This grid has no iron

Cornwall personal trainer Steve Kingsbury has come up with a grid of mats that -- according to...

Cornwall personal trainer Steve Kingsbury has come up with a grid of mats that -- according to their densities -- have become popular south of the border. (Photo courtesy of Kinclo Mats)

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:55 PM ET

Steve Kingsbury is a man in growing demand these days.

So it's no surprise when he excuses himself to take yet another call. He returns to the conversation less than a minute later, the tone of excitement in his voice having risen another notch.

"That was the Florida Gators calling," says the personal trainer from Cornwall.

As in the U.S. college football national champion Florida Gators -- on the phone to a small company in the Seaway Valley that's on the cutting edge of something big in the fitness world, a place where the next big thing never seems too far around the corner.

With each passing day, Kingsbury's invention is causing a frenzy that has reached out to many rather large touchpoints across North America. And like the proverbial snowball, the momentum continues to build.

"It's taken everybody a bit by storm," Kingsbury says of his brightly coloured Kinclo Mats, which have found their way into the training rooms of several NFL, NHL and major college football teams.

The Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts have them.

So do the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles and the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers and college football powerhouses Florida, Ohio State, Texas and Penn State.

Newspapers in Washington, Miami and St. Louis have raved about them in the most positive of ways.

"Nobody yet has said they don't like them," says Kingsbury. "We've heard nothing negative yet.

"This is kind of blowing us away."

The concept behind the triangular-shaped mats -- the Washington Post referred to them as "pizza slices" -- was born about four years ago.

Kingsbury, who admits to being "kind of a nut when I work out," was searching for something new and started doing some jumping exercises in a crash mat commonly used as a landing area for high jumpers. While the routine was low-impact, Kingsbury told himself, "this is one hell of a workout."

Then the light came on in his head.

"I started thinking, 'How can I put this to work to make some bucks?' "

'SIMPLE' CONCEPT

He sat down with Guy Cloutier, a powerlifter who became his first business partner (Ian Callan later joined the group), to do some serious brainstorming. What they came up with, Kingsbury admits, is "an idea that is very simple."

Kinclo Mats -- the name is an amalgamation of the first three letters of Kingsbury and Cloutier's last names -- are a series of blue, yellow and red mats of varying densities. The red ones are firm, the blue mats medium and the yellow "like sand."

They can be mixed and matched, depending on the desired intensity of the workout. Moving and securing them is easy -- the mats are held together by Velcro straps.

"Say you're doing strength and conditioning (training) and you're jumping off steel boxes," says Kingsbury. "You miss one and there goes your knee. That doesn't happen with (the mats)."

He believes the mats supply the perfect intermediate step for an athlete recovering from knee or ankle surgery. Kingsbury points out that Eagles star quarterback Donovan McNabb used them to aid his rehabilitation after a serious injury.

The mats can also be used for aerobic workouts, plyometrics and balance training. It seems there is no limit to the possibilities.

"I just heard from a school in Washington that has them," says Kingsbury. "They told me the kids were inventing their own exercises. It was like they were becoming their own little trainers.

"They're doing the workouts, taking (the mats) apart and putting them back together again."

Kingsbury's small company, which employs about 10 people, has accomplished this almost entirely by word of mouth. The Colts signed on after seeing the mats at a trade show in Indianapolis.

Kingsbury says Kinclo Mats also does a lot of "cold calling" to push its product.

"We're a brand new product," he says. "We're just starting to fly."

In the sports world, though, word travels fast when the goal is to stay ahead of the pack and Kingsbury already has some pretty impressive testimonials.

Scott Livingston, the Canadiens' strength and conditioning coach, says "the ability to incorporate changes in height and levels of instability can add a new dimension every time you train an athlete."

Titans assistant trainer Geoff Kaplan lauds the mats for their ability to provide "a unique and different way to challenge the athlete."

Kingsbury adds he's happy to have Dr. Donald Chu, a top sports medicine expert from California, in his corner. Chu also praises the uniqueness of the Kinclo Mats concept.

"The Super Bowl champs have them," says Kingsbury. "There must be a reason for it."

MADE IN CANADA

What's the cost of all of this, you ask?

A nine-piece "grid" sells for $3,400. But Kingsbury proudly says he's used nothing but top-quality Canadian materials for the mats, which are manufactured at plants in Montreal and Kitchener.

Oddly enough, it's right here at home where his product has yet to take off.

"We really haven't tapped into the Canadian market," he says.

"But they're starting to know who we are."

Kingsbury admits his biggest fear is keeping up with demand and, given the fact that he's now taking calls from as far away as Australia, it's clear the wave is rapidly passing the ripple stage.

But Kingsbury, whose energy is infectious, sounds ready to take on the challenge.

"We want to take over the world with these mats."


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