The elite training operation that trains NFL draft picks, Olympic-level hockey players, and from its south Grand Forks facility, you.
EXOS is a human performance company that has trained elite NFL athletes, professional tennis players, the entire German national soccer team and a Grand Forks mother of three with a high-pressure, demanding day job. Experts in the fitness world have labeled the holistic performance approach developed by EXOS as an elite training operation. The company has major training facilities in L.A., San Diego, Dallas, Pensacola, Florida, and for the past two years, Grand Forks. Through a partnership with Altru Advanced Orthopedics, EXOS and Altru have formed Sports Advantage—a program that puts performance specialists and sports dietitians into a 5,000-square foot facility filled with top-of-the-line equipment, dedicated training space and a synthetic turf field. We sat down with participants active in the program (pro and non-pro) and the lead performance specialists to learn why an elite-level training partnership makes sense on the northern plains, why the average Joe should (or needs) to train the Sports Advantage way, and, why an Olympic gold-medal women’s hockey player calls the facility a diamond in the rough.
The Origin Of Sports Advantage
The Sports Advantage story is linked to a familiar topic in the region: hockey. Prior to joining with EXOS, Altru offered training options for some of the region’s best professional athletes, including Monique Lamoureux-Morando, the former University of North Dakota Women’s Hockey star that has competed professionally in three Olympics and recently helped the U.S. Women’s team earn a gold medal. Along with her sister, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, also a North Dakota hockey legend and Olympic star from the gold medal winning team, Lamoureux-Morando voiced a desire to create a larger training facility with greater capabilities to anyone who would listen. With a team of Altru executives, the Lamoureux sisters traveled to Phoenix to meet with the EXOS team about the possibility of partnering on a facility in North Dakota. According to Lamoureux-Morando, the EXOS team saw a clear need for its presence in North Dakota after the meetings. The need is due to the area’s support and presence of high-talent hockey, combined with a growing population trending towards greater health and wellness commitments. Today, the Altru facility that is powered by EXOS is available to the region’s best athletes, professional players and anyone else looking to train like a pro thanks in large part to the homegrown world-class hockey athletes.
The Pro Perspective
For Lamoureux-Morando, the results of the Sports Advantage system on her body and performance on the ice are easy to recognize. “The improvements I achieved in the last four years were the greatest I’ve ever seen” she says. Since she began training through the EXOS and Altru system, she has improved her vertical by five inches and reduced her body fat percentage by five percent. In four of the last five major hockey tournaments she’s competed in, she has been the leading scorer from the defensive position, an achievement she makes a direct correlation to her training.
“I never had an issue with going to the gym and working hard,” she says. Throughout her career in college, to now as a 28-year old three-time Olympian, she has always embraced her time spent off the ice training and conditioning. Shortly after embarking on the EXOS journey, many coaches asked her what she was doing due to the clear improvements she was displaying on and off the ice during training, practice or games. The credit goes to the trainers and the nutritionists that come with the Sports Advantage system, she says. Her breakthroughs were connected to her physical gains.
A long-time sufferer from exercise-induced vomiting, she was also able to work with the Sports Advantage staff to help eliminate such issues. Danielle Rancourt, a performance dietitian, devised multiple dietary and training plans for her based on her schedule. During offseason, the workouts were longer (2 hours) and the dietary approach was different than if she was in preparation for a major tournament. Along with her sister, Rancourt was able to help them learn what to eliminate or add to their diets based on specific training goals. And, she says, “if the nutritionist didn’t have an answer, she would find it.”
Today, most of her family trains at Sports Advantage. In the future, she plans to continue utilizing the facility she helped establish. The only issue she does have stems from the reality that the world-class training center and system hasn’t received more attention. “What EXOS and Altru offer is a state-of-the-art system that treats and trains so many different types of people,” she says. “It really is still a diamond- in-the-rough.”
Motivation Through Education
The Performance Specialists push participants to do the basics savagely well. That is how they describe their approach to basic body movements and the form used to complete basic to difficult movements. Their goal is to upgrade lives. They put the same effort into their time with non-pros as they do with pros. “We care about our clients,” says Garrett Baker, performance specialist. “We hope they stop by and say hi any time. We aren’t just about a revenue stream.”
Baker and Paul Ewbank, Performance Manager, each share a passion for helping people that motivates them to find ways to communicate effectively with each client to ensure they understand how to improve. Ewbank is a lifelong athlete, coach and one-time drug rehab specialist. Baker is a former collegiate-level football player that suffered two ACL injuries. Each like to apply parts of their background to their communication efforts.
For some people, simple cues or motivational prompts during a training session are effective. In other instances, a client needs to understand the mechanics of a move to buy-in to the sweat that comes from performing it. Their efforts in effective communication combined with their knowledge of fitness marks the core of the advantage they give clients in training, they believe. “Our main positive is the expertise we have with movement,” Ewbanks says. “It’s not about the fancy tools or equipment we have in the gym.”
The entire training staff understands that many non-pro athletes are dealing with physical issues prior to partaking in an EXOS session. “For a lot of adults, it’s not if you are injured, it’s what is injured,” Baker says. The team works with the clients to find moves and plans that accommodate for pre-existing conditions. They also offer bridge sessions for new workout participants that aren’t comfortable yet with new movement styles or their immediate fitness level.
At a higher price tag than a traditional gym membership, the team is quick to point out that the price includes a holistic system that also provides education, insight and monitoring on how to supplement nutrition and how to recover post-workout. “You are investing in yourself if you join us,” the specialists say. “It’s not just about the workouts, you are training your body for a better life.”
The Non-Pro Experience
Meredith Larson may not be a decorated, elite-level athlete, but she is inspiring in a different way. A high-energy, hardcore prosecutor that is also a married, mother of three kids and two dogs, Larson’s participation in the Sports Advantage program reveals the impact the program can have. Prior to joining, Larson admits she struggled with body image, eating pattern disorders and exercising at an unhealthy level.
Following the birth of her children, Larson struggled with her body image and forced herself to cut her diet while she worked out to minimize any changes—real or otherwise—she had experienced post-pregnancy. The excessive workouts and dietary restrictions played a major role in Larson’s continued and heightened issues with back injuries and forced her to seek multiple treatments or options to alleviate her physical pain. When she turned to EXOS, Larson was interested in a comprehensive answer. “The overall health piece is what I wanted,” she says, “not just a hard workout.”
After joining the Sports Advantage regimen, everything for Larson changed, including her physical and unstated image issues. “EXOS helps you understand that your health is not linked to your physical dimensions,” she says. Working with the performance specialists, Larson was able to cater her pre-existing conditions to an effective training plan. “It is scary being injured,” she says, “but feeling safe at EXOS was awesome.” The physical results also came and continue for Larson. Pain-free and in the best shape of her life, Larson went from an initial three-month plan at the facility to a yearly plan. Now, Larson feels more invested in her health and community than ever before by training side-by-side during some of her early morning workouts at the facility with hockey players or other athletes there for different reasons. “Since going to EXOS,” she says, “I’ve gained a healthy body image.”
The Training Life
Sports Advantage participants have the option to attend sessions scheduled at various times during the week. Sessions start as early as 5:00 am while others happen after 5:00 pm. Most sessions last one-hour and include a recovery drink and dietary information. Depending on the training package, a participant can work out six times per week. According to Larson and Baker, the sessions are akin to individual training sessions in a group setting. Although the strategy of training is the same for each session, the movements differ each session. And, the strategy never isolates individual sections of the body but instead includes movements that engage the entire body. “I’m proud to work for this company,” Ewbanks says. “We are training adults like world-class athletes.” G
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PHOTOS BY: RUSS HONS PHOTOGRAPHY