Ali's Athletic Performance Story

A Rochester native, I graduated from Mayo high school in spring 2011. Enticed by the thought of overflowing beer mugs and infinite baskets of cheese curds, I applied to University of Wisconsin—Madison, and began schooling that fall. I laughed at warnings of gaining the “Freshman 15,” as I sat at Madison’s terrace after school each day, enjoying (too) many servings of their homemade Babcock Ice Cream. What insane person could ever turn down the richest-ever, peanut butter and chocolate ice cream at just $2 a scoop? Anyway, as fall approached and jeans came out from hiding, I was unpleasantly surprised. (I’m convinced that calories are tiny elf-like creatures that sneak into your closet at night to shrink your clothing. Apparently, they really liked my closet.)

Since then, my life has been a rollercoaster in terms of dieting and exercise. I have tried just about every “trend” in terms of workouts, from the P90-X program, to spending countless hours riding on a bike in my basement—literally to nowhere. Through recent experiences and conversations, I have come to the conclusion that I am definitely not alone in feeling frustrated with my overall health and fitness. What I have found to be most discouraging is simply the fact that I don’t know how to achieve—and more importantly, maintain—the health level that I so desire. Like many others, I have used the excuse of being “too busy” to dedicate a chunk of my time to learning proper techniques and implementing them. So, when I was offered the chance to try out SMAP’s circuit training, I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s how my workout went.

Image of Circuit-Training Equipment

There are 16 circuits, or stations, that involve a variety of items from kettlebells to treadmills. Each individual works a station for up to 50 seconds, then rests for 15 seconds before moving on to the next station. Sounds easy, right? My inability to raise my arms above my head today says otherwise. Getting out of bed this morning was a slight struggle. However, I welcome the soreness in my limbs because that means I accomplished what I set out to do—get my butt kicked! Two SMAP staff members were on hand to provide words of encouragement when the going got too tough. I was extremely impressed with their ability to provide personal guidance tailored to each group member, continually walking around the gym to correct our form and answer questions. This was especially helpful for me, a fitness novice!

Image of an EliteForm Touchpad

Another helpful resource was the EliteForm technology that is set up on three of SMAP’s workout machines. During your first fitness class at SMAP, a staff member will help you set up an account on EliteForm (It’s super easy, all that is required is your name) that displays how many repetitions to do of a certain movement. Staff members enter the amount of repetitions and how much weight you use during each class according to your physical abilities. As you gain strength, the EliteForm software will suggest more reps or perhaps a higher weight. And here’s the really cool part—there is a camera on the top of the machine that tracks your movement, displaying on the screen how many reps you have done. Once you have completed the set, you are able to watch a playback of your performance. This feature was extremely helpful to me, as I had always struggled with correct posture. After seeing myself on video, it was much easier to understand what I had been doing incorrectly all these years. In a perfect world, I would just bundle up the SMAP building, (staff included), and take it with me to college this fall. Although this is unfortunately impossible, what I can take back to school with me is a quality workout technique that I will be able to do at just about any gym. Thanks SMAP!

Alright, so about that hockey treadmill. I have to admit I was slightly too confident entering the synthetic ice rink with one of SMAP’S skating and hockey trainers, Steve Nelson. Having taken figure skating lessons as a kid, I figured the balance and grace would come right back to me. I was mistaken. I felt like a baby deer attempting to walk for the first time—gangly-legged and wide-eyed. Thankfully, Steve politely lent me his hockey stick for balance. I was surprised at the striking similarity of the synthetic ice to real ice, not only in appearance but also in terms of feel underneath my skates. One baby step at a time, I crossed the rink to reach the treadmill.

Image of Ali Branch on hockey treadmill

The Blade hockey treadmill is a key piece of technology that SMAP staff uses during group training programs as well as one-on-one sessions. It features a moving piece of synthetic ice material that can reach speeds of 20 MPH and an upwards angle of 35 degrees! While this function is useful for endurance training for the professional athlete, the treadmill can also move “backwards” (as they refer to it) so that people just learning to skate can use it as well. To ensure users’ safety, all participants wear a harness attached to the ceiling. This allows the athlete to focus on skating technique without fear of wiping out. There are six harnesses, or “trolleys,” that give up to six athletes the ability to get on and off the treadmill within seconds of each other. Steve explained that the treadmill provides every sort of training a standard-sized ice rink provides: posture, stride work, edges, crossovers, speed, quickness, balance, multitasking, stick-handling, shooting, passing, and hand-eye coordination. I was definitely impressed with my overall experience, as well as the efficient use of space that SMAP’s staff has created for hockey aficionados of all ages—the mini athlete-in-training on the treadmill before me was just 4 years old! After just 10 minutes of coaching with Steve, I was able to shed my baby deer posture, gaining confidence and balance. Towards the end, he said I was on my way to becoming a pro. Bless his heart.

Image of Ali on synthetic ice

In my opinion, the SMAP facility and its staff members are an important resource to anyone in the Rochester area who’s interested in athletic training or general fitness improvement. Whether you are a middle-school or high-school student looking to do better this hockey or baseball season, or an adult like myself looking to improve overall health, SMAP has a program for you. These programs are detailed on SMAP’s MindBody website, and signing up and payment occurs there as well.

Thank you for reading my personal story, and I urge any Rochester residents who fall into the above categories to pay SMAP and its awesome employees a visit. You won’t be disappointed.