Most workout technology has been geared to endurance and conditioning training. First came the humble stopwatch. Then heart rate monitors. And more recently, GPS-powered products that offer precise pace and route tracking.
But the workouts are still largely up to you. You have to determine their intensity, duration and recovery. If you don't work hard enough or push too hard, a lot can go wrong. Usually the workout isn't effective or it puts too much stress on your body.
Humon, a new fitness technology company out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, hopes to solve this problem with their first product, The Humon Hex.
According to Humon, the Hex is the first wearable sensor able to detect oxygen within your muscles. A lightweight sensor, strapped to the middle of your thigh, has LED lights that shine into your muscles. Near-infrared spectroscopy sensors measure the light and determine the amount of oxygen within your muscles.
"It shines light into the muscle and we can understand the color of the blood," says Alessandro Babini, CEO at Humon. "Based on the color of the blood, we know how much oxygen is in it, and based on oxygen we can help you train better."
Babini enumerates multiple benefits that positively affect your workouts:
You can monitor the exact intensity of your training.
You know when you're training too hard or not hard enough.
You can time recovery based on when your muscles are ready to perform.
You can monitor your progress over time.
Based on this information, it's possible to make intelligent decisions about your workouts that will improve the results of each and every endurance or conditioning training session.
"In real time, I can tell you where your limit is, help you push yourself to that limit and know where you're going to feel it," Babini says. "I can then capture your recovery and compare that day after day and tell you if you're overtraining or undertraining."
This helps endurance or team-sport athletes make data-driven decisions about their conditioning workouts. You don't need to guess if you're going too easy or too hard. Humon Hex tells you exactly where you need to be to optimize both endurance and interval workouts.
"We can take this information to give you the best recommendation for endurance and interval workouts," Babini adds. "We're helping you optimize your training."
I had the opportunity to test the beta version of Humon Hex and came away impressed.
The sensor sits comfortably on the thigh, and I didn't notice it as I was working out. One of Humon's goals was to ensure the device works in any condition, and I can confirm that it performed as expected when I was drenched in sweat.
The sensor pairs with either an iPhone or a Garmin smartwatch—although Babini emphasized they are expanding these options. To use the device with the iPhone, open the Humon app, pair the sensor, calibrate it for 15 seconds (if it's your first time) and get started with your workout.
You have two workout options: Endurance and Interval.
Endurance mode helps you stay within the appropriate range so you don't hit a wall and you can sustain an effective intensity.
I particularly enjoyed the Interval feature. As I grinded out an interval sprint on a stationary bike, the app alerted me to stop when it sensed that I wasn't taking in enough oxygen and needed to recover—typically accompanied by the beginning of a burning sensation in my quads associated with lactic acid buildup. Once I was sufficiently recovered, the app signaled to start the next interval.
For both endurance and interval modes, the app is designed for aerobic conditioning, which you can learn more about here. If you're working near your max, like during Tabata or high-intensity intervals, the app will tell you to stop prematurely and recommend a longer recovery time.
Overall, Humon has a compelling product that should help athletes improve their fitness. It's currently geared to endurance athletes, but Babini plans to make a push to team sports, strength training and CrossFit.
The Humon Hex is currently in a trial period and will be available for purchase toward the end of the summer. For more information, visit Humon.io.
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