27 Fitness Lessons From My 27th Birthday (Part 1)

Whaddup, Boosh? We’re about to recap the weekend, during which I celebrated my 27th birthday.  I had an incredible time and learned some important lessons:  27 of them, in fact.  One post can’t contain all of that learning, so we’re going to take these lessons in a 3-part adventure that includes story telling, ice-cream, and practical lessons for every reader.  Let’s begin Part 1 with a quick synopsis from the Unicorn Lords:

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Friday morning, my day of birth, began with an early alarm.  My girlfriend Katie and I were off to Springfield, Mass., so I could present at the SHAPE Eastern District Association Conference. Thing is, we had an extra half hour.  We woke up for a few minutes, then I filled up two mugs for coffee.  Then we talked, and enjoyed our coffee, and had some water.  It was a nice moment of calmness.

Lesson #1:  Taking a moment for yourself is choice.  It’s that simple.  There’s also always time to choose coffee.  

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Wearing the brand new birthday boots from Katie, we walked up the street to my car, which was discovered to be frozen inside a block of ice.  Fortunately, I was aware that the MFF Ninja Mobile was available, so I headed to midtown to pick it up.

Lesson #2:  Always have a contingency plan.  Some days you won’t be able to complete your planned work out.  Some days, you won’t even be able to get to the gym.  It’s important to create a back-up plan for those moments.  It may be an alternative exercise, or a back-up workout, or the flexibility to do something in your home.  Be prepared to change.

We made it to Springfield on time, and I proceeded to host one of the best talks of my career.  One of the things that I believe made it so effective is that I try my darnedest to interact with my audience.  I ask questions, they ask questions, there’s a good deal of interaction for a lecture.  While discussing how quality of breath impacts movement, the energy of the room became inquisitive, and I jumped off script.

“Slide your chairs away, we’re down on the ground to try out some belly-lift breathing.”  Here’s a demo from Jedi Tony Gentilcore:

Lesson #3:  Relating to your audience is everything.  Thanks to the endless supply of information of Internet 2.0, we can learn anything.  Content is no longer king.  Context is everything.

At the conclusion of my talk, I got some great feedback from audience members, in both rubrics that they filled out, and in conversation.  Someone thought that powerpoint slides would have been easier to follow than a Prezi, while another man told me, “You should have your own late night talk show!”

I believe that some of the humor in my talk comes from my often aggressive jokes about the importance of exercise science.  It’s a challenge for me, because I love physiology as much as the next nerd, but I also believe that focus is holding us back.  As I said during my talk, “Nobody comes in and asks to improve their VO2 max.  Stop pretending that it’s meaningful.”

It’s not.  Here’s the bigger picture:

Lesson #4: Learning about the human body is now dictated by how well you can learn about humans, not their bodies.

I’ve spent the last 5 years as passionate about serious fitness as possible, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we are never limited by our fitness.  People are more important than their FMS Score, adduction drop test, or 3RM back squat.  We are actual people with our own narratives that drive us, and understanding that is far more useful than anything in a kinesiology course or certification.  People first, fitness second.  That being said:

Lesson #5: You better know as much as possible about the human body.

It’s incredible that so many people are excited about fitness.  It’s exciting that so many people have found this thing that can be so empowering.  Remember: With great power, comes great responsibility.  If your goal is to be a fitness professional, it’s on you to earn the necessary degree, certification, or internship to be successful at what you do.  If you’re going to hire a fitness professional, it’s on you to make sure that they’re adequately educated.  That check-and-balance should keep us all happy.

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A post-presentation conversation gave me some insight to the in-the-trenches life of an attendee, who said that some information about squat variations would be useful.  I’m a fan of practically every squat, and it was awesome to hear him asking about trying out new things.

Goblet squats, front squats, back squats, hake squats.  Wait, I mean hack squats.  We had hake for lunch, which reminds me of my next lesson:

Lesson #6: Enjoy new food

Katie and I skipped Plan-B Burger (not kidding) to visit Max’s Tavern, which had grilled hake and a quinoa stir-fry on the menu.  I was ready to order before I confirmed that hake was a fish. Why?  For the new experience.  Trying new things is one of the best ways to stay young, and considering that that vast majority of us are eating 3+ meals per day, our frequent fooding is a great way to try new things.

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This is markedly different approach from my first 26 years, during which I made a habit of not trying new food.  Being told to try new foods was always a battle, and I realized that it’s the best when that decision comes from within.  That’s exactly how our efforts can be more successful.

Lesson #7: Internal Motivation is everything.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation that is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways.  If our decisions didn’t coming from within ourselves, if they’re not aligned with how we see ourselves, or want to see ourselves in the future, then they’re not going to drive us towards our future.

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Each of us are on on our own Journey, and we need a moment to appreciate that.  You may have different definitions of strength, or different preferences for how to exercise.  That’s okay, as long as we agree that we’re all on the same team, and I don’t want you to do it for anyone other than yourself.

These are the first seven lessons from my birthday weekend, and there will be twenty more lessons coming your way this week.  Ruminate on these seven for now, considering how I’ve thought of them, but also how you might consider or implement these lessons in your own job or gym, weather your a fitness professional or you just started working out.

When you think of something that I’ve missed, please share it.  That’s the best way that we can learn together!

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