Take a drive down Cypress Street until you see the tidal marsh, and you’ll find one of Tampa’s hidden gems. The building literally happens to be a hidden gym.
The Applied Science & Performance Institute (ASPI), an unassuming brick building with spectacular views of Tampa Bay, holds within it a mind-boggling array of high-tech exercise equipment, much of it outfitted with virtual technology so users can see computer avatars of themselves or instantaneous metrics of their performance. Such highly- advanced, detailed graphics and measurements exist to evaluate and shape the training of oh, say, mega-motivational-speaker Tony Robbins or NFL wide receiver Randy Moss.
The point of ASPI is to take cutting- edge research on the performance potential of the human body and apply it to create cutting-edge results. When baseball pre-season arrives, 30 major leaguers already have their training booked at ASPI. In the “batting cage” room, a computer programs a pitching machine to calibrate the throw based on the batters’ weaknesses, forcing the player to relearn his optimal hit using the science of his movements. Each year, NFL hopefuls flood ASPI’s main, glass-walled training room to push themselves past the point of what was humanly possible in running, passing and endurance before the draft. The tech can pinpoint the exact location in the triceps where the muscle is weakest in a throw. The Tampa Bay Lightning (GO BOLTS) spend their practices at ASPI on a stationary bike/ torture machine specifically designed to build ungodly stamina in their leg muscles using a drop-weight on a sensor that measures their biometrics.
In addition to this research-grade training equipment, ASPI provideson-site nutrition scientists to develop meal plans to enhance the body’s performance. There is much applied science in this performance institute, which also serves the non-pro-athlete population. Anyone interested in longevity, peak performance, health and anti-aging (so, most people) are welcome to ASPI’s facilities. One of the most beloved clients happens to be a neighborhood octogenarian who comes to ASPI to “crush it” on the bench press.
The brains behind this endeavor is Straz donor Dr. Jacob Wilson, a young entrepreneur and former university research scientist who wanted to get research results to the general public faster than the snail’s pace of traditional academics. A California native and peak athlete himself in the martial arts, Jacob drew upon his family and upbringing to launch ASPI. The institute specializes in longevity because Jacob wanted to ensure his father’s peak health through the most reliable and scientifically-proven methods. He figured many children would want that for their parents, and most people would want access to food and exercise that could make them perform at optimal levels. So, he left the lab and endless department meetings to call on his high-profile network of contacts he spent years cultivating at conferences and lectures. ASPI found its home on the shores of Tampa Bay.
“I love sports,” says Jacob. “I love the physiology of sports, of knowing what’s the engine that makes people great and what powers that engine.”
Under his father’s guidance, Jacob studied martial arts and attended plays, concerts and dance performances as a child. His father instilled a love of both athleticism and aesthetics in Jacob that shaped his path in life. “I was artistic, but I wasn’t an artist like I was an athlete. But martial arts are like a dance performed in front of people, an audience, and hockey was the same. Like sports, I felt a deep appreciation for the performing arts. I was taken to plays to be well-cultured and have exposure to different perspectives.”
To find some not-high-stakes-science- time, Jacob came to The Straz forthe balance art provides in the brain. “For me, The Straz is an outlet. It allows my mind to relax and enter a different world.”
“The arts activate different parts of the brain, so we’re put into a different state of mind. I get new insights into life when I’m at The Straz. I’m learning storytelling and conveying information – that’s stuff I take with me and apply to my own presentations,” he says.
Jacob’s annual gift to The Straz represents his belief in well-being and in investing in the future. He dedicates his gift to the pre- professional athletes of Next Generation Ballet. “I love what The Straz does, and I want other people to experience that. My girlfriend and I get so much joy from The Straz, and I thought ‘I want to be a part of that.’ For all of us who take advantage of what The Straz has to offer and donate to it, the better it is for everyone. If you help The Straz, that donation reaches someone and changes his or her life. Then that person somehow impacts another’s life for the better, and you never know – the person you reached with your gift may end up touching your life somewhere down the road,” he says.
Jacob’s ultimate philosophy about why philanthropy matters stems from his work in science and understanding of the power of the performing arts. “The experience that we all get from The Straz makes us better people,” he says. “More rational, with a better perspective on life, a lower overall stress level. We all benefit the more The Straz expands, and you can’t go wrong with something that improves the well-being of society.”
To join Jacob and the thousands of other donors just like you who know the arts help society’s peak performance, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how to become a donor today.