Rock Bottom Gym

TRAVERSE CITY – Doug Petersen doesn't believe his gym is going to get you and your friends fit.

"We are the icing, not the cake," says Petersen. "I can be a resource, but I'm only seeing someone maybe three hours out of 168 hours a week."

As a personal trainer and owner of Rock Bottom Gym in Traverse City, Petersen is all about movement. And if you make "movement" a priority every day, he has plenty of ideas to get you to the next level of fitness.

"We burn eighty to ninety percent of calories through movement," Petersen says. "Our bodies are wired to move, but we've engineered movement out of our lives. We don't appreciate small movement, don't appreciate walking."

Walk while you work

Rock Bottom Gym, located in Building 50 at the Village of Grand Traverse Commons, is two years old and busier than ever, says Petersen. It's a trainer's gym – designed for people who want to work directly with a trainer – rather than a member's gym. "We focus on small-group training," says Petersen, adding that the norm is generally four to eight people at a time. "We have very few members, just people who live or work here."

Petersen's "movement manifesto" has led to a book (working title: Mover's Dilemma), which is just about ready to head to a literary agent.

The book looks at what type of mover you are – purposeful or efficient are two types (can you guess which one is healthier?) – and finds fitness solutions for you based on your movement profile. Petersen says he would like the book to turn into a corporate wellness project, as he wants to consult in these types of large environments.

"I want to create movement access for all personalities," Petersen says.

The daily walking dose? 10,000 steps is the recommended target. Petersen walks an average of 20,000 steps daily, or about nine to 10 miles.

"I'm more of a purposeful mover," he says. "I don't seek out regular, contrived exercise like people think."

Petersen says his fastest growing fitness segment is driven by interest in the moving workstation – a combo treadmill desk machine – that allows you to walk while you work.

Attorneys John Di Giacomo and Katie Horvath, who work at neighboring Traverse Legal, have agreed to take part in a "walking workstation" study with Petersen as he develops the program. All Petersen is asking them to do is walk slowly while they check email each day. "No faster than 2 m.p.h. – more like 1.5 m.p.h.," he says.

"The first week I will have them just walk once to adjust the height of the station and give them a sample of how it will work with the computer," says Petersen. He will also collect some data: resting heart rate, exercise heart rate, blood pressure, weight, general energy during the work day and any changes with appetite. He also had them wear a pedometer to get an average number of steps they walked prior to the study.

Di Giacomo, who averages 100 to 110 emails a day, says he's eager to burn calories during the daily chore of reading and responding to email.

The lawyer says he already works out with Petersen at the gym but is particularly interested in this study.

"It's certainly better than sitting at a desk, especially in the afternoon when there's a decrease in your energy level," he says.

The fitness industry

So, in Petersen's quest to get people moving and increase their fitness, what does he see as the biggest problem in the fitness industry today? His answer is simple: egos. "It's like the guy who loves to drink who opens a bar. Someone who loves to work out opens a gym and assumes that everyone has the same passion for the gym. It's not true."

Petersen readily admits that he's "very cynical" about the industry. He cites a statistic: Fifteen percent of Americans over 18 who can afford a gym actually belong to a gym.

"We're not getting the access," he says. And the people he does see? Well, they are already in pretty good shape. "I don't see that many unfit people in the gym," he adds.

"[The industry] is not about getting healthy, it's about dollars," says Petersen. "Personal health impacts everything else. It shouldn't be profit-driven … selling the idea that we're going to take care of you."

Petersen believes strongly that medicine has got to merge with fitness. He says there's a "huge chasm" with what health insurance will cover as "preventative" of which fitness should be a part.

"The fitness industry needs to raise the bar and do what we do better," says Petersen. BN