Technology is helping athletes push their bodies to exploit their full potential. There is a saying that the athlete with the best scientists behind him wins and that’s never been more true than today. Technology is enabling athletes to focus ever more precisely on areas for improvement and hone their technique. With the spread of mobile technology, athletes are able to review the results of their training as they train. Coaches can film a dive for example and review it frame by frame at the poolside, comparing it to previous dives to drive improvements. However, sometimes even the best training can’t guarantee gold as our boys found out in the diving this week, despite their best efforts.
In training U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones has done her training with 39 reflective stickers on her body. These enable 40 motion capture cameras to capture her runs at a rate of 2,000 frames per second. This means that they can accurately calculate her centre of mass and analyse any part of the jump. You can find out more about Lolo’s training in this Wired piece. Watch the video in it, it’s fascinating.
Olympic athletes are willing subjects for this kind of experiment – anything to boost their performance legally! A number of health-tracking companies have homed in on the 2012 games to improve their products. For example, cyclists in the US track cycling team are using a glucose monitor, used mainly by diabetics to help manage blood sugar, together with a sleep monitor from Zeo and genetic reports from Pathway Genomics that indicate nutritional requirement and muscular capacity. This will hopefully help them sleep and train better.
All of this data has led to some interesting results. For example it was found that there is an optimum amount of deep sleep that cyclists need to have the best performance on the track. However, they are also keeping this precise amount close to their chests! The team was then able to adjust their lifestyles including eating habits to attain this precise level of sleep.
Most of us are not Olympic level athletes but this technology could have exciting impacts on the health industry in the future. Olympic athletes are human beings at the peak of their physical fitness and the information they are donating shows exactly what the human body is capable of. The data could affect not just the sleep of everyday people but could reveal a host of information that would enable us all to live healthier lives. For example, maybe information about recovery times after training could be used to help people heal faster from injuries or lose weight. Even if these experiments could just help reduce the burden that diabetes places on the NHS, this in itself would be a huge achievement.
However, until the scientists have decided how this data can be applied to us normal human beings we might just have to watch this space.