Friday, October 17, 2008
I can relax.
Heart rate climbs, breathing accelerates, and here I am comfortable. This is the place where I can be me. Not a rush, that's a feeling of experiencing something new. This is not new. This is familiar and comfortable.
It's a frequency where I can communicate on all levels. I can reach you here. I can reach me here. I can see brightly. And I can feel everything and be afraid of nothing. Not invincibility. Comfort with my humanity.
God, whoever or whatever that may be, provided me with a heart and I primed it to pump powerfully, and slowly. I did that. My legs - agile sticks as a child are now powerful workhorses that have taken me tens of thousands of miles.
On the road or in the boat, I've met people that I will never forget but that I will never see again. That is living and at its best.
Ever look square into the eyes of an athlete who is at speed, sweating and physically hurting? Its a pure moment of someone being as alive as can be. Challenge that person's spirit by surging ahead of them. I've been here many times, some won, many lost.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Rowing duels are rare. Usually crews will compete in fleets of 6-8 boats at a time. But once a year, my crew would take on UVA's crew and this year it would be on their course. It was a quiet reservoir. No spectators; no shore to have them. It was early fall, the leaves were only beginning to change.
When the gun sounded, we pried into our first ten strokes. The UVA crew was rowing higher than us and they immediately gained a 2 seat lead within those first ten strokes. Joe was our stroke, the newest member of our team, one we have not yet really gotten to know.
Had I known Joe would raise the stroke rating to a 48 and demand that we stay there, I probably would have unlocked my oar and dove into the reservoir because I did not think that pace was sustainable. But, having no choice if we were to stay with the big and powerful UVA crew, Joe kept us high.
I remember cursing Joe halfway through the race, accusing him of inexperience for rowing this high - we never settled! We have to settle you ass! We're going to blow up!
UVA hung with us but I could here there coxswain growing more frantic and demanding toward her crew. They were beginning to falter, which gave us new life, and we began to surge.
"Okay Joe, lock us down. Let's settle. Let's bring this down."
He never did. He kept it high and I, along with my crew, felt like our lungs were going to explode. I had already emptied my tank, or so I thought.
Funny how your body has reserve of which you are not aware. Survival reserve.
2000 meters later, we finished in the lead with an open water advantage and broke UVA's course record. Once we recovered in the boat, UVA floated over to us so we could lock oars, shake hands and claim their jerseys. My UVA counterpart was 6'4" with no lank about him. I could not believe I out-rowed this guy.
I took his sweaty jersey that he surrendered in sportsmanlike fashion and thanked him for the race. On the dock, I thanked Joe with a slight grin and smirk on my face.
Who was this guy that handled me like a horse and demanded I go faster than I was accustomed?
Every now and then, we should all surrender control to what we think we know and let someone else guide us. The outcome could take you to a good place.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I've always been this hyper-focused athlete and now I feel confused. I still have this itch everyday to start racing again, or jumping, even though I know my peak is past. Could I get back there? Well, sure, I think so. But for how long and under what cost? And wouldn't that be a selfish path given the two little munchkins I have running around?
It's their time. Two little ripe kiddies with energy that requires no premeditated thought to unleash. They just...go. Me? I have to have a conversation with myself first before I fire up my engines.
So what's the motivation now if not to win? To look good? That's more about diet for me, and I've never been too good about 'working out' without that competitive element anyway.
I'm itching so badly to open up a studio. One that I, myself, would workout in. I'd invite all of my friends and colleagues to join me for workouts. I NEED to share my experience and knowledge with other people. I want to teach those that REALLY want to amp it up and get fit. It's so hard to do online - no human touch.
I think that's it. I'll be that awesome 40 something year old Dad that's in terrific shape, goes cycling with his buddies on the weekends and occasionally does a Triathlon. Maybe my kids will come by to 'find Dad' and breathe in what I do. Maybe other Dads will walk in and want to get in shape - really want to get in shape. I would love that.
No feeling is greater than the feeling of watching a person's life change as they find their fit selves. Good to know I have those opportunities in front of me, in the not-so-distant future.
Friday, July 18, 2008
I never stopped scratching that itch. There is something special about existing in that 'place' when running, rowing, riding or swimming. It's as close to God as I ever felt. And the feeling afterward, the next day and so on? Awesome. Legs feel strong, abs are tight and you can... breathe...deeply. And that is what kept me running. It was the feeling of having physical mastery in the world I lived in and mental clarity to think my way through it.
So let me say it here - exercise to find that place, to soul-search, to learn more about yourself and negotiate your way through life. Move your body, and use it in every way you can. When it breaks - get it fixed. Don't use your bodies' breaking down as an excuse to get old. Get it fixed.
The other side of this is the reality that we are aging; our bodies will slow down and to fight that is denying the reality of your humanity. Don't fight aging; age gracefully.
Technology. Pharmaceuticals. Processed foods. Progress? I'm not so sure. It's a human condition, especially among Americans, to believe that we are advanced compared to our ancestors. But I look around and I see primitive conditions. I see a culture that lived its glory years. Sedentary people. Very overweight people. People buried underneath their excess. That saddens me, because I would love to meet the people hidden underneath years of neglect. The world needs those people.
Let's get back to basics. Don't eat egg-whites - eat the darn yoke. Skip the energy bar and break a loaf of bread. Bottom-up a tall glass of lemonade, spill it down your chest. Run your hands through your hair and open your eyes to the sky. Go run, or jog or walk. Can't? Knees hurt? Get them fixed. Back hurt? Why? Which part? Which muscle? Get it fixed. Do it to look good and healthy? Sure - that'll happen. But other things will happen. Things that are more powerful and effectual than you can know right now.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The lane official, laying belly-down on the floating wet dock, held tightly with both hands to the stern of our racing shell. Eight heavyweight men, one coxswain. We try to stay relaxed, oar blade set in water, ready to pull with all our might. Relax. 2000 meters down the Schuylkill River. Six lanes, six boats. Final Event and biggest collegiate race of our lives. Relax.
A storm-whipped cross current can wreck a smooth start; the bows of each boat struggle to keep from pointing to port side. "Bow hit it!" The coxswain yells at Scott, our bowman. "Keep hitting it Scott - keep us straight." The belly-down deckman's forearms are burning from trying to hold still a 50-foot long shell filled with 8 heavyweights pitching into the cross current.
Loudspeakers boom and echo, "Gentlemen, welcome to the final of the Dad Vails Regatta." Then urgently, the coxswains crisply shout out commands to their crews. The spectators are all at the finish line, 1500 meters down the course. I can hear them, but only as a distant white noise hum. It makes the hairs on my forearms stand and sends a cool tingle down my back.
Our instructions from Chuck, our coach, are to pull only by the command of our coxswain, Robin, and not the gun of the race official, who is located on the side of the river. "The sound of the gun shot has to travel to your ears and your pull will be delayed - Robin will watch the trigger finger - go on her command."
I sit, oar blade buried, ready to explode into my first stroke in concert with my 7 teammates. All I see are the broad muscles of Web's back in front of me; he's drawn at the catch, fingers and shoulders relaxed - but ready to explode.
"Cha!" Robin yells, and then the gunshot.
Every stroke has to be clean and all of our blades have to enter the water together. Each of us has to row as hard as we possibly can and we all must be perfectly in tune with one another. No mental lapses. Don't follow Web, the rower in front of me. BE with Web. Move with him. Explosively.
Coming into the last 500 meters of that race has stayed with me these past 14 years, and those last 500 meters are one of three experiences for me that form the spiritual foundation from which I started Agile. The other two I've written about in the past, and they are buried within the archives of this blog, but subconsciously fresh in my mind everyday.
Something released from us coming into the grandstands amidst the roar of that crowd. Our tension disappeared and the boat went faster. I am not sure where this pixie dust came from, but I picked it up just as a dog would pick up a sudden scent. One by one, this sprinkle of magic trickled through us. We were all in great pain; our chests were heaving, our leg muscles were on fire and we were fried. But we found each other through that pain. Our strokes became rhythmic and the boat seemed to lift out of the water and move with litespeed to the finish line.
The pixie dust was the spirit of our friendship built on 4 years of rowing and racing and our realization that a great time was coming to pass - in about 500 meters.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Scotty - Do you remember ascending to Skyline Ridge, high above Silicone Valley and then descending at speeds nearly 50 miles per hour all the way to the Pacific Ocean? 6 Days later we were 11,000 feet high in Lake Tahoe skiing the best powder either of us having experienced to this day.
How about when we first met back in college 1991? 4 years of intense Rowing amongst what would be the best friends of our lives; friends that we are unusually close today, 17 years later.
Remember when you first took me out on your Catamaran? We had the Cat peaked on one pontoon; I was trapezed way out. The wind suddenly died and I plunged under water then catapulted back onto the deck. You were steering the boat, keeping it from capsizing and laughing like a little kid. We bonded over the fact that only us two would giggle over what others would perceive as an absolute Mayday moment.
Another time that same summer we got caught way out on the Sound with no wind. Stranded for hours and we could have cared less. We had a dozen Coronas, 2 limes and a knife.
1995 summer at G's. That was the best summer of my life. How many open Jeep rides did we make out there?
Surfing in Costa Rica.
What about the Mountainous ride through St. Helena in Napa Valley?
Dad Vails Regatta in 1994. We never rowed better or more in sync with one another. How about the course record we set at UVA? I think we rowed at a 50 the whole way.
Remember Melbourne, Florida? Rowing through the canals. 3 practices a day?
Remember that Golf Trip we took with your Dad in Ocean City? I had a bike race that Sunday and destroyed the field in the finishing sprint. It was special not because I won, but because you witnessed it. I was only that good because your Dad taught me how to take my training seriously.
I'm having a flush of fine memories on the eve of your wedding to the best woman you have ever known (and I've been around to witness every one). I'm reminiscent.
There was a simplicity to our lives back then that made for these fine memories. I'm wanting to find that sense of endless relaxation again. We caught each other's vibes and stayed in tune.
What I do know, is that our best days are in front if us. Lisa and Jen are more alike than I could have imagined. They both don't take any B.S. from us and they know how to put us in our place; they are strong women.
I am happy for you; I am excited at what prospects the future holds for our families. I am thrilled that you and Lisa are taking such a monumental step. I am hopeful that we can not only have more of our past experiences, but that our families can share in them.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
How does one run a company called agile if he is, in fact, not very agile? That was the mental hurdle I was dealing with for the last few months, and part of the reason of why I haven’t written in so long.
But I did do something about it. I had an advanced knee surgery. One that would not simply repair my knee, but rather, make it more than it was originally. I am still laid up and rehabbing my knee, so it remains to be seen how ‘special’ is this bionic knee.
I feel liberated all the same. I feel like my workout efforts now have that sky’s-the-limit mojo.
As I’m laid up in my knee brace, I’ve been working on the things I’ve never been too good at, such as sugar abstinence, sleep and my relationships with the ones I love. I’m trying to find inner peace without having to rely on my physical self. If I can learn to calibrate myself without having to rely on exercise, then I think I will have reached a new place when I do once again have my physical self back.
I’ve been reading a ton lately. I’ve always read a lot, but it’s funny how one takes in information at different ages over his life. At 36 years old, I am by no means old, but I have felt a strong feeling that life choices have narrowed and you start to become who you are and will be. This is unquestionably a result of 2 things: 1) my children; it is breathtaking to watch their energy and restorative power; to witness their growth and 2) aging; my peak is in many ways past. But mentally, I feel extraordinarily more powerful; I find myself thirsty for learning about the world and other people’s experiences. But at the same time, I feel an increased urgency to become who I am so that the world and the ones I love can bear witness.
Fitness, sigh. Folks – that is one piece of the puzzle. I very much want to teach you how to gain control of that piece but that has soooo little to do with the nuances of exercise (i.e. how to do this exercise or that) and so much more to do with your psyche. You need to learn about some things emotionally, not intellectually. Fitness is one of those things. That’s why I don’t use this blog to write how-to articles on fitness. My telling you the proper technique of an exercise doesn’t address the emotional triggers of why you eat so much or can’t get off your butt and go running.
I used to be a trainer. Do you know why I was fit and you weren’t? It’s not because I was superior in finding balance. What is balanced about working in a gym? How could you not be fit when you actually get paid to exercise? So what did I have over you and my clients? I sensed at a young age my coordination and physical strength; I was able to define myself through these innate abilities. I then set out to teach others how they could find their best physical self, and how finding this person leads to spiritual peace.
Why am I writing all of this? Because I see this as a partnership. I want to relate to you by showing my humanity and struggles so that you see how like you I actually am. I don’t want to educate you on fitness in a top-down approach. It’s dishonest and ultimately, not helpful. I think that peeling back my thought-process might help you do the same. I’m hoping that you can find nuggets of insight here so that you can apply it towards yourself.
Stop and think about what you are feeling. Use exercise as a way to flush out those feelings. You are very strong; stronger than you know. Do not use me to try and help make you stronger. I can’t do that. You have to do that. You don’t actually have to get stronger; you simply have to unlock your strength.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I will never forget Mora. I sensed we had much in common but I wondered if she would accept me on her back. When I got up on the saddle, she reared high. I stood up with her, ran my fingers through the coarse hairs of her mane and kept my chest pressed to her neck as she reared up on her hind legs. I whispered in her ear, "easy babe, easy." I squeezed her back between my legs to let her know that I was comfortable and that I understood and shared her need to run.
Jen and I were among eight couples who were waiting for the horses to be saddled for what would be a 2 hour horseback ride from the high hills on the island of Aruba, down and along the sandy beach. The ranchers were asking our experience level and I was hesitant to say 'none' because I feel like such an answer doesn't account for my natural athletic ability. So I always say "none, but..."
Everyone except Jen was now saddled up and atop their horses. Jen was the most experienced rider and deemed the only one capable of riding Mora. Mora was brought out, feisty and rearing up on her hind legs. Kicking and bucking. I wouldn't have known that is was such a scary thing if not for the nervous look and mannerisms of the ranchers. "She's okay," they said. "She just needs to be up front."
And so once Jen was saddled up, Mora rudely nudged her way through the tight crowd of 15 horses to be in front. I was jealous. Jen clearly was going to have an adventure while I'd be at the back of the line with Mr. Goat the Horse.
I needed to be on Mora. I never rode a horse before but I just felt like I needed to ride Mora. Jen was willing to switch and the ranchers nervously conceded because I assured them I could handle her.
We descended the rocky trail, single file. Mora and I were contained by the ranchers ahead. The salty scent of the ocean was growing stronger. The beach was near and we could bolt ahead. I would pay no heed to the ranchers caution. I wanted to run with Mora and Mora wanted to run.
Cha! I let out the reigns and snapped my right knee into her side. For a split second, I was stunned by Mora's power as she bolted onto the beach. I could not believe the power she unleashed. We sprinted hard and fast away from our group. I wanted the ranchers to know that Mora didn't kidnap me so I reigned her in, spun around and ran straight back towards our group. We came to a stop and Mora kicked up again. Daringly. High above the other couples and their horses.
As I stood on my stirrups and Mora stood on her hind legs, I nodded to the ranchers that it was okay. I pushed Mora's neck forward, tugged on the left reign to turn her and cha! - sprinted away form our group and onto the light surf.
The sound of the ocean air running past my ears and Mora's rhythmic gallop on the wet sand is my fondest memory of early spring. This memory pulls me through the long days of winter and prods me to stay in shape for the new memories I get to create this spring.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Now those 3 exercises wouldn't be the right starter exercises for most people so please don't hang from a monkey bar yet.
But which three exercises should you do? I bet most of you would think 'abs.'
Nope - you'd be wrong there. I promise you that no one gets in shape by laying on their back.
It varies with every person and depends primarily on flexibility, experience and body awareness so I can't write a one-size-fits-all solution.
But think in that mindset if you don't know where to get started: start with 3 exercises. After 3-4 consistent weeks, you can add 2 more exercises. That's really all it takes to start looking and feeling good.
If you need help picking three exercises, visit my free exercise library at Agile Fitness. There are hundreds of exercises there that I've spent 3 years making.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
It is the most relaxing place I've ever been. The moment where you stop going higher and begin to come back down to earth - freeze that moment. Peace and comfort. Me being me. Pole Vaulting. Jumping. Skyjumping. That's what we called it.
But one day, it all ended abruptly. I didn't have enough speed as I ran down the runway. I jumped anyway, got about two-thirds of the way up, then came back down way off-center. I landed on an uneven surface, my knee twisted to the sound of a gun shot, and I screamed.
I never jumped again.
It was okay I guess. I found rowing after that and that led me to the same spiritual place, albeit, through a totally different movement.
You see, I have an itch. I've learned that I am not so comfortable idling. There seems to be a spiritual state that opens up for me when my heart rate is around 155 and my body is moving rhythmically. This is where I feel at peace with myself. And if a fellow athlete is alongside me, well, that is where a powerful connection develops. Rowing was beautiful because it was eight of us in the boat, all moving together, feeling each other's rhythms. When eight heavyweight rowers red-line their heart rates together and can still stay relaxed and bonded... Well, that is a special special place for me.
I am missing that place right now and I'm wrecked over it. I hurt my knee again and badly. Not one stride I take is without pain.
I walked by 3 gentlemen playing squash today. They danced with each other perfectly on the court. Synchrony to their motions yet they are trying to beat each other. How is that?
I'm the lion in a cage now. I wanted to play too but I can hardly walk! I didn't want to play to beat anyone, I wanted to play so that I can move alongside my opponent. It's the dance that I'm after. It's the bond. It's the most honest moment I know in life. Two people head-to-head competing, giving their everything. But it's not to beat each other. Its to connect.
My heart wanted to leap out of my body and find another one.
- ▼ 2008 (10)
- ► 2007 (26)
- 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)