Achieving Peak Performance
The Summer Olympics are in full swing and the elite athletes are always trying to find ways to achieve peak performance. Sometimes the difference between winning a gold or silver medal is decided on a tiny margin and can depend on achieving the smallest advantage. The 2016 Summer Olympics were held in Brazil and temperatures were in the mid 80’s during the day with high humidity. Manufacturers of sporting apparel spend huge sums of money on the research and development of clothing and other products that work with the human body. Athletic shoes have been engineered to be lighter with better foot protection, and clothing has been made to feel so minimal it’s like wearing nothing at all. The integration of Lycra® fabric is one of the most common innovations in achieving comfort, fit and performance.
How Lycra® Moves Us
Lycra® is a registered brand name for a polyurethane-based synthetic fiber that’s also called spandex or elastane. The DuPont Company® first developed Lycra® in 1958 to replace latex rubber as a stretching agent in clothing. Lycra® is prized for its strength and durability, and is almost always mixed with either cotton or polyester. Although Lycra® accounts for only a small percentage of the final fabric, it is key in retaining the look and feel of the other fibers. An estimated 80% of clothing sold in the United States contained spandex in 2010. Because of its ability to mold to the body, Lycra® is ideal for use in swimwear and sportswear. It was once thought 100% cotton was best for sportswear because of its ability to breathe. Science has actually shown us that 100% cotton can raise body temperature, making it difficult to move at a high levels of performance.
The Buzz About Lycra®
The buzz word today is to look for clothing that will wick sweat away from an athlete’s skin. How does this help someone towards a competitive advantage, and how does it work? For the sake of discussion, let’s focus on swimming. High performance athletes care more about reducing suit drag, skin friction and water absorption. Lycra® along with other fabrics containing Lycra® offer the best performance and value. It is actually hard to find any cotton in good swimwear these days. Reducing drag is probably the most important factor. As the material or a body moves, the lower the frictional impact of a material against air, wind or water, the more a body can lower its resistance. This is very similar to static electricity when the lowest coefficient of friction will lower the static on a body or material.
Lycra® is a highly static material, but when intimate to the human body, the level of static is lowered. That is why you see swimmers use bathing suits like Speedo® that are tight fitting. The same can be said for those who wear tight clothes when racing bicycles.
The Static Eliminator
At Static Clean International we work with some of the world’s largest manufacturers of Lycra®, Polyester and other well accepted athletic materials. During the weaving process of these materials, the static levels are very high and many of the defects found in these materials are due to static during the processing. A little static cling can cause high defect rates, especially when running high speed clothing manufacturing equipment. Our products eliminate static during the manufacturing process. However, once the finished product is on the human body, the static is collapsed by being intimate to the body and static is no longer an issue. We have a keen understanding of how frictional forces during a race or a swim meet are reduced because the material of choice has a lower coefficient of friction that allows the clothing to have less resistance in motion. From our position, we can feel good about the fact that we have helped those who compete by improving the quality of what they wear.