Whether it’s been wrestling his way to the state championships in high school, working out alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Sylvester Stallone and Lou Ferrigno or wakeboarding in Peconic Bay, personal trainer Frank Zagarino has always made a concerted effort to stay in shape.
“I try to do something different every day,” said the 55-year-old Laurel resident. “The idea is just to keep moving.”
Zagarino, who has been the head personal trainer at Maximus Health and Fitness in downtown Riverhead for more than a decade and an independent personal trainer for more than 35 years, began going to the gym while attending Coral Gables Senior High School near Miami.
“I got into weight lifting to be stronger for wrestling,” said Zagarino, adding that he ranked third in the state in the sport’s 157-pound weight class his senior year.
After moving to Los Angeles in the early 1980s to pursue an acting career, Zagarino began swimming, biking and running in Tinman triathlons. He also joined his older brother Scott’s gym, the Santa Monica Bodybuilding Center.
It was there that Zagarino met Stallone, who was then at the height of his “Rocky” fame, and Ferrigno, a professional bodybuilder who starred in “The Incredible Hulk.” in 1978
“Those two guys work out as hard as I’ve ever seen anybody,” Zagarino recalled. “Watching their work ethic definitely gives you some lifetime experience.”
Zagarino himself was no slouch when it came to training for B-movie action films like the popular 1990s “Shadowchaser” series, in which he played a shirtless, gun-wielding android. Throughout his acting career, he performed many of his own stunts, from jumping out of a helicopter to mastering “high falls.”
And when he wasn’t on set, Zagarino said, he was working out two-and-a-half hours a day, six days a week.
“It becomes a way of life, so it wasn’t really hard,” he said of the grueling routine.
Although his film career is now behind him, Zagarino still “trains hard and works hard,” said fellow Maximus Health and Fitness personal trainer Gregory Trent. “He’s a great guy — motivated.”
In the early 2000s, Zagarino moved to the North Fork, where his grandparents had owned a summer home, since “the film business in L.A. for low-budget movies had changed because of reality television.”
In addition to his personal training work, he owns the outdoor film projection company “Movies in the Moonlight.”
Zagarino also thought the East End would be a better place to raise his sons with his first wife, Elizabeth Giordano: Frank Jr. is now 22, and Tanner, now 16, is an all-county wrestler at Mattituck High School. (Zagarino also has a 2-year-old son, Colton, with his second wife, Albena Mitova.)
About a dozen years ago, Zagarino said, he was “literally just shopping” when he walked into Maximus Health and Fitness, which was then located on Riverhead’s Route 58 and called Ultimate Fitness, and introduced himself. He’s been an independently contracted personal trainer at the gym ever since and has his own LLC, Zag Fit Fitness.
“I would recommend Frank to anybody,” said Carolyn London of Riverhead, who has trained with Zagarino for roughly seven years.
“I like him because he teaches you at your level,” she said. “I’m 77 years old and when I went to see him, I said, ‘Frank, I’m not here because I think I’m gonna be in a bikini this summer. And I don’t like to sweat, so if you think you can work within those parameters I’m your client.’ ”
Instead of pushing her to her limit, said London, who ballroom dances four nights a week, Zagarino helps keep her bones healthy with strength-training exercises.
“I’m not there to make muscles,” she said. “Frank is very patient and understanding.”
As far as his own workout routine goes, Zagarino, who has undergone two back surgeries in the past several years, is currently into cross-training. He also likes to swim and walk.
“Because of my surgeries I can’t run anymore, so I do a lot of cardio at the gym,” he said. “I try to do something different every day.”
One place where Zagarino does cut himself a little slack is his diet.
“I’m not a fanatic about dieting,” he said. “I have a sweet tooth like everybody else, but I try to eat more of what is naturally grown: fruits and vegetables, eggs in the morning.”
Even so, he continued, “You have to indulge a bit. Everything in moderation is OK.”
All too often, and to their own detriment, Zagarino said, people seem to forget this. Year after year, he said, some gym patrons tell him they’re going to “work out six days a week and eat perfectly” only to lose steam — and sometimes even gain weight — a relatively short time later.
Ultimately, Zagarino said, losing weight isn’t complicated. You just have to burn more calories than you consume — and keep active.
“Every night, [my wife and I] go for a walk after dinner because you don’t want the food to just sit there,” he said.
Even people who are chained to a desk eight hours a day can find easy ways to incorporate exercise into their routine, Zagarino said. It can be as simple as doing squats while holding onto a doorknob for balance or challenging yourself to take every other step up the stairs.
Yep, you guessed it: A little goes a long way.
“The tortoise wins the race,” Zagarino advised.
3 strength-training exercises to do at home
You don’t have to join a gym to work out. Here are three moves Frank Zagarino said anyone can do from the comfort of their own home. The only equipment needed is a set of dumbbells; you can even substitute unopened soup cans as weights.
1. Hammer curls for better biceps
Begin by standing with your knees bent slightly, Zagarino said. While holding the weights, exhale and curl the weight forward while contracting your biceps. Try to keep your elbows stationary the entire time. Inhale, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Continue for a total of 15 repetitions.
2. Lateral raises for stronger shoulders
Bend your knees slightly, then “keep your elbows bent slightly as you slowly lift the weights,” Zagarino said. Continue for 15 repetitions.
3. Leg lunges
The key to lunging, Zagarino said, is to never let your knee “go past the point of your toe.” When you do a nice, deep step, your shin should be straight up and down, he said. Continue for 15 repetitions.