By Hayley Helms and Steve Mazzucchi
Progression: the process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state. The pursuit of physical fitness could be described as synonymous with that term. But from the everyday athlete who wants to surpass a personal record, to the elite feats that continue to move the needle, where would we be without the gear? The shoes that ground us, the apparel that powers us and the tech that tracks our progress are all indispensable. Thankfully, the innovative products below continue to reach for new heights — and help us do so as well.
Whoop Any-Wear Technology
Shell Material: 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex
Liner Material: 559% Polyamide, 41% Elastane
Best Uses: Low-impact and high-impact sports, including running and jiu-jitsu
Price: $79 for Any-Wear Short 4.0; $49 for Superknit 4.0
Since their inception, the best fitness trackers have been relegated to the wrist, or maybe the biceps. And while the standard Whoop wrist strap is still a standout in the category, this year Whoop changed the game by making it a bit less … noticeable. Whoop Body featuring Any-Wear Technology — specially designed clothing that houses the new-and-improved Whoop 4.0 — allows for passive data collection from all over your body.
The Whoop sensor slides into pod-shaped pockets integrated into the garments, allowing the user to situate the unit at various points on the body, including the upper arm, the left side of the torso, the waist and the lower leg. The clothing comes in two varieties: the Training Collection, which includes sports bras, compression tops, leggings, shorts and athletic boxers, and the Intimates Collection, which includes everyday boxers and bralettes.
Upon testing this fall, the Whoop tech sure felt like the future of fitness trackers. We can attest to both the convenience of hiding your tracker in plain sight and also the buttery-soft fabric and minimalist design of the Whoop Body clothing. The sensor is hardly noticeable when wearing the sports bra, whereas in tough or contact workouts, the Whoop strap certainly is. Wherever you wear it, the updated Whoop 4.0 sensor can detect what point of the body it’s sitting on and collect and calculate data accurately, albeit in a discrete and more comfortable position.
Whoop believes wearable fitness trackers should be either cool or invisible. With its latest innovation, the brand has taken the first major step toward the latter.
Frame Width: 132 millimeters
Frame Height: 149 millimeters
Available with Prism Lenses?: Yes
When a sunglass can turn heads after the sun sets, you know it’s a big deal. Enter the experimental Kato, which draws inspiration from a character once played by Bruce Lee, and is frameless due to rigidity built directly into the lens. The effect is a contoured, close-to-face fit that boosts coverage, protection, field of view and shape retention, with multiple nose pads and an adjustable rake that help it conform to myriad face types. No wonder Mutaz Essa Barshim rocked a pair at the Tokyo Olympics while claiming a share of gold in the high jump, which took place — yes — at night.
Sizes: 3 (20 oz. stainless steel; 24 oz. and 32 oz. Tritan plastic)
Glowing Drink Reminder Colors: 7
Battery Life: 1 year
Time and again, health and fitness innovations demonstrate the ability to change not only how we act, but how we think. Case in point: HidrateSpark water bottles, digitized drinking vessels that pair with an app to not only remind you to drink but also to track just how much you are actually gulping. The idea seemed rather superfluous until we actually tried it — and found tremendous satisfaction in the crisp design of the HidrateSpark Pro and how seamlessly and accurately it recorded water consumption, encouraging us to sip more diligently to reach our prescribed goal (86 ounces per day).
Led by co-founder and CEO Nadya Nguyen, HidrateSpark blew up in 2016 after raising more than $600,000 on Kickstarter and has garnered thousands of rave reviews since. Still, the $70 price point of its marquee product can be a barrier — one the Chicago-based brand addressed this past summer by rolling out the HidrateSpark TAP, which costs significantly less and does much the same thing. Although, as the name suggests, you do need to tap your phone to the bottle to track water consumption.
Just like the Pro, the TAP has a base that periodically glows to remind you to sip, as well as the ability to pair with an Apple Watch, Fitbit and other trackers to incorporate hydration goals into your overall fitness profile. Squeezing all that body-friendly tech into a $20 water bottle certainly has one former skeptic, ahem, drinking twice.
Required Equipment: TV and select iPhones
Dimensions: 2′ H x 1.6′ W x 1.6′ D
Warranty: 3-year limited
Price: $395 with a $39/month subscription
The raft of digital home gyms that have surfaced in the past couple years share two less-than-ideal traits: they cost thousands of dollars and require separate wall space to accommodate their giant screens. Tempo solves both problems with its latest addition to the home gym space. The innovative Move provides the perks of having a virtual personal trainer on call, 24/7, with real-time guidance, weight recommendations and workout programs — plus a much smaller footprint than everything but, say, the decidedly analog TRX.
The Move features 50 pounds of (upgradeable) smart weights and dumbbells, all housed in a small end table unit that’s around the same size as a typical media console. The unit is topped by a pod called the Core, which connects with your iPhone and your TV, via an HDMI cable, to turn stuff you already have into a digital home gym. The key is 3D Tempo Vision, technology that leverages your phone’s front-facing camera to replicate much of what Tempo’s original Studio does: monitor your form and compare it to thousands of hours of collected training data to offer helpful feedback. Meanwhile, the color-coding of the weights enables the system to tell just how much you are lifting — and coach you accordingly.
The entire set-up costs well under $1,000 per year, including both the physical unit and the subscription service. In short, the Tempo Move is cheaper than many gym memberships, smarter than the home gyms of yore and aesthetically pleasing to boot.
LifeLabs CoolLife Tee
Materials: 58% polyethylene, 42% recycled nylon
Available Sizes and Colors: 15 and 3
QMAX Rating: .19 (54% cooler than Nike Dri-Fit Legend based on instant cool touch)
The brainchild of a Stanford University energy expert and the guy who spearheaded The North Face’s Futurelight, LifeLabs is pioneering temperature-regulating fabric. This sustainably-produced shirt features polyolefin, which lowers body heat by uniquely allowing 100 percent transmission of infrared radiation — keeping your skin an unreal 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. The potential benefits extend beyond chilling out your next HIIT session too: If garments like this one let us run our thermostats higher, that saves money and shrinks carbon footprints.
Asics Metaspeed Sky
Weight: 7 ounces
Like most “super shoes,” the MetaSpeed Sky features a carbon fiber plate, but Asics has upped the ante on the AlphaFly NEXT% and the rest of the high-end racing shoe field. The brand is pushing the envelope of innovation by applying revolutionary findings from its Institute of Sport Science. Founded in 1977 and based in the bustling seaport city of Kobe, Japan, the Institute focuses on analyzing natural movements to create footwear that fosters product evolution and performance.
As runners increase their speed, many extend their stride length — and this extension is what Asics built the Metaspeed Sky to facilitate. The full-length carbon fiber plate embedded into the sole is lightweight, rigid and optimally oriented to propel the foot forward just like a springboard. The shoe also boasts FF (Flytefoam) Turbo, the brand’s lightest and most responsive midsole foam to date, and Guide Sole technology, which facilitates smooth transitions as you roll through each stride. These elements play well together to deliver super-responsive, super-supportive performance that only gets better the faster you go, encouraging you to strive for PRs on any length of run, from under five miles to marathons.
For the amount of protection and cushioning this shoe provides, it’s still exceptionally light and nimble underfoot — and that’s the point. The Metaspeed Sky was scientifically designed to be a capable, comfortable, record-setting racer, and by all accounts it lives up to the hype.
Peak Design Out Front Bike Mount
Primary Material: Machined aluminum
Sizing Collars: 3 (7/8″, 1″, 1-1/4″)
Weight (with large collars): 3.27 ounces
When Peak Design announced a sweeping new approach to phone cases and mounts last fall, the Kickstarter raised $2 million. What’s emerged since is equally jaw-dropping, exemplified by this cycling-centric star of the modular Mobile ecosystem. Powerful magnets and clips, dubbed SlimLink, automagically lock your phone case (or universal adapter) vertically or horizontally to the mount, yet seamlessly detach with the flick of a button. It’s awesome for tracking GPS or Strava and more: twist the thumbscrew to flip the mount up, transforming your phone into an action cam — or your phone’s flashlight into an instant bike light.
Priority Bicycles Ace of Spades
Frame/Fork: 6061 Alloy/Carbon Fiber
Rims/Tires: 32H Alloy/WTB ThickSlick 700×28
Weight: 22 pounds (size medium)
Price: $944 (including sprocket and pedal straps)
Anyone who rides a fixed-gear bike can identify with one small problem: to truly enjoy the energy return you get from continuously moving pedals, your chain must be tensioned just right — and re-tensioned or replaced as it stretches out. That was a problem, anyway, until Priority came along with the only belt driven single-speed rocking a Gates Carbon Drive and a flip-flop rear hub threaded for a track cog on one side and a free hub on the other. This feature makes it a breeze to set yourself up for, frankly, fixie bliss. (Translation: All this tech makes for a fixed-gear bike with the smoothest and most energetic ride possible.)
Note: You do need one more component — a 19T or 20T CDX Fixed Gear Sprocket that Priority sells — to get into fixie mode. But once that cog is in place and you’ve optimized the tension using the handy Gates app, you’ll be stoked. Because every pedal stroke will spring like a coiled cobra, and that perfect tension will remain, without any need for adjustment or lube, for longer than twice the life of any chain.
While seamless power transfer is the headline, the bike it fuels is pretty sweet too: Standout features include a standup-friendly flat bar, rack/pannier compatibility, grippy tires, timeless black-and-white style and a combo of alloy and carbon components that keep the whole package light, zippy and fun as hell. But don’t take our word for it — just glance in the mirror when you get home from a ride. You’re almost guaranteed to see a borderline-maniacal smile.
Under Armour ColdGear Sportsmask Mock Long Sleeve
Body Material: R87% Polyester/13% Elastane
Mask Materials: Polyester, polyurethane, nylon and spandex
Disclaimer: Mask is non-medical and non-surgical
Products continue to evolve in response to the pandemic, and this workout shirt is a prime example. Thanks to smart, innovative thinking by Under Armour, the four-way stretch layer you wear to train in cool weather now boasts a built-in UA Sportsmask for on-the-move protection. Already one of GP’s favorites, the integrated mask features three layers: spacer fabric with air pockets to create structure, polyurethane open-cell foam that lets air pass through and UA Iso-Chill, an antimicrobial, stretchy fabric that feels cool against the skin. The combo helps you stay warm, dry and always ready.
Therabody RecoveryAir System
Pressure Range: 20 to 100 mmHg (millimeters of mercury)
Cycle Time: 20 cycles in 20 minutes
Battery Life: 6 hours
A decade ago, the idea of weekend warriors using their own percussion massage guns to soothe sore muscles probably seemed crazy. Since then, however, products like Theragun have made it a reality. So when the people behind that gadget make another elite recovery method more accessible, we pay attention. That’s exactly what Therabody has done with the RecoveryAir System — medical-grade boots that reduce muscle fatigue and increase blood flow to help you bounce back faster.
The key phrase here is “intermittent sequential pneumatic compression” — air chambers in the boots inflate and deflate to mimic leg muscle pump action, boosting circulation and speeding recovery. For the record, RecoveryAir is not the first leg sleeve to be available to the general public — it’s actually a revamped version of the RecoveryPump by RP Sports, a company Therabody quietly acquired last fall. And Normatec, now owned by Therabody competitor Hyperice, makes high-tech compression sleeves as well. But while the cheapest Normatec product came out of the gate at $899, Therabody’s entry-level offering goes for $699. (Hyperice recently dropped the price of Normatec 2.0 Legs to $749, perhaps in response.)
Therabody is betting that price point will attract a whole new crop of everyday athletes seeking fancier ways to recuperate from punishing physical feats. Another feature that may entice them? RecoveryAir’s set-it-and-forget-it functionality, which lets you strap the boots on, adjust the time and pressure, then catch up on your Netflix queue while they do their thing.