PEAR Sports is a training system that offers runners real-time coaching based on their own bio-feedback. It works with both Android and iPhones. The kit from PEAR Sports includes a Bluetooth® Heart Rate Monitor and PEAR Stride™ Earphones. The PEAR Sports app can be downloaded for free directly to your mobile phone.
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As a 2014 NYC Marathon Asics Editorial Challenge team member, I’ve been using the PEAR Sports system and enjoying some great coaching from Andrew Kastor. PEAR Sports allows any athlete to use coaching programs designed by elite coaches. Individual workouts and full training plans are available for instant download. Many of the plans are free, but prices vary according to the length and complexity of the training plan.

Coach Kastor

I’m not a “kitchen sink” runner. I don’t like to listen to music because it makes me feel claustrophobic, and I lose the magic of running. Much to my detriment, I don’t like running with a hydration pack or water bottles strapped to my hips. In fact, if I bring anything more than my watch and sunglasses I start to feel weighed down. But, I promised myself I would deliver an honest review and keep an open mind.

My first workout with the PEAR Sports system was a 20-minute calibration run. Matt Fitzgerald (80/20 Running) was my coach. His voice guided me through the run, making sure that I was running at the right effort level. That way, my heart-rate zones could be accurately mapped for future training runs.

After that first run, I realized two very important things about the PEAR Sports system. One, the impact of hearing your coach’s voice is very powerful in terms of both motivation and discipline. Two, the heart-rate monitor is the key element in providing accurate coaching prompts in real-time.

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After I arrived back at home, I realized that my heart-rate zones were lower than I expected. Zone 5 was defined as anything over 135 beats per minute. Hmmm… not really. Fortunately, I could manually change my numbers using the app on my phone. Later, I realized that the heart-rate monitor had not been damp enough to pick up an accurate reading.

The next time I used PEAR Sports was on a 26.2k time trial. This was a challenging run at marathon goal race pace to test my fitness and find my realistic marathon pace target for the upcoming 2014 TCS NYC Marathon. I strapped on my heart-rate monitor, plugged in my headphones and dropped my phone in the pocket of my hydration pack. Honestly, I felt like a sherpa and I was nervous about my run.

The sloshing of the water pack annoyed me for most of my run, but the PEAR Sports kit was incredibly helpful. Hearing the voice prompts of your coach is really awesome. I have a bad habit of starting out too quickly, and Coach Kastor’s voice was in my head saying “Slow it on down, Jason. Your going too fast…” He also provided some good information about the NYC Marathon that helped pass the time as the run progressed. Text-based training plans are so 2013. PEAR Sports is changing the game.

The PEAR Stride™ Earphones with Earlock by Surefire Retention System are excellent. I don’t listen to music on my runs, so I’m not sure how they compare in terms of music quality. But, they stayed in place and felt comfortable for the entire run. I heard the voice prompts clearly, and I kind of forgot I had them on.

Listen to Sample Audio

After my run, I visited the PEAR Sports online portal and saw that my workouts had been automatically uploaded. I didn’t need to plug anything into my USB port or export any data files manually. The whole system is well thought out in terms of efficiency and usability.

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Training calendar on the PEAR Sports portal

Pros

  • Access to world-class coaching and training plans for runners of every ability
  • Real-time coaching feedback on the run
  • Accurate coaching prompts based on authentic bio-feedback
  • Coaching On-Demand
  • Great earphones and a comfortable armband for securing your phone

Cons

  • The PEAR Sports app sometimes provided incorrect mileage and pace information
  • Not all of my workouts synched with the PEAR Sports portal
  • The armband doesn’t work well with some larger mobile phones

Summary

PEAR Sports has created a system that shows us the future of coaching. With workouts and training programs available from top coaches on demand, every athlete will be able to use reliable custom training plans. The bio-feedback of the PEAR Sports system makes it possible for coaching to be tailored to the specific athlete and the specific workout.

I am eager to see where they take this next. I would like to see wireless headphones, heart-rate monitoring and GPS via a watch only, and the ability for coaches like myself to upload custom training plans for their athletes. If those things can be done, then show me where to invest because this will be HUGE.

Until then, I will run my key workouts with the help of the PEAR training system. The feedback and real-time coaching is just too good to pass up. The rest of the time, I will be enjoying my run for what it has always been, an escape from entanglements, both literal and otherwise.

Thoughts?