Ambition Athletics Cornerstone: Interview with Dwayne O’Connor

This week marks the 5 year anniversary of Ambition Athletics.  Thank you to all that have believed in what we do and have seen us continue to grow over the years.  When we started this whole thing back in 2009 Dwayne O’Connor was one of the original members.  His commitment and hard work was one of the main reasons we were able to keep the doors open in the beginning.  In 2010 Dwayne and his family moved to Indiana.  We’ve kept in touch over the years but Max and I still sit and reminisce sometimes about those early days with Dwayne, so I decided to ask him a few questions.

A man’s man

Dwayne the Hunter

How did you first find Ambition Athletics?

I received one of the advertorial magazines from Dragon Door Press and after reading one of the articles; they had a blurb about finding a trainer to teach the proper use of kettlebells.  I did a search for my area and several potential trainers popped up.  I clicked on Max’s video showing what he does and was instantly intrigued and interested in his methods.  It’s not every day I see people doing behind the back clapping pushups, pull ups where they launch from the bar and other impressive feats of strength.

What made you come back every day?

After meeting with Max, I got the feeling that he knew what he was doing.  This was the first fitness professional I had ever hired as it had been provided for me in my past athletic endeavors.  I liked the fact that there weren’t a lot of machines and I did what I thought were unique training methods.  I also liked that Max showed interest in my overall health and fitness and gave me the dietary advice I needed at the time.  Let’s not forget the results.  After about three months, I was in the best shape I had been in for 20 years.  I felt stronger and more fit than when I was in my early 20’s playing in the Big 10 Conference.  Plus, I had dropped about 40 lbs of flab and replaced a portion of it with muscle.  After being at Ambition for a few months my reasons shifted.  I enjoyed seeing the other clients start to become regulars.  Seeing the people new to kettlebells have faith in the process you and Max would instill was great, especially after that new client would see results.  I also loved coming in to see the progress you guys were making as a company.  You were building a truly special place!  The private training with the care and attention to detail was fantastic.  I also loved being invited to attend some of the classes you guys would put on.

Dwayne at Purdue in ’89

Dwayne circa '89

Is it true that you regularly came in at 5:30 am and opened the gym yourself for your 6 am training session 3 times a week?

That’s another reason I loved training at Ambition.  When Max first signed me up, the only time I could regularly come in was 6:00 AM.  I traveled around Southern California for my job so the evenings were unpredictable.  I figured if Max would drag his rear out of bed for me, I could make the commitment as well.  Both the gym and Max were very accommodating to my schedule.  It was actually Wally that used to let me in.  He would come in early as well just to open up the place.  He’s was really a great guy that I miss seeing to this day.

Tell us about your training prior to Ambition, how that changed and a little about what you learned while here.

All my training in the early years was done for football and to prepare myself to be injury free by building a layer of armor.  In the few years leading up to my joining Ambition, I had been primarily hiking mountains a lot and doing what I thought were pushups.  I owned two 16 kg bells and I dabbled with them from time to time.  When I did go to a gym, I would labor away on a Stairmaster and spend time on the machines.  I would get a little more fit than I was but never made any great leaps in fitness or strength.  Once Max got ahold of me, it was a different world.  I wish I could have gone back in time to my playing days and incorporate the techniques I learned from Ambition.  The biggest carry over for me has been the multiple exercises I can incorporate with the kettlebell.  I have a love/hate relationship with the kettlebell complexes that incorporate a whole body training session. That and the fact you don’t need to run a mile to consider yourself fit.

I’ve seen pictures of your home gym in Indiana.  Can you tell us more about that and what your training has been like recently?

After a little set back injuring myself doing the high rep/bad form exercise craze, I am back to training with kettlebells.  I still do a lot of pull ups and am going to start incorporating deadlifts back into my routine.  Squatting is tough as I have little to no cartilage in my knees.  I still do them, it just hurts a little more and I feel great after doing them.  I recently purchased some of the Rolling Thunder handles and I am back to working on grip strength so that’s been fun.  The part I am finding the most difficult is the 10 minutes of cardio I used to do after my strength training at Ambition.  I seem to be lacking the motivation Max provided to get another 10 minutes out of me.

Basement Gym

At Home

Did you know that you were held in such high regard around here, at least among Max and I?  In fact, your Purdue picture may some day hang in a new facility.

Well that is mutual.  You guys are known throughout Indiana as the greatest team in the strength game today.  I loved the gym and think about you guys everyday.  For me, Ambition Athletics was my Disneyland!

Dwayne, one thing I’ll never forget about you was your love of heavy metal music. You always listened to Liquid Metal on SiriusXm when you trained.  Can you elaborate on that for us? 

That’s funny.  My wife thinks I’m crazy with the music I listen to when training.  I loved getting in early so the other clients wouldn’t have to be subjected to my musical likings.  Max was always great in letting me listen to it.  I’m sure it caused a few early morning headaches for him.  I guess I just like loud pounding music; I love my music and kettlebells heavy!

Will you come back and train with us some day?

That’s my plan this winter.  We still have family in the San Diego area and plan to come out this winter for a visit.  Heading back to Ambition Athletics will be the highlight of my trip and year.  I absolutely love it in your gym!

– Mike Baltren