Ariel Ziv (photo from Ariel Ziv)
Although it seems like just yesterday that many of us were making our New Year’s resolution to hit the gym more often, the first day of spring has already come and gone and summer is just around the corner. Yet much work still lies ahead to achieve that “beach bod.” Not to worry, Ariel Ziv, a Vancouver-based health educator, fitness trainer and developer of Warrior Kickbox, can help.
Ziv, 31, was born in Calgary and lived there until the age of 6, when his Sabra parents, educators at Jewish day schools, returned home after 30 years in Canada. Raised in Jerusalem, Ziv completed his schooling and then did the mandatory stint in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), serving in an elite unit in the navy. As an officer, he trained new recruits for combat, ensuring that they could cope mentally as well as physically in high-pressure situations that require integrity and teamwork. Ziv described his five years of military service as a “life-changing opportunity where I met my best friends for life. It is a privilege to serve our country and contribute as best we can.”
Like many young Israelis, Ziv went traveling upon completion of his IDF service, embarking on a four-month trip to South America. However, he was atypical in that, “I was the only backpacker that was working out!”
In Bolivia, he went to a gym for a drop-in session despite the “crazy altitude” that made it hard to breathe. Also in Bolivia, his travel buddies were chauffeured from site to site on a three-day jeep tour of the salt flats while Ziv ran alongside the vehicle. In Colombia, he ran on the beach every day.
Ziv returned to Israel from his post-army trip and enrolled in an intensive, six-month personal training course at the Wingate Institute, Israel’s National Centre for Physical Education and Sport. All aspects of the education were holistic in scope and took into consideration the different needs and abilities of diverse clients, including pregnant women and those with many different types of injuries. Ziv complemented his personal training certification with further accreditation at Wingate in group training for kickboxing, spinning, pilates, core and stretch classes.
From there, Ziv pursued an undergraduate degree in business management at Ben-Gurion University. However, “before I even set foot on the campus, I applied for a job as a personal trainer at Great Shape, the largest gym in Beersheva!” Ziv worked there for two years, during which time he met Chen, his wife, who is a dietician and yoga instructor. He was subsequently promoted to the position of gym manager at the Rehovot branch, where he supervised 20 personal trainers and hired and trained new instructors. Ziv also taught at fitness conventions across Israel. In fact, in 2014, he was one of only four kickboxing instructors from across Israel selected to participate in the first annual Kickboxing Convention in Tel Aviv, where he was voted best instructor by attendees.
Ever committed to continuing education, Ziv traveled to Finland to study CrossFit, a fitness regimen based on constantly varied functional movements – the core movements of life – performed at relatively high intensity. At the time, CrossFit – now a global phenomenon – had not yet arrived in Israel, so Ziv received his Level 1 and Gymnastics certification in Helsinki.
Back in Israel, Ziv channeled his passion for health and fitness with his education and training into developing a unique fitness concept called Warrior Kickbox. The practice combines simple, non-contact martial arts movements with functional training exercises that mirror daily actions – sitting and standing, pushing and pulling, lifting and carrying, bending and squatting. According to Ziv, Warrior Kickbox highlights the importance of “how to use one’s body correctly in day-to-day life” to prevent injury. He taught Warrior Kickbox in Israel until his move to Vancouver in late 2014.
Ziv had decided that he wanted to share his fitness talents outside of Israel. Although it was hard to leave “home,” he and his wife had visited Vancouver several times (his sister lives here) and he said it “was always in my mind to move here,” in part because of the health-conscious, fitness-oriented lifestyle of Vancouverites. His goal is “to do the maximum and have a positive impact on the community.”
Certainly, Ziv has kept busy since arriving here. He acquired his mortgage broker’s licence and works with Averbach Mortgages, he volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross and, of course, he is a personal and group fitness instructor to clients of all ages and abilities. He teaches fitness classes for seniors at the Legacy Senior Living retirement community – and was interviewed on CTV Morning Live about the benefits of fitness for seniors. He leads a family-oriented fitness class at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCCGV) and has taught krav maga (Israeli self-defence) to elementary school-aged children through Temple Sholom. Ziv also teaches his Warrior Kickbox at the JCCGV twice a week and, recently, Inside Vancouver recognized the class as one of Vancouver’s top workouts.
The fun, high-energy, calorie-burning workouts attract a diverse group of people of different ages, gender and abilities. Accordingly, Ziv provides options for each exercise, catering to the range of different fitness levels in a class. He circulates regularly among clients to ensure that they are employing the correct technique.
A 60-minute class at the JCCGV passed quickly because of Ziv’s motivating enthusiasm and that of those in the class, including one middle-aged woman who amusingly shouted out general words of encouragement throughout the hour. The upbeat workout music, which ranged from Israeli classics to club electronica, also helped.
Rachel London, a 33-year-old mother of two and a JCCGV member, started personal and group training with Ziv approximately three months ago because she “saw him training other clients at the gym and was so impressed by how hard they worked and by the results they were getting.” She said, “Since starting training with him, I have not only gained physical strength and increased my fitness level, I have also gained confidence in my ability and potential to surpass what I thought were my limits. He is a master of creating just the right workout for you, whether you are a first-time exerciser or an advanced athlete.”
Ziv is committed to the success of his clients and finds personal training meaningful and rewarding.
“For me,” he said, “that’s the main thing – changing people’s lives [and helping them] keep healthy lives.”
One exceptionally noteworthy success story is of an overweight middle-aged man in Israel with whom Ziv worked for several months to help lose 40 pounds responsibly so that he could donate a kidney to his son.
Of teaching fitness in Vancouver and in the Jewish community, in particular, Ziv said, “I want to have a positive impact in the community [and] I really feel that [the JCCGV] is home for me. I love coming here. I love the people. I love saying Shabbat shalom, speaking in Hebrew, and playing Israeli music in my classes.”
Alexis Pavlich is a Vancouver-based freelance reporter.