Commonwealth kit: the gear you need to train like the pros

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games has a roster of 18 sports and 7 para-sports, and a dazzling array of events within each of those. More than 70 teams compete, with athletes from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa and many more nations and territories descending on the Gold Coast in April. 

You might not be competing, or even have a chance to compete, but that doesn’t mean you can’t emulate the pros. You don’t need a sponsor or a bank account with more zeros than Australia has gold medals to be the best you can.

We’ve distilled that array of sports to focus on three disciplines anyone can pursue: swimming, cycling, and running. Each sport will challenge you in radically different ways, and the tech is alluring and exciting. 

Everything here either shows you your metrics like heart rate, distance and power output so you can train smarter, or simply makes the sport more enjoyable.

Hit the (pool) deck

You’d be surprised by the amount of aids and equipment you can buy for the pool. Don’t let that over complicate your training or enjoyment, though. Freestyle is the default stroke of choice for most swimmers, and we’ve shown off the essentials to get you focussed on the black line and get your form in order. 

Whether you train in a pool or the open water, you need a pair of goggles that fit well and don’t fog up. The Predator Flex line from Zoggs do just that, and the polarised version here has the added benefit of offering a better view underwater, cutting out the glare. A snug fit that adapts to multiple head shapes and sizes is complemented by adjustable straps that lock into place.

No, you’re not cheating yourself if you train with fins. A good set increases your leg strength while giving your upper body the opportunity to fine-tune your stroke and form. This set by Speedo is the ideal length for the pool, and is stiff throughout the fin itself for ample propulsion. The foot pocket is made from silicone for comfort, wrapping neatly around the back of your heel.

The Moov Now isn’t like other fitness trackers or watches. It relies entirely on your smartphone for a start, and the battery is good for up to six months usage. Weighing a scant 15.1g, this wearable lives on your wrist while the app gives you a post-workout breakdown of your lap time, stroke count and more. It’ll even offer tips for how to improve your form so you can sw smarter the next time you hit the pool.

Read the full Moov Now review

A swim snorkel differs from a regular, side-mounted piece of apparatus in that it runs straight in front of your nose. With the pipe pointing up to the surface, you have the ability to completely focus on your position in the water, and not on gulping down lungfuls of air – perfect for training. The Zoggs Centre snorkel is compatible with all goggles and swim caps, and the soft mouthpiece makes it extra comfortable for long sets.

It looks low-tech, but this simple timer could be the saviour you need to tell you to pick up your tardy pace. The waterproof Tempo swim trainer lives just under your cap, or on the side of your goggle, and emits a beep at a set interval. Think of it like a metronome that ‘ticks’ every time your hand enters the water. Set it to find your natural rhythm, then experiment to increase your pace. The FINIS model is lightweight and unobtrusive, which is what you need so you can focus on your style.

From the tyres on the road to the helmet on your head

Forget about blowing your cash on carbon everything. While reducing the weight of your equipment is one way to go faster, knowing how well and effectively you ride is more important. A bike computer is going to help here, and a streamlined power meter.

Italian brand Colnago knows how to craft road bikes that slip through the air. A carbon monocoque frame routes the cables internally, and the construction has the perfect balance of weight (there’s not much to it) and stiffness (there’s no flex here). The admirable Shimano Ultegra groupset provides ample stopping power when you squeeze the brakes, and gears offer direct, comfortable changes.  

If Kask is good enough for cycling royalty Team Sky, then it’s going to suit your head just fine. The well-priced Mojito’s gained a lot of love for its weight, styling and streamlined design that offers ample airflow to cool your skull. A lot of the tech here has heritage in the pro-level lids, giving you the benefit of brilliant ventilation for a fraction of the price you’d normally pay.

A dead simple but effective way to be seen for anyone who trains beyond daylight hours. Easy to install, rechargeable via USB and waterproof, this compact light pumps out 20 lumens which is good for 500m of visibility. Considering its bargain price, you’d be well served splashing out on its partner for the rear of your ride, too. 

Attach a P1 pedal to each crank of your bike and you have one of the best power meters going so you can gauge how much wattage you’re generating. The beauty of this system is two fold: the P1 is ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible so it’ll talk to your bike computer or watch, and it’ll attach to any bike, rather than having to fiddle around with the cranks themselves.

You could bolt your smartphone onto your handlebars, but the constant vibration will shake it to bits, and leaving the screen on constantly won’t make your battery very happy. Invest in a bike computer that gives you customisable maps and access to key metrics like speed, the amount of power you’re generating as well as integrating with Strava and Training Peaks services to motivate your ride. It’s the best training buddy you’re going to get.

 Shoes to sunglasses

Being motivated to go for a run can be a struggle in itself, never mind the actual run if your form is lumpy. Give yourself a much needed lift with a watch that will dial into your performance, and accessories that allow you to concentrate on the road ahead.

Garmin’s upped its game with the 645. Onboard storage now squashes in 500 songs in mp3 format, and you can also download tracks and playlists from iHeartRadio and Deezer (with plans to expand to other services). Music aside, the Forerunner 645 can offer incredible feedback on your pacing, form and fitness. An optical heart rate monitor measures the pulse at your wrist, and when paired with your smartphone you can view notifications.

Read the full Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review

Whether you play your music off your wrist (see the Garmin 645 watch above) or from your pocket (see the Xperia XZ1 Compact below), a good pair of sport-specific wireless earbuds can turn a good run into a great one. The X3’s feature a hook that rotates into the upper part of your ear, locking them into place. Their slim profile and eight-hour battery life puts them above most other buds in the same price range, and they produce a great sound, too.

Read the full Jaybird X3 review

No, your wayfarers won’t cut it on when you’re going for a run. Grab a pair of lightweight and streamlined sunglasses that are perfect for running on the road (and will happily double up for the bike, too). Oakley’s EVZero shades ditch the frame to give your eyes maximum peripheral vision, and they way a waif-like 22g to make them extra comfortable. You get to choose between which lens you like, with each tuned for different light conditions.

The UltraBoost series is famed for its cushioned yet responsive ride, and the ‘boost’ part of the name comes from that foamy cushioning and the upward curled toe. One solid knitted panel keeps the front of your foot in order, and also reduces unnecessary friction. Less friction equals fewer blisters, and fewer blisters means more time training. They’re also remarkably durable, and you can expect to get about 600 kilometres of use (that’s a lot). 

Until the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is released, Sony’s 4.6” phone is your best running buddy. It’s waterproof, will stream Spotify, the maps will get you out of trouble if you get lost, and it’s perfect for uploading your training results through fitness app Strava. Forget lugging around a big handset; whether you like to strap your phone to your arm or wedge it in a pocket or running belt, the XZ1 Compact strikes the right balance between weight and form.

Read the full Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact review

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