Measure of success

Go­ing for a run is no longer enough – Jenny Southan re­veals how a data-driven ap­proach to your work­out can help you be­come fit­ter, faster and stronger

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - FITNESS -

My in­duc­tion to Third Space gym in Lon­don’s Soho in­volves stand­ing on a fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing weigh­ing ma­chine and grip­ping two metal prongs while an elec­tric cur­rent passes through me (thank­fully, I can’t feel it). On the screen, the out­line of a fig­ure be­gins to fill in, and read­ings show what per­cent­age wa­ter, pro­tein, min­eral and fat I am. I won’t share the num­bers, but it was cer­tainly en­light­en­ing.

Weight is a crude read­ing of one’s phys­i­cal make-up, while BMI (body mass in­dex), de­rived from your weight di­vided by your height, is not much bet­ter. Us­ing this cal­cu­la­tion, some­one mus­cu­lar could be con­sid­ered obese be­cause mus­cle is heav­ier than fat.

The InBody Anal­y­sis ma­chine is more sci­en­tific, giv­ing com­pre­hen­sive read­ings of your en­tire phys­i­ol­ogy – whether your skele­tal mus­cle mass is nor­mal, how much vis­ceral fat you have around your in­ter­nal or­gans (not too much, hope­fully), how much wa­ter is in your sys­tem (both in­tra- and ex­tra-cel­lu­lar), and the dis­tri­bu­tion of lean mass ver­sus fat around your arms, trunk and legs.

A typ­i­cal gym in­duc­tion might in­clude a ques­tion­naire about your lifestyle, the tak­ing of a few vi­tal statis­tics, and some ad­vice on how to use the ma­chines. At Third Space (thirdspace.lon­don), which has four clubs in Lon­don, you won’t start train­ing un­til your data has been an­a­lysed. The body scan­ner will also pro­vide a mean­ing­ful map of your progress – work hard, and af­ter a month you’ll see an in­crease in mus­cle and a de­crease in fat.

Third Space’s free “Out/Set” bio­met­ric as­sess­ment was devel­oped by per­sonal trainer Luke Wor­thing­ton. For £150 (US$195), you can also take a DNA test to find out your ge­netic strengths and weak­nesses. Wor­thing­ton sets a se­ries of ex­er­cises so he can see your move­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties – so if you don’t have per­fect form when it comes to a hip hinge (ef­fec­tively bend­ing down to pick some­thing up), he won’t put any dead­lifts in your regime.

“The pur­pose is to get as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble about peo­ple be­fore set­ting them loose in the gym,” he says.“I come from a pro­fes­sional sport background so my idea was to bring some of what we did in that world to the public. The in­dus­try is very goal-ori­ented – get the beach body, run the 10k, get to point B, but with­out any con­cep­tion of what point A is. That was where we were go­ing wrong. Not all be­gin­ners are rub­bish at ev­ery­thing, and even some­one very ad­vanced will have weak spots.”


As the de­mand for per­sonal train­ing con­tin­ues, we can ex­pect more gyms to of­fer data-based pro­grammes – and more body scan­ning ma­chines in re­cep­tion. Fit3D scan­ners have re­cently been in­stalled in high-end gyms such as Equinox, which has dozens of lo­ca­tions in the US, UK and Canada, while Styku 3D scan­ners are now avail­able in more than 25 coun­tries.

The tech­nol­ogy is seen to be ef­fec­tive not only at get­ting peo­ple off the couch, but in mo­ti­vat­ing them to con­tinue ex­er­cis­ing as they see their body change. It also pairs well with wear­able fit­ness track­ers for real-time read­ings. In 2016, more than 50 mil­lion fit­ness track­ers (not in­clud­ing smart­watches) were sold, ac­cord­ing to re­search com­pany CCS In­sight. By 2020, they are ex­pected to ex­ceed 165 mil­lion.

Keen triathloner Gemma Tay­lor uses cy­cling and run­ning app Strava. “It tracks all my ac­tiv­i­ties so I can quickly see an over­view of all the train­ing I have com­pleted over many weeks at a time,” she says. “This helps me to push harder and fur­ther. I am train­ing for a marathon so I’ll use it to track my weekly mileage and make sure I’m hit­ting my tar­gets.”

David Howaston, mas­ter trainer for fit­ness equip­ment man­u­fac­turer Techn­o­gym, says: “Apps and track­ing de­vices have changed the way we ap­proach ex­er­cise, mak­ing users more self-aware of their ha­bit­ual move­ment. Techn­o­gym helps peo­ple to track their work­outs via My­well­ This [cloud-based plat­form] al­lows users to log in to their own work­out any­where in the world, be it out­doors or in a hotel gym with Techn­o­gym Unity screens. When trav­el­ling, you can use the My Run­ning Log­book to re-cre­ate your favourite out­door run on a tread­mill.”


The fi­nal piece in the puz­zle is the role your genes play, and the good news is DNA test­ing has fi­nally be­come af­ford­able and easy (see “All in the genes”, June 2017 is­sue). In 2013, UK fit­ness trainer Matt Roberts be­gan of­fer­ing per­son­alised train­ing based on your ge­netic re­sponse to nu­tri­tion and ex­er­cise.

He part­ners with DNAFit (, which in­ter­prets 30 genes and their vari­ants. Any­one can or­der one on­line and a saliva sam­ple will, for ex­am­ple, high­light the ACTN3 “power gene”, which is com­mon in Olympic ath­letes, and the FTO “fat gene”, which de­ter­mines how likely your body is to store sat­u­rated fat. Other sen­sors in­di­cate sports in­jury re­silience and whether you are bet­ter suited to power or en­durance

ac­tiv­ity. Roberts says a DNA test can show “ex­actly what it is about your body that would make train­ing eas­ier”.

If you don’t have ac­cess to a trainer or gym that can pro­vide you with a bio­met­ric work­out, DNAFit can pro­vide one for you vir­tu­ally. Once you have your results, you can sign up for one of its “El­e­vate” pro­grammes (100 Day Fat Burner or 100 Day Mus­cle Builder), which use the “world’s first and only proven ge­netic train­ing al­go­rithm” to cre­ate a be­spoke sched­ule. Know­ing, for in­stance, that you have the po­ten­tial for fast re­cov­ery and that you re­spond best to power train­ing means you could cope with daily weight lifting and spin­ning classes.

Still, per­sonal trainer and for­mer Royal Ma­rine Com­mando Philip McDougall warns that it’s also im­por­tant to lis­ten to your in­stincts: “Fit­ness track­ing tools can help be­gin­ners to gauge things such as pace and dis­tance, but I’m per­son­ally against tech be­ing in­volved in fit­ness mon­i­tor­ing for reg­u­lar ex­er­cis­ers, apart from a sim­ple stop­watch or in­ter­val timer. Run­ners should plan their route, mem­o­rise dis­tance mark­ers and rely on feed­back from their own bod­ies.”

Above: Techn­o­gym’s Myrun home tread­mill streams data to your tablet

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