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The Best Training Investment You’ll Ever Make

Tue, Apr  17, 2007 - By Kip Knight

The best investment in your equipment you’ll ever make. The 2007-2008 ski season training starts now! By Kip Knight April 10, 2007

If you’re like me, the end of the long anticipated race season is a sweet and sour mixture.

Sweet, for the other part of our lives that wonder where and why we go every weekend with snow in the air or on the ground. Sour, well, the whole aspect of why we ski, race and congregate takes an unavoidable sabbatical.

Now for the big question-how will you train over the summer months?

Enter McLain Cycle and Fitness in Traverse City, Michigan ( Bob McLain and crew are ready to help. How? They are the recent and proud owners of a very nifty training tool called New Leaf Active Metabolic Assessment System. The New Leaf system, recently only available to elite and Olympic athletes, measures and diagnoses an essential array of physiological tests. These tests can benefit any physical fitness buff from the athlete that is training and racing on a weekly basis to the individual wanting to trim down and firm up in the most efficient and safest way possible. Maybe you struggle to keep up with the peloton in the last leg of the beloved group ride. Or, you just need some help with your training goals. Either way, this health assessment may be just what you need.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), Peak VO2, Aerobic Base (AB), Anaerobic Threshold (AT), and the all essential Optimal Heart Rate Training Zones are just a few of the metabolic profiles created and supplied to the tested athlete. So, with only my dignity to lose, I decided to put myself at the mercy of the staff, the system and my own athleticism.

When I arrived at the arranged 7:30 A.M. testing time, I had just opened my eyes; however the bike shop was wide-awake and ready to go. In Part One, a baseline evaluation of your metabolic profile and caloric requirement, found me sitting comfy and quiet. The goal? Establish your Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR. With the guidance of McLain’s senior managers Rich Budek, and Jason Whittaker and Frank Tafelski, all trained in the administration of the New Leaf system, the protocol for each of the two assessments were explained. Part two would consist of a similar assessment of how my body performed during the same tests while exercising.

Part One: Prep

After I attached the supplied heart rate monitor and securely affix a respiration mask, I did my best to put away all anxieties. You want the Resting Heart Rate (RHR) to be as realistically low as warranted by your body. The respiration mask, which redirected my breathing into small plastic tubes, connects directly to a computer. This portion was only intimidating for a brief moment, but not to fear, the soft, cushy recliner while the lights were out easily took the edge off. This took approximately 15 minutes and I was relaxed to the point I nearly nodded off. Afterwards, we reviewed this data and what it meant to my physiology.

With inputted information such as body weight, height and age this data reveals your basic daily caloric requirements and if so desired, your caloric requirement to achieve a lesser weight. Now it was time to make the connection to the second part - where I climbed aboard a stationary bike and went for the gusto! (You may choose a stationary bike, treadmill or an elliptical walker for testing.)

Part Two: The Test

With respiration mask back in place and all saddled up, I establish an easy and comfortable cadence. “Pick it up” Frank tells me. So I do. Approximately every five minutes, Rich ratchets up the resistance on the bike. “Keep the same cadence,” he reminds me. So I continue to pedal. You can hear the duo’s converstion and at times, it is encouraging. “Good job, looks nice,” and the ever popular “beautiful” keep my motivation going strong. They observe their subject with a watchful eye. Now at about the 20-25 minute mark, I can tell things are changing. I feel like I really AM climbing Pleva hill in Cedar (Michigan). The conversation changes to comments like: “he’s almost there” and “about 30 more seconds”.

True to their words, they give you the signal that the test is over. They back off the resistance on the bike and put you into recovery mode. It takes just a short while and your back to your “base” and everything is fine. Sweaty, but fine. Cold water, a food bar and a clean towel are readily supplied. These folks are pros.

How'd I do?

Now for more education. “How’d I do?” is a very common question asked after this test. Keep in mind that each test is completely unique to each participant, so an interpretation is vital. This metabolic and exercise profile is, in a way, your physiological fingerprint for that moment in time. The test produces approximately seven printable panels of results, all of which you take with you. For example, the first page Rich, Frank and I reviewed was a comparison of my aerobic base (AB) to my anaerobic threshold (AT). Both the AB and AT compared how many calories and fat I had burned per minute. And each stated the heart rate at which this was occurring. It was simply amazing to see on paper what you could only guess was going on inside your body.

Other pages outputted provided a workout schedule and subsequent cycles such as recommended intensities in each zone on a given workout day or an interval block and a recommended time ratio for each zone 1-4.

This is GOOD stuff. Still other pages displayed line graphs correlating my heart rate, AB and AT showing my performance today, and in projected stages if I fulfill my recommended training duties.

Training zones, 1-4 is the most recognizable and easiest page to interpret. The four colored bar graphs coordinate with my heart rate and map out where things change from aerobic to anaerobic during exercise and what my body was doing to compensate.

I can tell you the New Leaf test was well worth the time, effort and cost. Considering our willingness to purchase the latest gizmo, new poles or a few bars of high fluorocarbon wax in the hopes of making an improvement, this training appraisal is truly what most all of us need-an understanding of ourselves and a plan to make a positive change. Give it some thought when you make your annual pilgrimage to the Traverse City area this spring, summer or fall. Contact McLain’s at When you do, you will be impressed with their quality of service and professional guidance beyond the health review. Be sure to give Rich, Frank or Bob a few weeks notice, as they are currently booked about two weeks in advance.

Where do I go from here? Well, I can take the recommended training schedule and work from there-and I will. I can also do what Rich, Frank and Bob recommend: take this unique data and connect with a certified trainer or coach. A good place to start is the Fitness Center in Traverse City, Michigan ( and seek out Todd Nienhouse, General Manager. He has the expertise to map out a specific plan for you and help you to break into your next zones with safety and success.

I plan on at least two more repeat assessments: mid summer and then fall. Like I said, this may be your best investment in your equipment ever! That’s my plan… so stay tuned!