Cool Running: Gear and Gadgets for Runners
Running is potentially one of the most low-tech sports out there. It's just a matter of putting on some shoes -- or not -- and heading out to a favorite path, trail or shore. However, new gear is changing the way people measure, track and think about their runs. Despite its simplicity, running has spawned its fair share of gadgets, gear, apps and other technologies.
You don't need much to become a serious runner. There's no big investment in gear or apparel required.
"Running is definitely a low-cost sport, which is why it is so attractive," said certified strength and conditioning specialist Scott Greenberg.
"I think it can remain that way," he told TechNewsWorld. "However, some new tools can and will definitely have an impact on those looking to maximize performance."
For runners carrying smartphones, the running app market is full of possibilities for tracking, mapping and measuring runs. Runmeter, for instance, is a GPS-enabled iOS fitness app that offers real-time and post-workout information. It gives runners information about pace, speed, and heart rate. Using text-to-speech technology, it also can offer runners encouraging comments from friends.
"We help runners by measuring everything they do and providing them feedback in real-time," Steve Kusmer, CEO of Abvio, which developed Runmeter, told TechNewsWorld. "Helping people improve their fitness is a great mission."
Runmeter isn't just about measuring the information about a run. It also logs and stores it so that runners can track their progress over time.
"We store years of workouts on your iPhone with the space of only a few songs," said Kusmer, and "we can post your workouts to your iPhone calendar."
Creating and testing the app, according to Kusmer, has itself been a fun and useful process.
"There's nothing like having a job where you have to go for a run or a ride to test your app," he said, "and with every new platform, there are new opportunities, so we sought to seek how far we could push the platform."
The Watched Run
Run-friendly watches are becoming a popular part of some runners' routines. With GPS, tracking, measuring, timing and heart rate monitoring capabilities, these watches give runners more than just the time of day.
The Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0, for instance, measures everything from distance to heart rate, and it gives runners instant access to all of the data it collects.
"You've now got all of the benefits of a treadmill on your wrist," Timex's senior sports business brand manager Sam Martin told TechNewsWorld. "This is an all-in-one solution, and you can get data in real time."
The watch doesn't just track data, according to Martin. It also motivates runners to set and reach goals.
"It's about showing yourself what you can accomplish and what you can do," he said. "There's something really inspiring about looking down and seeing how far you've run. It's about giving you immediate feedback and allowing you to adjust how you run based on that feedback. It's a great tool for someone who's trying to motivate themselves."
Many of the technologies used by runners focus on measuring, analyzing, and tracking run data and information. Some runners, physical therapists and trainers, for instance, are using video to see exactly how a stride looks and how it can be improved.
"Video devices and their applications assist me in teaching runners the proper way to run," said Greenberg. "Many runners have actually never seen themselves run. Some of these applications allow for angles to be measured, lines and circles to be drawn, as well as show elapsed time -- all of which are quite beneficial in the teaching process. Some programs also allow for side-to-side comparisons."
The detailed analysis available to runners through a variety of devices and gadgets ultimately can teach them what's happening in their bodies and how they can become better runners.
"The advent and rapid rise of biometric recording technology has dramatically changed the way runners can precisely record their progress," running consultant Wendy Winn Rhodes told TechNewsWorld. "It has raised awareness of important fitness components, including heart rate, calorie expenditure and energy needs. All of the information provided by a specific product can serve as a log, and runners are essentially learning about themselves as runners with each workout."
Even with the high-tech gear available, some runners eschew it all in favor of running free and unencumbered.
"There's actually a movement now to embrace simpler technology," explained Rhodes. "I think this was partially born out of the minimalist running movement -- and also to appeal to runners like me, who run to get away from technology."