A 45-Year-Old Man Walks Into a Gym...
Credit: Photograph by Michael Edwards

The Test
Six minutes with GE's Lunar iDXA Body Scan tells you everything you ever wanted to know about your body composition but were afraid to ask. The scan lays bare, in stark and specific color detail, where the fat is. Hint: It's yellow. The scan on the left reveals a BMI of 26 percent with extra fat in the android (or waist) area. The scan on the right shows the same body, three months later and 13 pounds lighter, with a BMI of 19 percent.

The Assessment: How Well Can You Move?
The Functional Movement Screen, or FMS, gauges and assesses human movement patterns: simply, how well you move. On my first FMS, I scored a 12. "A 12 is not horrendous," physical therapist Gray Cook assures me, and he should know – he's the guy who invented the FMS. "That's the average at the NFL Combine. Now a lot of those guys scoring that poorly run unbelievably fast or hit unbelievably hard," – things I certainly don't – "but they're one-trick-ponies. We'll see marathoners get single digits on the FMS. They can run a marathon, but they'd die trying to climb a rock wall." Cook's research in the 1980s concluded that strength and flexibility weren't reliable predictors of injury, that people in good shape were getting injured at the same rate as those who weren't – so he developed the FMS, which measures symmetry, core stability, and motor control, which Cook says are huge factors in predicting injury. "Do you shift when you squat? Can you lie on your back and lift one leg as high as the other? Can you lunge with control? If you have asymmetries like these, they get compounded by mountain biking or downhill skiing or whatever. These aren't a complex series of movements. They only ask you to show an average range of motion. I think most martial arts instructors or Pilates instructors would look at a movement screen and say, 'Shit. If you can't do that, what are you standing in front of me for?'"

Three Crazy Exercises to Melt the Fat Away
Occasionally my trainers subject me to high-intensity bursts to burn fat. One day, David instructs me to leap from squatting position to full extension with arms overhead, laterally along the gym's long hallway. He calls these Frog Leaps, and they induce a lung-burning, heart-pounding speechlessness I haven't experienced since suicide drills in high school. Another day, David makes me crawl along the hallway on all fours, which is challenge enough, but then he makes me do it backward, leaving me flailing and shaking and humble all over again. Another day, V puts me on a treadmill with its power off, tells me to hold onto the bar, and run all out for 30 seconds. I gasp through the 60-second breaks in between, stop at five, and start coughing. "That's lactic coughing," V tells me, smiling. "It's what happens when you get lactic-acid buildup in your bloodstream from lack of oxygen."

The Cardio Project
VO2 Max is a technical way of describing cardiovascular capacity. It's a measurement of the amount of oxygen your body can utilize during an intense period of exertion. It's considered a reliable marker of cardio vascular fitness. So Ann Marie Miller, head coach at the Performance Center at Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, Manhattan's fitness megaplex, administers the test, putting me in a mask, plugging me into the machine, and putting me through my paces on a stationary bike. Her assessment: weak. So Miller assigns me a steady diet of intervals, knowing that repeating a cycle – ramping up my heart and recovering, ramping up and recovering – will reap greater benefits than maintaining a steady level. The recovery periods allow my body to repair and adapt to the higher levels. She shows me how to sync my Garmin GPS/heart rate monitor to a website (enewleaf.com) where I can upload my workouts, then leaves me to my own devices. It makes me wonder if I should go back and drop a few sprints into every slow-and-steady run I've taken since 1988. Three months later, she tests me again and this time, the news is better. Ann Marie gets visibly excited when the results begin to form on her laptop. "All right!" she exclaims. "Great job." My VO2 Max has improved, from 44.5 to 49.1 ml/kg/min. It's not an astounding leap in my eyes, but one she says she's "thrilled by," particularly since I did no bike training to get there.