When you're racing a motorcycle, your heart beats as fast as humanly possible. Whether you're hopping along the straightaways or jumping a bike 20 feet in the air, you need to stay focused and ward off the distractions of a roaring crowd and constant fireworks.
At the Monster Energy AMA Supercross in Las Vegas, rider Marvin Musquin overcame all of those challenges and more to take home $1 million — the second rider ever to claim a seven-figure check from the competition. This year's competition was also unique in another respect: for the first time, every racer on the dirt wore heart monitors that not only recorded their exertion levels throughout the race for trainer analysis, but also broadcasted that same real-time data to the stadium’s screens.
During the competition in Las Vegas, riders wrestled 200+ pound bikes around banked turns and over 20-foot jumps, their hearts spiking above the 190 BPM mark and staying there for 15 laps. The heart rate displays showed this spike in real time, providing a fun gimmick to bring fans closer to their favorite riders.
The race organisers hoped the heart monitors would help fans understand how hard the racers work. But the data also served another purpose: to help trainers and medical professionals understand heart function and recovery during any athletic competition.
The tracking tech was created by LITPro, a Temecula, Calif.-based developer of race-tracking software. LITPro President Michael Ford says LITPro needed to upgrade its existing technology before its new heart monitors could work. Using a form of GPS, LITPro had to track the racers' rapidly beating hearts, turn to turn and jump to jump.
“We had to reinvent GPS as it currently only offers a data point every second," Ford explained. "Our HD GPS now reports 20 times per second. That allows us to add other metrics such as acceleration and G-force to our heart rate monitoring.”
Examining heart rate and recovery offers tremendous insight into how efficiently the human body works. Musquin, for instance, utilizes LITPro’s heart rate monitoring technology for races, practices and time trials, but he also has the unit attached while exercising with fitness expert Aldon Baker.
“We’re learning that the primary signs of fitness are heart rate and recovery,” Baker told Men's Health. "The biggest challenge I face is trying to find ways to train Supercross athletes up to the same heart rates as when they race. These guys have been racing since they were five years old, so they’re not afraid out there during a race. But their heart rates are still higher at race time than at any other time. That’s all adrenaline — all competition.”
To push his riders’ fitness levels as close to race conditions as he can, Baker has them switch between practice riding to intense cardio and strength training days. Regardless, the athletes do some cardio every day unless they are injured.
Ford and Baker foresee all of this training and racing data finding its way into the mainstream fitness realm. After collecting and analyzing all of the heart rate data, Ford and LitPRO want to take their findings to other circuits and sports beyond motor-racing to aid a wider swath of athletes in training.
Still, there's something exceptional about Supercross.
“I don’t think anyone realizes the exertion these guys manage during a race,” Ford said. “Football players get a break after every play. Basketball players stop for fouls. Our racers have to manage that bike with the throttle wide open, against G-forces and through all the impacts. That’s why this is the perfect sport to drive this research.”
Don't forget to opt-in to Our Healthy Living Society and get 3 free gifts while receiving the latest information on health, well-being and groundbreaking news about natural nutrition.