Bob Ihlenfeldt, Rob Fitzgerald, Angry Coach.
Three names of the same man.
A bitter, funny, angry, cynical, unselfish man.
I have written before in my book, and on this blog, about how he has influenced me. I have never before written about how much he has shaped my path in the strength world until now.
For one simple reason.
He would have called me and said, “quit being a fucking douche, ASHMAN”
That’s Bob. All he ever wanted was a simple thank you.
I first met him at World’s Gym in West Babylon, NY. I was lifting next to him, he was deadlifting and I was squatting. When he left I was still lifting and he said to me, “you train hard”.
That was all… soon after we started lifting together and he was my first bonafide coach as I always trained myself and worked on my own form before that.
Before I go into details, let me copy and paste a letter Bob wrote for me in 2008 when I was up for a PT manager spot in a NYC gym.
I will be blocking the name of the gym out, but the rest is all his wording:
Associate Editor/Training Editor
Muscle and Fitness
1 Park Avenue, Third Floor
New York, NY 10016
(646) 521-2844 (office)
(516) 640-XXXX (cell)
I’m writing this letter of recommendation on behalf of my friend and colleague Jay Ashman. As both Jay’s friend and business associate, it’s been an absolute pleasure dealing with him over the past few years, and I can’t recommend him highly enough for the position he’s looking to fill with your organization.
As a trainer, Jay is independent, self-motivated, intellectually curious and exceptionally creative. His enthusiasm for the fitness industry, both in the gym and with regard to his considerable online and social networking abilities, is infectious, and Jay has developed the unique ability to motivate everyone around him and keep them motivated.
Jay’s efforts to reach out to the best trainers, coaches and business minds in the industry have enabled him to build a network of top professionals that will serve both him and your organization very well going forward. He possesses an astounding depth and breadth of training knowledge – including both program design and facility management – coupled with highly evolved and advanced communications skills and the ability to deal with people from all walks of life.
I highly recommend Jay for employment with your organization. He’s a team player and a person of integrity, and will contribute mightily to whatever you’re trying to accomplish. If you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to call me at either number in the letterhead at the top of this page.
Muscle and Fitness Magazine
All he wanted, and all I could give him was a simple thank you.
Bob was the first person to call me after my speech at Mark Watt’s Denison University Strength and Conditioning Conference. His first words to me were, “did you fuck it up?”
He was the first person to give me constructive advice in his usual asshole tone.
He put me in videos with him on the M&F magazine, quoted me in articles, hooked me up with Mike Carlson who featured me in the Vitamin Shoppe and GNC magazines for my rugby and also my e-book. Mike now is working with MuscleMag Int’l and I did an interview with them talking about how much I think Bulletproof coffee is full of shit.
That all came from Bob.
Bob taught me, gave me books, gave me clothing from EliteFTS and used to mock me when I wore it, while at the same time being a walking billboard for the company. We had laughs about that all the damn time.
He was a man’s man, a dick and one of the truest dudes you will ever come across.
Bob would drunk text me; saying, “ASHMAN, I am drunk”
He would call me and say “guess who I am hanging out with ASHMAN?” and name drop who he was with and say “he’s a great guy”.
He worked with me back on Long Island as I helped him train football players as he was doing work writing 5/3/1 for Football. That book was his baby, based off of Wendler’s program and he used that to train his athletes as he was a coach.
He worked with his athletes and molded them into better ones, and even better men.
When I moved to Ohio he was still there calling me and texting me to offer advice and be a friend.
He raised money and donated untold amounts of time to helping Long Island recover from Hurricane Sandy. Not once did he want a pat on the back, he just did it. I made sure I gathered up clothing, blankets, cleaning supplies and other things here in Ohio and had them shipped to him.
He wrote a blog called Standing on the Box which was the reason his journalism career took off. That blog alone got him in the door at Muscle and Fitness. You can find it by doing a simple Google search and see for yourself how good his ability to write was.
For over 10 years, Bob has been a massive influence on my life. There hasn’t been a single fucking man in the strength world that I looked up to as much as I did him, nor will there ever be. Bob, to me, went above and beyond the call of duty in friendship and I am lucky for it.
He wasn’t an elite lifter, he was a good lifter, but he was a great coach.
He was a writer, a trainer and a mentor.
Most of all he was a friend.
The times we sat down and talked he shared stories, we talked about strength concepts, he would shit-talk me and I would ride his ass back. That is Bob, he’s East Coast to the core and if you are from that area, a thick skin is necessary.
Bob passed away Saturday morning and it broke my heart because the one man who helped shape my path in this industry died too young. He didn’t take care of himself the way he should have and that is the curse of many of us who push our bodies and our careers to the limit.
He has little patience for social networking and even less patience to people who steal ideas, rip off others, act like they are gods of strength and who don’t take the time to say thank you.
We had a conversation one time when he told me someone called him, left a voice mail and said, “Bob, Coach xxx here, give me a call when you get a chance.” He said to me, “anyone who calls himself Coach to me that isn’t coaching a team sport can kiss my ass, I am not calling him back, fuck that, he’s a trainer not a goddamn coach.”
He hated helping people out that didn’t thank him. All he ever wants is that person to just say “thank you”. If you didn’t, he didn’t help you again.
I made sure I always thanked him, every single time, because people do not have to help you, they do it because they want to. If you don’t show thanks by a simple phone call or thank you note, you aren’t deserving of it.
If he was here today, and read this, he would text me, or call me, and say, “ASHMAN, what the hell are you doing, pussy, quit being an asshole”.
That is how he was, but inside he would appreciate every bit of it.
Only now that he is passed on, do I write a little about how he helped shape my strength career and my life.
I cannot go into enough detail about our interactions, a lot of them were casual, some were business, some were him talking about his life and giving me advice on mine. We laughed together, shared drinks, yelled at each other and lifted together for a time.
There will never be another Robert Ihlenfeldt and that is ok. The world only needed one of him to impact many people the way he did. I have talked with several of them in the last couple days and we all have been greatly helped by him.
You were my friend, my associate, my mentor and I will miss you with every passing day and I hope that I can make you proud wherever you are.
Goodbye, Bob. You were one of a kind, and the world you touched was better off for it.
One last time… thank you for everything, you were one the best friends I ever had and my heart hurts that you are gone.
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