Daniel Archibald is the personal fitness trainer for Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf, and last Saturday he and his fiancé, Kristine Desroches, attended Steven J. Wong’s Saturday morning strength and conditioning class.
I took the occasion to talk to Daniel, who lives in Prince Edward Island where Phaneuf resides in the off-season, about fitness. Daniel, who is 33, has been training for 15 years and has been teaching fitness for two years. He became aware of Steven through some of his training and conditioning methods on Facebook and befriended him.
I asked Daniel about the key to strength and conditioning.
“It’s functional mobility – core, core, core,” he began. “I always say from your core, everything else flows. If you can imagine the world’s four strongest chains and attach them to a ball of putty, they’re useless. It’s the same with your core. It’s all based off your core. Core is responsible for your posture, for everything.”
I wondered about weight lifting, which many people tend to focus on when they join a gym, and how it fits into strength and conditioning.
“Weight training is still very important,” Daniel said. “I’ve messed up both my shoulders. I’ve snapped my patella tendon, I’ve snapped my Achilles tendon, all when I was younger from overtraining. You get in with a bunch of guys, in particular young guys, and it’s all about getting heavier and heavier and thicker and thicker, and then they try to do something functional like running or jumping or anything else and they’re out of shape. They look like Adonis’ carved out of stone, but they try to do something functional and they’re out of shape and then they get injuries.
“I still do compound stuff like dead lifts, but I don’t bench press at all in my repertoire. Weights are important for that deep muscle tissue, so I still use it for deep gains, but overall my general training is a lot of bodyweight. If you can’t manipulate your own bodyweight, you have no business manipulating something that is heavier than you. You have guys that can bench-press 400 pounds, but can’t do 30 pushups. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Daniel works out three hours a day in the off-season with Dion to get his client in shape. Phaneuf insists that Daniel do all of the exercises with him rather than just show him.
“He hates clipboard holders,” Daniel says. “His one stipulation is ‘I’ll do whatever you say. It’s your program, but you have to train with me.’ He doesn’t like idleness. He’s very competitive. He likes to push.”
Daniel found Steven’s two-hour class tough because he’s not in his summer shape. He usually weighs about 205 pounds when training and is currently tipping the scales at about 225. He was in Toronto vacationing as a guest of Phaneuf. Whatever added body weight he was carrying, I didn’t notice. The guy is cut.
“It’s way over my target weight, but this type of training is the kind of stuff I love,” he said. “It’s the kind of stuff I thrive on – functional, athletic push.”
I asked Daniel what are the right things to do and what should be avoided for people who want to join a gym to become physically fit.
“The absolute best thing I honestly think people can do – and it’s not just because I’m in the industry – is to get a trainer,” he says. “I see a lot of people who have these New Year’s resolutions. They buy these gym memberships, they walk on the treadmill, they fiddle around with weights and try different programs they read about in magazines and get discouraged and within a month they’re gone. You want a trainer who knows what they are doing and can obviously teach you the right way and inspires you.”
Daniel says it is not uncommon for people who work with a personal trainer to be timid or scared at the beginning and that could lead to discouragement.
“Any clients I’ve ever picked up, after a few sessions in I’m finding what their level is and just push them gently past that,” he says. “I’m a stickler for the right techniques, squatting properly, pushups properly, everything. There is a correct way and a wrong way to do these things, and I think it’s so important for people who want to get into it. Spend the extra money, get a trainer, someone who is reputable, who knows what they’re doing and can make it fun. If you’re terrified that you don’t have the money for a trainer, find a class setting. Try and find the smaller classes in which the instructors can actually see everybody and get to everybody and show them the correct form. That’s a great way to get into fitness.”
Perry Lefko is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author living in Mississauga. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years, including 21 for the Toronto Sun, in which he was a runnerup twice for the Dunlop Award for outstanding sports writing in the Sun Media Newspaper chain, and voted writer of the year by the Ontario Curling Association. He has also had articles published in The Toronto Star, Trot Magazine and is currently a frequently contributor to Goodlife Mississauga Magazine and Goodlife Brampton Magazine. He is also a contributor to Sportsnet.ca. He writes about sports, health and fitness, business, entertainment, arts and politics. He is passionate about writing personality profiles, in particular the human condition and overcoming the odds. He has had seven books published, including two that were national bestsellers: Sandra Schmirler, The Queen of Curling; and Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. He has also written books about Doug Flutie, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Sandy Hawley. He has been contracted by Penguin Publishing to help broadcaster/athlete Colleen Jones write her life story. He also reviews books for Quill and Quire Magazine. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.