How AOS was born

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 by kettlebellstef

Trainer found his calling through cancer

Comment Email Print Share

By Alexa Pozniak
Special to

Faced with the unimaginable possibility of losing his right leg to a potentially deadly tumor, Anthony DiLuglio lay on an operating table in Rhode Island as doctors began to dissect the extremity.

Only four months earlier, he had been on the verge of stardom within the fitness community after being named one of the 100 best fitness trainers in America by Men’s Journal. As surgeons sliced through his muscles, what they discovered simply shocked them. The endless hours DiLuglio had spent working out may have saved not only his limb and his own life, but also the lives of others.

Exercise has always been the embodiment of the 44-year-old DiLuglio’s existence. What started as a means of enjoyment as a child evolved into a successful career. He became known for his innovative workout program that incorporated kettlebells as its main component. Blessed with the mind of a businessman and the body of an Adonis, DiLuglio opened his first Punch Kettlebell Gym in Providence in 2004. With zero connection to cancer at the time, but ever the cycling enthusiast, DiLuglio embraced Lance Armstrong’s foundation with gusto, covering his new Hummer with the Livestrong logo and purchasing 1 million yellow bracelets to hand out to anyone and everyone.

Business was booming and life was good. But he had a nagging feeling that something was about to go wrong. “I have a weird balance in my life,” he said, in a thick Rhode Island accent. “Whenever I have success, I have bad luck, too. … It’s kind of like a reminder.”

During a workout one day, DiLuglio noticed a lump on the inside of his right thigh. Tests confirmed it was a tumor, but the doctor believed it was benign, saying there was a “one in 2 million chance” that it was actually cancerous.

“I immediately thought I could be that one guy,” DiLuglio said. A biopsy was scheduled, and on May 11, 2005, he received the devastating diagnosis.

“The doctor said, ‘Remember you said you thought you were that one-in-2-million guy? You were right: You have cancer,'” he said, slightly wincing behind his oversized sunglasses as he recalled the memory.

Up until that point, he had been in perfect health. But now, myxiod liposarcoma, a rare form of the disease, was invading his leg. Only 6,000 cases are seen in the U.S. each year. The doctor explained that more surgery was needed, and that DiLuglio had a good chance of losing all feeling in his leg and foot, or worse, losing the entire leg. “I thought, ‘What did I do to end up like this? What about training? What about my livelihood?'”

Amazingly, DiLuglio made it through surgery and managed to keep his entire leg and the majority of his muscle tissue: His training had made the muscles so dense that the tumor was unable to penetrate them.

“The doctors wanted to know what I did to create such muscle,” he said. “If you’re a runner or bodybuilder, you don’t have that type of density. I explained kettlebell training and my approach to building strength.” Researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston continue to study his case, hoping to learn more.

Back at work two weeks after surgery, DiLuglio still faced weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. Ironically, his clients were now caring for him. “They brought me food, took over classes, still paid me,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

It wasn’t long before DiLuglio began to feel the effects of radiation: pain, burning and extreme fatigue. He immediately went to work shooting his first DVD, because he didn’t know what condition his leg would end up in after it was all over.

DiLuglio’s breaking point came when lymphedema caused his leg to swell up with fluid. His doctor prescribed lymphatic massage, as well as stiff bandages, five layers of which were to be applied daily to the limb to keep the fluid out.

“Between the nerve damage from the surgery, the burning of the skin from radiation, and now the wrapping … I was in so much pain,” he said. “I thought it couldn’t get any worse than that. I survived cancer, but this was going to do me in.”

To his wife’s dismay, he grabbed a pair of scissors, cut off his bandages and announced he was going for a run. He completed an agonizing 20-minute jog, and his next stop was the gym. He put his physiological knowledge to work developing exercises to help alleviate the painful problem.

“I needed to get things moving, I needed to get the fluid to drain itself,” he said. “My cancer is rare, and they don’t have much information about how to treat it or the side effects.” The swelling eventually subsided, and a month later, his doctor was shocked when DiLuglio explained his unique treatment method.

“I looked out in the waiting room and saw all of these other patients and thought, ‘Why can’t they come to the gym, too?” he said. DiLuglio had found his calling.

He had helped train professional athletes, including the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, but DiLuglio’s experience with cancer led him to embrace a new set of clients — those facing debilitating conditions, such as cancer and brain injuries, who have been cast aside and deemed unfixable.

Andrew Miller, 39, sought out DiLuglio after treatment for brain cancer left him with severe balance issues.

“It affected most areas of my life, but the most frustrating thing was not being able to teach my 4-year-old daughter how to ride her bike,” Miller said. “How can I not do that as a father?”

Miller tried physical therapy, without success. So after an extensive evaluation, DiLuglio put together a program that focused on strengthening his core and quads using a variety of exercises, including kettlebells and nylon ropes.

“He has the ability to create workouts that are different from the norm, and at the same time there’s a unique bond with him because we were both survivors,” Miller said.

Exercise gave DiLuglio his life back, and now he hopes to do the same for others. “I was pissed when I got cancer. I thought, ‘I’m a good person; I can’t give back any more than I already am.’ But I realized that I have to give back even more, and I have to learn something from this.”


10am Circuit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2009 by kettlebellstef

Punch Gym Norwalk had an awesome 10am circuit class today.  Check out the pictures below:

Alison on the ropes

Alison on the ropes

Gabe on the clean n press with the log

Gabe on the clean n press with the log

Pete on the figure 8 to a hold

Pete on the figure 8 to a hold

Shamala on the triple crush

Shamala on the triple crush

April on the outlaw swing

April on the outlaw swing

Elizabeth on the Bandit's loop lunge

Elizabeth on the Bandit's loop lunge

Joann on the renegade row

Joann on the renegade row

Jackie on the outlaw curl

Jackie on the outlaw curl

Dayna on the hot potato Russian twist
Dayna on the hot potato Russian twist

We warmed up with the Indian clubs and some body weight stuff.  Each station was a minute long and we did it twice.  At the end, we killed the abs a little.  Awesome!

Why I Do What I Do

Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2009 by kettlebellstef

Hey Stef,

I enjoyed the article this week. It puts a lot of things in perspective and I just wanted to shoot you a quick note that to let you know that I so much appreciate all that you have taught me and will continue to teach me.

Having an outlet like I have through your gym has not only allowed me to more effectively deal with my stress at work, but it has also provided me with an opportunity to achieve goals that are not related to my career and that is something that I haven’t focused on in YEARS!!! So thanks for being an awesome trainer and forcing all of us to push ourselves and I’m looking forward to another ass whooping like I received tonight!!!




I Have a Question for You

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2009 by kettlebellstef

I Have a Question For You


 What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  In class on Tuesday, Kat and I put everyone through a workout with heavier weights than they had used in the past.  No one seemed confident of handling those weights. But they did it.
 Everyone in the gym hit a personal best that day.  They conquered weights they had never before touched.  It was empowering.  They learned that they just had to face the weight, and then they could do it.  I was proud to see them all, men and women, pressing 36-kg kettlebells and 100-lb barbells, swinging 32-kgs, and overhead squatting with 24-kgs. 
 Before that, I had noticed that they were getting too comfortable using the same weights every workout.  They couldn’t progress that way.  It wasn’t challenging enough.  They weren’t going to get stronger without a struggle, even if they were afraid to try. 
  My mission is to make people strong and to especially help women get past their resistance to it.  In truth, everyone is held back from fitness, by deeply held fears of change of one kind or another.  The struggle to become strong is a struggle against those fears.  We are adaptive creatures, but we are afraid of the unknown and what it might bring. 
 For example, while each person’s package of fears is unique, many women shy away from using serious weights because of the prejudice that it’s somehow too manly to grunt and use them, as well as the fear of getting bulky, particularly with heavy social pressure to be thin.  Some people fear the macho-like competition that comes so easily with lifting clearly measurable weights.  Then there is the more general fear of looking bad if one doesn’t lift enough, and the fear of doing something with which one is unfamiliar, stumbling and maybe even getting hurt.
 Besides all that, almost anyone can relate to the just plain fear that using weights will be hard.  It’s not easy to get up first thing in the morning and face the pain.  That makes it all the harder to face any fear of commitment, for that’s clearly what it will take, a long-term, possibly permanent commitment to doing the ‘hard.’  It’s not easy to stay with it. 
 Finally there’s the fear of fitness or the fear of true change, becoming in some way different from what one is now.  Even the many people who hate their bodies have usually at least somewhat adjusted to them.  One’s appearance and condition acquire the comfort of familiarity, if nothing else.  Who knows what the actual affects of fitness and losing weight will be on oneself and one’s relationships with others?
 These fears can hold us back, but fears can drive us forward as well.  People strive for fitness out of a fear of sickness or poor health, even out of a fear of the aging process.  We often have a very basic fear of what others might think of us.  In our society, for all its problems with obesity, there is a huge fear of gaining weight, of not looking good.  Not just for the sake of health, but because of possible social consequences.  Another fear, one I can relate to personally, is that of being weak, as women have often, in the past, been taught to be.  This is particularly true in our mostly competitive world.  I don’t want that to happen to me.
 These fears, healthy or not, can sometimes drive us in positive directions, just as they can sometimes drive us to less effective alternatives, like diet pills.  Fitness, particularly with the Art of Strength, is an excellent way to cope with such fears.  There are all kinds of benefits to be had, but the focus here is on fear.  One of our clients, Beth, has said on more than one occasion, “I don’t lift heavy, because I don’t want to get big.”  That’s no surprise; trainers hear that all the time.  Yet now, after a couple of months, she insists on using the 100-lb barbell and the 90-lb log.  On Tuesday, she hit her personal best on the overhead squat with a 20-kg kettlebell.  Awesome. 
 Beth got over her particular fear, using heavy weights and finding that she felt empowered by them.  And she enjoyed doing it.  She set aside her ‘larger’ concerns and focused on just taking each step along the way.  That’s what worked for me as well in my last competition.  Instead of letting the big picture, my fears about how I would look, sabotage me, I kept my perspective for each event.  I saw what I was doing, just for what it actually was — like just picking up a rock.  Nothing more.  That made it much easier.
 In Tuesday’s class, we started small.  The first set was light, the second set a little heavier, and then, we hit them with the big stuff — what they hadn’t yet tried. When I asked everyone to choose a weight that they had not used before, they all groaned.  They just saw something too big for them to do.  “You want me to do 10 reps with THAT?”  I told them, no, even if you can do just one rep, do it, just get it up.  Then that’s what they did.  And some of them kept going.  One rep at a time, doing all 10. 
 Everyone was surprised and thrilled, and changed by knowing what they had just done.  They knew something new about themselves.  To see each step of what you have to do, for what it is, and only for what it is, not adding any larger concerns, helps you get past your fears.  That’s doing it instead of fearing it. That’s how we change. 
 When I found myself unable to do the deadlift, it overwhelmed me at first, but then I managed to put it into perspective, to simplify it.  That experience helped me later to deal with my fears in competition.  What I and Beth and many others have learned is how to counter our fears by staying in the moment, and not making a bigger deal out of something than it really is.
 We can’t just get rid of fear.  By reaching and surpassing our limits, we only find new challenges.  For example, in achieving fitness, we take on the challenge of keeping it.  We have to continue to work hard, even when we would rather do something else.  On Tuesday, after everyone surprised themselves with what they could do, and felt great for it, Kat and I told them that now, they know and we know what they’re capable of, that they can do more than they thought they could. 
 We mustn’t become complacent.  We have to keep the discipline and keep trying for something new.  I’m often asked, “Does this ever get easier?”  I answer that, yes, it will, but that’s when we have to step it up another notch.  After everyone had finished on Tuesday, Mabel, another client, decided to try to snatch the 20-kg bell for the first time.  She was nervous, and we were all nervous for her.  Everyone was watching her.  She took a deep breath, grabbed the handle, and snatched it up.  It should always be hard.  There has to be a struggle.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At least, though, Mabel’s first achievement that day made it easier for her to reach for and accomplish her second achievement. 
 Achieving fitness goals can bring on new versions of our fears.  Anything that changes us brings on new challenges and adjustments.  When people lose a lot of weight, it often takes them longer to see themselves as they’ve become than it does to actually lose the weight. As we become fit, our relationships with others may change, and with ourselves as well. We become different from what we were and have to adjust to that. Change leads to more change — and new fears.
 Some years ago, I left a steady, well-paying job in finance to become an underpaid personal trainer, which is what I really wanted to do.  That only led to new concerns and fears about using training methods that seemed to me ineffective. But I had already made the leap.  So the next step was to discover something new — kettlebells and AOS.  That brought new needs and opportunities for me.  Now that Kat and I have our own gym and teach what we want, our challenge is to spread the word and to get our clients to reach new goals.    
 In the gym, with a strong core, you are better able to stay grounded and react to whatever is thrown at you from wherever it comes.  Standing on one leg, when someone throws a ball at you, you can keep your balance while you catch it and throw it back.  Similarly, when you have strong convictions and confidence in yourself and the experience of achieving something, you’re strong inside and are more likely to handle what life throws at you.   You will continue to encounter new fears, even as you cope with old ones.  And who knows where that will lead?

So what would you do if you weren’t scared?  Leave comments here.

Go Mom!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2009 by kettlebellstef

Here’s an article I wrote for the Women’s Page on a few months ago.  I went and checked out a strongman competition in PA.  It was neat to sit back and observe, although I must admit, I wanted to jump in and compete really badly!  I had the chance to interview the women competitors.  Check it out…

Go Mom!

by Stefanie Tropea




This week, my nail color is Yell-OH!  And last Sunday, I found plenty of reason to yell, and, oh, be impressed.  Amy is a mother who brought her daughters along to watch her compete in a strongman competition in Allentown, PA last Sunday.  I was there, too, as a fan.  I asked her why she was doing this.  

Despite having four more events ahead of her, she seemed to be relaxed and enjoying herself — a lot different than I was three weeks ago.  She told me that this is the only thing she has control over in her life.  She said, “I go to the gym, and I decide what weights are going to go on that bar and if I’m going to lift it or not.”  I guess she decided to lift, because, from what I saw, she gave the competition her very best.  Behind me, I heard her daughters shout, “Go, Mom!”  When she was finished, I think this mother and strongwoman felt proud, accomplished, and pleased.  

That’s what it’s all about.  That’s how I’m trying to approach it.  At York, three weeks ago, I was not like that.  I was so nervous that I made myself ill and I let my nerves get the best of me.  I bombed in events that I had expected to dominate.  Despite my intentions to compete mainly against myself, I worried too much about what the other competitors were doing.  I did not approach it as if it were just another training day.  I made it a bigger deal than it should’ve been.  I let the pressure get to me of not wanting to let anyone down.  I became obsessed with not coming in last.  I took a lot of the joy out of it, and I made the events a lot harder than they had to be.  After watching the women compete last Sunday, I hope I’ve learned enough from them and my own experience in York to have a much different attitude when I go to Atlantic City in August.  

I need to approach any contest like it’s just another training day.  In my training sessions, I do pretty well.  I have to carry over the feeling that I get in those sessions.  I’m still nervous in practice, but, when there’s no crowd, when there’s no distraction, it feels easy.  Of course, it’s not easy.  It’s just that when I step up to the weight, I think, “Okay, I know what I have to do here.”  That’s what I hope to feel at the next competition, instead of, “Oh s#*%!  How am I going to do this?”  I hope to achieve this by sticking to the same routines on each training day — from the exercises, to diet, to sleeping.  Maybe that will help me to keep perspective, to remember that strongman is just something I enjoy — no less and no more.  Amy, Mom, already seems to understand this and enjoys strongman for what it is and what she does.  

Strongest Mary, as she happily calls herself, one of the other competitors last week, told me she thought more women did not participate in strongman because it’s “too hard,” that the heavy weights and odd equipment intimidate them.  Indeed, the roughness of the sport is probably unappealing to the average female.  

There’s no question that for more women to participate in strongman, they would have to change their attitudes about being women.  Perhaps they are not accustomed to the extreme nature of the sport.  It takes a warrior’s attitude that many people normally associate with men.  

These obstacles, of course, are nonsense, prejudices that diminish what women can do.  Anyone can do strongman if he or she has guts, determination, and stops thinking it’s impossible.  You have to believe you can do it, on your own and beyond your ‘limits.’  Can women do this and still be women?  Of course.  Duh!

The youngest participant, Samantha, when asked why other women weren’t there, explained that they are “bitches.”  Perhaps, to rephrase, it’s  because other women, often taught to not be ‘too’ strong, themselves judge strongwomen as bitches or, in other words, as odd and inappropriate.  

If this is true, it is unfortunate. Nothing can be more appropriate for a woman than to be strong, than to struggle and do her best, and to achieve something extreme for herself.  Nothing could be more appropriate than this for anyone willing to push limits.  Responding to Mary, Samantha noted that heavier weights just made her want to lift them even more.  That’s how I hope to be at my next competition.  


"Strongest Mary"

"Strongest Mary"

Amy (the mom)

Amy (the mom)



Big things poppin’

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2009 by kettlebellstef

Big things coming soon.  Stay tuned…

Busy, Busy, Busy

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2009 by kettlebellstef

I know, I know, I haven’t updated the blog in quite a while. It’s because “Busy, busy, busy” has perfectly described Punch Gym Norwalk for the past month.  Our classes are packed, and we see more new people each week.  We may even need to start taking reservations!  I’m not complainin’ – it’s a good problem to have.

Getting lots of new members is great, but what’s even better is what nice people they are.  Their comradery is unlike anything I’ve seen in any other gym.  Our members hang around after class and chat.  If one doesn’t show up, everyone else is like, Hey, where’s so-and-so?  We keep hearing feedback like, “I’ve never actually missed going to the gym before,” and “I just love being here.”  We’ve been able to turn treadmill victims into kettlebell enthusiasts.  We must be onto something.

It’s just one month now until my strongman competition in York, PA.  I’ve been training every Sunday in NJ with the guys who are hosting the contest.  I work-out on the same equipment I’ll be using in the competition.  I’ll be keeping you posted here on how my training is going, but you can also check out the Women’s Page every Thursday on to follow my progress.

Please feel free to shoot me an E-mail at