Get fit with smart sports
Garner greater insight into your sporting skills
Fitness trackers have been one of the great technology success stories of recent years, with dozens of attractively designed fitness bands and sports watches now offering a variety of high-tech features for monitoring your performance during exercise. However, most fitness bands and watches are simply designed as general-purpose devices for use in the gym or when you’re out running. They’re fine for checking how far you run or walk each day but, of course, there are many people who focus their efforts on other sports that may require more specialised features and equipment.
Apple is clearly aiming at a more serious sporting audience with the new Series 2 version of the Apple Watch. The original Watch was limited by the need to pair it with an iPhone, which immediately ruled out it out for many sports as you could only use it if you also had an iPhone strapped to your arm the whole time. However, the Series 2 has built-in GPS, which means that you can leave your iPhone safely at home and use Watch Series 2 to monitor speed and distance travelled for running, cycling, hiking and many other sports. Admittedly, Apple’s got plenty of competition here, with products such as the new TomTom Spark 3 range, which includes a number of models between £120 and £220 that are designed for a variety of different sports. Garmin is another big name here, with its high-tech Fenix watches that look like something out of a James Bond film and are even more expensive than the Apple Watch. Of course, the other big improvement in Watch Series 2 is that it’s water-resistant. That opens it up to an entirely new audience, including people who simply swim for fun and exercise, as well as more competitive swimmers. There are a number of fairly conventional fitness bands that are waterproof and can be used in the pool, such as the Swimmer’s Edition of the popular Misfit Shine (£85), but the more competitive swimmer might want to look at a specialised swimming watch, such as the Garmin Swim (£130),
which can track your speed and distance, and also analyse the efficiency of your swimming strokes to help you to improve your performance in the pool.
Take your best shot
Of course, not all sports are about speed. Though you can cover a lot of ground when playing tennis or golf, that’s less important than the accuracy of your putting or your two-handed backhand (and the less said about the England squad’s record on penalties, the better).
There are quite a few smart devices designed for golfers, including handheld sensors and watches that can compile statistics such as the number and distance of shots as you progress around a course. But, if you want to improve the actual quality of your shots, you can try the popular Zepp Golf sensor, which was recently updated to version 2 (£140) – don’t buy the old version 1 by mistake. This attaches to your glove and monitors the full 3D movement and speed of each swing so that the Zepp app can offer tips on how to improve.
Zepp makes a similar sensor for tennis, and another for baseball players. The former attaches to the racquet handle in order to analyse your speed, backswing, and spin (or lack of it). It also has a special ‘serve’ mode that animates your service action on your iPhone screen so you can see where all those double faults are coming from. Babolat makes a tennis racquet with a built-in sensor, but that obviously limits your choice of racquet and will only appeal to hardcore Babolat fans.
Yes, you can even get a smart football too. There are a number of wearable sensors that you can use to monitor your movement and speed on a football pitch, but if you really want to get serious then the Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball has a sensor inside it that can measure the speed, spin and trajectory of every single kick. That data is then transmitted to your iPhone and analysed by the Adidas app, which can offer advice and drills to help you improve. It’s a little pricey at around £140 per ball, but we’d suggest that this week’s England Manager, [Insert Name Here], buys a bunch of these for Rooney and the lads.
There are more advanced devices too, including motion-capture systems that can monitor every movement of your entire body in order to improve performance or reduce the risk of injury. That’s getting more into the realm of professional sport, but most of the devices we’ve mentioned here are affordable enough for many amateur athletes. Of course, buying one of these devices doesn’t automatically make you better at your chosen sport. However, it can at least show you areas where your skills are lacking and need to improve, after which the rest of the effort to get there is up to you.
Apple Watch Series 2 ups its game when it comes to exercise. All models are water-resistant to 50m.
Zapp’s Tennis sensor tracks and analyses your swing and offers three-dimensional analysis to help improve your racket position.