TechnoGym at the Colorado Center

April 27th, 2012 1 comment

TechnoGymThe Colorado Center for Health and Wellness opened to the public on April 15, so this week I have been getting acquainted with my new gym. It’s been a while since I’ve been a member of a fitness center, most of my activities are outdoors and the locations are not convenient for me. But as the Colorado Center was opening near my work I figured I would give it a try. Also, with the way I was feeling in March, it was time for drastic measures.

Part of the process of joining the Colorado Center is a fitness assessment, and an orientation session. The fitness assessment tests a variety of metrics: blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, blood sugar, body fat percentage, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and grip strength. From those measurements the center assigns a fitness plan that is accessible through the TechnoGym equipment. The concept is that trainers at the center will be able to track your progress and adjust your training plan without having to be there in person. For people who are new to the gym, or who struggle to find a fitness plan that works for them, this takes some of the guesswork out of the equation.

TechnoGym features a “keychain” that plugs into each piece of equipment to record your progress. When you first check in, the system tells you what the training plan for the day entails. The workout is selected by the trainers for you, and includes which exercise to perform, how many reps/sets to do, and the weight you should be lifting. If you make changes to the weight or number of sets/reps that information is recorded to the keychain and can be used to adjust the workout later. At the kiosks you can also view information on each of the individual exercises, including the muscle groups worked, and videos of how to correctly perform the exercise.

By far, my favorite feature of the TechnoGym equipment is the range of motion indicator. During your first two reps, each machine monitors how far you extend/contract during the exercise. It then uses an LED display to show you how far you need to be moving, as well as how quickly. This means that your speed is controlled during the whole exercise, and that you can’t count reps where you don’t perform the whole motion!

These features dovetail into the mission of the Colorado Center, which is to get people into a fitness program, develop the program for their needs, and follow up with them to ensure that working out becomes a part of their lifestyle. I hope that it helps me to add resistance training into my fitness plan so that it’s not just running and biking all the time!

Beside the Côte d’Azur

April 23rd, 2012 1 comment

Riding the track at Boulder Indoor CyclingOn the weekend Melissa surprised me with a trip to Boulder Indoor Cycling as a birthday present. The facility has an indoor velodrome as well as several indoor mountain bike circuits. It’s a fairly small track, coming in at 142m, so the banking in the turns is a whopping 45 degrees! Looking up at the underside of the track while in the waiting area is not recommended.

Despite my many fears, I decided to trust the physics just as I had done when I first tried rollers. My instructor, Tim, assured me that as long as I maintained a 14mph minimum speed, centrifugal force would take care of sticking me to the track. But without any speedometer, the only way to gauge speed is by feel!

After some orientation, we ventured out onto the concrete apron to begin some slow turns. Gradually we picked up speed until it felt like we would no longer be able to hold the turns on the flat, smooth surface, then we popped up onto the track and all feelings of discomfort were dispelled!

To some extent, riding on the track feels just like riding on the road. You are essentially following an infinitely straight line, the track reaches up to push you around the corners. Just like on the road, watching the line in front of you around the curves causes your bike to follow suit. The biggest difference is the force on your body in the turns. In his book, Flying Scotsman, Graeme Obree talked about the beating that his body would take when forced to ride on a slightly smaller track; the forces are greater, and the turns come more often. I can’t even imagine the feeling of hitting the turns going as fast as he was!

After getting a feel for getting on and off the track safely, Tim took me through a drill where I was required to follow his line around the track exactly. He gradually moved his line further and further out on the track until we were riding right next to the rail. Then he began riding out to the rail on the straights and diving down into the curves, effectively riding down a 45 degree hill into the turn. Each time around we seemed to go faster until I was convinced he must be crazy. But somehow we stuck to the track like glue, and each acceleration worked its way down into my soul. By the time he gave me the go-ahead to go it alone for a few laps I was hooked. I kept pushing faster and faster, trying to hold my line around the sprinter’s lane, the smile on my face getting bigger and bigger each time around.

When the lesson time was up I was tired, sweaty, and sore, but I was so happy to have had such a unique experience! The center offers its “Try the Track” class every Sunday at 2, and it costs $30. They provide the bike, although you will have to bring in your own pedals and shoes.

Update: This last weekend (4/29) Boulder Indoor Cycling announced that they are closing. I spoke with the president, Bruce McPherson, yesterday and he is clearly upset that he had to make the tough call to close. There is still a chance an investor could step in to save the facility, but it would have to happen quickly. There will be a final “first Friday” event on May 4th to say goodbye, if you have questions or are interested in showing support you can contact the owners at 303-CYCLING.

Categories: bike Tags: , , ,

Colorado Center for Health and Wellness

April 7th, 2012 1 comment
Colorado Center Lobby

Staircase Prominently Featured in the Center's Lobby

The Colorado Center for Health and Wellness represents a new concept in health care and health care research. The center is located on the University of Colorado, Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. Primarily a research facility, the center focuses on educating the community on healthy eating and activities. Preventative health maintenance is stressed, with the goal of keeping people out of the hospital rather than post-disease treatment.

This mission is evidenced throughout the construction of the building. From the expansive lobby, featuring a demonstration kitchen and Bistro Elaia, to the massive fitness center contained within, and finally the clinical and research labs, the center embodies a desire to get people interested in nutrition and exercise, and treating the physical barriers to fitness. The education programs developed by the center will be available to the public through the center’s website and the tailored fitness programs available either through the clinical facilities or through fitness center membership.

Fitness Center Weightroom

Fitness Center Equipment

The fitness center is also a paradigm shift from the standard gym membership. Membership begins with a fitness assessment, testing physical fitness, flexibility, and strength as well as metabolic measurements. From this a “prescription” training program is developed, creating a total health program for the individual. Progress can be tracked through the Technogym system, with each exercise tracked through a “keychain,” taking the guesswork out of a fitness program. Progress is followed up with subsequent assessments, keeping individuals on track and equipped to maintain the fitness gains achieved. These assessments are available to anyone, meaning that individuals need not be members of the fitness club to take advantage of the program.

For athletes looking to improve their performance, the center is also home to the Human Performance Lab run by Iñigo San Millán. Offering tests such as VO2 max, lactate threshold, and body composition via Bod Pod or DEXA Scan, the center can fine tune training and nutrition programs to optimize performance.

With so many health care programs aimed at treating people who are already unhealthy, it is refreshing to see a facility that aims to be more proactive. Equipping individuals with the tools and knowledge to create healthy lifestyles, the center will help to develop methods that bring on sustainable changes in fitness for an entire community.

Running Track

A section of the indoor track overlooking the golf course

Technogym Equipment

Technogym equipment tracks weight, reps, etc. and saves to keychain

Fitness Equipment

Cardio and flexibility equipment along the track

View From Elliptical

Treadmills and ellipticals look out onto the golf course

Rock’n Wall

April 6th, 2012 No comments

“Take it to the wall!” That’s what we now tell our kids to do when they get frustrated, or whiny, or worked up. No matter the weather, they now have a place to go and work their minds and bodies, and experience accomplishment.

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The project started with a Christmas gift idea from Nana. “Should I get them a climbing wall set?” It seemed like a good idea, it wasn’t a toy, or something that made noise, or something unhealthy. And when they opened the gift the excitement was obvious. “Can we set it up now, Dad!?” I had to explain to them that we needed to build a special wall to climb on. The set included a book that gave great instructions about how to build a wall, with just one small problem: it didn’t have the words “DON’T PANIC” in large, friendly letters on the cover. I panicked.

Where are we going to put it? Is it going inside or outside? How big does it need to be? What if it’s too difficult for the kids?

These are just some of the many thoughts I had every time I thought about the box sitting in the basement. Luckily, plans were made for Nana and Grampy to visit at Easter, and Grampy agreed to help build the wall while he was here. The panicky feelings began to subside.

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With a trip to the hardware store we had everything we needed: studs, plywood, and lots and lots of screws (the climbing set included all of the mounting hardware). After some deliberation we decided on an 8′ x 8′ design in the basement, with a slight overhang to make it more challenging. Laying out the angles on a couple of studs and tacking them to the header and footer let us test fit the design in the space before filling in the wall with studs every 16″. If not for the fact that it was leaning outward, it would have looked like a good start on framing the basement!

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The plywood was a more overwhelming task. The book recommended laying each sheet on each other and drilling holes through 2 sheets at a time. There were no clear instructions on where to drill the holes though, apart from the advice to not drill them at the locations of the studs. A half-hour of discussion later and we had a plan for the locations of the holes, one that would keep the same 6″ spacing along the length of the wall. After drilling, cutting and hammering 84 T-nuts into the back of the plywood, we were ready to screw the sheets to the wall. As the kids anxiously waited, the process of attaching the 35 climbing holds to the wall slowly took place.

Immediately after finishing the kids scrambled up the wall and all fears of difficulty were washed away. They climbed up and down; they climbed sideways. After attaching a bell to the rafter they became even more intent on reaching the top and ringing the bell in victory. They climbed until their arms hurt, then they would rest and climb some more.

Suddenly, what was once just a basement is now an activity room that can offer year round exercise to everyone (even I can find challenging routes across the wall). As the kids develop, the large holds can be swapped out with small ones, making it an ever-adapting challenge. It provides them with an active option no matter what the weather, and shows them that we want physical activity to be a part of all of our lives on a daily basis.

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All Done!

Over-training on no training

March 31st, 2012 1 comment

Is it possible to overtrain when you are not training at all? At what point does daily activity cross over into too much. This is something I think about due to the rigors of trying to stay in running shape while commuting by bike. On many days this means I am doing 3, hour long workouts, not including any physical tasks that I may need to perform as part of my job.

If I have to take my laptop with me, my commuter bag weighs about 20 lbs. Add to that a 14 mile ride to work, and I can end up feeling the burn just getting in in the morning. Fortunately, it’s all downhill from my house to the office. I generally try to take in a small snack when I arrive and keep hydrated all morning. By the time lunch rolls around I’m hungry, but can usually get through an hour run on the trails before I eat. If I’m still tired from the day before this run can be pretty painful. Now I’m faced with an uphill ride home with a 20 lb pack. I’m already beat down, and some days just riding the flat sections hurts. It’s at this point that I question the wisdom of this commute.

At first I was under the impression that through training the body can adapt to all stresses. But after a couple of seasons of riding/running almost every day I’m beginning to wonder if my body will not adapt to that volume of exercise. I find myself getting burnt out, dreading my evening ride. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that’s the only way I’m getting home.

But, perhaps my body is adapting to the stress of commuting and running. Granted my speed specific running training is suffering, but potentially with the gain of overall fitness. And overall fitness is really my goal. My ride home may seem just as difficult as it was the first time I tried it, but I’m riding it a lot faster now. Perhaps there is a continual improvement with this training, but without a measure I can’t see it. I am not exhibiting any of the signs of overtraining, such as irritability or sleeplessness, I may just have forgotten what pushing myself really feels like.

I always assumed that if I worked hard enough I could reach a plateau where my activities would seem easier. I equated that with fitness. Now I think that fitness is a dynamic thing, what was easy one day may be difficult the next. In this way I may never achieve what I consider to be in shape, except by striving to improve every day. Instead of the means to an end, the end is the means.

Scott Jurek

March 30th, 2012 No comments

I was invited by Brooks to see Scott Jurek speak last night at REI in Denver. In addition to his training philosophy, Scott spoke about his ultrarunning adventures, Western States, Badwater, Hardrock, Spartathalon, and Copper Canyon. His love for the latter was evident as he showed many slides of the people and culture of that region. He disclosed that his thoughts were with his friend and guide in the Copper Canyon, Caballo Blanco, who had just been reported missing in New Mexico.

Apart from the amazing pictures from his journey, Scott had a lot of advice to offer about training. His advice in pursuing goals, while maintaining balance between training and life, was inspiring. He encouraged runners to run with and learn from other runners, volunteer with the community through races and trail work, and train with purpose and drive. My favorite quote from the event was Scott referencing the Zen saying, “When you chop wood, chop wood.” His point was to focus your attention on the task at hand, whether that is running, recovering, or living your life.

Scott also discussed some of his design efforts with Brooks, and touched on his nutritional regime. Scott is vegan, but his nutritional tips were not targeted at specific protein sources so are widely applicable. He has a book coming out this summer called “Eat and Run,” which he will be touring for, giving talks across the country. Keep an eye out for him!

Locally, the team from Brooks will be in the Denver metro area REI stores this weekend, REI Denver on Saturday and REI Boulder on Sunday, from 10-3 offering fittings and gait analysis.

New Possibilities

March 27th, 2012 No comments

What is possible? Do we ever really know what we are capable of? Even if we try something and fail, that only tells us that our approach was wrong. Further attempts may yield success. One of the best things about life is getting to find out that something we once thought was impossible is not.

Yesterday in Colorado we were faced with one of our characteristically strong wind events. Every spring (and to a lesser extent, summer, fall and winter) we get strong winds blowing down from the mountains into the “bowl” that is the Denver metro area. These winds often range in the 30-50 mph sustained, 80-100 mph peak, gusts. They almost always blow in from the south, southwest.

One of the biggest challenges of my bike commute is this wind. My commute is due south, uphill, and brutally difficult at the end of a trying day. It is painful with even the lightest 15 mph wind. I was faced with the choice of riding home into a 30 mph headwind, easily stronger than anything I’ve faced before. I was not even sure that I could handle the crosswind on some of the exposed sections of my ride, I had visions of blowing over in a strong gust. My commuter bag is anything but aerodynamic.

Somehow I found myself standing over my bike outside my office, and with the snap of clipping in to both pedals I was committed. I had no aspirations of speed, with each section riding into the wind I just fell into the drops and ground it out as best I could. I must have looked ridiculous to the cars going by, teeth bared in effort, the silent scream of exertion, barely moving, pushing against an unseen barrier. “He must be drunk,” they must have thought as my front wheel wobbled against the crosswind. Isolated in their 2 ton bubbles they would have barely noticed the torrent I was facing.

My steepest climb faces exactly southwest. It’s short, but difficult on even the best of days. It’s near the end of my ride, when I am at my limit. I sat in, trying to minimize my effort on the long slope leading to the steepest section, and then was brought to almost a standstill as I turned into the wind. Getting out of the saddle I was almost jumping on the pedals to keep moving forward. It felt like the wind was blowing even stronger, as if it knew this was its last chance to make me succumb. With every muscle screaming, I finally turned away from the wind and tried to recover on the gradual slope leading to the next climb. Mentally, I knew I was finished, I had made it through the worst of it, survived my battle with the unseen enemy.

There is nothing like a challenge that you meet head on to put you in a great mood. Bike rides doubly so. The physical exertion puts the thrill of success over the top. Yesterday I did something that I wasn’t sure was possible, and today I am a better cyclist because of it.

Categories: bike, commute, motivation Tags: ,

Recovery

March 26th, 2012 1 comment

I think one of the biggest problems of the fitness industry is sports and recovery drinks. Coincidently, sports and recovery drinks accounted for $3.9 billion in sales in 2010 and continue to increase. It’s no wonder that the soft drink manufacturers want to get in on the action. But in many respects they are selling products that most consumers don’t need, and will in fact harm them.

Part of the problem arises with our definition of “athlete.” “Athletes” need sports drinks to achieve top performance, the University of Florida showed us that. “Athletes” need recovery products to kickstart the muscle building process, bodybuilders have known this for years. But these cases reflected the needs of pro-football players, and people pushing their bodies to the very limit of performance.

The term “athlete” now refers to anyone who does anything physical. Just watch a sport on TV and keep an eye out for the sports drink ads. Are these companies spending millions on advertising to reach the 0.1% of the population at the peak of physical fitness? Are NFL football players recording the games they missed on their DVRs, then watching them later in the week thinking, “I bet I wouldn’t have missed that pass if I was drinking that!” The sports drink industry wants every armchair quarterback to think that they need 20oz of electrolyte drink after they mow the lawn. That’s what makes $3.9 billion.

So now we have a generation of active, informed adults who are doing exactly the right things to get in shape, then eliminating all their gains with their choice in recovery drink. They don’t need a 20oz sports drink and a protein shake to recover from an hour long trip to the gym, they need a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk!

I understand there are barriers to making real food part of a recovery plan. Almost all of my workouts end with me going back to work, so I can’t exactly grill a lean chicken breast to eat. But I can take dried fruit in my lunch instead of an energy bar. I can buy a small carton of milk at the cafeteria (granted I have to dig deep into the refrigerator display to find it). And I can pay attention to what advertisers are telling me. Good products sell themselves and don’t need the hype. When it comes to my fitness, I’m pretty sure the soft drink giants don’t have my best interests in mind.

Categories: fitness, opinion Tags: , ,

Project Bike

March 22nd, 2012 4 comments

My life is all about change and adaptation. So why am I obsessed with stock when it comes to my bike? My little road bike is my pride and joy. Purchased on Craigslist used a few years ago I delved into its history: Marin “Limited Edition” road bike in blaring neon green (all the rage in its 1993 vintage). Full Shimano 105 components, 7-speed, shifters on the downs. They don’t make them like this anymore.

Literally, they don’t make them. If I want to buy a new wheel set I have to spread the frame. It’s not wide enough to accept today’s 8-10 speed cog sets. If I want to buy new shifters they are not made for 7-speeds either. The stem is a quill stem, if I want to go threadless I have to buy a whole new fork.

But all is not lost, the frame is beautiful steel, light and strong and infinitely adaptable. The shifters and brakes are simple, cheap and easy to fix. The bearings in the hubs are smooth as the day is long. It’s a hobbyist’s dream, just as long as you are willing to let go of the past.

I have spent 2 years on my bike preserving its integrity. Riding in an uncomfortable position because I did not want to swap my neon green stem with a longer one. Lugging my commuter bag on my back and getting soaked because I didn’t want to mount a frame or fenders. It was my race bike, even though I never raced it.

That’s about to change. If I am for adaptability, then I need to adapt my machine to my needs. I use this bike for commuting 99% of the time, it should be set up for that purpose. If that means changing parts, adding after market items, or even…gasp…bending and welding, then I should be open to that. Face it, this is not a $5000 race bike, it’s a $100 Craigslist special. If I can screw anything up without feeling like I’m out a ton of money, it’s this. I’m officially declaring it a “project bike.” If something is not working for my purposes, I’m changing it. Because I should love my bike, not just put up with it.

Categories: bike, commute Tags: , ,

The Long Road

March 19th, 2012 3 comments

I’m ready to admit it; I’m out of shape.

I’m not “Biggest Loser” out of shape with hundreds of pounds to lose, I’m every-man out of shape. I’m carrying a few extra pounds around the middle, I sit at a desk all day, and while I can walk up stairs easily I usually choose not to. So I’m staging an intervention.

I’m committing to get back in to doing something active every day. It doesn’t have to be the most intense workout of my life, but it does have to take at least half an hour. I’m also making a commitment to bike commuting more often. Riding my bike to work keeps me healthy by doing something that I have to do already, it’s free exercise time! Running is part of the plan too. I can get a better cardio workout from a 30 minute run than I can from a 30 minute bike ride, and it’s weight bearing, working a different set of muscles than I would on the bike. Finally, pushups are in the mix. I can work in a set of pushups anywhere I happen to be, no gym required.

Seems so simple, yet I know how difficult it can be to stick to. I’ve fallen off the wagon for almost 6 months, and now look where I am. No one would ever tell me I look out of shape, but I know it’s true. I think we all know when we are not doing enough with our bodies, it’s just hard to figure out where to start. And it’s a long road, with no end in sight. Because “stay in shape” isn’t a goal, it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not a 5k in September, or a charity ride in the spring. It’s getting out there every day without any other reason than it’s the right thing to do.

And doing the right thing is always hard.

Categories: motivation, opinion Tags: , ,