You could say athleticism runs in Mark McPherson’s family. The boxing trainer at Mount Kisco’s Lexington Avenue Gym (914-241-2657; www.lexavegym.com) played football growing up, and had brothers who went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Diego Chargers, while he branched off to become a pro boxer. (In the ’80s, 14 of his fights were televised.)
“Working out,” he says, “has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.” Perhaps because of this, he says, “Sweating and encouraging others to is the equivalent of eating food to survive for me. It’s not just what I do, but who I am.”
For McPherson himself, inspiration comes from seeing the ripple effect his actions have had on others. “I trained a 12-year-old who recently graduated college with a degree in physical fitness, and is now the strength coach for a major university. To know that I influenced his career path was extremely gratifying. It made me realize that all of this is much more than just sweat.”
Principles of Life: McPherson emphasizes to his clients that making a change isn’t merely about a new diet or different type of exercise, but a total shift. “If they have a desire to be healthy, what are the core principles of that lifestyle?” he asks. Applying those might be daunting, he knows, but once there is a shift in perspective, “maintaining it means simply sticking to your core principles.”
When most runners contemplate pushing themselves to their physical limit, a marathon usually comes to mind. Not so for Chappaqua resident Eric Gelber, who ran 164 miles last September—27 consecutive loops around Central Park—to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. (He ended up raising $127,000.) Gelber started running for the cause in 2007 after a close family friend was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
His preferred mileage is “any distance that takes me through a night or two,” he says. “It’s hard to explain, but to really dig down deep into your soul and scrape together whatever is left to continue on is one of the most incredible things.” With such an atypical workout style, how much time does he devote to his passion? “During peak training, I would say 20-plus hours a week with maximum mileage of only 70 to 80 miles,” he says.
It’s Gelber’s wife, Tani, and three children, he explains, who plays a crucial role in his ability to continue doing what he loves. “I’m so fortunate to have amazing support. Everyone may think I am a little nuts, but they know how much this means to me and are 100-percent on board with my commitment. I could not do it without that.”
Mortal Pleasures: Despite all the training and mental discipline that goes into Gelber’s super-sport, he seems slightly more human when he talks about food. “I’m not a fanatic about diet. I train hard, but I also enjoy indulging in so many of life’s fruits, like craft beer, steak, and sour cream on my potatoes.”
Gwen Lawrence, Studio 14
As you might expect of someone who’s worked with some of the top bods in the sports industry, Gwen Lawrence, co-owner of Port Chester’s spinning and yoga hotspot Studio 14 (914-690-1414; www.thestudio14.com), has a lot of anatomical experience. Dancing from age 3 all the way through college instilled in her a love of movement and performance. “It became my way to stay sane, stay fit, and focus,” she says.
Later, working with massage therapists and chiropractors added to her “insatiable thirst to inquire about the body and its miraculous workings.” Combined with her background in anatomy, nutrition, and yoga, these pursuits propelled Lawrence to the forefront of pro-athlete training. She’s gotten everyone from the Giants to the Knicks in down dog, as well as members of the Yankees, Rangers, and some major college teams.
For her, this career isn’t so much a day job but a way of life: “I feel utterly defeated if I do not have a chance to work out during the day. It’s a necessity.” Despite her work with the big-timers, Lawrence takes satisfaction from working with the average person who takes her yoga class, striving to help others “find balance the way only an intuitive yogi and seasoned mom can.”
Body System: “Key for me when teaching my pro athletes is that they maintain balance and symmetry in their bodies. Sports create imbalances innately. You wouldn’t drive from New York to Florida in a misaligned car; you would wear and wear on one tire until it finally blew. It’s the same with your body,” says Lawrence.