Every time I see Edgar at the gym, he greets me with a warm, genuine and energetic hello; he's the kind of guy that makes everyone feel special and welcome. I really wanted him to join in on this project because of his optimistic outlook. What I love about reading his story is how you can feel his positive energy. The journey is so fascinating to me—how you start somewhere and end up somewhere completely different... but every piece of the story plays an important role in getting you to the next piece. I think Edgar's journey to coaching is a great example of that!
Edgar in our ELEMENTS Tee—in charcoal
My life as it pertains to what “strength/strong” is and what is perceived as “powerful” starts early. From what my mom and dad tell me, I was obsessed with the Incredible Hulk live action TV show when I was a kid. I would run to the TV flexing my muscles when I heard its theme music. Around the same time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the Conan the Barbarian movies and Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky and Rambo movies showing off their big muscles and ripped abs. And of course, Adam shouting, “by the power of Gray Skull, I HAVE THE POWER!” turning himself into He-Man the most powerful man in the universe. (watch here)
I had my role models alright. In addition to the larger than life characters I admired on TV and the big screen, my pop had a small bench he built for benching in our tiny 1 bedroom apartment in Rego Park Queens, some weights and I would often watch him “train.” He would pull the Rocky Balboa, crack some raw eggs and chug them before going off to his 3 mile runs around the Flushing Meadows Park lake which I would later join him on when I got older. That exposure to these strong powerful looking men stuck with me... makes sense now looking back at how important those influences were.
Growing up across the street from my Elementary school, I played anything and everything. Handball, stickball, basketball, baseball, football, rollerbladed...anything you can do on the concrete confines of a schoolyard. Baseball was my jam and was a pretty decent catcher throughout my childhood. I played little league for a while on a team sponsored by Weight Watchers. Funny cause I was one of the biggest kids on the team, I had some chubbiness going on so it fit. I wasn’t very outgoing—shy even—and if memory serves me right, I was sometimes bullied and made fun of for being bigger and quieter than the other kids. I was a gentle giant until provoked and the few times it happened, my rage would come out and some physical confrontation ensued. I only really remember getting into a couple of fights and crying afterward. Violence was never really my thing. Never understood it but I guess I wanted to be unlike my pops in those ways.
I also played 2 years of peewee football which was super hard, gave me a glimpse of what tough training was and I loved the unifying team spirit of the game. The unit defends and attacks together and it only works as a whole. Love that about football. It’s a WE/US/ALL or nothing mentality and I appreciate that lesson it showed me.
As far as school went, I guess because I was quiet and shy and bilingual they started me off in the middle tier classes but after 4th grade, I got into the top tier classes and pretty much stayed there for good. I love to learn and the older I get the more I want to and have to. Learning is growing and if you aren’t growing you aren’t living—just existing.
Middle school was kind of a blur except that’s when I really got into musical theatre and music. Life a.k.a HP (Higher Power) works in mysterious ways they say. For this example, we will see how I got into the wonderful gift of music (one of his many ways of communicating through and with us.)
Before we went to middle school, we had to choose which musical class we wanted to be a part of: band or chorus. I chose band thinking that I would learn to play the trumpet or sax but when I got there, the instructor informed us that we would have to rent our instruments. At the time my parents weren’t doing so well financially so instead of asking them to pay for my rental (which they would have because they are the best parents ever) I just asked to be transferred to chorus. I learned to use my voice and with that development, I went on to play Zuko in my 8th grade production of “Grease,” fell in love with the theatre community and eventually auditioned for LaGuardia High School for the performing arts ("FAME! I’m gonna live forever! I'm gonna learn how to fly HIGH!") and got in as a vocal major.
High School was pretty amazing; lots of singing and music, back to baseball (the first baseball team in LaGuardia’s history) and many many beautiful girls (4 to 1 ratio of girls to guys.) I was developing physically to the opposite sex, grabbing some attention and in the process, fell in love for the first time which is exactly how it was described to me: like you’re floating on "cloud nine," "surreal," "fantastical," and "what the hell is going on?" intensity.
She broke up with me the day before my SATs on a trip down from college (riding with her new boyfriend) which was devastating but probably helped me do better on the test. Ironically, I ended up going to the same school and majoring in the same field.
The summer before going to college, I stumbled upon Kiana Tom's "Kiana's Flex Appeal" on TV and was instantly attracted to the amazing, jacked and tan bodies. Aside from my team sports and schoolyard pickup games, I had little to no knowledge of or experience lifting or training for muscles or strength. I joined Gold’s Gym, picked up some muscle mags and began your typical bodybuilding regimen: Back/Bi's, Chest/Tri's, Leg Press/Extensions and always abs! Gained about 10lbs of muscle that summer and went off to college.
Binghamton University exposed me to a lot I didn't see growing up in Queens. The first of which was complete independence, which resulted in me taking my first semester for granted and academic probation followed. I wasn't prepared and had no real direction as to what I wanted to study and the classes I chose weren't grabbing my attention. Video games and girls were way more important and the only classes that I did well in were my music classes; when the time came to declare a major I fell back on what I knew I could excel in, raise my grades in and my theatre years ensued.
Side note: I forgot to mention that the only reason I was able to attend college was because when I was in elementary school I got into a car accident. I was hit by a car in front of my building and broke my leg. "I was crossing the street to visit my friend who lived across the street from me and I didn't see the car coming around the block when she hit me and ran over my right leg." is the story I had to tell the judge. I was awarded some money that I would later get when I was 18 that with the addition of financial aid allowed me to attend SUNY Binghamton.
The second thing college exposed me to was a lot of drunken kids. I was a straight edge growing up, never drank or smoked so going out and seeing all this debauchery was eye-opening and for most of my first two years I was able to stay away. It was on the last night of my summer theatre program at Vassar before my junior year that I decided to join the status quo.
Fitness throughout my college years was in and out. Never maintained a steady program. Gained the freshman 15, then lost a lot of it by my senior year playing a lot of pickup basketball but lifting weights was done sporadically. It wasn’t until after I graduated and joined the workforce that I actually began hitting the gym regularly and when and where I fell in love with the ¨Sweet Science.¨
After graduating with a BA in Theatre, what was I going to do with my life? Long story short, I got an internship at an amazing theatre ad agency that turned into a 12-year career in the creative field of video and audio editing, making TV and radio commercials for Broadway shows. Money was great but after a while, the work I was doing got repetitive and wasn’t inspiring me anymore. I needed to do something to change my spirits and being inspired by many of my teachers growing up I decided to audition for a position as an NYC teaching fellows but was ultimately denied because of my lack of preparation.
During these ups and downs, I was consistently hitting the gym, learning how to box, condition and lift. I was introduced to the CrossFit methodology by two amazing trainers who ran an hour and a half class every Thursday night called MIDNIGHT MADNESS. It was intense and I had never gone through that much mental and physical stress during a workout and I was instantly hooked.
I was approached by one of those trainers with an opportunity to open up a small personal training facility in Astoria and I jumped at the chance, quit my job and my training career was born. I haven’t looked back since. I´ve had my ups and downs as a trainer, squandering opportunities here and there with personal problems but today I have finally found peace and know where and that I belong.
How do we become our “Ultimate Self?” This is a lifelong journey. To me it’s about having the power, strength, stability, mindfulness, honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to get through any and all of the multitude of challenges we have the pleasure of life giving us, however, and whenever they come. The human spirit/soul is a powerful energy that we can tap into, harness and hone while training that will ultimately tell us what we are capable of and made of, what amazing potential we all have to accomplish whatever it is that makes us happy. Life is beautiful and being of healthy mind, body and spirit will enable us to experience and actually LIVE that beauty. Perfection is unattainable but the "Ultimate Self" IS through hard work and dedication in the pursuit of true happiness.
Words really can't express the gratitude I feel for the many incredible coaches I've had throughout my life that have exposed me to so many amazing techniques, experiences, mindsets, programs, and approaches to coaching.
I’m humbled and grateful I get to do that now on a daily basis teaching all walks of life the fundamentals of strength and conditioning training.
NOW LET'S EAT THAT BAR!!!