Influential Hardcore Guitarist Gavin Van Vlack on His Life As a Fitness Trainer
New York Hardcore aficionados are undoubtedly familiar with the guitar work of Gavin Van Vlack. His work with seminal Hardcore bands Absolution and Burn in the late ’80s and early ’90s helped inform the scene’s growing fascination with disjointed rhythms and left of center guitar patterns.
These days, Van Vlack still keeps busy as a guitarist, even reuniting for a new album with Absolution, but his other passion is his Van Vlack Strength & Conditioning health and fitness training program. Based out of New York City, Van Vlack uses a “movement-based skill training” approach with his clients, who range from kickboxing champions to the average Joe off the street.
Noisecreep recently chatted with Van Vlack about the personal fitness side of his life and he even gave us some free workout advice.
When did you first become interested in personal fitness?
I have been active all of my life. It’s not so much about trying to be fit, it’s more about the need of movement. In all honesty, exercise is really unnatural. Think about it, humans are the only animal that uses a sets and reps paradigm and scale and measures its amount of movement. If you were to ask a dog how many sets or repetitions it does, it’s mostly likely going to drop a spit-covered tennis ball at you feet and stare at you til you throw it again and he’ll do this til he’s good and tired and when he’s rested he’ll get back at it. Animals play and that’s kind of where most humans have it wrong. Ask a horse how much he bench presses?
Even in the pit at hardcore shows, we would dance as hard as he could until we were tired then stop. Skating? We skated our asses of til we were beat or too injured to continue. I have always been interested in human movement and that also pertains to exercise which is now we have to use a sets and reps paradigm because honestly a larger part of our population has forgotten how to move and it’s really sad.
Since you’ve been working within the fitness world for over two decades now, how tough has it been juggling that side of your life with playing in bands?
Not at all. I never intended on doing music for a living but it’s an integral part of my life, as much as my enthusiasm of movement. I’m lucky to have a job that I make sure is as close to living on a playground as possible. I only allow myself to work with so many client in a day so I have time for myself, my music, and my friends. Fortunately, most of my friends are either musicians or “movement enthusiasts” or both. I keep myself surrounded by people that are constantly trying to push the parameters of what they love and this is inspiring. Power grows in proximity to power so I make sure that I have powerful people to draw from. Physically, mentally and spiritually. No, having those two components make my life awesome. I wouldn’t change it.
Watch Absolution in NYC from July 6, 2012
Have you had a lot of other musicians approach you about training with them?
Everyone wants to be in shape but not a lot of people realize what you have to do to attain certain goals. I have had several clients who are musicians and they’ve done well while staying focused. The problem is that some of them try to live in a contradictory duality meaning that train there asses of in the day time then go out and party like a rockstar at night. You can only be a superhero during the day or during the night. Trying to do both is not sustainable. From what I’ve seen and experienced, nothing really productive goes on after 12am so if you want to get shit accomplished you need sleep. Some musicians get caught up and think that getting hammered until 5am qualifies as “networking.” I don’t get it but what the hell do I know.
Watch Van Vlack Give a Seminar in Thailand
With MMA being so popular now, do you get a lot of people coming in off the street wanting to become the next UFC star?
I see a lot of that but i don’t really work with to many combat athletes any more. I have three Muay Thai competitors that i work with from various fight camps an i train Josh Griffiths and the instructors of ClockWork Jiu Jitsu. I also work with several athletes from the Paralympics. 85% of my clientele are what you would call general population. People who are trying to get active again.
What is the single most common mistake most people do when they are trying to get into shape?
There are a couple of mistakes people make and I’ll gladly list them for you.
1.) Compare themselves to other people (celebrities) who are already in shape. What you’re choosing to do requires patience and self love. Allow yourself to be who you are and fuck what the media tells you Angelina Jolie, Uriah Faber, or anyone in the spotlight is doing to get in shape. 9 times out of 10 it’s a fucking lie someone is using to sell you something you don’t need.
2.) Set unrealistic goals. things like “I’m gonna loose 20 pounds in two weeks!” It’s cruel and totally unnecessary punishment upon yourself and I’ll tell you what, even if you take half of that of I can put money on you gaining it back plus more weight. Take your time and be patient. If you are truly a train wreck you didn’t become that over night so if you want to allow yourself to make realistic gains and modify your behaviors in a way that sets you up with good habits that you can carry for a life time be patient. For your information, 5 lbs in a month is considerable. which leads me to my next one…
3.) Fuck how much you weigh! (Especially ladies!) You can easily go down two sizes and not lose weight or even gain a pound or two. Constantly jumping on a scale is nerve racking and it set you up for disappointment if you aren’t dropping weight at your desired speed. Here’s my advice. Get a pair of jeans that you can fit into any more, two or three sizes smaller then you currently are. Use these as a measurement. size and weight aren’t always in correlation so stop worrying about weight.
4.) If you train to get strong and train to be fast then the esthetics are a byproduct. If you look at sprinters, fighters, or any athlete who is good at there sport you will see that the way they look is do to the work they’ve put in to progress in there skill set.
5.) Last, but not at all least, approach what you do with joy. have fun with your exercise and really appreciate that your doing something good for yourself that is getting you closer to what your desired goals are.
Get more information on Van Vlack and his training program at his official website.