I hadn’t planned to go to the LBC/Sin Workouts Event at Peak Performance, but when I got a text from Vanessa of SinWorkouts the night before the event asking if I still wanted to come, my immediate answer was “HELL YES!”. Any event that Sin was going to be throwing at Peak was bound to be an awesome, fun and kick-ass time and I had already regretting the fact that I hadn’t signed up.
This weekend, as part of the “Sweaty Saturday” event, Peak Performance opened their private training facility to put on 3 very special classes. The one I took was led by none other than Joe Dowdell. Seriously, if Joe, the founder of Peak, celebrity trainer and go-to fitness authority for magazines like Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s Health and Fitness (to name a few), is teaching a rare class for the masses, I am goin to be there! That said, I really didn’t have any idea what a metabolic training class would actually consist of when I signed up…
It was my second class of the day and when I made it up to the amazing Peak Performance, I was heavily in one of those moods where I just wanted to bag everything and call it a day. However, the minute the elevator doors opened on the awesome, loft-like space of Peak and I see the smiling face of Kindra, Peak’s General Manager, I snapped out of my funk. This was going to be fun – no matter what the class was really going to be! The group that had gathered for the rare treat of a Peak class was a solid group of 14 fellow fitness fiends who knew what a treat this was and came to work. We paired up and then got around to working out. The first few minutes were a dynamic warm up section before Joe got around to explaining the class. The class was a basic HIIT class, 30 seconds on, 30 off, but ramped up with all of Peak’s killer toys. There were 8 stations and we were set to go for 3 rounds. As Joe went through the stations I got more and more excited. After he was done with the quick run through, we were all sent off to pick a station to start with – I ended up at the battling ropes as the lead-off station. My partner, who had run to the lockers and saw where we were starting, sort of looked at me like she wanted to kick me but quickly rallied. We cheered and clapped for each other for the entire class, it was surprisingly awesome to have a partner because it meant that you had someone rooting for you all the way through!
Our circuit was:
1. The battling ropes
2. Treadmill sprints with the machine in dynamic mode (which is when you have to move the belt with your own power)
3. A 10 lb medicine ball slam and catch station
4. The Prowler
5. A weighted sled rope pull
6. TRX squat
7. Powermax 360 (a push-pull machine often used for fight training, that I did not love)
8. A low box shuffle-squat
Of the stations, I found almost all of them both ridiculously challenging and freaking awesome. There is something so satisfying about pushing yourself that hard. I also loved that there were other trainers on the floor checking on our form every second. During the weighted sled pull, there was a trainer pulling the rope out from under us, so that the minute that the sled hit our feet, we ran to the end of the rope to start again. The whole time though, our form was being coached – “chest up! Squat deeper!” – I love that kind of attention to detail. During the medicine ball throw, Joe would yell to really get our arms above our heads and “slam it like you mean it!”.
Midway through the 2nd round I wondered how I could possibly make it through another round. That 3rd round was brutal but at each station, when I knew it was the last time I would face it, I pushed harder. As I told my partner – if I sit down, I am not sure I’ll get up – I have to keep going. It was awesome. It was a challenging hour and I haven’t worked that hard in ages.
I loved every second of it.
Top photo and headshot of Joe Dowdell from the Peak Performance Facebook page, bottom quote a little internet goodness….
Last week, I received an email asking if I was interested in Peak Performance‘s “Diagnostic Testing“. My immediate response was “YES!” although I wasn’t entirely sure what it entailed. I read the descriptions of the test after I said yes because seriously, I wouldn’t EVER pass up a chance to go back to Peak. It is such an amazing facility and filled with inspiring, dedicated athletes that any chance to go is something I would jump at the chance for.
There are two parts to the testing and the body composition section came first. I was emailed instructions that I couldn’t drink the night before, have any coffee for 6 hours before, or any food for 4 before. The coffee part seemed evil and wrong, so I woke up early that day just so I could get in a few cups before the cut off time. Really, no one should have to deal with me without coffee. Walking into Peak Performance, I was greeted by Kindra and immediately felt at ease – I went back and stashed my stuff in a locker before heading back to the front to get started. When I got back to the front, Joe Dowdell was there too and it was awesome to finally get to meet the founder of Peak Performance – I love being able to tell people in person how much I love what they have created. Then, I was introduced to the man who was going to be giving me the tests that day, Derek Peruo. He is Peak’s “go to guy for all testing protocols” and has this very reassuring, calm demeanor. I liked him immediately. We went into a little room that had this very strange robot looking scale, with arms you grabbed onto after you stepped barefoot onto the foot plates. Derek entered in my height, age and gender and the machine started to go. On the waist high monitor, I watched as my weight registered, then it showed these pulses going through each part of my body – as it went, a bar graph ticked up, showing the ratio in each part of my body of muscle to fat. Derek explained what was happening as it went but what I really loved was being able to see the visual of it as it as the machine processed the information. It was slightly abstract and clinical but it also made it less about how “fat” you are and more about how much muscle you have and how you are really made up. Now that I have taken the test, I feel a little like a jackass for how much I was dreading this part of the test. It was actually REALLY interesting. It was amazing because for the first time, I didn’t kick into a free fall about feeling fat after a body fat measurement, but just felt like an athlete finding out needed info to train more effectively. It didn’t hurt that what it meant athletically was completely Derek’s focus. According to him, I am really even, muscle wise, on both sides, which is unusual since most people have a dominant side with a distinct muscle advantage-”if I was training you for a fitness competition, that would be a VERY good thing to find out. That sort of evenness is what you strive for.”
Once the body comp was done, we took a small break for me to have the snack I had brought and Derek went off to set up the next part of the testing. I went to the front to have my protein shake but I wasn’t done before Derek came to collect me for the next phase. So while I hurriedly finished, he explained a little more about the iMETT testing and how normally he has people follow their normal eating/ caffeine/ training routine before the test. It was only because I was doing both the body comp and the iMETT on the same day that I had to limit the food and coffee before. He also gave me the heart-rate band that I needed to wear and asked if I had ever used one. I immediately fessed up to the fact that I hadn’t ever used one, so he gave me the lowdown about putting the band on and where it needed to be positioned to get the best reading. I took it and went back to the changing room to put it on – I had always assumed it would be a really uncomfortable thing to wear but once I got it in the right place, I hardly felt it at all. When I finally had everything in place, I made my way over to the treadmill where the machine that would be measuring me was all hooked up. The iMETT basically is a specific VO2 Max test. It measures your heart rate and oxygen intake and processing to help determine your optimum heart rate range for working out. Your band gives the heart rate but your breath is monitored by a gasmask that is strapped securely to your head, covering your nose and mouth and then attaches to the machine. I had seen footage of professional athletes taking a VO2 Max test before and was in general prepared for this part but was shocked at how claustrophobic it made me. You aren’t allowed to talk when you have the mask on so all communication is done through a thumbs up / thumbs down system.
As the test started, I was just getting warmed up and did a walk to start, which was nice because it allowed me to get slightly more comfortable with the very strange thing that was getting ready to start. The idea is that you start at your normal running pace and then slowly the machine ramps up the incline to challenge you until failure. I don’t run very often, so choosing the speed was a little strange but once it was locked in, I was glad it was the pace, it felt natural – until the incline started to ramp up. Derek was, of course, really good about checking in, warning me what was going to happen next and I just put my head down and ran. As I went, Ed Williams, the Director of Continuing Education at Peak, came over to watch, although mostly he watched the numbers and not me. It was funny to hear them talk though, since mostly they were all “it is so interesting her body is anticipating the effort, then settling right back down. Nice.” I was proud of myself momentarily and then just went back to running. It was around when the incline went to 7%, that I started to worry. My legs were starting to feel leaden and I just wanted to take a small break – but that isn’t the way it works. All out until nothing is left. Then I heard Ed say “I think maybe one more, then that is it. Her legs are going to go before her heart.” It was totally true. I didn’t have much more in me and since you weren’t supposed to jump off at the end, all I could picture was being attached by my face to the treadmill and my legs going out underneath me and doing a face plant into the moving treadmill. I tapped out at 8% and it was true, my legs gave out before my heart. I love that someone would say that about me. Afterwards, Derek and Ed looked at the numbers and figured out where my range was and then the computer printed out all of the data and statistic and ranges I should be in when working out. No more generic charts ranges after this test, because your ranges are suddenly not based on averages and guess work. I also got a print out of a workout to do for the next four week based on heart rate optimization. I DEFINITELY have to get a heart-rate monitor soon since I am dying to try that program out!!
My favorite moment of all was after the iMETT test when Ed told me I did better than some professional athletes. That is just so amazing. I have been feeling pretty damn athletic and good about myself these days and was slightly concerned that these tests would prove that wrong, that I would go from feeling strong to worrying about the number on a scale. Turns out that isn’t even remotely what these tests are about. The body composition and iMETT tests are about knowing where you are at in your training, about becoming a better athlete not about the numbers on a scale. I shouldn’t have worried. There are things to work on, changes I need to make and I hope someday I get to take the test again now that I know where I am. At Peak, it is all about being an athlete not about a number. On Tuesday, I walked out feeling like a serious, capable athlete and I can’t imagine a better result than that!
Photos of Peak Performance from Joe Dowdell (Fitness Page) Facebook page, bottom photo a little bit of internet awesomeness
So last week, when in the middle of a chat about As 1 getting a Jacob’s Ladder and how it would be fun to try it with another As 1 junkie, one of my favorite fitness partners-in-crime – SINworkouts – joined in, listened for a minute, and then said: “Peak has those! Wait, you two HAVE been to Peak to train right?” And with that, SIN hatched a plan for the three of us to go train at Peak Performance. She has seriously impressive skills on making these things actually happen…
It doesn’t really cover it to say that I was excited, because I have wanted to check out Peak Performance for ages. Seriously. AGES. Joe Dowdell’s mecca for both professional athletes and people looking to seriously commit to training is always listed as one of the best in the country and this fitness fiend has desperately wanted a peek into Peak. I know trainers who work there (but I can’t afford their sessions), people who train there (and OF people who train there – Olympians & some of the most impressive MMA fighters in the world train there when they are in NYC) but the chance to actually train there myself seemed slim to none. However, on Tuesday afternoon, there I was…sprinting to make it to Peak on time. I didn’t want to miss a second of my session but MTA apparently thought being stuck on a bridge was a better idea, so when my train finally pulled into Union Square 10 minutes before I was supposed to be there, I took off my jacket stuffed it in my backpack and sprinted to Peak. The gym is housed on the 8th floor of a non-descript Flatiron building, and is this HUGE, open, loft-like floor with big windows and lots of natural light. It is a seriously beautiful, inspiring space to workout in. I was the first to arrive (yay!) and Kindra Hanson, the absolutely stunning but seriously cool General Manager, greeted me and showed me to the lockers & changing area. Since I was already in my workout clothes, I dropped off my bag in a locker, popped the key on my wrist and headed back out to the juice bar to wait for my pals who arrived just moments later.
SIN had our workout all planned out and Kindra joined us for the kick-ass session. The plan was filled with fun variations on standards and then things I had never done before. It was ridiculously fun. It even used equipment that I had never even seen in a gym to use! My favorite new piece was called the Prowler – which sort of looks like that sled you see football players push across a field in a practice –basically it is a heavy metal sled that is loaded with weight, which you then crouch down and shove across the gym floor. Did I mention the huge open floor couldn’t have seemed bigger at that moment? I was much better at that one, though, then the weight sled that you yanked behind you with ropes. But I LOVED getting to try so many new things! We were there in a weird middle of the day time and most of the people working out were trainers, who shouted out encouragement as we moved the heavy things across the floor. Nothing is as motivating as that! Plus, I got to meet two of the Directors of Peak Performance, including Dan Trink (read his amazing Greatist article about his journey to Peak – HERE) – which was cool. I love meeting people who love what they do and just want everyone in their space to kick ass. Supportive fit people really are the best… especially if you are the least fit in the room (yep, that was me) and they are still yelling for you!
We moved into the small studio to finish up our workout with lots of planks, prone jumping-jacks and medicine ball sit-ups, even trying a crazy one legged crow pose… which I almost got but I will nail eventually! A little practice and I can make it happen. It was such a cool, awesome, fun group and the session went by in a flash. I am still not quite sure how it happened that I got to work out in one of the best facilities in the city but it was easily the coolest thing I have done in a long time.
Photo of Peak Performance from their Facebook page, bottom image just a good reminder to work harder.