Sunday, December 16, 2012

Energy Systems - What we can learn from wrestlers cutting weight


There has been a great deal of discussion regarding energy systems and their application to strength and conditioning coaching.  I’ve had an interesting case in my facility over the past three months that I’d like to share.

I’ve had two wrestlers from our local high school team in training with me this fall and winter.  These are two kids wrestling adjacent weight classes, but getting to their weights have been divergent journeys.  The two athletes began training with me about 6 weeks prior to the start of wrestling season.  The lighter of the two wakes up every day within a pound of his weigh class at  a natural 5-6% body fat.  The heavier, has had to cut about 20 lbs to get to weight.  The process has required a very structured eating plan with workouts that have led to and average weight loss of two percent of body weight per week.  The two have participated side-by-side in team based training and condition since the beginning of the wrestling season with the only difference in training being the additional work the heavier wrestler has been putting in at my facility following practice 3 days a week and on weekends they’ve not been competing, or morning runs.  Additional workouts have averaged 4 per week.

When the two began training they were both power tested.  The testing protocol included a power at anaerobic threshold test using a SCIFIT Pro II ergometer and Zephyr Bio harness.  I also measure maximum 10 second power output, also using the SCIFIT Pro II.  Results of the test are collected using ViA Performance Systems  KeyMaster/PowerGraph Software.

The entry testing points included:

Lighter Wrestler Wt. 122 lbs
Peak Wattage  220 watts @ heart rate of 202
Anaerobic Threshold  150 watts @ Heart rate of 178

Heavier Wrestler Wt. 150 lbs
Peak Wattage 180 watts @ heart rate of 182
Anaerobic Threshold 160 watts @ heart rate of 166

The two wrestlers were re-tested during Christmas break.

Lighter Wrestler Wt. 122 lbs
Peak Wattage 230 @ heart rate of 195
Anaerobic Threshold 170 watts @ heart rate of 184

Heavier Wrestler Wt. 135
Peak Wattage 270 watts @ heart rate of 178
Anaerobic Threshold 240 watts @ heart rate of 167

testWtWattsHeart RateWattsHeart Rate


I believe there are two points that coaches need to glean from this example.  1.  If you were to only look at the absolute improvement numbers of the two athletes, it looks like one is out working the other.   This assumption is true, but the type of work being done is critical.  When you look that the energy system component portion of the improvement, both athletes saw around a 4% (10 watts) improvement of total energy output being contributed by high energy (anaerobic) sources.  This makes sense when you review the practice habits of wrestlers in general and in particularly this team.   Conditioning to this coach is wrestling live, intense intervals and sprinting.  And a nearly 5% improvement of energy output in 10 weeks of training is admirable.  

But the most impressive thing to learn is the potential that exists when athlete does focus on individual energy systems development.  The only difference in the two athletes training was the heavier wrestlers completion of additional low-level (aerobic) training sessions.  These sessions were either work load or heart rate limited.  When the wrestler was running the morning his was restricted to a heart rate limit of 160.  He would wear a heart rate monitor and brought it to me to download and make part of his record.  When he trained in my facility, his work loads were programmed to be at or below anaerobic threshold levels and heart rate tracked.  That sub-threshold training yielded a power improvement of  80 watts  which came from growth in the aerobic (sub-threshold) system.

Two athletes training side-by-side in practice.   One on borderline starvation (<1400 Kcal/day) diet.  But the athlete who is shrinking, is actually improving power to half again as much as when he started the program.

The new rules regarding weight loss in wrestling are good!  But they’re changing more than just weight loss practices.  We have to pay attention to what the weight loss practices of the past did for an athlete’s conditioning.  Wrestlers who used to cut big weight would do at least two additional workouts per day more than their at-weight team mates.  We would put on plastics and sweats in the morning and at night and do a “light” run or jump rope session.  We worked just hard enough to break a sweat, we thought we were just cutting weight.  What we didn’t know at the time was that we were building low level energy systems!  This is a major change in the sport and strength and conditioning coaches need to be cognisant of the entire training portfolio of an athlete.

Fitness and P4 Medicine


OK fitness professionals, have you heard of P4 medicine yet?  If you haven't, you need to get up to speed!  A quick Google search will tell you a lot.  P4 stands for Predictive, Preventive, Personalized and Participatory.  A fitness pro's groin should be quaking at this point. 

One web site states:
"Today's medicine is reactive: we wait until someone is sick before administering treatment. Medicine of the future will be predictive and preventive, examining the unique biology of an individual to assess their probability of developing various diseases and then designing appropriate treatments, even before the onset of a disease. Today's medicine is also myopic: we use only a few measurements to diagnose disease and are generally unable to make fine distinctions between individuals or between subtle variations of the same disease. Medicine of the future will use more sophisticated measurements, as well as more measurements overall, thereby yielding accurate health assessments for truly personalized treatments."
I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but lets review: 
"Regular physical activity, fitness, and exercise are critically important for the health and well being of people of all ages. Research has demonstrated that virtually all individuals can benefit from regular physical activity, whether they participate in vigorous exercise or some type of moderate health-enhancing physical activity. Even among frail and very old adults, mobility and functioning can be improved through physical activity. Therefore, physical fitness should be a priority for Americans of all ages. ...physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of developing or dying from heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure."

I read a great book over the holidays, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There."  Keep that title in mind!  The opening chapter of the book starts with:
"You know those maps in shopping malls that say, "you are here"?  they exist to orient you in unfamiliar territory, to tell you where you are, (help show you) where you want to go, and how to get there.  A few people never need these maps.  They're blessed with an internal compass that orients them automatically. They always make the correct turn and end up where they intend via the most economical rout.   Some people actually go through life with this unerring sense of direction.  It guides them not only in shopping malls but in their school years, careers, marriages, and friendships.  When we meet people  like this, we say their grounded.  They know who they are and surprises will only be pleasant surprises.  The are our role models and heroes.  ... What all of these role models have in common is an exquisite sense of who they are, which translates into perfect pitch about how them come across to others.  A few people never seem to need any help in getting to where they want to go.  They have a built-in GPS mechanism."
We refer to these people with the "built in GPS" in the fitness world as "enthusiasts."  The fitness industry has done a great job of creating spaces for "enthusiasts"  to play.  We sell them a $19 a month membership and forget about them.  Some of them are so enthusiastic they invest a portion of their disposable income in us,  professionals,  in return for our guidance, leadership, but primarily in return for friendship and companionship.  The point is that the only successful fitness participants are the enthusiasts, those with the built in GPS. 

The evidence is that at least 80% of our population is so in-active that hypoactiviity is contributing to increased morbidity and mortality equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.   And medicine has chosen to treat the diseases of chronic inactivity like diabetes, hyper-tension and arthritis with chemicals.  And who can blame them, the face of fitness is CrossFit, P90X, BowFlex, Treadclimbers, VO2 max tests, body fat assessments.   These tools of the enthusiasts,  frankly scare the not-yet-fit friends of ours.  When a non-enthusiast walks into our glass windowed, high-designed, over optioned, hundreds of choices fitness spaces, it's like a babe in the jungle experience for them.  They will order the P90X dvd's, but plugging them in, following them, they wind up drawing dust.  We have to offer our not-yet-fit brothers and sisters other avenues of entry into the fitness lifestyle and I believe P4 is one of those avenues.

Physicians, fitness is a behavior issue first, and a physiological marker second.  Approach the integration of fitness into your practice in that manner.  Great tools exist for the assessment of an individual's
stage-of-change relative to physical activity and healthy eating.  (  These can be integrated and completed outside the exam room with practical scores and counseling information ready when the physician enters the room.  This data will also be valuable in the treatment matching of your patients to programs.  Programs that your patients  will bond to immediately.(personalized)   The second recommendation I have is to measure and counsel what's important first.  (preventive)  As scientists, we get enchanted with all the extensive physiological assessment tools available.  But fitness, particularly in the non-enthusiast population begins with one simple metric, movement.  Move more, get healthier!  Unfortunately, movement  is difficult to measure to quantify in a single office based encounter.  You're going to have to connect with your patients in such a way that their willing to invest some daily effort creating a record.  The great thing is that we have "human gps" units that can hang on their waist that will collect, report and motivate the patient. (participatory).  Patients will value the information enough that they will endure the additional hassle of integrating the device into their life.

Next use in-office physiological tests that stand a chance of "connecting" to your patients and result in motivation and behavior change.  The information provided by the tests must be relevant to the goals and objectives of the patient.  VO2 only means something to freaks like us.  I can turn on CNBC or Bloomburg during the week and see a million terms and numbers that while important to someone, mean very little to me.  If I had to learn them to invest my money, I'd wind up keeping it all in a ball jar in the back yard.  That's the effect we have on everyone else with our current fitness assessments.  We have to offer "mutual fund" assessment and exercise.  I would suggest using the results of the stage-of-change assessment to direct your next steps in physiologic testing.  Graded exercise testing should be reserved for those in the Action or Maintenance stage.  For those who are in either pre-contemplation, contemplation, or early preparation, use simple heart rate variability test whose results will provide an opportunity to discuss activity volume and intensity.  If someone is symptomatic or risk qualified for a stress test, the stress test results will provide the same opportunity.  The other physiologic test that can be completed in a medical office environment and will be beneficial is the use of a 4 point BIA body composition assessment.  But how the results are presented to the patient are important!  I am going to write in an upcoming post about how the goal of weight loss is one of the biggest reasons fitness is failing.  But for now, report the results of the BIA in terms of volume of lean mass (how big is your motor) and the ratio of stored energy to lean mass.  These are terms that will motivate activity and behaviors that promote healthy patients.  At the end of the day, measure the success of your program by how much more your patients are moving!

If your a fitness professional, P4 medicine is one of the opportunities we've been waiting for that provides a real connection between medicine and fitness.  If you would like to learn more about systems that can help deliver the kinds of programs discussed here, feel free to contact us.  If your a physician, there are great exercise professionals that can help you deliver quality, integrated fitness as part of your practice.  If you would like some help doing so, let us know, we can help.

Thanks for your time and consideration,

Don Moxley

Crossing the Chasm - Future of Fitness Version


A good friend, Robert Dyer, sent me a link to one of the most important documents that's appeared in our industry recently.  If you haven't seen it, Les Mills International partnered with the Nielsen Company to publish "The Future of Fitness: A White Paper."  It can be found  If you don't have a copy or haven't registered at the web site, you should do so!  There is a lot in this paper that needs to be digested by our industry.  As I've read over the paper, contemplating the future, I'd like you all to consider a parallel I believe is relevant.

In the technology development, marketing and adoption life cycle, a standard was introduced in 1991 by author Geoffrey Moore in his book"Crossing The Chasm."  Moore's work defines a technology product adoption model where new products are purchased initially by "innovators"and "visionaries."  This group of enthusiast make up the "early market." As a technology is brought from idea to early market, typically lots of "features" are hung on the product from the advice and feedback of early adopters and are included to create a product that appeals to even more consumers.  The challenge is that in Moore's model, lying between the early adopters and the next group, the early majority, a chasm appears.  The early adopters are consumers who are described as "enthusiasts" and "visionaries."   The next stage, Early Majority are described as "pragmatists. "  Even more daunting, the next groups, Late Majority and Laggeds are described as conservatives and skeptics.  The kind of thinking that appeals to the early adopters WILL NOT appeal to the Early Majority.  But the reward to companies and industries for crossing the chasm is that more than 70% of the market, early and late majority, and laggards,  lie on the other side of the chasm. Companies must change the way they think to effectively move from the enthusiast to the larger majority of the market.

On page 2 of the FOFWP three key challenges are identified from the research: 1. How do we remain relevant among the "converted" consumers(read enthusiasts).  2. Can we improve our offer to those who enjoy fitness but don't like going to the gym (pragmatists?).  3. How do we keep the industry fresh, relevant and competitive in the decades ahead..."  On page 1 the authors point out that "17% of adults belong to health clubs in any single country, and market penetration of10.5% is enough to be among the top ten of all countries."  When you look at this data graphically, our industry is in the "early adopter" stage of the life cycle model.  It seems that we're peering over a chasm at the majority of our potential customers.  Trying to light a rocket under the same thinking that brought us to this point won't be enough to get us across.  Fitness providers have to change the way they think!

What do the following have in common?  Golds Gym and Apple? YMCA and Google?  Personal Trainers and Technology Enthusiasts? Jocks and Geeks?  Until now, they've had very little in common only appearing together as ends of a comparative spectrum.  But our industry is dominated by brands who cater to early adopters like jocks, personal trainers and fitness enthusiast.   To date we've felt progressive stuffing some basic off-the-shelf consumer technology into our current offerings.  I call that putting lipstick on a pig.  As we examine our futures, we need to break away from the mental models that have led us here, just catering to the enthusiast, and begin to build an industry that is more approachable.  I read an article in the Washington Post today that was telling the story of a college that required students with a BMI or over 30 to attend a "Fitness for Life Class" prior to graduation.  That's progressive thinking, send the fat kids to gym class!   We need to prove that our product is stable,(doors stay open, associating with other credible institutions) and our products are reliable and predictable.   We need to see that the pessimistic, conservatives that make up the late majority (we'll probably have a few from that college) can see real return-on-investment.

These are the kinds of things we think about at ViA Performance Systems and you see in action at Lemonade Neighborhood Fitness.   When I opened Lemonade, I wasn't looking for the next big thing that would draw in the enthusiast from the facilities next door.  I asked "what are the basics that most people need in order to more effectively enjoy the life they're given."  I'm proud to say that our clientèle is just that!   We have a new video up on the Lemonade site titled People and Programs.  You can also see it at on YouTube.  I'd love to get you feedback because I know, me and anyone else, is smarter than me!



Younger Next Year and Fitness Bank Accounts


I was driving yesterday, listening to our local public radio station which is in the middle of a pledge drive.  The incentive for contributing that hour was a copy of the book"Younger Next Year" by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge. The subtitle of the book is "turn back your biological clock." The interview was with Chris Crowley.  This caught my ear for a couple reasons. First, the discussion was nearly entirely about fitness!  And secondly, I spent most of the last decade selling a product called BodyAge. BodyAge is a fitness assessment and programming tool that gives fitness professional  a wonderful opportunity to tell your clients how they can be 5 years younger on their next birthday - rather than just telling them they're fat and out of shape. 
But what really got my ear was a statement that Chris made during the interview.  He was talking about habits and said that when someone starts an exercise program, their emotional brain will help them stay motivated for about the first three weeks.  But then, in order to succeed, the person needs to make it part of their routine.   He went on to talk about how - like saving money or investing in retirement - we needexercise to be routine. 

I agree; but routine alone is not enough!  This is where our industry is missing the boat.  In general, we have not invested in credible tracking tools that our clients can use to monitor their progress - a big part of what encourages us to "continue to invest".  Who in their right minds would continue to contribute to a savings account without credible feedback, authentic evidence of getting ahead?  We want to see that the account balance is growing!  Would you accept "Don't you feel better since you've been depositing money in your account" from your banker? I like to anticipate the day that personal trainers no longer use that line to justify the exerciser's investment.  
For the past few years,a lot of us have watched our contributions to retirement funds shrink, but we all understand what is happening.  We may have changed the modality of investment, but we continue to invest.  We invest because we understand how important it is to do so and prepare for retirement.   Progress in fitness is cyclical too!  We need tools to track our progress and make adjustments.  While some of us will exercise because we love it, most of the world knows it needs to invest in health,  they just haven't had the tools to track the value of their fitness investments. "Younger Next Year" is one of the best books I've seen when it comes to explaining the benefits of exercise and all the other tools necessary for a long vigorous life.  I cannot make a strong enough recommendation for this book.  Mr. Crowley has another book “The Younger Next Year Journal,” which by its own description is a “fill-in book with prompts that help you keep meticulous track of your workouts, your heart rate, your diet, how you feel.”  This is essentially a bank book for recording your habits.  No offense intended, but how many of you would continue to do business with a bank today that used a hand written bank book to track your deposits?  I understand that self tracking and self reporting are the number one predictor of change of habit.  But we live in the 21st century!  We need to be using systems and technology that provide immediate feedback of authentic changes in  a client's fitness.  Fitness professionals need to understand that they are competing for the minds and dreams of clients and members.  And you're competing against the spectrum of junk on infomercials and very good books that sell for $9.30 on Amazon.  
The good books and junk on tv are winning.  We need to assess our value as an ally and an asset to our clients and to those who aren't yet our clients.  We also need to avoid the reflex response of the race-to-the-bottom of pricing.  
Your services can be worth what you're profitably charging.  Your clients just need to be able to "see" what their contributions to you, their investments in their own wellness are doing for them.
We live in a time of instant access to precise information.  We retrieve our bank balances and our minute to minute portfolio performance on our cell phones.  These things are nearly universal.  Our fitness account information access needs to get to the same place.  This is a huge missing link in our industry. We're not keeping up with our clients - and therefore we're struggling to add value to their enduring pursuit of wellness on a broader scale.  
It’s important to always ask ourselves, “What is the incentive we provide our clients and members for their contributions to our business?"  We've focused on developing and adding technology based feedback systems at my studio, Lemonade Fitness,and with our ViA Performance Systems products.  This is what I think about all day.  This is where we're going and how we're growing.   Let me know if you have questions and want to know how to get on the wave.

Thanks again for your time,


Health Care Reform - Make it Meaningful


“Health Care” and “Health Care Reform” is a debate that will affect all of our lives as Americans and one that can provide life changing opportunities for us as fitness professionals.  I have a personal story that has me convinced and serves as a reference for all of us. 
Tostart,  I want to state that I believe the best solution to the current health care finance debate is to have a free market competitive system with apublic option.  As a business owner raised in the American system of free and open competition, I believe this is better than a single payer system. 
I believe in the public option because if and when I’m in the position of needing insurance, I’ll have providers competing for my business.  
Currently,when someone in my situation (Type 2 diabetic) applies for insurance coverage,I answer the diabetic question “yes”, and they raise the cost of the program. No further questions.   I'm grouped into a very high risk group that companies view as expensive to care for. In a competitive environment with a public option, the screening question is asked and answered the same; but there is a next question. "Do you check your sugar levels on a regular basis?" Well Yes, I do!   “Do you exercise?”  Well Yes, I do!  “Can you document these things?”  Well Yes, I can!  My genetics may put me in one group, but my documentable behaviors really mean something far more important.
Regardless of whether diabetes or another chronic or potentially costly personal health issue is part of your equation, we all know the effect of exercise.  This is the where our opportunity to make a difference and benefit professionally from doing so comes in.  With the ability for us to provide evidence of exercise compliance, the ability to document meaningful evidence of"healthier" clients, and the ability to keep them committed to a beneficial fitness “prescription”, we as fitness professionals can be elevated to Wellness Professionals and Preventive Care allies to a growing universe of needy parties – from Uncle Sam to our next door neighbor.
So how’s it feel to be at the center of the solution that represents TRUE "health care reform"?



At this years IHRSA meeting in San Francisco, I decided to spend the first day's early morning workout using the equipment supplied by Technogym.  This Italian company sure knows how to design beauty into exercise equipment.  It's stuff that I could picture in the living room of my imaginary Pacific coast beach house. But what else would you expect from the home of the fashion industry?  The company was running an incentive in the booth to have exercisers "try out" all the different pieces, they would then check off a game piece indicating that you'd used a piece, and you would move to the next piece.  Upon finishing the circuit, you would receive a Nike gift card.  Wow, what a concept.  Reward for completing a task!  Something more than basking in the glory of the size of the sweat puddles under the machine.  The only downside to the whole experience was the distraction I dealt with in the process.  

Exercise distraction -I first jumped on the Technogym Wave, an interesting piece of equipment.  After an initial weak user experience and with some coaching by the company rep, things improved.  Next, I went to climb on the upright bike.  This is where the distraction really took off.  I was doing a heart rate controlled program, something I do as part of my personal work out most days on my own SCIFIT bike.    The Technogym screen built into the console of the bike had a video playing of the Rolling Stones. It looked like some kind of documentary.  I didn't plug in to listen because there was already enough noise and I didn't want to have to blast my in-ear speakers to have to compete.  The noise playing in the background was some kind of a deconstructed Britney Spears, techno-pop.  My eyes where seeing Keith Richards, my ears were tormented.  And then there was my workout!  The cognitive dissonance was troubling.  The entire experience was distracting, cognitively and physically distracting.  The only way I was able to get through it was to really concentrate on my own heart-rate, and play with the program.  I know there's a race to load equipment with TV's, ipod connecting and any number of other tech integrations.  Has anyone stopped to ask the question, "Is exercise distraction a good thing for the exerciser?"

Exercise engagement.  I consider the most important book I've ever read, FLOW - The Psychology of the Optimum Experience.  The author is Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi.(pronounced [ˈmihaːj tʃiːkˈsɛntmihaːji])  Any of his work comes with a strong recommendation from me for teachers, coaches, and trainers.  In the book, Dr. Csíkszentmihályi lays out the conditions that lead to a "Flow" experience - or an experience that is defined at it's simplest level as enjoyable.  Three of the key element that need to be present for a Flow experience are: 1. Clear goals, 2. Concentration on the task at hand, and 3. Direct and immediate feedback.  

We roughly translate these factors to, 1. Measure what's important, 2. Focus - with a lack of distraction, and 3. Authentic evidence.  I'm concerned that the exercise distraction we're pumping down the throats of our customers may actually be distracting them from the Flow experience and creating less than enjoyable (and ultimately productive) experiences!

Fitness as Fashion.  If you read my stuff you know I have a passion for useful data.  And a passion to mold the important stuff into a form that is valued by and easily digested by our users.  We have a need to create authentic evidence that users internalize to stay motivatedstay involved and achieve!  I had to break the news to my wife that no matter how much I trained, I'll never look like Brad Pitt.  We have a joke when I wake up in the morning, is it Brad Pitt, or bad pitts?  I'll always be Don Moxley, but I can and will constantly redefine myself with what I can do, what I've done, and what I want to do.  The pictures on my wall are the things that I've done and like to show off with pride.  What I want to do is what drives me.  The space between those is fitness!  

We have to shift the focus from what we, our clients, and the equipment looks like - fashion ... to what we, our programs and our equipment can do to help more people achieve!

I'd be interested to hear what you think. Feel free to share your comments back.  And if you know of someone you think would be interested in the discussion, send the link, or email me with their contact (email) info and I'll add them to our list.



Find "Flow" at Amazon

Learn more about "Flow" at Wikipedia. 

Bottled Water and Personal Training


I had an interesting convergence of events this week.  First, I'm trying to get my head around web 2.0 marketing tools and understand exactly how they will potentially shape business in the future.  This blog is part of that process, and now you can follow me on Twitter @donmoxley.  I'll talk more about Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in a future blog, but my advice to you is get an account at each, (they're free) and at least start listening.  One of the leaders in social networking technology is Guy Kawasaki.  Guy is best known from his days as the Chief Evangelist at Apple computers.  He now has a site called ALLTOP.COM.  Alltop describes itself as a magazine rack for the web.  A place to go to find out what’s being written about a particular topic.  I went there and started browsing topics of interest to me.  Fitness, Fitness Business, Exercise and Personal Training.  The only topic I found covered was fitness, and when I started to look at what was there, I felt like I was just seeing the same stuff from a lot of different trainers.  A lot of different water hoses with the same water coming out of each.
The other event happened when I was watching a Sunday morning program on MSNBC called Your Business.  Your business is a regular for me, I DVR it, and find a lot of very interesting information in the show every week.  What caught my attention were the comments of guest Lynda Resnick, CEO of FIJI Water.  She was discussing unique selling propositions and that Fiji water "fell to the earth 200 years ago, has laid in the aquifer, and has been untouched by man until you drink it." If you listened to Dr. Mitchelli's "Water. Water, Everywhere" podcast, well, there seems to be a difference in their perception of the product.   One sees it as a high quality, couldn’t be anything wrong with something from somewhere so far away.  And the other questions the quality of what is in the bottle because of the conditions of the water available to the locals.  Very different views.  But that's Ok.  Our different perceptions is the spice of life and ultimately what creates opportunity.  Look what a unique selling position does for water in a plastic bottle!  
Have you thought about what your customers' perceptions are of their experience in your fitness center, or how they perceive your professional fitness staff?  The bad news may be that most of our fitness center members say that the equipment feels complex and makes them "feel stupid" and personal trainers are "intimidating."  Looking at the product from the shoes of the consumer rather than the shoes of the seller or expert might be a good change of perspective for our industry.

Dr. Michelli identifies 4 factors that when combined give the plastic bottle and what comes naturally out of your spigot, an opportunity to create a unique selling proposition.  Convenience, portability, transformational experience, and a sense of mystery.  I started looking at these and feel that we as fitness professionals have the opportunity to use technology at our disposal to create the same factors and create unique selling propositions.

Let’s start with convenience and portability.  I've always felt that comprehensive fitness won't work if it's only available in one place.  If clients' only opportunity to be active and measure the impact is at the gym, they're trapped.  We have to help our clients be more active at home, at work, and while away on work or vacation.  This is why anyone who calls themself a fitness professional should make sure and have a heart rate monitor on the wrist of every client.  It's not there to simply tell the heart rate; it does much more.  The modern heart rate monitor is a "fitness computer."  It not only tells you how hard you're training, it can tell you how much you've been training, if you need more, and more importantly to the user, when it's ok to stop.  It's a tool that can guide not only exercise but recovery and eating habits as well.  It can tell you when you should probably rest instead of workout.  I remember seeing Oprah talking about when she was traveling in Africa, her treadmill wasn't there so she didn't work out.  With a monitor on my wrist, my best workouts come when I'm away from home and able to experience new places while I get my workout in!

Sense of mystery.  A lot of the modern tools of assessment give us a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the mysteries of fitness.  BodyAge "helps our clients be 5 years younger on their next birthday!"  Isn’t that better than just saying your fat and out of shape?  The portable fitness analyzers like that available from New Leaf help us define a starting point and "fine tune" a program.  These concepts are big hits with our clients and are valuable tools to us as professionals.  Tools like Polar OwnZone help me personalize day-to-day training programs.  When we can combine technologies, assessment, program design, and execution, making the fitness process as easy as "put the key in the machine and hit start,"  well that's the ticket isn't it?   Many manufacturers are embracing a more integrated and sophisticated approach.  SCIFIT takes flexibility and fine tuning to the next level by giving you the ability to do both strength and cardiovascular training on a single piece of equipment, while keeping the trainer in the middle of a process that provides “authentic evidence” of improvement to the exerciser.

Helping people transform themselves by setting goals and achieving them.  Helping them become "different people" by defining themselves through what they have done, what they can do, and what they want to do.  Not by a number on a scale.  And helping them do it on their terms.   Now there's the ultimate unique selling proposition that will get more customers into our industry and keep our clients coming back for more.   If we do it right, there are a lot of people out there that will gladly pay "4 times the equivalent cost of a gallon of gas, for what comes free from out of the tap."

I’d love to hear how you make your “transactions” with your clients more memorable.  Feel free to comment!


What Business Are We In?


What Business Are We In?

I was in Chicago last week meeting with a couple of customers. As I walked through the airport, I caught a glimpse of a local Chicago "style" magazine with the title "Meet Chicago's Hottest Trainers."  I stopped, grabbed it, and stowed it in my pack for the trip home.  What was going through my mind when I grabbed it was, "Hey if these are the hottest trainers in Chicago, this might be a good list for the early introduction of ViA Performance System products."   "The hottest trainers would undoubtedly be interested in the state-of-the-art when it comes to fitness technology"  As I started to read the article on the way home, the realities of our industry gave me a big slap in the face.

The first featured trainer, under the banner of "Flex Symbols," is a young lady whose featured class list included: "Sexy Sculpt, Bikini Boot Camp, Hottie Body Boxing" and "Rear Attitude."  The trainer featured on page 16 listed her classes as: "Pole Dancing, Video Vixen, Chair Striptease and House Music Honey's."  Really, this was the list of classes.  This is what is being featured as leadership  in our industry.  Hello, when the list of classes taught by our "hottest trainers" can be confused with this season lineup of the HBO series Cat House, I believe we have a problem!  (Cat House is a series on HBO about a house of prostitution)

I'm not saying we need to have work environments and workouts that resemble doctors offices and prescriptions.   I actually think that’s as big a mistake as clubs featuring "Chair Striptease."  But I do think we need to recalibrate as fitness consumers, professionals and as an industry.  What exactly are we offering our customers and what is it that they can walk away from the experience we provide that can be referred back to as an authentic measure of our expertise? As we develop as professionals, this authentic difference is the ability to provide evidence to our clients.  Evidence that our customers can use to measure the difference in fitness progress they make training with us versus someone who's masking fitness as pole dancing.

Authentic evidence is evidence of what's important!  In the fitness business, evidence is the measurement of progress.  We have to do more than just measure what's easy, our client’s weight on the scale or the size of their jeans.  Weight can be lowered and the size of your jeans can shrink through doing unhealthy things.  Those things won't make you stronger. Those things won't give you more energy.  They won't put more "life" in your clients’ lives.  I'm talking about and challenging the professionals in our busines to start measuring the things that are important.  The things that make a difference in what your clients can do, what theyaspire to do.  The measures that motivate them to live more – to continue enjoying fitness and achieving!

authentic [aw-then-tik] 
not false or copied; genuine; real.
having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified
entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy:

evidence [ev-i-duhns] 
noun, verb, -denced, -dencing. –noun
that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign.

to make evident or clear; show clearly; manifest.

Giving credit where credit is due!

The first (and only other to date) person that I’ve heard use the term of authentic evidence is Beth Kirkpatrick.  Beth is a legendary physical education teacher from Grundy Center Iowa and she is truly a special person.  I worked with Beth at Polar and if there was anyone who should have the title of “Evangelist” it’s Beth.  Beth’s passionate and relentless advocacy for quality daily physical education is what we built our education strategy on at Polar.  Her vision of what physical education could be through the integration of technology into her phys ed classes out in the middle of Iowa was amazing.  I really appreciated all she did for me and if you’re ever looking for a true educational hero, stop in Grundy Center and just ask for Beth.


Well, hello and welcome to my blog!

This is really pretty weird for me. I'm pushing myself here just a bit, anyone who knows me well knows that writing is not a place I like to spend much time.  But this is important!  I think new discussions need to be started in the fitness industry.  From my perspective the industry is incredibly stale, and it doesn't need to be.  At a time when the grounds for growth in the industry are as fertile as ever, we are standing in a field looking in all direction at miles and miles of sameness.  I've been working as a supplier/provider in the fitness industry now since 1986 and was a consumer of it many years prior to that as an athlete.  In 1984 in grad school at Ohio State I remember making the decision to spend the rest of my life enjoying what I do, studying and teaching the physiology of exercise.  The last 10 years have been increasingly interesting with the meteoric rise in the capabilities of technology and now with my recent decision to create a company that would be a supplier in that space. But when I sit back and look at the industry I live in, it became obvious to me that the issues that need addressed will need more than just a single paper or article.   We need a new conversation.  My objective is to simply provide a different look at our industry and provide an opportunity for an on-going dialog at an industry that is becoming even more important to the lives of all of us.

We all hike!  Some of us hike in the canyons of 5th Avenue in Manhattan or Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Some of us like the pine forests of the Appalachians others the aspens of the Rockies.  Some of us choose to make our livings hiking through the cow pastures of Ohio or walking the wheat fields of the Midwest. While I think back fondly now of the many hikes across our beef cattle farm in southeastern Ohio,  one of my favorite hikes is on the La Luz Trail just outside of Albuquerque New Mexico.  It's 7 miles and 3500 ft of vertical.  When I'm going out to ABQ, I think about, it motivates me, I enjoy it.  The reasons we hike may be different, but we all hike! And even more today than ever, we have to be ready, physically, for the challenges in life. This became spectacularly clear to me in August of 2003. I was teaching a group of physical education teachers in Portage, Michigan. We were discussing the importance of the 1 mile run as a test in phys ed, and I'd said to them that one of my biggest lessons from the events of 9/11 was that we all need to be able to run a mile, if not to save our own lives. Then the next day, the power supply to the northeast corner of the United States failed. When that happened, if you were on the 50th floor of an office building, you needed to be prepared to descend 100 flight of stairs, and walk a mile or three to where someone could pick you up and take you home. That's the kind of hike that made alot of people sick, because they wern't ready for it.  This is why we all need to exercise. To enjoy, to thrive and to survive!

Let's face it, most people don't exercise. Those of us that do, well we're the outliers. But this is no different than other segments of the population. Most of us enjoy a good meal, only some of us enjoy cooking it. , We're all happy when our taxes are done, or our check book is balanced, but only a few of us enjoy the accounting. Exercise is important, but only a few of us enjoy it enough to engage in the process proactively. What we need to understand though is that just because someone doesn't like to exercise, it doesn't mean they can't enjoy it!  Think about that, it's possible to enjoy something you don't like.  I believe the reason most people fail to maintain an adequate exercise program is that when they're training, they're thinking of what this work is taking away from them, weight, fat, stress, and not focusing on what the work is giving them, what the are earning.

There are a couple things I think we as fitness professional have to take responsibility for in our industry. First, our opportunities to help people change their lives are growing stronger every day. Unfortunately, the "fitness facility" business that are the hottest right now are the 24 hour access facilities who have business plans built on elimination of the fitness staff. That doesn't say much about us as professionals and we need to address it.  Secondly, we are not doing a very good job of bringing new users into our fitness systems. Data shows us that the percentage of the general public that has a fitness membership has remained largely the same. Organizationally we're just exchanging memberships, not bringing new people into our facilities as a whole. We love what we do! We need to do a better job of bringing more people into our world. We must expand beyond our current pool of fitness enthusiasts.  We can do this but we have to change, progress, improve.  We can start by not just measuring what is easy, and start measuring what is important.  I think the important things relate to the hikes we all take.  And when we're focused on that, a process many may not like, will start to enjoy!

Why what we're doing at ViA is different

One of the issues that makes us different goes straight to our mission statement, Professionals, making fitness enjoyable, so people will do it, and achieve!  ViA is an organization built around creating successful exercisers.  Our business plan is built around it. This is how we will measure our success.  We believe the industry needs this perspective.  Most of the fitness industry measures it's success by the number of pieces of equipment sold, memberships sold, personal training session sold.  The drive to sell the next big thing in equipment has manufacturers driving features designed to distract the user from the task at hand   I believe we're missing the point.  There is virtually nothing today pushing these companies and membership mills to go back to their customers and ensure their success.  Having been part of these organizations, I understand their need to constantly look for the next customer.  In building ViA though, I've chosen a different path!

In the coming weeks I will write and video blog about issues like Work: What is it and why should you care, A different look at strength, Is your facility a fitness factory, warehouse, or boutique. The psychology of enjoyment and the difference between enjoyment, happiness and pleasure. I'll spend some time talking about our fitness pyramid and how this model presents a very democratic model for those who aren't in our market yet, to find a process that can fit their lives.

My hope is that we can connect, and through the power we have together, lead the fitness business to show the answers to the questions of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.



I read/listen to several blogs and podcasts on a weekly basis and have always wanted to support them and spread the word.  I  really enjoy a blog I've subscribed to for quite a while now and really look forward to seeing it in my email on Sunday mornings.  Bob Tschannen-Moran and it's there where we found our definition of fitness, the physical capacity to enjoy the life we're given.  I get two great pod casts, one from Dr. Joesph Mitchelli and one from Dr. Monte Ladner.  Mitchelli's the author of The Starbucks Experience and The New Gold Standard.  You can find his podcast on itunes or at his web site  Dr. Mitchelli is a must listen for me and if your passionate about customer experience, you should drink everything he pours.  Dr. Ladner has a site called and his tag line is "A podcast that what's to change the health of the world."  Who can't get excited about that!