Beating the Living Daylights out of Cancer

by Dave N.
Dave Neway PhotoWhen I checked myself into City MD for a dull stomach ache last May, I was hardly prepared for the diagnosis that followed: Stage IV Colon Cancer with metastatic spread to the liver.  I had zero family history with the illness, and lacked the mutating gene, so I was pretty much just really unlucky.  And I was 33, so about 17 years too young to be thinking about colonoscopies and the like.  What I quickly learned was that I’d need surgery to remove the tumor in my colon, and because my liver was initially unresectable (due to the location of the metastases), I’d need a special hepatic pump to infuse large doses of chemotherapy locally to my liver.  I was told the odds of my liver becoming resectable were about 20%, so it was difficult for me to be optimistic.
Lo and behold, after 3 months of heavy-duty chemo, during which I dragged myself to the gym 4-5 times a week, despite the extreme exhaustion and post-surgical discomfort, I beat the odds, and my liver responded completely to the chemo regimen: I was ready for the first of two surgeries that would remove all signs of cancer from my liver (and, by extension, my body).  I realized after my second surgery in the fall, however, that my entire abdominal area was severely weakened, and that I needed to take more dramatic action to rehabilitate my core and get my body back into prime condition, not only in preparation for a third and final surgery, but in the interest of thwarting recurrence as well.   Enter Ed Gemdjian.
Ed had been lauded to me by a close friend who trained with Ed for only a short while and achieved tangibly outstanding results.  Upon learning of my situation, Ed reached out to me to begin a training regimen that was specially configured to my needs and restrictions.  Ed and I began working together while I was still in the middle of chemotherapy, but as the chemo knocked me down, Ed’s training helped me bounce right back.  I noticed my body getting stronger, particularly in my core, which had been decimated by my first liver surgery, and muscles I had in my 20s were starting to come back.
My final surgery was meant to be a liver resection, whereby at least 2/3 of my liver was to be removed (don’t worry, it grows back).  Shortly before said surgery was scheduled, my liver surgeon ran some scans and noticed that my liver had responded so well to the chemo that a resection was no longer necessary (instead, they would use radio frequency ablation to just nuke the individual remaining spots, which were already half-calcified anyhow).  Upon opening me up during the third surgery in early 2014, my surgeon noticed abdominal muscles I hadn’t had before, and that I was in the best shape he’d seen me in since I started treatment.  My recovery should’ve been around a week after that surgery because it was quite invasive.  I was instead discharged after 5 days because I bounced back so quickly.  Within 2.5 weeks, I was back at the gym doing cardio 4-5 times a week.
The CT scans that followed this surgery have confirmed that I don’t have any cancer in my body now – a complete 180 from where I was a year ago.  While it’s hard to parse out exactly what elements of my treatment were responsible for what proportion of my success – chemo, acupuncture, healthy diet, etc.- I’m convinced my training with Ed and the Tier 4 trainers at Equinox gave me a HUGE leg up in fighting this disease, and coupled with everything else I was doing, gave me ammunition to kick cancer to the curb with no invitation to return.  I’m not a doctor, so I can’t articulate exactly how my exercise regimen worked in my favor, but I believe that by increasing my metabolism, burning body fat and adding lean muscle through my program with Ed, I created an optimal environment in which the chemotherapy could work.
At the height of my treatment, I was 215 pounds due to the steroids in the chemotherapy which caused substantial weight gain.  I’m now 189 pounds, and leaner, fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been, and I couldn’t have arrived here without Ed.  F**k you, cancer. I won.

Help Get Mahmoud Said Back to the Olympics!

Mahmoud Said and Steven Lin

Mahmoud(Mou) Said is the most competitive person I know.  In a field like health and wellness that’s saying a lot!  There is an undying faith in him that brings the confidence and humility to succeed.  Mou has endured ACL tears, a fractured tibia and wrist and numerous sacrifices to finish his business in the upcoming Rio Olympics.  His motto has always been to Dream Big and stay focused on his goals no matter what obstacles come his way.

Team Awesome has worked with Mou and Steven Lin(USA Taekwondo) on their Strength and conditioning in preparation for trials and international competitions.  Watch the Dream Big video below to see how you can contribute to the success of a true champion.

Mou Said Dream Big

Edward Gemdjian is a Health and Wellness Coach and Holistic Lifestyle Practitioner. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.  For information on web based training, pleaseContact us or click on the link at the top of the page.

I thought we were trying to Combat Obesity?

By: Cathy Prince

I find it interesting, that more and more establishments are offering a complimentary dessert with purchase.  Your incentive to order from us, or to do business with us is this fattening treat that will spike your insulin levels, and bust your gut.

Correct  me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a major part of marketing these days about how good everything should be for you?  About how important it is to go out and be active, not to sit around eating processed sugary foods?  I mean hell, the First Lady has a program promoting physical health and well-being.  You can read all about it here:  It isn’t that you can’t ever have something sweet or slightly bad for you, I would be a hypocrite if I said that, (Milka brand milk chocolate is my new addiction) it’s just that why are we spouting “get healthy” sermons, but then immediately doing the opposite?

This morning Ed and I ate at one of our favorite breakfast spots in Chelsea, Cookshop.  We love breakfast there because it isn’t quite the “scene” that it becomes during lunch and dinner, and they have an amazing scramble with smoked salmon, caramelized onions and scallions that we just love to indulge in every once in a while.  The thing that strikes me, is that every morning they have some kind of petite baked good to give you as you walk out the door.  I know in my heart that more than half of the customers do not eat as healthy of a breakfast as we do, so why the need to give us refined sugar on our way out the door?  Don’t get me wrong, I love the sentiment, a nice little homemade treat that’s comforting and sure tastes good, so we have positive thoughts about our time at Cookshop all day and will definitely be back tomorrow.  But in reality, will that tiny chocolate chip muffin guarantee our return?  Of course not.  But what it will do is spike our sugar levels which guarantees a crash, and the sugar, butter and chocolate that go into that tiny bite will add up somewhere be it on our thighs, stomach, in our arteries, you name it!

This next example just completely shocks me.

My fiance, as you all know, is a personal trainer.  One of his co-workers, to save time, orders his groceries every now and then from FreshDirect.  What I like about FreshDirect, is that they get fresh produce from local sourced farmers, locations, etc, and deliver it right to your door.  What I don’t like is their new promotion “Free Cookies in your Next Order”.  I mean seriously?!  Not only do I not physically go out and walk to the store to buy my groceries, but now you’re going to give me and my family free cookies to celebrate?  Considering how much I like the idea of FreshDirect in general, this promotion has made me rethink using this service.  What do you think?

A “Model” Client

by Julia Evgenova
I work as a fashion model around the globe, so looking good is part of my job description. I’ve always considered myself lucky because I have crazy metabolism, which allows me to remain thin no matter how lazy I am and how horrible my diet is. However, looking good and feeling good is not always the same thing.
So, after years of avoiding gyms I decided to sign up at Equinox. I had low energy and was stressed with the fast paced life in New York City. Joining the gym seemed like a typical New Yorker thing to do to get rid of those two problems. First session I took with Ed was purely to learn how to get around the gym, as the whole concept was foreign to me. However, when I realized how completely out of shape I was after the trial session, I decided that I would be able to do very little on my own and that I require some help.
I must say I was quite pessimistic in the beginning – I couldn’t do a push up and my knees shook when I did squats. I remember Ed saying that I had a flexibility of a 40 year old man, not exactly a complement. I thought that it was hopeless, and my body was simply not made for lifting weights and doing jumping jacks.
Little did I know I was perfectly capable of all of those things; all it took is a bit of perseverance and the right person to show me the way. Sessions with Ed challenged me without making me feel like I couldn’t handle them. His weekly advises on my diet slowly but surely eliminated most unhealthy foods from my diet. And the best part is that I do not miss those deep fried sugary things today.
The increase in difficulty of his workouts was so gradual, that I barely took notice of it. I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but one day I realized that I can do 15 push-ups in a row, and not the girly kind with my knees on the ground, the real ones! Same goes for everything else.
Now, it’s been a year since I had a chance to actually work out with Ed, as I have moved from New York. Although he cannot supervise my work outs, he continues to create them, so I can continue to train on my own. It gives me great satisfaction when the buff guys at my current gym drop their jaws seeing a skinny girl like me lifting weights and swinging kettle bells like a pro.
I’ll always be grateful to Ed not only for the awesome body that came out from all of our training sessions together, but for the entirely new healthy lifestyle to which he gradually converted me. Now not only do I look great, but I feel awesome.
Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.  For information on web based training, pleaseContact us or click on the link at the top of the page.

Coming in 2012!


Morning In Zucotti Park

by Sebastian Briglia


I believe in a peaceful revolution,” said Michael Angelo Bosch, a muscle-bound middle-aged man with sunglasses on and a beret covered with badges. The badges are tiny, and before I get to their message I resolve to read the sign he is holding, which is a full manifesto on a four by two placard. It starts with “Everybody wants to change the world but nobody wants to change.” True enough, I think to myself. I see the word “love” all over it, and on his shirt, so I decide I should speak to him. Just staring at him with my camera trying to read everything seems a bit awkward, and awkward can make some people angry, which I generally stay away from when large muscle towers over me. “I think with the power of unity and the power of love,” Bosch continued, “we’re not only going to help to change what’s happening in this country but also globally. You see a global awakening that’s starting already…”

So what is happening in this country that we need to change? As I understand journalism, a blog entry is an opinion piece, so here are a few ranting paragraphs filled with my own opinion (it’s a sort of a landslide so brace yourselves):

A man in a Guy Fawkes mask held up a sign by the entrance at the lowest point of Zuccotti Park, by the Freedom Tower site. It read: “What is our Demand? Better Health Care, Decent Wages, Stop High Mortgages, No More Rent Hikes, Racial and Sexual Equality, Leaders that Represent the People, No More Useless Wars, Balance the F**king Budget, Education + More.” I would have easily dismissed such a list of demands as too general, a “sludge” of “every left-wing cause,” as Fox News producer Jesse Watters said on the O’Rilley Factor. I would have rationalized that it’s not so simple, although having no training in economics none of this can possibly be simple to me. It would have been easy to do that if a few of these topics did not incidentally drop into my life around this time:

Rent Hikes. I left the ghetto a year ago even though our landlord offered us a lease without an increase. I didn’t realize how “gracious” this was until this year, though even if I had I still wouldn’t have put up with death-threats from our drunk neighbors who were simply drowning their disappointments in their own way… This year our rent went up. My salary did not. It hasn’t in almost four years. I’m young, so this was the first time I realized how important a cost of living yearly increase is. We asked for a raise at work and were told that because of the economy, nobody is getting one. I did the research, and as far as our income bracket was concerned, they were right. “Decent Wages” – check.

I called the landlord and told her this, and she said that it’s not up to them. The Rent Control Board has authorized the rent hike. I guess it seemed obvious to her that she would increase the rent as much as she could, and although she took ten dollars off upon my phone call, it still went up. So here is a government commission authorizing owners to increase rent every year regardless of the economy and the interests of those affected by it. “Leadership that Represents the People” – check.

New York has a constant flow of wide-eyed youngsters who are willing to pay too much to get to live here, until they realize in a year that they can’t afford to, so the market is flooded. Much like the New York tour-bus industry, of which I was a part of, landlords don’t need to provide good customer service – the hype of the city itself assures anyone who has the capital to get into that kind of industry can do what they want. So much for the free market’s self regulation. And speaking of raises, the very employees we bailed out with our taxes, bank CEOs, are getting bonuses again. Phew. Enough about the issues. Back to the magic of Occupy Wall Street.

Michael Angelo Bosch, the muscle-bound activist, seemed very confident in his convictions. He went on to put his personal mission at Occupy Wall Street in a nut-shell for me and we’ll get back to him later, but most of the people I encountered before him were less assertive, like me. They just knew something was wrong, their energy was more like someone who was tired of oversleeping and was up early in the morning, but before they could do anything they had to show up somewhere, so they showed up there.

In fact it was early in the morning. Sort of. Just before 9 am. People were waking up, sweeping, adjusting their tarps and thermal foil.  Two young men were already busy at the info center – a barricade with some cables behind it . They were helping residents recharge their phones. Later their role would change: “We can tell you our message, but I suggest you walk around and talk to people if you want to find out what we’re really about,” I overheard one of them say. Not to a media representative, but to a young man with a stranger-in-a-strange-land look who no doubt had a message of his own. The kitchen had donated pastries put out on folding tables. A man in a yellow reflective vest with a red cross on it was setting up the medical tent. His first customer was rubbing the sleep from his eyes while helping himself to some chap-stick.

The library was already open by 9 am – a clearing with Tupperware containers full of books arranged very nicely indeed. The clear-plastic box labelled “Health and Wellness” prominently featured two books on top of the rest. They were “Cracking the Millionaire Code, Your Key to Enlightened Wealth” and “How to Clean Practically Anything.”

A man with piercings and a gray hoodie said “Looks like the pictures are coming out nice and clear” as I was scrolling through them on my camera in the crowd.  I figured he wanted me to interview him. His name was Gregory and he had just turned 41, and was there because he had gotten into a disagreement with his family and needed a place to stay. Through the camera I saw a searching look in his eyes, as if he had some questions for me too. I could have told him that I was in his situation six years ago, and if I was going through that today I would have probably come to Occupy Wall Street as well. Instead I thanked him for spending the night there. He was going to look for a halfway house the next day. The mere presence of so many people at Occupy Wall Street who do not know where to turn when things fall apart is, as I see it, the strongest testament that something in the way America is structured needs to change.

“I think this not only calls attention to the injustice of corporate greed in America,” Michael Angelo Bosch went on to say, “or the lack of understanding of the people’s needs by our politicians, but I think it supports a global awakening to the injustice that’s happening around the world, and people are coming together. Hopefully we can see some change happen. We don’t have to resort to radical movements like the 1960’s where you become physically violent or anything. I think with people power, with understanding, with people coming together and the power of love, things can and will change.”

By noon professional camera crews with their anchors and stage lights dominated Zuccotti Park. It’s amazing how quickly a heated debate among people who have made themselves comfortable amidst the insecurity of tents in the middle of downtown Manhattan morphs into a self-conscious display of uncertainty when suits, microphones and bright lights are present.

5 Tips to Restore Your Fitness

by Ed Gemdjian

PhotoFreedom PhotographyThe New year has been upon us for more than a month now, but I’m sure some of you are still not succeeding in your main resolution.  The truth is, getting fit again is not as easy as making a resolution, but it can be as simple as following some simple guidelines.

Consistency and Persistence – Just like any goal you’ll tackle in your life, fitness takes consistency, you won’t change your body by exercising once.  Make a commitment to exercise a minimum of 3 times per week.  Even if you just show up for a 30 minute Abs class, it’s better than not coming at all.  Be persistent about showing up regularly, and you will see results within a few weeks.

Strength in Numbers – Why does working with a personal trainer get results?  Not only do trainer’s know what they’re doing, it is always motivating to work alongside someone who has your best interest in mind.  This isn’t just limited to trainers, find a workout buddy, go on a diet with your best friend, bet your sister you can get to the gym more times this month.  Most importantly, hang out with like minded people.  I have been a personal trainer for 6 years and I still workout with a partner as often as possible.

Alcohol = Calories – Sad but true, a glass of white wine averages 85 calories, a rum and coke is 182 calories.  Since alcohol is essentially sugar,  after just 2 drinks, you’ve already eaten a chocolate chip cookie in liquid form!  What’s worse, we usually drink late at night, go straight to bed and our bodies store any excess calories we didn’t burn off as fat.  Limit your late night drinks, alternate each drink with a glass of water, and if you’re planning on drinking tonight, skip desert to spare your self some extra calories.

Lift Those Weights! – Ladies, don’t be afraid of weight training.  One of the most important measures of health is body composition.  This is your body’s ratio of muscle and fat, if you don’t have muscle, your body fat % will be higher, putting you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.  Women are also at risk for Osteoporosis, a bone density disease for which the only natural remedy is resistance training.  Also, as you lose fat through diet and cardio, the lean muscle mass you build will give you the lean, toned look of a Hollywood starlet!

Keep Track of Your Progress – The mirror will lie to you!  Depending on your mood, the light in the room, the time of the month, your judgement of your progress may be skewed.  Instead, keep a record of your weight, circumference measurements and body composition if possible.  Write down your daily workouts and food intake as well.  This will make your goals and your efforts real, it will make it easier to stay on track and stick to your plans.  When you can see your food intake on paper, it will be easier to realize what you should and should not be eating.

Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.  For information on web based training, please Contact us or click on the link at the top of the page.

The Seven Year Itch

by Anisha A.

I have been a member at Equinox since I moved to NYC eight years ago.  Before I started training with Ed, I kept my workouts pretty simple.  I didn’t really push myself too hard, but tried to be consistent about working out.  However, after seven years as a member, it finally hit me that I wasn’t seen any results, and I hadn’t even used most of the gym’s facilities.

That all changed when I started training with Ed.  My goals were twofold: to better understand what to do at the gym and to become more toned.   After taking the time to understand where I was coming from, Ed constructed a series of specialized workouts that catered to my goals.  Our sessions are often centered on circuit training, in which we do a series of exercises that incorporate full-body movements and are cardio-intensive.

Ed is clearly experienced and knowledgeable about his profession; he is able to improvise and has a whole host of exercises in his toolbox.  When I started training for a 100-mile bike ride in Tahoe, he began incorporating exercises into our sessions that helped prepare me for high altitude and steep climbs.  In addition, one time I came in incredibly upset about something and said, “I want to hit something”.  Those who know me would say that is very unlike me (I’m too scared to even watch fight scenes in movies).  Ed did not get flustered; he quickly recreated our workout and soon I was slamming ropes and medicine balls.

Ed also pushed me harder than I had ever pushed myself (tell me, when does someone willingly run up three flights of stairs with dumbbells in hand? And not once, twice, but THREE times?).  It wasn’t long before I started seeing progress; I started taking in my skirts at the tailor and buying clothes one size smaller.  And when I go to the gym on my own, I am not overwhelmed.  I can choose between various exercises, whether its swinging ketelbells, lunging across the gym, or doing push-ups on a Bosu ball.  I would not have been able to do this without Ed’s training and it is very clear to me that he helped me achieve my goals.

What’s also special about Ed, however, is that he goes above and beyond his mandate. He could easily come in to the gym, run me through some exercises, and call it a night.  However, he has helped me reassess my whole lifestyle and better understand my body.  During our sessions, Ed would share his insight about nutrition, explaining to me how I could modify my diet and eat better. He encouraged me to get a heart rate monitor so I could make the most of my workouts.  He is also encouraging me to sign up for bike races now that I have completed several long rides.

I am very fortunate to have had Ed train me for the past year-and-a-half, and I’m also lucky to also have him, and now his girlfriend Cathy, as friends.  I would highly recommend Ed to anyone that is looking to get in shape and better their overall lifestyle.

Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.  For information on web based training, please Contact us or click on the link at the top of the page.

3 Exercises to Change Your Body Today

by Alberto Vasari

The new year brings about some strange things at the gym.  I’m not talking about the people, more so the exercises and strange equipment.  There is almost a desperation in the eyes of some, trying to find that quick cure all.  The magic pill you’re looking for does not exist, but there is hope, and it’s more simple than you think.

There are 3 simple exercises that will give you a full body work out.  None of them are easy, and you’ll have to perform them consistently, but I promise you will see results immediately.

You’ll start with pull ups, this the most difficult body weight exercise because you’ll be lifting your entire body with only the use of your back and arms.  The majority of your work will come from the lats and traps in your middle back.  Any extra help will come from your biceps and forearms.  You won’t be able to do many at first, maybe only one, don’t give up, you will get stronger.

Next come push ups.  I’m sure you’ve done this before, but you’ll need to make sure your chest hits the ground on every repetition.  Your Chest, shoulders and triceps are the primary movers in this exercise.  Focus on quality rather than quantity, the reps will come with practice.

by Alberto VasariSquats finish this lesson.  Start out with a bench or chair behind you to gauge your distance and make sure you keep your feet flat on the ground.  This one exercise works all of the major muscles in your lower body including the glutes, the largest muscle in your body.  Feel free to add weight to these with either dumbbells or kettle bells.

For beginners, just start with 3 sets of each exercise every time you come to the gym.  Intermediate exercisers should do a set of each exercise consecutively for 3-5 rounds.  For you advanced folks looking for the next great challenge: Do as many rounds of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats in 10 minutes.  Challenge your self to do more rounds each week, and you will see strength and toning gains within a couple of weeks.

The lesson here is “Fitness is SIMPLE, it is not EASY!”

Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.  For information on web based training, please Contact us or click on the link at the top of the page.

The Psychology of Dieting

Edward Gemdjian

by Edward Gemdjian

January is the month for resolutions.  Some of us are determined to save more money this year, while others aim to get engaged or go back to school.  Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers are in a mad dash back to the gym, hoping to drop that 5 or 30 pounds the holidays helped pack on.  For most of us this isn’t the first time we’ve tried to lose weight.  It isn’t the first time the winter blues and decadence of the holidays have caused us to increase a jean size or two.  So what then, will be different this year?  We’ve done the exercise before, we even bought the Weight Watcher’s Points book last year, it didn’t work.  Is there something wrong with us?

In short my answer is yes, there is something imperative missing from most of our January weight loss plans.  It is quite simply our belief that we can succeed.  We know what we need to do, but we either don’t think we can do it or we can point the finger at a ton of things that will get in the way of our best laid plans.  We simply will not take responsibility for our health and appearance.  Why is it that every billboard gets thinner and leaner while the people walking the busy street below are getting bigger and fatter?

We must begin to treat ourselves and our loved ones as if we can not fail.  After all, if we put our best effort forth, if we find the most qualified people to help us, if we commit ourselves to our goals fully, then we truly can not fail.  If we support each other in these efforts, our chances of success increase exponentially.

Most importantly, believe in the process.  Most diets and eating plans fail because we give up before the end of the program.  Believe that you can finish, believe that the results will come, most importantly, believe that we all believe in you and support you.  Carry over the spirit of the holidays, by supporting your fellow dieters.  Whatever higher power you believe in does not want a bunch of depressed overweight followers, it’s true.

Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.  For information on web based training, please Contact us or click on the link at the top of the page.

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