MORE ABOUT ME

Erik-Santa-SusannaI was born in Levice, a town in the south-west of Slovakia and grew up in Šahy, even smaller town at the Hungarian border. Like with every little child, my world view was shaped mainly by my parents and grandparents. When I was about 10 years old,  I realized that in your family you are the best child (together with my brother) but out there are plenty of kids who learn better, play football better and are allowed to stay out longer.  Here I started to form my own life experience. I wasn’t a bad student but my actions were always oriented towards pleasing the authorities and avoiding punishment.

Erik-panel-houseAt high school, we used to have gymnastics lesson (part of compulsory P. E. if the teacher takes it seriously) in an old-school underground gym. There were weights, gymnastic equipment including parallel bars and vaults, and the walls were covered in posters of famous bodybuilders, including Schwarzenegger and Kevin Levrone. I sucked at the stuff…I could not do a single pull-up. But I started practicing at home: push-ups, sit-ups and so on.  Later I played a lot of hockey and football although my parents wanted me to practice more piano. After a year, I managed to pump out 5.5 pull-ups. I felt motivated and carried on in sports despite lacking talent.

Mother, grandfather and friend Peťo.

Erik Levrone Prague
Original Kevin Levrone in Prague, October 2015.

I wanted to study teaching program in English language and physical education, and part of the admission were physical ability tests with gymnastics, running, sport games and swimming. I needed to learn some moves and pass the limits. So I ended up practicing in the gym every day for several hours, supervised by the guys from the posters, including Kevin Levrone, and my teacher, who gave some professional advice into my head-on approach. I focused on performance, not muscle size or definition. However, combined with regular football sessions, swimming, and load of study, I was shredded like a gymnast. Apart from that, I studied hard for the final exams at school, so many people, including girls, came to me when they needed help with studies.

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Raven on The Simpsons.

I passed the criteria and entered the university, where I was introduced to professional sports and training. Most of my class mates were professional sportsmen and a little bit out of my league. I struggled to meet the criteria but learnt a lot in the process, either directly in the sessions with teachers or indirectly by studying available material. In contrast, I was good at English studies so I could read anything foreign. I did my final thesis on British newspaper coverage of the Scottish and Welsh devolution. For the American literature lesson I brought in episode of The Simpsons with Edgar Allan Poe and the teacher told it was OK, because I made good connection between popular culture and literature.

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In London with my friend Sergio from Colombia. At that time I started learning Spanish.

During studies I also gained work experience; either via part-time work around Banská Bystrica, my university city, or in London. Actually, I worked as a taxi bike driver on the street. It improved my fitness (try biking 8 – 12 hours a day, carrying people around the centre) but also social skills (try to convince people to pay for a ride in a bike) and the ability to take care of myself. Sometimes, I earned some money and bought food immediately because I was short of cash or few times I spent a night on the street as I had not place to go…

 

Me and Peto armwrestling
Peťo from the gym.

Upon graduating from the university, me and two of my classmates started working in a newly opened fitness centre. I also taught English in a language school. Here I realized that the knowledge from university has just about 5 percent transfer to real life. It is about people skills. Moreover, I learnt how to invoice and run my own business. I lived with my colleague Peťo. Before we were classmates and in the evenings we discussed girls in MUSCLE&FITNESS magazines and school. Now we discussed clients and invoices. In a search of more stable jobs, I entered several courses for salesmen and to-be-financial advisors, where they teach you the basics of finances and also negotiation skills.

 

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London Olympics, 2012.

After one year I moved to the UK, where I worked in a hotel and later in a sport shop in London. Here my eyes opened to the big world, after reading the books Rich Dad – Poor Dad by Kyosaki and Freakonomics by the Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. In the hotel, we served ice cream as a desert for 4.90 pounds.  Later I learnt that it was scooped from a 1 kg box bought in Tesco for 1 pound. Real-life Freakonomic discovery. I wanted to write about similar stuff so I started blogging on things that I considered interesting, thinking that the other people will be interested as well…

51lzmznowrl-_sx408_bo1204203200_51mb6delsql-_sx330_bo1204203200_Few years before, I was dreaming about walking the night streets of London in nice dress and with a girl, like all of those guys who used to by my clients. Now I was sitting at a restaurant at the Leicester Square around 10 pm on Friday, dressed in 110 pound jacket, sharing a pizza with a blond girls and I wasn’t satisfied… After one year of trying to get into a real job in London (learning the unfortunate immigrant situation on the go) I decided to go back to Slovakia. I was given a place of an English teacher at an international school in Bratislava, so I stared living in the capital on modest income.

Bratislava

Later I changed schools and started working for newspapers: The Slovak Spectator and MUSCLE&FITNESS. I was writing blogs for some time and wanted to share my ideas and discoveries with the world, maybe make a living from it. So I contacted the editors and asked them for a volunteer opportunity to get experience. After about 200 job interviews in my life I knew that instead of filling a vacancy it is much better to develop some kind of relationship with people and they might find a vacancy suitable for you. At the same time I became a member of the European Forum of Young people – AEGEE (funny story how I found it…). I met plenty of interesting and caring (and sharing) people there and also got opportunities to use my professional skills in practice, for example in a journalist project in Aachen (link to article – Danube Bridges) and Summer University in Bergamo.

High Tatras, Slovakia, 2014
Skiing trip with students in High Tatras, Slovakia, 2014.

I liked teaching students but felt that the job isn’t the one best thing I should do. I passed a course in economic journalism with The Slovak Spectator and started working as a freelancer, writing for the Business Focus section. Later I was offered permanent position as an online editor in MUSCLE&FITNESS.

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Meeting American bikini fitness competitors, Courtney King (left) and Janet Layug.

Entering the world of sports, journalism, programming, politics and marketing I made a few mistakes but it I like it as I am making progress – measurable by faster article processing and less mistakes. Also, I rekindled my relationship with sports. For long, I was exercising just to keep in shape. But the guys from street workout and most recently CrossFit made me realize that there are no limits. Also they remind me of the fact that you do not know everything and even after 20 years of exercising it is no shame to seek the advice of a professional. Like with everything.

Most recently, I started competing in CrossFit, doing online courses in psychology and I take salsa lessons.