Friday, April 10, 2015

Kevin Nathan…and the Two-Minute Drill

When I first starting working with Kevin Nathan at 24 Hour Fitness in 2010 I thought he was a good trainer. We met my goals and that is all you can ask from your trainer.

But then, everything changed. 

Kevin Nathan and me
after a tough training session.
Kevin moved over to Bodies by Amorim (with Travis Amorim) and I was coming off a few surgeries, not having full mobility of my left arm, and both arms were very weak. I had done some physical therapy to gain more mobility, but wasn’t nearly ready for my next surgery. We had a month to get strong and were limited to training twice a week. So, we had 8 to 10 actual training sessions to move the needle. Any improvement from where I was would be a small win.

However, we were both unprepared for what happened next. I actually got so strong that my recovery was much easier. And, when I got back into the gym after a few months, it didn’t take as long to ramp up.

We didn’t achieve a small win; we achieved a big win. One that has stayed with me the past year-and-half and motivated me to accomplish even more.

And a win that made me recognize that Kevin isn’t just another good trainer. Kevin is an extraordinary trainer. He has helped me get back to normal and take these big and small wins to propel me even further.

I sat down recently with Kevin and he shared his perspective on training.

PJ: How did you get started as a trainer?

Kevin: For years my only goal was making it to the NHL. When I was growing up in California it was nearly impossible for a kid from here to make it to the NHL. So, reality was that maybe I won’t make it, but I can make it to the league in another way…take another path.

My mom has worked at Palmer College of Chiropractic for 30 plus years. I never wanted to be a chiropractor, but being around them, I thought this wasn’t a bad path. I saw the application. One of the guys (at Palmer) was active in sports, had seen injuries, remembers the process with his injury, and decided to pay it forward and help someone else. My situation was similar. I thought maybe I could help someone else, another athlete. Then it all clicked when I saw one of my best friends, Craig, working at 24 Hour Fitness. I saw all the things I could do….I could have fun doing this…I could see my path.

PJ: So for you it always comes back to hockey.

Kevin: Yes. Hockey is a huge part of my life. I can’t remember it not being part of my life. When I learned how to walk my dad had me on skates. The bond I have with my dad is from hockey. No matter what happened during the day or if I was in trouble, if hockey was on, we dropped everything. Hockey taught me leadership, how to have balance in my life, responsibilities, etc. This passion for hockey translates to the gym. I can do something and truly be happy.

I want to be part of keeping hockey in California. I want to develop a training center for kids to get better on and off the ice. I don’t want these kids to be at a disadvantage because they can’t just water the parking lot and play.

PJ: Let’s talk about how you’ve helped your clients come back from setbacks. Tell me about working with your client who had the stroke.

Kevin: For me it was something different than I had experienced in my 10 year career. He crashed his car and at the same time blacked out. He tried to get out of the car but couldn’t move his left side. The funny part was that the first thing he said to his wife when he woke up in the hospital was…you have to get a hold of Kevin and tell him I cannot make the session.

He’s 6-2 or 6-3 and when we first started working together, before the stroke, he couldn’t do sit ups on the ball…his knees would hurt. When he came back after the stroke he was a changed person…his priorities. His reality was…I am lucky to be here. The most important thing was to go back to the basics. To understand what his body was allowing him to do. First, it was, how do we get him through the day—get out of bed in the morning, go to work. How do we get him to have a normal life? Weight loss was not a part of it.

Trust was a big thing. Anything I told him to do was in his best interest and he knew that…that I would be there if his arm couldn’t do something. He wasn’t big into lifting heavy, but as a male there are certain expectations. He was under that level and he wanted to at least get to this level. Now he is back to normal, which is great. For me, my success is when my clients can do what they want to do. It’s about how good they feel inside accomplishing certain tasks. His measuring stick was going to the Dish to walk. He is able to do this now, and that is a big thing. You could see this brought him joy. This was one of my biggest journeys.

PJ: How did you help JJ Ambrose, a professional athlete, come back from an injury?

Kevin: The opposite spectrum is JJ. He is ready to go and sometimes I have to pull back the reigns. If I would to tell him to eat glass, he would, because he trusts me. When someone that motivated needs to pull back it’s hard to explain to an athlete you can’t do this. I try to create a program to go around it or word things differently. When he can’t do certain motions and he wants to, it’s about how do you trick him into not doing it. I need to distract him so he doesn’t get hurt more.

PJ: What was your plan when I came to you after my surgery?

Kevin: You trusted me and that was key. As I said before, it doesn’t work without trust. I knew that you would do what I asked and you knew that I wouldn’t injure you. It might hurt a little, but those were the steps you needed to take. I trust you to know when you say it hurts you are not trying to get out of doing it.

We were looking to wake up your muscles. After looking at your limitations, I did a backwards program. The idea was to start and progress forward. Progression is the key. With surgery you were limited to certain movements and some muscles were helping others to recover. The supporting muscles needed to be strengthened. So I thought about what we could to do work on those supporting muscles. Then, we could work on the progression from that point.

PJ: What was your plan to strengthen my arms prior to surgery?

Kevin: I looked at your limitation and time was a big factor. We only had a month to work. So I decided that what was best was to do function with resistance moves with bands and balls and adding weight…to do every day movement. We surprised ourselves. When you came back from surgery it was huge! You had exercised enough where your body had strength and your muscles had started to activate again. We couldn’t have done it without the resistance bands. It worked wonders in one month. Your recovery was better. So when you came back your muscles woke up, you didn’t have to start from scratch. Function and daily movements are big.

PJ: Helping your clients come back from injuries, surgery, and a stroke, is a relatively new thing for you. How do you like this aspect of training?

Kevin: Physical therapy is a great field. What I like about it is that my mind is active, it’s exciting. How do I make it fun for you and me? At the end of the day, how do I make you come back? It’s about doing a lot of functional moves with balls and bands. It’s intricate. To the outside person it just looks like throwing a ball. But to me, it relates to every day functional things. Can you reach up into the cabinet to get a glass with no pain and not reinjure yourself? That’s the everyday side of it.

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