Technology / How British snowboarding ace Zoe Gillings-Brier uses technology to get ahead of the pack

How British snowboarding ace Zoe Gillings-Brier uses technology to get ahead of the pack

Every morning when Olympic snowboard athlete Zoe Gillings-Brier wakes up, she

checks her heart rate. The results are immediately uploaded to her cloud storage device, the Transporter 15, and shared with her coaches.

Dramatic changes in heart rates can signify the first sign of sickness or overtraining. If there are any abnormalities, her coaches will be able to instantly tell through the data and co-ordinate an action plan to get her back to peak physical fitness.

Snowboarding since she was 10, Gillings-Brier is now the UK’s most successful SBX athlete of all time. At only 29 years of age she has seven World Cup podium finishes, and has taken part in three Winter Olympic games. In May this year she won gold at the European Cup.

Speaking from her parents’ house in the Isle of Man, she tells me the cloud is an integral part of her training regime. She uses it to share large data files such as videos and photos with her coaches, which would be difficult for a normal computer to upload.

“I have a snow coach, a fitness coach and a nutritionist,” Gillings-Brier says. “My snow coach lives in Canada. If I am on the snow and my coach is not there, I can get a video of the technique I am working on and put it up on Transporter. He can comment on it and say, ‘bend your legs a bit more at this point’ [for example].

“In the gym I only get to see my fitness coach every now and then when I am training. I can send him videos and he can comment on things. There are things which are hard to describe or put into words. He can show me over a video or a photo he uploads.

“I was in the gym recently and was doing a fairly new exercise, which I was not quite sure about. I got someone to take a quick video of me 10 seconds long, stuck it up straight away from my phone, and then gave my fitness coach a call to ask him if I was doing it right.

“It was an exercise where you hold a weight in each hand and step up onto a box. I was just stepping up and stepping down again. He said that what I needed to do was to step up with as much speed as I could, as that promotes fast muscle growth. By doing it slowly you get stronger, but you will not be able to create as much power.

“I fixed my technique so from that moment on I was doing it correctly. If I had not had the ability to take a video and upload it to the cloud, I could have been doing it wrong for weeks.”

In her training for the European Cup, video feedback from her coaches played a big role in her preparation. Gillings-Brier was training in Italy to work on her freestyle technique while the rest of the snowboard team and her coach were in Austria.

By uploading footage of herself training, her coach could look at her technique in Austria and give her feedback.  It was a huge benefit for her and she ended up winning four podiums out of six, which included a gold at the European Cup.

She credits the Transporter with helping her receive the feedback she could not get when she trained by herself and her coach was in Canada.

“It would not work as well,” she says. “I was not getting the feedback I needed. It works a lot more smoothly. I get feedback a lot better now. It is a bit like mobile phones – it’s hard to imagine how life ever worked without them. And it is hard to imagine how life would work without cloud storage for me.”

Gillings-Brier has always been an early adopter of technology when it comes to training. She was the first athlete on the Snowboard World Cup circuit to start using a camera on her helmet in competitions going down the track.

“You only get a small amount of training on the course before you race, only about two hours or so,” she says. “I thought, if I take a video of it that night I can watch it on a screen. I can project the video onto the wall and then I can stand in front of it and look at what I could not see when I was out there on the course. Then I will do all the movements – I will move up and down, move side to side and go around the corners. I get extra training in effect.”

Soon after she started doing using this technology, explains Gillings-Brier, other snowboarders in the competition began to realise the benefit – within a couple of weeks everyone was using cameras on their helmets. She also uses a quadcopter to get video of her snowboarding at all different angles.

Sometimes the video footage she collects of herself in competitions is used by TV stations such as the BBC and Channel 4 for race coverage. The Transporter is also helping her in her online razor delivery business, the Pound Shave Club, which she set up to help fund her snowboarding activities, when it comes to sharing documents with her colleagues that work around the UK.

But Gillings-Brier has strict limits of who sees what on the Transporter. The device has a privacy option which allows her to control who sees what. “I have my entire life on there,” she says. “I do not have to share all that with everyone. I decide the bits I want to share with people.”

The Transporter is a vital part of Gillings-Brier’s training programme. At the moment she is training for the next World Cup, where she will be using the Transporter every day to gain valuable feedback from her coaches – whether it is uploading her heart rate or a video for them to see. With any luck, it will help her win gold again.


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