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Training for Skiers and Mountain Athletes

Lisa Mercer swooshed into action to create her sport-specific business.

Subject Lisa Mercer

Company Mountain Sport Pilates & Fitness, Frisco, Colorado

Change in Environment. Mercer spent most of her life in cities such as New York and Boston. “Five years ago my husband convinced me to try alpine skiing,” she explains. “All of a sudden, this quintessential city girl and hater of cold weather was hooked on winter. It was then that my fitness focus went though a radical transformation. I became less interested in ’body shaping.‘ Cor work, alignment ad agility training became my teaching specialties As we got hooked on skiing, the lure of inexpensive season passes and long ski seasons made us consider [moving to] the Colorado Rockies. Although I had always worked at health clubs or corporate fitness centers before, in 2004 we moved to Summit County, Colorado, and opened [our studio].”

Type of Clientele. Given her business’s proximity to Copper Mountain and Breckenridge ski areas, 90% of her clients are ski industry professionals. Some clients are men, but mostly she trains and teaches very athletic women ages 35 to 60. “As a result, I use real snow-sport terminology in most of my lessons, as I describe how a particular exercise relates to a sport- specific skill,” she says. “Since many of my clients are ski instructors, they like the fact that they can see a direct correlation between the exercises and their sport.”

Workout Philosophy. Mercer developed her Mountain Sport Conditioning Methodsm for all mountain athletes, recreational and professional. “In a mountain environment, the sports we play and the lives we lead require spontaneity,” she explains. “Core activation, muscle balance, postural alignment and dynamic balance are the prerequisites for achieving the agility needed for athleticism. Pilates-evolved mat work, which is blended with touches of Feldenkrais®, postrehab exercise and other body alignment methods set the foundation for my method.”

Allocating Her Time. Mercer is the only trainer at her company, and she spends 70% of her time training clients and teaching classes and 30% of her time managing the business. In addition to running small-group and one-on-one personal training sessions, she also offers classes such as Pilates Plus, Ski Readysm, Totally Boardsm (for snowboarders), Mountain Momssm, Integrated Strength Training and Centered Athlete. In addition, she serves as a ski fitness instructor for EpicSki Academy.

Marketing Her Business. Who seeks her services? “Locals [come to] class more frequently [than tourists], so they tend to take the semiprivate classes,” she says. “Tourists are often interested in taking one or two private lessons. I also get many people who live out here just for the season. I market my services by newspaper and radio and by writing articles and participating in local events.”

Wearing Many Hats. In addition to being a personal trainer and instructor, Mercer also works as a fitness writer. She writes for The Professional Skier, Ski Patrol, Pregnancy and E-Pregnancy online and contributes to Summit County’s Copper Cable weekly newspaper. She is also a long-time contributor and publisher of fitness information on the Internet.

How does her work as a fitness writer/ Internet content provider benefit her training business? “Simply put, credibility,” she says. “Having a strong Internet presence is important. Many people who visit Summit County know my name from my Internet articles, and often seek me out when they visit.”

Why Her Work Inspires Her. While Mercer finds it challenging dealing with town-planning boards and coping with financial issues during the low season, she loves her work and helping her clients. “One of my more interesting clients is a ski instructor who has multiple sclerosis. He is losing some plantar flexion and dorsiflexion in his left foot. As a result, his left quad is over working and cramping up, she says. “By seeing my clients improve, I’m inspired to improve my own skills.”

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