Old resolution, new tech: The gym experience has come a long way in recent years
EAGLE COUNTY — If you’re looking at gyms for the new year, but are also a bit distracted playing video games, you may want to consider the latest in workout and gaming fusion, the Wahoo Kickr.
While the new technology is most appealing to the expert cyclist who is cooped up for the winter, it also has the ability to turn a novice into a more experienced rider indoors, giving that person the confidence to venture out into the streets.
For experts, the Wahoo Kickr gives you all the readings you were wondering about while you were riding outdoors, all the information on your power output and what type of workout you’re receiving.
Jake Wells, owner of Form Attainment Studio in Edwards, saw the device and was enthralled with its potential for group purposes — with user friendly wireless technology, everyone can participate in the same ride with their bike set to their threshold, in what golfers might call a handicap.
“A seasoned rider can be in the same room with someone who has never been on a bike before, and we’re all going to get the same workout, customized for us,” Wells said.
You might recognize Wells from the local mountain bike series, where he often finds himself in a battle for first place in the top division against fellow professional Josiah Middaugh.
So it’s not surprising to see Middaugh was right behind Wells in bringing the technology to his gym in The Athletic Club at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon.
“We figured we should do it sooner rather than later,” Middaugh said.
GAMERS GETTING IN SHAPE
With your own bike serving as your video game controller, Wahoo’s wireless trainers use a cassette and belt-driven device to replace your rear wheel for a direct drive relationship with the trainer. Resistance is derived from electromagnets, working in tandem with a 15-pound flywheel that closely mimics the sensations of riding outside.
“Everyone is feeling the same sensations, pushing each other, even though we’re all at different levels,” Middaugh said.
The resistance mimics gradients of up to 20 percent without having the rear wheel slip or skip. Conversely, the unique design of the flywheel can mimic a downhill grade and allows the feel of coasting or generating momentum.
The trainers support different apps — a couple popular ones have come along — allowing for a variety of workouts including set intervals and iconic climbs like Alpe d’Huez.
“There’s been all kinds of different apps,” Wells said.
Wells said the popular one is called Zwift, where “you’re a real live avatar in the video game.”
But Wells and Middaugh won’t be using Zwift, and the reason is interesting in the fact that it taps into the same reason why the home gym is notoriously used as a clothing rack more than a fitness tool.
“They don’t have a multiplayer option,” Wells said.
The Wahoo Kickr, of course, can be put in a living room alongside an Xbox for anyone who can afford to do so.
But Wells and Middaugh are firm believers in the group atmosphere, for the same reason your mother didn’t like you sitting by yourself playing video games, but didn’t seem to mind you playing with your siblings if it meant you weren’t beating each other up.
“Whether it’s competitiveness, or just the social element of it, the group setting of riding consistently with other people week after week becomes the motivator,” Wells said.
“Then when we get to the end of winter, into spring, we make it real and go do a group ride outside,” he added.
The rider uses his or her own bike the whole time, “so you’re not having to get used to a new bike,” Wells said.
Middaugh said the ability to graduate to the outdoor setting is a reason why this area of the country is great for the Wahoo Kickr winter classes.
“In a lot of parts of the country, a lot of the most experienced cyclists are heading inside, because it’s so safe and so controllable,” Middaugh said. “Luckily here we have some good outdoor rides and some road-bike friendly roads.”