Monday, October 10, 2016

Kevin Levrone

I was fortunate enough a few months back to witness a training session with Kevin Levrone as he trained for his comeback in bodybuilding. To me, it was an admirable and Herculean task. At age 52, Levrone , after 13 years away from the stage, decided to throw his hat in the ring and give the Mr. Olympia stage a shot. 

Seeing that both of us hail from Maryland, I have always felt some allegiance to Levrone and have followed his career closely.  I saw through the internet that he was training at Exile Fitness in Maryland. I  just decided one day to go see him train. I don't really know why, except that I wanted to support him and admired his comeback and testicular fortitude for deciding to put his name and body on the line once again. I contacted the owner of Exile , Bob, and he said to come on down, that all are welcome. Just hearing that was hard to believe, seeing how most folks these days don't return calls or emails in my experience.  But in this case, Bob got right back to me, so I grabbed my 10 year old son, James and we headed down to Baltimore.

First impressions of the gym? The gym transported me back to the 1980's as soon as I walked in. No, not the condition of the equipment, which was excellent. It was the atmosphere. Electric is what I called it when telling others about it later. It was the best atmosphere that I have ever been around, and I have been in plenty of gyms over the years.

 It seemed to me that everyone in there was either training for a powerlifting meet or a bodybuilding show or a physique show or MMA. Deep squats, deadlifts, chalk, folks pushing each other. Big dudes, muscular women. No preening in the mirror, just a bunch of tattoos and cutoff sweats and hard work. 

After a tour of the place with Bob, James and I started training. It was one of those days where you just can go forever because it just feels great. I think that James did every exercise in the gym, including deadlifting twice.

After about an hour, Kevin walked into the gym and Bob called us over. We walked over and took a couple of pictures. Kevin asked James some questions about sports, about what he wants to be when he grew up . He was super cool and cordial.  He told me that he was working legs that day. After some more small talk, James and I went to finish up some exercises and Kevin and his training partners went over to the squat rack. Bob pumped up some Godsmack extra loud for this session. 

My son James was deadlifting on a platform about ten feet from where Kevin was working. Kevin called me over and asked me about training athletes and what I do with  knee tendinitis. He has an awful case of it, and showed me videos of him getting stem cell treatment for his knees. Regarding squatting, he squats deep. He asked me, " Coach, why don't people squat all he way down?" I answered, "I really don't know Kevin." Mystery, right? Each set, Kevin would call me over to spot him along with his other partners.

Between sets, he came over to me and said, "Ya know coach, you came down to see me,  and you brought your son. So I told myself that I needed to have a great workout." At one point someone brought up his age and I said, "Kevin, I am glad that you are 52, because it make it that much more special for you to be doing what you are doing."

 The whole gym stops when he is performing a set, and yells of encouragement can be heard from seemingly the whole gym.  After going up to 405 for some reps, he put on 315 and did 19 reps. Impressive. Below is a video of the 315x19.

Leg press was next. He kept putting more plates on the machine until he literally could not fit any more weight on it.

So he has all the weights in the gym on the leg press and he was supposed to get 12 reps. But he kept going, kept pushing and ended up completing 25 reps. He was working his ass off, and it was great to see it, someone pushing themselves so hard.

One thing I noticed was that his training partners were really there for him, pushing him, firing him up for his big sets. I love that type of camaraderie.

Kevin decided to take a break before hamstrings and went into the office at the front of the gym. I figured that it was time to hit the road, and James and I went back to the office to say goodbye.

Kevin looked at James and said, "James, let me tell you something, I haven't lifted that amount of weight in 13 years. I want you to know that I did that because you were here. And another thing, James, I want you to keep in touch with me. And remember James, that workout was for you."

Those of you with kids will get it- when someone is that nice to your kid, it touches you deeply. I told Kevin thanks and we headed on out . It was one of those experiences that you always remember, one of those days that just are special and one of those days that give you a heady feeling , a fired up feeling whenever you think about it.  

Although Kevin didn't do as well as he wanted to in the show, he inspired thousands with his comeback and received a standing ovation at the Mr. Olympia. He has decided to keep competing, and I for one, will be watching closely, rooting him on.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.