Riding out of town one evening last week, I passed Club Paradise Gym. That’s where I hung out my shingle as a fitness trainer when I arrived here 20-years ago. Passing the gym, and it being Friday, I flashed back…

On an afternoon in 2001, while in-between clients at Club Paradise, a large man with gray hair, in his mid-50s, burst through the door. He slammed his checkbook on the counter and exclaimed…

“I want the oldest male trainer you have, and the one who has the broadest shoulders…!”

The hungover girl behind the counter woke long enough to point to me, who was standing beside her, before she dropped her head and fell back asleep. 

As the man introduced himself, he crushed my fingers with his handshake. It was clear he was a guy who knew what he wanted. He explained that he travels quite a bit so when he’s in town he wants to workout every day.


I told him we’d first need to review his goals, do a kinetic assessment, and discuss any limitations he might have. His eyes looked right through me as he explained he didn’t have time for that, and just wanted get a schedule set.

Not so cool.

The schedule was set, but before the conversation was complete, I felt a twinge of regret in agreeing to work with him. At that point though, anyone who wanted to workout every day would be a good client. His name was Marshall.

The feeling out process didn’t take long. Within a couple weeks I was pushing Marshall hard, he was making progress, and within a few months we actually became workout partners. We started by doing 30-minutes of daily cardio together and then, due to my tight schedule, I started jumping into his strength workouts. It was adversarial at first, but camaraderie found its way in over time. A friendship was born.  

Perhaps we’d been working out together for a few months when we found ourselves unmotivated on a Friday afternoon and both of us starving. I suggested we blow off the workout and get something to eat. Marshall almost agreed, but came up with a quick workout idea first. 

He suggested we go through every machine in the fitness circuit, with three-quarters of the weight stacks selected. We’d each do a single set of as many repetitions as possible on each machine, and total our reps up at the end of the workout. Whoever had the highest repetition total would be the winner. 

I won. 

After our quick but competitive workout, we walked across the street to a taqueria, and Marshall bought carne asada burritos for the two of us. This became a Friday ritual, which he dubbed Challenge Day. We would continue Challenge Day for the next 5-years or so. If he was in town, we’d meet at the gym, pick 6 to 8 exercises, and whoever got the fewest number of repetitions bought the burritos. 

I’d love to say I won all of the time — I was 10-years younger and a lot stronger, but Marshall was a self-made man and hated to lose at anything. There were times when he’d find ways to get more out of an exercise than me through sheer will and spite. 

Marshall relocated from Fallbrook around the same time I began rotating through a series of commercial spaces, and it became prohibitive for our workout partnership to continue. Eventually he began splitting time between California and Argentina where he had a business interest, and I became so full of my own nonsense that we lost touch.

It would take me a few years, only after we parted ways, for me to realize what an important relationship that was in my life. Marshall took me to NASCAR races in Fontana, concerts in Del Mar, theater in LA, and some local rodeos. In the years we worked out together I learned much about business from him a portion of my success came from advice he gave me along the way. 

The best lessons Marshall ever taught me though, were about fatherhood, and at a time when I need it to learn them. For the entire time we worked out together, when he handed me a check each month, the notation on the memo was Chelsea’s College Fund (Chelsea being my daughter). When he’d hand me the check he’d always say “this isn’t for you…“ It was a reminder I should be thinking about my daughter first in how I spend my money.

One of the best aspects of my job as a fitness trainer is the relationships I’ve cultivated along the way. I haven’t seen Marshall in a decade now, but the lessons he taught me are still with me each day — and I’ll go so far as to say, if we hadn’t crossed paths, I don’t know that I would’ve been as successful at business or at fatherhood. 

This is what I think about when I ride…  Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 201

Climbing: 7,100’

Mph Avg: 15.4

Calories: 11,500

Seat Time: 12 hours 58 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Stranglers — an ode to keyboardist Dave Greenfield who passed away one year ago this month. Enjoy…!

9 thoughts on “The Marshall Plan…

  1. Good fortune beats planning every time. Wonderful story. Why don’t you track him down? I have a friend from Costa Rica who I knew in college and a few years after that before ” I became so full of my own nonsense that we lost touch.” I was able to find him on Linkedin and we are close again. His life has gone really well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have more or less tracked him down, and I think he’s back in California full-time. I do plan to reach out to him, possibly even with this essay just to say hi…


    1. Marshall Kerr. Not sure you and he would have crossed paths other than at Club Paradise. He was in the medical device business, manufacturing and distributing hernia meshes, among other things.


  2. Name sounds vaguely familiar. By the way, your photography is exceptional. To do what you do with that camera is truly amazing. And I am one of the most critical photographers you will ever find. I have found myself wishing I had taken a couple of your shots. You have an innate compositional gift that can’t be learned. And I know what I am talking about having had multiple solo and group shows and having judged art and photography for decades. You are really good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Robert. That means a lot, and I know said this before, I think you are an amazing photographer, so coming from you I appreciate the praise.

      It’s something that my dad ‘exposed’ me to throughout my adolescence, to a point where I never wanted to take a picture again by the time I was 16. I learned some valuable lessons from him early on though, and the main one was to never waste film. It was more a lesson in fiscal responsibility, but the limitations that came with it taught me how to wait until everything was just right. I really think that has a lot to do with it.

      Anyway, thank you again, very much.


  3. Oh yes Marshall Kerr,the year after you and I met and I started working there at C P. I remember who pushed who through your workouts ! A reason for many things, you gained wisdom form Marshall. He came into your life with purpose, and purpose driven you became more so for Chelsea. Thanks for another good life lesseon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time, Cynthia. Look forward to seeing you soon, and club paradise is a unique gym, inasmuch as it was a legitimate slice of the eccentric personalities that make up Fallbrook…


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