Measure by measure Equipment: Sales are hot for high-tech gadgets that allow athletes to determine how they are doing.

November 22, 1998|By Eleanor Yang | Eleanor Yang,Chicago Tribune

Susie Watson can spot a born-again athlete coming a mile away.

"It's easy to recognize the symptoms: They want every new toy, and they want it now," said the marketing director for Timex, herself a marathoner.

Manufacturers are reporting double-digit increases in sales of high-tech exercise equipment and accessories for the last few years.

"Absolutely anything that can help people quantify their progress as an athlete is hot," said Jen Weede, market editor at Sportstyle Magazine.

A sampling:

* Racermate's CompuTrainer: $1,300 "virtual bike" connects a monitor and computer to one's bike on a stand, so the athlete can program an Olympic course, see it on the monitor and feel it.

* Mini-CompuTrainer: Provides the visuals of a flat course but doesn't automatically change the resistance factor for the athlete. It sells for $80.

* Polar Electro's SmartEdge: $189 heart-rate monitor that can calculate calories expended, as well as a personalized ideal training zone.

* Polar Protrainer XT: $229 heart-rate monitor that can attach to a bicycle and display the speed. (Polar's simple heart-rate monitors go for $79.)

* Roadrunner Sports fat monitor: Uses electrical impulses to measure the fat layer in one's hand. The hand-held model goes for $99.99.

* Timex's Datalink Ironman watch: Uses optical sensor to transfer information from a computer to the watch. It's a three-step process: First, use the included software to enter any data, including schedule information, phone numbers, personal sports data and reminders into your PC. Then, simply point the watch within a foot of your monitor for 60 seconds. While you are pointing the watch at your PC, flashing bars of light transfer the information from the computer to the watch. Finally, you can access the information by pushing a button on the watch. $69.95, including the software.

* Athlete's Diary: Software program that can log and crunch workout numbers. After each session, the athlete inputs as much information as desired, which can include distance, terrain, heart rate at specific intervals and time. The $60 program remembers repeated workouts, and can calculate and chart information including average pace, average heart rate, and the number of miles covered on a specific terrain at a particular pace.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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