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. :-)

About Me

My photo
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)