Some Real Mickey Mouse Personal Training Part 1

I have two big loves in my life; the first being fitness and the second being Disney World (and anything related to it).  Kids love Disney World because they get to go on rides and see characters.  I love Disney World because . . . well I get to go on rides and see characters.  I also love all the food, detail, dedication and love that are put in everything that they produce.  Nothing is taken lightly and 100% is put into every detail.  Whether it is checking every light bulb before a parade or making each attraction function and look perfect day in and day out.

Mr. Incredible benches a 'bout you bro?

Mr. Incredible benches a Volvo…how ’bout you bro?

Marty Sklar developed Mickey’s Ten Commandments; these are guidelines for the development of everything in the Imagineering department.  These commandments can be applied to Personal Training and anytime you follow Disney’s example, good things are bound to happen.

1) Know your audience – identify your prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin design. 

You should have an understanding of who your primary focus is.  I train a lot of adult population and some high school athletes.  As a result I focus my learning and skills to improving the product that they receive.  Disney is great at this and they know how to focus their efforts both towards the children and simultaneously to the adults who go to the parks.  They understand both need to be happy to be successful just as trainers should understand what clients want and need to be successful.

2) Wear your guests shoes – insist that your team members experience your creation just the way guests do it.

Every client should have an individualized program that has a specific goal.  Cookie cutter programs, ripping off a routine you saw in a DVD or giving 5 people in a row the same workout is lazy and unfair to your clients.  They deserve the best that they can get.  When we write up our own programs they are unique, challenging and progressive.  This should be a staple for your clients.

Roughly the size of a barge. . . the incredible, edible egg.

Roughly the size of a barge. . . the incredible, edible egg.

3) Organize the flow of people and ideas – make sure there is logic and sequence in your stories, and in the way Guests experience them.

Every attraction and restaurant in the park tells a story.  It is part of what makes all the detail and work that goes into Disney World so great.  A trainer’s story telling is his/her program.  They should take their client from point A to point B safely, effectively and efficiently.  It doesn’t have to be crazy and have every new fad (and likely shouldn’t).  Every exercise that is taught and implemented should be done so in the best possible manner.  Programs should strive for perfection and constant improvement.

4) Create a wienie (visual magnet) – create visual targets that lead visitors clearly and logically through your facility.

Unlike Disney World, which is highly visual, personal training isn’t so overtly visual.  Trainers need to utilize effective cueing, teaching and coaching to direct their clients.  In Disney World, every park has a centerpiece (Cinderella’s Castle, Sorcerer’s Hat, etc) and each attraction has a central focus, which clearly guides the patrons through the parks.  I create fundamental pillars in the program to help guide my clients when they are not with me.  I provide information on soft tissue work, nutrition and conditioning/additional lifting (if needed).  These pillars allow me to guide my clients when they are not with me.  Whether they are blog posts, YouTube videos or emails I give my clients the needed information to continually improving when they are not with me.  I want my clients to be successful and I want to help them be self-sufficient when they are exercising on their own.

5) Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication color, shape, form, texture.

The Disney World parks and resorts can speak for themselves and the amount of details in each attraction provides immense levels of general awesomeness.  The Tree of Life is comprised of a collage of animals and in Expedition Everest the Imagineers traveled to Nepal to create an accurate portrayal of a climbing base camp.  These non-verbal communication tools tell their stories, create accurate environments and provide entertainment for people as they wait for each attraction and are told the given story.  Personal training relies on communication.  When working with clients it is often times non-verbal as you monitor and coach exercises.  Body language shows if you truly care and are invested in the client and thus it becomes important in expressing your message and encouraging your clients.

Mickey’s Ten Commandments from “Imagineering” – The Imagineers. (AWESOME Book)

Part 2 is on the way. . .


  1. John Mulry

    Great post Matt. Fun, lighthearted but a strong message in there, five key points, was in Cali back in March – had to stop by Disneyland – epic 🙂

    • kaseemt

      Thank you, I love Disney and they are a good business model. I tried to keep it lighthearded with some semblance of a message, so I am happy to hear you think I succeeded with it.

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