Let’s be honest. Getting the recommended amount of sleep every night is difficult. Between tackling late-night emails, trying to finish our to-do list, or scrolling through social media, we’re often too distracted at night to hit the sack.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of all Americans say they feel sleepy during the day between three and seven days per week. And 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping on average for less than seven hours per night. All those nights of missed sleep have a negative effect over time. So what can you do?
One solution: The power nap.
While you can’t totally make up for lost sleep with a nap, it’s an excellent way to quickly decrease the symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Research has shown that the restorative effects of a short nap apply after a normal night’s sleep, after a restricted night’s sleep, and even during 64 hours of continuous work. So everyone can benefit, no matter how you slept last night. What’s more, taking a brief break and clearing your mind has been shown to greatly enhance your creativity later in the day.
Now that you know naps aren’t just for toddlers, use these seven tips to get a better power nap:
1. Limit your nap to 20 minutes or less.
Longer naps tend to create sleep inertia (a period of lethargy, poor mood, and decreased alertness following the nap) and to reduce the effectiveness of evening sleeping, where the deeper stages of sleep occur.
2. Choose the right time.
The effectiveness of napping is increased when it is performed during the time of the lowest dips in your circadian rhythms. Although everyone is different, this is usually between 2-3 p.m.
3. Avoid getting in bed.
Snuggling up in your cozy bed will make it harder for you to limit your nap to the recommended 20 minutes, plus you may start to associate your bed with napping instead of sleeping at night.
Don’t worry if you don’t fall asleep. Just closing your eyes and relaxing will be refreshing. Practice clearing your thoughts and focusing on your breathing.
5. Make a pit stop.
Urinate before you settle in. Sounds crazy, but it helps you get comfortable and avoid distractions while you rest.
6. Find a quiet place.
Find a quiet, dark place and close the door so you won’t be disturbed. Listen to some quiet, relaxing music or white noise to drown out the outside world.
7. Limit distractions.
Put a meeting on your calendar so you won’t be bothered and silence your phone. And set a timer so you don’t stress about oversleeping.
Taking full advantage of available nature options is a great way to rejuvenate your mind and get moving in a new environment. You might find a sense of adventure, or just engage your mind by providing new stimuli. The biggest benefit of getting outside might just be a break from the four walls of your house. Even if that’s true, here are six other perks.
1. New challenges
An outdoor workout provides a tangible goal for some new motivation. If you were only able to make it a quarter of the way up a steep hike, for example, make a goal to try again next month after stepping up your training. Keeping that hike in mind might help you get up earlier to train, make the right food choice, or just be more excited about your workout.
2. Improved focus
Doing the same workout in the same surroundings makes it easy for your brain to tune out and run on autopilot. Outdoor exercise can present your mind with new challenges. For example, on a trail run or hike, you have to keep watch on your footing and meter your breathing. That leaves little room for your mind to wander and forces you to stay in the present moment.
3. Disconnecting from a busy world
If you’re looking for mental recovery, being outdoors has proven rejuvenating benefits. The Japanese concept of “forest bathing” has been shown to help people disconnect from the busy world and reconnect with nature.
Distancing from man-made bustle naturally calms the body — slowing your heart rate and decreasing oxidative stress, which in turn helps improve inflammation and improve immunity. As little as 20 minutes with less noise and more plants and wildlife can help you reap the benefits.
4. Fresh workouts
Getting outside can help you break out of your at-home workout rut. Try to create balance with a variety of activities. For something new, try some of these suggestions:
- Explore your neighborhood on foot.
- Create an obstacle course in your backyard.
- Try some sports performance drills at your local park.
- Pull your bike out of the garage and see where the road takes you.
- Find a local trail and meet up to hike with friends.
5. Workday breaks
Feeling burned out by your workload? The answer may be just outside your door. One study found that a short bout of low-intensity exercise, like a walk or climbing some stairs, is more effective than a shot of espresso. So consider that the next time you’re fighting the afternoon fog.
Or if your schedule is too packed to fit in an outdoor break, call into your next meeting on your phone instead of your computer and take a walk around the block. The change of environment might be just the breakthrough you need.
What drives you to reach for a snack? It might be to satisfy a sweet or salty craving, boredom, to relieve hunger, availability of food, or even to help cope with emotions. Why you want a snack can heavily influence what you choose to snack on.
Well-balanced, nutrient-dense snacks help stabilize energy, reduce feelings of fatigue, and improve mood. Here’s how to optimize these fueling opportunities with great choices, so you can reap the benefits of snacks.
Your eating habits between standard meal times may be directly influenced by how you perceive these informal eating occasions. Recent research has identified that the word snack is associated with overeating in terms of the amount of food, sweets, and calories. By mentally reframing snacks as mini-meals, you might find it more natural for you to reach for better fueling options.
Balancing your mini-meals
A mini-meal should have four key components: carbs, protein, fat, and produce. The main goal: combine fiber with food that will keep you satiated and your energy stable.
- Quality carbohydrates are critical for providing energy to your body and brain. Opt for oats, granola, air-popped popcorn, wheat crackers, or minimally processed energy bars.
- Lean proteins build muscle tissue, support your immune system, and help you feel satiated. Grab tuna, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, Greek yogurt, beans and nuts, or cottage cheese.
- Healthy fats stabilize energy, create the feeling of fullness, support the inflammatory process, and boost brain health. Choose nuts, seeds, avocado, or nut butter.
- Colorful fruits and veggies provide nutrients that help repair the body and prevent illness. Try celery, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, whole fruit, berries, or herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic.
How you fuel throughout the day is influenced by a number of factors. So it’s no surprise that your mini-meals may vary. Take a moment to think through what affects your habits.
- Preferences: Nutritious mini-meals can still include foods that are enjoyable to you.
- Schedule: Set aside time during the day to prep and eat your mini-meal.
- Ability: Whether you’re a home chef or a novice in the kitchen, stick to what you’re comfortable with.
- Family: Make the same snack for everyone in your family and pack for school, work, or home.
- Exercise: Think about how you need to plan your mini-meals around exercise to ensure you have enough energy to get through your workouts and nutrients to recover.
Mindfulness is about both being reflective and fully experiencing the fluctuation of mental states. It evolved from Buddhist tradition and was once widely practiced, but it’s given way to busy schedules, long workdays, and social obligations.
The good news: Being present is natural to humans. We’ve simply gotten away from practicing it. You can reclaim that power with these 5 steps to mindfulness.
1. Pause and listen
Pausing and listening are the initial steps to awareness. In a fast-paced world where quantity is valued over quality, we’re forced to be ahead of the game. While we might be leading the pack in our jobs or socially, we’re being limited in our ability to be present and listen to the meaning behind our actions and words. The problem: We bypass the ability to truly connect with people and situations. As you build awareness of yourself and others, you’ll become more sensitive, which is essential for connection.
2. Find your center
Life can feel like a hurricane. Instead of getting swept up in the chaos, centering yourself can help you remain calm and in control of yourself, especially in times of challenge. Think of it as your anchor, your place to find peace and comfort.
3. Set your intention
When you’re a fast-acting multitasker, your mind can become invaded by the thoughts and responsibilities you’re trying to keep track of. While these goals are important to keep organized, you can deal with the onslaught of to-dos by zoning in on a point of focus. Do this by setting your intention each morning and staying mindful of what matters most that day.
4. Think, speak, and act with purpose
Mindfulness doesn’t do you any good if you’re only practicing it behind closed doors. What matters is how you apply these practices to your daily life. Ingraining these principles into your life will help you face unexpected stress with more ease. So put it into action.
5. Take time to reflect and assimilate
Self-reflection is critical to mindfulness. That’s why the final principle of mindfulness is to reflect and assimilate. If you don’t take the time to reflect and assimilate, your brain won’t absorb the new information and can easily divert back to old habits, and you’ll miss out on the opportunity to truly experience transformation in your life.
Exos recently made the news for its forward-thinking functional performance leadership within the fitness industry. Bloomberg published this article focusing on the benefits of “prehab,” movements that warm the body to prevent injury and support functional movement.
A Functional Movement “Aha” Moment
The Bloomberg article addressed the sudden influx of movement-related injuries and strain that the pandemic brought about. As more people worked from home and worked out at home, they found themselves battling pain and movement issues.
Now the idea of preventing those issues through a whole-person approach to performance is not only an Exos focus.
“It’s an idea whose time has come for the industry, but it’s not a new approach for Exos,” explained Jeff DiBiaso, Exos Vice President for Community Operations. “Our clients appreciate our focus on a holistic approach to movement. We move all day, every day, and our bodies need to be able to perform those movements efficiently.”
“That’s the essence of human performance, and it’s what we provide for everyone.”
Functional Performance for Everyone
In addition to providing training for elite professional athletes and teams, Exos manages sports performance training centers, community fitness centers, and physical therapy practices across the U.S. At every site, the focus on functional movement and injury prevention informs the movement plans Exos coaches and trainers provide for their clients.
Exos has developed a proven approach to improving human performance through four holistic pillars: mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. By starting every training or therapy relationship with an individual assessment that addresses the four pillars and several functional movement screenings, Exos coaches and therapists are able to identify disordered movement patterns that contribute to current and potential issues with pain and injury.
Welcome to What Works
Using this approach has helped Exos clients break cycles of chronic pain and reoccuring injury by solving the movement problem at its root cause. What’s even better is that Exos has been treating and preventing injuries this way for more than two decades.
Learn more about this iterative approach to holistic human performance and see why Exos best practices are becoming fitness industry best practices.
The Exos athletic performance focus is all about removing barriers to fitness self-actualization. For everyone.
Monument Health Sports Performance Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota, serves as a model for the future of human athletic performance training. Senior General Manager Sam Linart says the facility’s Launch Program is changing lives for the better – for good.
“Our Launch members may never have considered themselves athletes before,” Linart explained. “Or maybe they’re people who loved the gym at one time, but felt like they had to get in shape to get back to the gym.”
“Launch is for everyone, and the community response has been incredible.”
Launch makes fitness training accessible
Mike Latour, System Director of Musculoskeletal Services and Sports Medicine for Monument Health, said the initial goal with Launch was to provide a vehicle for integrating lifestyle medicine for Monument Health patients referred by their doctors and therapists.
“Launch members are coming back to the gym after a long time, or they may not have any fitness training experience,” Latour said. “They enter the program after being referred by physical therapists, physicians, or other members.”
“They stay because they can see and feel the results.”
With a huge and growing adult training population, Monument Health SPI has built a successful retention program focusing on providing a continuum of care that’s fully integrated with Monument Health medical care.
It’s more than personal training
“Launch is there for anyone,” Linart explained. “A typical workout incorporates body weight and light-weight movements for about 30 minutes in a small-group, coach-led session. It feels like personal training, but there’s an element of community camaraderie that’s essential to keeping members engaged.”
Launch participants are introduced to the full complement of Exos methodology, a little at a time. Coaches focus on teaching mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery pillars in a way that’s immediately applicable to members.
“The classes focus on movement quality while building strength and cardiovascular health,” Linart continued. “While all four pillars play a role in the Launch program, the biggest take-away for most members is the mindset part. Their mindset shifts, they find their confidence, and believe in themselves, and they begin to see that they are capable of so much more than what they originally set out to accomplish walking through the doors.”
That’s why the Monument Health SPI program continues to grow.
Launching a Revolution at Monument Health
Monument members are able to take advantage of personal health coaching at any time during their Launch experience by signing up for Revolution.
The Revolution Program began as a 12-week virtual “conversation” about topics such as meal prep and building healthy habits. It’s now an in-person lifestyle discussion centered around building healthy habits.
Linart explained that a member might spend 3 months to a year in the Launch program, while Revolution is 3 months focused on behavior change. It can be combined with a training program to incorporate the movement pillar and, gradually, more challenging athletic performance training classes.
Both offerings are designed to remove barriers to entry for anyone interested in better overall health.
“Members move through Launch at their own pace,” Linart explained. “They work on building confidence and fitness, then move to Bridge or Return to Play, then adult performance training classes.”
Launch and Revolution membership continue to grow. With many people looking to re-engage in healthy habits they started – then lost – during the pandemic lock-downs, Linart says she doesn’t expect the hybrid introductory programs to be a passing phase. In fact, they’ve become a model for building community and engagement at similar Exos managed performance training sites.
“We currently serve 270 active adult performance members, and more than 45 youth and high school members,” she continued. “This is such a unique community, and the coaches really enjoy helping members achieve small victories and daily progress.”
“That’s what human performance is all about – getting better every day.”
About Monument Health Sports Performance
The Monument Health Sports Performance Institute teaches athletes, first responders, and community members behavioral health and lifestyle medicine. Exos Coaches and a Performance Dietitian offer individual and group training for members of all ages and physical abilities. Exos provides business consulting, staffing, membership, maintenance, community outreach, and ad hoc marketing support for the Monument Health System.
How Exos is taking this long-held belief, new insights, and an invigorated message to the world
By Jeff DiBiaso
Over the past 20 years, Exos has worked alongside some of the best athletes and teams in the world. This is our legacy.
What you might not know is that Exos has been bringing this same training behind the scenes to physical therapy patients, members at community centers, and employees at Fortune 100 companies. And now we want to move that front-of-scene.
So in late 2021 we unveiled the new Exos brand. Our goal: Bring Exos’ experience and insight to everyone, including you. After all, human performance is for everyone.
Here’s how we’re bringing this message and experience to the world.
1. Redefining how we talk about human performance
We’re still Exos. That will never change. But with our new brand, we’re redefining how we talk about human performance. As Exos has grown into the go-to training resource for the pros, performance training has naturally been elevated to elite-athlete status.
And elite athletes should expect elite training. But so should everyone else.
Our coaches recognize that there’s an athlete in everyone, and it’s one of the many reasons we believe in the four pillars of human performance: mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery.
2. Sharing our four-pillar approach to human performance
Our four-pillar approach was designed using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which categorized human needs in order of importance. First up, physiological needs and safety. After that, love and belonging and esteem. Lastly, self-actualization.
Our cyclical approach helps fulfill these needs, leading to a better, stronger human.
Mindset impacts every aspect of life. At Exos we recognize that human performance limits are typically self-imposed, and through education and motivation our coaches can help break down barriers to physical improvement. With the right mindset, each person can reach higher than ever before.
Nutrition is one of the most basic human needs. And the brain and body requires the right fuel to perform its best. Exos coaches share how nutrition impacts performance and help implement small changes that can ladder up to any goal. This goes hand-in-hand with nutrition, as positive lifestyle change leads to improved performance.
Mindset and nutrition build a foundation for movement. And Exos coaches understand the importance of functional movement and injury risk reduction for better overall performance. This shows up in how they explain the principles of movement and improve movement through purposeful, progressive training.
Optimal human performance requires recovery. With quality sleep and muscle recovery, new levels of performance can be achieved. Our coaches recognize that recovery is equally as important as mindset, nutrition, and movement.
Our holistic approach hasn’t changed, it’s just evolved with research, insights, experience, and a more intentional focus.
3. Emphasizing self-actualization
Together the four pillars of human performance are the secret to self-actualization. Exos sees the hero that exists in every human, and we strive to help others achieve their full potential.
So now more than ever, whether you’re running a business, working on feeling better day to day, or looking to improve the health and performance of your local community, Exos is here for you. And our coaches are ready to champion anyone who’s looking for more.
Our message to the world: We’re here. When you’re ready, so are we. #ExosReady
When Katie Redmond* found herself battling chronic knee pain, her primary doctor recommended physical therapy. A quick search of her options turned up a nearby Exos Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine clinic. Having some familiarity with the Exos whole-person approach to performance due to her work in the fitness industry, she signed up.
“My biggest concern was getting back to normal,” Redmond said, admitting that she wasn’t keen on rearranging her daily work and family obligations for PT. “I knew something had to give, though. I was ready to do whatever it took to feel normal again.”
Building a workable therapy plan
What struck Redmond at her first appointment was the detail with which the therapist addressed all forms of movement. Using a proprietary Exos intake process, the physical therapist worked with Redmond to assess the health and range of motion of all her joints – including everything from her ankles to her thoracic spine and how they worked independently and in concert with other joints – in just 20 minutes.
“It really was phenomenal,” Redmond recalled. “I remember thinking that I should maybe point out it was my knee that hurt, but I was curious about what he would find with the assessment.”
Her patience and curiosity paid off. Through an interactive combination of Functional Movement Screening, traditional orthopedic tests, and the 21-step Exos Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment, Redmond said her therapist found some movement restrictions in her hip and spine that were contributing to her nagging, recurrent knee pain issue.
“He explained everything so well that it made perfect sense,” she said. “In that first session, I learned a set of exercises I could do at home to improve the way I move so that my knee could get some relief. We talked about nutrition and my therapist gave me some great tips for working my PT exercises into my daily schedule. I thought, ‘I can do that!’”
Within just a few days of starting her at-home exercises, Redmond said she could tell her back and hips were moving better. Within the first two weeks, and with check-ins with her therapist on video and in person, she said the knee pain began to lessen. As a team, she and her therapist, physician, and dietitian adjusted her treatment plan to account for her increased mobility to incorporate some strength and stability components.
Three months after that unique first visit, Redmond says she’s confident that her knee issue is a thing of the past.
“Now that I understand what I need to do to move my whole body more efficiently, it’s pretty simple,” she explained. “My knee pain is almost completely gone, and I’ve started the transition to a performance training program to focus on strength and functional movement. I was pretty skeptical of PT overall, but this experience has been different than what I expected. I feel great.”
Positive clinical outcomes begin with a different approach
Redmond’s experience isn’t unique among Exos Physical Therapy patients. Exos Director of Rehabilitation Jim Godin says it all starts with that first visit Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment.
“Exos has a system in place that allows us to objectively assess each client’s movement, both from a global view as well as from a smaller, more segmental view,” Godin said. He also emphasized that the Exos approach to physical therapy is to focus on the root cause of injury rather than becoming fixated on the painful structure, such as a patellar tendon. Digging deeper during the assessment and identifying both the root cause of the pain as well as the actual painful tissue(s) or joint(s), a clinical team can work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan along with the patient’s physician, nutritionist, and performance coach.
“It’s an integrative and long-term approach to physical therapy that sets the Exos Physical Therapy philosophy apart,” Godin said. “You might expect that, when you go to physical therapy for knee pain, the therapist will just give you a bunch of ‘knee exercises’ or perform treatment only local to the knee. The Exos approach attacks the root cause(s) of the pain using manual techniques, corrective exercises, and various loading strategies at the hip, ankle, or spine (possibly all of the above) while simultaneously addressing any local joints or tissues that are painful.”
“In general, pain is a great ‘check engine light’ as it allows us to dig deeper into a person’s movement strategies while we rid them of their current pain symptoms quickly. This clears up what’s causing the source of pain so the patient experiences relief and doesn’t get injured again in the future.”
What the Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment provides
Exos Physical Therapists developed the Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment to provide consistency at each initial therapy visit with a focus on whole-person movement health. Using the tool, a physical therapist can analyze a patient’s quality of movement, then follow a logical approach to treatment that addresses the patient’s lifestyle and overall health.
“Movement quality impacts sports and performance in everyday life,” Godin said. “For Exos clientele, performance needs range from running a 40-yard dash at an NFL Combine to a mother being able to pick up her child.”
Despite that wide range of physical activity and goals, Godin said the Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment is applicable to every unique patient, and that the end goal is always the same.
“This tool is universally applicable to all patients,” Godin said. “We want to make sure they can absorb force and propel force while minimizing any energy leaks, and the assessment tool helps us avoid missing anything that could potentially positively or negatively impact their ability to do so pain free”.
“Using this systematic approach, we are able to differentiate whether it is a tissue or joint that is restricted or if there is a sneaky, underlying inability for the person to actively control their available range of motion, which we term a ‘neuromuscular control’ issue,” he continued. “The results allow us to be more targeted in our treatments and, at the same time, create a theme to follow throughout the plan of care with specific exercises and complementary manual therapy techniques to improve a patient’s movement. We want to respect our clients’ time by being very specific and intentional with all of our rehabilitation strategies.”
A focus on getting back to better-than-normal
Some Exos Physical Therapy clients include professional athletes, first responders, and military special forces personnel. Godin emphasized that developing the Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment to serve those highly physical individuals has only made it more useful for everyone, at every stage of treatment.
“We use the tool to assess, reassess, and then transition the patient back to their workplace, whether that be the battlefield, the streets, or the boardroom,” he said. “This approach allows us to create a plan of care that seamlessly transitions clients from their injured state all the way back to full performance.”
And, true to the Exos focus on healthy lifestyle and performance, Godin said the team-based integrative therapy approach addresses lifestyle improvements through patient education to improve outcomes.
“We connect all the dots and explain what we’ve found in the assessment so the patient understands why they’re experiencing pain. That creates a level of autonomy that enhances patient compliance so they continue the PT work at home.”
“We give our patients tools for personal wellness and autonomy. It’s a behavior upgrade model that creates healthy habits.”
Post-therapy return to training, made easier
The Exos Physical Therapy rehabilitation approach to lifestyle improvement was built upon the company’s foundational human performance training, so it’s no surprise that the Pillar Pre-Requisite Assessment and Exos PT treatment plans make sense to athletic trainers and coaches.
“Our rehabilitation system is based on absorbing force and propelling force, and we break down those movements to make sure each patient is ready to train using that reciprocal process,” Godin said. “Coaches speak our language, and we work with them to clearly indicate where their clients are so they can manage loads and intensity and get their clients back to preparing for their upcoming season or event.”
That bridge between rehabilitation and performance may look different for each therapy client, but what doesn’t change, Godin explained, is the proven process used to get them there.
“Exos Physical Therapists can provide return-to-sport rehabilitation, injury prevention strategies, and return-to-occupation rehabilitation, as well as more traditional outpatient orthopedic therapies while working in collaboration with an extensive network of researchers, industry professionals, and partners,” he said. “We do this within a model that allows our therapists to learn about the various aspects of the client’s life so they can design a sustainable plan that fits their goals and lifestyle.”
“The client gets just the right combination of education, manual therapy, exercise, and movement strategy while the clinician continuously refines and optimizes the plan,” Godin said. “We set them up to succeed, and that’s what it’s all about…ensuring a positive outcome for each individual.”
Learn more about Exos Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine’s approach to long-term patient wellness outcomes and Practice Management Services. Contact us today to learn how Exos Consulting can help your practice reach more patients, focus on proactive injury prevention, and speed recovery through a proven, integrative approach to human performance training.
*Patient name and certain details have been changed to protect the patient’s privacy.
If the fitness industry expects to keep growing, trainers need to start breaking down barriers to performance coaching for youth athletes.
That’s the position Amanda Radochonski has taken since she started managing the Exos Sports Performance vertical, and she says her performance team continues to lead the charge for the benefit of Exos members and the future of the fitness industry.
“Youth and high school athletes have to become a focus for this industry,” Radochonski said. “Kids need performance education that helps them grow and develop in a healthy way. We’ve got to emphasize performance nutrition, a winning mindset, and healthy habits for life.”
Building performance program awareness and education
Overall wellness drives community awareness outreach for the team at Children’s Health Andrews Institute Sports Performance powered by Exos. The Plano, TX, Exos-managed location is home to a staff of four performance specialists and one performance dietitian. Senior General Manager Josh Adams says his team’s grassroots efforts include awareness of the program’s offering for all ages and performance levels, as well as awareness of performance training as an essential foundation for a healthy lifestyle.
“The industry of youth sports has long been heading down the path of early sport specialization and a ‘more, more, more’ mentality when it comes to sport skill acquisition. The reality is that athletes need general physical training, quality nutrition habits, and a focus on sleep and recovery just as much, if not more, in order to stay healthy and ensure the best chance of long-term success,” Adams explained. “Youth and high school performance training should be geared toward establishing a foundation of quality movement and general fitness, while reinforcing a healthy relationship with physical activity.”
It’s an effort that pays off when youth athletes continue their training and multi-sport focus through the Children’s high school, college, and adult coaching programs.
“Burnout, for numerous reasons, is increasingly common amongst younger athletes, so we try to do our part in educating athletes and parents on strategies to avoid burnout, both with their respective sport(s) and training,” Adams said. “We always try to layer in a bit of fun within each of our sessions so they don’t feel as though they are partaking in repetitive and monotonous training, which also aids in retention and excitement about staying active.”
Retention, he said, is crucial to building the fitness industry’s next generation of adult participants.
Balance and diversification prevent injury, build lifelong athletes
Adams mentioned that one big challenge for coaches – and athletes – is the current trend of youth sports specialization.
A 2020 Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine study found that young athletes who specialize in one sport year-round are more likely to suffer overuse injuries than multi-sport athletes. The prevalence of injuries identified as resulting from overuse due to specialization was higher among athletes who specialized before the age of 12, especially young girls. At the study’s conclusion, 41 percent of all injuries in the responding group were classified as overuse injuries.
Diversification is one lesson Adams and his team incorporate at every age level in the Children’s performance training program. He said the result of encouraging kids to play different sports instead of specializing in one sport builds athletes for life and helps prevent injury.
“When we encourage young athletes to play multiple sports and partake in age-appropriate training with qualified professionals, we allow athletes to figure out what sports and activities they truly enjoy, while also creating a strong foundation of movement quality, strength, speed, and stamina,” he said. “A natural progression of sports interest and general physical development will drastically decrease the likelihood of burnout and injury, while also ensuring that physical activity is a part of their forever lifestyle.”
Radochonski agreed, adding that balance, sports diversity, and education help developing athletes expect more from themselves while also protecting against sports-specific overuse injuries.
“Performance training teaches these young people healthy habits that keep them active for life,” Radochonski explained. “So many adults are trying to re-learn healthy habits or learn them for the first time, and that’s incredibly difficult. Teaching self-discipline and wellness from a young age is essential if we want to grow healthy people.”
The natural progression of performance training
How young are Exos Sports Performance clients? Radochonski said the earliest children should begin training is 7, and at that age, performance specialists like those at Children’s know that they won’t focus on skill development the same way they do with junior high or high school athletes.
“The lifecycle of an individual starts as young as 7 years old in a play-minded approach, which then ultimately leads to body weight exercises and movements, specific activites and exercises to build strength,” Radochonski explained. “We add a nutrition element early so these kids understand how to fuel their bodies in a healthy way. By high school, our coaches incorporate true strength and conditioning and agility work. Our collegiate athlete education includes a full-blown understanding of nutritional supplements and the demands of being a collegiate athlete.”
“You’re looking at 10-15 years to build, not just wellness, but also teamwork, leadership, competition, quality of life, and skills learned particpating in things that are physically good for your body. Ultimately, that whole-person education builds a better future. Discipline helps us be better beings.”
Implementing youth performance training
Fitness professionals who want to expand into youth and high school performance training have a responsibility to focus on healthy development that is age-appropriate, Radochonski said. Exos specialists include coach/trainer selection criteria in their parent education programs at every performance location.
“It’s important for parents to understand what kind of individuals they’re trusting their kids with,” she said. “The industry is unregulated. Credentials and experience are important. We educate parents on the fact that true professionals put health and wellness first.”
Sharing that philosophy of wellness education requires an extensive community outreach effort. It’s a prime directive for Adams and his team. They work diligently on building awareness of program offerings for all ages, also educating and encouraging parents and young athletes to focus on lifelong health and injury prevention through scientifically proven training methods.
It’s a model that builds relationships and trust because of the team’s authenticity and willingness to give back.
“My greatest advice to those that are looking to implement youth and high school training is that you have to start with education and community,” Adams said. “The biggest differentiator will always be the relationships that you develop with organizations and individuals and how you support the athletes when you have an opportunity to do so.”
At Children’s, that support ranges from attending soccer tournaments to offering free nutrition clinics, and also includes providing yearly sports physicals in schools and leading movement sessions alongside team skill coaches. The Children’s program, like many Exos Sports Performance programs, provides for a level of community investment that shares expertise and opportunities for all children to experience the same training trusted by many professional athletes.
Once introduced to performance training and coaches they can trust, it’s up to kids and parents to use that newfound knowledge to commit to training.
“Your athletes have to crave improvement more than you do,” Radochonski said, adding that the financial investment doesn’t have to be a barrier for committed athletes. “Exos coaches can help parents and kids get creative and find options to remove financial barriers.”
Performance coaching powered by Exos
The Exos approach to building relationships and nurturing athletes of all ages and stages has evolved into a balanced, whole-person approach that has proven effective for more than two decades. Learn more about Exos Management and Consulting services and, if you’re considering expanding or improving existing performance training options for youth and high school athletes, reach out for more information.
As Adams pointed out, it takes a lot more than a facility and a time slot to create a performance coaching program that will contribute positively to building the next generation of fitness industry participants.
“A shiny building and a flashy name are great starting points, but will not be successful without great community impact and awareness,” he said. “Sports and physical activity, when approached the correct way, should create a highly positive experience and, hopefully, a desire to be active and healthy for life!”
NEW YORK, NY –Before the days of socially distanced workouts, there were days when the fitness industry could promote togetherness and encourage social connection as an essential part of the human experience. We lost some of that in the first days when the pandemic shut down many fitness and community centers, but what Exos-managed Manny Cantor Center soon discovered was that social connection is possible via virtual fitness – and no amount of distance can stop a determined fitness community.
MCC provides so much more than fitness
MCC’s strong and active member community in New York City’s Lower East Side enjoyed frequent (even daily) visits to the center pre-COVID to participate in its many family-focused programs. MCC has always been a hub for the local community, offering its 3,000 members access to community service opportunities, education and kids’ programs, and even art classes.
Assistant General Manager Sarah Folkins says the community center’s fitness classes were also a big part of its attraction. She explained that human connection is the common thread that makes MCC so popular.
“[MCC is] like a second home,” Sarah said.
The impact of the first lockdowns on a close-knit community
The year 2020 was still full of hope and promise at MCC when March came in like a lion with the arrival of COVID. Fear and illness gripped New York City, and the pandemic shut-down required MCC to close its doors to the members who counted on the center to provide a social gathering place for fitness and connection.
MCC was quick to respond to that need, designing and launching a Zoom-based group exercise schedule and personal training option in just two weeks.
“We shut down March 13, [but] our executive director had already organized meetings with us before the closure so that we could deliver virtual options,” Folkins said. “We knew we had to get virtual classes up and going as soon as possible to serve our community. We have a strong group exercise space here, and we knew we could stay in touch virtually.”
“It’s our job as a community to create connection.”
Staff, member dedication keeps the virtual “doors” open
MCC’s determination to provide its members with digital fitness programming comprised an “all-hands-on-deck” approach that began with some research into delivery platforms. The second week of March, MCC Fitness Manager Michelle Sholtis began researching Zoom conferencing and calling instructors to verify that they could offer classes from their homes. On April 1, MCC launched 20 of its most popular group exercise classes using Zoom, including plenty of variety to appeal to members’ interests, abilities, and how much room they had to move inside their homes.
In the beginning, the classes were offered completely free and didn’t require MCC membership.
“When we first started, members who wanted to keep paying [monthly dues] had that option,” Folkins said, adding that she, Sholtis, and MCC General Manager Michael Gordon called 1,200 members personally to ask whether they would like to keep paying dues and/or make donations to keep the center financially solvent during the shut-down. “We’ve been able to keep many members paying full dues as tax-deductible donations because we are a community center.”
Continued financial support allowed MCC to launch online programs on a much larger scale than many of its counterparts, even while group exercise classes were free to the public. Most importantly, the value of the group exercise classes and livestreamed workouts from Exosathome.com kept membership cancellations at a minimum during those first few weeks, allowing the center to keep the lights on and keep its people employed.
“If we didn’t have online classes, we would have nothing,” Folkins shared. “At least when people call, we have an option. Otherwise, we would have no way to reach out to people. Our group exercise instructors have been employed this whole time, in the middle of lots of furloughs. Without this offering, and the generosity of our members, we would not be here today.”
The evolution of a global fitness community
While New Yorkers began navigating a world where so much was unknown, Manny Cantor Center offered familiar faces and daily opportunities to connect with distant friends. The Zoom classes were structured much like in-person classes, but with added time for socializing before and after the workouts.
The program’s popularity demanded an expansion of class offerings, so MCC partnered with the 14th Street Y to add more classes. In July, the partnership expanded the class schedule to 27 classes a week as a new format for members-only group exercise. The move required that members pay monthly dues and register for classes in advance, allowing MCC and The Y to track utilization in a way that now informs programming changes and member communications.
“Our only goal was to have things set up for our community to be a part of,” Folkins recalled. But, what she found was that the online class format was attractive to a wider audience than in-person classes could ever be. “One benefit [of online programs] is that suddenly your gym is open to the entire world, essentially. You don’t have to live in New York to be a part of MCC.”
MCC’s digital fitness initiative has proven essential for members who have left NYC since the pandemic began, and has extended the community center’s reach to as far away as London. Folkins said an American expat sought out a virtual fitness membership after learning she could take Sunday yoga classes with her favorite instructor, Leorna.
“She knew Leorna and loved her,” Folkins said, adding that keeping members who move away has been an unexpected benefit of going virtual and could be a game-changer for many gyms nationwide. “To be able to continue the [virtual class] offering to your members no matter where they are, you could keep them for the rest of their lives.”
Forging a new path for fitness beyond 2020’s challenges
“We plan on continuing virtual classes and always having that option for members,” Folkins predicted. “It’s a benefit to us right now in New York City because we’re not allowed to have onsite classes for the foreseeable future. Also, some members may not be comfortable coming in when we are able to be in person. [The virtual class option] allows us to have a form of engagement.”
Folkins said the success of MCC’s virtual community-building has been a bright spot in a year of COVID that she’s excited to help nurture.
“As the world changes and people may be less comfortable working out in person, we hope to still be engaged with [members], especially in the vulnerable populations, and respond to our membership needs and wants,” she said. “I’m interested to see how this changes the fitness industry as a whole, and how many people continue to work out from home.”
The future of virtual fitness programming
Exos Senior Director for Community Center Relationships Leslie Meyers says the future of community center connection is closely tied to the future of virtual fitness for some members.
“What we’ve learned from team members like Sarah is that there are tangible social benefits to creating these virtual options, and that it’s possible to provide connection and build community engagement through online classes,” Meyers said. “We want to provide impactful programs that improve our members’ lives, and at Exos-managed community centers, that programming must include human interaction and relationships.”
As Exos virtual programs mature and the pandemic abates, Meyers said she and her team will be closely monitoring MCC member participation rates, feedback, and revenue to further refine the Exos community center management model for online program delivery.
“It only makes sense to follow our members’ lead when it comes to providing the programming they want and the feeling of connection they need,” she said.
That focus on members has certainly made a huge impact on the Lower East Side. Folkins offers sage advice for any community fitness center not already delivering virtual classes and enrichment programs:
“Don’t be afraid to try; just do it,” she urged. “It’s better to have to pull back your offerings because they didn’t work out than to have nothing. So, just try.”
Learn more about Exos Community Fitness Center Management services by visiting TeamExos.com/capabilities/facility-management-and-staffing/.