Angie Sturtevant, owner of Specialists in Sports Performance & Weight Management, fixes you with an unwavering gaze. One of her clients describes this attentiveness as invulnerable. "Her phone could be ringing," marvels Adam Sauter, a local construction contractor who retained Sturtevant as his triathlon coach a year ago. "Her car could be burning, and she won't walk away from you when you're on the treadmill."
Sauter, 33, has been even more impressed by Sturtevant's expertise - her grasp of the science behind endurance training, and her talent for crafting optimal training programs for each of her clients. In helping him chase his triathlon ambitions, he says, Sturtevant, 46, has changed his life. "I eat differently," he notes. "I sleep better. I'm more productive and focused at work."
Such comments are typical of what you hear about Sturtevant. One local triathlete calls her "a great resource" for fitness testing. "She's amazing," agrees a woman Sturtevant coached to her first Ironman finish. There are other first-rate coaches out there. But the story of how Sturtevant built her reputation is distinct.
She had a law degree and an associate's degree in physiology when she launched her coaching career 17 years ago. "My first husband died," she says. "I had three young children. Now here I was in the position of having to be a provider."
Sturtevant grew up in Wisconsin Dells, one of six kids. "We played outside and climbed trees and rode our bikes," she remembers. Cheerleading was the extent of her involvement in high school sports. In college, she played recreation-league volleyball.
Seeking a livelihood she could structure around her kids, Sturtevant invested in a Portage health club but soon realized it was not an ideal fit. "I hated babysitting employees," she explains. "I hated the paperwork. I realized my passion was training people." So she got out of the gym business and dedicated a room in her home to establishing herself as a personal trainer.
Many of her early clients were seeking weight-loss guidance. This focus shifted after she met and married Bill Sturtevant, an avid triathlete. "I took up cycling to keep up with Bill," she says. Soon, she was racing.
Sturtevant also built on her knowledge of physiology, learning how to test for oxygen uptake, resting metabolic rate, lactate thresholds, power output and other measurements - and how to apply the resulting cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory data to more effective training.
She tested all her methods firsthand. "Everything I do," she says, "I do to myself first." Her race results confirmed her growing expertise. Around the turn of the century, she was winning time trials and mountain-bike races. Other athletes began flocking to her.
"Around 2000, my business skyrocketed," she remembers. Word of mouth has since pushed her workweek to about 80 hours. Her schedule allows her to coach only 10 athletes at a time, she says, "because they're very, very dependent on you." The waiting list for her coaching services has grown to about 50 cyclists and triathletes.
A partner in Wingra Construction, Sauter approached Sturtevant with aspirations to finish Ironman Wisconsin. He had played soccer for 16 years in his youth, but allows that in his 20s he partook of social indulgences that compromised his fitness.
"I have the goal of discipline," he says. He aspires to set a good example for his two boys - and, when they hit high school, to be able to keep up with them.
Once skeptical of triathlon coaches, Sauter proved a quick convert. Within six months of his first consultation with Sturtevant, he lost 17 pounds. He finished his first sprint-distance triathlon last June, then two more. He now trains with Sturtevant three times a week.
Sturtevant says many of her clients are beginning cyclists and triathletes. Others have two or three years of experience and are striving for a specific goal, such as turning pro.
Sturtevant herself stopped racing bikes about four years ago, "when I had a really nasty crash and broke all kinds of bones in my arm." But she still trains every day. She bikes, runs, skis, snowshoes, kayaks and hikes.
"I'm testing people all the time to help people figure out what level to train at," Sturtevant notes. Such assessment is essential to crafting a more precise approach toward an athlete's goal, she explains. "We can cook 'em right up to race day," she says, "without overcooking them."
Specialists in Sports Performance
Zoned 4 Fitness, 710 John Nolen Dr., Madison
Specialists in performance and weight management, with group training sessions, and other services.
Baseline 90-minute fitness assessments cost $140, 60-minute power assessments $85. Fees for the design of an individualized training program start at $300. Sturtevant charges $150-$200/month for her coaching services, and $75/hour for one-on-one training and consultation.