If you’re looking to get in shape, you should meet Blake Piesto.
As the member services engagement coordinator at the JCC of Greater Baltimore, Piesto, 30, creates challenges and activities for members. He is a full-time personal trainer, too. His favorite job at the J, though, is “creating relationships and connections.”
As a true Baltimorean, Piesto advocates for the community’s multiple sports leagues such
as kickball, basketball, and cornhole.
He’s also a passionate deadlifter: This Mt. Vernon native can lift 400 pounds.
Tell us about deadlifting.
When I deadlifted 407 pounds, that was my second meet ever. Since then I have competed many times. The last time I competed, which was two years ago, I deadlifted 465 pounds — my all-time best so far. I’m aiming around 475 to 480 pounds.
The reason why I keep coming to this sport is the feeling of self-achievement. Training in the gym in general, like my everyday workouts, I get such an endorphin rush. I call it the legal high; I’m always chasing after it.
Has COVID-19 impacted your job?
Life is pretty boring without the J, I’ll tell you that.
Myself and the fitness staff have been trying to keep members engaged through [recorded]and live workouts. Myself, I’m just trying to stay busy, doing home workouts and trying to stay on top of my food choices.
Why should I care about safety at the gym?
When you’re an athlete, you are going to get hurt. There is no way around it. You must have a short-term memory just like any other sports and forget about it.
Your form in powerlifting is everything. Not only for safety reasons but just completing the lift in general.
Today, though, you can pretty much find anything on YouTube, which has a lot of information and sometimes maybe too much. Over time, I found what works for me, and this is the most important.
Everybody’s body mechanics are different. When you are starting out, you want to make sure you have a spotter. Also, what I find helpful is to film your sets. Prop your phone up and film yourself to learn.
Here’s a real controversial question: What is the actual correct way to warm up?
I think the best way to warm up is a dynamic warm up. I tend to hop on a bike for about five minutes just to get the blood flowing.
In my prior experiences, I used to spend a lot of time warming up. … I was wasting time that could have been put into my workout. Not saying stretching is bad, but if you truly do not have a nagging pain, I would say it’s not necessary.
What other tricks are up your sleeve?
My first love is skateboarding. I started when I was 6 years old. I remember grabbing my skateboard right after school to skate with friends. As I got older, we took it a little more serious, traveling all around, filming for skate videos.
Over this past summer I got back into it. It’s like riding a bike, I didn’t lose it.
My favorite trick is a basic kick-flip. Not to brag, but my kick-flips are beautiful. I’m so happy and at peace when I’m on my board.
What does your Jewish identity mean to you?
I basically grew up in the JCC — preschool, camp, kids center, TNT, Camp Milldale, and now a full-time employee.
Being Jewish to me is more of a cultural thing than a spiritual thing. I love the community being Jewish brings. Some of the people I went to preschool or camp with here at the J are still my friends until this day. I feel like being Jewish does bring us together.
What do you think Jewish life will look like in a century?
I think definitely more of a culture and community. I’m kind of seeing it now from all the different walks of life I see here at the JCC.