Fitness Face-Off: Thy will be dunk, Part 2

If this contest were merely about who can blog more, Elise would clearly be winning. (Actually, her obsession with cataloging that glorified stretching routine is starting to make me think she doesn't have enough real work to do around here. Duly noted, Elise).

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But this contest is not about self-promotion, it's about who can achieve their fitness goal fastest and/or at all. And as I have every intention of winning, the strategy I'm clearly employing now is what Muhammad Ali called the Rope-a-Dope. I'm letting Elise get nice and cocky about her apparent "lead" so that I can storm back and win in glorious, come-from-behind fashion. The way all good American victories are achieved.

But let's take a look at what my first class of dunk-training was like.

Bluestreak splits its sessions into running days and plyometric days (roughly speaking). The first day for me and my classmates (about six other younger, fitter guys—although we're all technically on individual programs) was a running day: It was our first workout on what I have taken to calling the Bitch.

Simply put, the Bitch is a treadmill—but this ain't no friendly country-club runner with a magazine stand and a cup holder. Properly known as a Generation III Super Treadmill, it is an industrial-strength muscle masher. The Bitch can do high speeds (28mph) and be raised to large inclines (40 degrees) to create running conditions normally found only in cartoon chases.

The idea of the Bitch is to put you on an incline and make you run a series of interval sprints of increasing speed. The incline removes what's known as the braking effect—when you run on a flat surface, every step has a bit of braking in it as your foot hits the ground. But on an incline, you have to push yourself up, so that effect disappears. Ultimately, the Bitch will lengthen your stride, improve your speed and, hopefully, give you some explosiveness with which to inch ever closer to joining Phi Slamma Jamma.

The sprints aren't too bad at first. You hop on, jog for a bit, hop off. A Bluestreak trainer stands right at your side with his hand positioned at your back—just in case. There's also a handlebar in front of you, which seems silly at first. At first.

But then the speed goes up, and by the final sprint, you are told to run, then hold the handlebar as you run, then let go and run some more. When I did this the first time, by the final interval I simply couldn't stay on the treadmill under my own power, which it turns out is what the trainer's hand at your back is for. That little assist keeps you on the machine instead of flying off the back of it, and enables you to run at a speed you could not produce on your own.

In fact, this treadmill strategy (and the Bluestreak techniques in general) is built around a training system called Frappier Acceleration Sports Training. That system was invented by a physiologist named John Frappier, who went to Russia back in the '80s to see how they trained athletes, and watched coaches lash men to the back of moving trucks and make them keep up with them.

So basically I'm being trained Soviet style.

That first session on the Bitch was an eye-opener. I should have known what I was in for when, as we started, I saw one of the trainers pull a garbage can up behind our group. "Just in case," he said, grinning. I didn't end up hurling, but when it was over, and I was on one knee sucking for air like a codfish on a boat deck, I did wonder what the hell I'd gotten myself into.

And here is where I reveal that my Rope-a-Dope strategy is about to peak (as planned, of course): I'm going on vacation for two weeks, to a place where the Bitch cannot find me, and Elise will no doubt have blogged 89 more times by my return. But this competition is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Slow and steady reaches the rim.