I recently was given the opportunity to interview Rob Schwartz, a Team USA Strength & Conditioning Coach for Acrobat & Combat Sports. Rob currently works with Olympic athletes competitiveness in gymnastics, boxing, tae kwon do, judo, fencing, wrestling, synchronized swimming and diving. I wanted to pick his brain and gain some insight into how sports fitness technologies (heart rate, calorie intake, calories burned, sleep monitoring, distance and time tracking, VO2 recording, total vertical gained, etc.) are being utilized in Olympic athlete training and how Mr. Schwartz foresees consumer adoption of similar technologies in the future.
Q. Living in Denver and have previously toured the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, I remember the amount of gadgets and devices monitoring and tracking athlete progress in training. Could you explain the type of fitness technologies that are currently being utilized by your athlete's and how big of a role they play in your daily workout preparation?
A. For daily training activities we mostly use video feedback, both in the weightroom and the practice setting. In Strength and Conditioning we are always trying to gauge our athlete's state of preparedness, so we measure power outputs using Tendo units and force plates; this gives us feedback on how intensely we can train each athlete on a given day. At pre-determined times of the year the Sports Dietician tests athletes blood lactate levels during "live" practices to evaluate the physiological challenges they face in competition. We've even had some Wrestler's get their blood lactate tested immediately following actual matches. We are currently developing an app for athlete's phones to monitor nutritional, psychological, training and recovery status. This is a short list; we have many other modes of technology we use as well.
Q. It seems as if Olympians have been using technology in their training programs long before the recent consumer craze, would you say that many of today's fitness gadgets are a result from what has been tested and proven in the Olympic arena?
A. Not that I am aware of, when training world class athletes for Olympic competition we simply do not have the time to field test technologies that have not been tested and proven in the field. We will receive some emerging technology from companies such as Nike and Samsung, but are confident when they hit our desk they have been proven effective.
Q. Do you believe emerging fitness and health applications and gadgets will improve our nation's health outcomes and help citizens become more informed and active participants in their personal health?
A. I hope so; it mainly depends on the person and their goals. If the consumer is serious about getting in shape, I suggest they do their research and ensure that they are purchasing equipment from reputable companies that are proven in the market.
Q. One last question, any basic tips for those looking to begin personal strength and conditioning training?
A. I would start by joining your local 24 hour fitness and getting some personal training sessions. There is nothing better than an experienced trainer to provide feedback and steps for improvement. It is not recommended to surf the Internet for training advice or tips as there is no professional feedback and the information you are receiving may not be credible or suitable for your personal goals.
I am also a firm believer in video feedback for athletes, as with a current world champion boxer that I train when the fight is over the first thing we do on our plane flight home is review video on our smart phone and begin preparation for the next fight.
To learn more about the United States Olympic Training Center or to plan a tour visit them at TeamUSA.org and possibly rub elbows with America's premier Olympic athletes and coaches.