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Athlete Of the Month - Dr. Mike Cutaia

This month brings us a first...it marks the first time we’ve selected an AOM from outside the “gen-pop”. Michael Cutaia, aka “Dr Mike”, has been with us for longer than it seems, to me at least, and although he trains exclusively at the gym through private sessions he’s been an active member on the blog and in the community as well, which is a rare treat. Mike is so not shy that he even heckled me on the blog a few days after I told him about this interview! We’re lucky to have him around and hope you enjoy him waxing poetic over these next few paragraphs.

Fox - (I leaned in on the mat next to Mike while he and Judy were cooling down after a session with David to spring the news on him). Hey Mike, I need to speak with you some time in the next week or so. You’re our next athlete of the month.

Mike - What? You’ve gotta be kidding me…

..Once we sorted out the truth we eventually sat down for a chat…

Fox - So Mike, tell me how you found CrossFit South Brooklyn.

Mike - By accident, actually. I was frustrated and searching online for a better alternative for my cardiac rehab. I was three months out from aortic valve replacement. I came across CrossFit and then saw that there was one right near our home! I wandered in and met David and off we went.

Fox - How did you decide to choose CrossFit as cardiac rehab? It’s certainly not the norm.

Mike- I just thought “This is it” when I walked in. I told David about my medical history, 2 time cancer survivor with some radiation induced damage to my aortic valve, and he wasn’t scared at all. I remember his confidence that we were in the right place and that he could help us. That said a lot to me. I say “us” because I came along with my wife, Judy, to start training.

Fox - What we do is extremely different from traditional cardiac rehab, why did you decide to stay?

Mike - Rehab aside, I realized that I’d lost a lot of muscle mass from my younger days and was interested in a way to regain that and slow down the aging process. I had not lifted weights since I was 15, so it was really all new to me. In my 30’s I continued running and cycling as a leisure activity, but other than that I was not someone who trained on a regular basis. Like most people, I thought this was enough. I immediately liked the novelty of Crossfit and quickly became interested in the science behind it. I really think more people my age (64) should be doing this. There is an emerging medical literature (HIT-high intensity training) on this that is pretty impressive. I’m sort of evangelical about it with my friends. I show them the website and some of the videos. No luck turning anyone on to it just yet, but I have had a few good laughs over it though. One friend asked when in my CrossFit career I had to get a tattoo. Maybe now? Let’s ask Judy!

Fox - Ha! I think you’d look good with a few tattoos. Tell me a bit about you outside the gym. I know you’re a big family guy.

Mike – Yes!. The story of how I met Judy, the love of my life, is actually a funny one. She was a year behind me at SUNY Downstate medical school where we were both residents. My first encounter with her was when she came to ask my opinion about treatment for a patient. I gave it to her and she promptly dismissed it! She said she was going to ask someone else. Well I knew immediately that I wanted to know more about this strong, beautiful, intelligent woman. I finagled a friend into transferring her from his team to mine and left him thinking it was to his advantage (“The Sting”- one of my favorite movies!). Things moved fast for us from there. Within two months we were living together and within a year had started a family. We have two great sons and two beautiful grandkids. We are lucky enough to have all living here in Brooklyn. We get together frequently and love spending time together.

Fox - That’s a great meeting story, and it’s nice that you guys are all so close to each other. What other personal interests do you have aside from the gym?

Mike - I like to read broadly-art, science, economics, politics. I also read poetry each day via The Writer’s Almanac. I’ve been honored to have a few of my poems up on the blog. I like movies, Robert Downy Jr. and Johnny Depp are a few favorite actors (except for the Pirates of the Carribean stuff). Aside from that I am lucky to be still interested in my work as a physician after all these years. I’ve always been a biology person, from playing with bugs as a kid to popping back dislocated fingers as a teen during school yard football games. I’ve worked for the VA for 32 years (Pulmonary Critical Care) in association with various universities (SUNY, Brown, Penn). Research and teaching have always been a big part of what I do. I have been at the Brooklyn VA location for the past nine years. The VA was a required part of the training during my residency and I fell in love with it. They’re really special patients and I enjoy being around them. It’s an interesting thing that even though I am generally an anti-war person, I feel a sense of patriotism in the work I do. I grew up in Queens in a neighborhood of kids just didn’t go to college. I was the only one out of my group that did. There are at least 5 names on that wall in DC of guys I grew up with. Veterans are very close to my heart. Its important for me to give something back.
As for living, I really enjoy the simple things in life, whether that’s travelling with Judy, relaxing with my family and friends, reading, writing, or working out! Something that I’ve learned from struggling thru my medical “adventures” is how important it is to stay “in the moment”. This is a great life skill to learn. I like the Zen phrase-“right here, right now”-which embodies this idea.

Fox - That’s great stuff, and must be tremendously rewarding. Let’s get back to gym speak real quick. What do you enjoy about training here and, what’s something you’d like to avoid?

Mike – Well, I like it all, really, but I certainly don’t love burpees! I enjoy the weightlifting which can vary from grueling to very grueling. I like to be challenged. David recently had us do our own version of the the Hotshots 19 memorial workout. That was amazing. I turned to David afterwards and said “more of that!”. There is very little I don’t enjoy about gym life! It’s a pleasure to get off work and know I’m going to the gym tonite to get my ass kicked! I enjoy testing and pushing my limits as an older athlete. Above everything, I really enjoy being integrated with the community at large. I really like what I see and hear in the gym. I love that our gym is filled with so many interesting people. I have great respect for my younger gym mates because I wasn’t as aware of the need to take care of my body when I was their age. This is a very talented community of amazing people that inspire me, both physically and intellectually! I’ve had some difficult medical issues to deal with in my life, so I wish that I had been exposed to this type of training much earlier. Now, I’m very glad to be a part of a community that embodies such positive attributes: energy, discipline, tolerance, and humor!
I am equally impressed with the quality and dedication of the coaching staff. They are as amazing as the clientele. I think David should be commended for putting so many talented professionals together under one roof! I think all the coaches should be commended for bringing such patience and knowledge to their work. True professionals is how I would describe each and every one of them.
The way I see it, we are all part of something bigger here: slowly changing the American culture to something more positive, more healthy, more respectful of this body we inhabit. It’s a movement, like the ones I took part in in the sixties/seventies. So, Crossfit for me is both personal and political. We are doing our part to change the culture.

Fox - So true, Mike. I couldn’t say it better. Last stock question. What should we look for in a future Athlete of the Month?

Mike - I thought about this and a tee shirt that David wore one time came to mind. It said “Brains and Brawn”. It’s a perfect logo for CFSBK! That’s what I think should be recognized. Someone who is engaged in all facets of the community, physically and mentally. Chris, let’s work on a new tee shirt with that logo!
__________________

"Fight Gone Bad News"

1. Team Captain selections are due today by 12pm.  If a captain hasn't been selected, we're picking one for you.

2. If you signed up for FGB (not FGBelated) and didn't receive an email, please email us at cfsbkfgb(at)gmail(dot)com ASAP
3. If you missed the deadline and are still interested in joining FGB then please email us ASAP.
4. Holy smokes! One day into FGB fundraising and we're already over 1K raised! Team Dante Deblasio's Hairstylists is the first team to raise over $500 and will have their team shirts paid for by the gym! See the team pages here.

Reader Comments (32)

Fantastic write up! Congrats Dr. Mike!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

Mike! Vulcan Death Grip in the house! Such a nice writeup - hooray!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Congrats Dr. Mike!

Speaking of brains and brawn...anyone want to come to pub quiz? Anyone? Sunday, 7 PM at Skylark. Email me (stellavision at gmail) if interested.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Congrats mike!! well deserved!!We admire your strength!!
love to see you and Judy at the gym and always say hey thats us !

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy and Willie

Congrats Mike! Well done - always a pleasure to see Judy and you in the gym, working hard with a smile on your faces.

September 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterSamir Chopra

Congratulations Dr. Mike!
Always love seeing you two in the gym.

Also, Dante DeBlasio's Hairstylists FTW!! (yes, I just gave a shout out to my own team)

Finally, @JB. I knew it...so lame! <3

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlindstar

Congrats, Dr. Mike!

Came in yesterday for snatch and squat Thursdays.

Worked the performance snatch complex at 85x2, 105, 115, 125, and 135.

After the first go at 135 I got cues from Fox to not be as sloppy and rushed from the ground. Missed my next few attempts. On one, I had what Whitney described yesterday happen. I could see the bar in front of my eyes, but I never committed to getting underneath.

Dropped back down for a squat snatch at 115 to end on a good note. Felt very easy. On the whole, some "good job" moments and some things try to do better next week.

Squatted with Samir (who put in a crazy tough performance under the bar). Hit 275x3 for the HBBS, a weight I missed last week.

And in FGB news:
Team SNATCH, CLEAN and TWERK is ready to go!
♫ We can't stop...We won't stop ♫

September 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterRyan

What a great write up!! So interesting and hell ya to the brains and brawn shirt. And DAnte Deblasio Hairstylist is an awesome team name. Wow.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBreebree

Congratulations Dr. Mike! Could not agree more with your thoughts below:

"The way I see it, we are all part of something bigger here: slowly changing the American culture to something more positive, more healthy, more respectful of this body we inhabit. It’s a movement, like the ones I took part in in the sixties/seventies. So, Crossfit for me is both personal and political. We are doing our part to change the culture."

We need to get that printed on a T-shirt!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Congrats, Dr. Mike!

6am with Melissa and Nick. Was a little afraid of snatches this morning. Initial snatches went well and then did a few at 78# that were ok and some that were fails. 130x3x8 on the HBBS. Still really liking HBBS! Did the cash-out NFT. Sit-ups are more fun when chatting with Joy and Fox.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca C

Congrats Mike, very inspiring story!!!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPierre Davidoff

Congratulations Dr. Mike! Great interview. I second your thoughts on this place. Awesome choice for AOTM.

Yesterday's post - I really like working on the Snatch Complex with Jess running class. The warm ups are always varied, torturously long and extremely effective.

83 felt good. Don't want to be catching it in a quarter squat though.. 88 F, but I can taste it! OHS felt solid.

HBBS was heavy and my knees were getting progressively wobblier throughout.
135x8x3. Trying to focus on the difference in position from LBBS - elbows, back, knees tracking a little more forward. I see now why HBBS is tougher. "Steady... bounce!" mantra helps me. Thanks, Josh.

Cash out ended up being less fun than expected. Hamstring got crampy on the run, sit-ups slowed to a crawl in the 60s. Finished somewhere inside 7 min (didn't use a clock w seconds).

@Laura - congrats on your pull-up!

@ BK - congrats on your MUs!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Dr. Mike is so great, perfect AOTM. Awesome!

@Linds Dude. Set my alarm for 5pm. Forgive me?

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I was totally apprehensive about doing the snatch and HBBSQ work today because the last time I did it was Part 2 of the 3-part series, "Stella Does Stupid Things and Tweaks Her Back." But today went fine. Thanks to Nick and MeLo for AWESOME '80s POWER HOUR. I mean, seriously. It's like they stole my iPod. Between "Take My Breath Away," "Ghostbusters," and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," the music was giving me LIFE.

Got to 78 on the snatch and 115x8x3 on HBBSQ. It's humbling to ratchet back the numbers, but I'm glad I did. Really don't need to screw myself up AGAIN.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Congrats Dr. Mike!!

Late post from yesterday...Snatch felt good (haha, oh boy snatch still makes me giggle...i'm immature) and PRed at #90! Felt more confident getting under the bar but still needs some work. HBBS 3x8 at #170.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeccaWolf

Congrats Dr. Mike (and honorary AOTM Dr. Judy)! You are a pleasure to walk in and see and huge motivators in action.
This interview made me thankful too of all the great coaches and members it takes to help us all reach our personal best. Go AOTM and CFSBK for being more than meets the eye!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercrystal

Congratulations, Dr. Mike. :) Always a pleasure see you and Judy at the gym as well as randomly around Park Slope!

Nice fundraising so far everyone! Twerking Sensations is looking forward to twerking on you during your workout. This is what happens when you put Mike Mishik and I on a team together. Learn from this, SBK people.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterasta

Congrats Dr. Mike! Always lovely to read the backstories of the faces I see in the gym.

6am with Nick and MeLo. Saturday's WOD in 9:54 (total working time). First round was a shit-show, but I found my rhythm after that and knocked out the second round essentially unbroken (had one stumble right at the beginning). Slowed down a bit towards the end, but that's the nature of WODs, isn't it?

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Congrats Dr. Mike. Terrific story and important reminder to "stay in the moment".

Last week I learned that square dancing seemed to be a pillar of Phys Ed for many of us during the junior high years (why is still unclear) and then I received an event notice from Bryant Park and thought I should share....


http://www.bryantpark.org/plan-your-visit/squaredance.html

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJude

Congrats Dr. Mike! Always awesome to see you and Judy kicking some ass at the gym. Great and insightful interview as well.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Big congrats to the Poet Laureate of CFSBK. Mike's got a great attitude, and I love how tenacious he is about his training- he always wants to do more. The few times I had the honor of taking over for the Great Osorio for a session with Judy and Mike have been some of my favorite times at the gym. Also, for this:

"Well, my body would feel better with methanphetamine, but I don't think I need that either."

For the win.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

Congrats Dr. Mike - you're an inspiration!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

Congrats Dr. Mike! Great story. I've seen you and Judy around and you both always have such warm smiles :)

Yesterday- 8am with Fox.

Really sore from Wednesday's WOD.
Snatch/OHS at 63 #. This felt pretty awful. I can't do overhead squats at all due to my crazy ankle/knee thing and I get something akin to stage fright every time I try and can never get very low and it all feels very wrong. The snatch part was OK but I am still not really getting 'under' the bar as such. Ugh. Very frustrating altogether.

Thankfully, this was followed by a successful HBBS 3 x 8 at 120#- felt heavy but solid. Cash out took 6 mins on the button, followed by pull-up practice.

Today- decided to get some extra much-needed sleep and made it to the noon class with Jess and MeLo. This WOD was pretty rough; these are two movements I really suck at, but was happy to practice. My time was 23.03, including rest.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Nice Noah, that's the first thing that comes to mind when I see Dr. Mike.

Congrats Doc.

DO, did you have any reservations about training someone with Dr. Mike's medical history?

Are there 2 FGB teams with "Twerk" in their names? Awkward. I suggest a Twerk off to see who gets to keep it.

Speaking of FBG, were the teams bumped up to 6 from 5 this year? I guess that means that one team member will always be resting instead of the whole team resting at the same time?

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen W

Congrats, Dr. Mike!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermichele

Perfect AOTM! I always love seeing Dr. Mike at the gym. Congrats!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

Wow, CFSBK! Just checked in for the first time today and saw all these wonderful and kind comments. Thank you so very much for all this CFSBK love! Its just so much fun to be a part of this community! We both love it.

and, Noah: Let's talk about Mr "T" when I see you!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Last workout before the Meet on Sunday

Snatch: 4 Singles@80%
220

Clean and Jerk: 3 singles@80%
260

Snatch pulls@ around 95%
260 2x2

Back Squats@ light
275 2x2

I need a double PR day on sunday to make this happen...time to pull hard.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

Dr. Mike, So nice to get to know you a bit through this fantastic write up! Congratulations, a wonderful pick for AOM!!

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDMak

Open Gym

Snatch
BB WUs
95x3
115x2
135x1
155x1x2
165x1
175x1
185xM,M,M

Not happening today. Wasn't feeling amped up and started pulling early with my arms.

3 Rounds For Time of:
5 Power Cleans 185lbs
15 Kipping Pull-Ups
15 Ring Dips

9:17

Almost the entire workout was spent on ring dips, especially the last set which was all singles. I hate pushing.

__________

BW: No, this stuff really is infinitely scalable and I've worked with enough people with ailments and issues that I feel pretty good figuring out what an appropriate place to start is. Mike has made incredible progress, especially with his BB numbers.

Mike is the man. That is all.

September 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Making up for tomorrow today at the noon class.
20:06 RX
Double unders are much harder on sidewalk and that sun certainly upped the recovery time some. It was blazing out there.

Congrats to Dr. Mike (and Dr. Judy)

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith W.

Mike was such a fun interview...very caring soul under that tough exterior.

September 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFox

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