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A Moment of Respect - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

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This month’s post is going to be a little different. One of the greatest things about The Protocol is what we like to call our, “Protocol Family.” Community is one of our core values, and is also the most wonderful things about my job. There days when getting up at 3:45am to go to work and putting in 12-14 hours is a little extra rough, but it’s always a little easier when you get to work with incredible people who value the work and, most importantly, value one another.

Last month, the Protocol lost two family members. One was an incredible woman who I coached for 5 years. The other, my grandmother who raised me. In this month’s post, I’d like to take a moment to honor these two women.

Beatrice Bolan


“Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.”

This was told to us by Socrates.

bea8I met Bea at a fitness fair we both attended at an active adult community in Vail. She was there with her display talking about her Tai Chi and Chinese yoga for seniors classes, and I had my display for my dad’s personal training services as well as a new kettlebell class I was thinking about starting out in Vail. It was 2009 and my fitness business (the one that Bea would become a huge part of influencing) wasn’t born yet. There were a number of people there, and the room was filled with the murmur of the various conversations taking place. In the middle of this event, Bea was scheduled to give a Tai Chi demonstration. When they first put her Tai Chi music on through the PA system, the music was so soft and peaceful that the conversations continued on, but as soon as Bea walked into the middle of the room and started moving, they became dead silent as everyone watched this woman moving through these incredible fluid motions. Although what she was doing was quite common in the east, women (especially women of this age) just don’t move with this level of grace and fluidity in the west. Jaws were open as the entire room watched this small, barely 5 foot tall, barely 100 pound, elderly woman move with the grace and control of a 20 year old ballerina.

I was awestruck. I knew I had to meet to her.

bea9When the second demonstration was over (yes, the audience demanded an encore), I approached her to find out more about her. As we spoke for the next few minutes I got to meet the sweet, quiet, and kind woman that we all simply know as Bea. I politely asked her age and quickly learned that the topic was off limits. She shrugged off her physical abilities to just many years of practice, and was more interested in these kettlebell classes that I was trying to start in Vail. We parted ways, but somehow this incredible woman with her incredible abilities stuck in my head.

It was a little over a year later when I finally got those classes going. I signed up to have a table at the Vail Wellness Fair and shortly after I got my displays set up, guess who came up to me? Bea! She said she had a table down the way for her Tai Chi classes and didn’t have a lot of time to talk, but saw me and wanted to say hi. I told her I went off on my own and finally started doing those classes. She said she wanted to sign up and would call me in the next week. Now, despite being excited to see Bea again, I really didn’t think my kettlebell class would be right for her. Weight lifting was a very different animal than Tai Chi, and my lightest weight was ten pounds which is actually quite heavy for a woman Bea’s size. I wasn’t sure she would even call. Well, she called. She signed up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had her fill out a standard waiver. She left two odd things blank: Her date of birth, and the section that asked to list any health issues. Zero health issues?

bea4Well, she crushed the kettlebell class, and all the exercises we did involving just bodyweight Bea could outperform most of her classmates, despite the fact that the next youngest student was young enough to be one of her grandkids… we think. Bea could hold plank until we told her to stop. She went for 8 minutes one day, a feat that no other student in our system has achieved to this date. Over the years her skills improved. She became stronger and stronger. She was the first, and for many years only, woman in our system to ever be able to perform a pistol squat. When she found out we did a barbell class that would add an additional day per week to her training, she was all over it. She got up to being able to lift a one hundred five pound barbell (her own bodyweight) from the ground to her hips. As far as we can find, no woman her approx age/size has ever been able to do this in recorded history.

I’m certain that I learned more from Bea than she ever learned from me. She spoke of the energy “Qi” that lives in all of us, and when we learn control of that energy, we can channel it into anything. She loved how I could describe the technical aspects of certain movements and why some can or cannot do them. She joked that she wasn’t used to that. Her Qi Gong instructor would watch her fail an attempt at something and just shake his head and say, “Not enough Qi.” And move on to someone else in the class. I joked back, “What if he’s right? What if my descriptions are fancy ways of saying, ‘Not enough Qi’”? For a while it was an ongoing joke whenever something didn’t work for her in one of my classes. I would just shake my head and say, “Not enough Qi.”

bea5Over the years we began to learn about some of her health history. After discovering some of these things, maybe it was a good thing she left that waiver blank. No trainer in their right mind would’ve taken a client through exercise that intense, while knowing this history. After finding out about her multiple heart attacks and multiple bypass surgeries, she informed me that any additional operations on her were just too risky to do. Bea told me a few years ago that the next major health issue could possibly be her last. At that point, the picture about how Bea lives her life became clear. Some folks with these health issues sit in a rocking chair and wait to die, others decide that since any day could be their last, we might as well live it up! Bea was absolutely, undoubtedly, the latter.

Nothing was a better example of this than her choice in cars. Bea drove a bright red Audi sports car… not exactly the type of vehicle one would expect a woman like that to drive. Generally one would also not like to be stuck behind a woman of that age cohort while in a hurry to get somewhere. Not Bea. She drove that car like she stole it. God forbid you ever drove the speed limit on Mary Ann Cleveland Road when Bea had some place she needed to be… you just might see a bright red blur fly by you on the left leaving you only to think to yourself, “Who the heck is ‘Bea 1’?”

Bea was incredibly generous and loved to give gifts. My house as well as my studio is covered in little trinkets she has given me over the years. Honestly, I’m not a gifts person. But I kept every single one that she ever gave me.

bea2Bea always spoke very highly of her family and bragged about losing count of what she called her ‘grands’ and her ‘greats’. Family meant the world to her, and she would literally do anything to help them out in any way she could.

Bea’s universe unfolded on Bea’s terms… even to the last day. Bea pressed heavy kettlebells and taught Tai Chi classes one week before she passed. I don’t think she would’ve had it any other way.

“Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.”

Today is a sad day for all of us, but we must also remember that today is also a celebration of an incredible woman who lived an incredible life. We often hear that said anytime we attend a memorial, but I think we can all agree that this is different. Bea is a needle in a haystack… truly a once in a lifetime gift, and I’m honored to be one of the chosen few who got to receive it.

Thank you, Bea.


Reyza Trubman


Today we say our final ‘dasvidanya’ (goodbye) to my grandmother, Reyza Trubman, or, as I knew her, “Baba” (bah-buh), who left us on February 14, 2016.

baba5Baba was born Reyza Gitsis on April 28, 1924 in Beltzy, Romania (which became part of Moldova in June 1940). She had one sister Anya and 5 brothers: Matvey, Jakov, Shmeal, Joyna, and Ilya. She survived through WWII by working in labor camps as a seamstress sewing uniforms for Russian soldiers. Shortly after the war, she married Yaroslav (‘Yasha’) in 1947 and had two children, Bella and Lazar who later gave her 4 grandchildren: Flora, Ella, Jacob and myself. Yasha left us on September 16, 1974. She moved to the US in 1980. Although professionally retired as a seamstress, she had numerous private clients who sought her out for custom made clothing, and most of her personal wardrobe was handmade by her.

I lived most of my childhood never understanding the purpose of tailor shops. Why didn’t people just have their baba fix their clothes?

After moving to the US, she nearly single-handedly raised me while both of my parents worked tirelessly for the American Dream. Throughout most of her life, she continued making her own clothing… claiming that the stuff sold in the stores was of inferior quality. She loved her daytime TV… If you called during General Hospital, you got the answering machine. She spent the last 18 years of her life living amongst friends at the B’Nai B’Rith Covenant House. Baba never remarried, but rumor has it there may have been a few boyfriends at the senior living facility she lived in.

baba2Many of us are very sad today, but we must remind ourselves that this is not a sad day. God does not give all of us 91 years like he did with Baba. Now she has no more pain and no more struggle, as she spends her eternity in the house of the Lord.In today’s modern world, it’s considered a luxury to be raised in your own home by a family member instead of spending your early years in a day care. Although we were far from wealthy, I was afforded that luxury through Baba. She had other options: She had lots of family in New York who offered to set her up, but she chose to stay in Tucson and raise me.

We both learned English the same way: Sesame Street.

I learned many important lessons early in my life: Things like frugality, a critical Jewish tradition that has been handed down for generations. Since she was a child of the Cold War, I can remember that nothing ever went to waste in our house. When we bought a chicken, we used the WHOLE chicken. Whatever wasn’t used, became broth. Any meat that was overcooked? Well, that was a special treat for Kukla, our German Shepherd. But nothing went to waste. I have fond memories of Baba using a tea bag over and over again, until it barely turned the water brown. Nothing, I MEAN NOTHING, went to waste. Some of this may sound silly, but these lessons never left me.

In today’s society, especially with my generation, everything is throw-away. A new tech gadget or cell phone comes out? No big deal, just toss your old one and go buy the latest-and-greatest on your credit card. I still use a flip phone… nothing ‘smart’ about it, but I don’t sit and worry about the economy, elections, the stock market, or even what my own business is doing, because I know that if push comes to shove, I knew from Baba that I could always survive on less.

I can always make that tea bag last for one more cup. Thank you Baba.

baba7She had some health problems in the recent past, but apparently nothing was tougher than her. Like I tell some of my younger students, “They don’t build them like this anymore.”

She was a true reflection of the Soviet culture… a culture of strength; a culture where strength is glorified. We see it with the history of the Soviet military as well as decades of domination in strength sports like Olympic weightlifting. This idea of not being weak is clearly permeated throughout our culture. I remember as a kid how much I just wanted to be strong like my dad and the other big guys in our family. Today, as a strength coach, this is burned into my DNA. It’s hard for some to imagine that much of what I learned about strength, I learned from a woman who was 4’6” and weighed less than 100 pounds, but this is absolutely true.

I don’t think this article would be complete without talking about food. Much of my cooking skills came from Baba. She cooked completely by feel and taste. Her written recipes are discernible to no one but her. A sprinkle of this, a dash of that, stir it around until it’s just right, then bake it at three hundred and something for 30 minutes or until it looks good. All of her cookware is still the original steel I remember her cooking on when I was a kid. (Remember, nothing goes to waste.) Most of those pots and pans are older than me. I had a very difficult moment a few years ago when I realized, due to her health, I’ll probably never get to taste her varenykies and pelemeni again. The last time I feasted on them at her apartment will forever be part of my memory…

…because at Baba’s house, you don’t eat until you’re full, you eat until you hate yourself.


baba6I’ve enjoyed Russian food since then from a great restaurant. I told the owner, “This is the closest thing I’ve ever had to Baba’s.” She replied, “Thank you, but nothing will ever be as good as Baba’s.”

For the last several years of her life, I scheduled a time in my calendar every Wednesday to see her. Sometimes I was busy and didn’t want to go, but I went anyway. I knew these days would soon come to an end. Today, I can look back and cherish that time I got to spend with her.

She had very few words for me in her last days, mostly about making sure her personal affairs were in order. And I didn’t have too much for her either. I wanted to make it brief and to the point, hoping she would understand me. So, in my best possible broken Russian, I told her a few things:

“Baba, ti minya oichin harasho virasla. Patamushta tybia, ooh minya oichin haroshia zhisnia. Ya tibya leublew.”

“Grandma, you did an incredible job raising me. Because of you, I enjoy a very good life. I love you.”

Thank you Baba.

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