The baseball movie “Moneyball” and the 2014 German Soccer team’s use of Match Insights both showed how athlete data analysis can help win championships. Today, anyone can track their activity like professional athletes and quantified-self fitness buffs, but not everyone can bear the brunt of data overload from wearable technologies.
Wearable technologies and mobile applications that track daily steps, runs or bike ride distances, heart rates and sleep patterns can be extremely rewarding, according to Craig Friedman, vice president of the performance innovation team at EXOS, a health and fitness company that helps measure athlete performance.
“Technology has really helped facilitate a better understanding of what’s going on with the whole body,” said Friedman.
But Friedman sees this digitization of performance hitting a significant inflection point.
“It’s giving people insights that once required an exercise physiology lab, but the data has come faster than the ability or knowledge to know what to do with it,” he said.
Friedman specializes in MLB spring training preparation, worked with the German men’s national soccer team in 2006, and travelled with the WTA tennis tour in 2001. Over the past few decades, he has witnessed the rise of quantifiable training in professional sports.
“Data for data sake without insight and context really isn’t valuable to many people beyond the subset of quantified-self individuals,” he said.
It’s clear to him coaches will play a critical role in helping people use performance data to develop truly personal fitness regimes.
Friedman said that’s the gist behind EXOS’s decision to team up with Intel. If coaches and trainers learn how to use technology that collects and analyzes performance data, they can help more people reach optimal health.
“Taking a step back from the data then really understanding the individual and what they want from a benefit standpoint helps us frame up that data in different ways that are more relevant to a particular person’s needs,” said Friedman.
Taking a certain number of steps each day, feeling more energetic or less stressful or losing weight are all different priorities for individuals, said Friedman. Starting with benefits or desired results can indicate what data to use.
“If you want to lose weight, are you active enough?,” asked Friedman.
Tracking the number of steps and other daily movement as well as data about diet and sleep over time can help identify areas where behavior changes increase changes for achieving health goals.
Looking ahead, Friedman points to people’s desire to “be like Mike (Jordan),” or other professional athletes. He sees performance data as a great motivator.
“Many people, especially younger fans participating in the sport, are interested in how they stack up against pro athletes,” said Friedman.
Although comparing personal fitness data with professional athletes isn’t easy today, Friedman believes a common language around performance standards would help. It’s something EXOS does today with professional athletes.
“We take data about someone’s performance capabilities across mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery, and quantify it into an overall performance quotient score,” said Friedman.
Once people have their own performance quotient score, Friedman said they could use it to create a healthy training regime so their performance data can compete against their favorite athlete.
People are being exposed to new kinds of performance data from professional athletes in many sports. For snowboarders, hitting earth with a force of 10Gs could be considered a soft landing, but until a small tracking device placed on snowboards at the Winter X Games delivered the data, it was difficult to tell for sure.
Like runners wearing fitness trackers, X Games athletes in two men’s events – Slopestyle and Big Air – fitted their snowboards with a pencil eraser-sized Intel Curie compute module.
The module connected to an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, barometer and GPS technology to get measurement for things like velocity, air time, height, distance and rotation.
By knowing an athlete’s acceleration in relation to free-fall speed, fans watching the snowboard competition now had a new scientific statistic to compare across other daredevil athletes. It also made many amateur snowboarders curious about the G-force threshold they’d need to maintain for a smooth landing.
If the Winter X Games is any indication, having insightful performance data is a great motivator for pro and amateur athletes alike.