Things Booming in the Enlarged Kendall Madison Fitness Center

“It’s definitely one of the best-equipped gyms on the Island,”
Lisa Farbar, at right, gives classes for high school students at Truth Training on Saturday mornings, showed Jackson Baris and Cole Jowers how to properly lift kettle bells, one of the very few exercise aids the Kendall Madison Fitness Center lacks. Jack Graves

The new home for the Kendall Madison Fitness Center at East Hampton High School is cavernous, a super-gym four times larger than the old one, and, wonderful to tell, it is not only filled with equipment — much of it having been donated by the Hampton Gym Corp’s Bruce Cotter last spring, a gift valued at $250,000 — but also is filled with students working out every school day, 30 to 50 on average, from 2:30 on.

“It’s definitely one of the best-equipped gyms on the Island,” Joe Vas, the school district’s athletic director, said the other day. “I’ve seen some that are comparable, like Ward Melville’s, but this one is fully up-to-date.”

When asked if there were anything lacking, Lisa Farbar, the school’s strength and conditioning coach, thought a bit and said, “Maybe a battle rope and some kettle bells, but that would be it.”

In the old days, such a gym would have probably been the sole province of football players and wrestlers, but the benefits of being fit have become so widely evident by now that on a given day in the winter you’ll likely find fewer bodybuilders than girls lacrosse and field hockey players exercising under Farbar’s watchful eye, her LaSalle University-bound daughter, Lucy Emptage, among them.

“We’re going to be good,” Farbar said, when asked about the girls lacrosse team. “Lucy’s been recruiting in the halls. We’re going to boom the program, make it great again. There’s so much talent. . . . The coach they’ve just hired, Jessica Sanna — she played at Adelphi — is terrific.”

Farbar, who lives in Amagansett, began as a gymnast, in New York City. “I was in the Junior Olympics in 1976 . . . on the balance beam. I got into dance therapy in college, and became a trainer in the ’80s at health clubs in the city, and then fell into private training, with a lot of fancy ladies — and fancy men — as clients. . . . Besides what I do with the kids here, I give classes at [Ed and Caroline Cashin’s] Truth Training and at [Mike Bahel’s] Body Tech in Amagansett.”

Her Saturday morning workout at Truth Training is for high school students only, at $15 apiece. This past Saturday, “a snowy day in January,” eight — Isabella Swanson, Abby Quinn, Jackson Baris, Cole Jowers, Katie McGovern, Lucy Emptage, Julia Short, and Grace Amaden — were put through their paces, on rowing machines, with kettle bells, TRX straps, Bosu balls, medicine balls, jump ropes, et cetera

“What I want to teach these kids,” she said, looking about, “is how to work out. So that they’ll be able to go to any gym and not feel intimidated. . . . This strength and fitness work they’re doing is making them not only better athletes, but better human beings. As a consequence, they’re feeling good about themselves, which is 90 percent of life, isn’t it?”

Everyone, she added, is welcome, not just those playing on teams. 

“We run every day, two miles to begin with, outside or in, we do planks — push-ups are essentially moving planks — and dead bugs every day, burpees, push-ups. . . . I have workouts written down, but before I can get specific I have to see what I’ve got, I have to see the whites of their eyes.”

Julia Short, a junior field hockey defender, said, when asked if Farbar was attentive insofar as their intense fitness workouts were concerned, said, with a smile, “Oh yes, she keeps us busy. . . . I started with her last year. I’m definitely stronger now than I was.”

Farbar said that Bruce Cotter’s gift couldn’t have come at a better time. “We were busting out of that old room, we were in the halls.” The school board, she said in answer to a question, had had no doubts about accepting the gift, but it had to be persuaded that all the new equipment wouldn’t just stand idle.

“Well,” said Farbar, “there’s no doubt anymore. We’ve boomed it.”

“I’ve never come here and found no one,” she said in parting. “And when it comes to closing time, at 5 o’clock, I always have to kick somebody out.”