- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
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At approximately 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 30, I pulled into the parking lot at 44191 Plymouth Oaks Blvd., in Plymouth, Mich.
That address without context or knowledge of what’s inside means nothing.
Unfortunately I knew that former West Virginia and Michigan strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis and his staff were waiting for me.
I voluntarily decided to train with Barwis at his training facility, BarwisMethods. You hear rumors and stories about how hard the workouts are, but I wanted to experience it for myself.
At 10:55, Barwis walked by me in the hallway with his 1 1/2-year-old son, Charlie, in his arms. My workout was about to begin.
I followed him through a narrow hallway filled with autographed jerseys and photos from some of the professional athletes he has trained. The door to the gym swung open, and my first site was Brock Mealer resting after a lift.
The hair on my arms instantly shot straight up.
I walked all the way in and saw former Michigan baseball player Ryan Lamarre. He asked me if I had someone to drive me home after the workout, and explained that was the reason he had brought his girlfriend. I stared at him blankly because I didn’t know how to respond, and partially because I didn’t have a ride home.
There were professional baseball players, soccer players and even a few people from MTV’s “The Real World” working out with me.
I shook everyone’s hands, and was introduced to a few people, including someone they called Doc. He was a doctor that at one point was a paraplegic after a hockey accident. I wouldn’t have known had they not told me as he was walking, and even running, around the gym with no braces or crutches.
We were waiting for one more person. Barwis told me not to worry because they had a defibrillator on hand, and someone that knows how to use it. I still don’t know if he was joking, but I told him I wasn’t sure if that knowledge was helping or making things worse.
At 11:15 Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge came roaring in wearing a full camouflage outfit, including camo spandex pants. That was the last person, and we were ready to go. Well, they were ready to go; I was still trying to figure out why I decided to do this.
We started with a warmup, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it a warmup. The BarwisMethods staff told me of a current NFL offensive lineman who came through and passed out just from the warmup. Again, not something that was helping me.
It started light but quickly moved into harder and harder exercises. When I thought maybe there would be a chance for a quick break, we would move right into the next stage.
I was gasping for air and looked over at Barwis’ son, who was now taunting me by lifting a 5-pound medicine ball while staring me square in the eyes. We weren’t even done with the warmup yet, and I knew I was in trouble.
It turns out I got my break about three quarters of the way through the warmup, but it wasn’t voluntary. My first Barwis-induced vomit had arrived. During my “break” one of the trainers reminded me that I had now missed two workouts while relieving my stomach. I heard that remark over the scattered screams of, “Get the poison out,” and “Get the demons out.”
I got back into the warmup with the rest of the gang. At this point I could barely feel my legs. I thought I was doing one of the stretches correctly by pulling my foot back behind me with my hand, but I looked behind me to see my hand and foot were around 6 inches apart. Again, this was only the warmup.
My mind was starting to turn to mush, but I noticed how much of a family everyone seemed to be. Even Inge was helping me with my technique and breathing exercises. The support that was given was something that stood out, albeit a few notches below the pain.
Once the warmups were over I had thrown up twice. I really didn’t know what to expect from my body, but I’m pretty sure it was upset with me. After hearing the story of the NFL lineman not making it through the warmup I was proud of myself for that. I decided to continue.
I didn’t make it much further. I got through three of the actual lifts, and at 12:25pm I had to call it quits. I pushed myself through 10 reps of something called a bear squat. Maybe it was called that because afterward I could barely walk.
The pros still had around an hour left on their workout, and I have no idea how they make it through that day in and day out.
I said my goodbyes after walking around aimlessly for five minutes. I went out to my car and ended up sitting there in the parking lot staring at nothing for around 20 minutes. I threw up again, opening the door and sort of leaning out, unfortunately as an innocent woman was walking by. I couldn’t help it and didn’t care.
When all was said and done I had thrown up six times and had no idea how I was going to get home.
Ryan, could you send your girlfriend back for me?