Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tidal Wave

I woke up this morning terrified. I had one of those doomsday dreams again - 2nd night in a row. The dream felt so real. Real enough that you wake up with the remnants of those feelings intact. In my dream, a huge tidal wave was approaching. My wife and I were running to try and reach our kids, Mia and Max. In that dreamlike sort of way, we were desperately trying to outrun the wave, but it was all slow motion running. I needed to run faster but couldn't. I looked at Jen and told her I loved her and that I love Mia and Max. None of us were going to make it, but I wanted to squeeze Mia and Max and shield them from this wave. Let the tidal wave hit my back. It is okay that I go, but leave them. Please. Please leave them.

You wake up from a dream like that and it is hard to shift into the everyday mode.

So today I feel my humanity; I feel how precious life is. I am scared that I am not living life to the fullest so I say to myself - what can I do TODAY to amp things up? To make myself standout. To be heard. To be remembered for when that wave does break my back.

Somehow this mood always leads me to the gym or out for a run. The act of exerting myself seems to be that expression of 'I'm alive.' It is that place where I can go to make my back more broad to handle that wave.

You had better do the same if you really want to live a full life. In the beginning, exercise is that cold wave - a jolt that will bolt you out of sleep. Move your body, get your heart rate up. Wake up. Life is today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Hot Dog Story

July 1993, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Boathouse Row.

The sun had set. I was alone on the upper deck of my boathouse, Pennsylvania Athletic Club Rowing Association, famously known as Penn-AC. The Schuylkill River was calm and lazily falling over a small damn. Remember the museum steps that Rocky climbed in the movie? That museum, with the lit cityscape above, formed the backdrop to one of the most memorable moments of my life. But on this night I was sad; I was saying goodbye to what was the opportunity of a lifetime and one of the best experiences of my life.

Six weeks earlier, I had arrived, along with 3 dozen of the best rowers in the country. I had only been rowing for 10 months but somehow was invited to Penn-AC, the premier rowing camp in the country, for 3 months of world class training and racing under the direction of US Olympic Coach Ted Nash. I will never forget walking into the boathouse on that first day and being introduced to Mr. Nash. He shook my hand and said to me, "I was watching you row upstairs - you know what I like about you? You're the shortest guy here but you bury your hands in the cage anyway and get the same length as these other guys. You're a good athlete - you're one of Chuck's boys right?"

For the record, I am 6'1" so hardly short. But rowers are an unusual breed of broad-backed giants. I was able to compensate because I have inhumanly large quads, the powerhouse muscle needed to row hard and fast.

Chuck was my rowing coach at the University of Delaware. He was and still is one of the best known and well respected rowing coaches in the country. All he had to do was say to Ted, "I'm sending one of my athletes to you this summer." I showed up hardly a good rower but my athleticism made up for what I lacked in experience.

I was gonna have to prove myself everyday at this camp or I would be sent home. I remember sitting in the #4 seat of an 8 man crew and Ted hollered into his megaphone, "#4 - make your catches faster in the next 5 strokes or you're out of the boat." Funny how you learn quickly when you're given that kind of ultimatum.

Practices were 3 times per day. I had planned on getting a job to support myself but I simply didn't have the time or energy to work. I took a waiter job at a local restaurant but quit on Day 2. I was here to row, not wait tables. But cash - I needed cash. I was losing weight very quickly because I wasn't eating enough. I ate to survive. I bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. I'd eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was gone and then I'd buy it all again. I picked up side jobs moving furniture, painting fences - anything I could squeeze in between practices.

I was becoming desperate for food. On one afternoon practice, I hit rock-bottom - I waited until my crew mates were ready to launch from the dock. I excused myself, ran back into the boathouse, bound up the stairs and raided the small clubhouse refrigerator. Nothing in there. I opened up the small freezer compartment and buried under lots of frost were 2 frozen hot dogs. Fine. I scarfed them down my throat as I ran back down the stairs, onto the dock and into the boat.

I lasted 6 weeks. My crew was headed to the national championships in Topeka, Kansas (I guess they have water there) and I was told to stay behind and catch up on sleep. In other words, I wasn't cutting it.

So while my teammates were competing at nationals, I had the boathouse entirely to myself; I sat on the upper deck of the boathouse and wrote a small note thanking my coaches for the opportunity. I hung out there alone all weekend and reminisced. I packed up my gear and rode my bike back to my hometown which was about 60 miles away.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently - I should have asked people for money on the street. I could have put on my crew jacket and told my story. Why didn't I put up a sign on the street and row on a stationary rower on the street telling people why I need money or food!

I gave up, packed my bags and went home. I could have found food. But what I would not have found is the maturity to realize that I did belong there and that I could figure this out.

I'm okay saying that I have this regret. I won't be that person that's lying on their death bed that says, "I have no regrets." I would much rather say, "I've had regrets, but I made things right in the end."

I am making things right. My memory is bittersweet; it was not my time. But my time is now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So What Now?

Confession: I always exercised as a means to get faster for sports, not just to be a gym-rat type. In high school, I played soccer and ran track. In college, I pole vaulted and rowed. After college, I continued to row on the national circuit and then did the same as a cyclist.

Then my wife and I had kids.

Now that in itself could be considered a sport. One needs to be pretty agile to chase around a 4 year old and an 18 month old. These little creatures do nothing but go. Their energy humbles me.

Anyway, lifting and staying in shape was all about one thing: winning. But why should I exercise now? To race? Nah, I'm starting to feel funny competing at 35. I always raced with the idea that I could qualify for nationals or go to the world championships. I can still do that at 35, but I'd have to give up my business to do it. Not worth it! I'm having too much fun getting you in shape!

So now you and I are in the same boat. We have to keep moving. We have to exercise to stay healthy.

That's what it's about then. Staying healthy. If you had told me that 10 years ago I would have said, "No, the point of training is to get faster so I can WIN.

WINNING has to mean different things to me now. I have to win the game of life. I have to be a good father. I have to treat my body well. Drink lots of water. Sleep. Exercise.

What does winning mean to you? Can exercise help? It is a cure for many things. Try it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Crisp and Bright October Night

Me, my best friend, Rob, and his professional road racing girlfriend, Katie, were out on an easy spin one weekend day on the backroads of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The riding in that area is among the best I've ever done. Rolling hills and open country. We were on our road bikes now, just opening up our legs for a mountain bike ride that night.

I'd never ridden single track in the dark so I had no idea what to expect. It seemed Rob and Katie shared inside scoop when I asked them about it - they told me to just show up.

Rendezvous was an open field on the north side of town at nine o'clock. Per Katie's instructions, my mountain bike was rigged with a headlamp on my helmet and another one on my handlebars. We unloaded our bikes and layered on the clothing under a high full moon. We checked each other's head lamps and rode off.

Crisp and bright October night.

We rode along the high point across the field toward a dark patch of forest. As we disappeared into the woods, blackness closed in around us; the moonlight above did not penetrate the canopy of trees above and I quickly lost my sense of direction. "Stay on Rob's wheel" - that was the plan I whispered to myself. Rob and I could normally hang with Katie - on our road bikes. On single track? Katie had a finesse that Rob and I lacked. She could dance through the forest at a pace we couldn't. She knew exactly how much speed she could take into each turn. A few minutes into the ride and all we could see of Katie was a spot of light somewhere up ahead dancing through the woods.

Now Rob started opening up distance on me. I couldn't keep up because I was in sensory overload trying to cope with the darkness. The narrow line of sight and winding trail dwindled my reaction time. It was almost impossible to anticipate the turns, so I had to slow down. Katie was now out of sight.

I tried to stay fluid. "Keep your eyes on the trail. See the trail move to the left or right or...down. Dip with it. Keep your body under the bike. Ignore the bright glassy eyes of the animals around you."

Ignore those eyes. I was a little freaked out here. On one hand you know that you're okay - it's not like I'm in Africa and those are the eyes of a lion. On the other hand, when was the last time you were riding through the woods at night - in their home? What happens then? When was the last time one of these animals had this strange earth crunching bike thing running down on them? How would they react? The more I thought about this, the more scared I got.

I suppose Rob and Katie would wait for me at the trail's end. Otherwise I think I would have been out there until sunrise. When the trail finally did break they were there. I cleared the fog from my clear lenses to see them grinning at me. "Oh my god, that was incredible" was all I could say. We knew each other well. They knew I would feel that way, so it was a simple nod of approval.

Katie led onto the next trail set.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Many Ways To Get In Shape

The way to lose weight and get back in shape is to simply start moving your body again. It really is that simple. I'm asked all the time what exercises will help get rid of flab here and there. My answer mirrors the simplicity of the question - do the exercise you like - but do it consistently.

Pilates, weight lifting, Yoga, core, cardio...

What do they all mean? What in the heck should you be doing?

Again - all of them or whichever keeps you engaged. Start with whichever activity that you want to learn, or makes sense to you. The key word there is 'start.'

Now if you've been going at a good clip for a few weeks, then it's time to start mixing it up. The mistake people make at this stage is that they keep doing the same thing because it's all they know. This is where the skinny girl on the treadmill needs to start lifting weights and the big-armed, big-gut guy needs to get on the treadmill.

Now, if you're a competitive athlete, you actually don't want to mix it up too much. You need to specialize in your sport and know when to mix in activity that will help you stay physically balanced and injury-free. A good example is the competitive cyclist - these guys and girls could really benefit from Pilates.

Keep it simple in the beginning. Just start moving again. One day at a time. Look up after about 4 weeks and then say, "okay, what now."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Look At Yourself Naked

Splash cold water on your face, then run that cold water through your hair. Look into the mirror, but deeply. Hold the eyes of the person in that mirror, and look deeper still.

Take a step back from the mirror, and take another look.

Grab onto those feelings and process them right there.

Your Mind and Your Body. Which is stronger for you? How could one be stronger than the other? Wouldn't they support one another? If your mind is so strong, then what thought-process went into leaving your body behind?

Growing up, I took my energy and angst and became physically powerful. My heart beats half as often as the average person's because it is almost twice the size. I wasn't born that way. I made that happen. My heart grew by my effort.

It's taken me a long time to feel as strong mentally as I've always been physically. But I have balanced-out and feel that, if anything, the pendulum is swinging the other way.

And that's good news for you, because now I am in a position to help you.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Racing in Sonoma

Race Day.

Two east coast families, the Pepe's and the Flatley's were standing on the side of the Russian River at 6:30am in Sonoma, California, celebrating the engagement of Chris Pepe and Kim Flatley!

How is that life can take such dramatic turns? One year before, Chris was diagnosed with cancer. How did he feel then upon hearing that news? What lonely moments did he have? I can only imagine how some of those moments must have been.

But now, Chris, along with Kim, were surrounded by the closest family and friends to celebrate their new life together. Perfect.

I'll give a race report another day. What I want to say here is that sports and exercise in and of itself can be a lonely affair. Especially training for an Ironman or a Marathon. There are miles and miles of hard effort with no one around to witness the work you're doing.

But Sonoma was special. I didn't know what we were celebrating! One minute it was Chris' recovery, the next it was Kim and Chris' engagement and the next it was our race! There were so many toasts to be made for so many different reasons that an observer could only say, "well, they certainly have a lot to celebrate."

And that's why I won't forget Sonoma. Here are some of the moments I will remember for the rest of my life:

1. Watching Jen and 150 other swimmers wade into the Russian River and disappear into the misty marine fog.

2. My father-in-law, Vito, helping me put my bike together the day before the race.

3. Riding to the race course on my bike to see how my legs felt. Oh boy - my legs felt goooood.

4. The beginning of my race, when I past over 100 riders in the first 30 minutes fighting to catch up to the leaders. I was flying!

5. Calling my 4 year-old daughter, Mia, from the race course after I finished my 112 miles. It was so sweet to hear her voice.

6. Having dinner Sunday night at that fancy restaurant that overlooked the San Francisco Bay. Beautiful. A great night.

7. Having our wonder wonderful friend Kristen Conners not only show up, but sign up to be a race volunteer! It was like Jen, Kim and I had our own personal assistant in the transition zones! Kristen - how is it that we see each other like once a year - The last time was during a blizzard in the West Village of New York and this time in the transition zone of an Ironman race at 6am in Sonoma California?! Adventure.

8. Meeting Bob and Mary. Bob - I'm serious about the Vancouver to San Diego ride. I've got my bike in one hand and this Moby Dick novel I've been meaning to read in the other. I'm ready.

9. Laying on the blanket after my race. My mother-in-law, Sue had a pile of food for me. A rare moment of guilt-free eat-as-much-as-you-can-of-anything-you-want.

10. Meeting Kim in the transition zone after my ride. She high-fived me, called me a rock star and then sprung out of the gate like a gazelle to run her marathon.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gearing Up!

I could hear Max and Mia on the other side of the bathroom door impatiently waiting for me to come out and play with them, as that's our normal after-work routine. But wanting to make sure all of my newly acquired time trial gear fit right, I was in the bathroom, putting on my racing shorts, helmet, etc. I had my funky cycling shoes on, sunglasses - everything. I even shaved my legs. Yeah! On one hand I look cool! On the other, just plain weird. Well, let's see what the kids think. Mia is 4 and Max is 1 - they'll be the judges.

I shut off the bathroom light and slowly opened the door. I clumsily walked out of the darkness in my cycling shoes and stood towering over the both of them.

Max - he was staring up at me with blank eyes. Mia started giggling.

I knelt down and in my best Darth Vader voice I said to Max, "Maaax - I am your faaatherrr."

Nothing. Blank stare. The drip of drool that was hanging from his lower lip now extended as a long strand down to the floor.

Mia then said to me, "Daddy, stop being silly."

"Nooooo Miaaaa, I am not Daddy. I am a superhero on a quest to conquer the world."

Max finally blinks and utters, "...Daddy."

This is not working I can see. They're mistaking me for some earthly being when I am in fact a superhero.

I got Mommy a wetsuit. Insane looking one. This thing looked exactly like the female version of a batman suit. Jen prances out of the bedroom feeling just as I do - a superhero!

Mia giggles at Mommy now and starts jumping up and down. Max is lost. He's at an age where he's just figuring things out. You do this to him, and it totally alters his understanding of things.

But now I'm looking at Mommy. You know, it's a simple little mental switch in my head that I can flip - flip switch down and Mommy looks like an elite female triathlete - cool! Fast! Flip switch up - hmmm - kind of looks like one of those sexy bondage things. Didn't know I liked that. Hmmm. Mommy don't look silly, Mommy look good.


So, I think we're just about ready. We're geared up, most of the training is done. Jen and I spent the last week tapering. We'll do 2 more weeks of intensity and then taper just a teany bit before race day.

Update on our super fast runner Kimmers coming soon!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Look Past This Moment

On one hand it is good to stop and live in the moment. But what if that moment is a bad place to be? What if you mistakenly rationalize taking one too many breaks for 'living in the moment?'

What if I were to tell you that you can live in the moment subconsciously and still plow ahead practically?

What I'm getting at is this: Real success and real progress is made by putting your head down and getting done the work that needs to be done. People that want real success are not fickle. They do not often trade their focused efforts for passing pleasures. When it is time to relax, this person knows how to do so without feeling anxiety of time wasted. They revel in their relaxation by knowing it is well earned.

My best moments are felt after I've plowed through a mountain of work, whether that work was 60 miles of riding or 2 years of building the thousands of pages of my website. It's funny how on one level the work is grueling and monotonous, but when you look back, you remember it as 'those were good times.'

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Coming Together for Chris

Chris is alive.

Chris, take a deep sigh of relief. You're at the other end now buddy. You are alive and as healthy as can be. You've got a beautiful girl, the best family I've ever known, and a group of friends I've secretly been making my own.

The training Kim, Jen and I are doing is supposed to be a sacrificial symbol of the struggles you endured to beat cancer. But how can I say that the training we're doing is a sacrifice? Kim's running and I know it exhilarates her. It seems that she is being who she is - a competitor. Someone that goes after something she wants. She has a marathon to run. Her first ever. So what did she say to me yesterday? "I'm not worried about finishing it, I'm worried about not going fast enough for us to win."

Jennifer? It is 9pm as I write this. Jen is swimming a couple of miles right now. Is it a sacrifice? No. She's living, she's breathing. She's in her element and giving the same uuumph that she gives on her desk everyday. I have never seen her so focused and happy. And I've never been so proud of her as I am today.

Me? I haven't ridden my bike in 4 years before this event. My last race was against some pretty fast pros and Olympians before I happily disappeared into babyland. But I missed 'the race.' You got me back on my bike again. It's like I've been sleep-deprived dormant for 4 years. I feel awake now. I feel alive.

Thank you Chris. It is around you that a large group of family and friends will travel across the country to celebrate your life and each other.

Cheer us on everyone. Make that cheer loud. Make that cheer echo for a lifetime.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rowing Hard

I worked 2 jobs when I was a college student at the University of Delaware. Weekdays I worked at the campus fitness center and weekends I worked double shifts waiting tables at the Ground Round. This on top of a full course load and Crew practice 6 times per week. I was busy!

One night I was closing up the fitness center and thought I'd get a 5000 meter row in on the erg before I left. It was a spur of the moment thing; my coach said he wanted to see us pulling 5000's in addition to the practices. So I shut down most of the lights, put the stereo on, sat on the machine and starting pulling.

About 200 meters into it I realized that I felt unusually strong. Why not go for a PR (personal record) at the distance? I notched up my pace faster than I normally would at that distance because I had wasted 200 meters pulling lightly.

I wish I could find the words to describe the pain that comes over your body during rowing. Rowing is not like other sports. It's a full body effort on every stroke. Your legs, back, shoulders and arms are working in concert and hard on every pull. Your lungs cannot feed oxygen to such a large group of muscles fast enough, so, with every passing stroke lactic acid accumulates. And it begins to burn. Getting that burning feeling in one muscle when you're lifting weights is one thing, but throughout your entire body? That is something else.

I was aiming to break the 17 minute barrier for 5,000 meters. If I could do it, it would have been only the 2nd time anyone would have done it in UD Crew history.

One thing I have learned through training is how to surrender to pain. You know it will hurt, so you just accept it and deal with it along the way. Not by slowing down, but by actually rowing through it.

It was at the 2200 meter mark that the pain started to dominate my thoughts. It's a feeling of despair - "How can I keep up this pace for 2800 meters? There's no way." I took a hair off the pace - 1 click down and that's it. Just a gesture really. A mental negotiation with my body as in "alright, I'll give you 1 second off my 500 meter pace if you just get me to 3800 meters."

Somewhere along the way my body started tingling, and with the lights dimmed, I was having trouble focusing. My mouth was open as if I were a snake dislocating my jaw to feed. It was my lungs' way of saying, "I need more air so you need to make your airway bigger."

I couldn't hear anymore either. I'm not sure how or why this happens. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe you just go so within yourself that you can't focus on the external world. I heard my breathing, not from my mouth, but from the vibration of my chest expanding and collapsing as fast as possible.

Usually rowers turn it up a few notches with 500 meters to go. It's called a 'power 10.' I started my power 10 at 900 meters because I wanted to get to that 500 meter mark as fast as possible. I knew that if I could keep my pace to that point I was in the clear from blowing up.

Maybe there was pain and my memory is choosing to not remember it. I'm not really sure. I think its more that I reached a certain fitness level and my body learned and adapted to persist in a highly toxic anaerobic state.

I remember being wide-eyed as I crossed the 4500 meter mark, did the quick math, and realized that I was in fact going to break 17 minutes. When something is that close to happening, you simply cannot let it go - right? You have to get it. You have to fight for it.

Remember I said that. When you are competing for something - and I'm not just talking about sports - go and get what's yours. But therein lies a big secret - you need to feel that it is yours for taking.

Time: 16:46

Monday, June 11, 2007

Doing Abs Exercises: A Waste of Time.

I'm passionate about exercise. But as an athlete, I've always been frustrated by the way the fitness industry worked. Great Abs in 8 minutes a day? It won't happen. That Suzanne Summers thigh-blast thing? A complete waste of your money.

Think of it this way. You're a little overweight, so you lay on your back and lift your torso up a few inches off the floor over and over. Is this going to help you lose your gut? The answer is no.

If you want to lose weight around your stomach, you need to be doing exercises that have you on your feet. You need to be moving around, just as you do in everyday life. Even more important than full body weight bearing exercise - you need to improve your eating habits.

I started Agile Fitness 3 years ago. It represents 80 hour weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a solution. I don't advertise 'the quick and easy weight loss solution.' Why? Because there isn't one. If that's what you want, then Agile Fitness is not for you.

I applied how I used to train in Track & Field, Rowing, Soccer, Weight Lifting and Cycling to Agile's exercise programs. Every program uses what's called a periodization technique. A fancy way of saying that each week gets progressively harder and then tapers off so that your body can regenerate. Every program is 4 weeks long. The 1st week is 'Begin,' the 2nd week is 'Build,' 3rd week 'Peak,' and 4th week 'Taper'

Going through this Begin, Build, Peak, Taper process yields life-changing results if you stick with it and give it time. The matrix of exercise programs is inter-related. This means that when you finish one program, we recommend the next one. In time and with consistency, you're moving through a goal-oriented path. Along this path, you're body will change. But more powerful, your mind will change. You will become mentally stronger. Your immune system will become stronger. Your flexibility and agility will improve.

It was so important to me to create a life-changing process, not a quick fix, let-me-take-your-money fad. I know it will take time for my business to root and grow. And I certainly see that I need to do a better job of explaining the benefits and power of our exercise programs. And this is one of those efforts.

I hope you take the time to read through my site and learn more about what I do. It's easy to forget that there are real people behind the sites you see on the internet. Well, I am real, I am alive and I want to help you.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

If You Had To Pick Just One Exercise

I spend most of my days in 1 position: hunched over my desk staring into the computer. Ironically, my exercise activity of choice, cycling, has me in the same position, hunched over my road bike. For years, I've had the same knot in my neck, some days worse than others, but always there. I call them 'trap knots' - its a knot of muscle tissue in a muscle called your Levator Scapulae.

Jennifer, my wife, has the same problem, but much worse than I do. She is also hunched over her computer and is a swimmer. The muscles in her chest, shoulders and traps are very strong, but very tight.

Only recently, and in all my years as a fitness professional, have I discovered a solution, with the help of my orthopedic doctor, that has me completely pain free. I've passed it onto my wife and she is starting to feel better too.

I now call the exercise Medicine Squats. I used to call them Overhead Squats, but that name connotes power-lifting to me and that's not what this is at all. Look for the exercise in Agile's Exercise Library under the Medicine Ball category.

My doctor helped me piece this together. I complained to her of my trap knots and said, "that's my Levator Scapulae right?"

She replied, "Well yes, but it's a larger problem than that muscle. You're entire thoracic spine is tight because you're always forward-positioned - you need to stretch out your thoracic spine."

Her eyes lit up when I asked her if an overhead squat with a medicine ball would be a good exercise to stretch out that region. She agreed whole-heartedly. Squatting stretches your lower back when done correctly. So placing your arms overhead, especially with a closer grip on a medicine ball, puts your Lats in a stretched position which extends the lower back stretch up your spine and all through your thoracic region.

I've been having different people try this exercise since then (i.e. my mother-in-law!) - and most of them cannot do this exercise well at all.

Now my wife and I do the exercise every day - not necessarily as part of an exercise routine, more apart of the brushing-your-teeth routine. Think: "after I take my vitamin C, I'm going to do my 2 sets of 15 Medicine Squats."

Now please realize that you probably are not going to be able to achieve the form shown in the drawing for some time. Instead, concentrate on only going 1/4 of the way down with your legs; focus more on keeping your arms straight overhead and close to your ears. When you squat, you're arms will want to either bend or tilt forward. This is because your back is tight! Only go down to the point where your arms can still stay straight up overhead.

With your lower body, keep your toes pointed straight ahead and feet spread shoulder-width apart. If you spread your legs wide and outward - sumo style - then you release your lower back from getting a stretch, which eases the stretch on your thoracic spine and negates the whole point of the exercise.

I hope you try it. Remember - Brush your teeth, take your multi-vitamin and do your medicine squats. :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Workout Here and There Counts

In my experience, most people want a clean slate when it comes to starting an exercise program. There's the thought, "as soon as I get through this week I'll get back in the gym - on Monday."

This won't work. Your life is filled up - there's a lot to do. Next week there will be a lot to do too. The better approach is to let your workout be imperfect. Walk in the gym and start moving. Without worrying whether you should do this machine first or that machine at all - just get on one of them, because we've gotta keep you moving until things smooth out for you and you can devote more thought into a planned routine.

When you do start that exercise program routine, you need to know that it is okay to miss a day here and there and not feel that all is lost. Here's a good guide for what to do if you do fall off track:

> If you miss less than 3 days in a row, then just move on to your next workout.

> If you miss more than 3 days, then go back to the beginning of that week, repeat that week before moving on.

> If you miss more than 10 days, then start your exercise program over.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mia And The Moon

In a colorful sunshine dress, ponytail pulled tight, I watched my daughter bound down a moonlit grassy fairway yelling, 'c'mon Daddy let's go.' A crescent moon was directly over us. It illuminated the fairway so we could see our strides. The hills and bunkers of the golf course appeared as dark mounds to the left and right. The moon marked a silvery path on the ocean that was also to the right of us.

What a moment.

Mia was a few strides in front of me. She surprised me by taking off down the fairway, so I was only now catching up. She heard me coming. I could tell by her giggle. She giggles when I'm chasing her. As she ran, she kept stealing glances back to see me. She scares me when she does that because she's running without watching where she's going. But since we're on a grassy fairway, she'll land softly - or disappear into a sandy bunker. So I think its safe. Sure enough, her toe catches a nob of grass and she tumbles forward, falls to the ground and rolls on her back. Giggling.

I plop down next to her faking a fall myself, adding to her rolling crescendo of giggles.

What a moment - we're staring up at the crescent moon. Its brightness created a silvery lining on the topside of the clouds. The clouds were moving fast, the same speed as the breeze coming off of the ocean. Mia says to me, 'Look at the clouds Daddy!'

I was acutely aware of this moment as it was happening. The significance of it and the memory it would create was not lost on me as it was unfolding. For once, I was living in the moment.

I'm fortunate to have that moment. I'm fortunate to have been able to keep up with her and move with the ease that she moves. She has a spring in her stride that is gone from mine. I am still fast and agile, but it is a 'trained fast and agile.' Mia's speed and agility is effortless, untrained and inconsequential.

There are many points to this small story, but the one relevant to this blog and my service to you is this: keep moving. Don't go dormant. Exercise not to look great, exercise so that you can move through your life more effortlessly, whether that's hopping a puddle on the sidewalk, or running after your giggling daughter on vacation.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Downside of Motivational Blah Blah

The guilt factor. When I reach out to others about if there is anything I can do to help them with exercise, I feel that they feel guilty. As if I might be saying, "are you doing what you are supposed to?!"

Please know this:

I understand the ups and downs in life. I understand time is scarce. I understand the feeling of exercise feeling like a chore.

I understand that you may just not want to go. Period.

Personal Trainers burn out fast because they feel compelled to motivate their clients upfront. What happens when the trainer pushes a client, fills them with emotionally charged motivational blah blah? The client buys into it. But the moment the client fails to live up to trainers expectations, the client feels they not only failed themselves, but they've failed the trainer. For those of us that are not serious athletes, this is not good. It is counter-productive.

At first, you'll love the trainers kick-in-the-butt. But it is almost always short-lived, because everyday life events will naturally derail 'the plan'. Its not sustainable to be perfect. Who wants to feel the guilt of not being perfect? I certainly wouldn't.

The motivation to train/exercise must come from within you. My role is to be there for you when you feel the time is right.

The key for you is to learn different ways of making healthy lifestyle decisions (exercise) more often. Not permanently or all the time. Just more often.

When we're aligned and jiving - welcome! How can I help?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Supartz Injection #1 - Ouch!

I have a secret. I own a fitness company, but my body is in many ways a total wreck.

I am 34 years old, but my knees are much older. You wouldn't know it by seeing my legs, but as my physical therapist said after she read my MRI reports, "They're not so pretty on the inside." Grade 4 Osteoarthritis (read: severe) over the femoral condyles of my right knee.

October 1989 - I severely strained my Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) while playing soccer - apparently very difficult to do without tearing your ACL. In 1991, I finished off my right knee in a Pole Vaulting accident. I tore my ACL, medial collateral (MCL), and medial meniscus. An injury called the 'Terrible Triad'. Indeed it was terrible. That ranks as the most pain I have ever experienced in my life. When I landed from 15 feet high, my right knee buckled inward and snapped loudly. I was competing in a collegiate indoor invitational track meet. The entire University of Delaware Field House stopped when they heard that snap and heard me scream, or so my parents tell me.

I had reconstructive surgery a month later and in the 15 years that followed, I all but forgot my knee was more artificial than organic. I had a 3-4 inch stainless steel screw drilled through my femur to anchor my new ACL tendon, which was made with my iliotibial band tendon and stranded with graphite. This tendon was, and still is, stapled on the other side of my knee to my tibia.

I never pole vaulted again, but I did go on to compete at top levels in two sports, rowing and cycling - non-weight bearing sports that only strengthened the muscles acting on and around my knee joint. I had turned my strongest weakness into an outright strength above all others. My nickname in college (kind of ridiculous) was 'quads.' (At first it was cool to have the nickname, until I realized the girls I was dating didn't actually know my real name).

I stopped racing bikes 3 years ago when we had our first child. I turned to Squash for my competitive outlet, and that is when I was reminded that I actually was not superhuman. At some point in that 3 year span I tore my lateral meniscus.

So I schedule a surgery last April to have a tune-up. Makes sense after 15 years, right? Bring the machine in and get the wheels changed.

Didn't work. It's been a year now since that surgery. A year of being in a world of pain. I own a company called 'agile' and funny thing is that I've become the least agile I've ever been! 3 blocks of walking and I'm limping. Playing with my 3.5 year old daughter? I get creative. 3 year olds like that so it works for now.

Today was Synvisc Injection #1 of 5. A highly viscous lubrication (she put some on my finger - it's like really thick KY Jelly that never goes away). This stuff should lubricate my joint and ease my pain for a couple more years until I need total reconstructive knee surgery. The reason to wait to have this surgery is because it is currently more of a Frankenstein procedure than a Bionic Man procedure.

I'll hold out for the Bionic Man option. So that's what I'm after - I want my superhero identity back. The guy that could leap a ten foot wall in a split second, run a mile in 5 minutes (okay, 5:20) and never let a ball drop on the squash court.

Or, just give me my agility back so I can play with my children Mia and Max. That is far and away enough for me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fall Out of Your Routine?

Do things have to be perfect for you? Maybe you feel you need to mentally prep yourself for the challenge of getting back into an exercise routine?

I was like that with homework as a teenager. My room had to be clean first. Somehow cleaning my room translated in a clear mind to concentrate.

Or procrastinate.

There's no right time to start exercising again. Tomorrow morning is as good as any. And you don't need to formulate a big plan. Just show up. Start doing your favorite lifts. Or, pick up on the last program you started.

The most successful people are the ones that show up everyday and get their job done the best they can on that day. They notch each day under their belt. No one day is a herculean effort. It's weeks, months and years of effort.

Focus on establishing the routine again. Don't be a hero about it and go really hard; you'll get sick that way, especially this time of year. Ease into it.

Think of how good you will feel later this summer when you can move your body as if you were ten years younger. Think of how good and vibrant you can look. Think of how healthy you can be.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Same Thing Every Day

Two friends asked me the other day, "What should my heart rate be when I'm running? Like 70% - right?" I didn't know how to answer because I didn't know how to give them the really short answer they were looking for. You know - that short and completely misleading answer that's displayed on the treadmills that says "optimal training zone."

Here's my short answer: If you do the same thing at the same intensity every time you go to the gym, you're body will get very used to this and you're fitness level will plateau very quickly - and then begin to recede. You need to mix it up. Vary your speeds and intensities.

Here's a longer answer: One day go long and slow, another do 'tempos', another do speed intervals, and another, do short hill efforts - I call them grinders. Each of these workout types calls for its own heart rate intensity ranges. How much of each and when? It depends on the time of year, what your goals are and what your current fitness level is.

Isn't it enough that you are 'just getting it in everyday?'

If you are new to exercise - yes - this is enough. Congratulations on getting started.

If you've been at it for a while or on-and-off, and get frustrated by your lack of results, then no, it is not enough. You need to get more sophisticated about your workout just as you would get more sophisticated about other areas of your life.

People resort to what is comfortable and known. Step outside of what you know and what you're used to. You're body needs surprise. It needs change.

Monday, February 19, 2007

This Crunch is Sponsored by Starbucks

There are entirely too many guys and too many gals doing too many things wrong in the gym. What's more troublesome is that there is never anyone around to point out these mistakes. I could spend all of my workout time telling this person to raise the seat on the chest press and that person to walk without holding the rails on the treadmill. I could tell that guy to sit up when he's on the cable row - instruct him that he needs to squeeze his shoulder blades together when pulling in.

I could point out to the guys that they are chatting way too much and taking 2-3 minute rest periods between sets (way too long).

I actually watched an older man get on the abdominal machine and do crunches holding a cup of Starbucks coffee in 1 hand!

How about the guy that comes in the gym and lays right down on the bench press. He's usually wearing long pants to hide his skinny legs.

How about the really skinny girl going a mile a minute on the elliptical machine. She needs to lift weights, not do cardio.

I watched a guy doing laps in the pool take 1 breath every 10-12 strokes. When he did come up for air, he stopped swimming.

The girls are doing Pilates and yoga when they should be lifting weights to improve their bone density. The guys are curling and pressing when they should be stretching, doing more cardio and trying yoga.

Fitness clubs don't care. They provide the equipment. If you actually want assistance, that means signing up for personal training at $70+ per hour.

So much for the average Joe.

The gym: Everyone looks self conscious, no one seems to know what they're doing and the ones that do can't peel their eyes from the mirror.

I can't wait to to open up agile's first fitness center. The experience is going to be different.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hiking Big Sur with My Valentine

April 12th, 2000. Jen and I took our first long trip together by driving the coast from Napa Valley to San Diego over 10 days. On our way south, we stayed at a small spa resort tucked away on the side of a small mountain that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. We were still getting to know one another at the time. We were both very good athletes but in very different ways. Jen was the stop and go court-type of athlete and I was more of an endurance athlete. One morning I proposed we hike up the mountain at Big Sur. She looked at me with a slight sense of dread. She likes to spike volleyballs, not walk for miles on end.

So I had an idea from something I had heard a few years before. I tore my white t-shirt into a buddy rag. I wrapped one end around her wrist and the other end around mine. The deal was that neither one of us could let go of this rope. We were bound by it and would climb and descend Big Sur together. 5 miles up and 5 miles down.

There were moments going up where Jen was being stubborn and the t-shirt seemed to choke my wrist. But when we got to the top, the view was unbelievable. To the right we could see a full panorama of the Pacific Ocean and to the left was miles and miles of rolling California mountainous woodlands.

Surprisingly, the trek down was harder than going up because the steady downward pounding really tweaks the quads. But we did it and we stayed together. Our homemade buddy rope bonded us and we came away from our little adventure feeling closer to one another.

Grab your spouse and take him or her for a walk. Do it together with an old t-shirt tethered to your wrists. Enjoy each others company and get physical together!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Can You S.E.E. ?

Sleep. Eat. Exercise.

These are the 3 main factors in the mix of you living a healthier lifestyle.

Which comes first?

If you're not getting enough sleep, the motivation and energy to exercise will naturally be low. But, if you exercise a few times, you'll hit the sack and pass out more easily, and thus get a sound night's sleep.

If you're exercising, you're body will naturally crave healthier foods that offer sustainable energy instead of fast-fix sugar. But its hard to exercise when you just ate or you still have food in your stomach - and that seems to be the case just too often for many people.

If you're eating well, or on a strict diet, it's really hard to double-down and get the exercise in, because you're sluggish from being in a negative caloric balance. Of course, if you can grin and bear it, you'll lose a ton of weight this way - but this is extremely hard, and sometimes dangerous, to sustain.

So which comes first?

The answer is: start in the middle.

Here are some options:

1) Get a string of good sleeps, then start an exercise program.

2) Force the issue with a couple of workouts - then you're sure to sleep well.

3) Workout before lunch and pass on the burger afterwards; opt for a salad with chicken. Better yet, workout on your lunch break and eat an energy bar for lunch.

The point is that sleeping, exercising and eating are inter-related. If one gets out of balance, it throws the other 2 off balance. My imbalance always starts with not getting enough sleep. I start compensating with sugar and caffeine. Workouts then suffer if they happen at all. So should I get more sleep tonight and then workout this weekend? Or should I go to the gym so I'm snoring by 10:30 tonight?

It doesn't matter. But I will do one of them. And then again the next day - and the next - until I'm back in balance. Until I can see again.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I can't stress enough the benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

If you pursue cardiovascular fitness, then what you are doing is literally building more capillaries and extending the reach of existing capillaries. This means that more nutrients and oxygen can be delivered more diffusely to all parts of your body because you actually create more highway to deliver those nutrients. It also means that you will improve your lung power and your heart's stroke volume.

Above all other preventative measures, this is the most powerful and effective - and life changing.

So cardio to lose weight? Well, yes - that will happen if you stay on course. But this is an example of a goal that people put forth and have no idea of the powerful effects that can take root if they could just see past the beginning - those first couple of months.

Imagine these effects: lungs that are twice as powerful - lungs that can gulp oxygen. A heart that beats 20 times less per minute but delivers more blood through your body with each beat. Everyday tasks that were once difficult now require little thought and have no consequence - climbing stairs, running with your daughter in the backyard, hopping a puddle on the street.

It makes me think back to when I started Agile - it was so important to me to create something that delivered these goals. I wanted to build something that explicitly didn't promise 'great abs in just 8 minutes a day.' That statement suggests that exercise is unbearable. That's not true - the act of exercise really is a pure example of living in the moment.

Life is not always meant to be pleasant, but it is meant to be lived. And that means conquering the comfortable and not-so comfortable.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Forrest Gump It

Remember those scenes from the movie Forrest Gump where Forrest just starts jogging and doesn't stop?

Sometimes I will see someone that is really out of shape and the thought to myself is, "The best thing that person can do right now is walk and not stop until their weight is gone." It's my own feeling that we really don't have an infinite amount of time and that there is no time like the present. Sometimes we need to stop and think for a second, "Am I where I want to be - is this what I want out of life?" If the answer is no, then what are you waiting for?

Read about this guy's Forrest Gump moment in this excerpt from 'The Perfect Human" By Joshua Davis from "Wired" Magazine.

"DEAN KARNAZES WAS SLOBBERING DRUNK. IT WAS HIS 30TH BIRTHDAY, and he'd started with beer and moved on to tequila shots at a bar near his home in San Francisco. Now, after midnight, an attractive young woman – not his wife – was hitting on him. This was not the life he'd imagined for himself. He was a corporate hack desperately running the rat race. The company had just bought him a new Lexus. He wanted to vomit. Karnazes resisted the urge and, instead, slipped out the bar's back door and walked the few blocks to his house. On the back porch, he found an old pair of sneakers. He stripped down to his T-shirt and underwear, laced up the shoes, and started running. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

He sobered up in Daly City, about 15 miles south. It was nearly four in the morning. The air was cool, slightly damp from the fog, and Karnazes was in a residential neighborhood, burping tequila, with no pants on. He felt ridiculous, but it brought a smile to his face. He hadn't had this much fun in a long time. So he decided to keep running.

When the sun came up, Karnazes was trotting south along Route 1, heading toward Santa Cruz. He had covered 30 miles. In the process, he'd had a blinding realization: There were untapped reservoirs within him. It was like a religious conversion. He had been born again as a long-distance runner. More than anything else now, he wanted to find out how far he could go. But at that exact moment, what he really needed to do was stop. He called his wife from a pay phone, and an hour later she found him in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven. He passed out in the car on the way home."

Continue reading here: wired.com/wired/archive/15.01/ultraman

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

When I Was 10

"Dad, I wanna look like Arnold Schwarzenegger."

At 10 years old, I saw Arnold as nothing less than a real life superhero. And that is what I wanted to be. The truth is, I still want to be a superhero. But I think I accomplished this based on the wide-eyed gaze I am getting lately from my 1 year old son.

It is the same feeling I have toward my father, the one that got me out of bed at 5:30am to jog around the block and then meet him in the basement to lift weights. Only a superhero can get a 10 year old out of bed at that hour to run and squat. And that is what my father was to me.

Within 2 minutes of him nudging me awake, I was running down the block half asleep. Did one lap around (about a 1/4 mile), walked into the basement and started with Squats. We did all of the classic lifts - Military Press, Bench Press, Bentover Row, Squats, Heel Raises, Arm Curls, and Tricep Extensions. Everything with the bar.

To this day, that is the way that I train. I have an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology, a masters in business, numerous high-level fitness certifications and elite-level athletic experience in 2 sports. Plenty of coaches along the way.

But where did I learn what I know? From my Dad at 10 years old.

I'm not sure where my Dad picked up what he knew. It was not just the exercises, but the progression system he used. Reps of 8, then 10 and 12. When I could do 3 sets of 12, we increased the weight and started back at 3 sets of 8. Simple and effective.

My Dad was a tough spotter. On Heel Raises for example, I had to stay elevated on my toes with the weight on my back until he tapped my shoulder to go down. I never let him down. I stayed on my toes no matter how much it burned.

Well Dad, I'm still on my toes.

You taught me that. And I love you for it. I love you for delivering newspapers at 4:00am every morning so that you could afford to send me to college. I love you for the times you'd make me dinner while I was studying and then bring that big plate of food into my room.

I know that I am who I am because of who you are and how you raised me. I am very proud of that. You were a very good spotter.

Monday, January 01, 2007

My Time In The Desert

February 7th, 2002 - I was 4 hours into a 6 hour training ride, about 65 miles southwest of Tucson, Arizona and close to the Mexican border. I was approaching the small town of Tombstone, my turnaround point.

I had spent those last 4 hours riding straight into a stiff headwind. My face was caked with salt and I was a mental mushball. Something about the wind whistling in your ears for 4 hours straight drains the life force out of you. The steady climb to Tombstone and relentless headwind slowed me down to an average of 12 mph. An uninspiring speed.

But all of this was about to change. I ascended to Tombstone, found an outpost to replenish my water, hopped back on the bike and began my return to my temporary home of Tucson.

And this was where I found a moment that has and always will stay with me. I've written about this moment one other time. That feeling where all distractions leave and your world becomes singular and purposeful.

Suddenly I had a tailwind and slight descent back into the valley of Tucson. A surge of adrenaline won me over because I had past the most difficult leg of my ride.

Spend enough time on a bike, and like anything you develop skill. I was feeling fast and wanted to take high advantage of my speed, so I clasped both hands behind my back and kept my head low to reduce my profile.

Perfect feeling. Steady 34 miles per hour riding that felt like flying through the desert. I gazed at the rhythm of my legs. 34 miles per hour and 120 rpms. My legs were pumping quickly up and down, like huge pistons powering an engine. Four weeks now in the southwestern desert and my legs were chiseled, my skin tan and seemingly translucent that you could see all of the muscle fibers in my quads and calves and the blood vessels feeding them. From feeling wasted and drained, I now felt powerful and perfect. I felt rewarded for the thousands of miles I had written those past few weeks.

All a sense of peace and fulfillment in that moment. That's what I felt. Everything was so silent. I remember that time sort of stretched out when I looked down and watched the work my legs were doing. High speed, high heart rate, deserted and clear landscape, hard work and powerful legs. Purpose and peace. Pureform.

It was a state of mind that forms the foundation from which agile was built. I want others to find their own personal moments by moving and using their bodies to find inner peace and purpose.

That moment for me was a small nugget of time that was buried under piles of hard work. To feel that way for just a moment - it meant more to me than all of the 1-2-3 finishes I had later that year. I won and placed in those races not because I was a special athlete, it was because of the hard work at 12 mph climbing against the wind to Tombstone 4 months before. Each and every mile, seemingly inconsequential, amounts to something powerful.

Question why you have to go to the gym today, but do it anyway. The rewards are surprising and powerful if you let yourself do the grunt work that needs to be done. Don't question the outcome, because from where I am sitting, you cannot yet know it.

About Me

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NY, New York, United States
I'm 34 years old, the proud father of 2 beautiful children and husband to Jennifer, a beautiful, smart, and very caring woman. I'm an athlete - someone that was blessed with the ability to move fast and fluidly past, around, up and over my opponents. But, my body now reminds me that those days are numbered. I'm the Founder of Agile Fitness, a company dedicated to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Resume: - Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist ('96). - Bachelor of Arts & Science, University of Delaware, ('95) - Masters in Business Administration, Baruch College Zicklin School of Business ('01)