CAN WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY HELP OLYMPIANS ACHIEVE MORE?Date: 2018-02-20
Fitbits, as well as other wearable activity monitors, have changed how regular people exercise and track their activity, they are having similar effects on how Olympians train and recover between workouts.
It has long been common for coaches to use video cameras to show athletes what their form and movement look like, to track their progress and to fine-tune exactly the right technique, like figure skaters taking off for a jump or landing after a particular trick. But this form of study only shows what is going on from the outside.
With wearables advancing and technology becoming more popular by the day, biometrics and apps analyse athlete's data, it is becoming much more common for competitors – at all levels – to use wearable technology, giving them indications of what is going on inside their body. Wearables have helped coaches, athletes and sports scientists to measure how hard an athletes body is working.
It gives them an indication of how fast their hearts are beating, and many of these wearables track their user's heart rate in real time. Trainers have the ability to measure how fast an athletes heartbeats during maximum exertion in a test on a treadmill or skating increasingly fast across the rink.
During workouts, a coach can determine how hard the athlete is working by comparing his real-time heart rate to his maximum. When a person's heart is beating almost as fast as it can, that is pushing nearly as hard as a person's body can. By tuning the workout to keep the athlete's heart rate in certain ranges for certain periods, a coach or sports scientist can optimise both exertion and recovery time. That way the body's muscles and cardiovascular system are well trained and in top form for competition.
Figure skaters and snowboarders, as well as skiers, are among those whose competitive performance include jumps – which means they have to practice intensively for each one. Those leaps and landings exert enormous amounts of stress on athlete's bodies – ranging from eight to 14 times the person's body weight for a brief moment. For example, a 100-pounds skater who jumps 50 times in a typical daily workout for five training days ins loading 160 tins of cumulative weight on their bones during that week of training. The force absorbed by muscles and bones in the feet and legs, as well as the torso.
That is a lot of stress for one person's body and a lot of potential for injury. In figure skating, 70% percent of injuries are from overuse – primarily from the accumulated effect of those impacts. With wearables, it can monitor how many jumps a person takes and measure the rotational, gravitational and other forces involved in the jump and landing. These readings help coaches ensure athletes develop strength and endurance while warning of the potential for injury.
More advanced biosensors embedded in clothing keep track of the athlete's body temperature, movement and breathing rate and other necessary data that helps coaches fine-tune workouts to optimize performance.
Athletes can use smartphone apps to record what they eat and when, tracking how many calories they take in, as well as amounts of nutrients like proteins, carbs and fats. Sleep-tracking devices use accelerometers to track a person's movements – and sometimes heart and breathing rates – while they are asleep. The data can reveal indicators of how well the person rested, that can help coaches choose appropriate workouts depending on how tired an athlete is.
Wearables capture all this data and make it available, giving more information about nutrition, exertion, stress force, rest and recovery, that coaches and athletes alike can use to improve training, boost performance and ideally make it to the top of a medal podium.