Diary of a POW Intern

Earlier this year I was approached by the Internship Director of the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois Chicago.  Dr. John Coumbe-Lilley one the Clinical Assistant Professors and Director of Internships approached me at POW because of the growing interest in the sport of MMA.

UIC's program has been enhancing their practicum areas of study offering their qualified seniors and grad students opportunities to work within various fields of kinesiology, nutrition, strength training, rehab, exercise prescription and more.

Dr. Coumbe-Lilly explained that there has been more inquiries by students to gain exposure in mixed martial arts overall, but specifically to learn about combat strength training and conditioning and the science behind how the training application works within various demographics (i.e. fitness enthusiast, fighters, children).

This exposure would also allow the student to understand the very specific technical components of many of the martial arts relevant to MMA overall. This includes training separately in boxing, jiu jitsu, muay thai, judo, kickboxing and many of the other martial arts.

So my intern has started, his name is Piotr.  So I decided as part of the 20 hours he spends with me at POW, it would be a good assignment to write up a weekly blog on being an intern at POW.  This is his introductory blog:

First let me introduce myself: my name is Piotr (Peter—I was born in Poland; immigrated at the age of 6) and I’m a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, pursuing a bachelor’s in Kinesiology, concentrated in exercise and fitness.  I will be graduating this December. One of the requirements to graduate is taking extra courses, an internship, or an independent study under the guidance of a professor (which I’m finishing up).  So it seems like I didn’t need to do an internship—which I don’t—because my requirements were going to be fulfilled. But I figured I’d gain extra “hands-on” experience by taking this internship. Not to mention it’ll look good on my resume once I start applying for jobs.

I’ve been fairly active since high school, running track (sprints) up until my freshman year in college. From then on I’ve been focused on bodybuilding minus the pageantry aspect of it. I eat six times a day, I workout 5 times a week—sometimes more—and my girlfriend (bless her heart for putting up with me) tells me I’m “big”. Personally, I don’t think so. I’m 5’9” and 180 lbs at roughly 9% body fat.  “Juice” is not in my arsenal because frankly it goes against everything that I believe in as far as health and exercise goes. I firmly believe that you don’t need to take steroids to build muscle nor do you need to eat like an elite athlete to look good. A little dietary discipline and consistent exercise will produce results.

I started lifting weights when I was 14. My brother (who is 4 years older than me) showed me some basic exercises to do and quickly I fell in love with it. Often I’d ride my bike to the local community center just to workout. I found that my strength quickly progressed (as often is the case with novice lifters) and this fueled my motivation to do more exercises, more sets, more weight, etc.

I did reasonably well in track, setting top times in the 100m and 200m dash and the 400m and 800m relays in high school and having only participated in the outdoor season of my freshman year in college, I really didn’t get the chance to perform at my best nor was I really committed. Plus, commuting 15+ miles one way on the Kennedy sucked up a lot of time.

Since I gave up on track, I’ve been bodybuilding. I routinely design workout and diet programs depending on what goal I want to accomplish, whether it’s to build mass, lose fat, increase strength, improve definition (tone), etc.  Most recently I completed a 14-week diet (it was hell) where I started at 200 lbs and worked my way down to 178.

Why did I put myself through the torturous, monotonous diet, where 99% of it was egg whites, chicken breast, sweet potato, broccoli and green beans? Because I figured since I’m going to become a personal trainer shortly after graduation, it would be profitable to be in my best condition. Practice what you preach, right?  Actually, I’m taking the National Strength and Conditioning’s (NSCA) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) exam soon and plan on taking the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam in December. Being all too aware of the present economic situation makes me all that more inspired to maximize my marketability.

If it’s not obvious already, fitness is my passion and health is my lifelong ambition to achieve and maintain. And who better to learn from than Katalin, the owner of POW! Mixed Martial Arts, an esteemed fitness professional and accomplished businesswoman. Which brings me to August 3rd: The Interview.

I was incredibly anxious to finally meet Kat and get started on this internship (depending on how the interview went). I’ve read all about her online, read her blogs and I couldn’t help but think, “How does she do it?” Three kids, owner of a business, four black belts and in ridiculous shape? I need to start taking notes!

I arrived at POW! on Washington a bit early—well, a lot early, half an hour early. I tried to open the door—closed! I rang the doorbell. Nothing. I started to panic because I didn’t have a number to call. My only other option was to wait… in the sun… in a suit. It took about a minute for my panic to settle because there was this lady walking towards me saying, “you’re a bit early.” I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “nice to meet you, Katalin.”

The interview wasn’t much of an interview, really. It was more of a thorough rundown of what the company is all about. I felt like I was going to be right at home because that’s what POW! is all about—a mom-n-pop sort of a place, kind of like a small restaurant where you get amazing service and the waitress says “of course! Anything you want, honey” after you tell her your order.  Which is basically what Kat said—“feel right at home and take as many classes as you want, honey” (without the honey bit).

So for the next sixteen weeks, I will be working as an intern at POW! (consisting of administrative, marketing, practical and other types of work), taking as many classes as I possibly can to not only learn martial arts, but to get a first-hand look at how classes are taught. I will also change my diet and exercise in a way that I feel will maximize my performance in the various classes. And I’ll be writing all about it.

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