Q&A: Boston Trainer Mike Boyle
The prolific Boston-area trainer tells us about his methods, his workout routine, and his celebrity clients.
When you head to the gym for a workout, you’ll probably see foam rollers, slide bars, and kettle bells. If you’re taking a strength and conditioning course, you’ll likely be using hurdles during training. And at the urging of a coach or trainer, you might even use a heart rate monitor during your workouts.
You probably expect to see those things at the gym. If you’re like us, you barely give them a second thought. But that wasn’t always the case—these techniques are fairly new trends. Not for Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, which includes three large gyms that are responsible for training hundreds of Boston athletes. He started implementing many of these methods about 20 years ago, and since then, he’s trained Olympians, celebrities, and most of Boston’s professional sports teams. We caught up with the trainer about his workout, his methods, and more.
What are you up to these days?
I do a lot of speaking gigs because I wrote a book. I’ve been able to go all over the world and I talk about my training process. My gyms have set the world standard for athlete preparation, so people are very eager to hear about what we’re doing with out best athletes. I also still spend a lot of time in my gyms training athletes.
What methods do you use that are unique to your gyms?
We’re not a health club chain which is unique, and we’ve set the tone for how a lot of other people have done physical fitness over the years. We take the latest in what everybody is doing in rehab, physical therapy, and athletics, and we roll it into one program.
In all honesty, what we do now with our athletes is less unique because other gyms use our techniques now, too. We were there first with things like foam rollers —we used them almost 15 years ago probably—and at the time, that was so innovative. We used hurdles for plyometric drills and now you see almost every athlete using those. Also things like using kettlebells, and non-Olympic athletes doing Olympic lifting. Most of the things that you will see as trends are things that we’ve been doing for quite some time as part of our training. To me, I wouldn’t see a lot of it as innovative, it just made sense when I came up with it. Bootcamp training is based off of what we do, but what we do is far more difficult and thought out.
Who do you train at your gyms?
We have a very broad mix of people from age 11 to people in their 80s. About 2 percent of our clients are professional athletes, but we also have high school athletes, college athletes. About 50 percent of our athletes are involved in ice hockey, probably because I used to work with the Bruins and I’ve worked with Boston University’s ice hockey team as well. But we’ve had rowers who’ve won the Head of the Charles, boxers, football players, Olympic soccer players, basketball players. We’ve had every kind of athlete you can possibly imagine.
Tell us about some of the most interesting people you’ve trained.
Sometimes I think of my own personal opportunity and it almost makes me laugh. We’ve trained guys like Joe Sacco and other head coaches. It’s cool to see their progression, to know that we had a chance to work with them. I trained Kristine Lilly, who’s one of the best female soccer players in the world. I had a chance to train Micky Ward, and then I saw the movie The Fighter afterwards. It’s cool to think that he was in our gym during that time, to see the characters in the movie and be like “I know that guy.”
In the entertainment world, I got to train Jennifer Gardner. Now every time I see Jennifer Garner on TV or in a movie, I laugh and think, “Wow. I know her. I have her phone number!” You look back at your life and you have those kind of “pinch me” moments. I also got to train Jo Dee Messina, who was a country singer from Boston. I was a huge fan, a bigger fan of hers than of anyone else I’ve ever trained. I think we’re all a little celebrity struck sometimes. So when I hear her songs, I think “Wow, she was in my gym.”
Were you an athlete growing up?
I always tell everybody, my athletic career was ended by lack of size and lack of talent. I was extremely average—average swimmer, average football player. My father was a high school football and basketball coach and a teacher and principal.
What are your typical workouts like now?
I use my own methods, but I’m in the old man joint-friendly training world now. I ride the stationary bike a lot because I’ve had a couple of knee surgeries which ended my running career. I used to run, train, and condition with my athletes, but as I’ve aged, I’ve grown out of it and realized that if I want to stay in shape, I need to be smart. I work out in my own gyms purely out of convenience. I do like 15 minutes a day, just because of time and because I don’t have the luxury of an hour-long workout. I’ll favor something short and difficult versus something long.
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I watch my kids play sports. My daughter is a very, very talented ice hockey player and my son is only 8 years old, so he’s one of those kids who plays baseball, lacrosse, ice hockey, basketball. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do at this stage in life. I mean, I’ll watch my daughter practice for hours.
What’s the best thing about being involved in the Boston sports scene?
The best thing about it, in all honesty, is that when you’re involved in the sports world, you get to change people’s lives. In a city like Boston with so many sports teams and athletes, there’s a lot of opportunity for that. It used to be cool that I hung around with Cam Neely, that I knew Nomar Garciaparra, but that stuff has kind of passed by at this stage in my life. It’s cool when I see them and I can say hello and give them a big hug. My friends are always impressed with who I know, and I’m probably less impressed with who I know. But when I see somebody’s mom or dad and they tell me how good their kid is doing in college, that’s the best. I have people who send me scholarship money to help kids train because of the effects that their training had on them. Now some of those kids are extremely, extremely successful. I feel corny when I say it, but that’s become what’s really enjoyable for me about Boston sports.
Want to know more about Boyle’s training methods? Check out his book, Functional Training for Sports.