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Gadget of the Week: Self-cooling workout gear

When the winter chill is not enough to keep you cool on a run, high-tech garments step in, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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What is it?

Under Armour’s Iso-Chill microfibre technology uses a natural element called Titanium Dioxide to pull heat away from the skin, creating a cooling sensation as one sweats during a workout. The technology is now two years old, and is being integrated into a wider range of products, making it available for both running and training.

Iso-Chill’s predecessor in clothing tech, Under Armour’s CoolSwitch, was a crystal technology that the manufacturer said would send a cooling sensation back to the body once the garment tissue was activated by perspiration. In practice, it was not the most efficient cooling mechanism. The new technology, in contrast, expels heat immediately from the body when touched.

According to Under Armour, the specially designed fibres lie flat against the skin to disperse heat evenly, providing a cooling sensation. This in turn allows the body to continue performing at high capacity for longer than usual.

“By flattening out the fibres within their garments and adding Titanium Dioxide, the natural element, Under Armour has released a garment … which quickly pulls heat away from the skin,” says the manufacturer. “As top competitors will know, it can take a minute variant to give you a competitive edge, to create the podium finish, to define who wins and who comes in second.

“Under Armour added Titanium Dioxide to its ISO-Chill collection to absorb UV energy and quickly move heat away from the body. The exclusion of this concentrated heat allows the athlete to increase the max-out time and increase output in any hot, high-pressure situation.”

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How much is it?

Depends on the item. Prices range from R499 for shorts or a run cap to R1299 for perforated leggings. New additions to the range can go higher.

Why should you care?

For the serious runner or fitness enthusiast, the gear really does make a difference. It feels cool on the skin almost as soon as one puts it on, although that may well be a factor of winter’s cooling effect on clothes. The real difference is felt when one starts sweating. Initially, it feels as if one’s skin is drying faster than usual. That, in turn, means that your skin is cooling more efficiently, as the garment disperses the heat. And that, finally, means that one can keep going for longer.

What are the biggest Negatives?

  • You pay for what you get. In other words, high-tech comes with a high price tag.
  • For the casual runner, the improvement the gear brings to performance is probably not noticeable.

What are the biggest Positives?

  • It is almost like having a low-intensity air conditioner in one’s running gear.
  • It has a measurable effect on performance, from an endurance point of view, especially in warmer weather.
  • The gear may seem pricey, but compares well with high-tech alternatives from the likes of Nike and Asics.
  • Seriously comfortable, even for the non-serious runner.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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