Running in the Technology Era

As we approach the end of the semester, it took me a bit of time to come up with a blog post for this week.

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After reading @kkim312’s post surrounding technology in sports, however, I started to think about the technology used in other sports, specifically running. In anticipation of Marathon Monday, I felt a post on this topic would be fitting.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, “technology is now an inescapable part of running, particularly distance running, from GPS watches to route trackers to sleep monitors to 4% shoes.” The CEO of USA Running, Rich Harshbarger, claims he has seen the numbers for technology use by runners grow year after year as price points have come down and devices become more accessible. The results of the 2017 National Runner Survey supports this thinking, reporting that 59 percent of respondents trained with a smartphone and 51 percent wore a smartwatch that carried running apps or functioned as a GPS device. In turn, this means that runners are creating an ever-growing source of data, “collecting more data points to measure performance, utilizing more resources to monitor training cycles, and sharing more runs via social media.”

While the use of technology in running has grown across the board, runners’ opinions on what type of technology is best and how/when this tech can best be used vary greatly. The 2017 National Runner Survey looked closely at runners who use apps and other technology and their reasoning. The organization highlighted the following key facts: Out of the 6,800 people polled, 82 percent said they used apps because they wanted to track all of their statistics, 65 percent said they believed apps helped them train better and avoid injuries, 61 percent said it made them feel good to see what they ran via apps, 17 percent said they liked to share their running information with others on social media, and 15 percent liked to see how they compare with other runners.

An avid marathoner, Scott Mindel, says he is never without his GPS watch, whether running in the Boston suburbs or aqua jogging. He wants to know his distance and pace, but he has also tracked his heart rate, elevation changes, sleep patterns. Despite his love for this specific technology, Mindel believes running technology is very personal. As no runner is the same, the technology cannot be viewed as one-size-fits-all: “You can get a ton of data, but you have to figure out what kind of information you care about and what you want to do with the data.”

The Globe article points out that “the technology runners use can be an angel on their wrist or a devil…depending on the day and the workout.” Tracking devices can push you to achieve more or they can create self-doubt. They can help prevent injury or they can reduce the experience.  Mark Coogan, 1996 Olympic marathoner and now coach, recognizes potential pitfalls and promotes caution: “It’s important not to be a slave to this technology…elite coaches all like the technology that’s out there, but a lot of them think people forget to run how they feel and don’t trust themselves as much.” It seems avid runners, like many of the companies we have discussed, should be cautious when considering new technologies. Before jumping to implement them, runners should carefully consider their needs and goals and the functionality that would support that.

While I run to keep in shape, I am in no way an experienced distance runner. After participating in a half marathon, I was never more convinced that a true marathon was out of reach! My knowledge of running technology was very limited, consisting of timing/mileage functionality on smartwatches, the Map My Run app, and distance trackers on the iPhone. The initial research for this blog made me curious about some of the technology serious runners use so here is some background on just a few I found interesting.

 

To run safely and avoid injury: Nix Hydration Sensor

  • “Taking the guessing out of hydration”
  • Single-use biosensor patch with digital interface that adheres to the skin and is worn on your hand or arm
  • Monitors sweat rate and hydration status, providing actionable information based on biomarkers in your sweat,
  • Tells you whether or not to reach for water, Gatorade, or nothing at all while you’re out on the course.
  • Expected to be sold in packs ranging from 4 sensors to 20 sensors, for $20-$90 respectively, and will be used when runners go out for their longest runs of the week.
  • http://nixbiosensors.com/, https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2018/04/12/nix-hydration-technology-boston-marathon/

To Train better: AlterG Treadmill

To share information, compare, and interact: Strava

  • “The social network for athletes”
  • Website/app that has created global community of millions of runners, cyclists, and triathletes, united by the camaraderie of sport
  • Turns smartphone into a sophisticated running/ cycling computer…Start Strava before an activity and track favorite performance stats, and afterwards, dive deep into your data
  • Record an activity and it goes to Strava feed, where your friends and followers can share their own races and workouts, give kudos to great performances and leave comments on each other’s activities
  • Created by Strava users, segments mark popular stretches of road or trail and create a leaderboard of times set by those there before
  • Free access with signup for regular service; Premium for $7.99/month or $59.99/year
  • https://www.strava.com/, https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2018/04/12/technology-explosion-has-runners-deluged-with-data/IrMp3fOr1SVqxFIMtuZP7J/story.html

6 comments

  1. Great post. The technology has definitely become an inseparable part of running, right now there are many different products in such industry. I remember 5 years ago I bought a Nike+Fuelband, which is an activity tracker worn on the wrist and can be connected to a smartphone. The Fuelband might be out of fashion now, but it gave me a very different running experience. It helps to calculate the amount of calorie people lost each day. This is helpful and relates to your point that technology helps people train better because by visualizing the amount of calorie I lost each day, I have more motivation and more fun in running.
    Now, I frequently see people post about how long they ran on different social media, which I think is a good thing because again, it gives people motivation to compete with their friends. Consequently, this helps people to train better and be healthy.
    I also like you mentioned the “Defy Gravity to Promote Peak Performance”, this thing has been used by some professional athlete such as Lebron James, who spend over $1.5 million/year on his body. This implies the usefulness of such technology.

  2. Cool post! I, like you, run to keep in shape, however, I wouldn’t consider myself a serious long-distance runner. I probably don’t have a need for these technologies, but I still find them very interesting. I was particularly drawn Strava because it seems like a good all-in-one place to collect and analyze your running data as well as participate in a community of other runners. I’d be curious to learn what added features come with the Premium service, though. Perhaps data-tracking abilities?

  3. Great post, and awesome overview of the various technologies utilized by these runners. If this is a topic you’re interested in, I’d also love to see you comment on runners’ social media use for distance running. Many people seem to motivate themselves by keeping friends updated via social media, and for marathon’s like the Boston Marathon, to fundraise for the charity they might be representing. Have you seen any interesting uses of social media and technology on that end of things?

  4. I was starting to write about the Nix hydration monitor for my blog post a few days ago right as you posted so I was really interested to read this! I think you did a really good job covering all of the ways people are using technology to get ahead in running right now and maximize their efforts. We live in the age of data and quantified measurements, so I think this is all really timely and interesting! I’m curious to see how people’s use of these technologies evolve over time – great post!

  5. Great post, and timely given this past week’s events. Been thinking about getting back into running, so maybe I’ll try some of these out.

  6. Runners have a great passionate market for technology and the money to spend on it(at least very willing). A garmin watch is like a graduation to the big boys. Then you need colorful sneakers, and maybe a gps in the shoe too. Strava can be a big motivator to cheer people on…another favorite of cyclists and runners.

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