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January 29, 2001

Living right at Blomeyer

By Eric Rangus

The Blomeyer Health Fitness Center, as a courtesy to new members, offers a one-on-one fitness assessment with a personal trainer. Emory Report senior editor Eric Rangus was recently invited to experience the test first hand.

As the Blomeyer Health Fitness Center’s color inkjet printer slowly spits out the 14 pages that make up the results of my fitness test, I can think of only one thing.

They need a laser jet. Bad.

Sometimes my job is fun. Other times it feels like I’m just pedaling and pedaling, but I’m not going anywhere. Or maybe that’s just where my mind wandered during my 20 or so minutes on the stationary bike, which tested my cardiovascular fitness.

That was just one of the varied tasks I performed as part of my fitness assessment, a comprehensive measurement of my overall health.

My guide and trainer is Chan Snipes, an exercise physiologist at Blomeyer, who has been at the center since it opened in September 1997. Tests are provided as courtesies for all new Blomeyer members (who now number more than 1,200), but not everybody requests one.

“I’ve had people tell me [Blomeyer] is the best benefit we have here at Emory,” said Theda Kirby, fitness center manager. “We try to make working out and fitness fun.”

Blomeyer is located at the top of the 1525 Building on Clifton Road and, while it is managed by an outside group (Corporate Sports Unlimited), membership is open to all faculty and staff (for $24 a month), as well as Emory affiliates such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the hospitals.

The center’s 14,000 square feet are packed with amenities. Free weights, treadmills, rowers, stationary bikes, Nordic Tracks and myriad machines for strengthening most every muscle group abound. And additional equipment, Kirby said, is on the way.

Saunas are located in both the men’s and women’s locker rooms, and an aerobic studio hosts STEP, spinning, aerobic and kickboxing classes, to name a few (as a bonus, the studio has a spiffy view of campus and the Atlanta skyline beyond). Personal training and message therapy are available, and there’s even a small pro shop.

“When we first started [in 1997] we had a waiting list of months for assessments,” Snipes said. “Since that died down, there hasn’t been a lot of interest.”

Too bad. The test only takes about an hour, is quite informative, and, dare I say, enjoyable.

The majority of the assessment takes place in a mildly claustrophobic alcove separated from Blomeyer’s indoor track by a cubicle wall. This is where the stationary bike is located, as will as the Tri-FIT 600, the computerized system that engineers the test.

The initial measurements are pretty routine: height, weight, blood pressure and 10 circumference measurements. Next is body composition; the more common term is “body fat.” Snipes uses a caliper (which “pinches an inch” like in the old Special K cereal commercials) to make measurements from the pectoral, abdomen and thigh.

Next is a flexibility test, which entails reaching for your toes from a seated position. The cardiovascular test follows, which is actually enjoyable if you like to ride a bike, but don’t like Atlanta’s bumper-cars-at-Talladega traffic.

The final phase is the strength test. First is an isometric biceps test, in which a small bar is buckled to a low platform. The lifter simply curls with all his or her strength, and the Tri-FIT 600 measures the resistance and correlates it into a corresponding weight.

The last two tests are the only ones that take place on the Blomeyer floor: the chest press and the leg press. These are, essentially, “lift as much as you can.”

That concludes the physical testing. The remainder of the time is spent on diet. One of the most impressive features of the fitness report is the meal planner. It can be geared to a person’s favorite foods and how many meals (plus snacks) he or she eats a day. The comprehensive planner sketches out a wide variety of foods that would meet the necessary servings of each food group for each meal.

It includes caloric content and even splits calories up into suggested percentages for carbohydrates, proteins and fats. My suggested plan calls for more fats (25 percent) than proteins (16 percent), a bit of a surprise.

It is, however, pretty unforgiving. For a hard-core dieter, the list has no great surprises. For the nondiscriminatory eater, though, the apple-at-every-meal plan is a little daunting. My question isn’t whether it can be adhered to for a week—but for a day.

When it’s all over, the color-coded results are printed out in a report that not only display how well you performed but also outline workout and eating plans necessary to reach the level of health you’re looking for.

How did I do? Well, my body measurements would interest only the people who buy me clothes for Christmas. For the most part, I scored in the “fair to average” range—“fair” being a kind way of saying “needs improvement” or “below average,” since it comes before “average” on the scale. I did score two excellents: body composition and the leg press. And my blood pressure is fine.

“You rank pretty well with the other people who do these tests,” Snipes tells me, adding many of the people signing up are older and in poor shape—hence the health club membership.

That makes me feel better. Now, someone get me an apple.


Back to Emory Report Jan. 29, 2001