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Creating lifestyle changes to develop long-term health

From left, Sandra Thomas and Carl Miller, co-owners of Carl & Sandra’s Physical Conditioning Center, talk with their trainer, Gerard Matthews, at the gym in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

From left, Sandra Thomas and Carl Miller, co-owners of Carl & Sandra’s Physical Conditioning Center, talk with their trainer, Gerard Matthews, at the gym in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Carl Miller may be 74, but odds are he can pound more weight than just about anybody half his age.

A former trainer for the U.S. Olympic weightlifting team, Miller has also worked as a consultant for teams like the San Francisco 49ers during their Super Bowl heyday of the 1980s with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott. He helped train the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan was turning the NBA into his personal playground.

And for more than 30 years, he has shared his expertise with local residents at Carl & Sandra’s Physical Conditioning Center in Santa Fe.

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Reminiscing about those championship athletes, Miller noted they shared a similar trait.

“Joe Montana and Michael Jordan were the most competitive people I ever met,” he said. “The Bulls were the most notable. That 10-year period from 1989 to 1999, that was really fun.”

Between them, Montana and Jordan won 10 professional championships.

But reaching out to regular folks is the idea behind the local gym in a city he has called home since 1968.

“When I started it in 1982, the idea was to reach all different forms of people,” Miller said. “I change programs for people every six weeks. One guy has been here 32 years and hasn’t seen the same program yet. What we’re doing is teaching and coaching.”

It’s not just about developing the ability to push big weight into the air, Miller said.

“We’re teaching strength and flexibility, and reducing body fat,” he said. “We set goals and, every six weeks, see if they’ve met their goal.”

It is about creating lifestyle changes to develop long-term health, Miller said.

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And that’s where his role as an educator becomes so important.

The teaching part comes naturally for Miller, who was an educator for years at Santa Fe’s Carlos Gilbert Elementary School, where he introduced legions of youngsters to sports like gymnastics, track and field, wrestling, weightlifting, boxing and badminton, in addition to the usual fare of grade-school physical education.

He would spend Monday through Thursday at the school, and travel the country Friday through Sunday scouring the cities and farmlands for potential prospects for the weightlifting team.

He also has traveled the world, spending several years in Colombia helping train that country’s national soccer, track, swimming and volleyball squads.

Miller also spent several years in Japan, where he helped condition the country’s standout volleyball team and also worked with the Hanshin Tigers professional baseball team, training the players to “throw harder and run faster.”

It was after that stint abroad that he settled in Santa Fe, married his partner Sandra Thomas and ran the gym.

“I thought there was need there,” Miller said. “Athletes can only do so much on their own and physical therapists can only do so much. With my expertise and my wife’s expertise, I felt we could make a go of it.”

One of the areas in which Miller, who has degrees in kinesiology and exercise physiology, has focused is developing sport-specific weight training to give athletes and weekend athletes a better chance to succeed.

“Everybody has a specific need or desire that they want to fulfill,” he said. “That’s what we’re to help them with.”

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