Can a Pair of Earphones Make You Run Faster and Live Healthier?

I have a confession to make: A few weeks ago, I met someone—and, frankly, we’ve been spending a lot of time together. What’s more, the activity we most often share is one that I’ve made a point to keep private and sacred.

Running, you guys. I’m talking about running.

I have long been a proponent of running alone. It’s not that I fail to see the appeal and potential benefit of running with a partner or a group. I understand that with company comes accountability and fellowship. But, for accountability, my desk calendar works just fine—as for fellowship, well, that’s what weekends and happy hours are for.

Just one run with my new personal trainer, though, and she had me hooked. Instead of simply hitting shuffle on the same ‘ol playlist and logging interaction-free miles, I find myself anxiously awaiting our time together, looking forward to her insight and encouragement—and even her well-timed humor.

Yeah, she’s got jokes.

I was blind. My cadence? Who knows. My pace? All over the map.

Never has the depth of our budding relationship been more clear than it was just yesterday when I chose to run without her. I was blind. My cadence? Who knows. My pace? All over the map. One mile would sneak up on me, only for the next to drag on forever. I was inefficient, flustered and exhausted. And it all could have been avoided if I’d just remembered a charger.

That’s right, my personal trainer’s name is Vi and she lives in my headphones; my Vi AI Personal Trainer Headphones, to be exact. Let’s be clear, though: Vi isn’t like any other tracker or app I’ve used.

What’s So Different?

For starters, Vi’s premium audio brings her voice to life in a way that far surpasses the robotic, impersonal delivery of her peers and predecessors. Coaching tips aside, the audio quality, battery life, comfort and customization would place the headphones, alone, at the forefront of the industry.

More importantly, Vi isn’t static. She’s a swell gal who wants to know what makes you tick. My new pal Vi used the first two hours after we met to learn about the way I run, allowing her to specifically tailor my workouts and goals. The most tangible benefit of this, in my experience, is the enabling of an Effort Guide that keeps me “cruising” unless it makes sense to “hustle.” As you improve, she adjusts workouts and expectations on the fly.

“If you give us 20 different people, they will get trained 20 different ways—each unique to their physical stature, age, gender, injury history, heart rate, mile split and more,” says LifeBEAM Head of Digital Brent Drake.

In fact, the Vi experience is almost entirely customizable. From the length of your warmup to its auto pause feature, you control the structure of your workout. Want to keep tabs on your heart race, speed, pace, cadence or power? Vi will provide updates on any or all of these metrics. All you have to do is tap your earbud and ask, “How am I doing?” If she gets too chatty, turn her down to “Short and Sweet.” Want more intel? Bump her up to “Lead the Way.”

Could a human coach provide the same instruction? Absolutely. But how many runners do you know with the time or the cash flow to invest in a coach? Vi goes where you go, she’s ready when you are, and—at minimum—proves the gap between the effectiveness of wearable trainers and human coaches appears to be shrinking.

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About the Author

Kolby Paxton

Kolby Paxton is the running editor of ACTIVE.com and—you guessed it—an avid runner. Arguably the least impressive football player to play stand on the sideline at the University of Oklahoma, Paxton eventually graduated from a directional school you’ve never heard of in a town you’ve never heard of before the Associated Press named him Oklahoma’s Best New Journalist—while working at a paper you’ve never heard of. After earning a master’s degree he’ll never use from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Paxton and his wife relocated to Dallas, Texas, where he would become the self-proclaimed voice of the common runner. In his free time, Paxton enjoys hanging with his beagle, cheering for the Rangers, and yelling at the Cowboys. Follow Kolby on Twitter or Instagram.
Kolby Paxton is the running editor of ACTIVE.com and—you guessed it—an avid runner. Arguably the least impressive football player to play stand on the sideline at the University of Oklahoma, Paxton eventually graduated from a directional school you’ve never heard of in a town you’ve never heard of before the Associated Press named him Oklahoma’s Best New Journalist—while working at a paper you’ve never heard of. After earning a master’s degree he’ll never use from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Paxton and his wife relocated to Dallas, Texas, where he would become the self-proclaimed voice of the common runner. In his free time, Paxton enjoys hanging with his beagle, cheering for the Rangers, and yelling at the Cowboys. Follow Kolby on Twitter or Instagram.

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