In the Future, Will Your Clothes Help Keep You Fit?

underarmourLast week, Under Armour a fitness clothing company bought MapMyRun a fitness technology company. Seems like a good match, right? I mean, they’re both interested in fitness. But what is Under Armour planning to do, exactly, with their new acquisition? What does a clothing company want with a tech company?

Plenty, actually. The trend these days is for fitness companies like Under Armour and Nike to get into the technology business. It wasn’t too many years ago that Nike released their fitness tracking chip, Nike+. The chip went into your shoe, then synced with another chip that connected to your iPod. The two chips tracked your pace and told you how far you ran. I owned one and I loved it even if it had to be re-calibrated often to maintain accuracy. It was a sad day when the shoe chip fell out from under my laces when I was running one day and I never saw it again.

The appeal for me was being able to see the miles I ran add up, and to watch my pace change over time. It was really motivating to see that I was running several seconds per mile faster at the end of the season than I was at the beginning. And since then the move toward the “quantified self,” or the gathering of data about your daily life and habits including, perhaps, miles run, calories burned, time slept, and change in heart rate has picked up steam and fueled more and more companies to develop ways to help people track and gather data on their lives.

Fitbit, for example, makes a watch-like band that tracks your activity and your sleep with the idea that you can use the data to figure out how to reach your health and fitness goals by analyzing the data. Digifit has created apps that connect to heart rate monitors and can make workout plans based on your own personal goals and fitness level. The movement toward personalized workouts and technology that gathers information about your body and your efforts throughout the day makes it almost a no-brainer that fitness companies like Under Armour and Nike would get into the tech business.

And, actually, Under Armour did launch its own heart rate monitor earlier this year. But the Armour39 did not sell well, partially because the software had such a limited scope: it only worked with some iOS devices. Buying MapMyRun is likely a step toward filling in that gap and helping Under Armour be more competitive in the “quantified self” market.

As I’m reading about this I can’t help but imagine of where competition in the fitness clothing technology industry will lead. To shirts equipped with sensors that can monitor your heart rate and tell you when to go faster or when to back off? To pants that can measure the strength of your legs or sense the build-up of lactic acid and warn you of coming cramps? To watches that keep track of how many calories you’ve eaten and translate that into miles you’d need to run to burn it off?

I’m just dreaming here, and I don’t know how feasible my ideas are. But it seems like that’s where fitness clothing technology might be headed, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

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