It’s well established that athletes at all sporting levels perform better when they have warmed up. Warming up prevents injury, increases flexibility, improves reaction times and makes workouts more effective – around 7% more efficient. At an elite level, where every millimetre and millisecond count, sports scientists are always looking to find new ways of improving performance. Developing the most effective, comfortable and controllable heated clothing, in order for the effects of a warm-up to be maintained as long as necessary, is now integral to success.
What do the experts say about heated garments?
We spoke to Dr Jonathan Leeder, team lead physiologist and performance innovation consultant at the English Institute of Sport, to find out more about how heated clothing helps elite athletes. Dr Leeder, who works with elite British athletes, explains how heated garments maintain warm, muscle temperature – crucial when there may be a gap between warm-up and the event actually beginning.
‘A good warm-up will raise the temperature of the muscles by three to four degrees, but they will only stay warm between 20 and 30 minutes before dropping again. Warmer muscles can produce more power. So, the challenge is to maintain the temperature while waiting around. High quality, well fitting heated clothing is a really effective way of doing this.’
Electrically heated clothing first appeared at London 2012. ‘Ahead of 2012, we developed a heated garment for the track cycling team, which included people like Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton’, says Jonathan. ‘This tech was seen to create an advantage and since then quite a few nations have been incorporated heated clothing into their team kit and it has diversified into other sports. Of course, the needs of athletes (and their body shapes) are very particular, so we tend to commission bespoke heated garments. For swimmers, it’s principally about the upper body; for cyclists, it’s the legs.’
When was heated technology first used in sport?
One of the first sports to adopt heated tech was Formula One – it wasn’t to keep their racing drivers warm, rather their car tyres! Warm tyres grip better than cold tyres. Invented in 1985 by Mike Drury, tyre warmers resemble electric blankets. Wrapped around tyres, they keep the rubber at an optimum temperature before the race begins. (Previously, the first, less technological, attempt to keep tyres warm on the grid was at the 1974 Canadian Grand Prix. McLaren grabbed blankets and duvets from the team hotel.)
What does the future hold for heated clothing?
‘Since London 2012, there has been lots more research. With key issues of safety and performance, getting heated garments right is technically challenging. Heated garments ensure athletes can keep comfortable and train all year round in all weathers.
‘There will be a race of technology,’ predicts Dr Leeder. ‘In 20 to 30 years, people will want integrated heating. The whole of the fabric will be linked into a heating system, eradicating the need for lots of layers, which from a comfort point of view is fantastic.’
Help! I’m not an elite athlete! Can Gerbing heated clothing benefit me?
Gerbing has proudly supplied heated garments to elite British athletes - but everyone can benefit from heated clothing. It generates comfortable, controllable heat; allows us to stay out exercising longer and in cold conditions; and keeps us warm for cold-weather activities, such as skiing, mountaineering and microlight flying. Gerbing, one of the best-known names in heated motorcycle and sports gear, began as clothing to keep bikers warm, but has evolved to being useful for all kinds of activity. Everyone who plays sport for fun and competitively, or enjoys recreational activities ranging from rambling to horse riding to birdwatching, can stay warm, flexible and alert in our comprehensive range of kit, including battery-powered heated gloves, mittens, jackets and gilets. Our patented MicroWire technology ensures even, reliable warmth that you can easily adjust and control.