File Under: Things I'd like to see, #7
It might surprise the people who know me, but I have been known on occasion to frequent the local gym. Weights strictly, as when you're a heaving train wreck of a man you get to know your own aerobic limitations pretty quickly. And when you have mass on your side, it makes the most sense to use that large mass to move other large masses, although god only knows why it gives such a sense of satisfaction.
I like to track my progress. To that end I carry a little black book around the gym and record the simplest of data - weight lifted and number of repetitions in each set. I then throw this data into a spreadsheet and use it to give myself a simplistic "score" for each session at the gym. It's not scientific by any means, but I do like having a way of measuring progress.
But it occurs to me that this is a bit of a cumbersome, and ultimately useless process.
First of all I have to carry around a small book and a pen, which can sometimes be a pain in a gym. I have to transcribe the data twice - once into the book, and then into excel. And once it is in excel it looks pretty, but I don't know enough about what the data means for it to be useful, and I have no organised way to share the data with people more knowledgeable than me.
Secondly, it's too easy to make mistakes and/or cheat. When you're doing a set of twelve 120kg 45-degree leg presses it's remarkably easy to lose count (I have to breathe properly, count, lift 120kgs AND chew gum all at the same time, which is no easy feat, let me tell you). It's even easier to decide that 8 1/2 repetitions should be recorded as 9. It would be nice if there was an impartial observer to make these decisions for me, AND automatically record the data in a useful format for analysis later.
So what I'd really like to see is gym equipment routinely fitted with sensors. Let's be honest, they wouldn't have to be very sophisticated to get the job done: a sensor to monitor the amount of weight lifted, distance travelled, and time taken, topped off with a wireless network to transmit the data back to base in real-time (I'm thinking exclusively here of weight machines, but there is no reason not to apply this to just about any exercise machine in a gym). The final piece of the puzzle is some way of relating the data back to the gym-user, but since everyone at a gym has an ID card it wouldn't be too difficult to co-opt that. Attach a card-reader or fit it for RFID and everybody's happy.
There would need to be a backend database to capture all this, so some thought would need to go into field and table formatting. Ideally you would make the data system as lean and mean as possible to cater for menagerie of different fitness assessment programs there would be out there, which could then import the data as needed.
Presumably this technology already exists - if they weren't capturing this kind of data automatically in fields like sports medicine I'd be very disappointed. What I'd like to see is this technology made cheap and simple enough for roll-out in local gyms, and ultimately in home gyms. If anyone has seen stuff like this out in the wild, please chuck it into the comments.