Rock of ages
VENICE BEACH, Calif. -- T.R. Goodman has worked with some gifted athletes in his day.
Considered a guru in the field of personal training, Goodman's services are sought by sports stars on a regular basis. New England Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest, a dominating physical force in his prime, has trained under Goodman. So, too, has Walid "The Destroyer" Ismail -- the rugged and legendary eight-time Brazilian jiu jitsu champion. Even tough-guy actor James Caan, famous for his harder-than-nails portrayals of Jonathan E in Rollerball and Santino "Sonny" Corleone in The Godfather saga.
Yet, Goodman remains almost spellbound by the athletic performances of Chris Chelios, the star defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings. Goodman has been working with Chelios for a dozen years now, but Goodman still seems amazed at Chelios' work ethic.
"Look at Chelly, he's incredible," says Goodman as he watches Chelios bull his way through a demanding hour-long session of circuit training. "He just doesn't waste any energy. He's a machine."
In fact, Chelios, at 41, is the king of the circuit-training hill at Goodman's ProCamp program at Gold's Gym here. Of the 25 or so NHLers that gather every summer to work under Goodman and his staff, none can challenge Chelios for his fluency with the program's most demanding workouts.
While others labor through a 60-minute session that features up to 16 polymetric exercises performed repeatedly, without rest, for the full 60 minutes, Chelios seems immune to the lung-burning, muscle-failing nature of the workout. That despite the fact that it is a demanding workout that produces heart rates of 170 beats per minute. It has also been known to leave newcomers, no matter their athletic pedigree, weak-kneed and nauseous.
But not Chelios. He attacks the exercises like he would an opposing forward straying too close to his crease. During his workouts, he is supremely focused on the task at hand, refusing to drop his concentration despite the myriad of distractions the gym poses -- even at his preferred workout time of 6 a.m. each weekday.
Goodman often holds Chelios up to his other clients as the ideal workout performer, urging younger or less-committed players to watch how Chelios goes about his business. He says it becomes an easier sell to reluctant students because Chelios' on-ice success can be traced back to the work he does at Gold's Gym during the summer.
"With Chelly, you've got a guy with three Norris trophies and two Stanley Cups and he's 40-something and still going strong," says Goodman, who credits Chelios, as well as former NHL players Rick Tocchet and Alan May, for raising the profile of his business. "He's got every reason to relax and he's out here working harder than everybody else. Other guys see that, or see the success that it brings, and want to see what he is up to and try to emulate some of those things."
That's how it all began for Chelios. A dozen years ago, he ran into Alan May, a workmanlike forward for the Washington Capitals. May suggested that Chelios work with Goodman, a trainer May had used to great effect in the recent past.
Chelios, looking to maintain his emerging status as one of the game's elite defensemen, took May's advice. The rest, as they say, is history -- NHL history, that is.
"At the time I started, T.R. was training May," explained Chelios, who averaged more than 24 minutes per game last season in his 21st NHL season. "What T.R. was doing was something new that no one had done before.
"It just seemed to me that his workout was more specific for hockey than anything out there. After talking to T.R. about his program and looking at his background, it was a no-brainer to get involved."
And, although it has occasionally been painful during Goodman's rigorous workouts to remain involved, Chelios says that it remains a no-brainer to show up each summer in Venice Beach to start a new round of off-season workouts.
Chelios, you see, has little desire to hang up his skates. On the one hand, Chelios knows his age, 41, for those unaware, works against him in a game dominated by young bucks. On the other hand, though, Chelios feels as good as he did at 30. Chelios believes age is not just a rigid number, but a state of mind.
Goodman's intensive workouts have left Chelios in a young state of mind. For that reason, he refuses to let up on them, still blazing the trail for all the other NHLers at ProCamp that fight to keep up and, maybe, one day, overtake, the acknowledged king of the hill.
Till then, though, Chelios will keep on playing at his own elite level. Last year, he was a runner-up for his fourth Norris Trophy, an honor that suggests his days of gracing NHL rinks are far from over.
That is a notion that May seconds wholeheartedly and without reserve.
"I wish I had started with T.R. earlier," says May, now running a youth hockey program in Dallas with former NHLer Craig Ludwig. In fact, May's training program for the kids stresses many of Goodman's ideas about hockey fitness. "Now, I look at Chelios and I think that if he wants to play until 50, I believe he can do it. If he keeps working out like he does now, he can outlast Gordie Howe."
Outlasting "Mr. Hockey" may be the only thing left that Chelios can do to further impress an already amazed Goodman.