Getting injured is a bitch. There's no other way to put it. Tweaks, twinges, pulls and strains, whatever the affliction it all means time on the sidelines, wreaking havoc with training plans, preventing progress and destroying dreams of personal bests.
But technology is helping us fight back, giving us the tools to spot niggles and prevent injury before it strikes.
Essential reading: Best GPS running watches
From devices that fix our form to tech that tells when we're pushing too hard, here are eight wearables that can help you stay healthy while getting fit.
1. Know when it's time to rest
One of the hardest things to spot for anyone following
a training schedule, is when it's time to ease off and rest. Building in periods of
rest after tougher workouts, alternating your workouts to train different
muscle groups and 'listening to your body' to spot signs of tiredness are all
common tactics used to avoid over training and risking injury but they're all subjective or estimates at
Running guide: Using your running watch for interval training
Wearable tech is changing this. Products like the FAM Sports CheckMyLevel, the Polar V800 and the Garmin Forerunner 935 are able to use your latest workout stats to monitor your training load and recommend the optimal rest time and recovery period.
Try this: Garmin Forerunner 935
The Garmin Forerunner's Recovery Advisor uses heart rate data to estimate your state of recovery immediately after a run, giving you a countdown timer, anywhere from 6 to 96 hours to tell you when you should next lace up. Recovery Check then follows this up with a real-time assessment of your recovery in the first several minutes of your next run.
Wareable top tip: To make the most of the Forerunner 935's recovery feature, press the stop button at the end of your run and then wait two minutes to get the recovery read out before fully ending and saving the run data.
In depth: Garmin Forerunner 935 review
Warm up well
Warming up and cooling down are essential parts of any training session, but they're all too easily fudged, cut short, or worse, ignored all together.
This is where your wearable can come to the rescue. The TomTom Spark 3 and the Polar V800 all allow you to build warm up and cool down segments into your pre-planned sessions.
Use the watches heart rate smarts to set your warm-up with a target, aiming to rise steadily until it's somewhere between the 100-110 BPM mark. Once your heart rate hits the right levels, maintain it for 5-10 minutes to get the muscles nice and loose. You'll then be nicely prepared for that high intensity interval session, tempo run or fifty laps of the local pool.
Try this: TomTom Spark 3
Add a good 5-10 minute warm down and use your heart rate stats to ensure you're moving back towards your resting heart rate by the end.
Wareable top tip: A lot of heart rate monitoring wearables take time to settle down. Don't be alarmed to see your running watch reading 200 BPM even though you're barely out the door and above a walking pace.
In depth: TomTom Spark 3 review
Check your gait
Maintaining a good running form is key to avoiding injury, particularly when you get tired, but knowing when you're starting to get sloppy isn't easy to do when all you're really focusing on getting to the finish line. It's at this point that you're most susceptible to injury, so it can help to have something to keep you running well.
Try this: Sensoria socks
That's where the Sensoria socks come in. Each pair of socks is infused with textile sensors that gather force and pressure data from every foot strike, feeding back vital stats such as cadence, how your foot lands, weight distribution and centre of balance information to help you keep a good running form.
This data is fired to a partner mobile app that offers up real time audio coaching advice over your headphones to help prevent injury in the moment.
Wareable top tip: Try running on a treadmill with no shoes or socks on. You should find you'll adopt a more mid-forefoot strike and you'll naturally increase your cadence. You can then take this fast-foot sensation outside with you on you next run.
Reduce the impact
To heel strike or not to heel strike? There's much debate about how your feet
should strike the ground for maximum efficiency, minimum impact and fewer
injuries from running.
Whether you're a heel striker or a forefoot runner, recent studies suggest that there's no way to completely escape the impact force generated by running. What does change, though, depending on your foot strike, is how the force is absorbed. Heel strikers tend to soak up more pressure through the knees while mid-forefoot runners rely more heavily on their achilles for shock absorption.
Running with wearables
- How your running watch can earn you a marathon PBHow your GPS running watch can help you cross the marathon line
- Best running watches and fitness trackers for womenFrom step counting to marathon training, here are our top picks
- Phone free: Top sports watches for music playbackTake control of your workout tunes and leave your smartphone at home
So what can you do? It's widely accepted that ensuring your feet land closer to your body is the best way to reduce the overall impact and one way to encourage this is to increase your cadence β i.e. the rate at which your feet strike the ground.
Try this: Wahoo Tickr X
The Tickr Run X heart rate chest strap can help with this. Powered by a built-in accelerometer, its Running Smoothness features clock everything from stride rate, vertical oscillation, ground contact time and running cadence without the need for a shoe pod. It'll log treadmill and outdoor runs and fire all of your data via Bluetooth 4.0 to your smartphone.
Wearable top tip: Aim for a cadence that's close to 180 strikes per minute for optimum efficiency.
In depth: Wahoo Tickr X review
Work on your posture
When your mum used to bellow, βStop slouching!" at you, she
was right. Stop slouching! Focusing on your form when you're running or working out in the
gym is one thing but it's easy to neglect the other 23 hours of the day. Adopting a decent posture when you're at your desk or on the daily
commute is just as pivotal to staying injury free. That's where the Lumo Run comes in.
Try this: Lumo Run
After launching its posture tracking Lift wearable back in 2014, Lumo took the same tech and applied it to a wearable that's built for running.
The Run clips onto the back of your running shorts, tights or whatever you choose to wear on your lower half. It uses motion sensors to track six key metrics: cadence, braking, bounce, pelvic rotation, ground contact time and stride length.
Like the Lift, it will take into consideration your posture and how that can impact on your running, giving you a nudge (well, voice prompt) to tell when your good form has dropped. It will also provide exercises pre and post-run to help you work on the ideal posture for running quicker and more efficiently.
Wareable top tip: Move often and challenge your balance. Get up out of your seat as much as you can and stand using your entire foot rather than putting all of your weight over your heels. Relying too much on your heels weakens your feet, which increases stress on your ankles, knees, hips and lower back.
In depth: Lumo Run review
Fuel for recovery
Knowing how much of your body's vital resources you've burned during a workout is
important for figuring out how much you need to put back. Smartphone apps like
Endomondo will estimate how much water you need to get down your neck to
rehydrate, while most
fitness trackers and GPS running watches will also
estimate your calorie burn during your last workout.
Try this: Polar M600
However, if your watch or fitness band is working off age, height and weight alone, it's not going to give you the full picture. Using a heart rate monitor is one way to increase the accuracy of your calorie burn information, and the Polar M600 will know what zones you've been exercising in with information that's specific to you.
Once you've got this, you'll be better placed to ensure your daily calorie intake is sufficient to fuel your workouts and your recovery.
Wareable top tip: The first 20 minutes after a session are the most important. For optimum muscle recovery aim to get 20g of protein into your system within this post-workout window.
In depth: Polar M600 review