Pace-Man and Output Sports give fitness training a personal touch



In October, Dr Cailbhe Doherty ran his first marathon in 3 hours 34 minutes. He started his training regimen 20 weeks later and his secret weapon was Pace-Man, a new app that harnesses big data and running analytics to help runners meet their running goals.

Doherty had a vested interest in using Pace-Man successfully. He’s half the brain behind it all. The other is fellow physiotherapist and fitness enthusiast, Dr. Alison Keogh. Doherty has a doctorate in sports science while Keogh’s doctorate is in behavior change. Both work as post-doctoral researchers at the UCD-based Insight Center for Data Analytics.

“Pace-Man offers runners real-time coaching. It’s like always having your coach in your ear to tell you how to progress and he uses science to back that up so runners can be confident in the advice given to them, ”says Keogh.

“Our goal is to help marathon runners prepare, plan and pace their race. We do this by offering them individualized and adaptable strategies both before the race and within the race itself. We developed the system using the run results of over eight million marathon runners to identify course specific strategies. For example, you are unlikely to follow a fast route like Berlin in the same way that you will follow a slower route like Dublin. If you have a good run, he will adapt during the race to give you a new strategy and will do the same if you are not having a good day.

Pace-Man Competition is the current series of running apps. However, Keogh points out that their big downside is that they are generic.

Pace-Man works if you run like a greased lightning bolt or prefer to take things at a smoother pace

“They give runners a bit more functionality than a laptop,” she says. “Pace-Man is the only app on the market that provides a pace guide. The existing options just give runners their pace, but don’t give any advice on what to do with it and if they need to change it. It’s up to the users to calculate their own race plan, remember it and stick to it. It can work when everything is going well, but if there is a problem runners have to reconfigure their run in their heads as they run.

Pace-Man works whether you’re running like a greasy lightning bolt or prefer to take things at a smoother pace. “It can be very difficult to improve your time by 10 minutes, so having a device that trains and guides you through a course based on your previous performance and the actual route you plan to take is a really valuable tool, ”says Keogh. .

Pace-Man is a pre-start based at Nova UCD. The founders launched the app at the London Marathon last April and, as a result of this pilot project, the app was changed to the Dublin Marathon in October. Right now, the company is focused on full marathons, but the next step is to expand into half marathons, 10K and the overall running market.

The investment in the project to date has been approximately € 250,000, coming from a grant from the Enterprise Ireland marketing fund. The founders also recently raised € 650,000 to develop the app and develop a version that works with the Garmin device used by a large number of runners. For the moment, the application only works with an Apple connected watch. It is currently free to download and has over 700 users. Keogh says the product will have its full commercial launch in 2020, and the company will likely spin off from UCD later this year.

Also based at Nova UCD is a second fitness-related startup, Output Sports, which has developed a wearable sensor that measures and helps optimize the performance of elite athletes. Its founders are an expert in sports medicine and wearable sensors, Dr Darragh Whelan, Dr Martin O’Reilly, who has a background in engineering and sports science, and Julian Eberle, theoretical physicist and international athlete (he has represented Ireland in Olympic handball) who spent three years in data analytics with Citigroup before being prompted to join Output Sports.

Our system brings a whole new level of portability to athlete testing and tracking

Existing systems for testing and monitoring athletic performance are expensive, cumbersome, and typically only measure single elements of an athlete’s overall fitness at a time. The Output Sports device is compact, minimally intrusive, can be easily moved around the body, and can multitask, measuring attributes such as strength, balance and flexibility in one go.

“The idea was developed from doctoral research done by myself and Martin who investigated how wearable technology could be used to increase strength training and injury risk assessment, and our system. brings a whole new level of portability to athlete testing and tracking, ”said Whelan. .

“At the elite level, current methods make testing and monitoring resource intensive in terms of both cost and time. This means strength coaches and physicians working in high performance environments have less time to devote to what they love – training and rehabilitating athletes.

“At a sub-elite athletic level, many of the existing technologies are prohibitive and inconvenient for coaches. This means that they rely on subjective techniques such as visual analysis and self-report which are often unreliable and inaccurate.

“Output Sports provides an easy-to-use end-to-end solution that tests and tracks athletic performance with laboratory precision, then goes one step further by integrating this data to help improve training programs, risk stratification. of injuries and talent. identification.”

Output Sports is initially launched as a B2B solution for the elite sports market, followed by the recreational sports sector. For now, however, the focus is on conquering the upper echelons and there are currently 25 elite and top-flight teams in Ireland and the UK testing the product which has been in development for 12 months. . Development of the Output Sports sensor was supported by a € 320,000 grant from the Enterprise Ireland Commercialization Fund for third-level researchers and the product will be officially launched in October.

The sensors themselves are a commodity and will be purchased commercially. What customers will pay for – via a recurring license fee – will be the data and, more specifically, for turning it into actionable information to improve performance and minimize injuries.

“Right now the system is aimed at the elite level and its big draw to them is its simplicity and the fact that it offers more data integration than was previously possible. However, since the system is sport independent, anyone interested in tracking the fitness components is a potential customer. Our long-term goal is to reduce professional sports analytics into a tiny, portable device for the entertainment market, ”said Whelan.

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