With summer finally here, and the weather finally cooperating, we decided to do an interrogation to assist you in getting your body “beach certified”. Ron Potocnik, the Chicago athlete and trainer behind the “Train With Ron” phenomenon, talks to us about common exercise myths and the importance of a good diet and persistence.
F: Cool last name. What’s the origin of that?
R: The origin is Czech. My dad is 50% Czech and 50% Italian. My Mom is 100% Italian. It’s a different last name and over the years I’ve grown to like it. It was fun in school because I never had a teacher or professor who got it right. You pronounce the “c” as a soft “c” or as an “s”.
F: Help us dispel common exercise myths…
F: There are so many to cover but I’ll mention some that are brought up most often. “I don’t want to get bulky from weightlifting”. This is very common concern from my women clientele. I have do to a “Jedi Mind Trick” sometimes on this specific myth. I tell them that even if their goal was to get bulky it’s just not going to happen. First, you (as a woman) lack the catalyst for muscle growth, testosterone. Second, if you want to get bulky you would have to lift, train and diet a certain way for years to give your body that bulky look. Another popular myth is the classic “spot reduction”. My clients will also say, “I want to lose weight right here and right here”. I tell them just as you didn’t have a choice of where your body stored the weight, you don’t have a choice of where you want to lose it. Even if you want to lose weight in a specific area, you need to do full body work, compound lifting movements along with cardio and a good diet. The good news is your body will probably lose it where it stored it in the first place.
F: You’ve accomplished a lot of personal fitness goals, including dunking a basketball and running a 5:27 mile. What are some of your new goals?
Now that I’ve turned 40 and will be 41 this summer I needed a new set of fitness goals. I’ve taken up competitive track and field again. I want to finish in the top 20 internationally for 2009 in my age group for the 200m and 400m. Next year I want to finish in the top 50 all time for the 200m and 400m. These are records that have been kept back to the 1940s’. When there aren’t master’s races to compete in (meaning racing against guys your own age) I’ve entered myself as an unattached athlete in several different college track meets this past winter and spring. You can’t name too many 40 year old guys entering themselves in a college track meet let alone a 100m dash. I’m thinking to myself sometimes as I’m getting into the starting block, “I could be your father”. I get a “laugh out loud” moment to myself when I think how much older I am than these guys. That actually helps me relax from some pre-race jitters too. Some of my other goals are to run a 4.50 40 yard dash, rep 225lbs bench press 15 times and one time max rep 300lbs in the bench press. The last two I accomplished within the past two weeks. Lastly, I am heading to Finland for the World Masters Track and Field Championships. It will be an honor to wear the Team USA Uniform in Finland this summer!
F: Have you ever seen the reality show, the Biggest Loser? Do you have clients who you’ve brought into a much healthier weight? How long does it usually take to trim down from lets say 300lbs to 150lbs?
R: Yes, I’ve seen The Biggest Loser. Yes, I have a lot of clients that have lost anywhere from 20lbs to over a 100lbs of weight since they’ve been training with me. That’s a tough question to answer, “How long does it take to lose 150lbs?” It depends on many factors such as frequency, intensity, diet and your supporting cast. When you’re on a show like The Biggest Loser, you have the 24-7 support system with training and nutritional counseling. You also, have someone standing over your shoulder telling you to put away the ice cream. That last part doesn’t happen in real life. Over the last couple of years I’ve had a few clients tell me they want to take up dancing. I tell them I think that’s a great idea but I also ask why. They say they’ve been watching Dancing with the Stars and people have been losing a lot of weight since they’ve been on the show. What people don’t realize is that they are on their feet, moving around, lifting each other in the air for five plus hours a day. When I put it in that perspective dancing doesn’t sound like that much fun anymore. The bottom line is change can happen quickly if you want to pay the price and make the sacrifice.
F: You’ve trademarked a 30 on 30 off process. What is that?
R: I’ve always been a runner, well actually a sprinter and would try and simulate speed training on a treadmill. I wanted to interval train
at fast speeds and inclines without doing the long monotonous, running for 45 minutes at speed 5.0. I decided to increase the speed as well as the incline that would give me speed work as well as get my heart rate up. For example, I would run at speed 8.0 with an incline of 8.0 for 30 seconds on and then 30 seconds off for recovery. I try and do that for a total of 30 times for a 30 minute workout. I would not recommend 8.0 and 8.0 for someone new to the workout. I would suggest starting at a fast walk or light jog of speed 4.0 and incline 4.0. Do that for 10-12 workouts before you bring up the speed and incline. First, so you’re comfortable getting on and off the treadmill platform and second, build up your endurance to the higher speeds and angles. It’s a no nonsense, to the point, intense interval speed training. 30 on 30 off has also evolved into other aspects of training. It could be basic moves like lat pull-downs, push-ups, etc. You can break it up into three different body parts. Do a leg press of 30 on 30 off for a total of 10 rounds or 10 minutes, then a lat pull down for a total of 10 rounds or 10 minutes and finish with push-ups for a total of 10 rounds or 10 minutes. That’s a full body resistance training workout via 30 on 30 off.
F: If you had to do those workout infomercials, what would you showcase we buy for 5 monthly payments of $19.99 (but if we call now, we’d get one monthly payment off!)?
R: Well, I don’t know about another exercise machine but one product I would definitely endorse is Rank Your Workout – an online fitness tool to rank and chart personal workouts such as a five mile run or bench press session. After two or more entries it gives you a cool line graph of your time as well as a field to make notes such as, “it was rainy or hamstrings were tight today”.
I think one of the more exciting parts of the site is something I call Rank Your Workout Signature Moves. A strength of ours is our ability to create new moves workouts. Our clients like the fact that they never receive the same workout twice. Matt, DB and I come up with fun new moves like, The Terrible Two, The Crazy Eights, The Kilo, The Upper Body Century Club and many more.
You’ll find these new moves, as well as 100s of other videos that show other cool moves with the correct form, on the website. Currently, the videos are only available (and free) to our clients right now, but we expect to launch RYW to the public by the middle of August. The cost is $4.95 a month or $50 for the year. We want to make it very affordable.
F: What’s in your refrigerator?
My refrigerator has been very boring the last six months. In particular, I try and bring in a lot of spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and an arsenal of fruits such as bananas, apples, plums, strawberries, blueberries, etc. I’m looking for nutrient and energy dense foods. My workouts have been harder than they have been in a long time so I’m trying to eat food that will help me with my recovery! Once a month I’ll allow myself McDonalds or Taco Bell. Again, that’s once a month. Unfortunately, as people around the country eat this way once or twice a day, it becomes a nationwide problem.
Questions about Chicago
F: What’s your favorite summer activity?
When I was in my 20s and 30s I used to play 16” softball all the time. I loved the outfield. I was pretty good at robbing guys from cheap singles to a would be a home run in the gap. I hung up the cleats about four years ago. I really miss 16” softball and I’m glad I played for all of those years. It’s a Chicago classic and there are not too many other things like it in Chicago. I also like to golf, but time isn’t always on my side with this one. But I’ll still manage to make it out five to ten times a year. And despite not being a distance runner I do love getting out on the lakefront when it’s 90 and humid and going for an easy two to three miles. Of course I’ll turn it into something competitive for myself and I’ll time how long it can take me to run from the North Ave bridge to the Fullerton Ave water fountain. I’ve also played all of the Chicago social scene sports such as beach volleyball, flag football. Pretty much anything athletic and competitive you can count me in.
F: Any beach you particularly like in Chicago ?
I used to live in Lincoln Park so the North Ave and Fullerton Ave beaches always worked well for me.
F: Best place to eat AFTER a workout? Best place to eat BEFORE a workout?
I’m pretty boring when it comes to this too especially if I’m eating for a workout it’s my house. I have control and I know exactly what I’m putting in my body. Right now, I’m strictly a function eater so I do a lot of Trader Joes and Whole Foods shopping. But if I had to pick one restaurant I would say definitely Flat Top Grill. I love that place.
F: Where can we learn to bulk up like the Hulk?
There’s only one place: Train With Ron! We are definitely tailored to people leaning out who want to feel better about themselves. When you look at my average success story on my website, we are about hitting goals. It could be passing the fitness test for the FBI, going off blood pressure meds or just staying consistent working out for the first time in years. I think another thing that helps my clients reach their goals is that we make it interesting and fun. The other guys at TWR, Matt Ulrich and Dale “DB” Barr have been with me for almost two years now. Matt is a former All Big Ten Football Player at Northwestern and a Super Bowl Champion with the Indianapolis Colts. DB is an up and coming triathlete. He also played baseball at the University of Arizona. Between the three of us and our athletic backgrounds there really isn’t another gym or facility that can match our experience and dedication to our clients.