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As strength and conditioning director for the New York Yankees, Dana Cavalea was responsible for teaching training techniques to some pricey major league talent. But Cavalea said he learned a lot more from some of the players than they could learn from him.
Baseball icons he worked with - including Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera - taught Cavalea that "consistency over time yields the best results. " He's now applying that lesson to a strength-training business scheduled to open on Long Island this month.
Called ML Strength, Cavalea's personal training studio takes over a 2,500-square-foot space at 310 New York Ave. in Huntington and aims to mimic the success of his first location, which opened in White Plains in 2011.
Originally from Mount Sinai, Cavalea began his career as a personal strength coach while earning a graduate degree in exercise science and sports medicine at the University of South Florida in Tampa. A former first baseman and outfielder for Mount Sinai High School, Cavalea interned with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Yankees, all of whom have spring training facilities in the Tampa area.
Once back home, he started training professional and amateur athletes out of the Mount Sinai High School gymnasium, eventually landing a permanent position with the Yankees in 2006. He spent five years commuting to the Bronx from Long Island, before moving to West Harrison and opening his first studio in a 3,500-square-foot space on East Post Road to be closer to Yankee Stadium.
"I wanted to take the business to a more formal level," Cavalea said, "and still be available to Major League Baseball. "
In 2009, Cavalea got a World Series ring and the Nolan Ryan Award, which recognizes the most outstanding strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball. He continued with the Yankees until the team opted not to renew his contract following the 2013 season.
Though he would have liked to stay with the Yankees, Cavalea said the change was a blessing in disguise and has allowed him to focus more on his growing business.
"I was traveling for a lot of years, going to 81 away games every season," he said. "I didn't have a chance to see friends and family. This let me have an excuse to go home. "
Now Cavalea has returned to Long Island as a business owner, introducing to a new audience a personal training system that kept million-dollar athletes on the field. Besides working with elite athletes from a wide variety of sports, ML Strength also helps ordinary weekend warriors train like pros. Cavalea says his business has a different mentality than an ordinary gym or fitness center because it's "extremely personalized" while incorporating the team concept of working together toward a common goal.
"We've brought sports culture into the world of fitness," he said.
Clients can give ML Strength a try by joining its training camp for $20 a class or buy an unlimited membership for $149 a month. The super-serious athlete can also sign up for intense one-on-one training that can run as much as $1,100 a month.
After the Huntington location gets up and running, Cavalea will look to expand further. He's considering opening another ML Strength studio in western Nassau County or Connecticut, and looking at spaces between 2,500 and 3,500 square feet. Franchising is not in the cards, however, because Cavalea wants to maintain strict ML Strength standards and keep everything in-house.
"It's all about quality and results," he said.