ABC7’s Countdown Chicago 2014 “Review”

Photo By Joshua Conner
Photo By Joshua Conner

By: Joshua Conner


First, I would like to cordially thank one Val Warner for dancing in the celebration, because it was a great Segway for my family & I to join her in our warm living room.

On December 31, 2013 into January 1, 2014, I watched on ABC7 as they reported on the New Year’s happenings in the Illinois City and suburbs across: Palmer House, Rosemont, and Bronzeville. Those candid memories of Countdown Chicago 2014, foreshadowed even more excitement for 2015.

I always loved Countdown Chicago, however this year was a collection of New Year’s Eve Glee!

Allow me to begin with the great hosts of Countdown Chicago. They melted personalities from Chicago’s 190 North (I missed watching 190 North on Sundays, rest in peace), Windy City Live and ABC7 in the Morning & Evening news programs. The hosts included: Janet Davies, Mark Giangreco, Hosea Sanders, Val Warner, Ryan Chiaverini, & Ji Suk Yi. I understand that being in the journalism business takes a lot of work, however moments like these reaffirm my passion. They however, are only half of what made Countdown Chicago 2014 so epic.

Allow me to begin using graphics. ABC supported a local prominent photographer Max Wilson, creator of Windy City Nights.

Chicago, has many national connections for a local city. The program featured many celebrities, some featured on Windy City Live. Jennifer Hudson, Mario Batali and Robin Thicke, just to name a few.

Countdown Chicago also had two great packages. Pat McGann’s 2013 year in review and Tony Sculfield’s kid resolutions were filled with great humor!

Countdown Chicago also illustrated how Chicago is a main tourist attraction with Ji’s almost strike & Ryan almost winning the beer holding contest.

Countdown Chicago was a potpourri of New Year’s delight, I can’t wait for Countdown Chicago 2015!

So Thank You ABC7 Chicago for a New Year’s I will never forget!

New York’s Top Personal Trainer Ryan Hughes Op-Ed

Photo By Joshua Conner
Photo By Joshua Conner

By: Joshua Conner


At the stroke of midnight, everyone always makes the cliché New Year’s resolution to get back into fitness. The way some people transition into making there clichés a reality is: motivation. Allow me to introduce one of many fitness professionals whom motivate me, to have a healthy life.

Ryan Hughes, is one of many elite trainers of our time. Hughes can also be described as a role model. He is a stylish: man, personality & brand. I collect his tear sheets out of magazines, & love his television appearances.  

The most notable television appearances of Hughes that I can recall, were on the network ABC.

First, Hughes was featured with ABC news correspondent Matt Gutman, on ABC’s 2020 True Confessions about the Gym. Hughes gave viewers insight on what the gym does not want you to know. He also put Gutman through one of his training sessions.

Hughes also did an ABC segment with ABC’s Health and Wellness editor Dave Zinczecko. Zinczenko did a segment on what it’s takes to be a magazine cover model and the sixty second abs trick. Hughes gave viewers a preview of what it’s like to be a model at one of his photo-shoots.  

One of the reasons why Hughes inspires me, is because of mantra on, one of his Body space ads.

“My weakness becomes my weapon, and my pain because my pleasure,” said Hughes.

Hughes can be described as a savvy businessman & suave trainer. I would love to meet him someday.




Ian Barnes

By: Joshua Conner

Ian Barnes is an Arnold Classic National Sprint Triathlon Champ, USAT National Olympic Qualifier,Google certified educator and trainer, teacher at Life Skills High School and Advisory Committee Member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. In 2014, Barnes gave an opportunity to interview him.

“Alright, four words, dedicated, passionate, kind and caring,” said Barnes on how he describes himself.

What is a day in the life of Barnes like?

“Right now, I just started a teaching position at Life Skills High School in Anchorage, Ohio. So, my day usually begins with an hour drive every morning to school, I’m there from 8 to 4:30 or 5 usually, an hour drive back. Then after school, I go to the gym. I lift for an hour workout, stretching for usually two to three hours. Then I go home, cook dinner, eat dinner, cook my meals for the next day and that’s kind of the schedule I’m in right now. I’ve only been at my teaching job for about a month and a half, so I’m still trying to find a good routine to pursue fitness and school, but eventually I know things will fall into place,” said Barnes.

What was the worst moment of Barnes’s life?

“The worst moment of my life was when I was 10 years old in the hospital, that was when my diagnosis of whatever medical condition that I had been unknown. At that time, I ended up losing 20 pounds in 30 days. So that’s a substantial amount of weight lost. As I said the doctor couldn’t diagnose what I had, and they said to me, they thought I was going to die.

That was a big burden to take upon myself at that time, being told that at a young age was a lot to grasp, but it was also just a lot of  things you see how much pain it caused my family,” said Barnes.

Barnes found a blessing in his burden. Not only did Barnes survive and thrive, he used his platform to help others.

“I have to say my best moment would probably be when I was 19 and made it to Muscle and Bodybuilding. I had my first interview with that, and I started to pursue fitness. The reason why my first chance in Muscle and Bodybuilding was the happiest moment of my life because of my Crohn’s Disease. Otherwise, there is a struggle to gain muscle, because your body doesn’t break down certain micro nutrients properly. So you’re not supposed to gain weight or muscle. I mean having an IFBB and pursuing fitness is a difficult endeavor,” said Barnes.

Barnes never gave up. Barnes graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA, graduated college  summa cum laudeand an advocate for Crohn’s disease.

I was honored to have an opportunity to interview Ian Barnes.


Matt Laessig

By: Joshua Conner

Matt Laessig is COO & Co-Founder of Competitor and 8 time American Ninja Warrior Competitor. In 2014 Laessig gave an opportunity to interview him.

“I’d say determined, funny, loving and adventurous,” said Laessig.

What’s a day in the life of Laessig like?

“A day in the life, well I’m a pretty atypical competitor in a couple of ways. You know one is definitely the age of 43, I am one of the older competitors. I am also pretty busy, I have a pretty demanding job. I’m executive for an internet travel company, a publicly traded company. I have 3 little boys that need a lot of my time, so my day is largely taken up with being a dad and a business guy, so I don’t get much time to train. A standard day is probably getting up around 6:00. I usually work for about an hour. Then visit with the kids, then go to work. I go to my job, then return home, if I get home early, then I’ll take the kids to the playground and I get some of my sneaky training in then. So it’s probably pretty standard american dad day,” said Laessig.

The best moment of Laessig’s life was the birth of his 3 children. “I would have to say, they were equally as miraculous and intense,” says Laessig.

What is Laessig’s mantra?

“I definitely believe in being present in the moment. Having gratitude for what you have, being fair and kind to people. I also believe in finding your own path, not necessarily going with the herd. Figuring out what’s right for yourself, even if it’s an unconventional path,” said Laessig.

What was Laessig’s most memorable year?

“Most memorable year would probably be when I graduated from college and then I moved down to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I just went there to have a life adventure, and I got on a plane to go there. I didn’t have a job, place to go or a friend in the country. I was just kind of determined to have a great experience. I kind of ended up living there for 2 years. It was a lot of fun.

It was kind of what I was talking about earlier about my mantra. I couldn’t quite articulate it, but it’s about taking advantage of windows of opportunities to do things exceptional. A lot of things that maybe you can’t do later in life. To recognize it and take advantage of it,” said Laessig.

I was honored to have an opportunity to interview Matt Laessig. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MattLaessing and


Steve Rowe

By: Joshua Conner

Steve Rowe is a Navy veteran, BPI sponsored athlete, personal trainer and physique competitor. In 2014, Rowe gave me an opportunity to interview him.

“I like to think of myself as a positive individual who motivates others,” said Rowe.

What is a day in the life of Rowe like?

“A day in the life, well I go to school. I am going to college right now. I’m in the electrical technician program. I work at the gym and basically get up early in the morning around 5. I try to get to the gym around 6 to get my workout in and from there I go to class. Then, when I have to work, I work. It’s pretty much everyday, I work. I try to take the weekends a little slow, but still getting to the gym and putting in the work that I need to get done,” said Rowe.

What would be the title of Rowe’s life story and who would play him in a movie?

“Title of my life story would be, “Everyone has their own struggles that not everybody see,” and you want a movie star? I would like Brad Pitt to play me,” said Rowe.

Why does Rowe put 100 at the end of his posts?

“I knew somebody was going to ask me that question one day. It’s kind of like 100%. I like putting it on there, you know I like to put something positive. Social media is so big, through Twitter, MySpace, Instagram and stuff like that. It’s just so easy to spread a positive message. It’s a positive message, 100 %, kind of like giving it your all,” said Rowe.

I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Steve Rowe. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RoweFitness and his website


Ian Lauer

By: Joshua Conner

Ian Lauer
Photo Courtesy of Ian Lauer

Ian Lauer is a classically trained actor (SAG-AFTRA) , Multiple black belts, fight choreographer, published fitness model, IFBB Physique Pro, CSCS and sponsored athlete. In 2014, Lauer gave an opportunity to interview him.

How does Lauer describe himself?

“Something along the likes of A life built on kaizen,” said Lauer. Kaizen says Lauer means, “continued improvement.”

What is a day in the life of Lauer like?

“It just depends on the particular day. I tend to balance a lot of different activities. I don’t work a standard 9 to 5 job, but that does make it easier. That was a choice, I made years back. I used to be a personal trainer, long before I was an actor. I got into personal training, which use to take up all my day really. So I had to transition out of that into something that gave me more flexibility. I work with, so I would edit articles, create videos or do a radio show, it just depends on the day. Usually, everyday I am posting something for RXMuscle. I’m intensive right now, I have a contest coming up three weeks on the stage, for a fitness competition. So I do cardio, I’m also in karate. I was a black belt. So I’m back into a different system. I go to karate, 6 days a week. So pretty much everyday I’m at karate, everyday I do cardio, lift weights, do something with RXMuscle and then an acting class a few days a week, for a scene we are working on,” said Lauer.

What is Lauer’s mantra?

“Making fitness mainstream is definitely my main focus. I’m really big on people taking control of their own lives. Just really stepping up and really taking control over your own life. The other is just a simple word and that’s just integrity,” said Lauer.

What was Lauer’s most memorable year?

“Oh man, memorable year, there has been a lot of them. I mean getting a black belt again is memorable. This year was very memorable in that I humbled myself by starting over as a white belt in a new style. Having been a trained actor and starting over in a new style of acting is very humbling. I would say probably the biggest year would have to be, I graduated college in 2000, it would be 2009. 2009 was huge because that was when I decided to drive a car and move to California. I would say moving to California,” said Lauer.

I was honored to have an opportunity to interview Ian Lauer. You can follow Ian on Twitter and Instagram @IanLauer.


Joe Pietaro

By: Joshua Conner

Joe Pietaro is Owner, President, Founding Editor, Publisher and Sportswriter for Muscle Sport LLC established in 2008.

In 2014, Pietaro gave an opportunity to interview him.

How does Pietaro describes himself?

“I guess I would say, perfectionist, and busy. I would say a reader. I’m a big reader, I just don’t read for informational purposes, I like to read to see other writers style. I guess a learner. I like to learn new things. When I first broke into writing, basically it was just kind of print and that is a lot easier unfortunately than online writing. I had to learn about all these things. I guess I am a learner, because I am always learning because I am always learning new things.  I am always trying to figure out how to get the most bang out my buck, as far as putting a headline or article out there,” said Pietaro.

When asks if Pietaro considers himself a jack of all trades, Pietaro stated, “sometimes when you run a business, you have to do that or else you’ll be broke quickly,” he says.

What would be the title of Pietaro’s life story and who would play him in a movie?

“The title of my life story,  I guess let’s call it, “Sports Scribe” that’s where I started out and that was my original MySpace name. That was back when MySpace was the main social media. Who would play me, wow, I don’t know, someone with a big nose or a giant actor, how about Sylvester Stallone, he’s cool,” said Pietaro.

What was Pietaro’s most memorable year?

“My most memorable year, I would have to say 96. That was when my daughter was born, my first child. It was magical,” said Pietaro.

What is Pietaro’s mantra?

“My mantra would be always looking for something to top what I’ve done before. I like to improve in being a writer, being an editor and trying to get my name out there for doing different things as far as sports and fitness writing. So I would say to try to always beat what I have done before. If I read an article that I wrote 5 years ago, I’m hoping I can look at it and say it stinks and why did I get paid for that. When I read someone else’s article from a magazine 5 years ago and a present one, and it’s basically the same article, then I know I am doing something good. I’m looking to improve not even years back, but even article to article,” said Pietaro.

I was honored to have an opportunity to interview Joe Pietaro. You can follow him on Twitter @MuscleSportMag, Instagram @joe_pietaro, and


Danny Rubin

By: Joshua Conner

Danny Rubin
Photo Courtesy of Danny Rubin

Danny Rubin, Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the Vice President of Rubin Communications Group and award winning author and speaker on business communication. Rubin has authored the books, “Wait, How Do I Write This Email,” and “Wait, How Do I Promote My Business.” In 2015, Rubin gave an opportunity to interview him.

“I’m practical, focused, dependable and curious,” said Rubin on how he describes himself.

What would be the headline of Rubin’s life story and who would play him in a movie?

“He used his skills to make others better,” said Rubin on the headline of his life.

“Tom Hanks, I love Tom Hanks,” said Rubin on who would play him in a movie.

If Rubin could produce a documentary on anything what would it be about and who would it profile?

“Wow, a documentary. One of my favorite documentaries is called Baseball 9th innings, by a famous documentation Ken Burns. It’s incredible, he does a documentary for every inning of the game. It’s 9 episodes long and it’s like 18 hours. I would love to do a documentary on Baseball. I’m fascinated with baseball from 100 years ago and that whole world. Who would I want to be apart of that with me, Ty Cobbs, Ricky Mantle and Babe Ruth,” he says.

What song would be the soundtrack of Rubin’s life?

“A song by Dave Matthews Band, The best of what’s around. It’s about whatever you’re presented with, that’s what you work with,” said Rubin.

If Rubin’s mantra was a hashtag what would it be? “#lessismore,” he says.

How does Rubin want to be remembered?

“I want people to say that he made me a better communicator and pushed me to my full potential,” said Rubin.

I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Danny Rubin. You can follow him on Twitter @DannyHRubin and his website


Diego Sebastian

Diego Sebastian
Photo By: Joshua Conner

By: Joshua Conner

Diego Sebastian, a fitness icon, is a celebrity trainer, fitness consultant, entrepreneur, and online trainer at DSRAWFITNESS (Diego Sebastian Fitness) from Los Angeles, California.

During the Fit Expo 2016, Sebastian gave an opportunity to interview him.

“Dedicated, intense, and takes pride in hard work,” said Sebastian on how he describes himself.

How did Sebastian get involved with the Fit Expo?

“The platform I have to inspire and motivate the next generation, is a great opportunity to be here,” he says.

Sebastian has been in the fitness industry for 20 years. When asked about his outlook on the industry, Sebastian stated, “I’ve been in (the fitness industry) for more than 20 years of course, but at the same time, fundamentals never change. The fundamentals will never go away, there is a lot of good information,” he says.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to interview Fitness Icon and Family Man Diego Sebastian. You can check out his website at and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @DSRAWFITNESS.