On this episode of 20 Minute Fitness we’re giving you a snapshot of a still fairly new subcategory of wearables, connected clothing. Charlie will start off by discussing some predictions about the future of the connected clothes market. Then, most importantly, he will talk us through how various pieces of smart apparel can help you reach your fitness goals more effectively.
Tune in to learn about exciting brands and how their innovative active wear will get you in shape!
Three Things You Will Learn
1) What The Fitness Benefits Are Of Smart Clothing By Under Armour
Under Armour is a well-known brand among all health & fitness enthusiasts. But what might not be common sense for everyone is that they have entered the fit-tech space as well. Listen to this week’s episode to find out what smart clothing you can get with the Under Armour logo, and of course how they will help you to get in shape!
2) Wearables For Mastering Your Running Technique
Running is definitely one of the best cardio workouts, but to ensure its effectiveness, you really have to master your form. OMsignal and Sensoria are two brands out there who have also realized this. Although their smart apparel are very distinct, both of these brands are driven by the same goal. And this is to help you master your running technique and in turn minimize the risk of injuries and maximize results.
Press play to learn about the different approaches the two brands take to reach this goal. In particular, how OMsignal‘s connected bras use breath analysis to improve your running technique. And how Sensoria‘s smart socks and anklet capture data while running to provide you with recommendations.
3) A Virtual Personal Trainer Built Into Your Gym Clothes
Finally reaching the ‘wow’ category, Athos is definitely a name you should know about. To overcome the boundaries of high personal trainer costs and to ensure extremely accurate performance tracking, the Athos guys have created active wear with built-in sensors.
From today’s episode you can get an insight into how the Athos connected shirts and leggings work and whether they live up to their nearly $700 price tag.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSOR!
This episode of 20 Minute Fitness is brought to you by Four Sigmatic! Four Sigmatic is a superfood company founded by a group of Finnish friends. It is based on their belief that health can be vastly improved through simple dietary tweaks. The easiest way to do this? Mushrooms, the most scientifically studied and proven superfood. Four Sigmatic wants to popularize medicinal mushrooms by incorporating them in their yummy products, like coffee, hot cocoa, and turmeric latte.
For 15% off your entire Four Sigmatic purchase, visit www.foursigmatic.com/SHAPE15 or enter the discount code SHAPE15 at the check-out.
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[image source: Under Armour Media Kit]
00:00 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome back to 20 Minute Fitness. I really hope you enjoyed the very first episode, the Why I Built This series. A massive thanks goes out to Tim again for coming on the show. And of course, we’d love to hear your feedback so do not hesitate to get in touch with us. This week we are back on to the How Technology Can Help series and today, we are looking at how smart clothing can help get you in shape. Of course, 20 Minute Fitness is powered by ShapeScale. ShapeScale is a 3D body scanning scale. As soon as you step on, the robotic arm will spin around your body capturing all sorts of really valuable body insights such as your body fat percentage, your lean muscle mass, and even your body girth measurements. And this will be displayed on the avatar on your phone via the ShapeScale app. And this makes ShapeScale a truly comprehensive fitness tracker as you can see a visual representation alongside the actual data. You can now pre-order ShapeScale at shapescale.com.
00:55 S1: So let’s now look at the topic for today. Connected clothing market or smart clothing market is expected to become a $1 billion dollar industry by 2020 according to research conducted by Juniper. And according to Forbes editor Lee Bell, this is because consumers are consistently looking for the latest innovation that will seamlessly integrate technology into their lives. There are lots of predictions that wearables, as we know them, are no longer going to be wristbands or watches in the future but actually the technology will be sewn into the fabric of our clothing. What do you think about that? We’d love to hear your opinion so definitely get in touch with us on that subject. Would you want a wearable to be an item or accessory or would you like it to be seamlessly integrated, to be as unobtrusive on your life as possible?
01:40 S1: So with that in mind and the growth in the connected clothing market looking very promising, we set out to find organisations that are creating smart clothing that will really help the user to get in shape. And obviously, we separated it according to our scale, whether that product is accessible, based on its price and of how difficult it is to use and the proficiency level of the user, if they are experienced or inexperienced, all the way up to a wow factor where there’s loads of insights you can get from the apparel or the fact that the user needs to be quite experienced to be able to really analyse what the data says to them and also the cost is rather expensive.
02:14 S1: So let’s first start by looking at our first level, which is the accessible products. And the very first one we’re going to look at is Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear. I know what you’re thinking. “Sleepwear is not gonna help me get in shape,” and it won’t directly, however, optimising your sleep will certainly help you indirectly. As we all know, rest and recovery is so important for the reparation of our body’s skeletal muscle and also if we’re tired, that’s been linked to increased levels of cortisol; cortisol, being the stress hormone which has been linked to increased storage of fat. So that’s why we’ve included the Recovery Sleepwear in this list. Not because it directly will get you fitter or stronger but because sleep is such a fundamental part of exercise and it will help you train more optimally, it’ll help you get back from injury more quickly and everything that goes indirectly with getting in shape. So let’s explore the sleepwear.
03:04 S1: So Under Armour actually worked with New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady to create this recovery sleepwear. So how does it work, why is it special? Well, it incorporates Bioceramic technology lining the garment which is designed to not only maximize comfort and fit, but it also means that particles that absorb infrared wavelengths emitted by the body are reflected back into far infrared energy, which help the body recover faster whilst promoting better sleep. Far infrared energy is a completely safe type of radiation that promotes cell re-growth within the body. And this means that your muscles and joints will regenerate faster and you’ll be less sore and less sort of rundown after a physical activity. A study called Far Infrared Radiation: Its Biological Effects and Medical Applications did find that sleeping environments could be improved by mattresses or bedding emitting far infrared radiation and Under Armour actually did this themselves by creating garments that did that but they also do bedding as well.
04:00 S1: If you’re interested to find out more, you could read the review from the Business Insider reporter Amir Ismael, who was instructed that it would take a couple of weeks to see the full benefits and they actually found out that this was the case. He didn’t necessarily feel anything straightaway or any benefits of the Recovery Sleepwear, but after several wears, definitely noticed significantly less aches and a better quality of sleep overall.
04:18 S1: Another item straight from Under Armour as well are the Under Armour Gemini shoes or their HOVR Connected sneakers. And you can pick up either of these for around $100. So what do they do? They have sensors within the shoes that measure your cadence, your distance, your pace, your stride in your steps. So for someone who’s trying to beat their PB whilst going on a run or if they’re trying to get in shape and get more into running, then these could be the trainers for you. I thought it was worthwhile just explaining what cadence is and running cadence is simply defined as how many steps you take in a minute. So the easiest way for you to work it out manually, is to count how many times your right or left foot lands in a minute and then double this and you’ll have your cadence. And you’ll often find that 180 steps per minute is often cited as the magic number that you want to try and keep that rhythm at. As we know from the gym, form and technique is so important. It can really help you not only boost your lifts, which in turn might help increase your muscle mass, but it can also help prevent injury, which means you’re training more regularly and trying to get fitter more regularly and so with these connected trainers tracking every metric that a runner could care about, you really are in a good position to try and beat your old times.
05:25 S1: The Bluetooth powered sensors are located inside the thickest part of the sole so you can even wear them on muddy days, and what’s great is you can even leave your phone at home. You don’t need to take it with you, your trainers will just begin tracking as soon as you begin your run. So if you’re someone who likes to be as light as possible or you just genuinely don’t like having the feeling of a phone bouncing around in your pocket, you can leave that at home and then look at the MapMyRun app when you get back to see all the data from your run afterwards. And Under Armour says by interpreting the data, MapMyRun can offer you tips on how to improve your pace and your splits by altering your form. Maybe you should be taking shorter or longer strides when you run and this will in turn help you build up your cardiovascular fitness and your endurance and the more and more you run and compete against yourself, hopefully the more you’re getting in shape. But remember, if getting in shape to you does mean losing some body fat as well, just doing more exercise doesn’t mean that you’re gonna be losing that body fat. You also need to be in a calorie deficit so potentially track your calories or something as well, but if you just looking to get fitter then, get out, get running, mix up your training, do some HIIT workouts as well, do some… Do both longer and shorter distance runs. So make sure you mix up your training.
06:27 S1: We’re now moving into what we call the mid to high-end category of connected clothing and the first organization we’re gonna look at is OMsignal. And even though OMsignal do not directly sell to consumer, I still thought it was worth mentioning as it’s quite interesting what they’re doing. We’re gonna specifically look at the OMbra, which is priced at $169, and their aim is to get women running mindfully. So I looked into what this meant, and they mean by “running mindfully” that it is getting to your goal faster and with less risk of injury, quite an interesting definition there. And they say their smart sports bra will help you get there by analysing various biometrics during your run and providing comprehensive feedback.
07:05 S1: As I’ve mentioned, it’s not a consumer product, but they are a technology platform that sells to companies that are in the health business, or the wellness, or work in safety and sports. So the bra itself is made of a lightweight, moisture-wicking stretch fabric to help you cool, and it’s also interspersed with mesh panelling for breathability. And how it operates is that there is a small black box that you have to clip in every time you want to use the bra, and the black box stores all of your data and is basically the brains of the operation behind the bra, so you can wash the bra in a washing machine as long as you detach the black box. But the box is rainproof and splash-proof, so you can still go on a run with it. So what it is is, there’s small sensors embedded into the panel which pick up both your heart rate and your breathing rhythm, so it needs to be quite tight, because otherwise it wouldn’t be able to read these different patterns and it won’t be able to do its job properly.
07:51 S1: So the bra or the technology that OMsignal put into their clothing is, it lets you know when you’re training your endurance, or your race, or your peak zone by analysing your heart rate and breathing rhythm, and their theory is that you’ll get fitter and faster and reduce your risk of injury if you spend 80% of your training in the endurance zone and 20% percent in your peak zone, and the race zone is somewhere in between there. They have audio prompts when you’re running to let you know your distance and your cadence and your heart rate, and also what zone you’re training in. So if you’re spending too much time in your peak zone, they would recommend you to ease off and then get back into your endurance zone if you’re trying to build up cardiovascular fitness. We won’t spend too long on the OMsignal because it isn’t a consumer product, I just thought it was very interesting to mention, but if you wanna find out more, you can obviously look at their website. Just to finalise this, after you run, you can analyse how well you did at sticking within your zones through their iPhone app or through a web browser, and the information syncs automatically, and you’ll even get a congratulatory email after every run, adding that extra sense of reward that you’ve done something in your… You’ve done something toward your fitness goals for the day, so that’s great.
08:52 S1: The next product we’re gonna look at in the mid to high-end range is the Sensoria running socks and anklet, and you can buy this as a package from the Sensoria website, costing around $199, and in this, you get two pairs of smart socks made from their high-tech, running-friendly fabric and one electronic anklet that snaps to the cut-off of the sock. So why do the Sensoria running socks exist? Well, according to Sensoria, over 65% of runners get injured each year, and their sock is gonna teach you how to run so you can avoid injury-prone running styles, that’ll help you obviously keep fit, keep running, and so can keep working toward your fitness goals and getting in shape. The fabric is infused with different pressure sensors that inform you in real time when you’re striking with the heel or the ball of your foot, so it’ll monitor your foot landing technique as you run. You can then visualise this in real time on the foot heat map on the fitness app, so you can really correct it there and then.
09:43 S1: They also monitor your cadence, because subtle increases in step rate can substantially reduce excessive pressure on your hip and your knee joints, so you’re not, again, going to have as many injuries from overrunning or just from running with poor technique. The sensors in the sock actually count your steps taken as well, and you can use a metronome feature to get voice feedback as you run, to try and keep to your desired steps per minute, perhaps that golden 180 I mentioned earlier. However, let’s explore some negatives, and a CNET article from 2015 did say they found the whole kit quite expensive for what it offers, and also a bit uncomfortable to wear. They also felt that the software didn’t always work as they expected. And to summarise, they said that using smart socks to track runner’s data is a great idea, but they just need to really improve on the design and the data presentation to justify the cost, about $199 for a pair of socks. At this stage of the podcast, I’d like to take a minute to give a special thanks to our sponsor.
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12:09 S1: And now finally, let’s move on to the wow category, which I’m really excited to talk about, and we’re gonna mainly focus on Athos. We all know personal training’s really expensive, and there’s plenty of people who are too nervous or intimidated to try out new exercises in the gym in case they get laughed at, or in case they do it with improper form and end up injuring themselves, and this was a major motivating factor for two electrical engineering students who thought it’d be great to have useful feedback from a digital device that costs a fraction of the cost of a human trainer. So they then set out to make clothes with built-in sensors in to track how different muscles are used during a workout, then Athos was born. Athos’ compression fit clothing uses a bevy of sensors that track electrical activity generated by your hard-working muscles, providing comprehensive muscle activity feedback, and this works via electromyography.
12:54 S1: Specifically surface EMG technology, aptly named because the EMG sensors are built into the fabric of the clothing. So how does it work? When working out your brain sends an electric signal to the muscle fibres in your skeletal muscle to contract, and as the muscles contract, they produce an electric signal that’s different when the muscle’s resting and not contracting. And this data is then translated into a form that the user can understand and analyse to understand what’s actually occurring. The Athos Live features a small core which works with the sensor to deliver data via Bluetooth to your smartphone. The clothing can track the activity level from multiple muscle groups. For example, the men’s shirt can track your pecs, your biceps, your lats and many more. The shorts can track your hamstring, your glutes, both your outer and inner quads, and also the women’s leggings also do the same. But why is a Athos Clothing so revolutionary? What’s so special about it?
13:45 S1: Well, when someone’s bench pressing in an Athos shirt, they can look at the data and see if they’re favouring one arm to correct the imbalance. And this is a massive thing to do with form. We always talk about form and technique, and if you are performing an exercise with the wrong technique you’re more prone to getting injured, which would then stump your training, so you won’t be able to keep progressing and working towards your fitness goal and you might end up, when you’re in a slump, like me, you might not be able to exercise, you often end up overeating and getting drastically out of shape. So that’s why injury can be so annoying, but it can also be resolved by just doing an exercise with the right form and this works both ways. If your squatting, for example, someone doing squats can glimpse of the Athos app to see if they’re activating their glutes properly and it’s really neat how this works, because it’s shown through a screen that shows the distribution of workload by muscle group, so you can see if you’re pressing more with your right quad rather than your left and you’ll see how it’s distributed.
14:36 S1: As Athos cross clothing can be used to monitor exertion levels, it could also be really useful in supporting people to get back to their fighting health, fighting fitness, and they can monitor their strain and use it as a form of rehabilitation. So, as an example, if I’ve got a shoulder injury and I’m slowly trying to get back into bench pressing and my right shoulder is the one that’s injured, if I can look at my data which shows which muscle is exerting more force, I can obviously see when I’m injured that my left is perhaps potentially taking more of the workload. But as I start to do my rehabilitation exercises, my stretches and things like that and work on really building the muscle strength, I’d like to see my right shoulder number increase and then the two numbers be equivalent to each other. And that shows that I’m slowly rebuilding, not only confidence in the muscle, but also the muscle strength and the injury starting to decrease.
15:20 S1: What’s really neat is that it also shows you the sequence the muscle is firing in, so you can really focus on your form if you’re trying get really great results. For example, many people when they’re dead lifting they’ll pull up their back too early or they’ll use too much arm pulling. You can analyse what the app is saying and see which muscle group lit up first, and then you can maybe tell, “Oh, I pulled too much with my back here in this order, maybe I need to first focus on activating my glutes in this part of the lift.”
15:43 S1: And then this will simultaneously help you increase your lift, which in turn helps you to lift heavier weights, which is a form of progressive overload, so you’re hopefully going to be building skeletal muscle, if you’re on a calorie surplus of course. And you can see this sort of sequential muscle firing diagram on the outline of a human, so you can really understand the movement and what’s actually working when. Athos Clothing can track peak heart rate and also your breathing patterns and heart rate variability. We know that your heart is a muscle, and so when you’re training and trying to get in shape you need to strengthen your heart and by measuring your heart rate, you can determine how hard you pushing yourself, including if you need to push yourself harder to achieve the level of fitness you’re trying to achieve, or if you need to ease off a little bit if you’re going too hard.
16:22 S1: It can also be used to track your heart rate as working in different heart rate zones can optimise your training for different goals. For example, fat burning or the fat burning zone actually occurs at a much lower intensity than many of us actually realise. So the way you work this out is figure out your max heart rate, which is 220 minus your age, and then to determine your fat burning range it’s generally around 60% to 70% of your max heart rate. So this is usually low intensity training. If you’re working on trying to burn body fat, it might be something like high incline treadmill walking at a moderate pace, as the fat burning zone is the intensity at which your body is generally burning more fat than carbs. This isn’t to say this is the best system to use, and it’s the only way to burn fat. It’s just a way people do like to mix up their training. Of course, if you’re doing some HIIT your going to burn calories at a faster rate and get more fit in the process.
17:10 S1: What’s also really cool with Athos is that I wanted to look for someone who’d utilised it to see if they actually if they found any benefits of using it. And a Fortune Magazine article actually found or did an interview where Jeremy Cash, a Duke University athlete, and when he started training with Athos the system told him that he was using his triceps more than his pectoral muscles during the bench press and displayed an outline on this human body illuminating which muscle groups were working, so he could see this, with orange indicating moderate activity and red meaning maximum effort. And he said by simply extending his grip on the bar, he was able to use more of his pectoral muscles, and this shot up his bench press. He had previously been able do 225 lbs for eight to 10 reps, and when he started working on his form, thanks to the Athos app, and Athos clothing, is now between 15 to 18. Athos also let’s you use the log books so you can track your workouts, your sets, your reps, your heart rate and exertion, to then go back and compare workouts, so you know exactly what you have to beat going in if you want to try and aggressively overload your muscle or just to compete against yourself.
18:11 S1: The only real negatives I could find is that some people were a bit disappointed it didn’t yet track the activation of your abs. And, of course, the price tag at $547 for a pair of top and bottoms, it’s quite a lot of money, so you’d have to be really invested in trying get fitter and better at optimizing your training.
18:27 S1: I found it very interesting that there are a number of different companies starting to utilise EMG technology, and I think if you’re really interested in learning more about them I’ll just rattle them off. There’s Hexoskin which uses ECG and a heart rate monitor to track your activity, your peak acceleration, your cadence and it’s also a sleep tracker. There’s the Myontec Mbody Kit, and another really interesting one was their Exosome, which is one to look out for launching in June, 2019 and they aim to be a really comprehensive, connected clothing organisation with their website, saying, they’ll be able to automatically track a number of different physical activities, such as running, cycling, climbing and sports. The leggings will have a sport mode to auto track. The tops will automatically detect your stress and fatigue levels and show you how hard you’re working. They’ll have guided breathing sessions allowing you to relax accordingly. And they think through the incorporation of ECG technology they’ll be able to have 20% more accurate measurements of heartbeats and heart rate variability compared to that of smart watches, they’ll even tell your calorie burns and so on.
19:23 S2: So lots of exciting movement in the connected clothing market. Unlike general wearables, there’s not loads of companies that are currently in existence that are doing the integration of technology in clothing but I think it’s something we’ll begin to see in the next three to five years and it’s a very exciting space to watch. I really hope you enjoyed listening to some of the companies we’ve mentioned today, and let us know if you’ve used any of them; that’d be really interesting. So don’t hesitate to get in touch. Of course, next week, it’s the, Why I Built This series again. So, really excited for that. So until next time, really hope you enjoyed and we’ll see you for the next How Technology Can Help episode.