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Personal Fitness Trainers Are For Everyone Today

August 22, 2019

Today there is no age limit when it comes to hiring a personal trainer. Since I began training at FIT personal training gym nearly ten years ago it has been interesting to see how their clientele has grown and changed. In recent years it seems more older adults have begun training programs. We used to be called seniors but I like the older adult appellation better. FIT has clients from twenty-five to ninety-five all working to make their lives better. 

Choosing a trainer is always personal. You need to find someone you can respect and who you get along with. It can be an intense and personal relationship. After all you are trusting them with your two most important possessions, your body and your health. 

Every gym in the city now advertises personal trainers. One of the first things to ask any trainer is “what training do you have and what are your credentials”?  You want a trainer who continues to grow and learn. Ten years ago when I first began using a trainer I didn’t ask those questions and was lucky the gym I chose to go to had strict requirements for the trainers they hired. I learned Nildo Silva who I have trained with all this time had not only numerous certifications and education credentials but he went on to become a certified massage therapist with all the additional training that required. I learned the other trainers at FIT all had impressive credentials. Today when my schedule changes or my trainer can’t make a session there is always someone else I can train with who I am confident will have me do the right things for my body. Part of the reason for that is FIT is only a training gym. That means it’s only for people who want to work with a trainer. There are other gyms like that in the District FIT is the one I know. There are at most five to seven trainers working with clients at any one time and you get personal attention and also get to know the other trainers.

Kosta Novaković (Photo by: courtesy of FIT Personal Training) Kosta Novaković

Over the years I have come to appreciate more what working with a trainer can mean for my health. When I first began years ago I went once a week and then went to another gym during the week on my own. As my body has changed, I have had knee replacements in both knees, I have come to appreciate how an incredibly well credentialed trainer can make a real difference. One who understands the body and muscle structure. My trainers worked with my physical therapist and then continued to help me after I stopped going to the PT. The trainers at FIT understand its more than building muscles and six-pacs, it’s about the core and doing the kind of workouts that help with balance and everyday life. Being semi-retired I now see a trainer three days a week and use two different trainers. I still see Nildo but see Bradley Higgins on Fridays and he has been great.

Now that’s not to say the trainers at FIT can’t get help you get six-pac abs, most of them have them. Their clients include on-air TV personalities, politicians, high powered CEOs and young athletes along with older-adults like me. It’s a fun place to spend time. 

Recently FIT has added two new trainers, not only great guys but they have incredible credentials. One is Kosta Novaković. He is a Strength & Conditioning Coach/Rehab Specialist with a degree Degree/Professor of Sport & Physical Education from the University of Belgrade in Serbia. Throughout his degree program Kosta served as a teaching assistant. Chatting with him you realize he is a human encyclopedia of important research in strength and conditioning because of his voracious appetite for continuing his education and digesting volumes of academic journals in health and fitness. He has more than 4 years of experience in fitness training, athletic training, coaching, fitness instructing, and rehabilitation. His experience and education in fitness and human anatomy contribute to his deep and personal understanding of body alignment and movement compensations, awareness of how muscles work in tandem, and how to recognize an individual's current state of fitness and program the appropriate approach/program. In addition to helping clients with wide-ranging goals, Kosta is a great match for clients who come to him with joint pain, arthritis, movement dysfunction and can help them with pain relief and movement mechanics through proper assessment and proper training prescriptions. If you talk with him ask him about his rowing. He was on the Serbian National Rowing Team, representing Serbia in the European Championships. 

The other new trainer is Josh Mansfield, a US Army Veteran. He graduated from Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science and a Minor in Sports Medicine. After college he did extensive clinical and medical internships in Cardiac Rehab as well as Exercise and Physical Therapy with the Cleveland Clinic’s Main Cardiac Campus in Cleveland, Ohio, treating patients with multiple diagnoses. Josh has also been a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Group Exercise Instructor for the past 5 years and has trained various age groups and fitness levels with a focus in injury prevention as well as post physical therapy rehab and strengthening. Josh has also been a body building and power lifting competitor and coach for several years training athletes to the top of their sport. Josh is also a physical training NCO for the Army reserves. 

So yes while FIT is the gym I know, and Mike Everts the owner is always willing to talk about personal training; wherever you go to find a trainer make sure they know what they are doing.  Everyone should think about starting with a personal fitness trainer. It can make a huge difference in your life as it has in mine. 

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Brilliant 'Mamma Mia!' at Clear Space Theatre Rehoboth Beach

August 12, 2019

The Clear Space Theatre Company in Rehoboth Beach is having another banner summer. They are selling out their three productions: Mamma Mia!, Hello Dolly and the Wedding Singer. After seeing Mama Mia! it is clear why there is a rush for tickets. The cast was brilliant, as was the musical direction by Melanie Bradley, choreography by Shondelle Graulich, costume design by Robyn Kingsbury and set design by Eddy Seger.  It all comes together under the incredible direction of David Button the Artistic Director and all around genius at Clear Space. 

Tom Sawyer (Photo by: Clear Space Theatre) Tom Sawyer

For anyone who doesn’t know the story of Mamma Mia! it takes place on a small Greek island where Donna has built a taverna and brought up her now twenty year old daughter, Sophie, as a single mom. They are now planning Sophie’s wedding to Sky. Sophie has always wondered who her father was and Donna has never told her. Then Sophie discovers her mother’s old diary and finds out her mother had affairs with three men, Bill, Sam and Harry, twenty-one years ago. She assumes one of them must be her dad. So without telling her mother she invites all three to her wedding. The play is about the craziness that ensues.

The music is all ABBA and the songs like Money, Money, Money and Dancing Queen are those which most people of a certain age could sing along with. It all leads to a fun night in the theater.

David directs all three plays and many of the actors have roles in all of them. I can’t mention them all but they all deserve kudos for their wonderful work. It is an incredible opportunity for the mostly young cast many of whom are theater students from schools such as Pace in New York, Temple in Philadelphia, and the University of Delaware to name some. The leads in Mama Mia! all seem like seasoned performers though many are just starting out. Jana Jackson who plays Sophie, the daughter trying to find out who her father is commands the stage like a pro with her fine acting and beautiful voice even though this is her first leading role. She is a student at Pace University in New York. Tom Sawyer as Sam, one of the potential fathers, has a really strong voice and a commanding stage presence. He is a recent graduate with a BFA from The Boston Conservatory. Frankie Rocco as Sky, Sophie’s fiancé has a strong stage presence and the good looks of a leading man. He has just graduated from Molloy/Cap 21 from the BFA theater program. Not all the actors are students. Playing Donna is Autumn Schneider and she makes the role her own with her brilliant acting and mesmerizing voice. Also great are Caroline Anderson as Tanya who recently received her BA in musical theater from Courtland State university of New York and Carissa Meiklejohn as Rosie who is a local performer living in Milton, DE. 

Jana Jackson (Photo by: Clear Space Theatre) Jana Jackson

What is so great at Clear Space and on display in this show is all the ensemble actors are very talented and the staging allows their talents to shine through. Those like Kodiak Thompson a musical theater major at Temple University and Erin Damers returning to Clear Space from last season who is in the ensemble for Mamma Mia! and plays Ermengarde in Hello Dolly.  

There are still some tickets left for all the shows but they are going fast. If you are headed to Rehoboth Beach I suggest going online at Clear Space Theatre and ensuring yourself a wonderful night in the theater. 

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Michael Kahn; Leader, Innovator, Icon, Friend

July 30, 2019

I have been fortunate over the years living in Washington, DC to meet and become friends with many incredible people. Leaders in the LGBTQ+ movement, politicians, and thought leaders in many areas. But one person stands out among those who I have met. He is a leader, innovator, icon and now friend; that person is Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC). 

At the end of this month Michael is retiring after thirty-three years in Washington as one of the most influential people in the DC theater scene. His legacy includes the incredible STC which he has dedicated years to building. But it’s more. Michael is credited with being a major impetus to the growth of downtown DC which began when he took the audacious step of moving the theater to the Lansburgh on 7th street in downtown DC. Today that theater and the new Harman Hall are part of his amazing legacy and a thriving downtown. STC has produced and hosted more than 150 productions and entertained more than 2.5 million audience members. Since 1986, STC has won a Tony award, 104 Helen Hayes Awards and earned 438 nominations. 

I first met Michael at Java House coffee shop in Dupont Circle. He would come sit and read which he does to this day. He would often work on issues related to the current play he was directing or helping other directors with their projects. Michael became a friend. We go to the same gym, FIT Personal Training on 17th street, and he introduced me to many of his friends over the years. One of those friends is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She officiated at Michael and his husband Charles’ wedding and I had the chance to sit next to her and chat at an STC event. Michael has a lot of friends the rest of us mortals can only read about and look at from afar. He was recently in England and posted a picture on his FB page having lunch with Dame Judith Dench and Dame Eileen Atkins. Oh to be a fly on the wall at that luncheon. 

In return I introduced Michael to members of my morning coffee group and he would join us when he got up early enough which for a theatre person who lives a late night life wasn’t all the time. Everyone enjoyed listening to his stories and I started arranging theater parties to the plays he directed. He was enormously generous with his time and suggested after the plays he would invite the cast to join us for cocktails. This became a regular thing for many years.  I would organize the theatre party and he would invite the cast. I found out from some cast members it was more of a command performance for them when the esteemed Kahn invited them. But it turned out they and we all enjoyed ourselves at these events. We continued this tradition right up to Michael’s last play at the Shakespeare, The Oresteia.  Through these events our coffee group got the opportunity to meet some amazing actors including Nancy Robinette, Holly Twyford, Tom Story, Michael Urie, and most recently Josiah Bania and Kelley Curran.  

We attended plays we otherwise may not have gone to see had Michael not directed them. I learned that a brilliant director like Michael working with talented actors can make any theater experience exciting. 

In his recent oped for the Washington Post What the theater has taught me about Washington he shares his love for the city.  Michael writes “Over the years, however, I’ve seen this city change its character dramatically. A city that hosted fewer than 10 theaters in the early 1980s now has more than 90 professional companies, alongside opera, ballet, musical acts of all kinds and a thriving food scene. Aspiring actors and writers used to leave D.C. looking for work; now they move to the District to make careers. They study here, and they stay here. Theaters pay a living wage and do an enormous diversity of work, raising the level of artistry to one of the highest in the nation.” Michael is responsible as much as anyone else for all that. 

Each year the Shakespeare Theatre holds a Gala and presents the WILL award to a deserving actor. Through Michael I would get an invitation to attend a brunch prior to the event at the home of the British ambassador. At these events Michael graciously introduced me to his friends who included the likes of Chelsea Clinton, Ian McKellen, who joked about how appropriate it was that he had been invited by the Ambassador to stay in what was normally the ‘Queen’s bedroom’; Annette Benning and her husband Warren Beatty and Elizabeth McGovern. At one of the brunches I had the chance to chat with the late Mickey Rooney and his wife. Rooney seemed quite out of it and not quite sure why he was there. He was scheduled to be a surprise guest at the Gala performance that evening doing Puck’s soliloquy from a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.  I mentioned this to Michael who came over and got really concerned and thought he may have to make other arrangements for the evening. I sat in the audience for the show wondering who Michael got to replace Rooney. Then the curtain opened and lo and behold there was Rooney, dressed in his tuxedo and he performed brilliantly without missing a word. We got to see vintage Mickey Rooney. 

I will miss my conversations with Michael at the Java House when he moves more permanently to his home in New York. Like so many of us he came to the District for a job and stayed because he fell in love with the city and in his case the city fell in love with him. I recently kidded him that maybe like Cher he will do many comebacks and if we are very lucky we have not yet seen the last play directed by Michael Kahn in Washington, DC. 

This column first appeared in the Washington Blade.

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