A variation on a new glute bridge variation

Last month I saw a great video posted by Bret Contreras showing a variation on a bodyweight glute bridge that very effectively targets the glutes. The reason it’s effective is that he basically fires up the whole body in a manner that prevents some of the typical “cheats” that people often do when trying to do glute bridges.

While glute bridges seem like an easy exercise (lie on your back, lift your butt up. how hard can it be?), the reality for many is that they feel glute bridges everywhere but their butt. When I ask clients where they feel a glute bridge, I often get some combination of hamstrings, back, quads, and abs. This is not everyone – some people do glute bridges and feel their glutes – but it is more than the minority.

This glute bridge with frog pumps that Bret posted struck me as a great option, so I gave it a try. And it was indeed a great option. Check it out here.

Essentially it’s a glute bridge but with feet flat against each other, flatten the lumbar spine, push the elbows into the floor, and bring the chin to the chest.

I did like it, but I opted for two minor changes:
- instead of chin to chest, I went for a neutral neck alignment, which looks like a packed neck, or what I call “ugly neck”. Take a look at my chins in the video and you’ll see why I call it ugly neck. I opted for this because I know some of my clients would have a hard time with holding the chin to chest position.
- Instead of feet flat, I went for feet angled to each other. Many people will be fine with the feet together position, but I personally found it irritating for my hips as I don’t have great hip mobility. I also have a few clients whose knees didn’t like the feet together position. So the angled feet position was a nice alternative for those with either hip or knee stuff.

Here’s a video of this modification:

If you find you have a hard time feeling your glutes when you do do glute bridges, try out Bret’s variation instead, and if your neck, knees, or hips don’t love that variation then try my variation to the variation.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, owns a personal training studio in Ottawa that specializes in getting people stronger and moving better.

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Wear and tear from repetitive movements

I noticed something cool at my gym (Custom Strength) this morning. Take a look at this photo:

Shawshank redemption rope?
Shawshank redemption rope?

What you’re looking at is the anchor point for the battling ropes that we use for conditioning. If you’re not sure what that means, take a look at this video:

I love it as a conditioning exercise. That’s not quite accurate. I love it as a conditioning exercise for my clients. ;)

So back to that picture above. Take a look at the concrete around the attachment point. You can see a deep groove in the concrete at the bottom, and a shallower groove to the right. This is damage to the concrete from the ropes hitting it. The deeper groove at the bottom was made between March 2014 and Dec 2015, and the shallower groove on the right is from the position the ropes get used in since we changed the gym layout over Christmas – so not quite 4 months of use. A piece of rope being moved up and down by humans can make a hole in concrete, given enough repetitions. That’s pretty cool!

Here’s a photo of our other rope.

Rock dust for the yard
Rock dust for the yard

Note the concrete dust? The white ropes (previous image) haven’t been used since the cleaners were in on Sunday, but the black ones (this image) have been used by about 10 people. That strikes me as an impressive pile of concrete dust from 10 people, each using the ropes for about a minute. 10 minutes of human-powered rope movement left a pile of concrete dust and thus presumably a bit deeper of a hole than was there last week.

In addition to how cool and remarkable this is, it makes me think about repetitive movements we do with our body. How many steps in a marathon? How many swings in a tennis tournament? How many strokes in a swim meet? All the more reason to spend a little time getting stronger and moving better, to give your body some support for all those repetitions.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer who loves introducing athletes to smart training as a means for improved sports performance and enjoyment with a side benefit of reduced injury risk.

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Your bones can change

A friend sent me this article that talks about an exercise effect that is rarely discussed: changes to our bones.

The short version of the article is that sprinters tend to develop thicker shins and tennis players can develop a thicker racquet arm, while swimmer’s and cyclists tend to have no such effect. The article also notes that children who walk sooner have thicker shins than those who walk later. The other side is true as well, which is why astronauts lose bone mass while in space.

This is Wolff’s Law in action. In a nutshell, Wolff’s Law states that if the body feels it is not set up to continue to support the pressure it is put under, it will create new bone to help. We can see this in the feet of ballet dancers, and in the pelvic shape of teenage girls who play sports. Sometimes these changes are not the result of exercise, but of daily living. People with obesity develop thicker femoral heads (the top of the thigh). Yet another example of how amazing the human body is!

The article notes that this effect is smaller in older populations, suggesting that studies have not shown large changes in bone mineral density in the elderly. The author suggests this may be because we can’t produce as much force as we age. This is an interestingly timed comment for me, as I just had a client report back to me this week that her rheumatologist reported that her bone mineral density has increased again – the second time she has had an increase since starting strength training with me.

I found myself questioning the conclusion that the effect is smaller in seniors. I followed the link in the article for “elderly people”, which led to this study abstract which makes no mention of smaller effects in seniors. It does mention that “the effects of age and starting age on the osteogenic effects of exercise are not well known. It also appears that exercise interventions are most effective in physically inactive people or counteracting conditions of disuse such as bed rest”.[1] I would argue that suggests that they don’t really know the effect on seniors, but if we’re talking about inactive seniors, the study suggests a big potential impact on bone strength.

In fact this US Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report from 2008 provides a review of studies on the topic. The results very clearly show improvement in bone mineral density (BMD) among seniors, including one to two percent increase in lumbar spine density per year from resistance training. From the report: “Although a benefit of 1 to 2 % per year may seem small, this is roughly equivalent to preventing the decrease in BMD that would typically occur over 1 to 4 years in postmenopausal women and elderly men”. [2]

As my friend who sent me the article said, “Like I needed another reason but really drives home the importance of an active lifestyle for kids- impacts the rest of their lives.”

In other words: walk away from the computer and go run, jump, play, or lift weights. Just tell your boss it’s a crucial medical intervention.

Elsbeth Vaino is an engineer turned personal trainer in Ottawa who loves discussing the geeky reasons for exercising. In fact if you’re a personal trainer on the west coast, consider coming to see me speak at the NSCA BC Provincial Clinic on May 28th. I’ll be talking about structural variations between individuals and their effect on exercise.

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References:
[1] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12018-013-9151-4#/page-1
[2] http://health.gov/PAGuidelines/Report/pdf/CommitteeReport.pdf

6 Week pre-season training program starts Monday

It is not too late to get yourself fit for summer sport season, although you’re definitely cutting it close.

This is a great option for you if:

  • You usually get yourself to the gym before the season starts, but you have a new couch and there’s stuff on TV.
  • Every year while coughing up a lung during your first game, you promise yourself that next year you’ll spend some time in the gym before the season starts.
  • You never did pre-season training before and you did fine. And in completely unrelated news, you aren’t 25 any more.
  • You do work out pre-season, but you’d prefer a more structured program that is geared toward athletic performance, a fantastic workout environment, and feedback from a coach on your form.

Still reading? Here’s what we’re offering:

  • Two 60 minute group training sessions each week (pick 2 of Mon 530pm, Wed 730pm (FULL), Saturday 10am (FULL). UPDATE: WE NOW ONLY HAVE SPOTS OPEN FOR THE MONDAY SESSION, SO IF YOU REGISTER, IT WILL BE ONE SESSION PER WEEK, NOT TWO.
  • Sessions will address strength, power, mobility, and conditioning.
  • Program lasts 6 weeks, starting the week of April 4th and finishing the week of May 12th (just in time for City of Ottawa field opening).
  • $180+HST. UPDATE: SINCE WE NOW ONLY HAVE AN OPTION FOR ONE SESSION PER WEE, THE PRICE IS REDUCED TO $100+HST
  • Availability is limited: there are only 10 spots total, and each class is limited to 7 people.
  • All sessions take place at Custom Strength, which is located at 939 Somerset St. W

NOTE: if you are dealing with an injury, please be sure to mention that when you contact us. Depending on the nature of the injury, this option may not be available for you. We do have training options for everyone, but group training is not typically a great option in the presence of an injury. Send in an email though with an indication of what the injury is, and any guidance your physical therapist/athletic therapist/chiropractor has provided in terms of readiness.

Send me an email with the form below to register or if you have questions.

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Is Tiger Woods’ back injury the result of his training?

An article on Yahoo Sports today quotes Tiger Woods’ caddy suggesting his injuries have been because of his dedication to gym work: “I guess when [Tiger] looks back, he might question some of the activities that he did, some of the gym work that he might have done that, you know, had all these injuries escalate“. I suppose that’s possible, but is it likely?

Maybe it is more likely that this level of injury is normal for someone who has golfed for hours each day for 38 years? The 40 year old Tiger was doing the talk show tour showing off his golf skills when he was 2. In golf age, he is much older than 40. Is this perhaps a sign that early specialization eventually takes its toll, even on the exceptions who make it big?

Maybe there is something about his swing that makes him both excellent but also vulnerable? There’s a theory in the golf rehab world that his current back problems stem from a 2008 post-knee surgery swing change. Elite performance can come at a price to the body.

Maybe it is because he is in his 40s. According to this Golf Channel article, “Less than 10 percent – just 20 of 216 – of all majors were won by players 40 and over. It does happen, especially at the British Open (the last three British Open champions were all 40-somethings). But since 2000, only one golfer – 41-year-old Vijay Singh – has won a Masters, U.S. Open or PGA Championship.

Anything is possible, and thus it is possible that Tiger Woods’ back woes are the result of his training. But the limited body of evidence related to training and golf suggests otherwise. A Sports Health review of the scientific literature on golf injuries notes that “the majority of injuries sustained by professional golfers relate to overuse“, and that “simple modifications reduce the incidence of injuries, such as using a bag cart and performing a 10-minute warm-up before game play. Other studies have identified that increased hip flexibility can be helpful as well. Additional factors that increase the risk of sustaining a sports-related injury include decreased static trunk strength, delay in trunk muscle recruitment, and limited trunk endurance.

Given the body of evidence on training and golf, and the statistics on golf performance and aging, the more likely scenario is that the caddy is wrong.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa who is not a huge fan of people making unsubstantiated (and likely untrue) statements in the media.

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Oh hello breakfast cake, I mean muffin

I had a craving for cake this morning, so of course I made muffins. I previously wrote about how muffins were dead to me. Usually we eat them because we think they are the healthy choice, even though we really want the doughnut, when the reality is they are not a healthy choice. As I note in that article, muffins often have more calories, more fat and more carbohydrates than doughnuts. Yes, there is sometimes a bit more fibre, but not much, and not enough to make them anywhere near healthy.

The truth of the matter is that muffins are cake. Breakfast cake, if you will. So let’s start calling it what it is so that we can make a proper decision about them. This morning, for instance, I really wanted some breakfast cake. So I made some. Eyes wide open to the fact that this is not a healthy breakfast choice. Which is okay sometimes. I’m a firm believer in the idea of eating healthily most of the time, but that it’s okay to be imperfect. As Dr. Yoni Freedhoff put it (maybe slightly paraphrased), “eat as healthily as you can reasonably enjoy”. This might mean something different for you than for me, and it means something different for me than for a person who is training for an elite level athletic pursuit. For me these days, it involves getting enough protein, vegetables, and water. But it also includes (home made) pizza, red wine, and on rare occasions, breakfast cake.

I resurrected breakfast cake for myself because sometimes it is exactly the treat I want. Especially chocolate chip ones. A good chocolate chip muffin is white cake with a liberal sprinkling of chocolate chips. What’s not to like? But let’s be clear: there is nothing healthy about it. It’s time we liberate the muffin from the shackles of its false brand and acknowledge breakfast cake!

wpid-wp-1457202979300.jpeg

Even though I recognize breakfast cake’s true self, I still found myself not fully getting it. The photo above is the tray of breakfast cakes just before putting them in the oven. The recipe includes a crumble on top made with cinnamon, flour, sugar, and butter. As I sprinkled it on top of the muffins, I thought to myself, “wow, I can’t believe I’m putting this much sugar and butter on top.“. And then I chuckled to myself. Yes, crazy to sprinkle flour, sugar and butter on top of a dough made up primarily of flour, sugar, and butter.

Now that we’ve addressed the true self of breakfast cake, give some thought to zucchini bread, banana bread, and apple loaf. While they each contain some fruit or vegetable, guess what? Cake.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some blueberry crumble breakfast cake to enjoy.

wpid-wp-1457206001849.jpeg

Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer who recognizes that people can be healthy without being perfectly healthy.

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Is coconut oil the best choice for cooking?

Like to eat healthy? Always on the lookout for great recipes with a healthy twist? If so, you are probably a coconut oil keener. Am I right? Coconut oil is great. For some things. But did you know coconut oil is actually an unhealthy choice for some recipes? Let me explain.

Most non-chefs select oils for cooking based solely on the type of fat. Not long ago, that meant vegetable oils for everything. This was during the saturated fats are evil period. Fast forward a few years to the Mediterranean era where olive oil was all things to all recipes. We now live in the time of the coconut oil, which makes that the perfect oil for all uses. Or so suggest the healthy recipes that make their way around the interweb.

It’s amazing how quickly truth changes in the era of the internet.

I’m just going to put this out here: When it comes to oil for cooking, unless you were taught by a cook, everything you know is wrong. Let me explain that.

There are three important criterion for selecting an appropriate cooking oil for a recipe, but most people make their selection based on only one. The three criterion are:

  1. Health
  2. Smoke point
  3. Taste

Most healthy recipes shared on the internet take only #1 into account. If you’re a chef, you undoubtedly take numbers 2 and 3 into account.

I just finished making a healthy recipe for (pretty tasty) banana oatmeal squares that said to use butter or olive oil to grease the baking dish. Olive oil for banana oatmeal squares? Really? Think of it this way: would you put olives in a banana oatmeal square? I love olives, but not with bananas and oatmeal. Many oils have a taste, so if you’re going to use it in a recipe, make sure you’re picking an oil for which the taste works. Before using an oil for a recipe – even just for greasing a pan – ask yourself the question above: “how would this recipe taste with olives in it?” In this case, the butter would have been a good choice, but I opted for coconut oil which I think also complements the flavour of the ingredients nicely. Coconut is not a slam dunk though. Have you ever had eggs cooked in coconut oil? That’s not a good combination. There’s a reason nobody adds coconut oil to their eggs – it doesn’t go. If it doesn’t go as an ingredient, it doesn’t go as a cooking oil.

This is one of the reasons vegetable oils remain popular among cooks as a cooking oil. Unlike many oils, vegetable oil is essentially flavourless. That means from a taste perspective, it goes with everything. Which means it is versatile.

The other reason vegetable oil remains a popular choice is that it has a fairly high smoke point. Every oil has a smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil starts to burn. When cooking, it is important to use an oil whose smoke point is higher than the cooking temperature you’ll use. For many recipes, this is another knock against coconut oil as it has a relatively low smoke points, or at least unrefined coconut oil does. The coconut oil in my cupboard (unrefined) has a smoke point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite low. Thankfully this brand notes on the label that it is for medium heat cooking. Unfortunately not all brands list smoke point on the label, leaving people to inadvertently use inappropriate oils for their cooking needs. If you’re someone who loves to use coconut oil for all your cooking please reconsider, or make sure you use a refined coconut oil for the high heat cooking to avoid adding vile-tasting free radicals to your meal.

Interested in reading more about smoking point of cooking oils, including a table of oils and their smoke points? There’s a great article about it on seriouseats.com. Note SeriousEats.com is also a great source for delicious recipes.

What about health in oils? As noted above, once vegetable oils were considered the pinnacle of health while saturated fat was the work of the devil. The current trend is the opposite. So what’s the truth? This will unfortunately be different depending on what you read. That’s sad state of modern nutrition information: many “experts” have taken to cherry-picking scientific findings that support one concept while ignoring evidence that brings it into question. It is true that the evidence that once vilified saturated fat has been brought into question, but this does not mean that saturated fat is perfectly healthy. Similarly, the modern vilification of vegetable oils is that they are bad because we ate so much of it that our diets became overly high in omega-6 fatty acid, which put our bodies out of balance with the omega-3s. I think that argument has a lot of merit – or at least the part about the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid balance. What doesn’t make sense is that we should stop using it entirely. If the problem was that we ate too much of it relative to other fats, then the solution is not to get rid of it entirely: it’s to eat less of it relative to other fats.

Different oils for different tasks

If you aim to make all of your cooking oil choices based on smoke point and taste, you will end up using a balance of oils. I would argue that the present body of knowledge suggests that a balance of different oils is the healthiest option.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa who gets frustrated by the myriad of bad recipes mislabelled by fitness and nutrition professionals as “healthy and delicious”.

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Bear Crawl as an exercise?

I just read this great post from Tony Gentilcore about bear crawls. It piqued my interest because it’s an exercise I love to use with my clients (so busted for seeking out articles that support my bias). He lists some great reasons for people to do them, but I wanted to elaborate on one: motor learning (the first reason #2 that he lists).

I have used bear crawls for a long time, but became especially interested in them a few years ago after reading this article written by physical therapist John D’Amico. John works with a lot of golfers in Florida, and has developed an interest in “accessing the nervous system through manual therapy and exercise as a means to attaining better mobility in my middle-aged to senior golf fitness clients.” So he did a little test:

  • Did initial range of motion tests on 10 male golfers (average age 68)
  • Taught them how to do a standing cross-crawl pattern
  • Had them perform 20 repetitions of the standing cross-crawl pattern five times per day
  • Re-tested range of motion on the same joints three days later

Here is a video of what his clients did:

He saw impressive improvements in great toe dorsiflexion, ankle dorsiflexion, hip extension, hip internal rotation, and hip flexion. From standing in place lifting up the opposite arm and leg. Huh. Give John’s article a read for the full results as well as his discussion.

I had previously used bear crawls as part of our warm-up when I coached the Ottawa Junior ultimate team, and I remember being surprised at how difficult the crawl movement pattern was for many of the kids. These were skilled teenage athletes, but many of them initially had a very hard time moving opposite arm and leg at the same time. It was as though their body didn’t know how to do it. Before seeing John’s post, I had read about benefits from acquiring a lost cross crawl pattern, although nothing with much scientific merit. In other words cool theories but not backed up by much. John’s post isn’t hard science either, but in my opinion, it is compelling. And given how little time it takes and how many other benefits there are (as Tony notes), bear crawling as an exercise is kind of a no-brainer.

If you’re interested in trying them, take a look at this great demonstration video by Joe Bonyai. He includes forward/reverse bear crawls as well as a stationary bear crawl with hold, which he refers to as “bear paws”.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa Canada whose gym has a Bear Crossing sign posted.

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Why you should not take Greens supplements

I just received the following question this morning from one of the participants of my 8 Week Get Lean Challenge. The challenge is one where participants adopt one new habit change per week. One of the habits is to fill half your plate with vegetables a set number of meals per week (depending on what level of the challenge you are doing). The following question refers to this vegetables habit:

Q: ” I wanted to know what your thoughts/opinion was on “GREENS” the popeyes substitute? Would that be considered as half the plate, should I take these? If I can take these how much to they count towards my portion?”

greens_flickr_fady habibPhoto credit: fady habib on flickr.

A: “I think greens are great, however, they won’t count toward your half plate as vegetables. The reason for this habit is two-fold: it ensures you get lots of veggies, and it helps to prevent you from over-eating non-veggies. The latter is as important as it reduces the likelihood that you’ll overeat. So you can see that the greens helps toward the first goal but not toward the second. ”

I do feel a bit sheepish for taking the slightly-misleading-contrarian-blog-post-title approach, but I’m feeling a bit contrarian today, so it seemed appropriate. In fact I have nothing against Greens supplements. I even think they’re a good idea for those who otherwise won’t get much in the way of vegetables. I’d much rather someone take these with a low-vegetable diet than follow a low-vegetable diet and not take them. It’s a way to get the many, many micronutrients vegetables have to offer, and that’s a good thing. But if I had a say, I’d much rather have someone add actual vegetables to their diet so that they get both the micronutrient and macronutrient benefits. What is this macrunutrient benefit? Primarily it’s that vegetables tend to be high in fibre and protein, and they are low in calories. Here are a few examples of what 100 calories of vegetables look like. Pretty impressive!

Interested in this Get Lean Challenge? Registration for the current edition is closed, but you can register here to be notified when we run it again. It will likely be in the next 2 months.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada who thinks vegetables are the bomb. That is if people still say that things are the bomb. Otherwise, she thinks they are…(please help a once-was-cool-ish-now-is-old-and-less-cool trainer and blogger with her diction by commenting with a better expression below.)

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Congratulations to Me

Today is the five year anniversary of my first Custom Strength client. I’ll be honest that I am very proud of myself for the business I have built since the first client I trained under my own business name.

Like most entrepreneurs, I tend to deflect accomplishments to others when they are brought up. Instead of accepting the compliment, I mention all the great people around me; that I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family; or that my amazing clients make it so easy. All true. But the other truth is that I had a great vision and then worked my ass off to build that vision. And now I’ve got this thing I call Custom Strength; this place I go to every day; this thriving community of amazing people working hard to be better; and it’s awesome.  And the reason this awesome thing exists is because one day I decided to quit my lucrative consulting career to pursue my passion.

This is the point in the story where people often say they never looked back. I’m here to tell you that those people are liars. We all look back. Every time things get shitty – and I don’t think there’s an entrepreneur in the world who hasn’t been through a shitty period – we look back. I have often thought about how my life would be if I had stayed in the engineering consulting world. The money was sure good, as were the hours, and those combined for some fantastic vacations. Those thoughts still lead me to the same conclusion though: opening Custom Strength was one of the best decisions I ever made.   I say this 5 years in, at a point where I still take home less money than I did before making this change. Although 2016 is looking like it will be the year where my hard work and vision reap financial rewards that surpass those levels. *knocks on wood while typing this*

Deflection of accomplishments isn’t the only thing that prevents entrepreneurs from tooting their own horns and acknowledging success. Relativism is the other. I almost succumbed to it. Not only is Custom Strength five years old, it is also healthy and growing.  Despite that, I almost stopped myself from celebrating this accomplishment because there are so many businesses that are bigger and more profitable than mine. Some have been around longer, some started with money (I started with a huge debt from a previous business), while some are newer and also started without money. In other words if you look for it, you will find an example of someone who has done better than you.  I’m excited that I have finally reached the level of entrepreneur where I can celebrate my success in relation to my hopes and goals instead of in relation to what others have done. I’m quite certain I’m not the only entrepreneur who struggled with this.

Five years! It has been both a fun and challenging ride.

The fun mostly involves what I actually do, which is training clients. People often talk about thankless jobs. I have a thankful job. It’s amazing. At least a couple of times a week someone tells me about the things in their life that are better because of their training with me.

It’s a good thing the highs have been so great, because the lows really, well, sucked. Like that time I came back from a Christmas trip to find out that the gym space I was renting had flooded from a leaky roof and the landlord decided he wouldn’t fix it until April. I’m not talking about a slow leak here; I’m talking fills-a-bucket-in-an-hour leak. Good times.

Then there was the time – just 9 months ago in fact – that I almost bankrupted my business. Imagine how you would feel when you did the books and realized that the numbers don’t actually add up and that if you don’t fix your spending, and increase your revenue right away, you won’t survive another month. That was my introduction to tracking churn rate. I had always prided myself on tracking business metrics, but it turns out the metrics I was tracking were insufficient for growth periods. I moved into a bigger and more expensive space in 2014, which required financing for moving costs, some new equipment, and a 2.5 time increase in rent. When I looked at my numbers, some were hidden by extra money I had borrowed to cover those expenses, while net revenue shortcomings were easy to explain by the temporary new expenses I had incurred. The big lesson I learned there: Never look for a way to explain revenue shortfalls; look for ways to uncover what they really mean. It’s a very minor but crucially important difference in perspective.

Thankfully my friend Pete and I were talking about our businesses and he mentioned that one of the reasons investors were so interested in his company was that their customer churn rate was so favourable. He then asked what my churn rate was. I didn’t know, but I was confident it was good because our clients mostly stick around for a long time. The next day I pulled the relevant data together and calculated it. I also looked at client acquisition rates, and used the two together as a predictor of growth or decline. That was eye-opening! It turns out there had been a two month period just before we moved where we lost quite a few clients. They were all for normal life reasons, like moving out of town, as opposed to dissatisfaction with training, so I hadn’t really given it much thought. But that followed a period where I did no marketing because I was so focused on moving and getting the new space running the way I wanted, and then because everything appeared to be running so well in the gym, I focused my attention on two side projects:  my hip training ebook and preparing presentations for a few seminars where I would be speaking. In other words, we lost clients and then spent the next six months not replacing them. 

While doing churn rate calculations, I also dug deeper into all of my business financials, which lead me to realize that I had to make changes to some of my expenses or I wouldn’t survive. Even if I increased revenue, my monthly expenses were just too high for this to ever be a strong business. That meant making some difficult decisions, which was no fun. Had I been tracking churn and acquisition rate, I would have realized that I had lost those clients and hadn’t replaced them, and I could have addressed it before it became a problem. Knowing my churn rate allows me to predict if a revenue drop is coming, which allows me to address it before impact. Had I also done a better job of splitting out investment money from revenue, I would also have come to the same conclusion earlier than I did.

I’m still slightly embarrassed that my inability to properly assess my financials almost cost me my business. I mean, I’m a numbers person! I use the expression playing with Excel instead of working with Excel. How on earth did I not see this coming? I was so embarrassed that I contemplated not including this in this post. After all this post is really about a celebration. But then I remembered reading stories like this from other entrepreneurs and how helpful it was to me when I was feeling overwhelmed.  So there you have it – the lows in my entrepreneurial process included a big dumb mistake that almost prevented me ever getting to this five year mark.

Five years! Since that financial debacle there have been far more ups than downs, and business is good. That scare forced me to do what I had to in regards to expenses and to put more time into marketing such that we are growing at a good but manageable pace, which means I’m not celebrating that my business has survived for five years; I’m celebrating that my business is successful five years in. In addition to allowing myself to feel pride in this accomplishment, I also decided I should buy myself a five year Custom Strength anniversary gift. A new pair of skis seems like a good gift. Here’s hoping Mother Nature will help me celebrate by providing some snow!

Exercise and nutrition for healthy living and sports performance