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Victory Formation: Folsom gym helps build foundations for athletic longevity

By: Nick Pecoraro
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Within the modest 1,200-square foot building off of Folsom-Auburn Rd., deliberate orders are barked out for a no-nonsense warm-up for the training session about to ensue. Hot-foot toe taps, broad jumps and medicine ball chest passes help get the blood pumping.

Then the collective age of Robert Gray’s strength and conditioning class shows as he instructs them to do their best Jane Fonda stretch.

Looks of confusion flood the faces of those in the group of eight young athletes. One voice begs the question: “Who’s Jane Fonda?”

A typical group of Gray’s pupils may be too young to remember Fonda’s workout tapes from the ’80s and ’90s, but the routine serves a methodical purpose to Gray’s grand scheme.

Gray, owner of Victory Performance Strength and Conditioning in Folsom, specializes in building healthy workout habits in young athletes—typically aged 12–16 years old—to help develop a foundation for a long-lasting active lifestyle into adulthood.

“We’re looking to create athletes who are well-rounded and resilient to injury, but also to be mentally resilient too,” says the 28-year-old Gray. “To know what hard work feels like, and how to push through hard work.”

VPSC recently celebrated its first anniversary in April and has numerous camps and programs for both youth and adult crowds.

Gray says that while nobody can guarantee a zero-injury rate, the No. 1 goal at VPSC is to create “function through pain-free range of motion.”

“Control before anything else,” says Gray, “and we’re also trying to have fun.”

Whether pushing weight sleds through the parking lot or doing one-on-one speed-burst relays, Gray incorporates fun competitive drills within his sessions where he says an athlete’s “true movements” are on display.

No stranger to competition, Gray played varsity football at Folsom High School until a shoulder injury cost him playing time during his senior season in 2008. That’s around the time Gray feels like he became a coach.

“My passion for this comes from my own mistakes through training when I was younger,” says Gray, who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Folsom freshman football team.

“I wish that I had someone on my butt about lifting correctly versus how much you lift; lifting with a certain intent on everything that you do.”

Gray’s routines don’t focus solely on a specific sport, but rather build a foundation for effective movement within the conditioning for any given sport. Football players, baseball players, lacrosse players and wrestlers, among others, all share the same goals at VPSC.

“I like that it focuses more on technique rather than how much you lift,” says 13-year-old Jackson Ramos, a wrestler from Folsom Middle School who’s been training at VPSC since Thanksgiving. “(It teaches) proper positioning, how to stay safe, and how to get faster and stronger. It’s going to help me be stronger against bigger opponents that I have to go against.”

Abby Gillum, 12, also from Folsom Middle School, likes how VPSC has helped her prepare for lacrosse season.

“It’s helped me with my running skills, and it helps me throw harder,” says Gillum. “The competitive exercises help me because it pushes me to run faster.”

Gray says his programs are designed to access ranges of motion that may later be used in an athlete’s specific sport and allow for greater potential down the road.

“(It’s about) understanding what hard work actually feels like and also knowing that not everything that’s beneficial is going to kill you,” says Gray. “You don’t have to feel dead at the end of a session to have gotten better. There are ways to improve without driving yourself into the ground.”

Gray runs summer camps for athletes from June 3 through August 10. High school athletes meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30 to noon. Middle school athletes train Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Girls only meet Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Elementary age athletes meet Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

To learn more about Victory Performance Strength and Conditioning, visit www.vpsc.fit.