& CONDITIONING PROFILES #6 - Sarah Applegarth
Applegarth, B.Sc. (HK), PFLC, CSCS
Strength and Conditioning Coach,
Alpine Ontario Fitness Director,
Female Developmental Hockey Camp Director
Sarah, Thank you so much for the interview. Why don't you
start by telling us a little bit about your current coaching
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?
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.
What is your competitive background? It's hockey, right?
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.
It's great to see that you have experience in so many different
sports. What is the range of your clientele?
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.
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?
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.
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.
That does sound very rewarding. Can you describe a typical
summer training day consist of for your clients?
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:
up- energy shake/blender drink.
walk and stretch
morning strength workout
2-3 hours later
hours later- cardiovascular flush/ core training/ stretch
How far do you push your athletes? When do you know that
they have had enough?
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.
What do you think the best, and easiest, and most practical
tests are for determining fitness, power, athleticism, etc?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Sounds like that is one of the messages you try to get across
to your athletes. What are your other goals as a strength
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.
What is your philosophy?
"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
What type of advice would you give to future Strength and
Always continue learning. Keep up with current literature.
I think being involved in some research is important.
Could you list the 3 top things you have learned?
athletes are produced not in the teenage years, but by what
is experienced and learned up to 12 years of age.
training must be the cornerstone of any training program
can do a great, creative workout with your own body weight.
Do you plan for a PhD in the future?
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.
Thanks Sarah! That was an awesome interview. Good luck with
your coaching and research.