JIWOK: The Review (with a side homage to Coach P.)

Yay-yuh. Crank those tunes.

WEATHER: Humid and hot.  As if we did anything else in DC.

MILES: 5.5


WHERE TO: Malcolm X Park, Howard U Reservoir, etc.

MOOD: Just dandy!

TODAY’S RUNNING SONG: http://youtu.be/lTx3G6h2xyA


First things first — I am IN for the 2011 JFK 50 Miler!  Everybody wave your hands and say, “Heyyyy!”  Or, alternatively, wave your hands and say, “Heyyyyy!” and then grab my shoulders and say, “No, seriously.  Your achilles tendons are going to feel like ASS for five months.”  A fair point.  Whatever.  Still excited, you fascist narc buzzkills!

Anyway. Now is the moment that you have been waiting for:


And before I start, a quick (and impartial, honest) reminder that if you go “Like” them on their Facebook page and say that DJ sent you, you get a month free trial. For real! Will you still want to after the review? Oh, DO read on to find out.

If you’re anything like me, the thought of intervals gives you hives and general feelings of malaise, mixed with ennui and intestinal discomfort.  You need motivation. And this is what mp3 training programs, like Jiwok, provide.

The basics:

You sign up for the service and choose a training program. The service then e-mails you every time you have a new workout to do. So then you also download the software (it’s minimally sized, don’t worry) onto your computer, which ideally helps you to create a glorious union bewteen your NSYNC collection and your new workouts, so that occasionally during “Tell Me, Tell Me, Bay-bay,” a voice comes in and tells you to GO! GO! GO FAST! And then, during “Pop,” it comes in and tells you to “OK, take a rest.”

IDEALLY, this all happens. Supposedly. Allegedly. This is what they say. Which brings me to rating category number one:


User-friendliness: D

I’m sorry. But I approach this with the attitude of: “Would my parents be able to figure this out?” Well, OK, maybe they could. They’re lovely, competent, intelligent people. But the bottom line is that I couldn’t for the life of me get the whole my-music-plus-their-workouts thing to work. The software kept telling me I didn’t have music on my computer, which is patently not true, because did I just listen to “This is How We Do It” 14 times in a row? I most certainly did.

So I erased the software and re-downloaded it. Still didn’t work. OK, fine. You win, Jiwok. But you still get a D.

(“Why didn’t you e-mail your contact at Jiwok?” you ask. Because you won’t be able to do that when YOU download it. I just want to be a regular Jane. One of you little people. You’re welcome.)


The Music: B

Fortunately, if you can’t get it all to sync together, Jiwok has its own music for you to pick.

“Oh, thank God!” I thought, seeing this. “I’m sure it’s just bland top-40 pop. J-Lo and Limp Bizkit, here I come!”

This is not what they have, in part because they are not living in 1999. But also because, OK, fine, that might be a lot to expect.

What they do have is…well, OK. The service lets you pick a genre, like “pop-rock” or “funk-disco-soul” or “techno-rave” (Red Bull and X and intense desire to be touched not included). On a music scale of midi to “China Grove,” the Jiwok music was surprisingly far from midi. It was really more somewhere in the John Tesh range: fantastically inoffensive, remarkably unremarkable, fairly synthetic, yet somehow you find yourself humming along, in a lame out-of-breath way. For example, the hip-hop-type music sounds almost exactly the way your parents would describe it, what with the drums and the beats and the bops and baps and whatnot and the lady’s voice saying “Yeah, yeah!  Bay-bay!” every few seconds. “Let’s dance tonight!”  Can you see your Republican aunts and uncles clapping awkwardly along to the beat?  Me, too.

Oh. But was there a country option? No. No midi-ish fiddles in sight. LAME.


The Voice: B+

Actually, Jiwok gives you two voices to choose from: “cool” and “boot camp.”  I didn’t even bother with boot camp, because I imagine being berated and yelled at would just bring my inadequacy issues to the surface and possibly cause me to pee a little in my running shorts.

Know what you need, Jiwok? Or anyone who runs a running-related company and happens to want to make like a bajillion bucks? Call up my high school track coach, Coach P., and get him to record the way he cheers at track meets. I can still feel it in my bones.  I mean, there you would be, on your 6th lap of the 3000 meter run, with some skank from Forest City creeping up behind you and your quads pumping just straight-up hydrochloric acid and your eyes thisclose to bugging out of their sockets from the effort and your feet just slapslapslapping away at the track, with nothing but the 0.00003 inches of rubber of your track spikes protecting your precious soles and the knowledge that if you lose, if Skanky McForestCitypants beats you, if you do not PR, you will be so, so disappointed.

“Meh,” says your brain. “That won’t be so b-”

“YOU GOTTA GOOOOOOO!” says Coach P. “You gotta gooooo so harrrrrrrd! GOOOOO! GO! GO! GO!” You pass him. Doppler effect of “GOOOOooooooo this is idealllllll….”

And in those words, Coach P. managed to convey so much: that some skank was about to beat you, that you looked like you were in pain, that he understood that your legs were probably sore, that you would be disappointed if you lost, but most importantly, he would be VERY disappointed, and every time he looked at you from the blackboard for the next month in American History, he would see the girl who RAN UNEVEN SPLITS AT THE DISTRICT MEET because she DIDN’T HAVE THE BALLS to keep up.

All that from “GOOOOOOOOO!”

Yeah. Bottle that and sell it, Running Corporations of the World.

But anyway. The Jiwok voice was OK.  Not Morgan Freeman, and certainly not Coach P., but OK.


Things the Voice Said: B-

The voice said 4 of the below 8 things: “Go, go!” “Drop your shoulders.” “Get going, fatty.”  “Run at 75 to 85 percent of your heart rate.” “If you build it, he will come.” “Run at 60 percent of your heart rate.” “Run at zero percent of your heart rate…haha, just f**king with you.” “I watch you sleep at night.”  But I wish it had said all 8 of those things.  Actually, I wish there were a “bitingly sarcastic” voice to go along with Boot Camp and Cool.  Get on that, Jiwok.


Workouts Themselves: A-

I gotta hand it to the Jiwok people — there are seemingly kablillions of workouts to choose from, for all sorts of people. Are you a beginning runner, seeking to lose weight and run a 4:20 marathon? There are multiple options for you! Are you an intermediate communist runner with irritable bowel syndrome who would like to do a 10-K? They probably have something for you. Are you 28, handsome, with a sense of humor and a sensitive side and a thing for really nicely painted toenails who can run a sub-3:30? Give me a call.

Anyway. The workouts were also things I would never have thought of doing. My first workout, for example, was a big mess of 30-second fast-slow intervals—30 seconds on, 30 off. Repeat 800 times. Sounds like a sprinters’ workout, but it was sort of great.

But the biggest problem by far stems from the user-friendly problem—if you don’t have your own music behind the workout, you end up doing your entire warmup and cooldown backed by seemingly endless generic hiphop/rock/pop/world music/etc. These warmups and cooldowns can go on for 50 minutes. Honestly. Meaning that you’re running with trance-inducing looped hip-hoppity sounds, and every so often, the voice comes in just to remind you that it’s still there.

“You’re doing great!” it says. But you know it doesn’t care. It’s not paying attention, and why should it? This is just the warmup.

Know what it reminded me of?  It reminded me of being four and home from preschool for the afternoon, and Mom has roughly 4 tons of laundry and ironing to do, plus a garden to tend and 9 meals to cook and maybe some pigs to feed, but you have been working REALLY HARD at writing a REALLY COOL STORY about an DINOSAUR ALIEN WHO EATS BOOGERS on your tummy in blue ballpoint pen and she needs to know about it NOW because it’s IMPORTANT.

“That’s great, honey!” says Mom.

“No, really!  You gotta hear this!  The alien comes down and lands and it makes a sound all like vvvvvVVVVVVV…POW!”

“Uh-huh,” says Mom, hoisting the laundry basket to her hip.

“And then I finished the story and I colored my WHOLE RIGHT LEG blue too!”

“Could you hand me those clothespins?”





Price: A

It’s $9.90 a month. Cheaper than a trainer. Cheaper than your gel habit, even.



Here’s the deal – the concept is great, the price is right, it gets you to do interval workouts you might not otherwise even bother with. But without my Enrique in the background, it’s not as good as it could be. Maybe its the fact that I have a Mac, maybe I’m just incompetent, maybe I was drunk, maybe I had eaten too many candles that day, but I just couldn’t get it to work quite right. Fix that, Jiwok-ers, and also e-mail Coach P., and you’ll be sitting on a gold mine.


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