I've just spent half an hour in a toilet cubicle at work. Naked. Naked and spraying water all over a metallic bar of soap and rubbing it all over my body.
For once, this wasn't just for pleasure. I was using the Skulpt Chisel, a phone-sized plastic-and-metal device from Indiegogo that uses electrical impedance to work out how much fat and muscle you have.
This was one of many bits of fitness tech I get pitched, but the thing about the Chisel that attracted me (aside from being able to legitimately take all my clothes off at work) was the accuracy. Unlike the Under Armour UA Scales I use each morning to track my weight and body fat percentage, this little device wants to measure each muscle individually.
Well, not every single one - thankfully, it didn't ask me to put it on my tongue - but the main ones people try to sculpt when smashing weights up and down in the gym, begging their muscle fibres to break and regrow bigger and better so members of the opposite sex will instantly be attracted and all the taunting from their youth will be drowned out by awesome sexiness.
Or something else... that's just a random example. That I made up. For a friend. About a dream they had.
Tech, make me faster
The reason I'm doing this is, as a runner, I always know I should be doing more strength training. I used to head to the gym along with my jogging, but when I began marathon training I was just getting too tired to do both - and the loss of muscle mass definitely had an effect.
So before I began measuring I assumed I'd have a decent set of legs given I've been slamming them into concrete thousands of times a day for the last three years, but I know my top half has got so skinny that I look like a lollipop, with a massive head flopping all over the place on my stringy neck. I needed help.
Which brings me back to the nudity. The Skulpt Chisel wanted me to spray it with water over and over and place it on key parts of my body to read the muscle density and fat percentage.
The water acts as a conductor so the Chisel can get the maximum skin contact and the electrical impedance can do its EIM... thing and read my muscles.
It's a lot harder to get the readings than it looks. The Chisel is synced by Bluetooth with your smartphone, and as such seems to need a lot of wet pressing onto muscle to work effectively.
When it's reading the device glows a pleasing green, but too often it failed halfway through and needed to be resprayed and reapplied to get an accurate reading.
That was the biggest issue I had with it - for two reasons. One, it took ages to get all the readings, and to get an effective use out of it I'll need to do this three times a week... that's going to get old soon.
There is an option for a quick test, where you just tap three muscles to get a reading, but that doesn't seem comprehensive enough. If you're paying $99 / £89 (around AU$130) for something like this, you've got to use it properly, right?
Secondly, I don't know if this thing is accurate. It's saying I've got an excellent right bicep, which I definitely don't (cue the obvious mocking for a number of reasons). I've got a great butt and calves apparently (form a queue, ladies), but terrible hamstrings. What does that mean? And why did I so often get different results each time I took a reading?
Pump it, pipsqueak
I liked the fact that the Skulpt app promised me that it could get me in shape, asking me whether I wanted to lose fat, get lean or bulk up, and when I'd fancy working out. I duly told it such things, but then got a ring of percentages telling me I'd have to eat this much fat and do this much strength work.
That's helpful, but what does that look like in the real world? What meals should I be making, and what kind of strength training?
That's the biggest problem I had with this app - while it gave me information, I didn't know what to do about it, and if you're a newbie to exercise then you're going to struggle even more to know which direction to head in. Combined with a personal trainer, I guess this would be pretty decent, but only if they trusted its readings too.
Anyway - I'm going to give it a go. I'll be using it for a month to monitor my feeble attempts to augment my frame and hopefully both get faster and look less like I might dissolve in the rain.
Well, that's assuming that nobody finds out what I'm doing during work hours, that is...
- Gareth Beavis is TechRadar's Running Man of Tech, testing the latest in fitness technology in a never-ending quest to run further and faster and bringing you the results right here.
- If you want to say hi, he's @superbeav on Twitter
- You can see his stumblings on Strava
- And for more data, follow him on Smashrun
- And if you want to get the full lowdown on the latest and greatest running tech, read the rest of the Running Man of Tech story here
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