Dr. Richard Carmona, has donned several unique hats during his life, including that of a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, physician, police officer and politician. He served as the U.S. Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006 under George W. Bush, and is well-known for his 2006 report on the dangers of second-hand smoke, which led to many states imposing bans on smoking in restaurants and bars. Currently, Dr. Carmona is the president of the Canyon Ranch Institute in Tucson, Ariz., a nonprofit public charity whose mission is to “help educate, inspire, and empower every person to prevent disease and embrace a life of wellness.” Dr. Carmona’s latest book, Canyon Ranch’s 30 Days to a Better Brain: A Groundbreaking Program for Improving Your Memory, Concentration, Mood, & Overall Well-Being,will be available May 6th at amazon.com. I had the chance to speak with Dr. Carmona about his upcoming book and the (sometimes neglected) focus in America to overall brain health.
KM: What do you feel is the biggest misconception people have when it comes to brain health?
RC: I think maybe more than a misconception, people don’t understand that the choices of their activities, the choices of the behaviors that they express every day, can have a direct effect on their mental health and their cognitive ability. Things such as the foods you eat, the exercises you do or don’t do, the stresses that you incur in life, the environment that you live in, smoking…all of those things will have an effect on your cognitive ability either directly or indirectly.
KM: Are there certain brain exercises people can do to sharpen thinking and improve memory?
RC: I think we can safely say that as long as you continue to challenge yourself through the ages—take up a new form of exercise, read, listen to music, learn to play an instrument—all of those things create new neural networks, what we call neural plasticity. All your life, you’ve written with your right hand; try writing with your left hand, try brushing your teeth with the weak hand, stand on one foot, so every time you do something like that it stimulates the brain to make a new connection so that it will remember to do it again and help you to do it safely. So, challenging yourself through life intellectually and physically is important to help retain your cognitive ability.
KM: There are some apps out there geared toward brain exercises that are getting popular, what is your opinion of this trend?
RC: [Dr. Michael Merzenich]who is actually one of my professors from medical school said decades ago, before anyone even understood that you could continue to reshape your brain throughout life—they pretty much taught that at 60, 70 years old you’re not going to effect the brain anymore. And Dr. Merzenich, a neuroanatomist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco, was telling us he didn’t think that was true. We know that’s not true now. And years later he’s done the research to prove it. He developed this company called Posit that has brain games. These games challenge you to think differently. Whether it’s adding numbers, or it’s chasing cursors across the screen, it’s causing you to focus in a different way. It’s stimulating the brain in a way you’re not use to and, again, that helps to develop those neural networks. And helps preserve the old ones.
KM: Are there certain physical exercises that stimulate the brain more than others?
RC: It’s interesting. One of the concepts we’ve talked about for a few years when I came back from being surgeon general is that we do well at teaching people how to stay physically fit and active through life, pursuing optimal health and wellness, but nobody was dealing with the brain. And one of the things that became apparent to me, we needed to start brain gyms. How do we exercise the brain? Any physical exercise is good, because as you pedal a bike, as you run, as you swim, as you do resistance bands, as you do yoga—all of those activities require a neural network to support it. Therefore the more cross-training you do with different things that keep the mind stimulated, it keeps that brain young, it preserves the neural networks you have and helps you grow new neural networks. This is the science of neuroplasticity. The key is to find things that you enjoy doing physically. Walk, run, swim, play tennis and do all of them. Stay physically active throughout life and that helps to preserve your cognitive ability.
KM: Do you feel the Canyon Ranch 30-day program can help people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease?
RC: For the average senior with cognitive decline, in medical terms, dementia, you start forgetting things, you get a little confused, and that whole spectrum of dementia includes something called Alzheimer’s disease. What all of these dementias have in common is that you begin to lose your cognitive ability. We know that whether it’s Alzheimer’s, whether it’s dementia from aging, if you come into our environment at Canyon Ranch, we know how we can teach you to pursue optimal health and wellness as well as preserve your cognitive function. That doesn’t mean we are treating you and the disease goes away. But we know the variables that will help you to stay younger longer as you age, because that’s what you are trying to do. You want to age gracefully, but you want to age and stay younger in your mind and your body. By staying physically fit and eating the right foods, putting the right fuel in your body, when you are physically fit it optimizes brain health as well as cardiovascular health. All of those things are important. There is no science out there to say, ‘This is the best exercise for your brain,’ but the science is real clear that all physical activity that is sustained over time is good for your brain health.
KM: What types of foods are brain foods and which are toxic to the brain?
RC: When we look at cardiovascular health and health in general and nutrition, we speak about a diet that is rich in non-processed foods; organic and natural, high in fruits and vegetables and all the food groups. Protein sources from fish, fowl and if you eat red meat, then lean cuts of beef. Because what you are trying to do is load your body up with anti-inflammatory things, Omega-3-rich for instance, flaxseed, etc. These substrates, chemicals that go into the body, go into your cells and ultimately become the precursors for a lot of other chemicals that mediate inflammation. Cause inflammation and stop inflammation. The more fatty foods you eat, the more trans fat acids that you eat, the higher incidence of stimulating inflammation. So when we look at the inflammatory process and when we look at cognitive ability, they kind of run hand-in-hand. If you are eating healthier foods, having less inflammatory response, staying physically active, you’re optimizing your health as well as your brain health.
In 30 Days to a Better Brain, Dr. Carmona lays out a 30-day nutrition, exercise and medical plan to help optimize brain health. He also discusses the importance of sleep, medical tests to ask your doctor about and the best ways to challenge your brain. Sounds like a no-brainer to at least check it out!
Kevin McGuire is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. He received a B.A. in journalism from Rowan University in New Jersey and is the Social Media Manager for AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America). He is also the Managing Editor of American Fitness magazine (www.americanfitness.squarespace.com) based in Sherman Oaks, CA. He often tweets the latest headlines in the world of social media @followmcg andexpands into other topics such as celebrity profiles, the trials of everyday life and the forthcoming zombie apocalypse on his blog atwww.kevinmcguirewriter.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
When I first interviewed Anne Mahlum in March 2009, she had just returned from a gala ceremony as one of CNN’s “Top 10 Heroes of the Year.” Mahlum created the Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization Back on My Feet (BoMF) in 2007 when her running route past the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission developed into an opportunity for homeless persons to overcome their personal challenges and struggles.
Running Is Motivation
In her first BoMF run, Mahlum was joined by nine individuals who were looking to leave behind years of addiction, homelessness and legal problems, and use running as a motivational tool toward better times. Following the motto, “Moving the homeless forward one step at a time,” the original nine grew to over 80 persons from five shelters across Philadelphia. Running the streets turned into running marathons and many BoMF participants moved on to find full-time employment, housing and hope.
In 2009, Mahlum said she hoped “interest will grow and programs will expand nationwide.” Well, her goal has become a reality with the 11th Chapter of BoMF opening in Los Angeles in October 2013. The organization—now a national for-purpose 501(c)3—does not provide food and shelter to the homeless, but instead offers coaching, resources, financial aid, job training and access to employment opportunities.
How Does it Work?
Back on My Feet partners with local facilities such as half-way houses and shelters. If a resident has been at the facility for at least 30 days, he or she can join a running team. They set goals and sign a dedication contract. Then the running begins. Teams meet for runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with optional runs on Saturday for those who wish to train for marathons. If members maintain a 90% attendance rate, they move on to Phase 3. This Phase is where participants work toward an independent lifestyle, have access to educational and job training openings and can apply for financial aid. Nearly 75% of members are in Phase 3 of the program—a true testament to its success rate.
Soon after I spoke with Anne in March 2009, BoMF started its expansion—gradually opening chapters in Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York and Washington, D.C. in addition to the original Philadelphia Chapter. “It’s always been the plan,” said Mahlum, a month prior to the launch of BoMF’s L.A. Chapter. “There was just something very spiritual about the idea knowing that it could help a lot of people, but still you reflect and say, ‘Wow, how did all this get done?’ But when you combine passion, compassion and ambition…it’s incredible what can happen.”
With any new organization, bumps in the road and growing pains are expected, and Mahlum has had her share. Each new chapter has brought with it a plethora of learning experiences that have helped Mahlum and her team leaders grow and improve. Some of those leaders include original members from other chapters. “They [members] become team leaders and lead the runs in the morning,” Mahlum shares. “We also have a big alumni network where members come back as speakers. It is really important for members to keep their relationship with the organization evolving. It is a key factor in their recovery and helps them become self-sufficient and improves their self-worth and self-value.”
The Back on My Feet L.A. Chapter has opened locations Downtown and in Long Beach and Santa Monica. On October 18th 2013, BoMF kicked things off with a big event and the first mile run on the streets of Downtown, followed by a corporate breakfast for about 700 people at the JW Marriot in L.A. LIVE. “When we launch in a new market, we make a big deal out of it,” Mahlum says. “It kind of feels like Christmas—it’s very inspirational. People leave feeling purposeful and excited about the work and the mission of BoMF.”
Forty-six percent of BoMF members move forward to get jobs, homes and/or job training. Since the fall of 2008, more than 1,200 people have found employment through BoMF’s partnership programs, which includes partners such as: Marriot, AT&T, White Lodging, Bimbo Bakeries, ACE Cash Express and Accenture, who assist with résumé writing and computer and job interview skills. Local community colleges also help with grants to aid those who need to further their educations and hone necessary skills to enter the job market.
If you’d like to support BoMF, you can do so in several ways. Teams run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and walkers, joggers and runners are welcome to join in. Your company can sponsor a BoMF event, help with funding, or assist with training and employment opportunities for members. There is also an array of cool men’s and women’s apparel available on the website (www.backonmyfeet.org). All proceeds go back into maintaining BoMF’s national program.
One thing is for sure, Back on My Feet has taken a unique approach to helping the homeless, and one that is working. Sometimes thinking outside the box is just what we need in order to tackle the tough issues. It takes true leaders with a vision and the courage to move ideas forward despite the obstacles. Hopefully we will see more ideas like Back on my Feet come to fruition.
Dating back to even the colonial days, Philadelphia has been on the forefront of the music scene. From classical and opera to R & B and Hip-Hop, the Philly sound takes a back seat to no one. Rock ‘n’ roll is no exception. In fact, some would even argue that it all started in the City of Brotherly Love when the sounds of Doo-Wop were heard right on street corners and, soon after, Dick Clark took his first step onto the American Bandstand stage.
Today, Philly is still host to many Rock, Pop and Indie bands frequenting joints like World Café Live, The Khyber and Legendary Dobbs. One such band who is no stranger to Philly is SPiN. This Indie/Power Pop four member ensemble released their first full-length album in 2010 titled BELiEVE. Songs on the record, “Not in Love,” “Hurt by You,” and “DoN’t Look DowN” have been heard on various shows including on MTV.
With a sound quoted by critics as a mix of Queen, Muse and the Cars, SPiN is sure to please you ear buds with harmonic melodies stirred with rock steady sound and heart piercing lyrics.
Members: Eric Rothenheber (Vocals), Jim Vacca (keyboards), Lou Chudnofsky (Drums) and Henry Cieplinski (guitar) have been currently working on their next album and have completed their latest tune “Hearts in Flames.”
I had a chance to talk to SPiN’s guitarist, Henry Cieplinski about the band’s recent success and their future projects.
McGuire: Let’s talk about how everyone met and SPIN came to be?
Cieplinski: Well, Jim and E (Eric) went to high school with my brother, and we all played together in a couple different projects. Then Lou came into the picture. We found him on a street corner pretending to be homeless.
McGuire: Where was your first gig? Tell me something about that night?
Cieplinski: Our first gig with Lou was Lou’s audition with us I believe. We kinda knew we wanted him in the band even before he played because he played in another band we knew, but that didn’t stop us from making him buy us shots all night.
McGuire: The band was originally called Spin the Bottle, why the name change?
Cieplinski: Spin the Bottle was primarily a cover band. The “plan” was to do covers to gain an audience and throw in originals, but that didn’t work. People who want to hear covers don’t want to hear something they never heard before, they want to hear Guns N Roses. When we decided to go all original, we needed to make a change, so we just cut the bottle thing.
McGuire: What would you say has changed in the Philly music scene in recent years?
Cieplinski: Not much. It’s increasing difficult to get people out because everyone is home on their iPads. Clubs open and close all the time. It’s hard to stay in businesses for bar owners with live music I guess.
McGuire: When did you first pick up a guitar and how soon after did you realize this is what you wanted to do in your life?
Cieplinski: I was 15. I can remember struggling to play “Iron Man,” but in my defense, I was playing it on my sister’s cheap ass guitar my parents bought her to play at church and the action sucked. (That means it was hard to play for the lay person). I still can’t play “Iron Man” on that particular guitar. The first time I played an electric in a music store, I knew I could make it happen. That was much easier. I knew I wanted to play music before I picked up the guitar though.
McGuire: SPIN magazine has threatened a lawsuit against the band citing trademark infringement claims because of your band’s name, has anything further come of that?
Cieplinski: No. We basically got a cease and desist. Then we did nothing. It was ridiculous. They wanted to scare us from using the name “spin”. I guess if there were a THE magazine, lots of bands would be in trouble. We weren’t worried. When you’re a broke ass, you don’t fear lawsuits. It’s kind of like being the ugly guy in a fist fight. You really have nothing to lose.
McGuire: The SPiN EP was released in 2007. How was the reception? You got to tour a bit for this record alone and opening for band like Puddle of Mudd and Halestorm. Tell me about that.
Cieplinski: The reception was great. We got a lot of great reviews and one which stated that we were the worst band ever. That was my favorite. Touring was great. Lots of fun, and a great experience. Opening for big acts was cool as well. We stole Wes from Puddle of Mudd’s beer and then ask him about song writing after the show. He was a pretty cool guy. We go way back with Halestorm. They opened for us and we opened for them. What a great band. The first time I saw Lizzy sing my testicles rotated and my ears smiled. Great guys, great band. Just a matter of time before everyone knows that.
McGuire: The track, “Home” seemed to be a popular favorite and made it to the charts. Tell me the background to the song.
Cieplinski: This sounds made up, but I spent some time in Mexico, came home and threw a lot of that down. Then when we did it for producer David Ivory, he wanted it done differently. He added the loop and such. Then I begged him to put the real strings on it. I think it came out great after all that.
McGuire: What is your favorite thing about touring? Share the most exciting moment so far with the band.
Cieplinski: Putting a scorpion in the driver’s seat of our tour van when it was Lou’s turn to drive was pretty cool. Playing little towns like Page, Arizona was awesome because our song was in rotation there and when we played the gig, people were singing the song along with us.
McGuire: Everything cool with the band? Getting along?
Cieplinski: No, I mean yes. I mean… what? No – things are good. We fight. We all write so we do disagree about things. But honestly, we couldn’t be better friends.
McGuire: Tell me about your other band mates and what they bring to the table.
Cieplinski: Well we all bring a different musical background and influence, which is cool, and we all have our own personalities. Lou brings a unique humor, E brings an intellect and tranquility and Jimmy brings a keen sense of what’s going on in the music industry. That and everyone is a real good musician. I’m the a-hole in the band.
McGuire: Your first full album “Believe” was released in 2011, and has gotten some recognition. “Hurt By You” was featured on both G4 and MTV. Tell me a bit about that track.
Cieplinski: Hurt was E’s baby. We were able to get a lot of individual influences on it though as is evident with Jimmy key licks throughout. Most of the time one of us brings up an idea in it’s early stages, then we all beat it up until it’s deemed SPiN worthy.
McGuire: There have been comparisons to Muse and Queen…not bad company?
Cieplinski: Not at all. Yeah, two big influences on all of us. We all have different influences, but these two we all have in common so it makes sense, I guess.
McGuire: Tell me about the new music and when we can expect to see the next album.
Cieplinski: Well, we’re almost done a 3 song EP were working on, and we have a couple other tracks half recorded including an original Christmas tune.
McGuire: Who has directed you latest video “Hearts in Flames”? Who is the actress in the video?
Cieplinski: A film director in London contacted us about an idea for a video for Hearts in Flames. The girl was a friend of his. Sorry, I’m bad with names. He has another idea for doing another video for one of the newer songs we just got done. Maybe I’ll learn her name for the next one. Maybe.
McGuire: What’s next for SPIN as far as touring? Where can people in Philly catch you guys?
To keep up with the latest news on SPiN, visit there website www.spinrocks.com. But for now, here is their latest tune “Hearts in Flames.”
Welcome Home Kim Rhode!
After a stint in London, and breaking records, this Monrovia girl is finally home.
With another Olympics behind us, we look back at the most exciting moment. It may be viewing Gabby Douglas twist and turn in an amazing display of mid-air acrobatics and somehow landing perfectly on her feet. Or, maybe watching the U.S. Woman’s Soccer team kick their way to a gold medal? We also can’t forget the dynamic duo of Misty-May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings slamming volleyballs across the beach to become champions for a 3rd and final time.
Something unique did stand out at these Olympic Games. Sorry Mr. Phelps—the women ruled! Women athletes captured an astonishing 2/3rds of all the medals won by the U.S. And somehow, in between the Queen jumping out of a copter with James Bond, and the Spice Girls riding the roofs of London taxis, Monrovia’s own Kim Rhode, quietly and tactfully, became the first U.S. athlete to win medals, for an individual event, in five consecutive Olympics.
Overshadowed by other events such as gymnastics, swimming and track and field, Rhode pulled off this amazing feat in a sport that takes great patience, a steady hand and an eagle eye—skeet shooting.
While growing up in Whittier and following family tradition spanning 3 generations, Rhode started competing in target shooting at local gun clubs at the age of 10. “The first time I remember shooting, I was sitting on my dad’s lap. We were in a lawn chair and he had the gun tucked under my arms, I would fire and he would take the recoil,” Rhode recalls. “It was something I remember just falling in love with—the moving targets, the fun of the outdoors, shooting cans and paper plates—it was fun and it just progressed.”
Soon after, Rhode soon found herself competing with a 22 rifle in local and state events, then advanced to moving targets and skeet shooting. At 13, she won the World Shoot competition and an Olympic coach took notice. Despite her age, the coach made an exception and invited her to the Olympic training center. It was there she learned international style shooting, the style used in the Olympics. “It was exciting and such an honor for me,” Rhode said. “I realized that it was about representing your country. I knew I had a chance at it, but I didn’t know I would be doing it five Olympics later.”
Rhode entered the Olympic ceremonies in Atlanta in 1996, at age 16, and walked among stars like Andre Agassi, Kerri Strug, Carl Lewis and the Dream Team. “You don’t know what’s going to happen and what to expect and it’s so overwhelming,” she said. “I don’t really think you take it all in and realize what you’ve done until you get home.” With her trusty Italian-made Perazzi MX-12, she appropriately named “Old Faithful,” Rhode took home her first gold medal just a few days after turning 17. “Old Faithful” came through, and so did Rhode’s amazing skill. She would take both with her to the next 3 Olympics, winning the bronze in Sydney in 2000, the gold again Athens in 2004, and the Silver in Beijing in 2008. But, soon after returning home in 2008, “Old Faithful” was gone—stolen from her father’s car. “It was heartbreaking. I was devastated,” Rhode said. “At the same time, you have to pick up the pieces, move forward and make the best of a bad situation.”
Fans showed their support and, through anonymous donations, Rhode’s was able to get a new Perazzi 2000. With a bit of amazing luck, “Old Faithful” was recovered by police prior to the London 2012 games, but Rhode decided to retire her and went on to the games with her new gun. How’d she do? She hit 74 of 75 targets in the qualifying round and then went on to tie her own record in the final round securing her for her 3rd gold medal.
As for setting her record among U.S. athletes, Rhode is modest. “I don’t think you ever look at yourself as the best or the number 1 in anything,” she said. “Heck, my hat wouldn’t fit if I thought like that. The reality is that you just think of yourself as everyone else. No different.”
Rhode said she feels old seeing Kerri Strug as a commentator now, when she was there when she competed in dramatic fashion. At 33, Rhode certainly isn’t old, but unless your Carl Lewis or Dara Torres, most Olympic athletes in physically demanding sports tend to hang up their cleats and swim goggles by a certain age. But, in Rhode’s case, she has an advantage. As long as she has the will and the skill, she can compete for sometime to come. “In shooting it’s a game that isn’t necessarily about strength as it much about endurance, hand/eye coordination, muscle memory and experience in the elements,” Rhode said. Rhode pointed out that the oldest person to compete in the Olympics was Oscar Swahn, who competed in Belgium in 1920 at age 72. His sport? Shooting. For Rhode, “I’m going to take it one at a time,” she said.
For, now she will enjoy spending time with her family, her husband Mike and roaming around her favorite town—Monrovia. “I love the atmosphere in Monrovia and the fact that everything is so close. You can go to the market, the movie theater and go get some great food at Café Massilia,” Rhode said. Rhode also enjoys riding around town with her husband on their beach cruisers. My guess is she’ll be cruising her way to Rio in 2016.
Sharing his secrets to staying injury-free
You might have heard of him. In a 20-year pro tennis career, which started when he was only 16, he was an international superstar earning 60 men’s singles titles including eight Grand Slam singles championships. Yep, you might have heard of him. He was once ranked number 1 in the world and is the only male to win all four Grand Slam tournaments, an Olympic gold medal, not to mention being a member of three winning Davis Cup teams in ’90, ’92 and ’95. His name is Andre Agassi. Ring a bell?
Though this elite athlete may have retired from the game, he is still quite an active elite individual. The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education is thriving—raising over $177 million dollars (since its inception in 1994) to help provide education to less fortunate and abused children, and his Boys and Girls Club helps over 2,000 children yearly. In 2001, the Foundation opened the AndreAgassiCollegePreparatoryAcademy in his hometown of Las Vegas. Its first senior class graduated in 2009 with a 100% college acceptance rate. Agassi writes on his blog, “I’ve watched many of these children grow through the years, from shy youngsters adjusting to their new school environment, to confident young adults ready to graduate.” In June 2011, as part of an effort to expand his impact on education, Agassi partnered with Canyon Capitol Reality Advisors to create the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund to promote the success and growth of best-in-class charter schools. The first project was the transformation of an empty warehouse in Philadelphia to a 23-classroom K–4 elementary school. Needless to say, Mr. Agassi keeps himself busy.
Married to Stefanie Graf (who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles herself), Agassi is still a model of fitness at 42, looking as though he is ready to play with the best of them. But you won’t find him playing pro. “I do play every now and again. I do a lot for charity and exhibitions to raise awareness for sources I believe in. I enjoy it, he says. He admits he has been up for a challenge against Stefanie too. “She treats it as exercise. We have a rule, she wants me to make her run so she can work out, and I make her hit the ball back to me, so it’s a perfect deal,” Agassi laughs.
On March 15, hidden away from the huge IHRSA convention going on in Los Angeles, Agassi and his long-time trainer, Gil Reyes, unveiled BILT by Agassi & Reyes, a circuit of innovative fitness machines based on the equipment they developed to help Agassi stay injury-free during his amazing career. “Together, Gil and I developed machines with the intent to make me a better player, always recognizing the importance of strength, conditioning and safety,” Agassi says. “Collectively, we wanted to give our gift to an industry and public that seeks and deserves innovation.”
Agassi met Reyes in 1989 and he helped him train throughout his professional career, which ended in 2006. He still remains one of Agassi’s closest friends. Looking back, Agassi recalls one of Reyes’ first lessons. “He taught me something pretty simple, which is if you have a muscle and you make it stronger, you make it more capable,” he says. “He taught me the difference between fitness (being fit) and being prepared. And through my experience in tennis, and in my experience with the battles between the lines…I’d much rather play somebody who is fit and unprepared than play somebody who might not be fit, but is prepared. Whether it’s mentally, psychologically, emotionally or physically.”
Agassi reveals that his game wasn’t “all it could be” prior to training under Reyes. “It was lacking capacity. Gil said ‘I don’t see (tennis) as a sport of running, I see it as a sport of starting and stopping.’ It’s explosive. So it was lacking that—it was lacking power; it was lacking the ability to not cut corners when you come to a breaking point out there.”
Reyes brought that discipline and training to make Agassi’s muscles stronger. And once he got out there, Reyes helped him feel secure in the fact that he might get tired, but encouraged him to look across the net “because the other guy is more tired,” Agassi says.
Reyes and Agassi spent two decades developing the BILT system. But, what makes it unique from the many other pieces of strength training machinery out there? “Our equipment is built to make you stronger in the safest way possible and to make you most efficient in the uses of time,” Agassi says. “[In tennis], we realized early on…that we weren’t going to have the luxury of an off-season. We would have two- to three-week periods at a time where we had [time] to make the muscles stronger. Our equipment…has allowed us to maximize efficiency of our training by allowing us to maximize time and push for goals we could have never dreamed of,” he says. (See sidebar for more on BILT.)
Agassi prides himself on his injury-free career, and hopes he can pass on some of his secrets to help other aspiring athletes become as successful. “There are a lot of things to worry about when dealing with muscle. A lot of little things called ligaments and tendons and joints, and you have to make sure you’re not exposing yourself in these areas because your quads can do a lot of things that your knees can’t. And so you have to learn how to do it the right way. I can honestly say I’ve never been injured in the gym with Gil. We’ve removed that risk from the equation,” he says.
When athletes get older, exercise isn’t the only thing they have to focus on. Agassi points out the importance of proper nutrition as well. “I try to show a level of balance in my diet and intake and the level of restraint. I try to treat food as a fuel source as opposed to a luxury. I try to show balance in all of it—what I’m eating and how much of it I eat.”
And for those aspiring tennis stars out there, Agassi offers this advice: “Tennis is a sport where you can’t build up a lead, you can’t run out the clock, you can’t pass the ball, you can’t take time out, you can’t talk to anyone. You have to figure out a way to get across the finish line. So what that really is, is it’s problem solving. Because I don’t have to be good, I just have to be better than you.”
You can be sure that though you may not see Andre Agassi on the court as much, slamming the competition away, you will see him out there helping kids and setting a fine example as a humanitarian, hopefully inspiring others to follow his lead.
BILT: Changing the Game of Fitness
The BILT fitness machines developed by Andre Agassi and his long-time trainer Gil Reyes were modeled after the ones Agassi trained on to become a dominant figure in the world of tennis. BILT consists of 12 machines, designed by Reyes, that are built for productivity: high-intensity muscle isolation to safely build strength without injury. Key pieces include:
- BILT Flat Bench: Retractable arms uniquely and safely lower the weighted bar over the user’s “sweet spot” across the chest and retract upon liftoff.This design eliminates the dangerous stress on the shoulders, which is imposed when the user reaches up and back to lift the weighted bar on a traditional bench press machine.
- Change of Direction Machine: The ergo-efficiency of the moving parts allows for a safe squat movement as well as an intense yet safe lateral exercise series, including side shuffles, lunges and single leg squats. The construction provides for a safe, direct line of movement, which protects the spine and back muscles and conforms to the natural angles of the body.
- BILT Abdominal Machine: This allows the user to safely and effectively isolate the abdominal muscles through a full range sit-up motion. Designed to assist without risk of injury to the user’s back, the position of stability and support promotes sound technique for isolation of individual abdominal muscles.
Reyes on inspiration. “The simplest and yet the strongest drive behind the existence of BILT was my inspiration and love for Andre. I very quickly realized his talent level. He is a very elite, talented athlete. I soon was quite aware of his goals and dreams, but then there was a little phrase every time I saw him…‘faith’ and ‘fire.’ I wanted to provide Andre with equipment that would keep his goals in mind.”
Reyes on the importance of fluidity. “It is essential. Those who are not elite athletes do exercises with particular movements, such as a squat or bench-press, that puts weight on the vertebrae and strain on other parts of the body. Though these exercises might seem natural, they are not to our bodies. These exciting, innovative machines help exercisers move more fluidly and safely.”
Reyes’ recommendations. “There are systemic exercises and very specific isolated exercise such as the isocurl machine that works with the biceps. Then there is the COD (Change of Direction) machine and, if I was an athlete or just interested in a really good exercise machine, I might handcuff myself to that machine and stay there awhile. When people use it, they walk away with their muscles feeling good, they feel exerted systemically, their cardiovascular system has been taxed. We strongly believe that each piece of equipment in BILT does what it’s set out to do.”
For more info on BILT By Agassi & Reyes, visit http://www.biltbyagassiandreyes.com.
Third time’s a charm
Opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympic games in London kick off on July 27 and a familiar face, representing the U.S.A. Women’s Soccer team, will be two-time gold medal winner Heather Mitts.
Mitts, who has played the last seven years professionally for the Women’s Professional Soccer league, finds herself without a team as the organization has halted play for 2012, citing internal struggles for their demise. All the more reason Mitts is excited to return to the Olympics for the third time as part of the National Team. But is it still thrilling the third time around? “Absolutely,” says the 34-year-old Cincinnati native. “Every time is unique and special. I figured if I made it this time around it would be my last time,” says Mitts, who is hinting at retirement. “To be able to say I had three, and on top of that to be ending my career at the Olympics, is the ideal way to go out of the game.”
How it Started
Mitts drew initial interest in soccer playing as a kid along with her older brother. Later, she attended St.UrsulaAcademy and played on the high school team. But she learned to develop her talent from her mentor Charlie Cooke, a former Scottish footballer who gave private lessons to Mitts in Cincinnati. “Probably the first person that ever taught me most of my skills and really encouraged me to want to be the best was Charlie Cooke,” she says.
Mitts went on to receive an athletic scholarship from the University of Florida and was part of the Gators first ever Championship Team in 1998. By the end of her college career she had the most starts and minutes played in the team’s history. In 2000, she started her professional career with the Tampa Bay Extreme, as a defender/right back, then went on to play in Philadelphia, Central Florida, Boston and Atlanta. In between she made appearances in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games as part of the National Team. In addition, Mitts was named the “Hottest Female Athlete” by ESPN in 2004 and made the 2005 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
Her career hasn’t been all glory and roses though. She had several setbacks over the years, including an ACL injury in 2007 and partially torn hamstrings in 2011. But they were enough to keep her at bay in these Olympic Games and working with some of the younger players.
Back to the Olympics
Mitt’s advice to new members of the Olympic Team? “Nerves are natural. It just means that you care and eventually those will go away. Embrace the moment because it is such a grand stage. Make the most of the moment and try to enjoy it,” she says. Mitts is also excited that the games are in London this year. “I truly love it. Soccer is huge over there and I think they will be a great host; there is so much to do and so much to see. I was able to go over there with the Olympic Committee and see the best of London. It is so beautiful and has so much to offer and will be a great place to hold the Olympics.”
Preparation for these games can be an exhausting challenge at any age. Mitts works with a strength conditioning coach, runs six days a week and fits in a weight lifting regimen as well. “It’s pretty crazy and very demanding,” she says, and age is a factor. “The one thing that I’ve learned because I am older is that I have to monitor my body better. Sometimes less is more. I try not to overdo it because I don’t recover as well as I use to, so I’m just trying to be a little more efficient in my training fashion. I do use a heart rate monitor and it makes a big difference for me,” Mitts says.
For athletes who are getting older, Mitts gives this advice: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take it slow and try to enjoy whatever you are doing. It’s never fun to work out if you’re dreading it. So try to pick something that interests you and you want to work hard at.”
Although 34 may not be retirement age for most, for pro soccer players, it’s within the average range. Retired American soccer player Kristy Lilly set the bar high when she hung up her cleats at age 40, but Mitts has other things on her mind—such as raising a family someday. “Girls now days are having kids and continuing to play. I personally couldn’t do both. That is my full purpose for stepping away from the game. I had a great career and it’s time for what’s next,” says Mitts, who has been married to NFL quarterback A.J. Feeley since 2010. And because the football and soccer seasons clash, this gives Mitts even less time to spend with her St. Louis Rams QB hubby. “We rarely see each other. We both have been able to do something we love and support each other 100%, but it has also been pretty trying on our relationship,” she says.
Nutrition and Motivation
Two other key factors for athletes at any age is keeping motivated and eating right. Mitts says she is her own worst critic. “I just want to be the best I can possibly be. I just try to go out there everyday and get better. My days are limited, so I try to enjoy my teammates and enjoy the traveling,” she says. As far as eating healthy, “I consider myself pretty health conscious. I definitely eat different at home as opposed to the road. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables when I am competing. Nights before a game I load up on carbs,” Mitts says.
So what is in store for Heather Mitts after retirement? Maybe coaching? “I hold a summer camp every year and I love working with the kids. I love being able to come back and give back. It’s something that’s a lot of fun for me. It’s something that I really enjoy.” As for her own kids to coach someday, Mitts says, “It’s on the agenda!”
Jennifer and Kyle inspire moms to take control of their lives and get fit.
Being a mom is truly a full-time job. Whether you have a newborn, toddler or teen, balancing time between two lives can be a great challenge. And finding the time and the motivation to lose weight after pregnancy can seem like an impossible task.
Sometimes the motivation we seek can be drawn from other people. That’s just what happened with Jennifer Pinder and Kyle Furlow, two friends and moms, who realized their need to change diets and start exercising after adding extra pounds once they had children. “We committed to work out together at the Y, and by supporting and encouraging each other we began getting in shape,” said Furlow, mother of a five-year-old boy. Along the way they met AFAA certified personal trainer Paula Ruff, who Furlow credits with giving them the extra push they needed. “She became our mentor. What started out as a need to get healthy, became a hobby, then a passion…and with Paula’s help, a career,” Furlow said.
Furlow and Pinder lost a total of 100 pounds between them, which for some, may have been satisfaction enough—but these moms took it many steps further. They both became AFAA certified and started Boot Camp Moms to inspire other women, especially busy moms, to take control of their health and get fit.
“Becoming healthy and stronger is more than a physical change. It positively impacts your mental and spiritual well-being and gives women confidence,” Furlow said. “It’s our hope that our program and the community of women involved will provide the resources needed for each participant to accomplish this complete image of healthiness.”
But it wasn’t easy. During the start-up program at Harrington Grove Clubhouse in Raleigh, N.C., the two friends faced more challenges. “Our first challenge was how to get the word out about our company,” recalled Pinder, mother of a five-year-old girl and three-year-old boy. “We did not have any equipment! We put up flyers in neighborhoods, preschools, diet centers and any location that would allow us. We told potential clients all they needed was a set of hand weights, bottle of water and a mat. The rest is history,” Pinder said.
Now, a year later, Furlow and Pinder have a solid, energizing, group exercise program that concentrates on cardiovascular and strength training, all presented in a fun atmosphere. Pinder feels this boot camp program is unique and that their clients truly benefit from having two AFAA trainers guiding them through their workouts. “We notice the subtle milestones in them and are able to encourage them,” Pinder said. “When they are able to do 10 extra push-ups or sprint faster…we notice and sing their praises.” Ages and experience vary—Boot Camp Moms participants range in age from 25 to 65 and from the elite to beginner exerciser.
In addition, these two moms set the tone with different styles to help motivate and get the most out of their clients. “Jennifer is often recognized as the cheerleader while I am considered the drill sergeant,” explained Furlow. “That balance allows us to get participants beyond their comfort zone in a way that creates a relationship of trust and respect, not intimidation.”
Both moms feel their own story has inspired their children as well. “I am so thankful that this world is all my kids know. Growing up, diet and exercise was never instilled in me. For years I struggled with my weight and had no form of fitness regime. I can honestly say that I never truly ‘got it’ until my 30s,” Pinder said. “My children are outside playing, running, biking every day. That is all they know and all they want to do.” Pinder said they have also instilled good eating habits in their kids with diets that include a portion of fruits and vegetables in every meal. With such high rates of childhood obesity in America these days, Furlow and Pinder hope to pass on good values and lessons to their own children.
“The most important thing for our children is to understand that you need balance in life—and physical fitness is the foundation for that balance,” Furlow said. “A healthy body leads to better mental, emotional and spiritual health which will allow our children to be successful in whatever way they choose to define success.”
In the future, these two Boot Camp Moms are hoping to expand into different programs, as well as different towns. They have already added TRX® Suspension Training, BOSU® and the Lebert EqualizersTM into their classes, and Pinder has added a Zumba® certification to her repertoire. “Expansion would likely come in the form of more classes in surrounding neighborhoods, but we want to keep classes at less than 20 people, so they can remain personal,” said Furlow. “It’s the relationships with each other and with our participants that make this special. Without that bond we wouldn’t be Boot Camp Moms.”
The ’81 World Series MVP likes what he sees in Kemp and Kershaw
When it comes to baseball, you don’t have to be from Los Angeles to recognize the names Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey—one of the greatest assembled infields ever to play the game. This quadruple threat helped lead the Dodgers to win the NL Pennant in ’74, ’77 ’78 and the World Series in ’81 against their heated rivals, the New York Yankees. Who was the MVP of that World Series? Ron Cey.
Cey met with many fans at Hall of Fame Cards to sign autographs, pose for photos and, most importantly—talk baseball. Enthusiasts of all ages showed up to meet and greet the 6-time All-Star, ranging from those who followed his career from the beginning as rookie with the Dodgers in ’68, to little leaguers who aspire to be major league players themselves someday. “It’s very gratifying,” Cey said of the fan turn out on the corner of Foothill and 5th between 11 and 12:30 Saturday.
“The Penguin,” as Manager Tommy Lasorda called him due to his waddle-like run on the base path, Cey was a staple at third base during the fantastic run the Dodgers had in the ’70s and early ’80s. During his impressive career with the Dodgers, Cubs and A’s, Cey posted a .261 batting average, hit 1,139 RBIs and belted 318 home runs. The 228 home runs he had in a Dodger uniform is the 5th highest in the club’s history.
Still remaing very much active with the Dodger organization in a marketing, sponsorship and community affairs capacity, C ey still keeps in touch with former teammates including Steve Garvey (1B), Davey Lopes (2B) and Bill Russell (SS) who he played eight seasons with. It was the longest any infield ensemble played together in major league history. “I’m very pleased with the era of baseball I played in, and the group of players I played with,” Cey said. “We had the individual and team success that lived up to the history and tradition of the Dodgers. Anything less than that would have been a disappointment,” he said.
Disappointment is a word that Dodgers fans have gotten use to these days compared to glory days Cey spent with the team. The 2011 team barely finished above .500 in September, 11 ½ games out of first place, with a cloud of uncertainty looming over them thanks to the ownership woes that still are still waiting to be settled.
But despite tough times, Cey sees a promising future for the team. Especially with names like Kemp and Kershaw in the mix. “I was very pleased with the way that Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw performed this year under some difficult circumstances,” he said. “I thought both Ned [Colletti] and Donny [Mattingly] did a good job during this period of time. We had a club that was well under .500 midway through the season…and finished above .500 playing very well the last month of the season,” Cey said. Cey went on to say tha Kemp is “very deserving” of the MVP award for the National League and hopes that Kershaw follows in the footsteps of other Dodger pitching greats, such as Newcombe, Drysdale and Koufax by bringing home a Cy Young award.
In a bit of advice to all the youngsters playing ball today in hopes of making it to the big leagues some day, Cey says “Have fun!” “If it works out to where you are pretty good and have a dream, you should follow it and see where it leads.”
Hall of Fame Cards owner Bob Newton has hosted similar events with Steve Garvey and Bill Russell, as well as Maury Wills. He hopes to have Davey Lopes at his family-owned card shop soon…the missing piece of that ’81 World Series infield. For more information about upcoming events at Hall of Fame Cards, visit .http://www.halloffamebaseballcards.com.
Local Photographer Captures ‘Quirky’ Small Town Life
What makes a small town like Sierra Madre a great place to live? Surely, a number of things come to mind. But in the end, most of these reasons are essentially derived from being a part of a close-knit community. It’s something that tends to get lost in bigger cities.
Walking down the streets, being greeted by friends, family and neighbors alike has a certain feeling; a feeling of camaraderie. Meeting for BBQs, parades and picnics in the park are some of the things that truly make a small town special.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how, for a photographer, Sierra Madre just may be the perfect town.
Just ask Gina Long, who says she lives for bringing out those extraordinary small town moments: the unexpected glimpses of joy in the lives of her subjects, the surprises, and the simple beauty of a town that prides itself on its uniqueness and splendor.
Long moved to Sierra Madre, along with her husband Steven, because she was happy with the educational choices for her son Nolan, now 7-years-old. Her family has since found their niche here. And now, Long is the first photographer to ever have an exhibit on display at Sierra Madre City Hall.
Her photography, on display until Aug. 19, is collection of “life’s moments and quirky things,” she says.
While Long says she does shoot traditional portraits, it’s the quirky shots she enjoys capturing the most.
“I’d like to make the quirky more common and the common more quirky,” she said. “I would also like to draw attention to some unusual subjects and show the world that you can find beauty in everything when you seek it. I especially love taking striking and interesting photos of people who don’t like to be photographed.”
Long’s portfolio features some beautiful family shots, intriguing neighborhoods, curious pets and children photos that are so cute they might bring a tear to your eye.
So why call the show “The Unexpected Portrait”?
“I’m not traditional and I wanted my name to speak to that,” Long said. “It would be horrible for clients who hire me to be disappointed by the results of their shoot and I look for adventurous, out of the box type subjects.”
At Home in Sierra Madre
Sierra Madre, and the audience she has found here, are very meaningful to her work, Long says.
“With a nudge here and a bravo there, I gathered enough self-belief to bring my photography to others. It has been really fulfilling.”
Long was greeted by many art-loving attendees during her show’s official opening on July 22 at City Hall. And Long is quick to thank Community and Personnel Services Deputy Director, Kristi McClure and the members of the Arts Committee for putting together the event.
“I think it was really successful. I love having my work at City Hall,” Long said in an interview following the reception.
One photo Long featured, “Comfortably Numb,” was snapped outside of Sierra Madre and is one of her favorites. “I love “Comfortably Numb” because it juxtaposes the timeless beauty of a restored old train sitting at the Santa Barbara station with the reality of the life in a cart position of the homeless man who is basically living there un-restored and watching the trains come and go in this beautiful place from a place most people can’t and don’t understand,” Long said. “I feel I was able to convey a sense of how every person, place and thing has many sides, some that you see and some that you don’t. It’s truly an “Unexpected Portrait.”
Another favorite is a picture of her son bringing in the mail entitled “On Arrival.”
“I took it the weekend we moved into our house in Sierra Madre in a very innocent and cute moment when he was gathering our mail for the first time from the post box and bringing it into the house,” Long said.
“It’s also an “unexpected portrait” and, in fact, the “Unexpected Portrait” which inspired the name of my business and is on my business cards. It truly represents my work.”
For those who take a serious interest in photography of their own, Long offers some advice.
“Take your camera out with you and shoot,” Long said. “Make up a story in your mind and shoot the photos that tell it. Use your eye. We are all photographers and we each have a unique way of seeing the world, find the parts or patterns or activities you love to translate through the lens and shoot, shoot, shoot!”
Long says aspiring new artists should remember one thing, “Art is so subjective. Take both praise and criticism open-mindedly and make what moves you. It will move others.”
Try to catch Long’s display during City Hall’s normal business hours and, who knows, you might come away inspired.
And for those who like what they see, Long offers her photography services on her websitewww.theunexpectedportrait.com, and is available to visit your home to snap those special moments during birthday parities, holidays and other special events.