Last year, working out changed forever. As the pandemic swept in, gyms shuttered, personal trainers went virtual and working out from home became the norm. Fitness fanatics snapped up Peloton bikes, Echelon rowers and treadmills and dug out Endless Pools. So now what?
This year, it’s all about refinement. The stay-at-home era may have just arrived, but the savvy fitness tech that’s keeping us sane in lockdown has been in the making for many years. With ‘smart’ upgrades to all the basics, from goggles to insoles, and wearable tech on the rise among data-obsessed tycoons, those with the means will buy any gadget that promises to enhance their training.
This is how the super rich will keep in shape in 2021:
The basics, made smart
Make way for ‘smart’ options, powered by apps, to enhance training and recovery efforts. It’s all about having the full fitness ecosystem.
At around ten times the price of the average pair of Speedo swimming goggles, Form smart goggles (£148; formswim.com) facilitate a whole new level of training. A smart display in the right-hand lens offers real-time feedback of swim speed, elapsed time and heart rate, which helps the swimmer accomplish the perfect session without checking the clock at the end of each set. All of this is also auto-tracked on the app.
Data like this make performance easier to track over time, and Form is supplying a decades-long demand for an easier way to swim your best without a coach watching your every stroke. Form has found quick popularity with swimmers and triathletes since it launched in 2019, and thanks to a recent update, it is now compatible with Apple Watch and Garmin.
When it comes to recovery, smart muscle stimulator PowerDot (£325 for the duo; powerdot.com), a small wireless device that massages your muscle through electrical stimulation, is the best aide for muscular relief. Far daintier than traditional Normatec recovery boots, which use air pressure massage to relieve aches and pains, a duo of muscle stimulators and pads come in a small portable pouch designed to be used on any muscle you like during flights (to keep blood circulating through your muscles) as well as on land. Perfect for the time-poor business traveller – once travel gets back in the swing.
Place these on the right area of the relevant muscle (from calves to lats and abs, directed by the manual), then use the app to choose from the warm-up, recovery, massage or flight settings and hit ‘start workout’. All you have to do then is sit back and let it work. The massage setting lasts around 20 minutes and is a successful quick fix in releasing tight calves and shoulders – a blessing when it’s harder than ever to get a real-life sports massage.
Other basics made smart are Nurvv smart insoles (£250) which slide into your shoes and break down your foot strike metrics, Theragun Pro (£549) a drill-like massage gun, and Tanita scales (£399) which can analyse your body composition to medical standards.
Wearable data tracking
Wearable tech, used to track health and fitness data is only going to get more popular. The Oura ring (from £218; ouraring.com) is already ubiquitous, recommended by many top trainers. The light titanium band uses sensors to track body temperature, sleep quality and heart rate variability. Last year, a study claimed it could foreshadow Covid-19 symptoms and the NBA bought 2,000 rings for its players (some of whom have even invested in the company). Prince Harry, Will Smith and Shaquille O’Neal are all wearers.
The Whoop band (£23 per month; whoop.com) is equally easy to wear – a light bracelet that connects to an app – but it offers far more detailed metrics, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your ambitions. As top trainer Lee Mullins explains, ‘paralysis by analysis’ is a real thing – getting too bogged down in the minutiae can cloud objective goals.
Wear the band to track ‘strain, sleep and recovery’ – which can be loosely translated as the measure of cardiovascular activity taken each day; the amount of sleep achieved versus the amount needed; and a measure of how ready your body is to take more strain, based on heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate (RHR), respiratory rate (RPM), and sleep.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the app’s subscriber list has grown by five, but it’s long had fans in elite athletes such as Rory McIlroy (who likes it so much he even invested in the company) and Andy Murray, as well as certain Fortune 500 CEOs.
Track your blood glucose like the pro cyclists of team INEOS and Jumbo Vismo with Supersapiens (subscription costs €130 per 28 days; supersapiens.com). Launched in December 2020, the biosensor and app combo supply information that will help you learn how your body works, how it uses different food and how it responds to exercise. That means you can train and recover more efficiently, in a bespoke way.
Supersapiens delivers two 14-day smart biosensors to your home every 28 days. Developed with tech invented to help diabetics, an applicator inserts a small, flexible needle into the back of your arm, sealed with a sticker the size of a milk bottle top. Surprisingly, it is not at all painful to administer – the tip of the needle is miniscule. And then you just have to leave it in place. After about a day the biosensor starts feeding information back to the app on your phone, from your live glucose intake to your average daily glucose intake. You can set a target range relevant to your body, and track what you have eaten and when. Best for a wannabe elite athlete who lives by the ‘blood, sweat and data’ adage.
Take your studio home
Matt Roberts of Mayfair training centre Evolution has been very, very busy since April last year. As word of a pandemic came through, Robert’s team snapped up legions of Facebook Portal video devices before they sold out. These were sent to clients’ homes along with optional equipment to perfectly mirror the new ‘workout from home’ setup used by the trainers, featuring a bench, dumbbells, kettlebells and resistance bands.
“Within a month, we were fully set up and the guys got very busy virtual training,” he says. The new digital approach means Roberts has recruited new clients from across the globe – and all these months later, he’s not letting up in his virtual support.
Online group classes and personal training sessions are still in full flow. Get in touch and you’ll be well managed, with an initial video consultation, home equipment package (at a cost of roughly £1,000 depending what you need), virtual personal training, a Whoop band and 24/7 help and advice if you need it. (25 personal training sessions from £2,250; mattroberts.co.uk)
A 360-degree approach
Quick fixes don’t work, and London’s top gyms are getting smart about what they offer clients. KX Gym and Spa in Chelsea has blended fitness, nutrition and medical services to offer elite-level 360-degree programming for its members.
“It’s not about how many calories you burn in a day or how many steps you take in a week,” says Wellness Director Gideon Remfry. ”It’s a global thing from nutrition to heart rate data to how you sleep. How are you training that maximises your fitness and your health?”
“We look at our members a bit differently, with a sophisticated approach. We manage what I call ‘human performance’, whether that’s physical, aesthetic, energy or brain power, regardless of whether it’s high-level executives or elite sportspeople. We found a way of testing people’s cellular stress levels with a finger-prick blood test and a second test that shows how you are protecting those cells through nutrition and exercise.”
With a spa and medical division on-site, access to the Sirt food delivery programme (a plan of prepared meals featuring food high in a protein called Sirtuins, which is said to protect cells in the body from dying when they are under stress) and a small group of members who are familiar with each other, KX has created a cutting edge offering: if you can cough up the hefty monthly fee they’ll manage you like a pro (kxlife.co.uk).
Roberts also offers medical and physiotherapy services at Evolution, and has noted how interest has shifted of late. “There has been an increase in intravenous infusions. There’s been a change in what we’ve been seeing in our physiotherapy department – clients have a lot of hip issues and lower-back issues from working at home. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, which is people who in lockdown one leapt into doing too much training, and they were getting injuries because of it.”
Exercise-based adventure holidays
Somerton Sporting Club specialises in arranging bespoke holidays led by professional athletes. (Starting from around £5,000 per person; somertonsc.com). When travel opens up again, they will offer an escape to Nihi Sumba island in Indonesia where clients can surf on ‘one of the world’s most coveted private waves’ with professional big-wave surfer Jamie Mitchell; an opportunity to face the chill ice climbing in the Yukon with British adventure climber Tim Emmett; or a cycling trip alongside Geraint Thomas in Les Alpes de Provence, as if you, too, were competing in the Tour de France.
Founder Martin Armstrong says, “In this lockdown people have realised that health and physical fitness are literally a key to survival. Walking and exercise are now a key part of a person’s day. When this lockdown is over people will want to travel to places where they can be as close to possible to nature.
“People have become more aware of the environment and their place in it. The combination of sport and adventure in extraordinary places is one way of feeling truly alive. That’s what people want after this pandemic has been brought under control and this epic global moment has passed.”
Elite medical programmes
The Swiss wellness palace Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, has just launched its New You Method and clients have already been flying in to try it out. Home to a glossy medical centre, fitness and spa haven, and four Michelin stars (a claim no other Swiss hotel can make) – it’s capitalising on its expertise in this holistic new health package.
If you have suffered illness or injury of late, the Back to Sports programme (starting at £1,654 for two nights and £3,803 for five nights; resortragaz.ch) is designed to send you home regenerated – and surely that’s all we need right now. Combining medical assessments in the ‘back to sports laboratory’, guidance from physiotherapists and nutritionists, personal training and massage, it promises to boost your endurance and set you back on track to continue development from home.
“We are currently welcoming VIP-clients who usually escape Europe during the winter to stay in warmer destinations, such as Asia,” says Hans-Peter Veit, the Director of Health & Spa at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. “Due to the pandemic, our medical experts carefully adapted our packages to focus on treatments and therapies that help stimulate the immune system, such as ozone therapy, cell gym and boosting infusions.”
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