Strengthening the Core with Jerome Downey at St. Basil's

It’s kind of impossible to wiggle out of those New Year’s get-in-shape resolutions with Jerome Downey

By Alison Rooney

It’s kind of impossible to wiggle out of those New Year’s get-in-shape resolutions with Jerome Downey’s “Body Language” fitness classes so nearby. Downey, a former body builder and gym owner, was invited by Garrison’s St. Basil’s Academy, in an outreach to the community at large, to offer ongoing classes in the large gym located on the beautiful grounds of the Academy, overlooking the Hudson.The classes, which began a few months ago, emphasize the strengthening of the“core”, the muscle tissue found in the center of the body.  Downey says, “keeping it strong and tight keeps things safe.”  The one-hour classes are filled with “dynamic movement,” cardio-vascular and strength training, and consist of work with quick-release free dumbbells and a stabilizing ball, as well as yoga and Pilates components.The classes are serious business, with the objective of flat out exercising with a goal, and not socializing. In fact anyone who violates the “don’t talk” rule has to do 10 push-ups. Downey says that the classes are “positive if the participants are positive.  Everyone comes in here either wanting a 6-pack, strengthening the abs, or they have a goal in mind: fixing the lower back or whatever else is bothering them.  I start with the problem areas first, loosening the tight tissue, seeing if one side is more developed than the other.  Then I move on to the more fundamental things.”

Enrolment begins with what Downey calls a “serious questionnaire, making sure that your doctor has cleared you for exercise.”  The participants have ranged in age from 16 to about 60, and, although all fitness levels are welcomed, Downey’s goal is to have people keep up with the instructor. “I correct people while the rest of the class continues to exercise, and there’s no set plan to any class – it flows.” People sometimes come in to the classes with misconceptions – for instance, according to Downey, “they think that using free weights will give them bulk. Or if they have a pain in the knee they can’t do squats; that’s not true. I trained a man who was in his late seventies who had suffered major nerve damage.  He came in with a walker

Jerome Downey

and special shoes.  He wanted to feel better and do normal things.  My first objective was to check out his range of motion and improve his flexibility, as his muscles had atrophied.  Through training he learned to walk again without a walker and even to get comfortable again playing golf. “I work with people who have balance issues, teaching them what to do if they start to fall, say, on black ice. Little things like balancing out purses worn on one shoulder.  Sometimes it is just little things.” The emphasis is also on “strengthening your bones and working the 12 systems in your body, lymph, circulatory, etc.”

Downey started out 15 years ago, doing all-natural body-building, as well as some modeling and photography work. He says that, “I created my body through eating properly, exercising and through strict routines.”  Working on his own body led him to studying a wide variety of related topics: anatomy, physiology, nutrition, yoga, exercise science and sports performance training.  His career since then has encompassed personal and group training, including work with soccer teams in the U.S. and in Europe.  He owned his own gym, but closed it because “it was limiting me from doing anything other than being in a box.  Being with people, moving around is great, and makes me feel good.”  In addition to these classes, he currently does a lot of private coaching as well as working with businesses.

The use of St. Basil’s came about when Downey met a member of the St. Basil’s “team that works here,” who, in turn, was interested in making an outreach to the community. Some of the teenagers living at St. Basil’s attend the classes as well. The classes, which meet on an ongoing basis, three times a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m., in 6-week cycles, are quite reasonable in cost.  Community response has been excellent. For more information call Jerome Downey at 845-625-8287 or email him at JeromeDowney1@gmail.com.
Photo by Alison Rooney


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