I don’t usually talk about my clients unless they talk about training with me first, but I’m going to make an exception because this client is just so cool. He also has very unique goals, which make him doubly interesting. Here’s how that first phone call went:

EV: “How can I help you Mr. Claus?”

SC: “Please, call me Nick.”

EV: “Okay, Nick. What are you hoping to achieve?”

SC: “Well, I have this delivery job. It’s a particularly important one. Lots and lots of people are counting on me, and the performance level I need to achieve year-in and year-out is frankly, mind-boggling. I’ve heard some people say I defy the laws of physics. Silly, I know. I mean, I’m doing it so it must be possible. Maybe they just put a little too much stock in that Einstein guy’s theories.”

EV: “Interesting. Can you be a bit more specific about your performance needs? Elaborate on the physical aspect of your job?”

SC: “Yes, as I said, I make deliveries, except instead of knocking at the door, I shimmy quietly down the chimney with the items. I then leave them under a tree or hanging in stockings, and then I climb back up and move on to the next house. I have to do all of this as fast as inhumanly possible as I have to make hundreds of millions of deliveries in one night. Oh, and I have to do it without anyone seeing me.”

EV: “Right. So it sounds like speed is of the utmost importance. Are you happy with how well you’re doing?”

SC: “That’s the trouble. The first 1500 years were like sugarplums, but I’ve really felt my age these last 170 some years. It used to only take me six months to recover from the big day, but lately, I’ve been finding it takes me clear to September before I feel like myself again. I worry about how the next 200 years will go. And it’s not just the recovery. Back when I was in my early thousands, I was always finished with the deliveries by about 3am, but lately it’s been almost 5am. You can imagine that this makes for some close calls. Part of the problem is that I just don’t seem to be able to amble up that chimney the way I once did. By the last 100,000 homes, it’s sheer will that’s getting me back to the roof.”

EV: “Okay this is very helpful. You mention recovery. Aside from taking longer, how do you find your body is holding up?”

SC: “Everything seems pretty good. I was having some trouble with my knees, but North Pole Sports Therapy has helped a lot.”

EV: “Great. Now what about your diet? Sometimes we can make great progress with changing your fuel. Especially if you’re carrying a few extra pounds.”

SC: “Ah, yes. About that. There’s no question my diet is heavy in cookies and milk, but I had some lab work done and my doc says I’m healthier than a thousand year old, so I think we’re good there. I am carrying what some might deem a few extra pounds, but it’s so ingrained in my brand that I would really rather not mess with that. There’s so much competition for the dreams of youth these days, that I don’t want to find out whether Buff Santa would go over well. For now at least, I need to stay Jolly.”

EV: “Good stuff. It’s important to know the goal.”

SC: “Do you think you can help?”

EV: “I do. Can you start Monday? Assuming my plan works, I expect we’ll work until mid-December, and then I’m confident I’ll see you back for your next round of pre-season training in June, because I suspect you’ll find yourself back to your old standard recovered by then.”

And that’s how Santa Claus became my most famous client. It’s been a great three months, and I’m thrilled to let you know that Nick called this morning to let me know that he finished his job at 3:45am. Not quite his old time, but much improved from previous years. I’m confident he’ll do even better next year, especially if he starts earlier in the year. He and his elves are currently celebrating with some nog and then he’ll be heading for his post-work nap. And he assured me that he will be calling when he wakes in June.

Hearing success stories from my clients is by far the best part of my job. As with all of my clients, Santa did all the work to earn himself this performance improvement; I merely facilitated it.

Wondering what sort of exercises a trainer puts in Santa Claus’ workout? Surprisingly, it’s not that much different from what we do with any other athlete’s workout. He starts with foam rolling and stretching, and then move into some agility and power. Nothing excessive: thousand plus year old joints have enough mileage on them that hundreds of box jumps would likely push him to early retirement. Instead we keep the volume low and focus on landing his jumps and being ready for a quick second jump (occupational requirement when landing in potentially hot fireplaces).

Next up he works on getting strong. Given that he carries a heavy bag over one shoulder while having to tip toe around obstacles followed by some vertical climbing means he needs everything to be strong, but in particular, he needs a strong core so that heavy bag doesn’t lead to back problems. Of course he did deadlifts, because nothing trains you for picking up an infinitely large bag of toys like a deadlift. After that we filled in with all manner of squats (two leg, one leg, split stance) often holding a single kettle in one hand to get extra core training. Given the need to climb, you can imagine that Santa did a lot of pull-ups. Pretty impressive actually, considering his girth. We topped that off with lots of rows to make sure his back and shoulders were solid. And let’s not forget the push ups, planks, bench press – especially bottom up KB bench; that Santa’s now got seriously stable shoulders! Last but not least, he did cable chops and lifts until the reindeer came home.

Once he finished his strength training, it was time to further build his stamina. He started with the bike for a few weeks, and then we moved to either battling ropes or sled pushes (obviously).

I will also say that the jolly thing isn’t just a look. That man worked his butt off each day in the gym, but still managed several ho-ho-hos each session.

Speaking of jolly, how did we manage to add this much activity without him losing his figure? Let’s just say Santa enjoys food. A lot. Like a lot, a lot. But good on him – he may be carrying some extra weight, but he’s healthy as a snowman; happy as a Who; and his performance is otherworldly.

Well done, Nick! I am looking forward to having you back in the gym for next year’s pre-season training. Enjoy your well earned nap, my friend.

Christmas Santa Claus

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