Measure every heartbeat, sprint and kick

Sport, from elite football to running, is being transformed by wearable technology. Here’s some of the best on offer

When Germany smashed in their extra-time winner in this year’s FIFA World Cup™ final in Rio, a “never to be forgotten” moment in time was created for millions. For the coaches, it was a dramatic endorsement of their methods, in particular their use of the wearable technology pioneered by adidas.

The German football association, together with performance consultancy EXOS, relied on adidas miCoach Elite Team System (ETS) to monitor players during training.

Not that the technology gave Germany an unfair advantage. After all, the Argentina team facing them in the final, featuring Lionel Messi, were also honed using the same adidas technology.
So what is this system? And how is it being used by two of the best teams in the world?

In a nutshell, the adidas miCoach ETS measures player performance in real time. Players are rigged up with monitoring devices which relay biometric information back to tablet computers held by the coaches.

The ETS tracks speed, distance run, acceleration, heart rate and power. As footballers leap, sprint, shoot and run, the staff can identify who is doing what as the session unfolds.

Darcy Norman of EXOS explains: “One of the key metrics we track is power – how much power a player produces relative to their physiologic response to that power output. The more power a player generates during an exercise without burning too much energy, the more efficient and fit they are. If they generate a low power number with a large metabolic response, we know they’re fatiguing and that we need to keep a close eye on them.”

The adidas miCoach software allows each player’s performance to be tracked over time. The approach takes the guesswork out of training.

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adidas makes similar technology available for consumers at all levels and across multiple sports.
The adidas Speed Cell and X Cell are sensors that can be worn on the pitch or court in competitive play. Acting like a coach’s eyes on the sideline, they record similar information to the ETS that can then be uploaded to a mobile app for analysis after the game. Players can use this information to identify strengths and weaknesses, and focus their training for the most performance gain.

The adidas Smart Run wrist watch measures the biometric levels of individual athletes in training. A GPS tracks movement over the ground. An accelerometer counts every step, allowing stride rate to be regulated. And an optical heart-rate monitor in the base of the watch opens up an entire field of cardio training, essential for effective endurance training.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this tech revolution is how democratic it is

The Smart Run watch has a large easy-to-read colour touchscreen so athletes can view all data during their session. But since it can be hard to focus on digits during a sprint, the Run Smart also
uses a LCD colour screen and unique colour-coded system to communicate performance levels at a glance. The screen colours change blue, green, yellow or red, depending on the ferocity of the session in comparison to pre-set targets. In a split second, the athlete knows whether to pick up the pace or ease up.

A Bluetooth® connection enables the use of a wireless headset which will augment the visual guidance with audible narration and, with three-gigabyte capacity for MP3s, lets the athlete listen to their favourite tunes. When the data is uploaded afterwards, the forensic analysis begins.

The adidas miCoach web platform offers world-class data crunching. Log-in and you’ll be able to see a record of past performances in easy-to-read chart form. Crucially, miCoach offers a personalised planning service. Pick a cardio plan and miCoach will help you set goals.

Want to add a few new moves to your workout routine? There are more than 400 different exercises in the miCoach database, complete with weight, repetition and circuit recommendations.

For athletes who don’t need the GPS function, the Fit Smart watch is a lower-cost sibling. The same miCoach analysis is available, and the colour-coded system is delivered through bright LEDs to keep you motivated and guide you throughout your workout.

For iPhone, Android or Windows phone users, there’s free a miCoach app that offers much of the same functionality on mobile devices and works as a great companion to the watches.

One final eye-catching innovation – footballers are told to love the ball, but they have never found out whether the ball loves them back… until now. The adidas Smart Ball is a match-quality size 5 football, but comes with integrated sensors suspended in the middle of the ball. These sensors track the forces placed on the ball. Blast it and find out how hard you kicked. Add a little Beckham-esque swerve to your shot and it’ll tell you just what spin and power you applied.

The information is relayed instantly to the miCoach app on your smartphone, so you can retrace precisely what you’ve done. If your knuckleball free kick isn’t getting that tell-tale dip, you’ll know why (clue: you’ll need zero spin, which is seriously tricky to master). The ball is available from adidas online and at Apple stores among other places, and following rave reviews is set to be a huge hit this Christmas.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this tech revolution is how democratic it is. An under-14 side can train with the same Smart Ball as the World Cup holders. A keen amateur runner can harness the same technology that gets elite athletes into peak condition.

These sensors really do work. All you have to do is start using them.

For more information visit www.micoach.adidas.com