Olympic Condition

Tucked in a business park between Worthington-Galena and Huntley roads, Donskov Strength and Conditioning (DSC) is hard to find, even if you are looking for it.

But if you are seeking the Columbus spot where top athletes train to take on the world, look no further than the 2,000-square-foot gym, where former professional hockey player Anthony Donskov takes the best and makes them better.

Since launching DSC in 2005, Donskov has worked with youth hockey players, adult fitness clients, rising National Hockey League stars, wrestling world champions and a 2010 Winter Olympics silver medalist, pushing athletes at every possible level to up their fitness game.

“I believe life starts at the end of your comfort zone,” he said. “I am not a skills coach. I am not going to make you better at playing the game. What I am going to do is make you stronger, faster and less prone to fatigue. I am going to help you get to the next level.”

Donskov, 35, knows those levels from having been there himself. The Donskov family—patriarch and longtime youth hockey coach Paul, his American-born wife Debbie, eldest son Misha (now a coach with the Ontario Hockey League) and younger son Matthew—immigrated to the U.S. from Canada when Anthony was 12.

All the boys had been skating since they could walk, and Anthony left home at 16 to play junior hockey, before skating for and earning a degree from Miami University of Ohio. After two years with the Lubbock Cotton Kings of the Central Hockey League, where he was named CHL Man of the Year, injuries caught up to Donskov and he had to make a change.

The inspiration for that change came from his love of fitness and a mom who knew him better than he knew himself. Debbie Donskov suggested her middle son start a mobile training business, which he did out of his car.

But Anthony Donskov wanted to do more than be a personal trainer; he wanted to be a personal coach. He earned a master’s degree in exercise science from the California University of Pennsylvania, and through connections he made via his family’s annual summer hockey camp in Columbus, he started strength training for the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets, the area’s highest level of youth hockey.

That led him to a cozy 600-square-foot gym space off High Street in Worthington, which he traded in three years later for his present spot.

“I was starting to have more people who wanted to be trained, and I wanted to be able to offer [the] best service to [the] Blue Jackets,” he said.

Donskov was also compelled to bring out the best in himself. His thirst for knowledge led him to read and later submit articles to strengthcoach.com, run by Boston Red Sox strength coach Michael Boyle. When Boyle became head strength coach for USA Women’s Hockey, Donskov joined his staff.

“If I could do a somersault, I would have after that call,” he said. “I was scared as hell but honored for the opportunity. To work with the Olympic team with your mentor, you don’t want to screw up.”

Opportunity continued to knock, as Donskov soon became personal trainer for Lisa Chesson, a former star of the Ohio State women’s hockey team and winner of a silver medal in the 2010 Olympic Games.

“He’s so knowledgeable and very supportive,” Chesson said. “He becomes a great friend, and not just your trainer. Whatever you need to focus on, he’s there. Training with him, I have gained so much. I have been able to bring my game to another level.”

Joining Chesson on that new level was Connor Murphy, who first met Donskov as a AAA Blue Jacket and returned to the gym while rehabbing from injury.

Murphy, who won a gold medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships and is now a winger for the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL, said Donskov’s enthusiasm and passion helps drive athletes to do their best.

“His experience and his knowledge are top-notch,” Murphy said. “He is going to know in what way he can push you and in what ways he can increase your foundation.

“He shows how much he loves every day what he does … he’s doing it for the right reasons—to help people accomplish their goals.”

The Donskov gym is also home to four freestyle wrestlers with sights set on the 2014 Summer Games: Keith Gavin, Angel Escobedo, Trevel Dlagnev and J.D. Bergman, as well as champion rower Helmut Berthold.

Donkov’s expertise, however, is not focused exclusively on the elite. His semi-private training business, which he runs with his brother Matthew (who also played hockey professionally), caters to adults with a desire to look better, feel better or perform better.

“People equate a good workout with an ass whooping,” he said. “But what happens is the body’s ability to recover is outpaced by stress.

“Anyone can make someone sore. The best workout is science and art, and a sustainable model.”