Marathon Strides in Sports Technology

Having only just managed to limp around the Reading half marathon last year, I have the greatest respect for all those training for the London marathon and wish them all the best of luck.

I also have a newfound understanding and admiration for just how much technology can help support and motivate you during those tougher training periods when all you want to do is crash on the sofa..and I’m not just talking about the upbeat tunes you choose to plug into on your ‘mobile device’ whilst pounding the streets!

Of course technology has been helping improve fitness levels and running ability for years, in the form of bleep tests and treadmills amongst others. Recent software developments have introduced gait analysis, whereby cutting-edge video cameras help ensure runners are supported by a well-fitting pair of trainers, whilst Exergaming, video games which enable players to participate physically in active and interactive play against a computer or other players, has become big business.

With the advent of GPS units, satellite telephones, smart phone apps and increased cellular coverage, technology now allows outdoor enthusiasts to know precisely where they are, how fast they are moving, in what direction, and how to signal for help if necessary – all at the touch of a button.

Wearable technology, such as Fitbit, is becoming part of everyday life for adults and children, helping them reach health and fitness goals by tracking activity, exercise, sleep and weight, whilst the MyFitnessPal app, allowing users to monitor calorie intake and calories burnt, has become very popular in helping with weight loss.

As an aside, and particularly in light of the recent data breach suffered by MyFitnessPal, we would always advise you to use unique passwords for any sites and apps visited. Further advice on passwords can be found here.

My own first encounter with motivational technology when I started running a couple of years ago was with the aptly-named ‘Couch to 5k’ app. A soothing voice interrupted my uplifting Spotify playlist to encourage me to alternate walking for 10 mins with running for a heady 1 minute before gradually ramping it up. I then moved on to the ‘Couch to 10k’ app and, before I knew it, I was hooked on Strava, plotting my routes, checking my pace and giving like-minded friends ‘kudos’. It’s amazing what a bit of healthy competition can do for the spirit and, once you have a goal in mind, it’s surprisingly addictive to see your pace getting faster and that targeted distance becoming more achievable. Of course, there are now numerous apps designed to help you target half marathons and marathons, although I can’t say I’ve had much experience of those just yet..!

Social media has also had a big motivational impact in recent years, encouraging friends and family to sign up and share different running events. In fact I’ve recently been enticed into joining a 5k colour run – the latest trend it seems in getting people moving. I’m hoping my son will join me in the running, whilst I know my younger daughter will just love covering us – and everyone else no doubt! – in a rainbow of colours.

The GPS trackers also have their uses for the spectator-sport – Marathon support crews, take note! Being the wife of a long-distance runner, I have often been found shivering by the side of a track in the middle of nowhere, two children in tow, waiting for our beloved to come over the brow of a hill but not sure exactly just when that will be – or indeed if we have just missed him! With the advent of app’s like ‘Find Friends’, we are now able to track him on mobile devices from the comfort of a suitably-located cosy coffee shop, before ushering everyone outside for 5 mins to give him a hearty cheer and then scuttling back inside to enjoy a warming beverage – a much better use of everyone’s time, I think you’ll agree!

Then, of course, there’s the recovery and convalescence after a run. If you’re lucky, you may get away with having a slight limp for a few days. For those less fortunate, it may mean a trip to the physiotherapist or osteopath, where again, wearable technology can support your recovery and convalescence.

So, whether you’re shopping for new trainers, encouraging yourself – and perhaps your kids! – into running, or even watching and waiting from the sidelines, technology can definitely benefit us all.

Best of luck to all those runners taking part in the forth-coming marathon – and to all the support-crews out there, enjoy keeping your energy levels up with that delicious treat in the warmth..! 🙂