Asian body building champions, fitness aficionados and personal trainers, the Fitness Factory duo tread like mountain cats, a feral containment of muscle and energy, lightly, almost weightless. They are at it again, training for a competition, for the championship in the United States in March, re-sculpting their bodies daily through exercise, diet and ferocious discipline. It is awesome to see, inspiring and one is privileged to witness, first hand, the power of the mind.
An exclusive boutique gym, it began with Joan and Augustine and now it is Joan and Augustine and Vincent, Erick, Kiro, Paul, Kenneth and … an astounding client-centric convergence of brainpower and physical strength. Each offers personalized training (only by appointment), one on one, with customized programs that teach how to train hard and train safely.
Back in February 2006, Joan replied to a casual email and we met (briefly) and I thought why not, and bought one piece of gym wear … and here I am, seven years later, a regular at their gym, working the list : the glutes, rear deltoids, hams, abs, quads, pecs, latissimus dorsi and so much more so that I can continue enjoy doing the things I enjoy doing. I am not their poster child, but I am one of their first (and doggedly persevering) clients.
Serendipity. It gives life the most unexpected twists.
A newspaper article prompted a call, one short conversation, and I was heaving and grunting and the endorphins began doing their thing and I was walking on air, twice a week, as regular as clockwork. Its been eighty four months now (give or take) and I find resolve and motivation in Joan’s and Erick’s carrot-stick combination of good humor, unrelenting focus and quiet determination.
Mind over matter is essentially what it is all about, especially when exercise – in itself – does not appeal, and the getting out of bed is hard, the drive to the gym harder and the beginning of the routine hardest of all. But over time, the ‘runner’s high’ kicks in (in my case, a mild euphoria approximating the real thing) and it becomes easier and after three or four or more years, it becomes a habit, even pleasurable.
And now (additionally) there is Pilates and gentle Sudha (available @ 9622 7301), again one on one, gently encouraging the zip and scoop and initiating movement from the abdomen, the tightening of core muscles, the relaxing of the neck and breathing laterally, like waves swooshing and receding. Apart from weight training and Pilates, my quest for mental fitness in physical discipline includes walking the Chocolate Beast – an hour in the morning freshness – and taking the stairs and saying no to sugar rushes and quick energy fixes.
The flip side ? Apart from energy, flexibility, strength and toning (and the rest of it), Joan, an animal lover with an outré sense of humor, knows some of the best sushi restaurants in town and we have laughed a lot over raw fish. Erick, gently tough, answers with easy good humor every daft, ignorant question I have on any muscle or movement related to fitness and/or diet. (We also discuss advertising jingles, neighboring countries, local DJ’s, politics and movies). Augustine, the quietly padding lion, motivates, smiles, oversees.
More of the flip side – the after-Pilates coffee with Sudha (and perhaps half a cinnamon-raisin bagel) and the catching up and the sharing – twenty minutes of relaxed conversation before we head for the cars and the rest of the day.
Me, working the biceps with the most miniscule of weights, unfit and muscles unfettered, straining. Augustine, Joan and Vincent ranged behind me, reflected in the mirror, pumping iron independently, training for a competition, inward focused, every movement fluid and completely controlled, gleaming, polished, shedding fat, building muscle tone, gone far beyond the physical and the body into a realm of the mind: determination and uncompromising focus.
The contrast ? Surreal. Pure theatre of the absurd.
I know this is why I exercise. It is the fond hope that perhaps, someday, I will get there – not necessarily with the body, but certainly with the mind.
Photographs courtesy http://www.championsinfitness.com/about04.asp.