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BizHawk: Variant Training Lab Uses Data to Enhance Performance

Aaron Brothers closing; The Nugget ends its run in downtown Santa Barbara; HUB International Insurance Services hires new account manager

From left, Lucas Miller, laboratory director, Dr. Riley O’Hagan, director of physical therapy, Bray Yancey, director strength & performance, and Evan Pratt oversee Variant Training Lab, a State Street fitness center in Santa Barbara that uses data to improvement conditioning and performance. Click to view larger
From left, Lucas Miller, laboratory director, Dr. Riley O’Hagan, director of physical therapy, Bray Yancey, director strength & performance, and Evan Pratt oversee Variant Training Lab, a State Street fitness center in Santa Barbara that uses data to improvement conditioning and performance. ( Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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If you ask Evan Pratt, the philosophy behind his business, Variant Training Lab, is simple: Movement matters.

“If you don’t move your body properly, your body will break down,” Pratt said. “If you learn how to move properly, you will feel good.”

Or as Dr. Riley O’Hagan says, “Movement changes the quality of your life.”

Prat invested more than $1 million into Variant Training Lab at 314 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara to create a multidisciplinary team of data scientists, medical clinicians and performance personnel. The lab uses real-time data to craft an individual approach to accomplishing a person’s fitness goals.

From the moment you walk in, it’s clear the gym is more than a workout — it’s an experience.

There’s no fast-paced rap or rock music playing through the surround-sound system. Instead, it’s Elton’s John’s "Tiny Dancer" and later The Beatles’ "Hey Jude."

Cameras are strategically placed throughout the lab to measure a person’s motion. A 43-yard-long red track divides the lab. Every movement a person makes is on camera and analyzed in real-time on a TV screen.

The team of fitness experts can offer instant advice on how to improve.

“The real power of our technology is that we can turn on the TV and explain to you, and walk you through real-time changes,” Pratt said.

A force plate on the track measures how people run and land. The treadmills feature dozens of force plates that can detect how a person places a foot on the plate and whether movements are creating unintentional stresses.

The technology can detect, for example, how a person’s running style might change after two miles, to explain why a person is starting to feel pain.

“All that information is seamless,” Miller said. “It enhances our process and helps us see things we can’t see with the naked eye.”

Users can also study the data on their own personal devices.

Lucas Miller serves as the center’s laboratory director, and explains all the technology behind the training.

O’Hagan moved his family from Seattle, where he previously had a contract to work with U.S. Army soldiers, and serves as the lab’s director of physical therapy.

The facility serves anyone and everyone, from the “womb to the tomb,” Pratt jokes.

Originally from Chicago, he found Santa Barbara through Westmont College, getting a degree in kinesiology in 2012. The 27-year-old founded the lab, choosing the word “Variant” to show that it was different.

He recruited everyone of his employees from around the country.

“It would be hard to find a team like this anywhere,” he said.

O’Hagan said the lab is “the gold standard.”

The lab is holding an open house from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 31.

Aaron Brothers closing

Michaels announced in its March 22 fourth-quarter filings that it is closing all of its 94 Aaron Brothers frame stores across the country, including the one in Santa Barbara on State Street.

Michaels owns the speciality chain that primarily focuses on custom framing, wall art and art supplies. The company plans to reposition Aaron Brothers as a "store-within-a-store," according to its quarterly filings, providing custom framing services in all Michaels stores. Michaels is at 187 North Fairview Avenue.

In fiscal 2017, Aaron Brothers net sales totaled approximately $110 million and had no material impact on the company's operating income, according to the filing.

Nugget closes

The Nugget restaurant on Victoria Street in downtown Santa Barbara closed its doors about two weeks ago.

Two other locations, in Summerland and Goleta, are still in open.

The Santa Barbara store will become the “Locavore” sometime later this spring.

HUB Hire

Blanca Vega Click to view larger
Blanca Vega (Contributed photo)

HUB International Insurance Services Inc. has hired Blanca Vega as a new account manager. Vega will be handling Santa Barbara-based employee-benefit accounts, according to a news release.

The Oxnard resident previously worked for WellPoint-Population Health management for seven years as a network services specialist, and before that as an outreach care specialist for WellPoint-Outpatient Behavioral Health in Thousand Oaks.

A Hueneme High School graduate, Vega studied English and computer skills at Oxnard College, and is bilingual in Spanish, the news release states.

Hub offers homeowners, auto, property and liability business insurance as well as employee benefits and life and health.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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