Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
We’ve all been there. You get back from a big weekend ride and your hips are so tight you walk up the stairs like your grandpa, your calves twitch and pulse under the endless threat of cramp, and your glutes … well, don’t get me started on them.
Your brain tells you to get on the foam roller and loosen out the limbs, but your body somehow keeps you stuck on the sofa as you enter the post-ride delirium. The next day, your legs have stiffened and tightened to the point of uselessness.
This is where a PowerDot could have saved the day.
You hook up your PowerDot 2.0 as you fester on the couch, use the mobile app to program what you need the gadget to do, and return to your semi-comatose state. Meanwhile, the electronic stimulation device works its muscle-maintenance magic.
I love the smart muscle stimulator feature for many reasons … but a few things bug me.
What I love: The main benefit of the PowerDot is undoubtedly the convenience. If you’re using the gadget for your legs, it takes just a couple of minutes to slap on the sticky pads and hook up the electrode cables and power unit. Once that’s done, you set up the session on the mobile app, and you’re away. The set-up takes a few minutes longer if you’re using the PowerDot for your shoulders or back purely because it’s not as easy to see what you’re doing as you apply the pads. But hey, we’re cyclists, who cares about anything above the waist.
From there, provided you’re relatively still – working at a desk or watching the television for example – you just let the PowerDot do its thing as you get some low-intensity recovery time in the books.
Just as the PowerDot is convenient and can fit in around your day-to-day, its portability is a big win.
The stimulator comes with a little carry case to hold all the leads and pads and whatnot. Together, it weighs nothing and is small enough to easily fit into a backpack or overnight bag without taking up valuable space for bike gear and all the secondary junk that comes with riding bikes. If you’re headed away from home for a riding trip, taking your PowerDot is far less effort than carting a foam roller around.
The PowerDot’s array of stimulation sessions are easy to program and control through the app, and I’ve never once found the electronic stimulus it provides to be too low – in fact, I’ve never got anywhere near the most intense settings. Similarly, you can tweak the pulse strength by the smallest of increments to get it just right for you.
The battery life of the power unit is impressive, and it only requires charging after maybe five to six hours of use. And given you’re not likely to be using it much over an hour a day, that seems respectable to me. Charging is through a standard mini USB cable and speedy to boot.
What bugs me: There is one huge and unavoidable bug in the PowerDot package — the need to periodically replace the pads. PowerDot recommends replacing the sticky rubber segments after every 20-30 sessions, with the app helping you to track how long the pads have left before they meet the trash can.
As the pads wear out with use, they get grubby and lose their “stick.” Resultantly, the sessions somehow don’t feel as effective. When the pads are dead, a replacement set for two electrodes costs $18, adding a substantial lifetime investment on top of the initial $199 for the Uno or $349 for the Duo (the Uno being a single set of electrodes, Duo being a pair).
You can get away with running the pads significantly longer than PowerDot’s recommended timeframe, but the deterioration in effectiveness is noticeable after a while. However, if you’re using the stimulator regularly and are meticulous in following the guidance as to when you’re swapping the pads, you could be forking out $18 more than once a month.
One other bug: Let’s face it – if your legs are in bits, nothing is ever going to beat a 20-minute session of pain atop of a lacrosse ball and nobbly foam roller. No pain, no gain, so they say.