Running, cycling, swimming, triathlon or adventure racing – they can all be improved with gadgets. We don't just mean the usual list of kit for runners or bike bolt-ons for cyclists but tech that can make you faster.
If you're running a marathon and have been training for months you'll know a new pair of trainers is a bad idea at the last minute. But that doesn't mean there isn't smart training tech out there to help push you further for a better time on race day.
We've got some of the best ways to use tech to make you a better racer.
Smart training programs
Following a training program is one of the best ways to improve consistently. You could print one off and magnet it to the fridge but there's some great tech that'll make it a bit easier.
If you download a specific app like Couch to 5K, or download a program to your running watch it can help. Whichever you go for the key isn't tech, it's will power. But tech helps.
For beginners apps and activity trackers that get you up and moving, even if it's only for short distances, help. Check out a few here:
One of the best ways to train is with a GPS watch and a decent software platform where lots of runners and pros upload programs.
Garmin's Connect platform is filled with myriad programs for specific needs like running a certain distance or getting your marathon time down using interval training. All you need to do is find the one for you, download it to the watch and follow it. Yeah, it always sounds easier at the start.
Get the right body-assistive kit
Buying a pair of running trainers or a bike, for cheap, is easy now we can do it online. But in this instance that tech development hasn't helped racers – the human touch is needed. That and some robots to help them.
When buying a pair of trainers it's best to find a running shop where they have a gait measurement system setup. This is able to film and track your running and use a program to show on-screen your weaknesses. Using this you can pick the best pair of runners to suit your style and actually help you improve, rather than just maintaining your weakness.
The same can be said for cyclists. While most can't afford to get a custom built bike it's become more and more affordable as start-ups offer frames built to a person's measurements. These mean your body and bike work in perfect unison to squeeze every last drop of power out of your legs without wasting energy.
Failing a custom built frame you can always pick and choose the best parts to suit your strengths. Buying a bike in parts is easy enough with sites like Wiggle and Ribble offering deals and discounts when you spend more.
Shock your body, that's the key to improvement. A runner hoping to get faster needs to go beyond putting in miles and start interval training. Beyond that sprinting and core strength training can help.
Now that YouTube is filled with training videos, taking a yoga class to improve flexibility or Pilates to build core strength are easy. There are also apps that offer training like yoga moves or core strength training exercises on Android and iOS for free.
P90X and Insanity are great workouts that can be viewed online. While these are at a charge, unless you're a torrent fiend, there are YouTube equivalents.
If you've got an Xbox and Kinect, that system offers Xbox Fitness to follow classes. Or there's Nike+ Kinect Training which not only shows you how to workout on the TV but analyses your effort and offers help via the Kinect. Just like a personal trainer in your home. Want to make it even harder? Try doing it on a balance board that you can pick up for a few quid on Amazon.
Compete ahead of race day
In the digital age a race doesn't necessarily have to be against real world people on a set race day. If you are part of an online community the competition is always there, driving you to be better.
For cyclist Strava is a brilliant app that can make a normal boring route into a mesh of sprint races. The app recognises people's cross-over routes and allows riders to see who's done a particular stretch faster, so next time they're back they know what to beat. It's a brilliant driving force that can eek out performance where you might otherwise coast.
For runners the Nike+ Running app offers a huge community of runners. That means there are always people worse that let you feel good about getting out of the house, but also slightly better runners that make you want to go that bit faster. The app is free and works on iOS and Android meaning all you need to do is get running, the rest, including awards for personal bests, are just bonus fun.
Find races more easily
The more races you line up, the more motivated you are, the faster you improve. But finding them used to be an effort, flitting through sites and magazines. MyChallengeHQ is a site, in the UK, that aims to list every race be it for running, cycling, swimming, adventure or triathlon - all in one organised place.
The site appears to have only just launched but it's got huge potential with the ability to search by location, date, price and more. About 1,000 races get added every month. So if you want a short race before the main event that won't cost you much, and is local, this should help you find it. It'll probably be where you found the main event too.