Gadgets and Games

From Hockey Treadmills to Videogames, Tech Is Transforming the Gym

Stationary bikes are boring. Treadmills and free weights and other gear of yesteryear? fuggedaboutit.

Fortunately, new technology is taking the dullest of necessities -- staying in shape -- and making it fun again. Welcome to the new high-tech world of fitness: a golf harness that hones your swing, a videogame masquerading as a stationary bike, and an eye-opening incline ice-skating ramp -- stuff you can find at gyms across the country right now.

If winter sports are your bag this summer, lace up your hockey skates and get on the treadmill -- the Skating Treadmill, that is.

There are only 50 or so of these uphill ice-skating tracks in the U.S., which are designed to give players an extra cross-training challenge in the off season. But what a neat concept. 

The synthetic track is made of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, the manufacturer claims, making it feel just like ice and providing resistance and resilience. It's intended to as a cardio workout to build strength, increase stride length, improve reflexes and boost your speed. 

The machine also includes technology that gives real time feedback on skating technique. Video image playbacks allow players and trainers to access injury, recovery, and play criteria -- making them stronger, smoother skaters.

If that's too scary, try the Xdream Bike from Trixter -- which isn't your ordinary stationary cycle at all. Basically a videogame smashed onto a bike's handlebars, the Xdream lets you create an avatar of yourself, pick your course terrain and start racing.

The idea: Forget you're getting a workout as your on-screen avatar races in the game -- or compete against other gymgoers on bikes next to you. If the Xdream bike in your gym is hooked up to the Internet, you can even race friends thousands of miles away.

The Xdream simulates being on a mountain bike -- meaning you'll have to switch gears as you pedal up rocky terrain and put on the brakes as you ride down a hill. Forget that stationary bike, in other words: You'll feel the change as you descend a trail, pedaling and steering with the moveable handlebars. 

This total-body workout will have you standing up to pedal up tough turf, balancing your bike with your core muscles, and steering around your opponents using your arm muscles.

Still too much? Golfers will appreciate the analysis they'll get from K-Motion Interactive. You won’t need to hire a golf pro to give you pointers on your swing with the help of the K-Trainer, a two-sensor wireless system that uses real-time biofeedback to asses, train and improve your golf technique. 

Strap on the K-Vest and its motion sensors to get visual, auditory and kinesthetic feedback on a computer screen. The program will give you physical assessments measuring postural alignments, your range of motion, style and swing efficiency, and overall movement patterns -- an image of your body shows up on the screen, bright red until you position yourself properly. 

Once you reach perfection, your avatar body will turn green and sound an alarm. Motor learning is meant to help golfers use their muscle memory when out on the green to remember what the correct form feels like. The technology also includes 50 training exercises designed to help athletes reach their goals.