Your Workout Clothes Just Got a Phd

(Photo: Athos)
You may have tried tracking your steps with a Fitbit or your calories burned during spin class with an Apple Watch. But the next frontier of wearables has nothing to do with your wrist.

Instead, the activewear you're already slipping into to sweat is getting (super) smart—from leggings that can check your lunge form to socks and sneakers that track your running pace.

"Technology and big data are being increasingly linked to all aspects of our lives, from how we communicate to how we shop for groceries," says Chris Glodé, the VP of digital for Under Armour Connected Fitness, "and athletic apparel and footwear are no different."

He should know, as Under Armour is one of the companies leading the charge. With a suite of apps that now comprises the world's largest digital health and fitness community, it now sees itself as a tech as well as an apparel company, and it's quickly marrying the two realms.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Athos, which launched in 2014, sells basic tops and bottoms with sensors stitched in that can monitor while muscles you're using while working out. The sensor connects to an app that illuminates the areas of your body you're working, in order to help you target muscle groups properly.

Renowned trainer Josh Holland told me recently he loves using it to keep his clients honest during sessions (as in, you may say you're engaging those glutes but the app don't lie...), and New York Pilates is setting up a Pilates for Runners program where participants will wear Athos garments while they run and do Pilates in order to improve their performance.

Smart activewear
(Photo: Sensoria)

Rapidly expanding fitness fashion brand Yogasmoga announced this week that it made an investment in Wearsafe Labs, a company that makes wearable devices that use GPS technology and Bluetooth that could keep adventurous exercisers safe. (As in, you could press the button after twisting your ankle on a trail run.)

And Sensoria, based outside of Seattle, just started selling its line of smart apparel made for runners last year, including socks, a t-shirt for men, and a sports bra for women. (Another company, OMsignal, is debuting an anticipated bra with a built-in heart-rate monitor and other tracking later this spring.)

Sensoria's socks are super unique because the company developed proprietary textile sensors. In other words, there's no hardware under your heel, just fabric that seems to magically know you're a heel-striker, and you wear an "anklet" that powers the sensors and sends the information to your phone. "The mobile app connects to all of the garments through Bluetooth and is constantly monitoring the parameters," explains Alick Law, Sensoria's director of marketing and business development.

There's no hardware under your heel, just fabric that seems to magically know you're a heel-striker.

So if you wear the socks and bra running and set a goal pace and distance, a digital coach may interrupt your music to tell you you're starting out too fast. And since the sensors are on the bottom of your feet, the sock collects data on how you're landing and calculates an "impact score" to help you adjust your form and prevent injury. "Our goal is to tell you how well you’re running, not just how fast and how far," Law says.

Smart activewear
A very smart shoe: the Speedform Gemini 2 Record Equipped. (Photo: Under Armour)

With a similar goal in mind, Under Armour debuted its SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record Equipped, a running shoe with tracking technology built in. While it doesn't collect as many data points on form as Sensoria's socks, it has plenty of futuristic fitness features.

"Not only does it track and store data including duration, time, distance, cadence, and splits, but it also provides an untethered running experience and allows the athlete to run device-free," Glodé says. "Our goal is to make the workout experience as seamless as possible to make all athletes better, and we believe that in the future, every piece of clothing you wear is going to be connected."

Speaking of upgrading your workout wardrobe, how about an affordable new sports bra? Or make sure you get in on this spring style trend...


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