Thursday, May 1, 2014

Remembering Empire Fitness

     Today's article is the 100th post on this web blog, what better way to mark this, then by looking back at where it all started. It was winter of 1997, in south west Brooklyn, NY, an old abandoned movie theater was transformed into what has still been the best gym I have ever been a member of. Empire Fitness came to Bay Ridge that year and changed my life. It was developed in the old theater upstairs from a McDonald's, which was always ironic. I remember being in high school being 6'0 weighing in at a whopping 130 lbs with sneakers, clothes on, & on a full stomach. So as I walked past the McDonald's I sat in front & I looked up for no particular reason at all, and before my eyes, while expecting to see the old Gothic movie theater, instead I saw bodies running on treadmills in the window. I looked over to the side entrance and saw the sign & logo for Empire Fitness. I didn't think, and I don't know why, but I just walked in. I can't honestly say I was thinking about joining a gym. That past summer I had started training with my dad's old weight set in the family basement and at the time thought a flat bench and 90lbs was adequate for anyone. But then I walked into Empire...

    You have certain moments in life, where in that one moment everything in life turns a completely different direction. This was one of those moments. I still remember the smell of the weights, seeing huge guys lifting huge weights, attractive girls running, the sounds of metal weights clanking, the beats from the music system, and the overall feel of the place. I was home. In my first year at Empire I learned so much about training, nutrition, and health. My weight went up 40lbs! And of course my lifts did too. I met life long friends at Empire, including Captain Power. The gym not only changed my health but also my life. Post 9/11 I dropped out of college and really had no direction in life. I was being stupid, dating the wrong girls, drinking a lot, blowing thru my savings, and barely working. But luckily, I was still going to the gym... And some good people took notice. They talked me into not being a lazy bum and taking an EMT class. This led to me first job in emergency services, and also led me to my first up close look at American Healthcare. From there I went on to be a police officer, and then a firefighter. It also led me into personal training, from which I started training friends or family for free, to starting my own personal training business and of course this blog.

    I'll always remember guys in that gym, and the camaraderie. My friend who worked there told us the gym had 5,000 members, but of course like most gyms, only a fraction showed up. Walking into Empire and seeing the same 20 familiar faces was always welcoming, it meant you had strength in your team, and knowledgeable guys that taught us young guys the ropes, as we could continue to teach as we grew into their positions. It was more than a gym, it was the beginning of many things for all of us, and it was the end of being lazy, and not living life to the fullest for me. Like all good things non-corporate, Empire didn't last as a gym, the club was bought out by a corporate gym in May of 2004. A decade ago now. I still train in the same building when I go back there. Although the name is different and it certainly does not have the same feel as Empire, the spirit of the gym that once was is alive and well. And it's carried through all these years, across the country & around the world for me, and will carry on. As The Captain Power says, "God Bless the Chest, and God Bless The Empire!!!"


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  2. In the recent times the ways to fitness has changed and people are opting for Martial arts, Kickboxing, Jiju Jitsu etc. rather than going to gym. Martial arts helps people stay fit not just physically but mentally too.
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