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Sport: Executive Training

Pete Williams

The unmarked, tan-colored brick building housing Athletes’ Performance, a $10 million high-tech fitness center that opened last year, blends anonymously into the rest of the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. The effect is deliberate: The center’s founder, owner, and chief trainer, 32-year-old Mark Verstegen, wants to protect his clients’ privacy. After all, his clientele, including such sports stars as Nomar Garciaparra and Roberto Alomar, do not pay AP as much as $50,000 a year so they can exercise their autograph-signing skills. Four times a year, however, Verstegen runs what he refers to as AP’s “Executive Program,” which is open to anyone willing to pay $2,000 or more to spend a week undergoing the same grueling training regimens and fitness analyses as the pros do.

Options such as detailed blood work, a nutritional supplement program, and a body composition analysis can push the price tag for the Executive Program to $4,000 for the week. Participants say that it’s worth every penny. The week begins with a comprehensive fitness assessment and an interview to determine your fitness goals. From there, the coaches tailor a program geared toward maximizing your strength, power, speed, and overall performance. “They treat you like a pro,” says Aaron Hoffman, the executive director of investor relations for Sara Lee Corp. “But you’ve got to be willing to work like a pro.”

Indeed, this is no fantasy camp. The program takes place when pro athlete traffic is low (from mid-April through mid-May and mid-September through mid-October) so that the staff can devote its full attention to the executives. Still, it’s not uncommon for the pros and executives to intermingle. “We want our athletes to be around people who are successful,” says Verstegen. “They can learn a lot from people who have done well in the business world.”

This is no country club, either. All clients must sign a document pledging their “maximum effort” in Verstegen’s drills, which can incorporate weights, medicine balls, parking cones, rope ladders, and/or weighted sleds. The exercise regimens are designed to increase strength in ways that are functional for specific sports. For example, T.C. Swartz, the 55-year-old CEO of TCS Expeditions, which offers world travel packages via private jet, is using the AP program in his bid to join the Senior PGA Tour. He has found that improving his core stability—the relationship between his legs, torso, and back—has helped his entire game. “It’s amazing how much more you can accomplish with a professional training program,” Swartz says. Hoffman, 30, says he has added 15 pounds of lean mass under the AP program, which he follows year-round in his Chicago health club.

“We’ve found that many executives are as driven as pro athletes,” says Verstegen. “Our program can be just as beneficial to them—if they’re willing to get their fannies kicked a little bit.”

Athletes’ Performance, 480.449. 9000, www.athletesperformance.com

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