It’s all about looking good…or is it?
“This is not just a simple game of fashion design.”
New disciplines in sport science have had an unparalleled impact on human performance. Biomechanics, psychology, sport nutrition, and biochemistry have pushed the legal limits of our abilities in athletics.
I have always appreciated the influence technology has on sport performance. For good or bad, there is always something to be learned. Human curiosity has pushed us to a better understanding of our potential, and how to achieve it.
The sport clothing and apparel industry established its rightful place in the technology conversation, and it is as competitive as any industry on the planet.
But, this is not just a simple game of fashion design.
It’s a game of think tanks, secret labs, testing facilities, and multi-million dollar investments in experimental technologies. I’m not talking about some run of the mill engineering. These are technologies that must not only impact human achievement, but make us look good at the same time—and they all have to work by simply lacing up a shoe or slipping on a shirt.
In the sport and fitness world, technology has touched everyone—from youth development, to the weekend warriors, to the world’s top athletes. In fact, the impact science has had on performance is so powerful that virtually every athletic governing body now has technology mandates, and guidelines for equipment, facilities and yes, even clothing.
In light of this, in 2006, the World Anti-Doping Agency began a consultation on technology, to better understand how engineering might impact sport performance outcomes. This led to the realization that an unfair competitive advantage can occur due to technological advancements. This is now recognized as an official threat to the integrity of sport, and is called Technology Doping.
While we all know about the standardization of equipment, like the regulation of bats in baseball, or racquet-length in tennis, or the club guidelines in golf, there are also restrictions and guidelines on playing surfaces, facilities, artificial limbs, and most certainly, clothing.
Take, for example, swimsuits: The Speedo LZR Racer was so effective it is now regulated in swimming competition. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 23 of the 25 swim records that were broken were done so by swimmers in LZR suits.
The next year, at the 2009 World Championships in Rome – the technology plot thickened!
“In the sport and fitness world, technology has touched everyone.”
The Influence of Wearable Technology in Sport
At the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, 43 world records fell—not due to better athletes, better preparation, or atmospheric conditions, but in large part due to science. In Rome, it was the NASA-designed Speedo LZR swimsuit that turned the swimming world upside down! Much like the get-ups worn by other notable super humans, such as Captain America, Superman, Spiderman, or Susan Storm (played by Jessica Alba) of the Fantastic 4, the Speedo LZR suit took human abilities to new levels. It was designed to mimic shark skin!
In the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Canadian and US ski teams wore the Spyder suit. Claims were made that this technology reduced drag in wind tunnel testing by one to three percent. Over a 100 second downhill course that could mean a one-half second to one full second faster time, which is a podium of difference for the world’s top skiers.
Heading into the 2012 London Olympics, the technology/performance quest continued, as Nike pushed human achievement on the track with the introduction of the Pro TurboSpeed suit. Researchers claimed the suit could significantly impact performance times in the 100, 200, and 400 metre events. The TurboSpeed suit’s design has golf-ball style dimples worked into the fabric, which reduces the aerodynamic drag. In 100 metre test trials, the suit cut times by 0.023 seconds, which is a monumental period of time within the most exciting 10 seconds in all of sport—the Olympic 100 metre final! In fact, that amount of time would have meant a silver medal, rather than bronze, for Walter Dix at the Beijing Games.
Nike did not stop there. For the marathon, they put together a shoe 19% lighter than their previous marathon shoe. Putting that in perspective, spokespeople at Nike say that over the typical 40,000 steps taken during a marathon, the 19% savings adds up to the weight of your average car.
On a greener note, 82% of the Nike Pro TurboSpeed’s polyester fabric is made from 13 recycled water bottles. The basketball uniform for the 2012 “Dream Team” was made from 22 recycled bottles.
As science pushes us forward in virtually every aspect of our lives, I am excited about the incredible advancements in the arena of performance clothing and wearable technology. TurboSpeed suits; LZR suits; smart clothing; compression shorts, and thermo-regulating fabrics are all designed to take us a little closer to realizing what it really feels like to achieve human maximum achievement.
It all works to the consumer’s advantage. The apparel companies know the new performance clothing has to be functional, and they know it has to look good, as well. So, get out there and check into the new wearable technology and fashion. There is a lot of cool new gear that could really impact your training and performance.
And, hey…two minutes for looking so good!