Pic caption: Wearable fitness tracker Incus Nova is one of several ways you can personalise your training (credit: Incus)
More than ever before, fitness has become all about your own performance. Technology and science mean that the days of generalisation are long behind us.
Think about it: clocking 100 miles a week can produce very different outcomes depending on your age, weight and physical make-up. Of course, average stats are fine to start us off – run three times a week for six weeks and reap the long-term benefits as a habit for life is established – but we’re all individuals who react to things differently, which is why we’ve looked at what’s on offer today when it comes to diet, nutrition, training and generally getting the most from your body.
It used to be that you’d need a professional team to analyse your data and advise you on the correct path to take – something akin to the medical back-up programme a premier league footballer enjoys – but today you have access to all you need right now, at a good price!
DNA tells you all you need to know
It’ll come as no surprise to learn that our genetic differences can affect how we absorb nutrients. But, thanks to some incredible advances in technology, a far better understanding of those needs is just a home swab kit away.
We’re probably all aware of government recommended daily allowances (RDAs), but as trail runners what we perhaps don’t understand is that our requirements can be very different to the national average. A test is not only fascinating, but it’s also hugely important and tells you where and when to make changes. The results will show you how you use fat, what carbohydrates mean to you, what your vitamin D levels are, and more. A DNA test from NGX will supply you with that information, while the personalised shake recipe you’ll receive has been formulated according to your results and will correct any deficiencies your results may have highlighted. “Gone are the days of a cookie cutter approach to nutrition,” says nutritionist Olga Hamilton. “Instead, this targets your own needs”
The test may, for instance, highlight that you need slightly more B9, a good source of which is green, leafy vegetables. Or it could be that you need more B12 and need to eat more food from an animal (or, if you’re not carnivorous, supplement accordingly). There’s analysis of how you use caffeine, and your antioxidant level, which can be reduced given the depleted selenium in European soils. Boost it with Brazil nuts, says Olga. “Although be careful as they can radioactive,” she adds. Now there’s a fact you didn’t know! Either way, improved antioxidant levels are vital for recovery and general health. Analysis will also tell you how well you use vitamin A, which could in turn sound warning bells if you’re a vegan or thinking of becoming one. Low levels can be reversed by eating organ meats such as chicken livers (clearly not an option for a vegan or vegetarian, but nonetheless a good source).
Home test and personalised nutrition package: nutri-genetix.com
The vitamin of the moment
The primary function of vitamin D is for bone health and to help regulate calcium metabolism. Other health benefits include regulating the immune system, contributing to cardiovascular and lung health as well as protecting against some cancers. An adequate intake of vitamin D has also been shown to reduce depression.
Particularly in the UK as we don’t get sunshine all year round, spring and summer are optimal times to absorb vitamin D from sunlight. As our bodies may not be absorbing as much sunshine as they normally would during the current time of year, it’s worth consuming more vitamin D-rich foods.
Vitamin D is available in two forms in nature: vitamins D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms are great, but vitamin D3 has a higher bioavailability and is the active form of vitamin D in the body. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may not be getting an adequate intake of vitamin D3, as it is mostly found in animal products. Research suggests that we should be having a much higher intake than the recommended daily amounts of vitamin D with the use of supplements, especially if you’re not getting enough sunlight, says head of nutrition at Huel, James Collier (uk.huel.com). Huel now makes consuming complete nutrition easier and more accessible through their new Hot and Savoury range – a range of 100% vegan, nutritionally complete instant meals that redefine quick and healthy lunches with all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Alternatively, nutritionist Rob Hobson has revealed a surprising way to get that vital vitamin D boost – with the answer lying in the fridge or kitchen cupboard. He has revealed that the humble mushroom, when exposed to the sun, can provide as much vitamin D as a health supplement.
Much like our skin, mushrooms transform ultraviolet light from the sun into the vitamin and continue to do so even after harvesting. Rob explains why mushrooms are now qualified to join the ranks of other so-called ‘superfoods.’
“Mushrooms often go unnoticed in the fruit and veg rainbow that we’re advised to eat. They are commonly overlooked as a significant source of the sunshine vitamin D.
“As we prepare to spend less time in the daylight in winter, we need to explore different ways of finding how to best get what our bodies need. Mushrooms can even be bought specially enriched with vitamin D.”
A matter of measurement
Analysing the numbers available to us has always played a central role in running, be that the time you ran for your last 10-miler, your personal record for a favourite route, or even the time it took to run a great trail run that involved stopping for a coffee and admiring the views. Consciously we all make a mental note of it. Now Incus can go that one step – or in actual fact, about 100 steps further – and provide measurement, analysis and more importantly engagement as to what it all means. “It’s all about understanding the numbers provided and asking yourself what I can do tomorrow to move on,” says Chris Ruddock, who has been behind the creation of this simple to use piece of kit.
Basically, you download the app, switch the pod on, insert in your apparel and get running. The experts you now have on hand thanks to the tech provided will do the rest. “Tech is only as good as the insights it provides. And even then, it is only good if you can act on it,” continues Chris.
Along with the usual information, there’s a fascinating insight into running power and cadence, along with body position, and how you react when running up and downhill. Olympic triathlon champion Alastair Brownlee is using the technology to smooth out his form, which he says sees him favouring one side more than the other.
Certainly, here at Trail Running, we found the individual insight fascinating. Creating an effective running programme for yourself has always been about adapting and adjusting the basic elements to make them work more effectively for yourself. And now, using something like this pod, that becomes much easier to achieve.
The Incus Nova
This wearable fitness tracker will allow for access to detailed performance metrics such as running power, cadence, pace, take-off acceleration and landing deceleration, alongside the extensive range of data obtainable from a swimming stroke for all you budding triathletes out there. Prices start at £199.99, which includes everything you need to start using the device, including relevant Incus-enabled apparel, the Incus Nova device, charging cable and reference guide.
Time for tech
Personalised information your watch provides has moved on at an amazing pace in the past 18 months. Garmin’s latest additions to the range include the Index S2, a smart scale with a new weight trend graph feature, enhanced accuracy, and a variety of biometric data, which provides a more holistic view of your health. The Index S2 measures a wide range of biometrics including weight, body fat percentage, BMI, skeletal muscle mass, bone mass and body water percentage. It even has a weather widget to help users plan their day (and the widgets can be turned on or off, so you see only what is relevant to your specific goals).
In addition to this, Garmin are the first company to offer women a smartwatch with a technology ecosystem that covers every element of important health and fitness data, allowing women to really know their bodies better.
“Health tracking has become increasingly more important in the past 12 months as we all try to understand more about our health and wellbeing, says Dr Zoe Williams, GP and Garmin Wellness Ambassador. “But for women going through pregnancy, health and wellbeing have been put under an even bigger microscope than usual. Having to attend appointments on their own, the changing advice on shielding, and the general unknown... being pregnant during a pandemic can be an isolating and anxious experience, even more than normal.”
Some of the key features of Garmin Pregnancy Tracking include:
■ Weekly education on symptoms and weight recommendation range for each stage of pregnancy
■ Tips on exercise and nutrition for each stage of pregnancy and how this will change throughout pregnancy
■ Tracking baby movement and symptoms
■ Tracking contractions and timings