Archive for September, 2009

Start planning now for Winter Sports programs – help your clients and cushion the bottom line.

September 30, 2009

I know you probably don’t want to hear this (unless you’re a winter sports buff) but winter is on the way. So it’s time to start planning for any Ski Conditioning or Winter Sports Conditioning programs/clinics that you are going to host.

Here’s some tips to designing a private or group program for any Winter sport. If you manage a group of trainers, forward this to them to file and use as a template for all future program design.

You don’t need to be an expert at a sport to train someone to excel in that sport. You just need to understand physiology, anatomy and ask a lot of the right questions. Here’s a system for designing a Winter Sports Conditioning program for any type of activity:

1. Define the goals of the client – how you train a recreational versus highly competitive athlete will be very different. Your expectations will be different as well as the types of movements you incorporate. Obviously a client who wants to be able to ski the greens without getting exhausted by the end of the day will require a different approach than one who wants to aggressively ski the diamonds, moguls and jumps.

2. Define the commitment of the client – Find out how long, how frequent and how hard your client wants to train before designing the program. Adherence will falter greatly if your expectations fall outside of what the client is willing or able to do.

3. Define the demands of the sport/activity – avoid the “one size fits all” approach – See more info below.

4. Identify strengths and weakness of the client related to the demands of the sport – This is where the ‘personal’ in Personal Training comes in. Customize your program based on the client and any imbalances that you assess.

5. Design a program to increase muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, agility, power, balance and flexibility – avoid overemphasizing one area when another area may be more important. Most athletes will benefit from addressing all fitness components with a primary focus on those specific to that sport.

6. Avoid overstepping your boundaries! Avoid exactly mimicking a certain sport movement with a heavy resistance which can be detrimental to performance and cause injury. Work in combination with the coach if possible.

Let’s review a system for easily defining the demands of the sport/activity.

Step One:
Start by determining the predominant metabolic energy system and CV needs. Does the sport utilize primarily the Creatine Phosphate, Anaerobic glycolysis, Aerobic glycolysis, or Fatty acid oxidation or a strong combination of all systems. Ask yourself questions such as for how long will my client have to perform at any given time – is it seconds, minutes, hours? Are there Intervals, Periods, Shifts or a consistent energy output? This will determine how you design the cardio program and any intervals you incorporate into the training program. If the sport requires intense bursts of activity lasting about 45 seconds, guess what you’ll be doing in the training program?!

Step Two: Analyze the lower body, upper body and torso movement patterns and determine the specific muscular strength and endurance requirements. For example, does the sport require Skating, Jumping (one or two legs), hopping (one or two legs), Squatting, lunging, rotating/swinging, pushing, pulling…Watch the body during the activity to determine where your focus will be. That said, most athletes are going to benefit from a full body program and a strong core.

Step Three: Analyze the object to be moved. Will the athlete be on a board, skis or sled? Will be they be required to push against an opponent? Addressing some of these demands will be very important in the program.

Step Four: Determine movement patterns, agility, speed and power needs. A sport that requires an athlete to move straight ahead from point A to Z as quickly as possible will require a different approach than an activity that has the athlete moving quickly side to side, backwards and forwards.

Step Five: Determine balance needs. Most winter sports incorporate a high level of balance – some more than others and some just in different ways that others. For example, how you train a figure skater will be different than how you train a bob-sledder. There are differences even within a certain type of sport. For example, the balance requirements for a solo skater are different than a pairs or speed skater. Or you’ll train a freestyle boarder different than a boadercross, alpine or slalom boarder.

Step Six: Determine flexibility needs. Clearly a figure skater will require a higher level of flexibility than a cross country skier.

Step Seven: Determine areas that hold a high risk for injury and associated strategies for minimizing risk. Find out how athletes in the specific sport usually get injured and program to accommodate that to lessen the risk.

Step Eight: Determine which exercises, tools and drills will address each need – be sure to assess your clients’ strengths and weaknesses. This is the fun part!

Here’s how we might approach a Ski Conditioning program:

• Energy system: Anaerobic Glycolysis/Aerobic Glycolysis
• Lower Body tucks and squats, Lateral weight transfer, torso stabilization and rotation, quiet upper body
• Moving the body on skis
• Requires linear and lateral movement strength, agility, speed and power
• Requires high level of dynamic balance
• Flexibility requirements low for performance (high for reduced risk of injury)
• Risk areas – knee, back
– Requires Hamstring/Gluteal strength, Core stabilization and flexibility
• Exercises/Tools/Drills
– Balancing on a ProFitter/Wobble Board, BOSU Trainer using two/one legged dynamic/static positions, Slide training, Squats, leg presses, lunges, plyometric leg training, Rotational throws with a medicine ball, rotation/pushing with exercise tubes, agility training through cones, one or two leg jump training, AT/sprint training, stepping while holding a full glass of water

Putting it all together. Here is what a workout template might look like for this type of athlete.

• Warm-up
• Compound lower body exercise
• Compound upper body exercise
• Compound full-body movement
• Upright torso movement
• Agility/speed/power drill
• Balance drill
• Repeat 6-10x with different exercises
• Cool-down and stretch

Here is a list of useful training tools for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Cones/funnels
• Rope/tubes
• Coloured tape for agility marking
• Steps
• Wobble boards/Extreme Balance boards/Bongo boards/BOSU Trainers
• Foam Rollers
• Medicine balls/Stability Balls
• Profitter/Slide
• Stairs
• 2 x 4 balance board

Here is a list of effective agility drills for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Stop/Go drill
• Right/Left/Backwards/Forwards drill
• Square drill – shuffle, sprint forwards, shuffle, sprint backwards 10xR/L
• Figure 8 running
• Carioca drills
• Good ole “Suicides”
• Lateral side to side drills
• Shuffling drills – add medicine ball
• Reaction Time catching
• Step drills
• Hurdling over Steps – one leg/two legs
• Jumping over the step – one leg/two legs/on the spot/moving
• Fast out and in
• Fast tap ups
• Over the step (1/2/3 fast)
• Ski jumps onto step – on the spot/moving forward
• T-Tape/Tube drills – one leg/two legs, out/in, jumping one leg/two legs
• Cone drills
• Bouncing balls in/out cones
• Jumping over followed by sprint
• Agility ladder drills

Here is a list of effective power drills for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Vertical jumps
• Bounding
• Step Power lunges – forwards/backwards + adding lateral movement
• Power jumps up/down onto step
• Knee tucks
• Broad jumps
• Exercuff tube drills
– side to side steps
– side to side jumps
– hip extension
– knee lifts
• Treadmill running against tubed resistance
• Partner Resisted Runs/Pulls

Here is a list of sample balance drills for Winter Sports Conditioning:

• One leg drills – eyes open/closed/bouncing a ball/catching a ball
• BOSU Trainer / Wobble board drills – 2 feet/1 foot/performing exercises
• Extreme board drills – squats catching ball
• Bongo board drills
• Profitter drills – add medicine ball
• 2 x 4 drills
• Balance drills are effective as warm-up, cool-down or recovery exercises

Sample Torso Exercises for Winter Sports Conditioning:
• Throwing drills with medicine ball – forwards/overheads (single/double)/sideways
• Torso rotation with tubes/med balls
• Table top/Plank variations
• Tripod/Dipod variations
• Push-ups on medicine ball/wobble board
• Full sits with medicine ball
• V-sits with medicine ball with rotation
• BOSU/Stability ball torso exercises

I hope this provides you a system for being able to help any type of winter athlete.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

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A couple Fall programming ideas…

September 28, 2009

Hey Fitness Pros,

It’s almost the end of the month! Where did September go?

Anyways, fall is upon us and it’s such a good time to start planning for some of the upcoming fall holidays.

Let’s start with Halloween. Perhaps you could schedule a special Costume Class. Ask everyone to dress as their favorite athlete or fitness instructor. Or perhaps, you could plan a special Client Costume Dance Party.

Then Thanksgiving is shortly after (or before if you’re Canadian). Perhaps organize an Exercise-a-thon, maybe a 3 hour fitness sampler including 10-15 minutes of dance, kickboxing, step, bootcamp, core conditioning, yoga, pilates and more. Everyone brings clothing and food to donate to a local shelter. It’s super easy to organize, a ton of fun, a great workout and such a great way to give back to the community together!

Hope this gives you some ideas. But don’t wait to finalize the plans. In order for your ideas to be an overwhelming success, start the planning process now.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

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Set the Plan on Mondays

September 21, 2009

Hey Fitness Pros.

It’s Monday – the start of a new week. It’s a great opportunity to inspire those who you influence.

So if you manage a group of trainers or instructors, send out a Marvelous Monday Morning Memo (MMMM). Direct them towards the focus of the week. Provide some praise and thanks to your team. Be sure they have all the information they need to perform at their best. Set the intention for the week. Remember, you are the head cheerleader, the leader from where all inspiration trickles down from.

If you a trainer or group fitness instructor, then you manage a group of clients and participants. Do the same for them. Send out an inspirational email, text or facebook post. Help to provide focus and intention for the week.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

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Leadership – What’s more important, Skill or Character?

September 16, 2009

Hey Fitness Pros,

At the recent IDEA conference, I worked with a group of Fitness Directors and we discussed the Top 10 most important traits for strong leadership.

Check out this clip that provides you insight into what I believe is the #1 Quality of Strong Leadership.

If you can’t view the videoclip above, here is the direct link on YouTube.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

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Secret Shop your Business to create an incredible and consistent experience for your clients!

September 15, 2009

I worked at McDonalds for 5 years. I know, I know… that’s a story for a different blog! Anyways, when I worked there we would get Secret Shopped all the time and of course, you always wanted to get a high score. So you ended up just practicing the correct protocol all the time because you just never knew whether you were being shopped or not. So you became very good at always greeting with “Hi, may I take you order please” and always asking “Would you like some fries with that?” and finishing with “Thank you and have a great day!” We always knew we had to keep busy because “if there was time to lean, there was time to clean!” All large corporations utilize Secret Shops because they know it works to help create the kind of wonderful and consistent experience for their customers.

At Northwest Personal Training and Northwest Women’s Fitness Club, we also use a Secret Client Evaluation process which evaluates our team on whether we are delivering the type of service that we all envision. By keeping it ‘secret’, it ensures that our team doesn’t just shine when they know they are being evaluated but instead, they follow protocol and procedures all the time because they just never know when they are being evaluated. But it’s important to note that our team does know they are getting evaluated, they just don’t know when. Plus we give them the check-list of what they will be evaluated on so there are no surprises and the expectations are very clear.

We have a Secret Evaluation process for all important aspects of our business including an evaluation for the Initial Complimentary Training session, Initial Phone Call, Initial Tour, Ongoing Training appointments, Group Fitness classes and more. We have created a check-list of everything that should happen in each of these scenarios as the ideal vision for the client experience.

When we assign a ‘client’ to perform these evaluations, we have used:
• Actual Clients
• Friends
• Prospective Clients
• Business Associates

We provide them with a Free Personal Training session ($70 value) as a gift to them for taking the time to go through the process and to complete the evaluation form.

At Northwest Personal Training, we strive for world-class consistency and excellence in everything we do and have found this program to be invaluable for us. We hope it helps you too.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

ps. If you don’t want to have to spend the time to create your own evaluations and check-lists, we sell the license to utilize our systems. It will definitely save you a lot of time and be ready to implement immediately. If you’re interested, you can email our Fitness Education Director Kari Schunk at

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Watch this Video Clip on how to Stretch out your Clients.

September 11, 2009

Hey Fitness Pros,

I’ve written in the past about the importance of spending at least 5-10 minutes at the end of every training session stretching out a client and/or utilizing tools such as stretching sticks or balls to provide a muscle rub-down. There is a reason why we make this a mandatory component of all of our training sessions at Northwest Personal Training – we know the clients love it and that is good for business!

So hopefully, you all understand the importance of this type of customer service initiative. Today, I’m going to give you some tips to take it to the next level.

Watch this Video Clip of my ‘Partner Stretching’ workshop at the recent CanFitPro conference in Toronto Canada. It will provide you an approach that will get your clients anxiously awaiting the last few minutes of their workouts with you!

If can’t open the video above, click on the following link:

Stretching out your clients is not only good for your clients but also, great for your business and overall client retention!

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

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Team Meetings that People Want to Attend

September 10, 2009

Most people dread meetings because they perceive them to be a waste of time and extremely boring. However, a carefully planned and orchestrated meeting can be one that staff look forward to, that creates a culture for success, that offers some excellent team building opportunities and is productive at teaching your team the skills they need to excel in their position.

So if you manage or work with a team, read the info below. Bottom line though – you’ve got to figure out how to make your meetings somewhat enjoyable and fun or else no one will come. So check out this video clip from our team meeting yesterday and see how I took an otherwise boring review of our company mission, vision and competitive advantage and made it silly and fun by splitting our team into groups that each had to come up with a company commercial. After you’re done watching, review all the info below and start planning your next team gathering.

If you can’t view the clip above, click on the link below to watch.

Getting them There: First, we schedule our meetings one year in advance and distribute this list to our team so they can schedule the meetings into their dayplanners. This way, if they are planning a vacation and are flexible with dates, they can work around our team meetings. Our company meetings are once per month for two hours. Second, our meetings are mandatory for all team members. It’s important to note however, that in order to make meetings mandatory we have to pay our team for their time. So we have instituted a meeting wage which is just minimum wage and it enables us to at least compensate our team for their time. If someone can’t make it to the meeting, they are still responsible for meeting with us or their direct supervisor. This ensures they are up-to-date with all the meeting information and since everyone knows they are going to have to meet anyways, they might as well come to the team meeting and have more fun. Last, offer food and they will at least come to eat!

Agenda: In order to ensure you make the best use out of a meeting, it is important to be organized, plan ahead and know how you will spend the allocated time. Then create an agenda to help everyone stay focused and to ensure the meeting stays on track. At each meeting, we try to ensure we include the following topics:

Social Time: The first 5-10 minutes of each meeting, we allow our team to mingle, chat and share anything with the rest of the team. You would think when people work 30 plus hours per week together they would know everything about each other. But that’s not the case. During work hours, our team is focused on clients and often don’t get enough quality time to spend with the rest of the team. So during meetings we allow our team to share what’s going on in their life (ie. I’m training for a marathon, I’m graduating next week, We’re pregnant, It’s my 12th Anniversary etc.). This helps to create team camaraderie and to develop great friendships. When your team likes each other, if they ever leave, they’re not just leaving a job but multiple friendships. This can help reduce turnover.

Passion & Purpose: We also allocate a few minutes to read any cards, emails, or letters that clients have recently sent us bragging about one of our team members, listing all the results they’ve achieved since working with us and how we’ve helped to change their life. We find it extremely valuable to regularly remind our team why we’re here and why we do what we do. It’s important to remind them that it’s more than just an exercise program but in fact, we really are dramatically improving people’s lives. When we are all reminded of this vision, it makes it easier to come to work and give it everything you’ve got.

Customer Service:
The Personal Training industry is a customer-service based industry and any business who grasps this and practices it regularly will succeed. So we ensure our team understands that the customer is the boss and they must have a ‘drop everything for the client’ attitude. So at meetings we spend time to discuss how we can all pay attention to the little details that set us apart from others. We brainstorm on customer service initiatives we can implement. We may have someone read an article or book on customer service and then summarize it for the group.

Sales: As business owners, we know how important it is to be financially viable and successful. So we ensure we allocate time to role play phone calls, tours and how to help our staff overcome objections that clients have that are hindering them from getting started with us and achieving their goals. Most people don’t enjoy role playing but recognize how valuable it is. If you can get good in this kind of awkward, unnatural environment, imagine how good you’ll be in person. We may also have someone read a book or article on sales or listen to a Sales DVD and then give a report at the staff meeting.

“In the Know”:
Many employees at various companies complain that they feel they are out of the loop. They don’t know what’s going on and are often blind-sided by client questions. The worst response you don’t want a staff using is “I don’t know, I just work here”. So we always spend time making sure everyone on our team knows what’s going on and what’s coming up. We’ll review upcoming promotions, staff and client incentives, upcoming seminars, client events, staff events, travel schedules etc. This open communication is critical to ensure you have a team who takes full ownership of the day-to-day operations and success of events, incentives and your business in general.

Break Off
The above meeting components are critical for all members of our team. Once we’ve covered these general areas, we’ll often split into various departments and cover issues specific to that department. For example, the trainers and group fitness instructors might split up and someone might present some new exercises using a new, innovative fitness product. They might discuss a special population or medical concern and review exercise and program modifications that need to be made. The CSRs might split off and discuss some scheduling or computer issues. Or they might role play how to deal with an upset client.

We’ll often finish the meeting maybe watching a fun, inspirational video or just thanking people for their time and their willingness to make it to the meetings to help us solidify as a team.

Meetings are a time and financial investment that we feel are worth it to the success of our business and to our fabulous team environment that we believe is second to none. It costs us about $16/person totaling $640 in payroll costs per meeting (we have 40 team members between our two locations) and about $150 in food, not to mention our own personal time. But believe us, if we weren’t convinced it worked, we wouldn’t do it.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

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