Category Archives: Training Basics

Training for tennis domination

For the first time in years, I am pumped about a performance goal. So pumped that I just contemplated having a hard boiled egg as a snack. I didn’t. But I did read through some research journals to help me create a new tennis conditioning workout to add to my tennis preparation plan. I know that ultimately the quality of my game is going to be the biggest determinant of how well I perform on the court this summer, but I also know that I can significantly up my game by being strong and fast enough to get to more shots, and by being fit enough to do so throughout the match. This is the stuff that training provides. Training also has a side-benefit of reducing ones risk of injury.

I am working on improving my tennis ability with a great coach and depending when you talk to me, I’m either excited or frustrated by my progress. I do seem to be getting better, which is cool because I want to start playing tournaments this summer. In fact I’ve even got eyes toward playing in the Canadian Senior Nationals toward the end of the summer, which is conveniently located in Ottawa this year. I haven’t committed to that yet as I want my forehand to be more consistent. What I have committed to is training as though I’m going. Both on the court and off.

What does that entail? What does one do to train for tennis domination? How does one train to be able to return those shots that seem unreturnable? What does a training plan include that allows one to be as fast and reactive in the last point as in the first? Here’s the plan that I am following:

Strength, power, and movement

For the past few months I have been working out in the gym three times per week (up from two) for between 45 minutes and an hour. My workouts start with a dynamic warm-up designed to address movement limitations as well as to get my body ready for the job ahead. Then it’s time for a combination of power and agility. There are a lot of options I program in this section, but most recently I’ve been doing single leg lateral hops, medicine ball slams, and power cleans. After that, I move into the strength section where I build the foundation of strength that will support my body on the court. Currently I’m doing rear foot elevated split squats, one arm kettlebell rows, Pallof presses, deadlifts, cable presses, and single-leg lowering. I either finish with a few stretches, or I do some tennis-specific intervals for conditioning.

That’s what I was doing for the off-season, but now that the outdoor courts are open and I’m playing more, I’m about to drop down to 2 days per week in the gym and adjust my focus from a bit less strength (although it is still a big part) in favour of more core and power work. The reason I’m dropping to 2 days per week is because I’m spending much more time on the court than I was, and I need to be sure that I still give my body adequate time to recover. This is important for everyone, but even more so for those of us who are over forty.

Tennis specific intervals for conditioning

This is the stuff that I developed from reading about game statistics. More specifically, I found an amazing analysis of tennis match play in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. Here are the points that I found to be particularly relevant to the development of a conditioning program for tennis:

  • Points are typically 4 to 10 seconds long with 10 to 20 seconds of recovery, with longer recovery bouts in the 60 to 90 seconds range
  • The work to rest ratio is between 1.7 and 3.4, which I interpret to mean 1:2 is a good approximation. Note: this is where many people err in building their conditioning programs. They don’t provide adequate rest. That seems like a good idea to some as it seems like you work harder. But do you? Or do you just work slower? More is not always better, but better always is.
  • 80% of strokes are within 2.5m of ready position, and there are 4 direction changes in the average point.

From that study, I created two conditioning workouts for myself: one is brief and I do it after one of my gym workouts; the other is a bit longer and I do it as a separate workout on the court after doing a tennis-specific dynamic-warmup (below this paragraph) and a few serves. Having two different conditioning workouts makes sense to me, with one focusing on the short points, and the other focusing on longer points. Although relative to the intervals I program for other sports, neither is long. Here are the two conditioning workouts:

Day 1: Post-gym workout
6 bouts of 5 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest
60 seconds rest
repeat

I do this on the slideboard and focus on trying to get as many strides in as I can. It’s easy to look at this and think 5 seconds of work is nothing. But look at it another way: how important is it to explode with those first two steps? Short bursts where you push yourself to be as fast as possible (which means you need rest) are huge helpers with that.

Over the course of May and June, the 6 bouts increases to 8 then 10, then 12.

Day 2: On-Court Conditioning
8 bouts of 10 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest
90 seconds rest
repeat two more times (3 rounds)

I set up one cone at the middle of the baseline, another 3 meters toward the sideline, and another on the sideline (singles). Of the 8 bouts, I do 3 moving to the forehand and shuffling back, 3 moving to the backhand and shuffling back, and 2 moving in for a short ball then back-pedalling. I finish each bout by going the full distance from the ready position to the sideline instead of just the 3m. Over the course of May and June, I increase from 3 to 4 to 5 rounds.

Skill training and practice
Currently I am on court three to four times per week, with one lesson each week and then playing and/or practising with other players two to three times per week. I’m trying to balance enough tennis time to improve, with enough non-tennis time so that I don’t end up with an overuse injury. I am also going through some “inner game” issues, which I will share in a separate post – the brain really is amazing in both a good and bad way!

Rest and recovery
If you add up all of the training in my plan above, you get to 7 training sessions per week. I am a believer in a day of rest, which means in order to get my full training plan in, I will need to double up at least one day per week. So far I find this very doable, and will often either do a workout at noon and then play in the evening, or I will play twice on a weekend day. Given that of the time I only get 45 to 60 minutes of court time at the club, booking two games in a day will theoretically give me a taste of tournament play where matches may be longer.

For me the day of rest doesn’t have to be completely without activity, but I believe it should be with low intensity and different activity. I typically go for a bike ride or a nature walk on my recovery day.

Nutrition
I eat relatively well most of the time, and maintain a body fat level that I think provides a good balance between performance and enjoyment. I may change my tune over the next month and tighten up my diet a bit to include fewer indulgences, but for now that is not part of my plan. I do, however, take a post-workout recovery drink during my gym workouts, and between tennis games if I am doubling up. I mix water with a powder that is 2:1 carbohydrate to protein and has just under 200 calories per serving.

That’s my game plan for the summer. I’ll be sure to update this post at the end of the summer with my progress. Or at least if I do well, I will. :)

If you’re a tennis player in the Ottawa area and have been contemplating adding in-gym training to your week, fill in the contact form below and let’s discuss. We have openings for semi-private training where you’ll get programming and coaching that are specifically developed for your body, your sport, and your ability.

If you’re not in Ottawa, or you’d rather workout at your own gym but would love to have your workouts focused on making you a better tennis player, fill in the contact form below about our online training for tennis group for a lower-cost geography-non-specific option.

Want to dominate on the tennis court? Either with in-person training in Ottawa on online group training anywhere? Send me an e-mail with questions or to sign up.

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Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer specializing in sports performance and training around injuries.

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Maximalist is the new minimalist: The absurdity of fitness trends

I saw my first pair of maximalist running shoes in a store last summer and I had to do a quick self-check: is it April fool’s Day? Nope, it’s August. This was the shoe I saw on the shelf in a reputable running and triathlon shop:

I was there waiting to pick up my bike but I had to ask about the shoe. And that’s when I learned about the new maximalist running shoe trend. Apparently extra cushioning is what we need to prevent running injuries in 2016. That’s one mighty big pendulum swing when you consider that in 2010 we learned that we need minimalist running shoes to prevent injuries.

Aside from putting an amused look on my face, the Hoka (the clown-like shoe above) brought me back to two conclusions that I have often hold:

  1. Scientists and/or companies claiming that “this is the one true answer” is your first sign that you should be sceptical of everything else that person or organization says. Science is rarely that certain, and it is never that certain before the science has had a chance to be vetted by other scientists. This typically takes years, which means by the time there is evidence that it is “the one true answer”, it’s probably not that exciting any more so nobody is talking about. So pretty much if you’re talking about an amazing new scientific discovery, understand that it may or may not be true at this point. This is not a dismissal of the scientific process. That is sound. It’s an accusation that most of the science that makes it to the mainstream has cut corners out of the scientific process.
  2. There probably isn’t a “one true answer”, but rather there are different best answers for different people and different scenarios. Minimalist running shoes may be the best option for you; so may maximalist. Heck, maybe the running shoes that got run out of town in 2010 are the best option for you. Or maybe running isn’t great for you. How can you tell? Great question. I’m not an expert in running shoes, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that trial and error is probably your best bet.

Unfortunately the “this not that” mangling of the scientific process is also prominent in the nutrition world. I just read an interesting article about how “leptin resistance is the main reason people gain weight and have such a hard time losing it.” Some of you will remember that not long ago “The real reason that you may have struggled to lose weight is insulin resistance.” It would seem that leptin is the maximalist shoe of the nutrition world.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is an engineer turned personal trainer who is both amused and annoyed at the inadequacy of what often passes as science.

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3 Minute Gym Warm-up

If you’re in a hurry, or just don’t want to spend a lot of time on your warm-up at the gym, and you know how to do a Turkish Getup (TGU), then I’ve got a great option for you. It takes 3 minutes. I call it either the deconstructed TGU or the 3 stop TGU. It’s kind of cool that one rep of one exercise does such a great job of warming up your joints and your cardio respiratory system.

If you’re not familiar with the TGU, then instead of using this as a warmup, use it as practice for your getup.

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa who is a big fan of efficiency.

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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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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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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!