Rotem Ishay won an individual national championship with the FLC cycling team, with the assistance of a local performance center’s fitness testing. Now, not only does Ishay run that same center—he has also brought his career as an exercise specialist back to campus through a unique partnership.
Ishay (Exercise Specialist, ’12) is now the director of the Durango Performance Center, a sports lab that provides performance testing to both elite-level athletes and everyday people who want to improve their health, wellness, and performance.
He is also the director of FLC’s Health & Human Performance Lab. The unusual aspect of his dual role is that both the privately-owned Durango Performance Center and the College’s own lab are housed in the same room on campus.
“At a certain point we realized there was a need for the Health Sciences Department and the Durango Performance Center to start working together,” Ishay says. “The opportunity came along in December 2016 where we moved the whole Durango Performance Center here to the Health & Human Performance Lab, and now I manage both of them.”
The services Ishay provides to community members, FLC students, and College faculty and staff depend greatly on each individual’s abilities and motivations. He conducts a range of fitness testing to assess a person’s current capabilities in order to help them build a training, fitness, or nutrition plan to meet their goals.
For instance, he evaluates the metabolism of many of his clients. “When you want to look at metabolism, a person’s physiology, you want to look at their whole spectrum of activity,” he explains. “We put them on a treadmill, on a bike, on a rowing device, whatever fits the type of sport that applies to them, and have them start the exercise from the lowest intensity to their maximal intensity. That way we can see their physiology and the change of physiology through the whole spectrum.”
The lab serves athletes of all stripes, as well. “When you think about endurance physiology, it’s no different between a soccer player, a hockey player, an ultra-endurance runner, or a Tour de France cyclist,” he says. “The difference is how you apply the knowledge.”
This work is pretty much exactly what Ishay trained for as a student at FLC. In fact, the Durango Performance Center was a huge part of his undergraduate years, both as a student athlete and as a student researcher.
As a member of the FLC cycling team and an individual national champion, Ishay relied on the Durango Performance Center’s testing to help inform his training. Then, he completed his senior internship at the center with its owner and founder, Bruce Andrea.
“I did my research on their hyperoxic device, which enables you to train with supplemental oxygen,” he says. “It enables you to train as if you’re at sea level. That’s what I did my research thesis on, while I continued to do my internship there.”
After finishing his academic and collegiate cycling career at FLC, the director position opened up at the center, and Ishay moved straight into the role, while continuing to cycle competitively as well. “The professors gave me a good example of combining academics and sports,” he says. “I graduated from the Exercise Science program and went to a job that perfectly exemplifies what this major could prepare me for.”
A few years later, he oversaw the Durango Performance Center’s transition from its downtown location to the FLC campus. Not only did the move enable the center to increase its capacity and benefit from proximity to expert professors, but it also provides Health Sciences students an exceptional chance to get hands-on experience with genuine test subjects ranging from world-class competitors to people hoping to start their first fitness regimen.
“I have always at least one intern who helps me with any type of project we have,” Ishay says. “It narrows the gap between what they learn in class and what they’ll need to do in practice.”
Students have the opportunity to aid Ishay with Durango Performance Center’s clients, and in turn, Ishay offers them assistance with their academic research. Various classes, such as Exercise Testing & Prescription, pair students with FLC staff and faculty members for a semester. During that time, the students conduct fitness testing and develop a plan to suit that volunteer’s needs.
“We could get an employee whose goal is to podium their age group in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic,” Ishay says. “Or they could be just someone who wants to shed five pounds. The students need to deal with whatever goal that is and prescribe the right testing and analyze the testing, and then help them get them a training plan or nutrition plan, as well. So I help them with everything that connects to the lab. If they need to do any testing, if they need any help or advice with what testing to do, or how to tailor their training or diet as well, I’m here for that.”
Working with students is one of the more rewarding aspects of Ishay’s dual role. And he observes, on a regular basis, how important it is for students to experience the first-hand fitness testing that the Health Sciences Department and Durango Performance Center’s partnership enables on campus.
“I would say that the opportunities that the students have now are far more advanced than what I had,” he says. “When the students are actually working with people, or they have the ability to intern here at the Durango Performance Center and be involved with local athletes and actually make an impact, I think that’s the major difference.”