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