New Sensor Knows When You’re Approaching “The Wall”

You’re well into the race and genuinely felt great out the onset. But now, further in, everything starts to go wrong. You’re breathing is labored, your stride is starting to falter as you work to haul you 2-ton feet around. To make everything worse, your mind starts to turn on you, telling you that there’s no way you can keep going.

This frightening scenario describes the infamous “wall” that all runners deal with at some point in their careers. There are various strategies to prepare for and work through this obstacle, which we’ll discuss in a later post. But news of a new biosensor could provide hope for runners looking for an edge in avoiding the wall.


What is “The Wall”
At first, during mild exercise, your muscles can get buy using aerobic systems for fuel. This method is extremely clean and efficient, leaving behind very little waste.

When your muscles need more fuel than aerobic methods can produce, though, your body shifts to an anaerobic state. This process unfortunately produces lactic acid and lactate as byproducts, which build up in your system and cause muscle fatigue.

This extreme buildup of lactic acid and lactate is what causes you to hit the wall since your muscle can no longer work under the harsh conditions. It is true that you can train specifically for this, increasing your body’s tolerance to lactic acid but to get the best results, you need to be able to measure your levels of the byproduct. Current methods, though, are no what one would call “accessible.” Often, a test requires a blood sample and takes time to produce results.

A group of researchers working out of the labs of the Department of Nanoengineering, University of California San Diego have produced a new sensor that they believe could help solve this problem.


The Sensor

Small, flexible and incredibly similar to a temporary tattoo, this new sensor could help athletes to prepare their bodies for the inevitable wall. By measuring the amount of lactate that’s excreted in your sweat, this sensory can provide valuable insights on your physiological state during exercise.

Related research has shown that these sensors can be adjusted to test for a range of various factors, including pH levels of your skin and certain chemicals in your sweat. These sensors can also be used to monitor many other biological markers, including your heart rate.

For right now, though, more research is needed. First off, a definite correlation has to be shown between the amount of lactate in your sweat and the amount of lactic acid and lactate in your body. The relationship between fitness levels and lactate production also has a long way to go before we can put these sensors to their full use.

Despite these drawbacks, this sensor technology represents great strides in sports sciences and could, eventually, help you avoid the wall.






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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.