MBA student at U-M develops platforms
to aid athletes, trainers
Thursday, April 25, 2002
BY SCOTT ANDERSON
News Business Reporter
John Gary wanted his exercise regimen to
be smarter than the dumbbells he was hoisting every day.
A fitness enthusiast and martial arts
instructor, Gary was looking for a tool to track his progress in weight training
- one that would also give him encouragement or the occasional prodding to work
"I really wanted a way to see how I
was doing - if I was getting any better," he said. "There was nothing
out there that could tell me that."
So, like many enterprising MBA students
at the University of Michigan, Gary decided to launch a company. His start-up,
Roger Inc., attempts to fuse the high-tech world of software with the sweaty one
of strength endurance.
Gary, 35, has created two software
platforms - PushXL for individual athletes and PushAD for coaches or physical
trainers planning multiple fitness routines. The PC-based technology breaks down
exercise into anaerobic activities, like weight lifting, and aerobic ones, such
as running, swimming or cycling.
In weight lifting, the software can be
formatted to spotlight certain muscle groups and tailor workouts, while
automatically reminding the user which exercises they may have neglected. It
also will chart success or setbacks, using line charts and graphs.
"Without my software, they have to
do all of this with paper and pencil," Gary said.
But some paper is involved, including
printing out a scheduled workout and filling out various values, which need to
be entered into the computer later. After all, Gary points out, who wants to
haul a computer to the gym?
The traditional notion of exercise is
changing almost as quickly as the technology. The old image of a male-dominated,
testosterone-drenched weight room is rapidly fading. Greater numbers of women
and senior citizens are picking up barbells as the benefits of strength training
are shown to combat osteoporosis and contribute to overall fitness.
Likewise, technologies once only
available to collegiate athletes or professionals are beginning to filter down
to the rest of us. For example, those willing to shell out the dollars can find
rowing machines capable of racing each other via the Internet. Underwater music
players take some of the drudgery out of long-distance swimming and training
watches with global positioning systems help runners find new ground.
Richard Newton, program coordinator for
U-M's department of recreational sports, is adopting the Roger software for
"Prescription Fit" - a personal training program used by nearly 80
people. He said the technology will allow his team of trainers to shuttle
between U-M's three main exercise facilities without reams of paper.
"I needed a centralized way to pull
up someone's records, regardless of which building they're working out in,"
Newton hopes to dovetail the software
with the planned purchase of a "bod pod" - a space capsule-like device
that uses air pressure to determine body fat and other fitness assessments. The
university hopes to buy the machine sometime this year.
The "football tech" class at
Ypsilanti High School - a course for players to hone their skills in the
off-season - will use the software to plan and monitor student athletes. If
successful, the training software could be expanded to the entire football
program in the fall.
"It fine-tunes (the workouts) a
little better than if I was doing it by hand," said David Poole, assistant
coach and physical education teacher.
Gary sees the technology applied not
only in high school or college sports, but by health clubs and physical
A sales representative for business
telephone provider ChoiceOne Communications, Gary has self-financed his company
except for a $5,000 award from U-M's Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial
Studies. Roger Inc. was one of six grant winners from a field of 24 entrants in
a contest to find innovative new companies.
Gary is confident he can get venture
capital to grow the company, despite skepticism many investors have toward
software firms these days.
"I don't want to waste my time on
something that's not going to work, and I wouldn't ask people to waste their
money on it, either," he said.
A version of the Roger software can be downloaded from the company's Web site - www.roger-inc.com - for $29.95.
Scott Anderson can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at (734) 994-6843.
2002 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission
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