First, a confession. I am not a hard-core runner. To be honest, I was feeling a tad out of shape when the folks at Adidas and Polar Electro Canada asked me to test out Fusion, billed as the world's first integrated training system. Heart-rate technology is not new, but this is the first time a company has built digital sensors right into running apparel to measure everything from distance to pacing. Rather than having to wear a separate heart-rate monitor and stride sensor, you just gear up and go.
A removable stride sensor can be placed in either sole of a pair of adiStar Fusion running shoes ($160). The system also features a lightweight sleeveless running top ($90) with built-in electrodes that measure heart beats per minute and number of kilocalories burned. Data is transmitted wirelessly to a heart-rate-monitor watch attached around your wrist ($589.99). Matching shorts ($60) add snazz factor.
Anatomy of the run
Once I'd figured out how to use the watch, I enlisted the help of my brother-in-law, a triathlete and personal trainer, to interpret the data. Distance, pace, heart rate and calories burned are all fairly self-explanatory. But the Fusion system also measures average stride (in centimetres), cadence (strides per minute–a measure of one's running efficiency), altitude and ascent. My first challenge? A half-hour run on a back road near my northern Ontario cottage. Unfortunately, the electrodes in the top didn't adhere properly to my skin, so it didn't capture the beats per minute.
Take two. This time I hit the treadmill. Based on the advice of Polar sales rep Kevin Macer, I moistened the top's electrodes with water to ensure they stuck. It worked. I ran 4.5 kilometres in just over 25 minutes, or at an average pace of about five minutes per kilometre. Calories burned? 281. My average heart rate was 173 beats per minute, or 91% of my maximum heart rate (code for: I'm working way too hard.) And my maximum cadence was 80, based on an average stride length of 110 centimetres. Not great, but at least I have a benchmark to work from.
At $900 for the entire outfit, this gear isn't cheap. But I can see how it could be helpful for a competitive runner analyzing each lap of their run. The watch beeps each time you complete a kilometre or mile, allowing you to wirelessly sync it up with the heart-rate monitor for a tally of your performance. Another perk? The Fusion system comes with software to download your run data onto a computer (only PCs at present). For me, the best part is that this gear is extremely self-motivating. After all, instead of a trainer barking at me, the data speaks for itself.
Running top $90 This lightweight running shimmel features two snaps on the front to accommodate the WearLink transmitter.
AdiStar Fusion running shoes, $160 Stylish runners with pockets built into the sole of each shoe to house the stride sensor.
Running shorts $60 Although these breathable, lightweight shorts are optional, they help to snazz up the outfit.
Polar RS 800sd running heart-rate monitor $589.99
Includes the watch, WearLink transmitter and the stride sensor.
Polar WearLink transmitter This transmitter snaps into the front of the running top and sends heart-rate data to the watch.
Winner of the first modern marathon, in 1896: Spiridon Louis
World record for the mens' marathon, set by Kenya's Paul Tergat, in 2003: 2:04:55
World record for the womens' marathon, set by U.K.'s Paula Radcliffe, in 2003: 2:15:25