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Clockwork Precision in Athletics Shifting to the Right Gear Part 2

  April 02, 2016

By Alexander Germanis

Those accustomed to driving a car with a stick shift or riding a multi-speed bicycle know a necessary step must be taken before starting to ascend a hill. A manual downshift of gears must be made.

This gear change is essential to efficiency and absolutely necessary to ensure proper continuing function. For the car, the misuse of gears can cause catastrophic failure of the transmission; for the bicycle, bearings can break and the cyclist can pull, strain, or tear ligaments and muscles.

As Dr. Joseph Norris of McLean County Orthopedics indicated in part one of this series, knowing when and how to “change gears,” so to speak, is as important to an exercise program as it can be for operating a vehicle.

A founder of a new facility called Method Sports Performance, Dr. Norris first understood that to know when to change the body’s gears required a vast amount of data to be gathered. Dissecting that data will aid physicians and trainers to help athletes of all ages to exercise more efficiently; it will help them see greater gains while investing less time and expending less effort.

But of the myriad data the body produces during a workout, the questions remain— exactly what numbers matter? And how was the initial data actually gathered?

Through a partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine and using college teams as well as NHL teams as sort of guinea pigs, a cellular respiration analytics (CRA) test was performed on each player in order to figure out how to obtain that individual’s “metabolic fingerprint,” as Dr. Norris calls it.

“What that means,” he explains, “is your muscles—your entire body, every cell processes different fuels as you go through exercise. As you’re processing those different fuels, you have different efficiencies with how the muscle is working. We have the ability to detect when you’re maximally efficient with a test. That is done through a process of collecting biomarkers at different levels of exertion.”

Dr. Norris elucidates on the fuels cells burn in order to produce energy. In conjunction with the oxygen in the cells, he adds, “You’re also using stored ATP (adenosine triphosphates) and fat. Then you go to an anaerobic metabolism, where you don’t have oxygen anymore in the cell and you start to consume faster fuel stores, which ferments from trying to create the same fuel without oxygen.”

But when your biomarkers reach a certain level, your muscle has 15 times more ATP to process one contraction,” he continues. “So it’s maximally efficient; it happens to be right at the maximal oxidative stress.”

In short, it means there are certain times in the exercise routine when a changing of gears is suggested in order to maintain maximum efficiency in the workout. “There’s a ‘secret sauce,’” Dr. Norris puts it. “And correlating that ‘secret sauce number’ to a heart rate then enables us to prescribe the ideal heart rate for you to recover down to.”

So, like a car or bike, shifting gears in a workout is necessary in order to maintain the “absolute maximal, beneficially efficient state.”

“That has shown remarkable, remarkable gains,” he promises. “It gives us optimal results for what our body can produce with exercise; but it also tracks to when you are pushing yourself past the limit that you should, which also correlates with injury rate.”

Like knowing when to downshift while mounting a steep hill, the program has been designed to coach the individual through the proper way to train based on their specific metabolic fingerprint. “We took it one step further,” the doctor adds, “by taking that science and adding it to the digital platform we already had for collecting the data. So, now we have a platform, a test and a workout.”

For more information on how the body burns fuels and how the tests calculate the best numbers for each person, read Clockwork Precision in Athletics, Part 3 in next month’s issue of Healthy Cells Magazine®.

Method Sports Performance, developed by Dr. Norris and Dr. Newcomer, will be opening later this year as part of the Integrated Center for Wellness. Method Sports Performance will offer a science-based approach to improving the performance of athletes of all ages. For more information, you may contact Dr. Norris at

Photo credit: andresr/iStock
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