Perfecting the Art of the Training Session

Devon McGregor, National Post · Sept. 1, 2009 | Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2009 7:01 PM ET

He’s a husband, father, acclaimed film producer/director and philanthropist. He is president of Endeavour, the ad agency he co-founded. His client list is impressive, including American Express, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, The Canadian Opera Company, Stratford Festival, Luminato and many others. His office is filled with reminders of priceless memories, including his experiences with celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Tony Bennett, Bono, Harry Belafonte and his new favourite, Quincy Jones — all with big, genuine smiles on their faces. To boot, he sits on many arts boards including the board of the Toronto International Film Festival. If you’re trying to find Barry Avrich, he’s probably on his way to Los Angeles right now.

Lately though, he’s been living by the Balance Fitness credo: health, knowledge, strength, joy. For the past two months, he has made time to resume a fitness regime, gone on a mission to lose weight and is, in his words, “perfecting the art of the training session.” He looks great, and he’s hooked.

I recently chatted with Barry so that I could better understand what motivates him to ensure his goals are being met. Somehow, even with his ridiculously hectic schedule, he’s managed to find the will to improve his health and wellness. During our conversation, he expressed a range of emotions that revealed a journey from anxiety to improving his quality of life in every way imaginable, even through “the accompanying excruciating pain.” When we sat down to talk, he was game and in the zone.


Q What would you say that you do for a living?

A For the last 25 years, I have lived right in the middle of a three-ring circus that is my career in advertising, film production and my family. Ultimately, I am a concierge, storyteller and entertainer.

Q Why did you decide to resume working out recently?

A I was driving home from the Stratford Festival one evening after another wonderful opening, and I had an anxiety attack when I realized that my glove compartment, normally packed with candy, was empty. I drove 180 miles an hour to a gas station to satisfy my fix, and I realized that I had to change my life. That and a checkup at MEDCAN made me realize I was on the cusp of unhealthy, not quite overweight, but it was time to test the same discipline that drives me in business.

You dove into a disciplined regimen of working out three times per week. How’s that going?

A The addiction to candy has now been replaced with the sugar rush of a workout. I have lost 15 pounds and the renewed energy is beyond 


Q You’ve been taking your training pretty seriously without missing a session during recent trips to Italy and Los Angeles. How do you stay focused?

A When you start seeing results and people notice the difference, you become almost paranoid to reverse what you have achieved. The psychology and spirituality of a training session is analogous to everything that I can consider pleasurable; my daughter’s laugh, my wife’s smile, creativity and life’s best memories.

Q What is it about training that has surprised you the most?

A Ultimately, that I can do it. I am not a born athlete or a physically competitive person but two months later, it’s paying off.

Q Have you changed your diet?

A I will not starve myself as that is a recipe to fail and cheat. The big change has been eliminating all candy, switching to healthy snacking and reducing carbs. My wife keeps insisting that I need one cheat day every week to eat whatever I want. The hell with that — I have not earned it yet.

Q Are all personal trainers alike? What would you say separates one from another?

A The price of engagement with a trainer is their skill and insight into how best to transform your body and mind so what’s left is all about chemistry and trust. My trainer is driven by the science of fitness and the individuality of my lifestyle and not the clock.

Q Speaking from your experiences, can fitness be approached as one-size-fits-all?

A No. There is no metabolism, body type or genetics that are identical. Once you define goals and approach, the trainer is like a highly skilled tailor.

Q Are you trying to lose a specific amount of weight, or are your goals more below the surface?

A The weight loss is an obvious, measurable goal, but what you discover a few months into the process is that your goals then shift to perfecting the art of the training session.

Q What would your advice be for someone who is struggling with fitness and losing weight?

A Set a reasonable goal and then exceed it. Also, draw a line in the sand that pushes you to launch this new journey. I also would make a list of your food vices and negotiate a reasonable termination of a few at the beginning. It killed me to give up red licorice and wine gums, but I’m over it.


Drawing that line in the sand has paid off for Barry. His most recent fitness evaluation has revealed that he has gone from 22% to 15% body fat. His work with Balance personal trainer, Chris Lamb has revealed that fitness is both a physical and psychological endeavour. Hard work, yes. But extremely rewarding, thankfully.

-Devon McGregor, BFA, BSc, human kinetics, is a fitness expert with more than 18 years experience and co-founder of Balance, a Toronto fitness centre.

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