Who would have thought that Knoxville, known for its raving Vols fans, bluegrass, and the Smoky Mountains, would also be a hotbed for elite athletes? Fitness expert Eddie Raymond recognized the city's athletic potential and now caters to it with the Knoxville Performance Lab, a state-of-the-art training facility utilizing sports-science based programs and top of the line equipment to facilitate athletic performance.
"People don't realize how blessed we are—how many Olympians we have. I mean, the last Olympics—I think we had over 20 athletes that either were training here or going to school here," Raymond says. "Some of my top athletes through the last few years were talking to me about training centers around the U.S., kind of like what they have in Arizona, California, Colorado, New York—you know a few cities around the U.S. but really nothing in the Southeast."
While KPL has the capabilities to train Olympic-level athletes, it also assists rehabilitation patients and recreational performers. Its specialized equipment is designed to minimize impact, assist in recovery, and take body measurements. The most popular machine is the Alter-G treadmill, which can be used to reduce a person's body weight by up to 80 percent while they are running on it. "At 20 percent of your body weight, you'd be like running on the moon. It was actually designed by NASA, and then all of these people started using it for other things," Raymond says. "We do a lot of rehab work on it, like if a person is recovering from surgery or an injury and still wants to be able to exercise, it gets their blood pumping and their heart rate up without having much impact. The second part is athletes using it for performance, everyone from runners to weight lifters. They'll try to make themselves faster by taking like 5 to 10 percent off their body weight. It simply gets their body used to going faster without the impact."
KPL also features a Vibrosphere, a circular plate utilizing vibration therapy to enhance workouts by getting circulation going, helping lactic acid breakdown, and speeding nerve connections. "There's actually research showing that if you exercise on this, you get more benefits than you do on straight ground. So they say you may be getting like 10 times the effectiveness of a certain exercise while vibrating," Raymond says.
Complementing the Alter-G treadmill and the Vibrosphere is the Bod Pod, a tool used to measure muscle mass and body fat and resting metabolic rate. Other forms of testing featured at KPL are lactic threshold testing and VO2 max, both of which are aimed at telling an athlete how far his or her body can be pushed. For recovery from exercise, Raymond uses a soft-mild hyperbaric chamber that utilizes pressure and oxygen.
Located in the back of The Health Shoppe on Kingston Pike, KPL is small, yet thorough. "There're a lot more things that we could actually bring in here, but I decided not to because I didn't feel like the research and study was behind it. I mean the testing, everybody knows that that's beneficial, but as far as the other tools we did put a lot of research behind them and talk to athletes that use them and made sure that this was equipment was beneficial and not dangerous," Raymond says.
Safety is a top concern, as he focuses on teaching his clients life skills to help them overcome their challenges as opposed to quick fixes. He says, "I have a lot of pride in teaching clients the healthy route and basing most of it around the nutrition and the diet and not a bunch of supplements. I teach them just a few of the basic and most beneficial supplements and how to incorporate them and the timing of those things. We try to build a very solid foundation—we're not just looking at trying to improve their performance but also to keep them from doing things that are not going to be good long term."
Also on staff are massage and physical therapists and a nutritionist to help keep the athletes going in the right direction. "The biggest thing that we try to target with our athletes is we want to keep them injury-free and keep them better recovered so that they're able to continue doing their thing without having issues where they hit a wall or get injured."