Warning: This is not one of my typical blogs giving you 5 tips to blast your biceps. It’s a story about my favorite training partner, who also happens to be my partner in life and the mother of my children. If sappy stuff isn’t your thing, skip this!
In the fall of 1989, I was working at a place called European Health Spa in West Newton, MA. I had just turned 20 years old. My job title was ‘Instructor,’ but what I was really supposed to be doing was selling memberships. Though I did take members through workouts, often juggling 5-8 at a time as I ran around the workout floor, I was not in any way certified as a trainer. None of the instructors were. John, the club owner, was fanatical about the ‘cash and gross’ totals any time he called and especially when they were tallied up at the end of every night.
Janet Rodriguez came in on a guess pass through a friend. She was 18 years old and in what would be her first and only semester at Boston University. She had also served in the Army National Guard. The minute I saw her, I was enthralled. She was gorgeous and had a wholesome quality about her. But what really made me fall for her was that she actually wanted to train hard. While most of the women that came into the club used the lightest weights possible and were more interested in the aerobics classes, Janet challenged herself to lift more on curls, bench presses, leg presses, and so on. Of course I used to sprint to the front desk to pull her workout card the second I saw her walk in the place.
It took me a couple months to get the courage up to ask her out, but once I did, we were inseparable. Very soon after that, we started working out together as often as our schedules allowed. I had competed in my first two contests in the few months before we met, but in the coming years – decades actually – Janet was my biggest supporter at all the rest.
We were married in June of 1991, and Janet moved out to LA where I had been living and working since January. I had been training at the famous Mecca of Bodybuilding, Gold’s Gym in Venice, and now we became regulars there as well as on the nearby beach and boardwalk on many weekends. It was a truly magical time. We were newlyweds, crazy about each other and crazy about working out. There we were, these two youngsters from Boston, out in LA and training alongside male and female bodybuilding stars too numerous to mention. Let’s just say that back then Gold’s Venice was THE place for top bodybuilders. If they didn’t live out there and train there all the time, they certainly would make trips out from all over the USA and Europe to spend time training there for at least a week or two every year. For variety, sometimes he headed down to the Gold’s Gym in Fullerton, home of Orange County based stars like Shawn Ray and Troy Zuccolotto.
Janet gave birth to our first child, Marisa, in April of 1994. She had ballooned up from 125 pounds at 5-2 to 200, but was right back in the gym and lost all that ‘baby weight’ in about three months.
By mid-1992, we had started training at World Gym in Pasadena, which was about a 15-minute drive for us as opposed to 40-120 minutes to Venice, depending on traffic conditions. I had male training partners on and off, but Janet was consistently my workout partner for the nearly 9 years at that gym, which became a Gold’s near the end of that time. We pushed each other hard, and Janet was great at correcting my form and telling me to lighten up whenever I had the urge to go stupid heavy, which was often. But far more important was the time we were able to spend together doing something we both loved so much.
We moved back to Boston in the fall of 2000, having had our son Christian the year before. We trained at a few different places for those first few years, but almost always together. Now that we had two kids, I valued our workouts more than ever as one of the rare times we had for just us as a couple.
Janet herself competed a few times from 2002 to 2008, first in Figure and then in bodybuilding. It was so exciting for me to be able to help her with her diet, her posing, choreographing posing routines, and even painting her with Pro Tan as she had done for me so many times before. We competed in a few of the same shows, which were experiences I will never forget. Once in 2004 when it was only her competing, we hadn’t realized an annual Walk for Hunger had large sections of streets blocked off in downtown Boston. I think GPS navigators were around then, but we sure didn’t have one and I was doing my best with a map. Long story short, she almost missed the judging!
Janet entered her last two contests in the fall of 2008, and it wasn’t long before she took an interest in CrossFit. She did try doing both bodybuilding workouts with me at our gym and her CF workouts at a CrossFit ‘box’ for a while, but it was too much. In CrossFit, the motto is ‘train for the unknown.’ The WOD, or Workout Of the Day, isn’t posted on any CF gym’s web site until the night before. So there were times when she would blast legs with me, only to find she had to do squats and box jumps the next day, or hit back with me only to have to do kipping chin-ups and rowing the next day at CrossFit. I hated to lose her as a training partner, but she had grown bored with bodybuilding training and was really taking to CrossFit.
She became better and better, actually doing a few local competitions, but more so enjoying the supreme challenge of the constantly changing workouts with so many different types of exercise: running, box jumps, double under rope skipping, chin-ups, wall balls, kettlebell swings, rowing, ring dips, Olympic lifts, etc, etc. Janet eventually lost some of her muscle mass that she had carried training bodybuilding style, but she is now in the absolute best shape of her life at 44 years old – a true athlete with power, flexibility, and endurance. I’ve watched her go through many WOD’s over the last few years, and I am always impressed with her level of intensity. As always, she is all about hard training.
And so, it’s been years since we trained together. Yesterday, after me having asked her many times over the last few months, we caught our first workout together in probably over six years. It was like we had never stopped training together. We hit shoulders and arms, and it was spectacular. I don’t know when I will get that privilege again, but for now I am just grateful to have been able to revisit those glory days when I trained with my favorite training partner of all time – my wife Janet, aka The Cuban Missile!