EPT10 Deauville: Before and after Eugene

Team PokerStars Pro Eugene Katchalov chipped up during the first couple of levels today, bulking up his chip stack to keep ahead of the average as the first day progresses.

That satisfied a short-term goal for the tourney, you might say, one of many that form part of the larger goal of continuing to add chips and work through the week to Saturday's final table.

It's a process with which Katchalov has become familiar, especially since he and fellow Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier began working with a trainer to help them keep physically fit. I chatted with him at the day's first break about his long journey from "before" to "after," body-wise, the contrast dramatically shown in a picture he tweeted last spring.


(Yes, that's really him under the cap on the right.)

"When I started out a couple of years ago, I guess at my heaviest I was about 220 lbs." Katchalov explained. "At first my goal was just to lose a lot of weight, so I was mainly just getting lean without building much muscle. I was changing the structure of my body."

Day after day, Katchalov worked with his trainer to drop his weight down to a low of 167 lbs.

"From there my goals changed," he continued. "I started building muscle and mass. I'm not going to be a body builder or anything like that, but basically I'd like to be really fit... functionally fit. So I've gained some weight back, but it's more muscle and not fat."

During times when apart from his trainer -- such as during the current trip -- Katchalov receives emails daily with workouts he dutifully follows. This week those workouts have been taking place in the living room of the apartment he and Grospellier are renting.

"I'm at the point now where I can work out on my own, but I need guidance."

Going along with the exercises, Katchalov additionally changed his eating habits. But don't say he's on a "diet."

"People ask me 'What kind of a diet are you on?' But I don't like to think of it that way. A diet is always short-term, whereas I like to think of what I'm doing as more of a lifestyle change -- more long-term. When you finish with a diet, often you just gain back what you've lost right away, which I don't think is very efficient."

The positive effects of Katchalov's lifestyle change are obvious -- not just in his appearance, but in the enthusiasm with which he speaks, his wide grin providing a different kind of contrast with the usual stern look he tends to sport when at the table.

NEIL8870__EPT10DEA_Eugene_Katchalov_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Katchalov gives a new meaning to the phrase "fit or fold"

"It's changed my life, not just physically, but I just feel great. I'm happier than I've ever been. I think it's had a lot of impact on me mentally as well, which is obviously great for poker. It's great for my energy levels when I have to sit and concentrate for a full day. It's great for my mood and confidence. And I don't get sick as often as I did before, since my immune system is stronger. There are all sorts of benefits to being physically fit that people don't really think about."

By now he's gotten to your humble (and skinny) scribbler. How could I add some muscle and mass?

"For one thing, it's always nice when you have a partner or friend to go through it with you," said Katchalov. "So with ElkY if I'm working out it pushes him to work out and vice-versa. Even if you don't work out together, just having someone to compare your progress with is important."

"Also, I think short-term goals are good to have. Without them you'll do it for a week and then lose your enthusiasm. You'll take one day off and then another, and then you'll never go back. But if you have a month-long goal and you take a couple of days off, that's going to set you back, and so you'll be less likely to quit."

With that we let Katchalov get back to his next short-term goal in the tournament -- to add a few more chips during the next couple of levels -- part of that larger goal of producing a before-and-after sequence ending with final table photos and an EPT trophy.

Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Martin Harris
@hardboiledpoker in European Poker Tour