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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Running high on gizmos

Apps, gadgets and classes help athletes to track their regimen and improve their performance.
The Straits Times - August 24, 2012
By: Rachel Chan
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Running high on gizmos -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

For a small country, Singapore has more than its fair share of long-distance sports enthusiasts going to great lengths in the great outdoors in running, biking or swimming.

Take the annual Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, the most popular and biggest fitness event held here.

The number of participants has jumped from 6,300 in 2002 to 65,000 last year. The organiser, the Singapore Sports Council, has increased the number of vacancies for its running clinics from 400 last year to 480 this year as demand takes off.

And the National Library Board's loans of books covering sports nutrition, training techniques, fitness and injury prevention have increased from 7,100 to 17,000 over the past five years, said Ms Amarjeet Kaur Gill, director of its public library services.

"In response to this growing interest in running and cycling, we have expanded our collection of such books by more than 40 per cent," she added.

But these days, hitting the trails equipped with just a pair of sports shoes and a good old stopwatch does not cut it.

There are gadgets, gizmos and apps galore.

And amateur athletes are forking out big bucks for these add-ons to be a leap ahead in their training.

Take Finnish brand Polar. Its watches measure your heart-rate, timing and speed - at prices that go up to $819. A Polar spokesman for the Singapore market said that sales of its products have been steadily increasing 10 per cent year-on-year for the past five years.

Athletes lap up such gadgets as they can download the information for analysis after a workout or a race.

For businessman and restaurateur Nic Seng, 26, a US$249.99 (S$312) Garmin Edge 500 bike computer attached to his road bike helps him keep track of his cadence, speed, distance covered, heart-rate and calories burnt. A normal speedometer does not do all that, he says.

Once overweight from overeating and lack of exercise, he lost 15kg in three months this year due to cycling and is monitoring his calories strictly to avoid regaining any kilos.

"I intend to get a heart-rate monitor so I can monitor the calories I burnt even more accurately," he says.

Swimmers, too, swear by their gadgets. For interior designer James Tan, 29, it is his fancy Garmin 910XT watch. He says: "It gives us the timing of our swim, the speed per lap and the total distance covered. When we are in open water, it is not possible to track how far we have swum without a gadget."

If you do not want to splash out on gadgets, there are apps galore to track your route, teach you how to diet, time you and tell you how far you have gone. Then you just upload the data onto social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter.

There is also another "app" - application, as in learning skills for outdoors sports. Classes teaching you how to run better and swim in open water - a requirement of triathlons - have become more popular.

Seasoned triathlete David Lim, 44, a full-time swim coach and triathlon instructor, has 38 students in his weekly running classes, up from 14 students two years ago.

"I correct their running posture, make them practise race drills and help them improve their speed work," he says.

He uses gadgets ranging from Garmin and Polar watches to his iPhone to monitor his progress.

"I try not to be overly reliant on these devices, but I will take them out for a run once every three weeks to a month," he says. "It's just like seeing a doctor, to check whether my gut feel about my performance is accurate."

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