Driven by shot at gold, Lund amps up training

Published Oct. 13, 2009 9:29 p.m. EDT

"It's exactly what I needed," Zach Lund said.

Lund is the U.S. skeleton racer who was suspended for one year and booted from the 2006 Turin games hours before the opening ceremony because the hair-growth product he used contained a banned substance that's also a steroid masking agent; it has since been removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list.

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics are his next shot at gold, which is what lured him to this warehouse-turned-gym in downtown Salt Lake City, with white concrete walls, black rubber mats on the floor, heavy metal blaring from the stereo in the corner and a trainer pushing Lund to his physical and mental limits three times a week, all offseason long.

Gym Jones isn't not for everyone. It's barely for anyone, really. Most who apply get turned down flat. Certain actors have trained for high-octane movie roles here, along with members of special military units, MMA fighters, extreme-sport competitors and others of that ilk.


"It was a reality check," Lund said. "I've never been through so much pain in my life."

His plan is for that pain to start paying off this week, when the U.S. skeleton national team trials begin Wednesday in Lake Placid, N.Y. It's a four-race series, two in Lake Placid, then two more next week in Utah, after which the World Cup team for the coming season will be established.

Emphatically, the 2007 overall World Cup skeleton champion says yes.

"There's a difference between being what most people think is in shape, looking good, and being strong, explosive and fast," Lund said. "You'll see a lot of guys at 24-Hour Fitness thinking they're ripped, but that's not in shape. That's looking good. Gym Jones, they want me to be a strong, pound-for-pound, mean (expletive). It's ruthless."

On a day when a reporter was invited to watch, Lund's workout lasted about 80 minutes. He nearly got sick twice.

Following a brief warmup on a rowing machine, Lund started by squatting and thrusting 105 pounds into the air 10 times. By the seventh rep, he was gasping for air. After No. 10, he threw the weight down, immediately got on a stationary bike and pumped the pedals furiously for two minutes.

He repeated that sequence twice, letting out a scream when it was over, staring at the American flag tacked on a nearby wall.

Then came more pain - sliding his body across the floor while throwing weight in front of him, other specialized lifts that sent sweat flying from his brow and more brief bouts of intense cardio, all part of a specially designed plan.

"I know when Zach will be on that line, he will have done everything he could do to get the result he wants," said Lisa Twight, who operates Gym Jones along with husband, Mark. "There's nothing worse than wondering if there was something else you could have done. He's not going to have that feeling."

The Twights were so impressed with Lund's devotion to Olympic gold, they started sponsoring his training. Otherwise, he couldn't afford Gym Jones' services; a two-day seminar there costs $1,800.

But for someone who earns his living sliding headfirst on a thin sled down a mountainside chute, was such training really necessary?

"He progressed from being afraid of the training to being its equal to confidently asking for more," Mark Twight said. "He stands differently. He walks and talks differently."

Lund has a U.S. flag tattooed on his right shoulder, and when she pointed at it, Lisa Twight had tears in her eyes.

"That's why he's here," she said. "That tattoo means something to me. And it looks a lot better now."