Mary Free Bed opens high-tech performance lab

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) – Hidden in plain sight on the second floor of the SpartanNash YMCA is a one of a kind performance lab to West Michigan.

Behind the windows is technology that’s new to the area; an iDXA body composition scanner and VO2max, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense aerobic exercise. The lab also uses on of just three sweat composition testing units available in the Midwest.

The combination of equipment offers athletes of all ranges a unique opportunity to fine tune their training. Whether that’s an elite athlete hoping to take their training to the next level or someone looking to break into a healthier lifestyle.

“Building the Performance Lab has been a dream come true for many local athletes,” said Todd Buckingham, the team’s lead exercise physiologist and a seven-time national champion and two-time world champion in triathlon and duathlon. “I love helping athletes achieve their goals, whether that’s a Boston Marathon qualifying time or setting a personal best in a sprint triathlon.”

We put some of the new equipment to work, sending Daybreak anchor Casey Jones to test it out. Here are his observations:

The iDXA scan was incredibly simple. I laid on a comfortable table as a scanner ran from my head to my feet grabbing specific information about my bone density, muscle mass, and fat. Not only was it specific to my body, it was broken up by sections; trunk and legs. It showed in detail where some of my trouble areas are and what my resting calorie intake needed to be to maintain my current weight.

Dr. Buckingham sat down with me as he does with all patients to go over, in-depth, my results. He broke down what the percentages of muscle mass, fat and bone density meant and gave recommendations based on my goals to help me reach them.

The sweat composition test was unlike anything I’d ever done before. Dr. Buckingham put two electrodes on my arm, a hot and a ground wire. He lined them with a special chemical that helps produce a reaction by activating the same sweat glands that would be used during a run to cool me off. The electrodes part of the test lasted about ten minutes and it felt like a small pinch on my arm but while that was working, Dr. Buckingham was walking me through an online set of questions to get a better idea of workout habits and sweating patterns.

When he took the electrodes off there was a circle of sweat on my arm. He placed another circular disc where the hot wire was and that helped suck the sweat off my arm.

After it was collected, he siphoned it in and out of a machine three times, looking for the highest number displayed. He then took that number and punched it into the online survey. It immediately gave me a personalized hydration plan for races or workouts both before, during and after.

Those survey results were then emailed to me and I can go back and answer the questions differently if any training changed because it would change my results. We’ll say for the record, I’m a moderately salty sweater.

For timing purposes, I was not able to fully perform the VO2max test. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. But I was able to get a taste of it. Dr. Buckingham put a mask over my mouth that looked like something out of a Batman movie. It helped to measure the levels of oxygen my body took in and the carbon dioxide I breathed out.

Then we got up on a large treadmill. Dr. Buckingham would typical increase the speed and incline in two-minute intervals until the participant could no longer run. He’s not looking to measure muscle endurance; they’re testing aerobic endurance. It helps to let you know the maximum intensity you should be training at in order to increase your performance.

It was a humbling experience to see in detail how my body was made up and what specific areas I need to work on with how to maintain peak performance while training.

The Performance Lab offers other tests a Lactate threshold, a Resting Metabolic Rate and testing for metabolic efficiency point. Dr. Buckingham can also help with running form analysis, your anaerobic capacity, along with components of fitness and pulmonary function. 

Click here for more information on pricing or to set up your own visit to the Mary Free Bed Sports Performance Lab.

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