Russ' Journey

What You See Isn't What You Get. What You Get's Even Better.

Who knows how proficient a boxer I'll become, but no one can ever say I’m not a fighter. The truth is my fists are supplemental: I usually fight with a smile and a Mole-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Sour Cherry Mostarda. I fight for the good stuff.

I was an average of 350 pounds most of my life and my only idea of cooking was calling pizza delivery. Twelve years ago, this former newspaperman from the Carolina's began walking two miles a day only to be thrown into the world of food writing full-time amid a 200+ pound weight loss through diet and exercise. Against all odds and statistics, I maintained that weight loss and developed into a chef with a penchant for boxing whose focus is teaching skills for keeping weight off.

Moving to New Orleans and then New York, the cooking techniques I developed simply to function became the foundation of a cooking style combining sophisticated technique, playful presentation and sound nutritional specifications. In teaching and speaking, I use those skills to illuminate the hidden pitfalls and challenges to keeping weight off. Only 6 percent of people who lose more than 30 pounds keep it off within three years – regardless of demographics, economics or diet method. I call that 6 percent the maintainers, and even if we seem like amateur athletes, we often function closer to recovering alcoholics. What you see isn’t what you get and there's a complicated history with our fitness.

To champion that 6 percent, I’ve appeared in national media, became one of the only guest lecturers at top diet facilities, hammered out business models promoting weight maintenance and helped my post-weight clients overcome self-destructive behavior, decades-long bouts of celibacy, or even simply embracing food by embracing the creative potential in cooking. Not too shabby for someone with a 60-inch waist who still harbors loose skin and scars from his legs chafing.

All that to say: I can't work out just anywhere, and upon my move to Manhattan I couldn't imagine a gym where I feel right at home. Both in my personal experience and in the broader perspective of the fitness industry, Mercedes Club is exquisitely rare. Even beyond amenities or aesthetics, the feel a gym provides subtly influences its members' performance. Moreover, many facilities tend to trade sophistication for a sense of home and vice versa.  Here, you have the perfect marriage of deluxe treatment and comfort with a well-curated staff of genuinely lovely people. You can have your organic Chardonnay and drink it, too, and that acceptance is priceless.

And yet, Mercedes Club is far more than a pretty, pleasant face. For all those intrigued and yet deterred from trying boxing – Jackie, Kwame and Gerry are among the best boxing instructors in this city and make the sport attainable for even the most reserved. Its swimming instructors are equally detailed, and the training staff within Mercedes persuaded me to embrace two things I swore I never would: spinning, and setting aside my determination long enough to work smarter, not harder, even if it required slowing down. Turns out I can’t figuratively punch my way through every problem. Who knew?

Thanks to the therapeutic amenities, I’ve been able to nurse a foot injury all year, and with that, I learned bad feet don’t have to stop me any more than the aftermath of obesity, a culinary media career or anything else New York threw at me could. Many battles are left for this guy.

Altogether, things are possible here and that's how every fitness facility should be and why this gym is so special. You can lose 200 pounds while food writing and change the way weight loss is discussed. You can learn to throw a potent right hook or even attempt a barre class, with a fashion show running in the background just because Mercedes Club can. You can even finish writing that book and throw a healthy picnic – just because you can.

Mercedes Club walks its talk, looks fabulous doing it and provides all of us something priceless should we embrace it: a home and testing ground to refine our own excellence. And if need be, prove that excellence to ourselves again and again. The secret to keeping weight off, long-term, isn’t how much pain you tolerate, or anything particularly scientific. Instead, it's a scary question: how willing are you to leave behind what you don’t want? In 2017, just how good can you stand it?

Here, you can fight for the good stuff and do it with panache. It's within reach.

Russ Lane
WKIO Media | @wekeepitoff
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