Kara GoucherA little over a week ago, I was offered the opportunity to review one of Nike’s new workout mixes that you can load on your iPod and use to guide you through a workout. There was only one problem with this…I don’t have a working mp3 player, and never wear headphones when I’m working out. This actually worked out pretty well, though, because I was able to convince the guy at Nike to let me give it to a few people that belong to my email newsletter to review. Within a few minutes of sending the email out, I had a dozen people asking for a review copy.

The workout is 40 minutes long and consists of 13 popular songs. Throughout the entire time, Kara Goucher coaches you through a timed fartlek run. Whether this is appropriate for you is an individual decision, as evidenced by the two very different reviews that I received and that you can read below.

First, I’d like to remind you that if you listen to any sort of music while you are out running to remember to pay attention to your surroundings, especially when you are running with traffic.

Second, if you are interested in purchasing the workout you can do some through the iTunes store for $12.99. (That link will open iTunes directly on your computer if it is installed.)

If you would like more information about it, you can stream the entire workout over your computer by visiting the Nike+ Music site and clicking on Kara Goucher’s album cover. You can listen to the entire workout through the website, but you will not be able to download it. There is an option where you can download a short sample that you can put onto your iPod.

This first review is from Steve Spiers of Run Bulldog Run. He took the workout outside for a run last Thursday, and here are his thoughts on it:

Occasionally I enjoy listening to random tunes on my iPod Shuffle, but typically only run with headphones a couple of times a month. For the record, I never listen to music during a quality workout (tempo, track, fartlek) or long run and definitely never during a race.

Tonight, however, I got to try something different with my iPod. A couple of days ago I answered an email from Blaine Moore (the author of this excellent web site), who was looking for a couple of runners to try one of the new NIKE+ Workout mixes – all he asked in exchange was a review of the audio workout. I fired up a quick reply and later that day was informed I was one of the lucky winners! Good for me…

I downloaded the 40 minute workout via the supplied link, and wasted no time in loading it onto my iPod Shuffle. I was keen to check out the workout before my actual run, so played it at work to see what all the hype was about. At least I recognized a few of the songs!

The introduction on the Nike web site sounded promising and I was kind of excited to be coached by Kara, even if it was just for 40 minutes:

“You’ll warm up and cool down at a comfortable pace, and blaze through a calorie-combusting challenge with help from one of the USA’s true track and field heroines. Kara will coach you through a warm-up and four sets of high-speed intervals—the kind of training technique top competitors swear by.”

Okay, on to the actual workout. I left the house at 5pm and initially couldn’t hear Kara’s introduction due to the 20mph blustery winds. However, a quick volume adjustment and all was well. The 40 minute speed/endurance workout comprises of a 5 minute warm up, followed by 4 x 4 minute intervals with an equal recovery time after each. To complete the workout Kara allows you to cool down for 5 minutes – how nice of her!

The first couple of tracks were popular songs by the Black Eyed Peas – not usually my kind of music, but it was kind of cool to listen to something different. Naturally “Let’s Get It Started” was the first song in the mix! The five minute warm up was over before I knew and Kara was soon instructing me to “pick up the pace”. I took off, accompanied by Beck’s “Timebomb” but Kara soon interjected with some good advice – “Try and find a rhythm you can maintain for another three minutes”. How did she know I was suffering already? Halfway through the four minute interval, the beat changed, and I was striding along to “Say Goodbye to Love” – now, who sings that song? (ed. note: Kenna!) Kara lets me know there’s only 30 seconds left and I’m still feeling good despite running into a strong wind.

Phew, four minutes done and now I get to recover to one of my favorite bands – Keane, singing “Somewhere Only We Know”. Slowly my breathing gets back to normal and with two minutes recovery remaining, I can finally enjoy the push of a nice tailwind.

Just as I’m losing concentration, Kara pops up with a “Party time is over” comment and The Fratellis begin the fast tempo “For the Girl”, quickly followed by the rocking “Lay Down The Law”. Hey, this is kind of cool – the four minute tempo efforts are flying by and I’m getting in a great workout.

The pace slows again, and I’m able to get my breathing under control. My legs are feeling great and despite running a marathon just four days ago, I’m able to run at quite a nice pace. Kara reminds me to “Think Zen, think yoga, or just calm down”, which makes me focus on relaxing and making the most of my recovery time.

Here we go though, interval #3 and time to pick it up again. Not sure what track is playing now, but it gets me fired up and I tear along with the wind behind me – I’m really loving this! Kara interjects once more – “Get off your heels and on to your toes”. How does she know? I glance around to see if she’s watching me, but there’s no-one on the road but me.

At the end of the four minutes, I’m ready for a breather – that was a tough interval. I glance down at my Garmin and am surprised to see I’ve averaged 6:45 per mile so far. Doubt I would have done that on a regular tempo run. Nice.

Okay, there’s only one interval left and I need to think about heading home – I don’t want to end up miles from the house at the end of the workout.

Here we go, thirty second warning from Kara and I’m off again, this time into the wind. “Timebomb” starts playing again and it’s enough to get me on my toes and striding along nicely. I wonder what the final fast track might be, but push on, looking ahead at a landmark I’d picked out on Kara’s advice. The last two minutes are quite tough, but time passes quickly and I stay strong to the finish. Great workout!

Kara suggests spending the next five minutes cooling down and thinking about what you’ve achieved during the workout. Sounds fine to me, and I can’t help but think back to the NIKE+ web site, which promised: “A 40-minute workout designed to strengthen your cardio and improve your speed.”

I would agree; I’m sure if you perform this workout just once a week, the combination of speed and endurance will soon make you a better runner. I enjoyed the workout, it made a pleasant change from my usual progressive tempo runs and the constant coaching from Kara helped keep me focused. Maybe more advanced runners would like a slightly longer workout, but I think 40 minutes is a good amount of time for starters.

Some of the music I was familiar with, whilst other tracks were completely new for me, but the combination was a good one and the two minute segments of each track were just about perfect in length. I must add, I’m not sure how long the novelty of the workout would last though. I think I’d soon grow tired of the limited selection of songs and get to know the track list sequence very quickly. I’d also have to question the price of the 40 minute audio track – currently $12.99 on iTunes. It seems a little overpriced, but then again, you do get a bonus interview with Kara Goucher and a rather nice digital booklet.

To summarize, I thoroughly enjoyed the workout and surprised myself at how much ground I was able to cover in the 40 minutes (almost 6 miles). The music was varied and I liked the way Kara kept chiming in at relevant points to keep me focused and motivated. Thanks Blaine for allowing me to check it out. Hope your readers enjoy the review! Now, about those other Nike freebies you might have up for grabs…..

Steve Speirs, http://www.runbulldogrun.com

The second review came from Bill Zaryski, and he had a slightly different take on the workout:

I liked the concept of running intervals with Kara a lot. Here are some specific pros and cons:


  • Kara’s comments along the way, such as “3 minutes into it” are very helpful.
  • The beat of the songs were excellent. Whether for the higher paced intervals or recovery or the warm up and cool down. Felt good.


  • I could not get this to download into my iPod. I got it in iTunes but it would not sync. I don’t know why. Probably “user error.”
  • With a few exceptions I did not recognize the songs or the artists. Running to familiar tunes would make it more enjoyable.
  • Needed much more frequent “time checks”. Every minute tell us “2 minutes to go, 1 minute to go, etc.”. And 30 seconds to go.
  • If you are not following a specific training plan for intervals this would be good. For base training or someone not on a plan the concept is good as a way to mix things up with intervals. But my training plan calls for specific duration and speed so this would not fit it as well.
  • This is not for the newbie. It assumed some knowledge of what intervals are. But that was good. I don’t need a lot of chatter before getting into the run. I would want to hit the button from the start and begin the run.

The bottom line for me is I did not enjoy it. I am 57 and the choice of music was not what I listen to or will run to. By 20 minutes into the podcast I was ready to turn it off due to the song selection. And I don’t want to hear “what the hell are we here for” in the music I listen to regardless. My demographic is probably not who this is aimed at but this will confirm it. The concept is great and so was Kara but the music was the key and I did not enjoy it.

So there you have it, two different ideas about whether the workout was worth running to or not. If this is something that you think you would be interested in using, then I recommend that you try streaming it over the website to see whether you like it or not. Here are the links from the reviews and to the workout again, so that you don’t have to scroll back up:

If you have used this workout, or even just listened to it through the website, then I would be interested in hearing what you think about it in the comments below. I’d also like to thank Mike Cruz and Nike for providing the workout to us to review.

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Disclaimer: This article does not involve any payments other than free access to the workout mix. The opinions expressed above are those of the individual who made the comments.