Top of Their Game

Six local athletes tell us about the sports that changed their lives — and dish out some inspiration for the rest of us

Kevin Dollard

53, Hopewell Junction

An Albany native, Dollard is a sales manager for 3M — a position that requires extensive traveling. He’s run 13 marathons, the most recent being the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in Albany last October. He crossed the line in under three hours; his average pace was 6:49 per mile.

How did you first get involved in running?
It was about 11 years ago. I played a lot of basketball, two or three days a week for years — I never really fell out of shape, but I certainly was not in running shape. In the paper I saw the Dutchess County Classic was coming up. I thought, I might try just to see if I can run this race. I ran the 5K, and I did pretty well for having trained probably for a week or two. I got the fever, and I said, “Let’s see if I can get faster the next time.” And it just snowballed from there.

What do you do for a weekly workout?
With my job, I’m on the road a lot. So I get in whatever I can, typically about 25-35 miles a week. I try to do one speed workout on the track, one tempo run, and on the weekends anywhere from 10 to 15 miles up at Mohonk. That’s a basic week.

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What’s the hardest thing about being a runner?
The biggest challenge for me is the travel and finding the time to run. And staying injury free — that’s always high on any runner’s list. Most of the miles I do are on soft surfaces. I do that purposely, to help stay healthy. And I take rest days, and cross-train. We all want to train as hard as we can, but it’s a balance.

You are performing at a very high level for someone of your age — or of any age. What motivates you?
Number one, I really do enjoy it, I really love to run. Number two, I just love the competition and the camaraderie of it. Being outside on the trails, and being with other people. It’s the enjoyment you get out of doing it — the excitement of racing, the endorphins. And I love the challenge of training, making sure you’re doing the right workouts.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment as a runner?
I’m very happy that I’ve been able to knock off some sub-three hour marathons. I feel good about that. And I’m proud of the fact that I won the Joseph McDonald Memorial 10K race in Wappingers Falls last June.

Do you have any advice for new runners about how to stay with it?
I think you need to make it fun. Run with other people, and run somewhere that you enjoy. It’s not about finishing first. For beginners I’d say start off easy — walk in the beginning — and have fun with it. And if running’s not for you, there’s swimming, lifting weights, just working out. There’s so many things you can do.

For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.

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Middletown boxer Brian Tenorio

Brian Tenorio

24, Middletown

Tenorio works in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration by day and trains at Orange County Boxing in Middletown by night. The 5-foot, 8½-inch (“Give me that half,” he warns. “That’s all I’ve got”), 135-pound pugilist won his first amateur match last November.

How did you first get involved in boxing?
My dad had me watching all the fights since I was little, and I was a big Rocky fan. I was looking around the Internet and I found Orange County Boxing. The guy who first trained me, he just looked at me like, “Oh my God, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” He pulled me into the ring to start sparring other guys, and after that it was pretty much over. I just enjoyed hitting people and getting hit — it didn’t matter how much pain I was in, I just kept on coming.

Tell me about your workout routine.
It’s four or five days a week. Usually during the spring and summertime, I’ll run about five or six miles before I start, but now that it’s winter, I just run three miles on the treadmill. We shadowbox, I’ll do mitt work with my trainer. Then some days, we’ll spar. Everything’s basically four or five rounds — you do the heavy bag for four or five rounds, the speed bag for another four or five rounds. After all that’s done, the last part of our workout is mostly pushups, weights, pullups with a medicine ball, and then squats.

What would you say is your proudest accomplishment?
All the weight loss, and probably winning my first fight. I’ve lost over 50 pounds. I was a chubby kid all my life growing up — to finally see that I have dimples was something big for me. Then when I won my first fight, it was like getting that monkey off my back. Now I can move forward with this.

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Have you faced any setbacks?
I’ve sparred with guys 30-40 pounds heavier than me before, and one hit me — one shot — and I blacked out. Never again will I do that (laughs). Learned my lesson.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting boxing themselves?
Keep an open mind, don’t get discouraged, and listen to the person who’s teaching you how to box. That person knows a lot more than you think you know. Don’t get sloppy with your eating — if you’re going to take this seriously, you gotta eat right.

What do you enjoy most about boxing?
When you hit someone who’s way better than you and catch them — there’s nothing better than that.

What goals do you have for the future?
I don’t think I want to go pro or anything — don’t get me wrong, I love boxing — but my biggest goal is just going to the Golden Gloves and seeing how far I can take it. Right now, me and my trainer, that’s what we’re working toward.

For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.


Poughkeepsie swimmer Kathleen Davis

Kathleen Davis

54, Poughkeepsie

The recreation director for the town of Hyde Park, Davis is a member of Poughkeepsie’s U.S. Masters swim team. The team competes year-round against other swimmers in the state and region; in 2007, Davis set a New England Masters Championship age-group record in the 200-yard butterfly.

How did you first get involved in swimming?
I was about nine or 10. My father was in the Marine Corps based in Norfolk, Virginia. My parents took my sister and me to the pool and we joined the swim team there. I continued swimming competitively as a youth, but I quit in high school. I just was not interested in doing it any longer. In the mid-1980s, I took it up again, and joined a U.S. Masters swim team that met at the Poughkeepsie YMCA. But the coach moved away, and that team sort of fell apart. About five years ago, I joined up with a group of people who were doing laps together at the Y. Eventually we decided to form another team, and we contacted Ron Terwilliger at Poughkeepsie Middle School to be our coach. There are now about 45 members. It’s a very dedicated group of people.

Why did you decide to start swimming again after so many years?
Because it’s a great way to get fit and stay fit, especially for your cardiovascular system.

What’s your current routine?
I swim three mornings a week for one-and-a-half hours. We start at 6 a.m., and do about 3,000 to 4,000 yards — that’s about 160 lengths of the pool, although the workouts vary from day to day.

You’ve been swimming competitively for several years. What are you most proud of?
I was pleased to find out that I’d broken some New York State championship times for my age group several years ago. But really it’s the thrill of competing that I enjoy the most.

For you, what’s the most difficult thing about being an athlete?
Having to get to bed early! I’m usually there by 9-9:30 p.m. Also, once you get into a routine, sometimes you burn out. Sometimes you’ll overwork yourself, so you’ve got to slow down and rest. Or you might have an injury, so you’ll seek out another way to stay in shape. Most of us on the team cross-train, maybe run, do yoga, walk, or hike.

How do you motivate yourself on those mornings where you’d rather sleep in than swim?
I keep reminding myself that exercise makes you feel better, and it keeps you healthy. When I don’t exercise, I start to feel stressed. And I have a commitment to my team. If you don’t show up, the coach is there asking where you’ve been. I feel a responsibility to my teammates.

What do you enjoy most about your sport?
I enjoy competing locally and regionally. And when you’re on a team, it’s a social outlet. I’ve made friends through swimming, and some of them are former teammates who’ve moved away. It’s great to reconnect with them at other events. But when I’m in the pool, there’s a sense of freedom, both physically and mentally, which is a great release for me. It clears your mind, relaxes and de-stresses. And all those endorphins — they just make me feel good!

For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.


Pleasant Valley triathlete Art Boyko

Art Boyko

42, Pleasant Valley

A captain with the New York State Police, Boyko placed 365th out of over 2,100 finishers at the 2006 Ironman Lake Placid.

How did you get involved in doing triathlons?
I started swimming competitively when I was five, continued all the way through school, and was fortunate to achieve All-American status in college. I dropped it after school, then decided five years ago to pick it back up. My older sister had done triathlons, and she encouraged me to try them. My first was the Pawling Triathlon in 2005. I was immediately hooked.

What hooked you?
The physical challenge. There are three different disciplines, and you have to train in all three. And there is no limit to what you can achieve — there’s always something to strive for.

Are you training all the time, or do you have an off-season?
I’m that Type A personality, I’m always doing something. If I do have an off-season, it’s been this last two weeks. Mostly it’s the mental break that I need — triathlon training takes a lot out of you mentally and physically. But I’m still doing two workouts a day.

Wow! Two a day?
Yeah. I’m swimming Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I’ll run three days a week, bike three days a week, and lift weights twice a week. But they’re not that intense yet — it’s whatever’s going to be fun.

When training for the Ironman, what’s your routine like?
I try to get in 15-20 hours per week maximum. It’s tough. Just like everybody else, I have responsibilities.

How do you motivate yourself when you just don’t want to get off the couch? Or don’t you have days like that?
Thankfully, I really don’t. It’s funny, but I have this calendar. I’ll plan a week of training, and once I write it down, 99 percent of the time I’ll go out and do it.

Do you have any advice for first-time exercisers?
Start slow. When I first started, I thought biking 10 miles was a lot — I was so proud of myself when I could do that. Now, I bike 50 miles and don’t give it a second thought. I tell people to start out with a mile walk three times a week. Then maybe the next week, you can run one of those miles. After that you can run two.

What’s the hardest part of being an athlete?
Managing the balancing act. I’m proud of the fact that I’m an involved father. I have a few balls in the air. Now and then I drop one, but as long as it doesn’t break, I pick it back up and go on.

What’s was your proudest moment?
Finishing the Lake Placid Ironman in 2006. I’ll be doing it again this July.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The benefits that I reap by setting challenges for myself and then accomplishing them.

For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.


Newburgh jiu-jitsu wrestler Steven Olivier

Steven Olivier

28, Newburgh

Olivier, a Newburgh resident, works in law enforcement full-time and as a part-time instructor at the city’s New York Martial Arts Gym Academy. In June, he took home first place in the 207.5-pound men’s purple belt division at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Olivier competes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial arts form that emphasizes close-quarters grappling and favors technique over strength.

How did you first get involved in jiu-jitsu?
I played football in high school and at Pace University. I went for a couple of tryouts after that, but football didn’t happen for me. Then I started doing Japanese-style jiu-jitsu, just to fix my competitive streak. I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu while doing the Japanese style, and I’ve been doing Brazilian ever since. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more like a sport. There are a lot of opportunities to compete, and I like that.

Tell me about your workout schedule.
Training for jiu-jitsu is a tremendous workout in itself — I’ll do that anywhere from four to five times a week. When I’m not doing jiu-jitsu, I’ll run four miles, do the core routine that I have, and then bike for an hour. I do a circuit workout in the gym that’s jiu-jitsu specific; jiu-jitsu is all about muscle endurance, so I run through the whole program — beginning to end, no breaks — for maybe 30 minutes.

What’s been your greatest challenge so far?
Winning the world championship. My toughest opponent was my fourth fight, as opposed to my last one. The last time we had fought, he beat me on points. I knew once I beat him, I was going to win the whole thing. I ended up beating him on a submission.

How do you respond to the criticism that jui-jitsu is too violent?
I know from the outside looking in, it looks very violent. It does feed into that inner caveman in everybody. But you’ve got guys who have master’s degrees who just do it for the challenge. If you’re working with guys who respect the art and respect their training partner, it’s not that dangerous or violent of a sport. At any time in jui-jitsu, you can just tap, and it’s over. It can be as violent as you want it to be.

Do you have any advice for beginners?
Just do it. If you’re thinking about it, don’t talk yourself out of it. I’ve had so many people sign up and train with me and say, “I’m kind of hesitant about doing this.” I told them to just come to the gym and give it a month, and if they didn’t like it, leave. But I got them hooked. It’s a good sport in terms of getting in shape — I don’t care what level you start out at, you’re going to get in phenomenal shape.

View video highlights from Olivier’s matches here.

For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.



Hudson Pilates instructor Nicole Meadors

Nicole Meadors

35, Hudson

After struggling with clinical depression, Kentucky-born Meadors turned to her college hobby for rejuvenation. Now, the former program director for a local movie house teaches in her studio, Pilates Hudson.

Why Pilates?
I committed to it after trying many things — therapists, the whole gamut — to get better. It literally changed my life. The strength you build in the middle of your body resonates to your mind and heart and everything in your life. I got a huge response from my friends and family that my body had changed, and especially my confidence.

What’s your routine?
You can use a mat, but I work daily on machines called the Reformer, Cadillac, Barrel, and Chair. I love the Barrel for opening up the body, the Chair to create balance and stamina, and the Cadillac and Reformer for spinal massage and spring resistance training. I also cross-train twice a week with my personal trainer; we run, box, and work in cardio. I take a weekly private yoga class next door, it’s really athletic and vigorous. And then I take private Pilates classes. I make sure to do some kind of exercise at least five days a week.

What about the notion that Pilates is a “girly” sport?
First off, Joe Pilates was a man! He was a boxer, he was a jock. He trained male dancers, boxers, athletes. Anyone can come to Pilates. It can be rehabilitative, but it’s also a rigorous, beautiful, athletic practice, to the point where your knees are trembling when you walk down the stairs after class.

What changes did you notice about yourself?
It certainly changed my body, stature, and posture. It also became a way of dealing with stress. So I feel more confident, grounded, strong, just from deep within. It chills out my mind, too.

What’s your Achilles’ heel?
I believe in balance: I have my vices and I have my workouts. I eat gummy bears. I love pizza… but I don’t do that all day long, every day. I mix it up. A good, balanced life is more important to me than anything — not to say I’m perfect at it either. It’s still a struggle for sure.

Embarrassing moments?
I speak a lot in metaphors to describe how we’re moving. Sometimes I’ll just say the craziest things — today I just told my class to draw in their stomachs as if it’s a panini in a George Foreman grill. There’ll be a big laugh, but it works.

Any advice for first-timers?
Find a trainer that you connect with, a friend you want to go with, take a mat class. Sometimes the machines are more of a commitment financially and time-wise, but if you do it and love it and it feels amazing to you, don’t get a latte at Starbucks — spend that five extra dollars on a really special class for yourself. Just don’t give up.

What do you enjoy most?
I love the playful part of exercise and working out. It takes me out of the grind of “everyday, all day long,” and into a totally different place where you’re not in your head, but in your body. That’s a super feeling.


For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.


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