The last time I took a test related to my physical fitness was in fourth grade. So it was with curiosity that I began checking out the multiple-choice questions that popped up on my computer screen earlier this summer.
“How often do you work out?” read question 1.
My options ranged from “I never have” to “6 to 7 days per week and I work out extremely hard in and out of the gym.” I selected the latter before moving on to such questions as “Do you work out with free weights?” and “What do your conditions/surroundings need to be for a good workout?”
According to Nick Lynch, the Middlebury-based trainer who devised this questionnaire for his new website, Imsuperb.com, the answer to the question about a good workout environment may be “online.” Last May, the 24-year-old Lynch launched the site — a personalized virtual training log featuring exercises, nutrition news and chiropractic advice — to make preventive health affordable, he says.
Affordable, but not free. Imsuperb.com members pay $10, $12 or $15 per month, depending on whether they shell out for a year, a quarter or a month at a time. That gets them access to videos and photos of 350 exercises, along with chat rooms and a rotating display of “green ideas” that aims to instill healthy and Earth-friendly habits.
Though Imsuperb.com has only about 40 members so far, Lynch aims to enlist millions through corporate wellness programs and word of mouth. “When we have that many members, you bet the information will be translated to all the necessary languages,” he says of his aspirations.
Lynch points out that the cost of joining the site is a fraction of the fees one would pay a professional wellness expert. “Seeing a chiropractor, nutritionist and personal trainer is out of the question financially for most people,” he says during an interview conducted after I signed up for his site. “Imsuperb.com gives real information so that you can live in harmony with yourself and nature, and avoid unnecessary hospital visits.”
Lynch grew up in Montpelier, skiing and playing hockey, soccer, lacrosse and baseball, among other sports. “Hockey was my true passion,” he says, adding that he hired a personal trainer when he was 16 to help with his weightlifting and speed and agility drills. Around the same time, Lynch began working at Barre’s Body Tech gym, and eventually became a certified specialist in sports conditioning and a certified personal trainer.
After a three-year stint in Milwaukee, Lynch returned to Vermont last spring to invest his savings into his new online business. His partners are his brothers Shane, a chiropractor, and Dan, a nutritionist. For those who want hands-on training outside virtual reality — and are ready to fork over a few more dollars — Lynch also works out of Vermont Sun Sports and Fitness in Middlebury, offering personal training, group classes, food-shopping tours and meal-plan designs.
As a fitness-focused person, I wasn’t impressed with Imsuperb.com at first. The initial step for members is taking the aforementioned eight-question quiz that spits out a fitness level. Mine was Level 4 (out of 5), and the site immediately offered some confusing recommendations for my workout equipment — a stability ball (listed twice), workout clothes (duh!) and mental focus (huh?).
When I clicked on the recommended “dumbbells,” I was told to determine which weight was appropriate. Isn’t that what the site itself is for? For folks who test at Level 1, the situation seems even more dicey. When I checked, I found the supposedly beginner-friendly exercises were written with terminology — such as “maximum speed,” “sets” and “reps” — that a fitness newbie may not understand.
But when I put these concerns aside and clicked on the warm-up ideas and day-by-day workouts, I became increasingly hooked on Imsuperb.com. Instead of static, confusing directions with step-by-step illustrations, such as those found in most fitness magazines, I discovered exercise descriptions paired with crisp videos and photos that made it easy for me to get out of my routine. Members can click “in gym” for moves best suited to well-equipped fitness centers, or choose “in home” to see a similar set of exerecises that can be done with nothing more than a towel and a pair of dumbbells.
“The videos have been shot by a motion-picture cinematographer instead of a fitness cinematographer to make the movements and exercises more dramatic and therefore easy to understand,” says Lynch, who explains that most of the “in-home” shots were filmed in a 100-square-foot room to make the moves accessible to almost anyone. “Most websites use computer animation to describe their exercises,” he says. “Both the virtual training and live chat are exclusive to Imsuperb.com.”
Vermonters who might try to identify some of the outdoor shots seen at Imsuperb.com will be disappointed to learn that almost everything was filmed in Milwaukee — whose similarly frigid climate also helped inspire the name of the website. “I was walking down the street on a beautiful winter day; the sun was out and it was about minus 10 with wind chill, and I was thinking of fun ways to answer the everyday question of ‘How are you?’” recalls Lynch. “I thought a cool and fun way to answer is ‘I’m superb, thanks, how are you?’” Typing that phrase in the URL bar, he adds, is a great way to get ready for a workout with positive reinforcement.
For more encouragement, the site has regularly scheduled chats on exercise, chiropractic work and more. Though some members may like the email reminders, I found them annoying, and didn’t participate in any of the chats. I probably would jump in if I had specific questions — but I wish Imsuberb.com kept archived transcripts of the chats, so those of us who can’t hop online at, say, 10:30 a.m. could browse through the Q&As at our leisure.
I didn’t find the “news” section superb, either — it relies too heavily on explanations of chiropractic work and self-promotion. Anyone hoping to make sense of the barrage of actual news stories on health, fitness and nutrition will be disappointed. On the other hand, the “news” reports of Imsuperb.com members completing events ranging from a 5K to a 200-mile relay could motivate users who are beginning new routines with the site’s help.
Having a catalogue of hundreds of exercises at my fingertips is pretty cool, as is knowing that Lynch and his brothers are available to answer members’ questions about wellness. With cold weather just around the corner, the site just might give others superb reasons to get off the couch and work out on a minus-10 day.