March TBFer of the Month: Ari Halper-Stromberg

Our March TBFer of the Month is Ari Halper-Stromberg! He's owned the male 16min partner record along with Stefan Savic for quite some time now. And just last Friday, he won the TBF Sweet 16 tournament. During the final round, Ari and last year's defending champion, Shelley Russell, rowed 3,954m after a 30 medball pass sit-up and 30 burpee (each) buy-in!

Shout-out to this year's Sweet 16 runner-up, Brittany Greunke, who rowed 3,874m with last year's runner-up, Matt Yee! And thanks to Lizzy Hubin who snapped the final match-up which you can watch at the bottom of this post.

Check out our Q&A with Ari below.

  • Name: Ari Halper-Stromberg
  • Hometown: Takoma Park, MD
  • University: University of Maryland, College Park
  • Favorite Exercise: Medball Slams
  • Favorite Throwback Recess Game: TBF Capture! (or anything with the TMNT balls)
  • Favorite Movie from Childhood: Tommy Boy (it was a sad day when Chris Farley passed away)
  • Favorite Throwback Jam: Beastie Boys – Fight for Your Right

1. Did you have any particular strategy for winning TBF Sweet 16 (including minimizing tension between you and your girlfriend, who was also a fierce competitor in Sweet 16!)?

My strategy was to recruit great partners. I was fortunate to row with Brittany, Shelley and Lizzy, who helped me advance past my toughest competitors (much thanks and credit to them!). Secondly, I tried to race through the buy-in as quickly as possible, even if it meant slowing down my rowing pace the first row interval to catch my breath—time on the row machine was the most valuable asset. Thirdly, aggressive hydration with coffee. Despite my best efforts, I never had a winning strategy for the tension thing you reference.

2. What do you enjoy most about TBF Sweet 16 and/or Throwback in general?

I like the fact that I get to sign-up, check-in, get coached by, and work out with the owners of the studio. Ryan’s and Brian’s hands-on involvement and down-to-earth management with all the classgoers is unique and very cool. I like the continued commitment to enhancing our experience, whether its adding Java’s emphasis on strength and form, new games, or new goal-oriented workouts. Also, it’s a great place to meet new people, make new friends, and achieve new fitness goals. As for Sweet 16, the bracket structure always makes things exciting and I appreciate the great effort that went into making the competition well-organized, fun, and fair.

3. Did you notice any changes (in your body and fitness level) since the tournament or since coming to Throwback on a regular basis?

Yes! I noticed the biggest difference when I started coming to Throwback regularly after about 6 months of intermittent visits. My row pace dropped about 5-7 seconds (per 500m) within the first 6 weeks of regular classes, and my stamina for manmakers, thrusters, and push-presses (my least favorite exercises) improved dramatically. The most important thing is consistency, and I credit the fun workouts for keeping me coming back without burnout. I always look forward to class—a huge mindset reversal compared to forcing myself to go to the gym alone.

4. Any workout ideas, contests or events you'd like to see incorporated? (serious or humorous)?

TBF Gusher Rush! Max gushers you can eat in 30 seconds, followed by shotgunning a Surge Soda (or Pepsi Clear). Then row 500m.