Sarah Applegarth, B.Sc. (HK), PFLC, CSCS
Strength and Conditioning Coach,
Alpine Ontario Fitness Director,
Female Developmental Hockey Camp Director
Personal Best
Alpine Ontario


GA: Sarah, Thank you so much for the interview. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your current coaching commitments?

SA: I am the fitness director for Alpine Ontario (skiing). This involves programming, testing and fitness implementation for skiers aged 10-21. I also am a strength and conditioning coach for soccer, hockey and figure skating teams and individuals (setting up things such as balance training, strength training, flexibility training, proper warm-up technique, nutrition, cardiovascular training, and speed-agility workouts). I also run camps for female hockey players, all genders of skiers and soccer players.


GA: That's quite a workload! What is your educational background?

SA: I have an honors B.Sc. degree in Human Kinetics with a minor in Nutritional Sciences. After I completed school, I became a Professional Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant (PFLC) that gives me insurance to do high performance fitness testing. I also have the well-recognized Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification. I am currently working toward my Masters degree in Adolescent Exercise Physiology.


GA: What is your competitive background? It's hockey, right?

SA: I retired from the NWHL last year. I also played a high level of competitive soccer until university where I represented Ontario at the national championships. I compete in tennis as well. I have gotten quite involved in mountain biking over the past 6 years and enjoy that on a competitive/recreational level 2-3 times per week. However, an ACL reconstruction surgery has set me back this summer.


GA: It's great to see that you have experience in so many different sports. What is the range of your clientele?

SA: It's about 95% athletes, mostly skiers, soccer players, and hockey players. It's actually a 50:50 split between males and females, so it's not only girl athletes. However, most of my clients are between the ages of 13-17 but I do work with masters level athletes also.


GA: Thanks. Your experiences are extremely valuable to the Grrl Athlete because most athletes just don't have contact with a coach of your caliber on a regular basis. Athletes in high school and University definitely need your expertise. What are your personal achievements as a strength coach?

SA: I am most proud of my two years that I have been training the Ontario Ski Team, helping graduate three athletes to the Canadian Jr. Team (so far). In addition, I've had an amazing time training a female figure skater to a top 15 placing at Canadian Nationals, along with 7 figure skaters that qualified for Canadians and International events. Another great experience has been helping dozens of teenage skiers qualify at the provincial level.

Two of the soccer teams I train are currently challenging for the Ontario Cup. But the greatest experience that I have had was training Olympic level female hockey players.


GA: That does sound very rewarding. Can you describe a typical summer training day consist of for your clients?

SA: I typically train about 5-10 athletes per day but it would vary with speed/agility and anaerobic sessions. Typically, the schedule for an athlete I work with would be as follows:

* Wake up- energy shake/blender drink.

* Morning walk and stretch

* Breakfast

* Late morning strength workout

* Lunch

* Snack 2-3 hours later

* 5-6 hours later- cardiovascular flush/ core training/ stretch

* Dinner/snacks/refueling.


GA: How far do you push your athletes? When do you know that they have had enough?

SA: It is very individual. I try to push each athlete to their maximum while following a periodized plan that allows for proper rest as well as 100% intensity days. We monitor things like morning heart rate, power outputs, and sleep patterns to ensure overtraining is not a factor.


GA: What do you think the best, and easiest, and most practical tests are for determining fitness, power, athleticism, etc?

SA: I utilize field tests quite a bit when I visit athletes. My favorite test for "aerobic fitness" is the Leger Boucher 20m shuttle run. For athleticism, I like to use something called the Hex Rail. It combines agility, coordination, elasticity, balance, speed, and anaerobic fitness. We set up this drill by making a hexagon out of PVC piping with varying heights that they jump over uni-directionally. I always do a series of functional muscle tests to scan for injury potential in each athlete.


GA: Sarah, you really know how to "build" a top-notch female athlete. What are your tips for the female athlete, and coaches and parents of female athletes, for developing strength, speed, and muscle?

SA: Get educated on the theory behind training and then find what works best for you. We are not just smaller versions of men. For example, fitness-testing results are greatly affected by a girl's monthly cycle (due to the hormones involved). Test results will vary greatly between "Pre-ovulation" and "Post-Ovulation" points. Differences will be clearly visible in your anaerobic (strength, power, speed) versus your aerobic scores. This is important for both the coach and athlete to keep in mind during testing. All high level athletes should make sure their coach knows your cycle and keeps testing consistent with respect to time.


GA: That just goes to show that the female athlete may be more complex than males. Do you consider females and males to have the same training needs? What is the biggest mistake that Grrl Athletes are making while training?

SA: From my experience, girls do not push themselves hard enough. Males tend to try to lift too much weight when they strength train, but females tend to be more conservative. I think they don't always get the adaptations (physical benefits) that they could if they trained to their potentials.


GA: Sounds like that is one of the messages you try to get across to your athletes. What are your other goals as a strength coach?

SA: I plan to pursue my Masters degree with a focus on pediatric and adolescent exercise adaptations. I hope this will eventually help design developmental models for training for sports governing bodies to ensure our athletes have a chance to succeed by developing the right skills at the times where those skills are most sensitive to adaptations. I want to keep sport fun and challenging for young athletes.


GA: What is your philosophy?

SA: "Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion, you must set yourself on fire". This is a Fred Shero quote - he was a great coach with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 70's.


GA: What type of advice would you give to future Strength and Conditioning coaches?

SA: Always continue learning. Keep up with current literature. I think being involved in some research is important.


GA: Could you list the 3 top things you have learned?


1- Great athletes are produced not in the teenage years, but by what is experienced and learned up to 12 years of age.

2- Core training must be the cornerstone of any training program

3- You can do a great, creative workout with your own body weight.


GA: Do you plan for a PhD in the future?

SA: Possibly. After my first year in my graduate program, I will have a better idea. I wouldn't mind being a professor of Kinesiology in the future.

GA: Thanks Sarah! That was an awesome interview. Good luck with your coaching and research.

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