The stronger, fitter, and more flexible I am, the more opportunities the world will lend me.
Mike Aidala is a man in constant motion. The San Diego–based personal trainer, holistic lifestyle coach, and sports performance coach talks fast, thinks a jump ahead and is continually refining his pursuit of health and happiness. Raised in Westchester, NY, Mike was a sports lover from an early age (“my mom still jokes that I never met a ball I didn’t like,” he says) and he was on football and basketball teams throughout high school and college. Unlike most of his peers, Mike relished the training process as much as the glory of game day. “I was always excited to see how my efforts in training would play out on the field,” he says. After graduating a semester early, he skipped a few rungs of the career ladder and landed an internship for 2 training camps at the NY Jets training high-caliber athletes and working with world-class coaches. Here, Mike honed his instinct for creating custom training programs pulling on techniques from multiple fitness disciplines—a hallmark of his popular MAST method training programs today.
A stint as a manager at a weight training facility in White Plains, NY meant a steady rhythm at work and time to train and compete in weightlifting and Stand Up Paddleboard racing, but Mike quickly felt stuck. “I can get bored quickly, but I don’t allow it to happen,” he explains. “I was 24 and could see where my life was headed and needed to make sure it was the right path.” The best way to check? Grab a backpack and take a different route. Setting off for what he dubbed an “alternative graduate studies program,” Mike hit Costa Rica, Peru, and Easter Island, and worked as a ski instructor in Austria for a season before ultimately returning to the east coast in 2012.
I train to have total freedom in my body.
It was also during this time that Mike discovered yoga and began nurturing an interest in a more holistic, wellness-focused lifestyle. “After the hard edges of the NFL and the and the weightlifting world, I was pursuing the softer skills in training,” he explains. “Back in the US, I got my yoga certification and solidified my training approach to encompass the whole lifestyle—your mental health, diet, outlook, environment, everything.”
By 2013, Mike took this comprehensive look at what makes us healthy to private clients across NYC, influencing the influencers with his unique brand of very personal training. Whole sessions could be spent talking through an issue rather than lifting weights. “Sometimes working in is as important than working out,” Mike says. “A client could tell me that she wants to lose 10 pounds, but I hear that she wants to gain confidence. The aesthetic is never the true goal.” Instead, Mike’s training philosophy always traces back to the big picture, the wide angle view of he can help clients become the most efficient athletes and well-rounded humans.
This macro focus is at the heart of the MAST method, a customizable framework for training that always includes a stabilization phase to build core and coordination, followed by strength training through a variety of modalities possibly including body-weight movements, Olympic lifting, kettlebells, yoga, partner acrobatics and more. MAST is unique for the level of customization and the broad range of techniques and disciplines utilized, but there’s a common thread in the quest for “flow.” Better known as getting “in the zone” in sporting terms, Mike describes it as the moment your maximum skill level meets the most challenging portion of a workout. “I’m addicted to getting into the flow,” he says. “I want it in everything I do, from mundane tasks to new skills.” For Mike, the ever-expanding list of new skills includes ballet, surfing, biking and on. “I love the feeling of being a beginner and watching the improvements. The stronger, fitter, and more flexible I am, the more opportunities the world will lend me to have fun,” he says.
In that spirit, Mike took our invitation to create a unique Challenge quite literally, with a sophisticated program focusing on your mobility, stability, strength, power, rotation, endurance, and mental health. There’s also a “skill work” section that encourages you to bring time, dedication and focus to new skills like a press handstand (just make sure you can balance the handstand first!) and a single arm balance. There are also Olympic weightlifting lifts; core work channeled through a kneeling throw method, and a restorative post-workout meditation ritual. “I designed this Challenge to be very difficult,” he says. “The skills are meant to push you towards being as well-rounded an athlete as possible, but they can take years to achieve. My advice is to warm up well and listen to your body—it’s more intelligent than you know.”
Equipment Required: Standard CrossFit Gym
I wanted to build a test to challenge myself to be the most well-rounded athlete as possible.
The reason for training is to be able to enjoy life! I do not care much about the numbers I can lift or time I can run. These numbers just indicate to me the amount of fun I can have outside of the gym.
This challenge was created to be VERY difficult. Some of these skills can take years to achieve. These are meant to push you towards being as well-rounded as possible. Do your best but please take your time, warm-up and listen to your body, it’s very intelligent.
Start standing and lower yourself down as low as possible. Use your balance as you lower to help build strength in these uncomfortable positions. See it.
Straddle your legs and slowly over time work to bring your chest to the ground. See it.
Start standing and hinge forward at your hips. Imagine your head reaching for your toes. See it.
Single Arm Hang
Hang from the bar for as long as possible. A good goal is 1 minute each arm. See it.
Single Arm Toes to Bar / 5 reps each arm
Grab the bar, engage your shoulder and pike at your hips to touch your toes to the bar. See it.
Balance Single Leg Box Jump / 45″
I love unilateral training because we spend so much of our time on one leg while walking and running. Start standing on one leg and jump onto a box landing on the same leg. See it.
Handstand Push-Up / 90 degree
This is one of the hardest possible handstand pushups where you lower your body a few inches off the ground (hovering your feet) and push back up to a handstand. Start with regular pushups, handstand pushups at the wall, freestanding handstand pushups, negative handstand pushups then work pushups at a deficient. Make sure you take the time to build up joint integrity and muscular strength. See it.
Snatch / 270 lbs
Being able to swiftly lift weight from a dead stop to over your head is quite a feat. Hence why this is an Olympic sport by itself. Technique plays a huge factor in your success to lift heavy. Start slow, warm up and give it your best shot. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a coach. See it.
Clean And Jerk / 355 lbs
Two movements in one. Start with the barbell on the ground, in one fluid motion you lift it to a front rack position with the bar resting across your chest. Gather yourself and take a small ‘dip’ so you can then drive the bar vertical while splitting into a lunge under it. Like the Snatch, these are very technical moves and if you’re just starting out finding a reliable coach will greatly enhance your progress and experience. See it.
Front Squat / 380 lbs
Place the bar on your shoulders keep your chest up and squat down as low as your can before pushing back up. Keep the weight centered on your feet and imagine yourself pulling the ground apart as you stand up. See it.
Turkish Get Up / 80 lbs
Grab the kettlebell from the handle and turn it upside down. This requires added grip strength and stabilization. Start lying on your back and proceed to stand up keeping the kettlebell arm straight the entire time. Make sure your eyes stay on the bell and you maintain good form and focus. This is one of the best total body core exercises you can do. See it.
Use gymnastics rings and work to hold your body in a straight line with straight arms. Work up to it using progressions with bent legs. See it.
Kneeling Football Throw
Being able to link your body into one movement is critical in being a well-rounded mover and athlete. Kneeling takes away any movement from your knees down and forces you to focus on rotating from your core. Start slow and build up to a max throw. See it.
Using the width of a football field as reference, complete 16 reps touching the end line with your foot and back each under 18 seconds with 45 second rest. See it.
I sit or lay down quietly after each workout for 10 minutes to help my brain and body slow down after putting it through such physical stress. It’s important to understand WHY you’re working out and what the bigger picture in your life is. See it.
Take time after your workOUT to workIN. Our body can only achieve what our minds believe. You are the creator of your own life and you set the ceiling for your bodies potential. See it.