Can This Activity Tracker Compare to a Running Coach?

New body-sensing technology acts as virtual running coach
Sensoria Fitness

Earlier on The Active Times we evaluated the pros and cons of working with a running coach.

To read part one of this series see: Should You Hire a Running Coach?

For some runners it can be a valuable resource while for others the time and cost involved may not be worth it. In fact, time and money are probably the two biggest barriers that prohibit recreational runners from being able to work with a coach.

Davide Vigano, CEO & Co-Founder of Heapsylon, a company that designs body-sensing, wearable devices, wants to solve this problem with the company's new Sensoria® activity tracking devices.

"It's a system that allows us to inject textile sensors into garments that can be leveraged in running and other activities and sports," says Vigano. "We decided to focus on running though because runners tend to suffer from injuries."

According to Vigano, whether it's IT band pain, plantar fasciitis, or a serious knee injury, 60-70% of runners get hurt every year. However, it's his mission to lower those statistics.

"Running happy is what matters," says Vigano. "Running correctly is what matters most because that's what will allow us to run not only further and faster, but longer over the course of our lives."

The idea behind Sensoria goes beyond helping runners improve performance. The system's creators want to help runners quantifty not just how fast and far they're going, but how well they’re running— all in real time, the same way a human coach might.

"I don’t want to know later tonight if I was over-pronating while I was running," says Vigano. "I want to know while it's happening so that I can focus on fixing it right away."

In addition to providing real-time updates about form, the tracker and accompanying app is designed to send out positive reinforcement when you're running right and will give tips about what to do if something is off.

"We're not necessarily saying that this technology can replace a coach," says Vigano. "But we can tell a runner whether their cadence is changing or where their foot is landing."

The app also stores your data, so if you do work with a coach you can use it to keep track of their guidance when they're not around and later review your technique and performance.

"How do you keep track of what you’re coach is telling you what to do when they’re not there?" asks Vigano. "You can’t take a running coach on the go so our technology can be a great supplement or alternative."

And for runners without a coach who would solely rely on the app, Vigano notes that it's a great tool for keeping performance under control while also improving as you follow a plan that calls for specific mileage and diet, but doesn’t show you how well you’ve been running.
When discussing the pros and cons of real life running coaches Vigano mentioned that another big barrier is finding one that matches your personality. When creating Sensoria Vigano and his team took this into consideration; another unique feature of the system is the ability for users to choose between different coaches.

For example, one of the featured coaches will be Lee Saxby, a top European running coach who works with elite athletes at Harvard and focuses on a natural style of running.

Vigano says the team is currently working on signing on a slew of other expert coaches so that the system will be jam-packed with tips, tricks and advice from all different types of coaches.

At the end of the day we think that while technology can never fully replace the real thing (whether it's with running or anything else), this type of tool definitely has the potential to help runners of all levels and styles make huge improvements in their performance, no matter what their goals might be.

See also: Can Health and Fitness Be Quantified?

We want to know what you think! Can apps, trackers and technology do as good a job as a real running coach? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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