I puked, but don’t worry, it was mainly bile. Sorry to jolt you with that fun mental image to start, but that’s really what happened. I’m not much of a puker, either — you just have to ask anyone who bartended in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood from 2002 to 2007. The truly embarrassing part, though? It only happened after the barest possible fraction of what NBA players go through in a standard workout session. The next time you’re busy whining on Twitter about what a lazy bum Carmelo Anthony is on defense, remember this piece.
The reason I mention ‘Melo, stems from my earlier interactions with NBA trainer, Idan Ravin. I’ve trained with him before, with the first time coming a couple years ago before a chat with Carmelo Anthony (‘Melo breezed through that workout like it was nothing). The second time was over this past winter for Nike’s incredible “Zoom City” training month. That was hard, too, but at least I could watch other media members stumble and gasp for air so I didn’t feel so alone in my suffering.
But last week, when Nike invited me to participate in a session with Ravin to help test the LeBron 13, it was the first time it was just me and Ravin in a gym with five or six Nike staffers to support, assist, and take magical photos of me. Seriously, some of the resulting photos make me look a thousand times more attractive than I actually am. (I’m probably going to hire Nike’s photographer for any major life event from now on.)
Being that it was just me and Ravin, there was no community of like-minded writers and journalists to share in my pain. It was just my scrawny ass, a small basketball court, Ravin, and a kind gentleman to rebound and stifle giggles as I wheezed my way through drills.
The first thing we did was run around the court in a light jog. That was the very last drill that was light, at least for me.
After that, every drill left me simultaneously dizzy, nauseous and weak. Before we continue on this odyssey of pain, let me give you a little background on my own physical fitness before you laugh this off as just another out-of-shape media member who can’t hack it like any semi-athletic person could.
I played on multiple varsity sports teams in high school and have played pick-up hoops on and off in the ensuing 15 years since then. I run around five miles three to four times a week, depending on how free I am. That five-mile trek usually ends with an incline I’ve nicknamed “Don’t be a bitch” hill, so I’m not talking about some treadmill warrior or anything. I used to lift weights a couple years back, but my awesome job and equally-as-awesome dog didn’t leave much time to go #PumpItUp like Hans and Franz. Plus, I’m a really bony-looking dude, and no amount of lifting will ever change that. That’s life.
But I’m also blessed with a digestive system that lets me eat whatever the hell I want without gaining much weight. (Sorry, even though I’m one of those people, I totally get why most probably think we’re assholes.) I’ve weighed between 180 and 185 pounds for almost a decade. So, I’m not exactly a slouch when it comes to physical fitness.
None of that mattered during last week’s training session. None of it mattered at all.
After a series of sprints and various other strides around the court, I was winded, but not to an extreme. Then we did standing broad jumps the length of the court where I paused after each jump to gain my balance, before jumping again. After that, it was boom-boom-boom as I was told to broad jump the length of the court without pausing. There are vestiges of soreness in my thighs even as I write this a week later.
We were far from done, though. Ravin was holding a jump rope at this point, and I was silently cursing him to myself. But there’s a reason Idan trains most of the top NBA guys: He’s really good at his job. Without being a drill sergeant about it, he kept me motivated even when I had no business being on the court.
All we did then was like a mini circuit training with 100 jump ropes, 10 push-up side-to-sides and 10 pushups. That doesn’t sound that hard, and it’s well below what Ravin asks of his more physically fit clients, but by the third one, I was worried about puking on the East Village Boys and Girls club court where the training session was taking place.
He was kind to me, and gave me more time to rest between circuits than he would normally. Plus, after the third one, I rushed into the bathroom for my first bile spew of the day.
It would not be my last.
It was at this point where we did a couple basketball drills. First, I was asked to hit a layup after running from both sides of the baseline, then to the wings, then to the top of the key. So, that’s five layups in total. I was tasked with doing it in under 30 seconds, and I don’t even know if I made it in time because I pretty much blacked out. After two sets of these, and with ample time to rest between, I again returned to hugging the toilet bowl.
This was puke session No. 2, but it was more like dry heaving because I didn’t even have bile left in my crumpled stomach.
I came back out, got something to drink, and tried to laugh off my embarrassment as we went into a diagonal, full-court run, followed by jumpers from each elbow extended. I was probably 18 feet away for these, and I was awful, per usual. It’s hard to focus on your shot when you’re worried about puking on the court. I actually hit some, which is a testament to the basketball Gods more so than any talent on my part.
Then, Ravin ended the whole thing, like the benevolent God he had morphed into during our training session. He also gave me some feedback, which — because I’m a masochist — we’ve embedded below. Feel free to give me a hard time in the comments. I know my coworkers will.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Nike and Ravin for showing me, again, the Herculean effort and fitness it requires to compete at the NBA level. I suffered some traumatic flashbacks as I put this together, but there were less arduous moments to our session together. Ravin is a unique trainer in that he never once screamed at me while never letting me off the hook as I begged for more rest time. He knew I could make it through all his drills, and I — sorta, kinda — did.
I was also able to laugh about the whole thing afterwards because I stuck around for a little bit to see his next victim. It’s really freaking hard to train like a professional athlete, and that goes double for NBA players. Thankfully, Idan was able to make the whole thing a lot less stressful than it might’ve been, which is probably why Nike and NBA players keep using him.
I’m not an NBA player, far from it, and my small taste of what it requires to make it at that level just gave me more of an appreciation for the amazing athletes I get to watch on an NBA hardwood. But I beg you to keep this in mind as you laugh at a player who appears winded in the fourth: You wouldn’t last half as long as that player. Trust me.