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Woog’s World Trainer rebrands to focuses more on gain, not pain

December 14, 2018

It sounded like a great name at the time.

Several years ago, EJ Zebro opened Train Away Pain. In his second floor office on Post Road East, with a view of downtown Westport, the nationally certified strength and conditioning specialist offered a specially designed way for athletes to improve their performances, and lessen their rates of injury.

He developed a devoted following. High school and college athletes, middle-aged active men and women, and senior citizens looking to stay healthy and mobile worked with Zebro and his staff. If they were injured, they got back in action quickly. If they were healthy, they felt fitter than ever.

But over time, Zebro realized, Train Away Pain was not exactly a championship marketing tool.

“There were too many negatives,” he said. “Pain” was too closely associated with training. People who could have benefited from Zebro’s work were not even coming in to see what he could do.

At the same time, Zebro — a lifetime learner — was becoming more intrigued by the benefits of movement. He wanted a way to bring them to a broader population.

The result is a rebrand. Train Away Pain is now TAP StrengthLab. The goal is to show people of all ages that intelligent, functional movement — coupled with awareness of their own bodies — can minimize, or even eliminate, pain they may feel from injuries. Or from years of moving poorly or incorrectly.

The new name puts less emphasis on the pain, and more on the gain.

Zebro has spent his entire life getting to this point. After graduating from the University of Delaware — where he studied exercise science, minored in biology and sports psychology, and played varsity soccer — he moved west. In 1997 he was working as a trainer in Oakland, during the National Basketball Association lockout. Golden State Warrior players like Latrell Sprewell and Donyell Marshall came into Zebro’s gym. It was his first exposure to high-level athletes, and what they needed to stay healthy and strong.

When Zebro broke his hand, an excellent physical therapist inspired him to learn more about that aspect of health and fitness. He returned east for the University of Bridgeport Chiropractic College. He worked with the school’s men’s and women’s soccer teams as a strength and conditioning coach and in injury rehabilitation.

He earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree, and joined Fast Fitness in Westport. Quickly, he recognized that the reason for many sports injuries is movement dysfunction. That led to his own practice in the 180 Post Road East office building, next to Design Within Reach.

It grew steadily. But Zebro was always searching for new ways to help people — not just lessen their pain, but also move well and feel good.

TAP StrengthLab is like a boutique gym. Zebro and Lauren Leppla — a Fairfield Warde High School and New York University graduate, former varsity volleyball player and golfer, and now a competitive triathlete — offer individual and small group sessions. Using some high-tech, highly calibrated equipment — and some very low-tech stuff too, like balls — the two provide instruction, guidance and encouragement in a wide variety of low-impact, personalized workouts.

Zebro and Leppla also work with two therapists. One specializes in mental health and addiction. There is a strong correlation between movement and recovery, Zebro said.

Zebro is becoming a noted movement and performance coach. He helps clients become “more conscious movers.” The better they move, the less they need drugs or surgery.

To be a conscious mover, he said, means “knowing where you are in time and space.” He’s doing that for a broad range of clients.

Kyle Martino — a Staples High School graduate, former professional and national team soccer player whose career was cut short by injuries, and now is a noted Premier League analyst for NBC Sports — is learning how to maximize his body and movements. He’s back playing in a men’s league in Stamford and feels better than he has in years.

A multi-sport athlete describes his more fluid motion as “moving from redwood to bamboo.”

A young rower uses Zebro’s exercises as a way to recover from hard workouts. But he’s particularly proud of his work with older clients.

One man — a former wrestling and football coach — came because of balance issues. He’s staying because he feels so much better. An 80-year-old woman told Zebro she knows her body better now than she did at 40.

“I love that feedback,” he said. “This is so much more satisfying than just working on their ankle or back.”

After 25 years in the functional training field, EJ Zebro is still learning.

And always teaching.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.

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