Meet Timothy DiFrancesco, Founder of TD Athletes Edge [Interview]

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  • Sustainability over Intensity
  • Healthy Lifestyle Mentality over Hardcore Boot Camp Mentality
  • Educated Coaching over Extreme Calorie-Burning

When starting your own business, you must be driven by pleasure in the work and/or the prospect of wealth; otherwise, you won’t have the resolve to persevere through the inevitable challenges.

Today, we’re talking to Timothy DiFrancesco who is passionate about helping others to move better and feel better through exercise and healthy habits. He explains how he and his team created a community of educated clients through compassionate coaching. His attention to detail has helped him sustain a successful fitness practice.

If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.

Meet Timothy DiFrancesco, Founder of TD Athletes Edge

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Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with Exercise.com and we are continuing our interview series with fitness experts. And today we have the pleasure of having Tim DiFrancesco, the founder of TD Athletes Edge with us.

Tim, thank you for joining us.

Tim DiFrancesco: It’s great to be here.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright, let’s jump right into it. Give us a little background about how you first developed your love for health and fitness.

Tim DiFrancesco: Yeah. So I think from my end, it became part of the puzzle to figure out how I could prepare myself for sport. And not exactly being genetically gifted athletically, I was always trying to find ways to get that edge. And that’s not really a coincidence that the name of what my vision playing out now is TD Athletes Edge in terms of helping those athletes out there find an edge.

And when I say “athletes,” it’s not what people typically think. People think the word “athlete” means you have to play on a roster of a sports team and you have to play formally a sport of some sort. And we look at it differently. I think we see the idea that all humans are athletes and all athletes are humans.

So it really was, early on, me solving my own puzzle of trying to put that together. And then really enjoying that process and enjoying the fruits of that process and then being able to do that for people for my career.

Schimri Yoyo: And, that’s awesome.  You’ve been able to internalize your passion and then begin to share that passion with others. That’s pretty cool.

Tim DiFrancesco: Yeah.

Schimri Yoyo: So what sports did you play growing up?

Tim DiFrancesco: Well, I played basketball primarily. That was my real love. And then I ran cross country. I played baseball as well. And those were the sort of roster sports that I played. But I would always be up to something if I wasn’t playing those sports. And I think, for me, it was when I got to Endicott College. I went down to Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts to get my undergrad in athletic training.

And this is a small Division III school and there wasn’t a designated or full-time strength and conditioning coach. So it was tasked to me early on to come up with a strength and conditioning program for our team. And so I had, like I said, been putting this puzzle together for myself, just one person and my own needs.

But to put together a comprehensive strength and conditioning program for a team of people was a different ballgame for me at that time. And I just remember getting to the end of that process and taking my team through a program that I would hate to go back and look at right now.

But it was my first attempt at a comprehensive program. And having those teammates come up to me and say, “Hey look, I don’t know how you did this, but I feel really as ready for a basketball season as I’ve ever felt.” So for me, that was sort of the moment that, when I look back, galvanized the path for me.

Schimri Yoyo: Oh, that’s great. Good hands-on experience. Now, as you continued to pursue this passion as a profession, did you have any mentors or anyone you looked up to that helped you to progress in the health and fitness space?

Tim DiFrancesco: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think I really took a little while—I came up in a little bit of an unorthodox way through the strength and conditioning space. Your traditional path is: Okay, you spend time in either a high school or college weight room for years and you chip away. And you have these head strength coaches that are your mentors and are your leaders in the path and then maybe dabble into some pro S&C settings or that kind of thing.

But the point being, you’ve spent time in the trenches in these weight room settings for years and years early on. And I did a little bit of a different, a reverse role on that, where I came up through athletic training and then sort of that first responder position of the entire sports medicine umbrella.

And then from there went to get my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. And then from there is where I fell in love with and tried to start to get my weight room experience.

So one of the people that I really looked up to, and leaned on as much as I could, and was able to, was Brijesh Patel, who’s now head strength coach and has been for a long time at Quinnipiac University and is doing it, in my opinion, at the highest level. And so he’s a person that definitely stands out for me.

Schimri Yoyo: That’s cool. And so now when you’re not coaching and training, what are some things that you like to do for fun?

Tim DiFrancesco: So I would say on that end, hanging with my daughters. I have a three-year-old and a six-month-old. And so that is something I look forward to all the time. And reading, for me. I just really enjoy gaining insight into how experts have gotten to where they’re at and different topics and whether it be leadership or self-development and that kind of thing.

So I think those are—in the winter, I get excited about things like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. That’s something that growing up in Vermont, you are immersed in whether you like it or not. It’s kind of in my bones.

Schimri Yoyo: Well, that’s good. Spending time with your family, your daughters. That’s good. I have a six-year-old son, a five-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old son. So I know that’s always fun to have time spent with them. And reading is a big part of what we do together as well. So, that’s fun.

[Editor’s note: The video below illustrates the fun and diverse worlds, characters, and experiences brought available through reading.]

And I grew up in Brockton, Mass. So I know the winters and even though I’m not much of a skier, I went on many skiing trips with youth groups from the church and things like that. So it’s always a good time around. I’m not a big cold-weather guy, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the ambiance, the atmosphere in the lodge.

Tim DiFrancesco: No doubt, no doubt.

Instilling Lifelong Fitness Habits

Schimri Yoyo: Now speaking of thinking of your philosophy and methodology of training, what would you say is the best word that would describe or encapsulate what you do?

Tim DiFrancesco: One word. I would say sustainable. So to define that a little bit further, the way that I look at training or preparing your body to either achieve results, goals, or solve nagging injury issues or things that have limited you, is finding the plan and the program that you feel like can be sustainable.

And so it should be a plan that you look at and say, “Hey, I could do some variation and progression series of this style of plan for the rest of my life.”

And that excites me. And I think it’s doable. And so I do think a lot of people get into this, “I’m going to change my body in 30 days” attitude. And sometimes it’s the professionals in the field and sometimes it’s the end-users. But either way, getting into that mindset, I think, sets you up for failure.

I think that it is often exciting in the first 10 days and then you realize that, “You know what? If I had to play this out for the rest of my life, I don’t think I could.” It’s so intense and so much volume or so much of what is in front of you. And so I really enjoy helping people to get out of that mindset.

And our team here at TD Athletes Edge is exceptional, in my opinion, at helping people get out of that mindset, step out of the cycle that a lot of people are in of jumping into fitness boot camps or fitness change-your-body challenges and things like that.

Or non-program based, just simply working out and just random workout sort of approach to it. And jump out of that cycle, which ends up usually including an injury here or there. It ends up usually including a sort of defeat of not being able to keep up with the randomness or the intensity of the situation.

Getting out of that mindset and getting into this mindset of it doesn’t always have to be bigger, faster, stronger. And a workout that can be valuable, whether it’s a real aggressive one or not. It doesn’t always have to be at the highest intensity. All that kind of stuff. It’s what is going to make this a sustainable process.

Schimri Yoyo: No, that’s a great answer and thank you for elaborating. It’s funny, you’re actually the second interview that I have done today and you both chose the word “sustainable” as your fitness philosophy.

Tim DiFrancesco: Wow.

Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, exactly. Which is crazy. And you both have doctorates, so maybe that’s the common trait.

Tim DiFrancesco: There you go.

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Schimri Yoyo: So now, you have experience training amateur athletes as well as professional athletes. What are some of the differences that you see?

Tim DiFrancesco: Well, I think the differences are more in the environment. The difference is not in a human being, whether they get paid to play sports or they just recreationally do or they don’t really play a formal sport. They are working with us to feel better and move better.

But the difference is in the environment. The pro sports environment is one where you have often young athletes that have been guaranteed a lot of money and they’ve arrived at the position they’re in without, often, a lot of attention to detail in the physical preparation department.

Whether that could be the weight room or conditioning exercise, you know? Drills or that kind of thing. But a lot of times they’re extremely talented at what they do and they’ve risen to the top of their craft.

As the head strength coach of the LA Lakers for six seasons, we drafted a lot of 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds who didn’t really spend a lot of time making the weight room their habit. And yet they were in the NBA. And number one, number two, number three picks. And so the difference is really in the environment.

I find that the actual humans in front of me—a lot of the same patterns and dysfunctions and areas of limitations that we see when we do an initial assessment on every member that we have here at TD Athletes Edge, a majority of which are not pro athletes, is very similar to the dysfunctions that you peel out when you’re doing an assessment on enter the name of whomever—enter, X name, for whatever number two pick.

You know, we had a few of them when I was there. And you have some very similar patterns of dysfunction and limitation to iron out with them and also not having a ton of weight room experience. And that’s common in both environments, in both parts of those audiences as well, where we have a lot of people that have not had really good, great coaching and time in the weight room or a strength and conditioning setting. I’m sure they may have been to a gym, but that’s different than getting really high-quality experience.

So, I think it’s just as in that environment. And it’s a matter of being able to help those young pro athletes who make a lot of money, make sure that it clicks with them early on. That this time in the weight room is really what’s going to help them to—back to that word “sustainability”—sustain a long career.

Schimri Yoyo: No, that’s good. So now we sometimes hear about athletes having serious heat-related illnesses. What can athletes and fitness professionals do to prevent this from happening?

Tim DiFrancesco: Well, I think the biggest thing is just knowing the environment of where you’re training. So you know, whether it’s a fairly warm day and I’m doing an outdoor workout or something a little bit more with a little bit more oversight attached to it, in my opinion, of going into a sauna and doing some bike work to lose some weight or something like that.

I think just using better judgment. Understanding the time of day that you’re doing this on, making sure you are hydrating ahead of time. But even then, if you’re very well-hydrated, if you put yourself in the wrong part of a day in the middle of the sun and a very hot day, [that’s not wise]. And I just think it’s using better judgment on that kind of stuff is really what it comes down to.

Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, a lot of situational awareness that’s needed.

Tim DiFrancesco: Yeah. And I know sometimes it’s the athlete. A lot of times it’s the coach who has this mentality that you’re going to create this toughness by making somebody work out in a challenging environment. And I just don’t—I don’t think that’s the way you create toughness.

Schimri Yoyo: That’s well said. Now, how do you help your clients to be proactive, both in their training and also in their rest and recovery from training?

Tim DiFrancesco: Right. So we have actually a part of a location in our gym that we call Recovery Island. And this is where we do the recovery portion of our workouts. And so that, I think, is one way. We just really bring it to the forefront of the process and really highlight it as a part of the process, all the way to having a separate room and space for that.

And just being able to, I think, from there, putting out and sandwiching our training prescriptions and coaching within our training programs and that kind of thing with discussion and dialogues about recovery. And we do every four weeks a recap meeting with every member before we build their next four weeks of training. And in that recap meeting and survey, we talk about the things you’re doing outside of here.

So I think that’s just bringing people’s awareness to “This is not just in a vacuum. This hour session that you walk into TD Athletes Edge and set into a workout and then whatever happens outside of here is irrelevant. It is relevant.” It’s very relevant. How you slept last night and then the week before you coming off of a time zone change in jumping into this workout in the morning. That’s absolutely going to change your experience.

Schimri Yoyo: Makes sense. Now how do you have the conversation or how do you incorporate nutrition as part of the discussion in your coaching?

Tim DiFrancesco: Yeah, so we offer a nutrition coaching service here at TD Athletes Edge, and we basically start that conversation right from the assessment and we talk to them.

And our assessment is not just about a movement assessment, it is about gathering information, ask questions about “Grade yourself on a letter grade scale in your nutrition and eating habits.” And we talk to them about, “Hey, would you be interested in learning a little bit more about our nutrition coaching service?” Because it just brings it—We will ask them, “Are there any multivitamins or any supplements, minerals?”

Sometimes people are taken aback. They, sort of in their head, were thinking, “Okay, I’m getting ready to go to the gym. I’m going to do this movement assessment.” And so all of a sudden there’s this question about nutrition and it just reigns them, anchors them down to the conversation.

That is very overlapped into what is important here is we can do all the best training with you in the world, but if there’s not attention to detail in the right details of your eating habits, then that is going to either help you or hurt you in your ability to achieve what you want to.

Creating a Culture of Coaching and Community

Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that makes sense. Now we’ll give you an opportunity to brag about your team at TD Athletes Edge a little bit. What makes you guys unique?

Tim DiFrancesco: The thing that makes us unique is that we are unified in one agenda. That is to help as many people as we can feel better, move better, perform better. And so the other side of that coin is that we have some very—we have a great variety of backgrounds and experience levels.

And so the nice part about that is we have this ability to compile that experience into one service that is seamless and is fueled by many different levels and types of experiences. So it just becomes a much more vast service because of that.

But I think it is back to the idea that every team member walks in here looking forward to seeing how we can make people’s gym experience be something they’ve never dreamed could be the case or existed. And we talk about a couple of things. We talk about being able to—we talk about coaching our faces off. And I think that when you talk about the gym experience, there’s not a lot of really detailed coaching going on.

There are boxes being checked, sweat being dripped, burn being created in the muscles, and calories being burned. That can all be done without any coaching. And so for us, it’s making these sustainable programs that are just founded on coaching—nuanced, detailed coaching. And that’s where I think people don’t get in their gym and fitness and workout experiences most of the time. So it’s kind of weird that that’s the case, but it’s just what I’ve found.

Schimri Yoyo: So it seems like you guys have spent a lot of attention to detail to try to create a culture of coaching and education there. So that’s pretty unique. Again, I want to thank you again, Tim, for your time. I want to be respectful of it. So one final question here:

Do you have any resources that you would recommend to our audience, whether it’s books, podcasts, magazines? And it could be directly for fitness-related or business-related, or maybe philosophy or whatever you think would be beneficial to our audience.

Tim DiFrancesco: Yeah. You know, I think that if there’s a book that I almost always recommend people read, it’s The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. And it’s something that, for me, it’s basically based on this one question: If you’re asking it to yourself before you embark on a goal or a project, it will make the goal or project very, very effective and efficient.

The question is: “What is the one thing that if you did complete it now, it would make everything else on your list easier and/or unnecessary?” And so I think that just applies to literally everything in everybody’s lives. And so it’s such a great book.

You know, I think there are some great podcasts out there. The one by Mike Robertson, who does a great job, and I don’t want to screw up the name on that. But, you know, Mike does an excellent job. You know, there are so many good resources. There are so many good people out there putting out quality content.

[Editor’s note: The name of the podcast that Tim is referencing is called the Physical Preparation Podcast.]

We try to do that at TD Athletes Edge and you can follow us at team_tdae, and you can follow me at TD Athletes Edge on Instagram. Especially on our website, we carry out a regular blog and try to promote information to people around those channels. So definitely check out what we’re doing.

Schimri Yoyo: No, that’s awesome. Well, thank you. I definitely think those will be valuable resources to our audience, and obviously, your passion for coaching and education is very evident. And I hope that people will check that out. So we want to wish you continued success, Tim, there in Massachusetts. And I would definitely want to circle back to you later on and see how everything’s doing as you continue to grow.

Tim DiFrancesco: I’ll be looking forward to it, Schimri. This was a pleasure. So thanks so much for the opportunity.

Schimri Yoyo: Have a good one.

Tim DiFrancesco: Okay, you too.

If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.