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Sweet Emotion - I Can Feel Again!

     Rupturing my achilles tendon and being carried off the field just minutes into the 3rd Annual Woodstick Classic Alumni Game was certainly not how I'd imagined the day to end.  That moment last year was nothing short of a life changing experience, and I'll forever remember the date 4/27/13.  The brutal reality quickly set in that I had to consider the possibility I'd never step on the field again. I was in a bit of shock and disbelief that I was facing something that is considered by most to be a career ending injury.  Playing lacrosse has always been such an important and rewarding part of my life that it was tough to imagine that I'd played my last game.     As you know, I decided to share my story with you through this blog in hopes that I could inspire a person or two, or everyone along the journey!  I did my best to keep a positive attitude through the grueling days, weeks, and months of rehab following surgery. I did my best to live according to all the advice I'd personally given my clients, players, and friends about the importance of staying positive and setting goals.  I did my best to stay focused on how blessed I truly was despite the unfortunate setback.  I did my best to believe that I would in fact play lacrosse again.

    For 6 months I went to physical therapy 3 times a week.  Most of my sessions lasted about 3 hours/day because I refused to cut corners in my recovery.  On top of that, I went to the gym every day in an attempt to stay in shape.  I did everything by the book and was determined to make a full recovery.  As the months went on, I felt stronger and more confident in the stability of my new achilles.  I gradually ramped up the intensity of my training, but was always careful not to put myself at any risk of re-injuring my right achilles or rupturing the left one.  People often asked what percentage of full strength I was.  The numbers were 60, 75, 80; getting closer to 100% recovery, but never there.  In fact, chronic achilles pain, tightness in my calves every morning, and soreness anytime I got up from my chair became normal for me.  

   Needless to say, when the emails and discussions about the 4th Annual Woodstick Classic Alumni Game came out I had mixed emotions.  Having received a wedding invitation that conflicted with the date... I thought my decision would be made for me and that it would be easy to "no show."  However, I also started to think of all the possibilities.  I realized, that with a local wedding it would technically be possible to go to the game, and still attend the wedding.  Furthermore, given the level of training I'd been keeping up with it would be technically possible for me to actually play in the game, and not just watch.  So, a few weeks ago, I just went on the website and signed up.  I still personally reserved the right for myself to "back out at any time."

     I tried to be careful about who I shared the idea with, but last week I was so excited/nervous I started talking about it a lot.  Everyone I spoke to thought I was absolutely crazy.  I heard "Why on Earth would you do that?" and "You're an idiot!"  I wasn't really sure what to think.  I was very focused the night before the game, and the morning of the game, and I showed up an hour early to start warming up and stretching out.  I told myself that if I had any feeling or sense that something bad was going to happen, I'd just decide to watch and not suit up.  As I warmed up I got more and more anxious about actually running out there and playing.  Finally, the pre-game ceremony was held, the National Anthem was performed, and the whistle was about to be blown. I said a few important prayers and ran out on the field... ready to play again... ready to "Feel Again!"

    It was a bit humbling to be moving at half speed. I consciously tried to stay in "first gear" and away from any dangerous situations.  I was able to connect with Doug Croftonearly in the game to put Garden City ahead 1-0. "So far so good" I thought, "keep coasting."  Garden City led most of the game and guys on both sides of the field were relatively calm. I was day-dreaming about how great a Garden City win, and an injury-free finish to the game would be.  However, the momentum of the game soon started to shift and before we knew it Manhasset had come back.

     The pace of the game and the tension had risen to a higher level. Manhasset took the lead by a goal with only two minutes left. Thankfully BJ Prager picked up a tough ground ball and was able to tie the game with less than a minute to play.  We had one last chance to win the game, but Manhasset's goalie, "Kaz" made an amazing save to send the game into sudden-death over-time.  The energy on the field and in the stands felt exactly like a Garden City vs. Manhasset game should. Lacrosse's most storied high school programs battling it on the field in OT for bragging rights.

     Shortly into the over-time period with a victory on my mind I dodged hard for the first time all game (ignoring my achilles).  I got a good shot off, but Kaz made another big save and the ball went down the other end.  I almost couldn't watch as Manhasset had a chance to end the game and win the 4th annual match up in a row.  Fortunately, our defense and goalie made a game saving stop, and the ball ended up back on our offensive end. I watched BJ Prager take advantage of a mismatch, and I saw a window for me to break open. BJ saw me and fed me the ball in a perfect shooting position.  I caught the pass, eyed the goal, and took a shot over Kaz's shoulder. GOAL! I felt the sideline roar, and the whistle blow to signal that the game was over... the Woodstick Classic Alumni Game Trophy was back in Garden City!

     As I ran towards my teammates to celebrate I felt a tidal wave of emotion come over me. Winning the game was a BIG deal, but the way we won was poetic justice. My comeback from an achilles rupture a year earlier, to score the winning goal of the game was a story book ending for sure.  The simple lesson here is that I was rewarded for keeping a positive attitude and working hard.  We are all faced with challenges in our lives.  While there's no way every outcome can be as perfect as "an overtime goal" ... the only way to even have a chance at beating the odds is to stay POSITIVE amd keep working hard.  Had I gotten down on myself, given up on my rehab, or just been too scared to play... there is no way I would have experienced the elation of this glorious experience.  FAITH trumps fear. 

    The truly "Sweet Emotion" was felt in the moments and hours to come.  The embraces and congratulations I received from Garden City players, Manhasset players, former coaches, friends, and family were overwhelming. I have felt a ton of support since the day I got hurt, but the genuine happiness and pride they shared with me felt amazing.  It was heart warming to know that everyone had been by my side throughout my hardship, and I felt divinely gifted to be able to experience this joy with all those people. Thank you again to Dr. Drakos, Ed Farrell at Physical Solutions, and all my family and friends who gave me unwavering support throughout my recovery.

     This Woodstick Classic Alumni Game sponsored by Monster's Kids represents all that is great about lacrosse.  It brings two communities together to raise money for a special cause and brings us all back to "the glory days" remembering how much fun it was/is to play and to compete.  I am so lucky to be part of this lacrosse community where high school rivals become college teammates, work associates, and friends for life. I want to especially thank Timmy Goettelmann for all his hard work in putting the weekend together, and for being so supportive throughout the past year.  Special thanks also to the McDonough family who hosted an awesome after game party at their home. The future generation of lacrosse stars got to play on jumping castles and dance to the DJ. Meanwhile the past generation of lacrosse stars got to stand around "the barrel" laughing, telling stories, and remembering exactly what Saturday afternoons in the spring should feel like. For those counting... GC alums beat Manhasset alums 9-8.  GC Varsity beat Manhasset Varsity 9-8!  Just sayin!      



"Michael Had Other Plans" and "The Show Must Go On"

     Between celebrating the holidays and the birth of my newest niece and nephew (twins!); moving back into Manhattan; and starting a new job... the past two and a half months have absolutely flown by. I was shocked to see that so much time had passed since my last blog post.  The perfectionist in me is disappointed that I haven't stuck to my plan for writing every other week.  However, the realist in me is letting the perfectionist off the hook. Quite frankly, writing blog posts has not been a priority of mine recently, and I'm actually happy I haven't forced thoughtless posts simply for the sake of writing on a schedule. I've justified my procrastination as a display of patience, and a deliberate hesitation in wait for that "natural moment" to draw me back to the blog.        

     I found this "natural moment" on Saturday night. Yes, a wild Saturday night in Manhattan... in my apartment watching a movie on my Apple TV.  After pre-ordering the movie on iTunes, and receiving it this week... Saturday night was the night I'd been waiting for!  The movie was written, produced, and directed by a great friend of mine who also stars in the film!  I have long awaited it's release, and after finally getting to see the finished product... I felt the spark for my return to the blog!

     Even though he is 6'2, I've always thought of Michael Doneger "like a little brother to me." My friendship with Michael, his older brothers, and his wonderful family has been growing strong for 16 years, and after watching his movie, I am absolutely beaming with pride.  On Saturday night, I watched Michael's first feature length film, "This Thing with Sarah." The film was fantastic.  Michael had me laughing constantly and deeply engaged the entire film.  His casual dialogue and comedic timing was perfect, and I had to stop every now and then to remind myself that it was just "Mikey D" on the tv.  The whole cast and production team did an amazing job, and I would strongly encourage you to watch this must-see film (available now on iTunes by the way!).  Even more amazing than the fictional story Michael tells on the screen is the real-life story about how he got where he is today. I hope his story inspires you as it does for me.

     Michael was an All-American lacrosse player in high school and went on to win 2 National Championships at Johns Hopkins.  The expectation would have been for him to move to NYC when he graduated, and get a job on Wall Street or in real estate, but Michael had other plans.  "Michael had other plans" is such an easy phrase to say, but having other plans and sticking to them is anything but easy when those plans go against the norm... when most people consider those plans to be living in a dream world. After taking a stand-up comedy course freshman year in college Michael decided to study writing and acting.  He fell in love with the art, the practice, and the challenge, and he made the very bold decision to pursue writing and acting as a career. Cynics often contributed their two cents, and people usually laughed at the idea, but with the love and support of his family and friends, Michael moved to LA to follow his dream.

     Michael threw himself right into the acting/auditioning scene, but continued to study and learn other elements of film making.  He energetically created opportunities for himself, and in 2010/2011 he produced a commercial and entered it in the Pepsi Max Crash the Super Bowl Contest.  While Michael's commercial did not end up taking home 1st prize... he finished in the top 10 out of 6,000 entrants. He made a nice cash bonus for his work, and got a free trip to the Big Game!

     Instead of getting complacent, Michael got creative.  He made the decision to invest his earnings from the contest into making a full feature length film.  People continued to think Michael was crazy (or stupid)... except for those who truly knew his passion, his discipline, and his talent.  He learned on the fly, budgeted wisely, and managed to write, act in, and direct a spectacular film.  I understand the film shot in about 15 days, but this project was in the making for years. It was featured at multiple independent film festivals in 2013, picked up for distribution, and released last week!   

     I want to congratulate Michael on his success thus far, and I want to applaud his perseverance, confidence, and courage.  Michael has figured out what it takes to survive in a brutally competitive and harsh industry. Furthermore, he has displayed the guts needed to take the road less traveled.  He continues to swim upstream, going against the grain, and making believers out of non-believers.  Michael is a great inspiration for anyone who wants to try something different... something "crazy." Whether it's a career decision, a physical challenge, or conquering a basic fear... Michael shows us that it IS worth trying.  Weaker minds would have given up a long time ago, but Michael continues to grind, and he will enjoy the sweetest kind of success.  He has earned every bit of his success thus far, and for Michael, "the show must go on."  Please download his movie, This Thing with Sarah, enjoy the story, and keep your eye out for his next great work... filming Spring 2014!








To Take, or Not to Take... for Granted

     Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! In our busy lives we're often forced to focus on the troublesome and challenging things that we're faced with.  This is quite a natural process as issues and situations arise everyday that take us out of our comfortable routine and have to be dealt with as a priority.  Our mind works beautifully and efficiently enough to store our blessings and our comfort in the subconscious while allowing danger and trouble to occupy the forefront of our thoughts. It's absolutely important to handle these daily pressures. However, it's even more important to take time to consciously visit our subconscious and recall our daily blessings that we all take for granted. Practicing this on a daily basis is highly beneficial as a way to reduce stress and boost your spirit, but it's not easy, it takes... practice. 

     This past Sunday, Novemeber 24, I was fortunate enough to attend and participate in the Lead the Way Fund's 6th Annual, "A Run Down Hero Highway" also known as "Jimmy's Run."  (Admittedly I was a "walker" as my achilles isn't quite ready to do the full run yet.)  The temps were frigid and the wind was stinging, but over a thousand people braved the weather to give their support. I try to attend this event every year as it supports a wonderful organization, and gives me an OPPORTUNITY to start "giving-Thanks" early.  If you've read my blog before you know that this is a charitable organization that I am passionate about supporting.  Many of my friends and family have trained, run, and raised money for the LTWF. Many of my friends also give their time, energy, and money to make the Lead the Way Fund's mission possible.  I encourage you to take a look at the LTWF website, consider donating, or better yet... join us for a future event!  

     I'm well aware of the outstanding work the LTWF has done in the past, but I'm always amazed at how much they cotinue to grow and expand.  This years event specifically highlighted the selfless service and sacrifices made by three deceased Rangers, Detective Danny Richards, Army SGT Andrew Cote Nicol, and Army SPC Bradley D. Rappuhn.  It also introduced us to a courageous Ranger named Cory Remsburg who continues to recover after sustaining devastating injuries while serving in Afghanistan.  Hearing these stories, and getting to know the families is heart-breaking.  However, understaing each Ranger's selfless actions, and observing each family's strength and devotion is heart warming, humbling, and inspiring.  Phil Taylor of the American Fallen Soldiers Project always caps off the presentation with an emotional unveiling of the beautiful portraits he paints for the families of the fallen Rangers... and there is not a dry eye in the place. The ceremony is a beautiful celebration of service and life, and an amazing opportunity for us all to give THANKS.

     This Thanksgiving, I'm personally thankful for my wonderful family and my friends whom I've discussed at length in past blog posts. I'm also especially thankful for the Rangers, and all the armed forces, who protect our FREEDOM and our ability to live safely and comfortably everyday.  Please take a moment today to consciously visit your subconscious, and recall the things you might take for granted on a daily basis. Think about them, verbalize them, and when today's holiday is over... please remember to try and practice giving thanks everyday.  Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless America! 






     Yesterday's cold and rainy start turned into a beautifully mild and pleasant day.  This got me thinking that practicing yoga in the morning not only makes you feel better physically and mentally, but it might also have the power to change the weather.  When I walked into class yesterday it was pretty nasty out.  75 minutes of sweat, shiva flow, and a few hare krishnas later, I walked out to a beautiful day.  Today, no yoga... still raining.   So, on this quiet and soggy Sunday, I wanted to share a few stories to simply applaud LOYALTY and SERVICE. Please excuse today's intentionally basic format and "short of smooth" segues as I highlight the fact that substance and content are more important than flash and style (or in other words, admit that I'm feeling less than witty and creative today for some reason).

      If you haven't already noticed I tend to enjoy words, understanding their literal meaning, thinking/sharing about what they mean to me, and encouraging you to ponder what they mean to you. So here is more of the same:

* LOYALTY: Defined as "A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection" by

For me, loyalty is defined by a commitment to continually act in a selfless and supportive manner towards family, friends, and others.  For my parents, loyalty is celebrating 40 years of marriage today!  My parents have forever displayed this selfless and supportive attitude towards each other and our family.  Their vows of devoted attachment have endured 40 years of... her spending too much time at the pool, and him spending too much time on the soccer field (or on the couch watching soccer)... her ability to occasionally make mountains out of mole-hills, and his inability to listen/hear.  No matter the situation, decision, or disagreement my parents have displayed tremendous LOYALTY to each other, to their four kids, and to their six (soon to be eight) grandchildren.  I applaud them for setting such a good example.  Thank you sincerely and Happy Anniversary!


* SERVICE: Defined as "the work performed by one who serves" by

Service is a vague word with many interpretations and widespread uses.  It can be good/bad, personal/professional, exceptional/terrible, self/community, etc.  For me, service is about a relationship one has with another/others, either temporarily or long term.  Recently I observed work being done on and around my parents' house and I wanted to applaud the exceptional SERVICE provided by long time family friend, Pat Mille.  Pat has been friends with my parents for as long as they've been married, and he's done a ton of work on our house since they moved in over thirty years ago.  I can clearly remember Pat around our house when I was a young kid.  He is what I would respectfully describe as an old-school bricklayer.  He is a no-nonsense kind of guy devoted to the quality of his work, and happiness of his customers.  Decades of pouring concrete, hauling stone, and meticulously aligning bricks has changed his posture and banged up his hands, BUT at age 75 he remains as strong as an ox, and as talented as ever.

On Friday, after I realized that Pat had been working for three days straight (two days completely alone), I felt bad that I was about to go off to the gym and I'd had never offered to help him.  Not surprisingly, Pat didn't want my help when I offered.  I'm sure he was thinking, "Listen kid, you're wearing asics and under armour, and you probably don't know the first thing about concrete.  I look at you and I see liability more than assistance" but he simply said, "thank you but no."  In this society we are often expected to tip even when service is bad, and that gives some people the impression that poor service is acceptable.  So, I am making a conscious effort to be especially thankful for great service.  I applaud Pat for his decades of hard work, loyalty, beautiful work, and exceptional service. If anyone needs paving or stone work done... there is no one better. Pat thought I was strange for asking to take his picture, but he humored me and even flashed his half friendly/half intimidating smirk for the sake of being a good sport.  Sincere thanks Pat.

Finally, I want to wish my cousin Phil well as he left yesterday for his second deployment overseas.  I'm extremely proud of Phil for the hard work he has done to get where he is.  I have a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for the selfless SERVICE that he and the rest of our armed forces put forth every day to protect our Country.  Sincere thanks and prayers are with you! 





ATTITUDE... the way you LEAN!

     This time last year... most of us in the Tri-State area were freezing; searching for flashlights and dry firewood; (literally) fighting for gasoline; and emphatically cursing LIPA.  Super-Storm Sandy and her aftermath were tragic and long-lasting.  We all know volumes of heart-wrenching "Sandy stories" and we will never forget them.  Some families and businesses are even still battling back.  However, relative to last year... we're all doing great.  So... let's decide to celebrate this week, this month, and the rest of the year to remind each other that TOGETHER, we can't be beat!  

     Here are a few major events that Sandy cancelled last year (I may have missed a few):

1. Halloween...  Making this year's Halloween twice as nice for little ninjas and princesses everywhere.

2. 2012 NPC Eastern USA BodyBuilding Championships... Causing months of training and dieting, and many pounds of my bland tilapia to go to waste.

3. 2012 NYC Marathon... Upsetting mostly everybody; whether they were for or against the decision.

4. Lead the Way Fund's "A Run Down Hero Highway"... Postponing the 6th Annual Running of a very special event.

     Halloween 2013 was awesome, and hopefully helped the kids forget all about missing the trick-or-treating last year... Thanks to a minor Achilles injury I'm done competing in bodybuilding for a while...  So, let's focus on #3 and #4.

     Today was MARATHON SUNDAY.  It's a day when most New Yorkers take to the street to eat, drink, and celebrate the tremendous efforts and accomplishments of thousands of people from around the world (~48+ thousand runners).  This years race was even more special than most after the unprecedented and controversial cancellation of last year's race.  Furthermore, as Americans remember the tragic events that occurred at the Boston Marathon, there is an increased level of tension... and thankfully an increased level of security to match it. Leaving those significant matters to the professionals tasked with handling them, I wanted to focus on celebrating the runners.  

     Each and every one of the runners out there today was running for someone or "something." For the most part that "something" is very personal and unique, but there is one unifying "something" that every single runner shares.  That common "something" is often referred to as perseverance, guts, endurance, pride, strength, stamina, etc... but I actually believe that there is only one "something" that all 48+ thousand runners have in common.  That something is "ATTITUDE."  The word attitude can be defined and used in many ways.  It's meaning can be truly complex if you over think it, but when you boil it down to it's simplest form...  Attitude is the WAY YOU LEAN!  Attitude is + or - ... Attitude is whether you move towards something or away from it.  You have an attitude about everything.  Is it positive or negative?  Do you lean towards it, or move away?  The runners today all embodied the same ATTITUDE.  Literally, they all leaned forward towards the finish line (26.2 miles away and counting down).  Metaphorically, they choose to lean towards the challenge they were faced with; they choose to run TOWARDS the goal instead of moving away from it; they are all ATTITUDE+

     One of these runners who breathes ATTITUDE+ is VIPete Fitness client and friend Jessica Tubbs.  Jess emailed me in early July asking for my help in training for the 2013 NYC Marathon.  She explained that she'd undergone reconstructive hip surgery about 5 years ago (she also had two additional surgeries on the follow), but dreamed of running this year's NYC Marathon.  I had seriously mixed feelings after reading her email because I'd personally injured myself while training and running the 2011 NYC Marathon, and I started out with healthy hips, knees, and ankles!  However, I'm in the business of believing people CAN, and despite sound judgement and rational thinking... I really wanted to help her accomplish her goal.  It was obvious that Jess was going to try with or without me... so after giving all appropriate disclaimers about how crazy and dangerous what she was doing was I happily agreed to join her team. I wasn't going to be a dream killer. Coincidentally, Jess joined the Lead the Way Fund Marathon Team which is the same amazing organization that I ran the NYC Marathon for in 2011.   

     Jess and I focused on strength training and conditioning... and obviously the upper body shred (traps, delts, tri's and bi's) for wedding season : ).  Our main strategy was to build up her leg strength and core strength without causing any inflammation in the hip.  This was truly a challenge and learning experience for me in using caution and calculating modifications for almost everything I was used to doing.  I knew we had to avoid unnecessary mileage on her eternally "snappy" hip, but we had to get enough mileage in so that her joints could build up the stability to endure the whole marathon.  We agreed on one short run, and one progressively long run each week mixed in with the strength training and stretching.  We experienced a number of ups and frightening downs as Jess' hip occasionally decided to be "cranky."  As per usual, the plan changed, and changed again as we listened to what her body was telling us and tried to be "smart" while attempting to do something that most would consider "really stupid."  I honestly had a lot of stress through the process because I had to balance a desire to stay positive with Jess (moving her towards her goal) while feeling pressure and an obligation to keep her safe and healthy.  Anyway, Jess was not going to be derailed.  Even through some mystery bruising and recurring pains Jess had unbelievable strength in body and mind.  She displayed a remarkably positive ATTITUDE through training, and she brought that same unbelievable spirit to the starting line!

     Less than an hour ago, Jess completed the NYC Marathon in 4:27:41!  She battled windy and chilly conditions like everyone else, but she also battled nagging pain in her hips and achilles (yikes!) that most people wouldn't be able to fight through.  She chose to ignore the distractions, and relied on her remarkable ATTITUDE to keep her moving forwards towards achieving her goal... step by step by step.  Today she earned a prestigious marathon medal and many lifelong memories.  More importantly, she's proven to herself and to everyone else that if you want something bad enough, "you CAN always get what you want!" (sorry Mick)  Congratulations Jess on setting an example for the rest of us. 

     Jess ran for herself, her family, friends, doctors, and especially for the Lead the Way Fund which she passionately raised over $5,000 for (help her reach 6k!).  I've referenced the Lead the Way Fund a few times here including a mention of their annual event that was also cancelled by Sandy last year.  For those of you who are not familiar with the organization or the "Run Down Hero Highway" event... please click on the following link, and read the stories behind this truly special organization. Join us on Sunday, November 24th for the 6th Annual* A Run Down Hero Highway! I hope to see you out there showing off your ATTITUDE+.