Athlete Profile: Mark Rotondi


Success is measured not by what lies behind you but what lies in front of you.

One of the biggest reasons I opened Contemporary Athlete was to give people a place to help them get to the next step. Both my rowing athletes and everybody else who is amazing that I get to work with. This is a story of that next step for one of CA’s very own leading athletes.

Mark Rotondi is poised and ready to take that step to the next level. Today, Mark and I are driving to Boston to a US Rowing, Jr. National Team identification camp. This is one of those opportunities to see how you stack up on the National level and see if you have what it takes to represent your country, hopefully on the international level.

When I first met Mark I had just been hired as the boys rowing coach at Niskayuna High School, prior to the thoughts of Contemporary Athlete beginning. It was a new adventure for me, and ultimately a big part of why I decided to open the facility. It’s something that I am excited about everyday both in the gym and on the water.

If you have ever met Mark he is a very enthusiastic young man. Always looking forward to whatever fun challenge is put before him.  Whether that is a 5k-road race,  a lifting session, Spartan Race, or pretty much anything, including push up contests outside of Chinese restaurants. His enthusiasm never ceases to amaze those he is around. This trait, that everything is fun also makes him a great team leader. For this very reason (fun) he found himself training frequently with the Saturday morning 9 am Contemporary Athlete group. His roles as both a pace setter and motivator for all that are around him, have lead to so much growth for all that are involved in it.


(Spartan Race 2012)

With FNR/Niskayuna Rowing being in its 25th year I thought it would be a great time to push us to the next level on the boys side. Mark is currently the one to lead that charge. Leaving the comfort of the Mohawk and going to Boston to row and compete with some of the regions best oarsmen to find out where he fits in the National development process.

This also is a proud and validating moment for me as a trainer and coach. On some personal level you doubt everything you do. Always unsure if you’re pushing too hard, not hard enough, or you have unrealistic goals for you and your clients/athletes. At least this is my struggle as a trainer and coach, always trying to improve my craft. In order be better for those around me, so they can become the best that they can, and to have fun while doing it.

(Lightweight Finals at indoor worlds)

 Contemporary Athlete is one of those places where athletes of all levels and ability can come, and take personal risks for their own gains mentally, physically, and emotionally. That will be able to set them apart from their competitors. It’s a place where goals can be set and discussed openly.

Mark’s trip to Boston is going to be stressful, physically taxing, and an emotional roller coaster. He will weather the storm just fine and knowing him as I have gotten to do over the last 2 years (roughly) will come out excited about the next part of the journey and smiling about it the whole way. That is why he is the current CA athlete profile, if it’s not fun, even when awfully hard. Than why do it?


(Royal Canadian Henley)

Good Luck Mark! Not that you need it; as luck is for those that are not well prepared, and we definitely do prepared.

Why Train?

The definition of training is to do physical activity in preparation to compete or to work out in which keeping fit is the objective.

All of the games we play teach us to have great work ethics, become better leaders, team mates, goal setters, problem solvers, stress managers, and quick thinking high performers.

All of which give you an advantage at life. Training is done everyday for many different reasons. Whether it is to become a better athlete, employee, or civil servant. People train, they train for their personal goals, team objectives, job development and productivity, or most importantly life. In many cases the ability and intensity at which a person or group will train gives them an advantage whether in the competitive workplace, or partaking in an athletic endeavor. Your fitness level in many cases dictates your success on the field, in the classroom, or at work. It allows you to stay focused, composed, and task oriented.

Get yourself a trainer. A well-rounded, educated trainer can help. They provide guidance, support, knowledge, and philosophy. Not all trainers are certified but the majority of them are. In my opinion this is more of a union card than anything else. There are many certifications on the market and a few are the industries gold standard. This is not the end of the story though, just the beginning. You can read a ton of books but without practical knowledge but that will only take you so far.

Debunking Diets

Let’s face it diets are sexy and enticing.  You walk into the bookstore and they are a dozen books on the South Beach Diet, the Atkins diet the 17 day diet, all with pictures They pull you in with their promises of 10 pounds in 10 days, no need to workout, with checklists and times when you can eat certain foods.  I am sure that you have heard it all-I know I have.
One thing is true….Diets don’t work.  No for the long term. Sure they work for the initial week or two, the sense of accomplishment is motivating, but then you cheat.  First it’s a day then two, they pretty soon you feel like a failure and have gained back the 10 lbs you lost, plus two.  Or maybe you stick it out but then start to eat “real” food again and the weight creeps back on.  It’s an endless cycle of diet, progress, backslide, which leads to dieting again.  What if you could say good bye to that hellacious cycle and make lifelong changes that will help to change you…both physically and mentally?  Luckily you can and there is no deprivation, no hunger pangs, no feeling of failure if you eat a cookie.  Sounds sexy and appealing right?

5 changes you can make today to feel better tomorrow.

#1 Drink more water…
The benefits of water are often overlooked.  Water helps detoxify, lubricate our joints, stave off hunger, boost our metabolism and our immune system.  Add lemon, lime to help make it more palatable if you desire but be careful the additives aren’t out weighing the benefits by containing too much sugar.

#2 Crowd out
Eating well is like a muscle-you have to use it to make it stronger, and the more foods that you eat that are good for you, the less appetizing junk foods will be.  Don’t deny yourself just add more beneficial foods in like fruits, veggies and whole grains.  You will be surprised how quickly your palate reawakens.

#3 Say “I Don’t” not “I Can’t”
Saying “I Can’t” disempowers you, it slows progress and it will stunt your success.  “I don’t” puts the control in your court, it says that you are making a choice.
I can’t eat fast food…surely you can.  I don’t eat fast food…oh ok well thats another story altogether.

#4 Grocery Shopping
The grocery store is a health and wellness nightmare.  If you can shop at farmers markets, however if you must shop at a supermarket make sure you make a list & stick to the perimeter.  Be an educated shopper, know the deadly dozen, know how to read a label and beware of GMO’s.

#5 CHEW your food
We are always in a rush.  But eating quickly is puts us at a disadvantage for eating well.  Chewing is the first step of digestion and an important one.  If we chew slowly we give the digestive system ample time to do its stop-that is to tell us when we have had enough.  Next time you eat try and chew your food 50 times-difficult isn’t it?  But notice how many more flavors and textures you experience and how much quicker you feel satiated.

Lifestyle changes are lifelong changes and what works for someone else may not work for you.  Experiment try new things.  Make notes of what works and what doesn’t.  Remember why choose failure when success is an option!

What to eat Pre and Post Workout

Have you hit a plateau, not seeing the results you want with your fitness regimen? Are you ready to bring your training to the next level?  What to eat pre and post workout can help maximize the benefit of the workout and extends those benefits all the way through the day and into your next training session, yet is one of the most overlooked areas of nutrition for most athletes.


To break it down simply…
– What you eat before (and if needed, during) your workout is crucial for fueling the workout itself and maximizing your performance throughout.
– What you eat after your workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process (which basically begins as soon as your workout ends) and ensuring that your body has all of the supplies it needs in order to recover, adapt and improve the way you want it to.

Pre Workout Meal…

Consider this meal as the “energy or fuel” phase for your workout.  On a basic level the purpose of this meal is to provide enough energy for you to optimally perform and maximize your workout.  At times this may even include a during workout meal such as when you are long distance running or hiking for long periods of time.  On a more complex level your pre workout meal helps reduce muscle glycogen depletion, reduce muscle protein breakdown and reduces post workout cortisol levels.

With that being said your pre workout meal needs to consist of 2 things…Carbs and Protein.  If you are a numbers person there is a formula for this…For a 60-90 minute workout you need:
Protein = 0.25g per pound of your target body weight.
Carbs = 0.25g per pound of your target body weight.
Now I love working the formulas and tracking my numbers, but for me the novelty wears off in a week or two when real life catches up.  So I make a list of good pre-workout meals and stick it in the inside of one of my cupboards.  That way when I am pressed for time I don’t have any excuses to fall back on.  Ideally you should have this an hour to two pre workout.

Post Workout Meal…

Whereas the pre workout meal is your “fuel or energy phase”, post workout is the “anabolic phase” or “rebuilding phase.”
The goals of the “rebuild” phase are to replenish muscle glycogen that was depleted during your workout, and to reduce the muscle protein breakdown.  Additionally it helps to increase muscle protein synthesis, reduces muscle soreness and fatigue.  This meal helps to greatly enhance overall recovery, and to reduce cortisol levels (reducing cortisol levels are always good).

So what should your post workout meal consist of?  Carbs and protein.  Sound familiar?  The previous formula also still applies but the time period to consume them in is a little tighter.  Your post workout meal should always be within 60 minutes of your workout but ideally 30 minutes.  Whats excellent about your post workout status is that you are literally a sponge at this point absorbing far more carbs and amino acids from protein then any other time during the day.  With that being said you can get away with eating much more fast absorbing carbs (higher glycemic index) post workout.  Again I like to keep a list of foods that
fit this profile on hand so that I can prep my meals easily without too much thought.

So there you have it.  Although a pre and post workout meal is not rocket science it is often one of the most overlooked areas that can help bring your results to the next level.  Over the next week make no changes to your diet and take note of what you normally eat pre and post workout and how you feel during your session as well as after, and throughout the day.  During the second week start making changes.  Notice that more often then not you get your post workout meal in 2 hours later?  Pack a shake that you only have to add water to.  Small changes can yield big results.

Stay tuned for the worst foods to eat pre and post workout as well as my cupboard cheat sheet of my pre and post workout meals.

Monday Wake Up

Generally Monday workouts are something like a wake up call from the weekend and a general foreboding of the future workouts for that week. The leg based triple set left those who participated toasted.


Dynamic Warm up:

3 rounds Bar Cycle

5x Rounds:

21 x Front Squat

15 x OHSTU

9 x TKGU

90 Seconds rest between cycles

Power for Performance

Power for Performance are a must when working with athletes. The multiple joint work which this cycle is designed for left our rowing contingent wondering which was worse, test days or Wednesdays. Boat based athletes are a tough breed. They tend to understand that the work they put in they get out almost directly. The process of turning them into fully formed athletes is really the true challenge.


Bar Warm Up:

3x 10 x DL @ 135#

10 x DLHP @ 135#

10 x BR @ 135#

10 x Tuck Jump

10 x Alt LPU

Even rest

Foundations for Skyscrapers


Core is great, but without a solid foundation all quick hip movement and application of power through the foot is not possible. Everybody likes upper body days but without the legs to support the work needed to be put in up top the metaphorical skyscraper falls over.


Dynamic Warmup 30/30

Jump Cycle 4 x

Pyramid Squat 15-10-5-10-15


Rest as needed