“What most excites me about my work? Seeing people drastically exceed what they previously thought was impossible.”
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
- Crossfit Level 1 Certificate
- Bachelors Degree in Special Education
What was your path to founding CrossFit Renaissance?
I have always had a passion for teaching and for fitness. Becoming a strength and conditioning coach and opening CFR has given me a chance to share my passions with the world.
I have been in the gym since the age of 15, starting my training at a local gym in Port Richmond called Atlas Gym. This is where I was introduced to the barbell and it was love at first sight.
I really only dabbled with working out back then. When I went to college at West Chester University, I was introduced to real training in the college gym, by my now good friend and Junior National powerlifting champion, Jim Denofa.
Jim (owner of CrossFit Havoc) taught me how to squat and from there it was a done deal. I became obsessed with training. Always wanting to get stronger and bigger. I had a thirst for knowledge and absorbed every piece of information I could get my hands on. Mostly I wanted to learn first hand and not totally geek out on the theoretical side of things though.
So I moved on to the local “real” gym in West Chester at the time, call McDermotts. In here is where I started to carve out my own wins and losses against the barbell and started to really develop my personal philosophy as it pertains to training. Which has changed a bit, but still holds true to the basic: Show up, train like your life fucking depends on it, recover (eat, sleep, etc) and then do it all over again.
I did my first bodybuilding competiton about 2 years after beginning training at Mcdermotts.
My next regular gym was River’s Gym in West Oak Lane, run by Dr. Richard Brown (everyone knows him as Doc). River’s was definitely an old school, hardcore bodybuilding gym. This was one of the first places I experienced some community in the gym. The majority of people training there were very serious about their goals, but were overwhelmingly helpful and approachable. This was because that is the type of environment that doc demanded of his gym. His no-nonsense, very basic tried-and-true training methods based on straight up ball-busting workouts, accompanied by his acceptance of anyone who would train as hard as he expected, led him to be the sought after bodybuilding trainer of champions and his style of training is something that I always keep in mind and even to this day try to emulate. I trained with national level bodybuilders and a former 2x Mr. Universe there. Needless to say, River’s was a place that pushed you to get results. We trained with old rusty bars and 50 year old dumbbells and equipment. Not a thing about this place was pretty or comfortable. I further honed approach to training here and nailed down my first 500# squat and a few titles in bodybuilding along the way in the church basement where River’s was was located.
During my time as a competitive bodybuilder I learned how to manipulate my nutrition to get my body to freaky levels of leanness. I am not genetically gifted when it comes to this (always been a naturally fat dude) so it took a lot of research and fine tuning to get me to a place where I could win a bodybuilding tittle. I know what’s it takes to fine tune a nutrition plan to reach lofty body composition goals, be it it adding muscle to stripping off body fat.
After 2007, which would be my last year as a competitive bodybuilder, I was looking for a new place to train. Rivers was about a 40 minute drive and was worth every minute of travel, but my emphasis in training was shifting from bodybuilding to performance based training. I became more interested in powerlifting and also had a desire to learn more about strongman training. Enter Jim again. He told me about a gym in Glenolden called Ironsport Gym. I checked out their site and was instantly intrigued. Here’s a gym run by a Highlands Games champ, World’s Strongest Man competitor within driving distance… about 30 minutes for me at the time.
I went and visited and started splitting my time between River’s and Ironsport for about a month, and then became a full time Ironsport member. This was about to bring my training to a whole new level. I was now training in a gym where a 500 lb squat was average. The crew at Ironsport are no f-ing joke. With more than a few guys pulling over 700 lbs and about the best wealth of knowledge you could ever be around when it came to anything strength and conditioning related. I found CrossFit about 6 months into my training at Ironsport through, you guessed it, my friend Jim.
I began dabbling in CrossFit style training all the while honing my skills on the big lifts and Olympic lifts along side champion caliber power lifters and Olympic weightlifters. As stated before, I always would keep up on training methods as far as the literature goes, but knew no book or seminar could ever take the place of training with the people who walked the walk and training with them on a regular basis was the only way to absorb real world, practical knowledge. Always has been this way, always will be. This is why there are internships and residencies. You simply can not just read a book or show up at a seminar one time and expect to be an expert. You must train with the real world experts in whatever it is you are looking to excel at.
I became obsessed with CrossFit during this time. It was a program that combined everything I already loved about training (heavy barbells etc) and also so much more I had never really done, such as the conditioning work. It was addicting and my goals shifted from looking as good as I could (bodybuilding) to performing the best I possibly could In as many different areas as possible (CrossFit). My goals were fueled now by getting a sub 3 minute Fran and clean and jerking massive weights, not having striated glutes, and as much as bodybuilding was my first love in the iron game, it really couldn’t hold a candle to how it felt to actually be able to perform the way your body looks like it should, rather than only looking like you could perform that way (bodybuilding).
In 2008 I had acquired enough real world experience and thought it was time I go down the road of sharing my knowledge with others. I began to pursue my CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist). I became a certified s&c specialist in 2008 and I the same year attended the CrossFit Level 1 certification, because I knew that I wanted to open a CrossFit gym.
Within a year of getting my CrossFit certification we opened the doors at CrossFit Renaissance and began what has been one of the most rewarding journeys of my life.
What are you known for?
I’ve been known for having my clients best interest at heart even if they don’t know what it is sometimes.
What’s the one problem you are best at solving for your clients?
With my background in bodybuilding i have put in a lot of time in regards to nutrition and have over the last 7-8 years have shifted that knowledge to apply to nutrition for performance as well as for aesthetics.
What do your clients say about you?
That I demand that they demand a lot from themselves and when given a choice between the easy way and the hard way, the hard way generally will give you better results.
What are you most passionate about professionally?
I am passionate about helping people reach their goals, whatever it may be. If it’s important to them, its important to me. Want to be a figure model? lets do it.
You want to lose 100 pounds? Easy money.
Want to run a marathon and right now you can’t even run 400m? Shoot for the moon and I’m coming with you.
What most excites you about your work?
Seeing people drastically exceed what they previously thought was impossible.
What is your best client success story to date?
One of my best client success stories has to be the Stevens family, Ryan and Maryellen. But mostly, Maryellen.
Crossfit, for Ryan, has been an outlet for his [established] athleticism. He played college football and I think crossfit has been just a great outlet for him in general. He has gotten all of the benefits of the program over the years he’s been here, but I’m not sure it has been as life changing for him as it has been for Maryellen.
Maryellen and I have been friends since a high school. She came to me about 65 pounds overweight and was generally an anxious person. Over the years Maryellen not only took off the weight… but as she became fitter and lighter is now much more confident and sure of herself. Maryellen is a not-to-be-effed with kind of woman now and I think Crossfit has helped her grow into this.
What is your favorite recovery food?
Steak and plantains.
Where can we find you when you aren’t training?
I’m at home with my beautiful wife, life partner and co owner/manger extraordinaire, Joyce and my 2 little monkeys Raymond and Violet.
What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend or a Sunday afternoon?
Hanging out with the family, maybe eating some steak and plantains.
What are you passionate about personally?
It’s CrossFit. I know not much depth here huh? It’s what I love.
Give us a little known fact about you.
I played the violin as a kid for like 8 years but couldn’t play a note of music now.
And – although most probably think I only listen to hardcore hip hop and Rage Against the Machine, I’m a huge Deadhead (Grateful Dead fan) and spent a few summers following those dudes around (or what was left of them at the time without Jerry).
ARE YOU READY TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
Don’t worry about your current fitness level, we’ll meet you right where you are!
We were one of Philadelphia’s first CrossFit gyms – opening in 2009 -, also one of the largest at 6,000 sq ft, so space is never an issue here. Our coaches have been working in the fitness industry since 1995. There’s not a type of client we haven’t trained during that time, from seniors in their 70s, members who have lost 150+ pounds, weekend warriors, professional athletes, and everyone in between.