Work Smart: Wearable Tech for Sports and Fitness

[Image: Courtesy of wearewearables.com]
[Image: Courtesy of wearewearables.com]
The human body is an amazing machine –Simone, Bolts, Phelps anyone – and what better way to see extreme excellence than the recently completed Rio Olympics and the Paralympics starting today. Once you pick your jaw off the floor from the unbelievable time or feat they’ve just pulled off, you’ll notice that many of these athletes have embraced wearable technology. These gadgets incorporate tech such as accelerometers, GPS locators and gyroscopes that analyse every movement including speed and position direction in order to provide feedback on performance, level of injury-risk, required recovery time, among other crucial statistics. This kind of information is then used to help athletes, or fitness buffs, to hone their techniques and be in peak condition for their competitions or fields. It’s allowing coaches or teams to use data from the tech, in combination with analysis from previous performances, as well as opponent’s techniques and strengths, to make positive adjustments to training schedules creating those close finishes that leave audiences on the edge of their seats. Here are just some of the wearable tech out there making an impact on the world of sports and fitness:

ATHOS

[Image: Courtesy of ATHOS]
[Image: Courtesy of ATHOS]
Their tagline says it all, ‘building a better human machine’. And to do this, it’s looking at all the details, in real time, right down to the muscles firing per move. Available exclusively for iOS, it helps the wearer get the most out of their workout session by tracking your progress, giving intelligent and scientifically validated feedback, and aiding with benchmark setup. The snug-fit, aesthetically pleasant garments comes with bio signal monitoring sensors and core chip that is Bluetooth enabled  to let athletes know if they have the right form, and if they are doing the right exercises and at the correct intensity. And it’s not just looking at your muscle activation, but it also uses the Electromyography (EMG) technology accuracy to look at your heart rate, muscle effort and balance.

[Image: Courtesy of ATHOS]
[Image: Courtesy of ATHOS]
HALO

If you’ve ever gotten to the gym and realised you’ve forgotten your headphones, you understand just how crucial they are to your workout. Now imagine a pair of headphones that plays your favourite music –as well as keep your focus on your workout and not on the loud grunter in the corner or the gym flirt at it again. Headphones that don’t slip out and keep you cool, dry and a sweat-free face.  HALO does all this and according to the founders of Halo Neuroscience, Daniel Chao and Brett Wingeier, it stimulates you brain to give you 1.5 hour gains for a one hour workout. These sport headphones neuroprime – prime your brain for exercise – by creating new pathways in the brain to send targeted signals to the brain to activate more muscle fibres for improved muscle performance.

Halo Headphones with Original Headband [Image: Courtesy of HALO]
Halo Headphones with Original Headband [Image: Courtesy of HALO]
Mixing neuropriming with a proper training session leads to hyperplasticity, which basically means that the brain ‘retains skill information and increased strength’. They explain that they program the headset to ‘send a constant small current from one primer (i.e. electrode) to another’. This flow of current increases the excitability and synchrony of neurons in the motor cortex region situated beneath the primers. This basic mechanism is what allows Halo Sport to modulate motor performance.’ However they stress that it has to be used with regular exercise and for a period of time in order to see marked improvement. Their collaboration with the US Ski Snowboard Association showed that their long-jump propulsion performance go up by 12% using the HALO.

Tennis Skill Enablers

There are a few options to help you get your Serena Williams on. KITRIS, which is the only International Tennis Federation approved match tracking system, is a nifty system worn on the wrist that monitors training sessions and matches to provide feedback for coaches and players to improve skills quickly. It also helps users know where their serves, backhand and forehand strokes fair in comparison to other KITRIS users. Another lightweight band for your wrist is Smash. It uses precise sensors to provide suggestions for improvements and access your technique and accuracy. If you’re more into watches, there is the iSet Watch that comes in six different colour options and lets you track your game live and develop your performance. It works with apps available through the Android or iOS application stores. It allows you to also share your match scores in real time via the internet, as well as monitor other matches taking place at the same time. That, and it can also be used as a stopwatch, countdown timer, and alarm or as a plain old watch.

 [Image: Courtesy of KITRIS]
[Image: Courtesy of KITRIS]
Smart Hats

Wearable technology just doesn’t come in the form of watches and wristbands. Activity performance devices can now be a head adornment. If you want a hat that not only hides you from the rays, but also measures your calorie consumption, heart rate and cadence then LifeBEAM is for you. It takes this information and transmits it to your phone. The LifeBEAM smart hat also has the exclusive women’s line known as LifeBEAM smart visor. Spree Smartcap is another on-the-go fitness monitor in the market that syncs with your phone but it measures heart rate, body temperature and movement by utilising biometrics with medical grade technology in real-time.

 [Image: Courtesy of LifeBEAM]
[Image: Courtesy of LifeBEAM]
WHOOP

Measure. Analyse. Inform. WHOOP was a staple at the 2016 Olympic athletes with the likes of swimmer Ryan Lochte using the Whoop Strap 2.0 to prepare for Rio. The lightweight wristband, that won the Redot Design Award 2016, helps to predict peak performance and reduce injury risk for 24 hours. That’s right, it is designed for continuous wear to help athletes change behaviour from strain, recovery and sleep patterns.  After four months, WHOOP indicates that you’ll improve sleep per night by 41 minutes, increase heart rate variability by eight milliseconds which aids in fitness improvement and reduces reported injuries by 60%. Another key benefit from this wristband is that it helps to prevent over and undertraining. The idea being, that all your sessions will be an optimum experience and that you get the right amount of rest and recovery in!

 [Image: Courtesy of WHOOP]
[Image: Courtesy of WHOOP]
Kinematix TUNE

A top finalist in the 2016 Wearable Technologies Innovation (WTI) World Cup category for Sports & Fitness, this in-shoe monitor allows athletes to control relevant parameters for their feet. This including altitude, speed, time and distance, time which contribute to running performance and technique. This information can then be taken and utilised to create a personalized program to improve our National team’s existing workout and strategy to increase our chances of a royal flush podium wise Imagine David Rudisha using this data to not only hold onto his 800m World Record, but going a step further and smashing his very own record. From the time you start running, TUNE looks at your form, as well as your GPS and begins to customize according to your technical requirements. No wonder quite a few Olympians were seen with this at the 2016 games.

 [Image: Courtesy of Kinematix TUNE]
[Image: Courtesy of Kinematix TUNE]
Solos by Kopin

Another Olympic favourite was the smart eyewear by Kopin known as Solos.  The ultra-lightweight, audio-integrated glasses allowed cyclists to access performance data in real time from their phones or other wearable sensors. The glasses have incorporated the world’s smallest optical module known as Vista pupil-scale display that is used for high-resolution near-eye applications. Safety has been taken care of using the high-impact, safety-rated Trivex® polymer. With all these features, cyclists can make necessary adjustments to ensure their technique takes them to their optimum performance.  Great thing is that they haven’t compromised on aesthetics or comfort.

[Image: Courtesy of Solos by Kopin]
[Image: Courtesy of Solos by Kopin]
Hexoskin Smart Shirt

In partnership with your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, the Hexoskin measures heart rate, pace, breathing, calories and sleeping habits to streamline the data analytics for coaches. It has become popular with Olympic runners due to the fact that it measures the heart’s electrical activity without being encumbering like smart bands or chest straps. It does so through several body metric system sensors that have been woven into the shirt.

[Image: Courtesy of Hexoskin]
[Image: Courtesy of Hexoskin]
HYSKO

The boxers were not left out when it came to smart wearable tech. The Canadian Olympic boxing team’s secret weapon at the Summer Games in Rio was this cutting edge, punch tracking system. The Hysko mobile app shows output per punch from their previous sparring rounds and helps coaches identify what patterns an athlete needs to cut out. Using this in training is claimed to help maintain ideal intensity levels for sparring.  It also helps to set goals as well as follow other elite professional fighters to give you an idea of what heights you can or should aim for. If you’re boxing purely for fitness, it has a competitive feature that creates a portal to go head to head on specific drills with other boxers.

[Image: Courtesy of HYSKO]
[Image: Courtesy of HYSKO]
Tech-enhanced apparel

These clothes may not come with little gadgets built in, but it’s the research and process of manufacturing that makes them just as good. Take for example the Nike Zoom Superfly Elite sneakers that took the specific measurements of elite sprinters to match their foot size and speed. This was achieved through years of algorithmic software design and months of 3D prototype testing to perfect.

[Image: Courtesy of Nike]
[Image: Courtesy of Nike]
[Image: Courtesy of Nike]
[Image: Courtesy of Nike]
Then there’s Nike Vapor Track and Field kit that features the company’s revolutionary kinesiology-like tape called AeroSwift to help propel athletes to new heights with greater efficiency. It also features Nike tape dotted with tiny 3D-printed plastic teeth called AeroBlades that makes athletes more aerodynamic by disrupting movement and improve the airflow around them. Designed for sprinters and marathon athletes, they are easily incorporated into the clothing or the athlete can choose to strategically tape them onto arms and legs. They go further and even design the NikeGRIP running sock, ‘a two-sided solution that considers both the inside and outside of a sock to maximize grip at the weight-bearing areas of the foot: around the heel and along the bottom of the forefoot, which minimizes slippage in stride’. Usain Bolt, wore a high-tech tracksuit by Puma that has a unique compression fabric and a six-way stretch. This basically means that it applies optimum pressure to the muscles while aiding circulation.

Nike Vapor Track Field kits [Image: Courtesy of Nike]
Nike Vapor Track Field kits [Image: Courtesy of Nike]
Nike Vapor Track Field kits [Image: Courtesy of Nike]
Nike Vapor Track Field kits [Image: Courtesy of Nike]
 

In a sport where a tenth of a second can be the deciding factor between a gold and silver medal, what the athletes wear is just as important. But what makes this technology so efficient is understanding that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and relies on the athlete’s personal motivation and physical hard work. Like makeup, wearable tech is there to enhance your existing gifts and in this case, effort. We’ve already seen how well Kenyan athletes can perform in the face of scandal and stolen kits, but can you imagine how far they’d be propelled if the country invested in state of the art wearable tech… and gave it to them of course.

 

 

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