Got data? Triathlete measures athletic performance for results

Maurice Maher started 2011 dealing with watts, ohms and voltage in his trade as an electrician.

Now the only watts the veteran triathlete has to pay attention to are the power outputs of his clients - whether professional athletes, recreational competitors or everyday people looking to lose fat with some science behind it.

At the heart of Maher's new business, Multisport Solutions, is a velotron, a $10,000 instrument that measures parameters including power output (watts) and VO2 Max, which measures cardiovascular endurance.

As far as Maher knows, there is nothing else like it in the Tournament Capital. It's an evolving science that he's hoping to stretch beyond its use for endurance athletes.

The studio, located at the back of the Plaza Suites complex on Lorne Street, opened about two months ago. Maher left his job as an electrician at Rocky Mountain Railtours to pursue his love for measuring athletic performance, utilizing a full metabolic testing facility.

"I've been competing for about 15 years in triathlon. I always wanted to get more into the analytical side."

The initial market and the core of Multisport Solutions thus far is catering to triathletes in Kamloops and the region who want training to have more impact in less time.

Using the machines in his studio, Maher can measure everything from calories burned per hour resting to the personal heart rate at which individuals burn fat reserves, rather than carbohydrates.

Why does it matter? For the triathlete, it helps them understand what pace they can achieve on the racecourse. When the body burns carbohydrates exclusively as fuel, a limit is reached on how many calories they can consume on the course.

And if the carbohydrates are drawn down too far, the body runs out of gas, just like a race car that's out of fuel before the finish line.

For recreational athletes or people working out to lose fat, understanding their own parameters allows them to burn away the love handles, rather than calories from lunch.

"We can find the optimal heart rate where they're burning the most fat."

Maher is more than an exercise measurement fanatic. He lives the lifestyle himself. A veteran of about 15 Ironman events, he once took several years off work to train full time. He completed twice in Hawaii as a professional.

And his attention to detail can be seen in the blog he keeps on Multisport Solutions' website, where he calculates his own calories in and calories out and percentage of body fat.

While the velotron measures wattage and torque while cycling, Maher also utilizes a treadmill and video analysis to look at gait - where problems may be burning up energy for runners.

For cyclists, the velotron can diagnose power imbalance (in one extreme, Maher found a competitor who once suffered an injury who was using her left leg for 60 per cent of the power output) as well as weakness in hip flexors or hamstrings, for example, by measuring the pedal upstroke versus downstroke.

"This (measuring equipment) allows people to train more efficiently," he said.

Maher is still spreading his markets outward from triathlon competitors to include lifestyle and corporate wellness.

Another area he wants to expand is traditional athletics, whether university basketball or upper levels of minor hockey. Much of it is uncharted territory. If it's done at the professional levels in hockey, for example, clubs are not telling competitors their secrets.

Maher can mimic a hockey game using the velometer to analyze output and recovery. Mistakes that can come late in a game, or a slowdown in skating, can be seen on the equipment and a training program instituted to address it.

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