Wearable Fitness Training Gear

These days we’re seeing more and more wearable gear for fitness training. From all the wrist gadgets, heart rate monitors and eye wear, there are a number of products that will provide data and feedback to assist you in your training efforts. There’s one more we can to this list.

Athos is a company that makes shirts and shorts that track your workouts giving you feedback about your movements. The apparel is comprised of sensors which send data via Bluetooth during your workouts to your smartphone for you to view and subsequently make adjustments for a better training session.

athos-clothing4

I’ll admit this does sound kind of interesting. And if somebody wants to send me a sample to test I’d be happy to comply.

But even before trying the product out there are a number of questions going though my head about this product. Here are some of the things I’m wondering about regarding the Athos product.

1. Accuracy

The whole premise of this product is that the feedback provided to your phone during your workout will allow you to train better. OK, I get that. But how accurate is the information being provided? To embed a $99 article of clothing with numerous sensors tells me we’re probably not dealing with NASA quality materials here.

Look at this way. Have you ever used your heart rate monitor and had workouts where the data was a little off? Maybe after a hard sprint there was a lag phase before the actual heart rate was displayed. Or the number displayed wasn’t possible. I’ve had training sessions where my heart rate monitor showed a max heart rate well over 200.

Now it may not be fair to suggest that because a heart rate monitor can provide inaccurate data that this product will as well. But when you consider that this product is base solely on the data provided in terms of heart rate, breathing and muscular effort there really isn’t any room for error. And when you consider it isn’t uncommon for heart rate monitors to display delayed or erroneous data it makes me wonder how accurate this product will be?

2. Know-How

Let’s assume for a second that all of the data collected by this gadget is 100% accurate, all of the time and there are no delays in receiving this data. These are three huge assumptions. But whatever, let’s go to this mystical place for just a second.

What do you do with this data once you’ve got it? For example, if someone that is not a health or fitness professional sees that their heart rate is 175 beats per minute what should they do? Do they keep going? Take a rest? Lower their heart rate? Raise it? Try and sustain it? I doubt almost no one in a typical gym setting knows what their heart rate training zones are. And it then becomes difficult to know what to do with a number when we don’t know anything about the number to being with. Add to this fact that many people won’t know what certain muscles are, where they are, how to fire them and how much. Confounding this problem further is the fact that when one begins to focus solely on firing one isolated muscle complex movement patterns erode. For example, consider doing machine based leg exercises compared to free weight exercises to train for sprinting. The body understands movements and not muscles.

3. Accountability/Motivation

The number one goal of people that go to the gym is weight loss. And guess what? Almost any training program will work. And almost any nutritional program will work as well. Some training programs will be safer and yield better results in less time (see what I did there?) and some nutritional programs will be healthier and more balanced.

For example, if all I ever do is sit on the couch and watch sports my new fitness training program could be to walk upstairs every time there is a new period in the game. And to walk downstairs when the period is over. And my nutritional program could be three slices of pizza per game instead of the usual five.

Do you think this program would work? Would I lose weight? If I increased my work output, by walking up and downstairs, and reduced my caloric intake my eating less pizza you could say I was on an effective weight loss program involving watching sports and eating pizza. This would not be the most effective program and would only work in the short term yet it would generate results.

Now here’s the thing, for sustained weight loss we need to have a higher purpose or reason to continue. Maybe it’s the triathlon we’ve signed up for at the end of the summer. Or maybe it was attending an uncle’s funeral who died of a heart attack way too young. Or it could be wanting to be around to see your kids grow up and be around for them.

These are all great reasons to continue training and eating healthily. Some expensive, sweaty laundry in your gym bag probably isn’t going to be nearly as compelling as being able to walk one of your daughters down the aisle one day.

4. Freshness Factor

How many days per week do you train? Hopefully you take rest days and didn’t answer seven. If you’re like most people we work with than four days is typically the average.

Now I’m going to assume that if you train four days a week you have more than one set of shirts and shorts for training. But if your shirts and shorts cost $100 a pop you probably wouldn’t buy multiples of each.

***this is the point of the blog post where I just lost all the young women owning multiple styles of lululemon for their training***

So now you have two new problems of cost and convenience. Do you buy enough shirts and shorts so you have a fresh pair every time you train? Or do you do laundry every evening so you’ve got something to wear for your workout?

Let’s assume you’re like most people and you’re not going to drop $1300 for five pairs of shorts and shirts. (you didn’t think I would forget the exchange rate did you?) If you are that type of person, we should definitely hang out.

But seriously most people won’t shell out this kind of dough for bike shorts and a skinny shirt that may choke you to death if you got hot water on it. And speaking of hot what happens when this product goes through the dryer? I mean we can only be so careful before someone else in the household tries to be helpful and tosses it in the dryer. Think this wouldn’t wreck the garment? Imagine putting your heart rate monitor in the dryer and it will make sense.

Lastly, how many times have you washed something you needed the following day and then forget to bring it with you. You show up at your workout and realize you don’t have a shirt or shorts?

Kind of seems like this might either be a strain on the pocketbook or on your time for all the extra washing you’ll do.

5. Form Fitting

First of all, let me speak for men everywhere  when I say to lululemon thank you for your products. I rarely wear them but I appreciate what you’ve done for the women that do train while wearing your brand.

That being said here’s my double standard. (obviously I’m not above having double standards) I don’t appreciate guys wearing bike shorts when training. If you’re wearing bike shorts you are sitting on a bike and riding it. Period. No guy or girl needs to see the male species shuffling around the gym floor in a pair of spandex. It’s not a good look.

And as for the shirt…well it’s not much better.

6. Efficiency

I’ve got an amazing fact to share with you. And you won’t believe. You’ll probably want to brace yourself or even sit down.

Are you ready? OK, here it is…I know people that are busy!

I know, I know, crazy, right? Because most of the people you know probably have too much time on their hands. Their favourite day of the year is when they set the clocks forward and we lose an hour. In fact these people wish we actually had a 23 instead of a 24 hour day.

OK, hahaha I had my fun and hopefully made my point. Everybody is busy. Everyone could use more time. We all wish we could get more sleep.

I mean look at all the trends in training. HIIT, Tabatas, sprints, intervals etc. These are all short duration workouts. People like to go hard and then get on with the rest of their day.

Now with this Athos device you need to review the output after each set. And we look back to point #2 above what does this information really mean to us?

For many the goal should simply be to move more. Too much intensity is usually not the problem. A product such as this may simply interfere with the forward momentum many are in dire need and create a situation of paralysis by analysis.

7. Simplicity

The one thing about fitness is that it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Squats, lunges, jumping jacks, push ups, get ups…the list goes on. The point being that in order to get exercise we don’t need much in terms of equipment or space. And sometimes the more requirements we place on a workout the less likely we are to complete that workout. Imagine if your workouts always needed to be done in a 50 m pool. And your job involved visiting small farming communities throughout Saskatchewan. How easy will it be for you to stay on task with your training?

Now let’s change the scenario to one involving specialized shorts, shirts, WiFi and a smart phone. We’ve already discussed the lack of practicality of owning one pair of these garments. And although it seems everyone has a cell phone there are some who don’t. And of the people who do have phones, not all are smart phones. And lastly, many gyms don’t offer WiFi. We do but we’re not like most gyms.

Going back to the point about accountability and motivation, human nature tells us that when people don’t want to do something they will find any excuse at all to not have to do it. Maybe the hardware and technology requirements will be enough of an excuse for many to do nothing.

8. Structural v. Functional

When I look at someone perform an exercise there may be compensations evident in their movement. Do their hips shift or tuck under doing a squat? Do they lose lumbar control when performing a hinging movement? Do their traps rise and shoulders roll forward when performing a rowing motion?

While there can be a number of things that deviate from the definition of ideal movement we want to know if the compensation they exhibit is structural or functional? Does their squat pattern look ‘off’ because one leg is shorter? Or because they a fused vertebrae in their low back? Have they been sitting for five hours in a car? Do they have a small pebble in one shoe? Did they sprain an ankle at basketball two months ago?

Obviously there are a number of reasons where the left and right sides of the body may move differently. But the reason for this difference is not always so clear. So looking to fix these issues may not be as simple as looking to increase or decrease the firing patterns of certain muscles during exercise.

9. Tech Product

If you take a look at this product’s website you’ll notice something absent from the team. There are engineers, designers, marketers and creative types all involved in the process. Absent however is any mention of an exercise physiologist, kinesiologist, fitness trainer, strength coach or even a medical doctor. Now I’m not saying this team didn’t consult a health or fitness specialist in the creation of their product only that no one with any credential of this type is listed.

Further, all of the reviews of the product are from tech associations. Does this mean that no one within the industry this product is trying to enter has reviewed the product? Or have they reviewed and found it didn’t measure up? Either way it’s a glaring omission. Why not send some units to a few different universities to have studies performed to examine it from a scientific perspective? Maybe this is being done but nothing is suggested on their website.

10. Life & Sports Are Not Balanced

While we may strive for everything in our lives to be balanced the truth is we’re not balanced. Our internal organs are not perfectly centered. Some are more on the right and others are more on the left. We have three lobes in our right lung and two in our left. And now there are disciplines created which address these deficits and help to balance us as much as possible.

But consider as well some of the unilateral sports that exist. Do you think Tiger Woods rotates equally well both ways? Do you think he may have developed specific mobilities, stabilities and strengths to allow him to hit a golf ball as well as he does? Absolutely he has. And what do you think would happen to a golfer like this if we tried to balance him out everywhere he had differences on his left and right sides of his body? It might just destroy his golf swing and wreck his career.

Summary

While this is an interesting product and one I’d happy to try I don’t see the benefits for the average gym goer. And as just mentioned, sports is rarely balanced and symmetrical and would have minimal transferability to competitive arenas. This may be a product for the person who is already self-motivated, has a solid background in functional anatomy and the bank account to buy a number of sets. For everyone else I’d take a wait and see approach. Maybe some research comes out confirming the claims? Maybe the price drops with mass production? Either way I’ll sit this one out for now.

Chris [fb-like]

 

 

 

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