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How a self-styled “corporate thug” restored his wrecked body with kettlebells —and became a force for change in worlds as disparate as Camp Pendleton and the hallowed halls of Western medicine…

October 7, 2011 05:00 PM

 MarkToomey & John DiMuro
Dr. John DiMuro (left) and Mark Toomey, Senior RKC
 
 
Dragon Door:    Mark Toomey, Sr. RKC – how did you find the RKC?
 

Mark Toomey:   I found the RKC through Qigong with John Du Cane. In the latter part of my 40’s I had a corporate gig: internal security and executive protection. But had a completely dysfunctional body. I had been a typical gym rat, wore the wrist wrap gloves for bicep day - which was every other day. I was hurting, in constant pain. Someone suggested I learn Qigong, I did a search and found Dragon Door. That's when I saw these "kettlebell things."

I had heard kettlebells were good for your shoulders so I actually bought a handle from another company and used some standard plates to do what I thought was a swing. A trainer friend bought some actual kettlebells but we still didn’t know if we were using them right. We found the RKC, and I decided to go and learn how to use kettlebells so we could both train with them. I had no interest in being certified or anything like that. As the workshop date got closer I thought, wait a minute... all I have to do is 74 snatches with one hand switch? I could probably do that.

The RKC was one of those life-changing experiences. There’s this community of people that like to 'pick heavy things up and set them back down.' This is the coolest thing in the world. It was great timing because that was 2006, the next year my career ended very abruptly. But I had this passion and while I'm not the kind of guy who wants to go out and open a gym, I knew there had to be something that I could do.

I started really getting serious. Went through the RKC Level Two, went through CK-FMS. Started meeting people and what I found was that the material Pavel and John Du Cane produce is of such quality that if you use and internalize it you can have enough credibility to work with a clinician.

A few years ago I wrote an article on using the Get Up to rehabilitate a damaged shoulder - a Sloan Kettering anesthesiologist, (Dr. John DiMuro) with a fellowship in pain intervention ended up reading it. He had played ball for Rutgers as an undergraduate and jacked up his shoulder. He came to me saying he had nothing to lose, that he'd just gone through surgeries and extensive physical therapy with no improvement at all. He said "They want to go in and take a look, I know what that means. I tell patients all the time I'm gonna take a look. This means I'm gonna wake up with a fused shoulder. I'm 41-years-old, I have to move a fluoroscope over an operating table every week and can’t have a fused shoulder. What do I have to lose seeing you?"

Two months later he’s snatching his 16 kilogram kettlebell over his head. He wanted to know why trainers don't know how to do this – I told him RKC trainers do.

So he refers patients to me. We presented a paper together at Boston University and Northeastern University in June on fostering collaborative efforts between medical and exercise professionals. We "knuckle draggers" and I'm proud to call myself that, don’t have to play doctor. There are medical professionals who desire a relationship with us as long as we let them know what we're good at. My swim lane is only this wide but it’s this deep. I don’t want to be a doctor, I don’t want to be a healer - that’s a physician's job. But there is a legitimacy that creating a relationship with the medical community can give us.

It’s important because as healthcare reform continues, they're going to be drugging our society. The pharmacological companies are the ones pushing through healthcare reform. Dr. John DiMuro sees it in his practice. Now this is how powerful the RKC is, he is a Sloan Kettering anesthesiologist, a guy at the top of the food chain and he’s like no, what you’re doing is the best thing for our society. That's why he's here at the Chicago RKC.

I'm a former corporate thug, last week I was at Camp Pendleton teaching people how to pick heavy things up and set them back down. Dr. John DiMuro is a guy who’s well educated, who’s pretty smart, and who’s spending a weekend here because he believes this is where healthcare needs to go. It’s a pretty cool world. And that’s all happened in four years.

It’s because of the quality of this community. For example – Geoff Neupert, Mark Cheng, Jeff O’Connor, all different but all very committed to their craft and that's the cool part.

Dragon Door:   How would you encourage other RKCs to forge alliances with medical professionals?

Mark Toomey:    Here’s the thing, you have to be ready for a lot of pain. What doctor is going to trust a "knuckle dragger"? You’re a weight lifter, a trainer, how do you have that conversation? And I'm sorry but there are people, not in the RKC community, but in the fitness world who destroy this. There was a guy at the NSCA Southeastern Regional Conference a few weeks ago that got up and said everyone in the room is smarter than a doctor. Really? You’re smarter than somebody who has spent nine years of their life in residency and internship? No. You’re smarter if you understand how to pick up appropriate weights with the proper mechanics than a doctor is with weights.

But here’s a perfect example. A client came to me two years ago with non-specific subscapular discomfort. He self-directed himself to physical therapy. Self-directed himself to acupuncture, chiropractic, everything. He came to me saying maybe he just needed to work out. Using RKC principles and the FMS which is a very important partnership with the RKC, nothing made it worse but nothing made it better.

At that point, you get a diagnosis because something’s going on. I sent him to Dr. John DiMuro who has a six month waiting list, but John sees my guys within three days. Called up John and asked - did you see him? John answers, "You didn’t hear? Thoracic aortic aneurism." 

Another example: a woman was working with me and had bilateral shooting pain in her legs, a very bad thing. It’s not just a pinched nerve. After the workout her right hand is shaking. I asked what was going on, she answered that her physical therapist said its post-exercise fatigue. I suggested she get that checked out – turns out she had a pituitary tumor.

Here’s the fact, as healthcare becomes more difficult for people to obtain, even for those of us with insurance, people are going to self-direct themselves to the lowest cost and what is that?

Dragon Door:   The gym. Trainers.

Mark Toomey:   As soon as they enter your facility they’re your responsibility. You’re working them out. She’s still feeling a little funny in the back. Well let’s push it a little harder and then she has an osteoporatic fracture of the L4 disk because she’s been going to a chiropractor who suggests that idiotic spinal decompression where they pull on the table. It hasn’t shattered the disk yet but now we really put some weight into it because 'kettlebells do everything.' Do you have liability insurance? Are you willing to take the risk of putting somebody in a wheelchair? It is an absolute necessity for us to be able to refer people back and forth with the medical community. It won’t happen unless we get smarter about how we communicate with physicians, and physicians get a little less sensitive about being snotty bastards.

Dragon Door:   I’ve been working on forming relationships with physicians locally and find the ones that are athletically inclined in their personal lives are very receptive. It’s just getting your foot in the door. This is so important, especially with changes in healthcare policies.

Mark Toomey:   I see this with Dr. DiMuro - he will not turn you into a drug addict. After 60 days, if Flexeril isn't helping, you have to pursue something else. His competitors will just continue on. "Oh you feel kind of bad? Let’s double your dose of Flexeril. As a matter of fact let’s move to Tramadol.... that isn’t working? Let’s put you on methadone, let's turn you into a heroin addict." Because every time they see that patient they get the co-pay for the visit and the reimbursement from the insurance company. People better wake up.

Dragon Door:   When I was at the RKC II this past July, you had a laptop with some compelling videos on it. First, are you training military and special operations at this point? Can you talk about that at all?

Mark Toomey:   I can talk a little. We provide training for special operations units. And that’s all I can say. Are you talking about the shooting videos?

Dragon Door:   Yes, but I don’t want to get you in trouble.

Mark Toomey:   No problem. Everyone asks, why do I want to learn the Turkish Get Up? All right... Can you fire an automatic weapon with 60 pounds of kit on you going from a supine to a standing position without turning your side to a potential threat? How do you continue to present your SAPI Plates to a threat coming towards you while you go from a laying position to a standing position? I don’t need to show the video to them necessarily, because if I teach them how to do a get up they'll get why.

Dragon Door:   Right.

Mark Toomey:  The other videos are what we do with fluoroscopic imaging. We’ll go into an OR after the surgeries are done and I’ll do exercises with a fluoroscope so you can see the mechanics of a behind the neck shoulder press, kettlebell shoulder press, a squat, a dead lift, trying to posteriorly tilt your pelvis. Now we can show you what happens. To my knowledge no one else has presented that material publicly till we presented at BU in June at a physical therapy conference. And the room literally went silent when John (DiMuro) and I did it.

We can show, through lecture material, some of the dangers of dry needling done without the ability to watch the needle as it enters the body. When a needle is stuck into a body, it doesn’t go straight, it curves - especially the type of needles used with dry needling. We show what happens. Are we just going dissuade people that think they know everything? No. But we do show them that a non-invasive process like having a patient open their hips up can relieve L4, L5, S1 pain. And if not, then you send them to a physician. But if you’re gonna stick a needle... John (DiMuro) said, "Look there’s only two people in this room who are certified to stick metal in other people’s backs. Me, because I spent nine years in residency and Mark Toomey because they taught him how to shoot people."

Dragon Door:   [laughter] Well thank you so much – I appreciate you taking the time to talk about these important topics.

Mark Toomey:  You’re welcome.

 


Mark Toomey is a fitness instructor from Reno, Nevada. He serves as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in fitness and conditioning for the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. He is the Director of Operations for Dragon Door Publications, a producer of cutting edge material on strength and conditioning and acts as a Senior Instructor for the RKC, the first and largest entity specializing in kettlebell and body weight exercise instruction. Mark is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a certified CK-FMS practitioner. He can be reached at mtoomey@exercisei.com. With Dr John DiMuro, he has founded Exercise Intervention, a medically structured exercise program created for patients seeking an alternative to surgery or prolonged use of prescription drugs. Their website www.exercisei.com contains rarely seen material usable by both the clinician and the exercise professional.
 
 
Dr. John DiMuro is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and Pain Medicine expert who specializes in advanced interventional pain treatments for all types of pain conditions. He grew up in central New Jersey prior to attending medical and business school in Philadelphia. He has an M.B.A. in health care management from St. Joseph's University and completed his internship at the Tampa Bay Heart Institute. He was chief resident during his Anesthesiology residency at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. prior to completing a pain medicine fellowship at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. At this time, Dr. DiMuro serves as the Chief of Pain Medicine at Carson City/Lake Tahoe Medical Center and Sierra Surgery Hospital and was selected to serve on the Carson Tahoe Hospital Cancer Committee. He continues to work in private practice and lectures nationally for the Kimberly Clark Company.
 
 
 

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