Iwan Thomas on Motorola ACTV, motivation, music and more

It is a blustery December morning as we step into the private gym tucked away in a corner of north London. We've been invited along by Motorola to see their new Motorola ACTV, or MotoACTV, in the hands of its new ambassador, Iwan Thomas.

And those hands are surprisingly large, with a grip that reminds us of those gold and silver medal-winning performances through the 90s. Behind that serious handshake, Iwan Thomas is obviously still in great shape, but his easy going and friendly personality quickly makes Pocket-lint feel right at home.

Thomas is wearing Motorola's new sports device, the Motorola ACTV and what it is that we've really come to see. It's a new area for Motorola, taking on the likes of Nike+ amongst others, but offering a device that isn't just about tracking your distance or your speed.

Of course it makes us wonder exactly what a former professional athlete might get from such a gadget. Surely, Iwan Thomas has been there and done it all before? But, as he eyes his next challenge for Sport Relief, a race around the country called First Nation Home, we presume that this piece of kit of going to give him some kind of edge.

"For me, ever since I've retired, it's all about getting my pace right. As an athlete I was all about running from A to B as quick as I can, but since doing the London Marathon and so forth, I always go off too quick."

Thomas relates his experience in the the classic long distance race, telling us how a spectator heckled him at 21 miles. It's a long way from the single lap of the 400m, something that Iwan is willing to admit, so we ask about motivation now he has retired as an elite athlete. 

"It's a different type of motivation now, I still see my coach, but not in that capacity and he wasn't a distance coach. I'll never be the best long distance runner, but I want to be the best that I can be. The fact that you can go online and download training programmes is a great help. For me the most exciting thing is that you can challenge other people, so you can see what someone else has done and use that as a benchmark, a target."

But it isn't just the speed and distance side of things that Iwan is looking for and the Motorola ACTV does do so much more than just basic sports watch functions. The fact that it is Android-based is almost irrelevant, but the range of services it offers is impressive. 

"The two things I need to keep my training on track are a stopwatch and a music player. This blows it out of the water. It does the basics, but also the fact that I can challenge other people, or more likely people will challenge me, it gives it that social aspect too." 

"When I run I find it really boring without music. When I used to run as an athlete I listened to stuff like The Prodigy, upbeat music, that would psyche me up, but that was purely to get myself in the right frame of mind. But now I'm doing longer runs, it's about music to survive."

And music is something that the MotoACTV likes, along with the option for an enhanced headset that will work as a heart rate monitor too, and the option to set your power tracks to give you a boost when you need it. Sure, this is done elsewhere by other systems, but the versatility of the MotoACTV is admirable at first glance.

Accessories aren't a problem either, as it is ANT+ compatible, so will work with an existing range of ancillaries, but also because Motorola has launched various straps and a bike mount, and in the future we'll see a cadence sensor and wireless headsets.  

With so much on offer, who is the MotoACTV really pitched at? As a new segment for Motorola, they are really playing it by ear, but appealing to the committed runner to begin with. Selling through Sweatshop will get them direct exposure to existing runners, Craig Nicholas (pictured above), director of marketing and portfolio EMEA at Motorola Mobility tells us, before Iwan adds his own perspective:

"You can register your progress [through the website] and see your graphs whether you're that elite athlete looking for small improvements or a beginner. You get a lot of people doing fun runs and 10kms and it is such a great aid to train through winter and physically see your improvements on display, even for beginners."

We've been running through a mental checklist of where the MotoACTV lies in comparison to rivals. It offers an expandable system for runners or cyclists, which will rival Garmin or Polar, it has those social functions like Nike+, with stats to analyse to compete with the lot. What is will need though is community, as this is where success really lies.

As we draw the interview to a close, Iwan tells us he'll be using the MotoACTV a lot as he trains for his latest challenge. 

"It's called First Nation Home and it's basically England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, March 10-17 and the grand final [which involves the public] is the 25th. It’s a race round the country in teams of 10 and you all start in your capital cities. I, being Welsh, get the first leg cycling from Cardiff to Liverpool."

Also said to be taking part in the challenge are Ellen MacArthur, Graeme Obree, Gethin Jones, Diarmuid Gavin, Andrea McLean, Craig Doyle, Gemma Atkinson, Sonia O’Sullivan, Chris Boardman, Thom Evans, Josh Lewsey and Gareth Thomas.

With that the attention turns to the treadmill where various journos are looking to challenge Iwan's time and see exactly what the music functions are all about. We take another strong handshake from the Olympic silver medallist, zip up our coat and slink out the door, back into the chill of the winter wind.