There are a lot of benefits to exercising at home – you don’t have to travel to a gym, you don’t have to force yourself outside in the rain and snow, and you can take a nice hot shower post workout without having to queue up for the privilege. But there are also a few downsides, the biggest of which is the boredom factor.
Even if you’ve gone to the extent of buying yourself a treadmill or exercise bike for home, working up the enthusiasm to use it, and keeping that enthusiasm going for an hour or more of running or cycling isn’t always easy. This is where the Kinomap Fitness app comes in.
Kinomap itself is an ambitious project that challenges the people of the world to create geo-located videos and upload them to the site. So, if you decided to film your walk to work from the train station on your phone, you could then upload it to Kinomap and share it with the world. Of course the number of people who’d be clamouring to experience your walk to the office is likely to be small, but what if you filmed something a bit more exciting?
The chances are that if you filmed yourself cycling around Slickrock in Moab, or hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite, you’d attract a fair amount of viewers for your movie if you uploaded it to Kinomap. But the real beauty, and the reason for this review, is that you could also use those movies as visual inspiration for your home training sessions.
With the Kinomap Fitness app, you can synchronise your exercise session with a video chosen from the Kinomap library. The app can’t sync directly with your exercise bike, rowing machine or treadmill though, so you need a few other bits and pieces to complete the equation. Those extra bits and pieces are provided by Wahoo Fitness; the company that brought us the quirky RFLKT iPhone powered cycle computer.
My review goodie bag contained an iPhone/iPad compatible ANT+ receiver, an ANT+ stride sensor and an ANT+ speed and cadence sensor. It’s worth noting that the ANT+ receiver uses the older 30-pin Apple connector, so if you’ve got an iPhone or iPad that uses the newer Lightning connector, you’ll need to buy a Lightning to 30-pin converter as well. The resulting Lego brick-like configuration doesn’t look particularly elegant though, so it’s a good thing I have a couple of older iPads knocking about.
I’m not sure why Kinomap and Wahoo Fitness have gone with ANT+ for an iPhone/iPad indoor training solution, when Bluetooth sensors would have made far more sense. With every Apple device supporting Bluetooth accessories, you wouldn’t need to plug in a receiver. In fact, it’s especially odd considering that Wahoo Fitness makes a selection of Bluetooth sensors.
Unfortunately I couldn’t try the speed/cadence sensor, since I don’t have a bike on the turbo-trainer at the moment, and there was no way to get it to work on the ProForm Tour de France bike that I’m laying my indoor miles down on right now. But running on my NordicTrack T14.2 treadmill with the ANT+ foot-pod presented no problems at all.
So how do the Kinomap videos and the Wahoo Fitness sensors work together? Well, it’s not a match made in heaven, but it certainly shows potential.
Once you’ve downloaded the Kinomap Fitness app to your iPad or iPhone, you then need to plug in the ANT+ receiver and pair your sensors – in my case the foot-pod and a heart rate sensor. Once that’s done and you’ve selected the type of equipment you’re using – treadmill, bike or rowing machine – you can decide where you want to exercise.
And this is where you run into one of the major issues with the Kinomap Fitness platform. Because all the videos are uploaded by end users, the level of quality and potential interest can be variable to say the least. There’s also no shortage of videos on Kinomap that have no value to fitness users whatsoever – how you’d utilise a video that was recorded by a paraglider is something of a mystery.
Of course you can apply filters via the app, and browse only for videos applicable to running, but even then you’ll find yourself presented with videos recorded by cyclists rather than runners. What’s wrong with that? It’s hard to keep pace with a cycling video when you’re running, and you’ll often find the video playback freezing while it’s waiting for you to catch up.
When it does work, though, it works well. Assuming you can find a video that’s interesting to you, and has been recorded by a runner, the experience can be quite immersive. So, if you’ve always wanted to jog through Central Park in New York, now’s your chance.
As far as an immersive home training aid goes, however, there is a rather obvious fly in the Kinomap Fitness ointment – iFit Live. Okay, iFit Live might not offer full video playback on your iPad, but it’s a far more powerful and flexible training partner.
With iFit Live you can plot any route using Google Maps and send that route to a compatible treadmill or exercise bike. You can then run or ride that exact route, and your treadmill or bike will adjust its incline and resistance according to the terrain of the route you’ve created. Oh, and you can use a tablet, laptop or smartphone to visualise your route using Google Street View – it’s not proper video, but it’s still a pretty effective training aid.
If you’re training in a gym though, the chance of incorporating a system like iFit Live into your programme is unlikely. It wouldn’t be too much of a chore, however, to take your iPad , foot-pod and heart rate sensor with you and run all over the world.
Although the Kinomap Fitness app is free to download, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee in order to make use of it. The cost of subscription is £7.99 per month or £49.99 for a full year. So, there’s quite a saving if you sign up for a year, but it’s probably worth signing up for a month first to make sure you like it.
There’s no doubt that the Kinomap Fitness app is a great idea, but the execution isn’t quite there yet. For a start, the Kinomap service needs more high quality videos in its library – yes, allowing users to upload videos is great for growing a library, but there needs to be a good selection of top quality videos from interesting places around the globe.
Then there’s the fact that even if you find a video that works with your treadmill setup, it may have been recorded on a bicycle, meaning that the video will end up pausing regularly while your running pace catches up with the pace of the cyclist who shot the footage.
It’s also a little odd that you need to use ANT+ sensors with the Kinomap Fitness app, when Bluetooth sensors would make far more sense, especially since Wahoo Fitness has a decent selection of Bluetooth kit.
All that said though, I like what Kinomap and Wahoo Fitness are trying to do. It’s good to see tech companies thinking a little differently, especially in the fitness market. Wahoo Fitness has already shown that it’s a company that embraces innovation with its RFLKT cycling computer, and the Kinomap Fitness system is another example.
For me though, I’d rather use iFit Live, since it’s directly compatible with my treadmill, allows me to plot my own routes, and adjusts incline accordingly. If your home gym equipment doesn’t support iFit Live, or if you train mainly in a gym, then the Kinomap Fitness system could be worth a punt. It’s not perfect, but with a little development it certainly has potential.
- Makes indoor training more interesting
- Let’s you experience training all over the world
- It’s treadmill agnostic
- You can create your own videos and upload them
- Has the potential to be a great platform
- Not enough quality videos in the library
- Far too many videos have no training application
- Videos may pause if you’re using them for running
- ANT+ receiver is clumsy on newer iPhones and iPads
- Relatively expensive subscription
- Speed/cadence sensor compatibility issues
- iFit Live is a better implemented platform
Price: £7.99 per month. £49.99 annually.