Elev8d Inspiration: Life After Table Tennis
Elev8d Fitness Director Brian Bradley helped sisters Mina and Brana train for their professional table tennis careers. Now, as fit professionals in their 30’s, they’re looking to him again for guidance.
Sisters Brana and Mina Vlasic live in San Diego, California. They are like most millennial-age women—successful and career-driven, trying to stay healthy and balanced. Their story, however, starts in Serbia, playing table tennis.
“Because we lived in a small town, girls didn’t play sports like soccer. You could play basketball but that was just a seasonal sport. So my dad took us both to the ping pong gym,” recounts Brana. What began as a casual activity with their dad turned into many years of competition.
When they moved to the US in 2004, Brana and Mina quickly discovered the table tennis community in San Diego. “We didn’t even know that table tennis existed here. Our cousins found this place online! We formed this community and ended up training here pretty much every day,” said Brana.
Brian Bradley, Fitness Director of Elev8d and a good family friend of the Vlasic sisters, was instrumental in their training. “As I was trying to make the nationals team, Brian gave me exercises to fix my posture,” remembers Brana. “He included me in his bootcamp one summer. I was definitely the strongest I’ve ever been!”
This experience, along with Brian’s continued guidance, was critical to their success in U.S. Table Tennis. As a teenager, Brana was one of the highest ranked players in the United States. She played for the University of California, San Diego and was awarded Female Athlete of 2013 by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association. She attributes much of her success to focused training, and more specifically, Brian’s alignment-based exercises.
“The ping pong coaches had us do exercises to make our feet move fast or [work out our] core,” Brana explains, “but Brian would bring in expertise on how to make your body aligned and stronger.”
Now, in 2018, both Brana and Mina have retired from ping pong. Brana is in marketing and Mina is an engineer. Both sit at a desk all day. They’re turning to Brian again—but not to train for competition. Now, they simply want to feel great in their own skin.
Brana and Mina both aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps in a day. Mina loves running and Brana tries to make time for strength training three times a week. What’s missing, however, is one simple thing: “We both really need some structure,” said Mina. Their workouts lack a total-body framework and, more importantly, a much-needed emphasis on alignment. They’re diving into their first month of Elev8d Fitness with high hopes and a lot of excitement.
The Jumping Off Point
Brana and Mina meet with Brian at the San Diego Table Tennis Association on a sunny Sunday morning in late January. The meeting is as much a reunion as it is a workout, and the three catch up and volley the ping pong ball a bit before starting the workout. As Brian takes the sisters through a series of exercises, they note stiffness and lack of mobility in their bodies. “Just squatting on the floor and having your heels down and feeling that stretch. That’s crazy!” exclaims Mina on her third Deliberate Burpee. This exercise is perhaps more difficult because it is slowed down, deliberate. As a result, the body can’t rely on momentum and speed.
The slowing down of common exercises like a burpee bring form back into the equation, explains Bradley. “We’ve got to return to what is truly functional. Your pushup isn’t doing you any good if your posture is dysfunctional.” In other words, your workout is only as good as your posture. Only when you align the body and reestablish full range of motion, will a push up will be fully effective.
After the workout, Brana and Mina are flushed and excited. “I definitely felt it in my core!” says Mina. “These little adjustments that Brian does, they really make a difference.”
They listen attentively as Brian explains each exercise and the overall philosophy behind Elev8d Fitness. The best part, they agree, is that the exercises are only eight minutes a day, four days a week. “And on days when you are super busy,” explains Brian, “if you really like the Standing Arm Circles—you know what—just do the Standing Arm Circles. That could be enough to sustain you until the next day.”
It’s easy to stick with, says Bradley, “There is no judgment, no equipment, and you can do it anywhere, anytime.”
At the end of the day, however, it’s not just about Elev8d for Brana and Mina: “We trust Brian. He’s always made our bodies function better from an alignment perspective. It’s nice to feel like you have a guide, that what he is telling us is true and effective.”