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November 30, 2014

New technology for runners for Christmas

If you survived Thanksgiving and the big rush of Black Friday, and are now starting to think of buying Christmas gifts for your running friends, an article in Time  magazine may give you some ideas. Buying gifts for runners is not exactly rocket science; but according to the Time  article, it is getting very close to being just that.

There are always the staple items like socks, running shirts, rain gear or maybe a gift certificate for a new pair of shoes.

Technology is making very fast advances on helping a runner keep track of their miles, heart rate and how fast they ran. It started out with a digital watch that kept track of their time in a race.

The next item was a small computer attached to the heel of the shoe that the runner could download onto their home computer to record distance, calories burned, heart rate and loads of other essential data.

Lately the watches have GPS systems included that can tell you where you are and give you a map to get back home if you get lost. It is similar to how people now use an iPad to locate a lost cell phone or a pet dog that has a chip in its ear.

The GPS gives you a close estimate of the distance you ran and how many hills you ran up. Some of them let you record notes on the watch instead of keeping a recorded journal for you to put down in the log. The watches are getting more accurate and recording more data with this new technology.

One of the latest additions to the watches is how much sleep you are getting; not only how much sleep, but it includes what part of the sleep was deep sleep versus twilight sleep.

The Jawbone has a UP3 attachment that uses bioimpedance sensors to measure resistance of body tissue to a tiny electric current generated by the bracelet. The company believes that, in the future, the bracelet will be able to record skin temperature, respiration or breathing rate, hydration and other data.

It seems that these watches will soon be able to record the usual heart rate, distance covered, average pace of the run, time of the run, how many steps you took during the run and how many calories you burned. The Microsoft Band will let you track e-mails and messages while you run. The Fitbit Charge even has a caller ID so you can see if you want to answer the message.

Manufacturers are anticipating the ability of the technology to send messages to your medical doctor to track your health and fitness, as well as any possible problems that might be starting to develop.

In the past, a runner had to be somewhat computer-literate in order to set the watch up to do all of the things it is capable of doing. Today, the systems are getting much easier to use, so that an average runner who doesn’t use computers that much can now set up the watch.

The manufacturers are hoping that runners will become more knowledgeable about their running and how it has impacted their bodies, and therefore become addicted to using this new level of technology.

As with anything new on the market, there is a price to pay for these new advances. Prices range from a low of around $99 to $200, depending on how many things you want on your watch. As this technology becomes more advanced and runners start to buy into the technology, the price will probably go down. The digital watches that started all of this technology that can record your race time can now be purchased for around $20 or less.

A scenario that I thought of using all of this technology is having a wife call 9-1-1 saying she is worried that her husband hasn’t returned from his run. The police officer will stop by and check her smartphone or iPad, and relate to her that her husband has stopped at the local bar for a few beers and to watch the football game after his run. He has had three beers, eaten a pound of pretzels, exaggerated to three friends about how far he actually ran and flirted with the redhead at the end of the bar twice.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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