (Don’t worry — it’s waterproof.) And make sure it’s strapped on snugly, with the Adidas logo right in the middle of your chest, for an accurate reading no matter how much you bounce about when you run (like I do). Ladies, by chest, I mean just under your breasts, the same area where bra salesgirls would take one of the two measurements needed to calculate your size.

Step 4: Put on your favourite pair of running shoes (doesn’t matter what brand) and secure the stride counter with your shoe laces. The stride counter should be on the front portion of your shoe, towards your toe.

Step 5: Do an assessment run. You’ll be asked to run 1.6 km, after which MiCoach will announce the verdict. “Your fitness level is…beginner.” Why am I not surprised? Hehe.

Step 6: Connect your phone to your computer, to download the data on your assessment run. MiCoach’s website then re-confirmed that my fitness level (Beginner) remains unchanged after the assessment run.

Step 7: Set your goals. Would you like to lose weight? (Yes!) Build up stamina? Run a marathon? I picked weight loss. When prompted by the computer for a name of my fitness plan, I typed “Mission Possible”!

Step 8: Fix the days when you want to exercise. The computer recommended that I run at least 3 times per week, so I picked out Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can always edit these options anytime.

Step 9: The MiCoach website will then generate a schedule of runs. In my case, I’ll have to complete 55 runs, starting with a 5-minute slow run, then a 5-minute moderate run, then a 10-minute run with my heartrate within the so-called ‘energy zone’. Don’t worry about all this technical jargon — your Virtual Coach will tell you what to do.

Step 10: Synch after every run to update the data.

I absolutely love how I can just tap twice on the phone (very handy if it’s in the Adidas armband pocket) to have my Virtual Coach tell me how long I’ve run so far, within which zone my heartrate is, and how many calories I’ve burned so far. It will also inform you automatically when you have finished a quarter of your run, when you’re halfway through, when you’re 3/4 in your run. Then comes the requisite “Well done” at the end of the run. It’s pre-programmed, true, but it feels good nonetheless to have someone ‘praise’ you for your efforts.

You can synch the phone with Windows Media Player to access your mp3 collections. But since I only wanted certain songs (Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life”, Black-Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started”, J Lo’s “Let’s Get Loud”, you get the drift), I just sent the songs by bluetooth from my laptop.

No mp3? No problem. Just listen to the FM radio. The phone will auto scan the frequencies and you can assign some stations as your favourites.

You can also do free runs in addition to your scheduled runs anytime you like.

So far, I’m loving my MiCoach and I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever for having to fork out some €300 for the entire system. I don’t have time to go to a gym, I can’t afford to have a personal trainer, and I know I need the motivation to sustain me (never mind if it’s a pre-recorded voice), so MiCoach fits the bill perfectly for me.

With MiCoach coaching me, I now find myself actually looking forward to my scheduled runs, even after an exhausting day at the office. I’m also getting a kick out of pushing myself to see what’s the maximum heartrate I can achieve. I managed 171 bpm for the first time last week. It’s still not quite a long way off my theoretical maximum heartrate of 185 bpm (220 bpm minus my age) but it’s a marked improvement from my initial maximum heart rate of 159 bpm.

The benefits of my regular ‘dates’ with MiCoach so far?
1. Better sleep quality. I find myself more rested now, even if I don’t get a full 7 or 8 hours.
2. Better fitness level. I don’t pant that easily now whenever I take the stairs. (Did I mention I’m so out of shape??)
3. I feel great! Do you know that exercise actually releases endorphins, those naturally occurring feel-good chemicals in your body? Now, I no longer have to depend on chocolates so much tee-hee.
4. I’ve lost a few centimetres and a few pounds. It’s not that evident yet but, at least, I no longer get red marks (yikes!) from my skirts and pants around my waist area.
5. I’m setting a good example to my children so that they won’t end up as overweight couch potatoes like me.

I know it’s going to be a struggle and the journey will be far and uphill all the way — so far I’ve only accomplished 9% of “Mission Possible” and my runs are scheduled all the way to November — but with MiCoach by my side, I’m confident that I can complete my mission.

To quote The Little Engine That Could: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

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