These products are sleek, savvy, and best of all, smart. New technology in the fitness space helps you train more efficiently while improving form.
Total Body Board
The growing collection of elite athletes in and around Austin is one of the many things that make our city an exciting one in which to live, train and compete. AFM checked in recently with San Marcos resident and Olympic Gold Medalist Charles Austin (high jump, 1996 Atlanta games) to see what we could learn about his training methods and his invention, the Total Body Board.
Austin holds the Olympic record, American record and the world Master’s record in the high jump, but his elite competitive career was almost over before it began when he suffered a training injury in the early 1990s. Seeking a way to train hard without having to beat up his surgically repaired knee with thousands of heavy squats, deadlifts and plyometric jumps, he discovered resistance bands.
The key feature of bands is the progressive resistance they provide—a user is forced to work through increasing resistance as the band’s length increases. The key feature of the Total Body Board is its versatility in applying this progressive resistance in multiple planes to improve all kinds of things. The TBB website description claims an athlete using it can expect to improve aerobic capacity, muscular strength and power, flexibility and balance. We found it to be a pretty creative combination of an old school slide board, a vertical jump training platform, and a multi-station resistance training hub with room for six or so athletes at a time.
AFM: What was the inspiration for the TBB?
CA: “Bands were a great tool in my rehab and training. A couple years back, I woke up one night with this great idea, so I grabbed a pencil and paper and sketched out the basics. When I woke up, there it was, and after a quick trip to Home Depot and a little time in the garage and I had the first prototype.”
AFM: What’s it good at? What would you say are the best ways to use it?
CA: “These days, I train athletes of all types, as well as regular people. Everyone wants to be fit, be strong, be lean, be fast. The TBB does so much that it really just depends on what someone’s goals are. It can do it all. All my athletes and clients use it for some or even all their training. I use it too.”
Our Favorite Exercises
• Slide Board Training: After getting used to the movement, we included two- to five-minute intervals in our metcon complexes. The brief time required to unhook bands and get the booties off was a nice time to catch a breath before grabbing the barbell or the slam ball.
• Sprint Training: As a complement to outdoor sprint intervals, the TBB applies resistance to the legs and arms for indoor sprints that reinforce good mechanics while improving power and endurance.
• Rehab (Core, Hamstrings and Hip Flexors): We tried hamstring curls, mountain climbers, drop-step lunges and standing hip ab-/adduction. Great activator and/or rehab exercises.
• Figuring out how and where to anchor the bands and then attach them (to the waist belt and the ankle/thigh/wrist cuffs) takes some time.
• Setup and breakdown of the board when transporting it from one training location to another requires budgeting at least three to four minutes before and after a workout.
• The slide board surface needs an occasional spray and wipe with Pledge or some other furniture polish to keep it slippery.
The TBB is a really creative training tool. It’s versatile, made right here in Texas, and is available in two sizes. The basic accessory kit (included) will allow you to do lots of exercises, and the TBB website provides streaming video how-to’s. Our model’s $1,100 price tag seemed pricey until we pulled out an equipment catalog—a slide board, vertical jump training platform and a collection of resistance bands and anchors would cost considerably more if purchased individually.
BSXinsight Muscle Oxygenation and Lactate Monitor
Want the competitive advantage professional athletes gain from expensive and uncomfortable lab testing in an affordable, wearable device that syncs to a really slick smartphone app without the expense and painful finger sticks at the lab? That’s the promise of the BSXinsight. I’m a geek for data, so this sounded like something worth testing.
My test model arrived right after Christmas. Out of the box, through a quick charging cycle and off to the gym I went in search of a treadmill on which to do the app-driven running endurance test. Suggestion: don’t forget to grab your heart rate monitor if you want that data to track along with what the device provides.
After inputting some personal information and training and racing data (conversational pace/mile, estimated 10K pace/mile, consecutive months of training, days/week and weekly mileage), I was underway. After a three-minute walking warm-up, the app directed me through increases in running pace every three minutes until I’d had enough. Recommended minimum test time is seven stages (21 minutes). I went 33 minutes just to be safe.
I hit ‘Stop’ and as I cooled down, the app directed me to save the test so it could crunch the numbers. For me, the visual display of my estimated anaerobic capacity and the training zones corresponding to it were both interesting and useful. I was motivated immediately to train, improve and test again.
The BSXinsight app also includes an endurance test for cyclists. It is ANT+ compatible, which means it can send data to the display on your GPS watch, your bike computer and/or power meter during workouts. Battery time is about 10 hours. It is sweat resistant, but not waterproof, so swimmers will have to wait for the next generation.
Beyond testing, it can be worn for all training sessions to track similar data.
I loved this thing! Prices range from $299 for the running only model to $419 for the multisport model tested (free shipping included). The value here is in being able to test, train, re-test, adjust your training and test again. If you’re motivated by the measurable and repeatable aspects of training, this is a great tool for your competitive toolbox.
Stridalyzer Smart Insoles
Ever had a running coach, orthopedic doctor or shoe salesperson recommend that you stop pronating, supinating, overstriding, heel-striking or running on your toes?
Stridalyzer smart insoles close the loop between trying to apply the tips you’ve been given and knowing what your body is actually doing when you run. They provide real-time feedback on stride rate, stride length and ground contact time, and give graphical and audible running form feedback and foot and knee stress alerts via the free smartphone app (Apple, Android compatible).
Setup is simple. Charge them with the included mini-USB cable, insert them in place of your stock insoles, pair them via Bluetooth with your phone’s Stridalyzer app, and you’re ready to run.
Running on a treadmill with the app open and in direct line of sight worked well for our first time. The graphical foot and knee stress display was interesting and somewhat useful (green contact zones are good, red ones are bad). Starting the app after a thorough warm-up was completed and my running form had settled into normal mode provided more valid feedback than a pre-warmup start did.
Post-run analytics and guidance on the website were helpful and easy to navigate. Repeated use will allow you and/or your running coach to analyze the hard data, make form adjustments, and track improvements from one training session to the next. Though there’s no substitute for listening to your body when you train, but having some hard data from these insoles to go along with it is a smart play.
With the ongoing debate about heel striking versus mid-foot striking and which works best for performance and injury prevention, Stridalyzers are a tool with potential to help both competitive and recreational runners. The entry level Marathon version ($99) and Performance version ($129) will set you back less than a pair of running shoes. Just prior to press time the Stridalyzer pod ($39), an under-insole or laces-mounted mini-version with some of the same measures, was added to the product lineup.