Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Interview with Tim Vagen

1. Tim thank for your time. Could you give my readers your background, and how you came to be a strength and conditioning coach?

Sure Robbie. I think it started in HS when I did not like our football team’s strength training program. I re-wrote the program without a clue and the coach liked it. I got injured and took an interest in Athletic Training. Realizing there was no real way I was going to make any money at it, I thought I should become a scientist or go to medical school. I ended up with a degree in Physics and also a degree in Physical Education. The mind of a young lad changes fast. I got an internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was hired as their weight coach at the end of the internship. My parents got to see me on national television with a tray full of water cups on the sideline. I made them proud. Since then, I have spent many years working in some great Physical Therapy clinics while working as an SC coach. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of great athletes in the NFL, MLB, the USA Rugby Team, and now I work a lot with some swimming federations from around the world.

2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?

I think that what I have seen over the years in the industry is about the same. Trainers and coaches are tending to think about what they should do rather than why they should do it. Whether is the use of various tools, or styles, or methods, that’s what they focus on. Right now the trend is high intensity stuff like Crossfit or P90X. Several years ago it was super slow, before that it was body building styles of split routines, and then the Nautilus rage. They are all tools. No one was thinking about what they were trying to accomplish, just how they were going to do it. Good training is actually pretty boring. People want it to be sexy but it’s not.

3. You have your own facility which you run with your wife Tara. Could you give us a summary of what it is like to run and own a business?

It’s great, but it’s really tough. I like to train, but I hate to market. You find out the hard way that without marketing, there is no training. As a trainer, I like to think my skills are pretty good. I’ve worked hard to learn about the body and how it reacts to a variety of stimuli. I also think that I deal with people exceptionally well. That helps, but does not pay the bills. Luckily, Tara is the brains behind the operation. Her 25+ years of business experience in services allows us to run UA like it is a business. Most trainers run their business like it’s a hobby. We study trends, track all our clients, look at where the best market is to find clients, and then put it all together in a plan so that we can continue to grow the business. It never really ends, but we do try to save some time for the family and our relationship. I run the day to day training and she runs, tracks, and pushes me to train more. She’s the brains, I’m the talent. Our facility is run within a hospital setting so it’s a nice fit with my PT background.

4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?

There have been so many it’s really hard to name one. In the training industry it would have to be Jack LaLanne. He has influenced the way I train and was the father of all of what we do.

5. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:

- Strength Training: Functional Training for Sports- Mike Boyle
- Physical Therapy Rehabilitation: Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes- Shirley Sahrmann
- Business: How to Win Friends and Influence People- Dale Carnegie
- Nutrition : Don’t really have a favourite, but I like Susan Kleiner’s work.
- Random: Learned Optimism- Martin Seligman

6. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?

I’m a huge fan of Perform Better. The summits are amazing both in the lecture halls and in the hallways. I read nearly an hour a day. This is medical journals, PT journals, training articles, or whatever my brain can soak up. In the Northwest, there doesn’t really seem to be an attraction for seminars, so I have to travel. I’m trying to bring up the level of what we get here by helping out with local NSCA events. I speak a lot, and these are great opportunities for learning as well.

7. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)?

I contribute a lot to and They are both a great resource to anyone in the business. Anything that Anthony Renna puts out (Strengthcoach podcast, or are also great. Of course, I encourage anyone to read my blog I really like Mike Robertson’s stuff as well.

8. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs)?

I do use the FMS, but also add to it for my own needs. My programs are designed usually with specific dates in mind and I will tend to use undulating periodization and conjugate methods. I really believe in the whole body as a unit and am huge on the kinetic chain working as a chain and not pieces. Typically, I assess, and then use a period of time to add corrective exercise as a larger part of the program at first, but I don’t lose sight of the goals. Even though we are concentrating on corrections, we work hard. I’m constantly assessing, whether it be movement or how the client feels. This way you can flexible in your programming to get to the achieved result. I do a lot of educating with my clients so they understand the principles of what we are accomplishing rather than the focus on the exercises.

9. If you had to pick one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?

I like the Kettlebell swing. I think that it adds hip power, core control, and cardio to a whole body exercise. The clients understand with that exercise that there are no such things as body parts.

10. Last question. What advice would you give to other young coaches, like me getting into the field?

Read, listen, and go visit as many trainers or coaches as you can. The visits should be to every type of coach you can. Strength coaches, trainers, physical therapists, yoga instructors, pilates….whatever you can take in. Learn from the martial arts, they teach us a lot about how the body works. Constantly ask, why?

Tim, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you? is my website. See my blog, facebook, or catch me on the web contributing to forums. They can also email me anytime at

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