Author Archives: Greg Lawlor

Christmas: Not As Expensive As I Thought.

That was overhead at the gym.

“How was your Christmas Bob? “

Bob: “Not as expensive as I thought”.

That was overheard at the gym Dec 27th.


That made me stop and think.

Interesting reply.

Is the reply a reflection of the personality?

Is the reply a reflection of where our western Christmas culture has evolved (or digressed) to?

Perhaps both.

My first reaction is “what a sour puss!”

But then, as I moved to my next exercise, I thought about it more.

A couple of days prior to Christmas, I noticed the level of stress rising amongst the masses.  Little things like impatience getting cars around parking lots and off at green lights.

Ah, yes. The green light race. If you don’t get off the brake and on to the gas in .01 seconds, someone behind you will let you know that is not acceptable.

We all must hurry off to spread Christmas cheer, now get out of the F****** way!

In my generation, our parents worked so hard to create a special time at Christmas.  We had gift exchanges of course, but also took time to see the Christmas lights, visit with family, enjoy beautiful meals, get some spiritual time at church,  give to those less fortunate and generally pressed pause on our lives to give thanks.

That was the essence of the Christmas spirit then, and what we try to instill with our son.  Spending time with those close to us is still cherished.

It seems with the constant connectivity and drive through mentality, that seems to be lost.  The day after Christmas in Canada is Boxing Day.  Historically, this is when the rich gave boxes to the less fortunate hundreds of years ago.  Growing up, it was a 2nd holiday almost. A day of rest.

In 2019, it represents a massive rush to the stores to get special shopping deals. Visuals of people battling for discounted items run rampant on social media.

The expectation of Christmas seems to have changed.

It seems the expectations around gifts have risen form many.

I guess if you let it, it can get expensive.

I still think that is one’s perspective to view it as a negative time. 

I think, and will continue to think that Christmas can be and is so much more than just a financial strain.

55 Years Old and How Everything Has Changed

Growing up, I did not think about what it would be like at 55 years old. The only time 55 years old was mentioned was in the context of retirement.

As we turn the calendar to 2020, I will turn my chronological calendar to 55.

Over the last few months, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what 55 feels like, what I have learned with this time on earth and what’s ahead.

That’s a good place to start. What’s ahead.

I am not sure when, but at some time in the last few years I started to think of the finish line more and more.   I have watched my dad and in laws pass, and my Mom’s health decline rapidly as she approaches 80.

I don’t remember thinking about my remaining years as much when I was 30 or into my 40’s.  But I do now.

  • How do I want the remaining years to go?
  • How long will I be able to do the things I like?  What do I like?
  • How long will I maintain a full-time work schedule?
  • How is my physical self? 
  • Is it declining? 
  • What do I want to do?
  • Who do I want to spend my time with?
  • How do I want to feel?

I don’t have the answers to all the above questions.

I find it interesting that this line of thinking and questioning in entering my thoughts.  I think it is positive.  For me, it represents a sense of mindfulness.  These questions represent not taking life’s events for granted.  It represents a sense of scripting out what I can and being proactive today, tomorrow, next week, month and year. 

Have you found that much of our adult lives are being reactive?

Reactive to family and work demands. Reactive to what needs to be done on a daily basis.  I think that is normal as we raise a family and try to establish ourselves professionally that we feel we are responding to life’s events rather than planning them out.  We don’t take as much time for ourselves and guide our events as much as we probably should.

I do find, in the last few years, that I don’t take much for granted.  Relationships, time, finances, health. I think that is good thing.

When I was younger, in my 30’s, 20’s and teenage years, I thought 55 years old was old. It was a beyond comprehension really.  When my Dad was 55, I was 28.  At 28, I was in the process of buying my first house and leaving school teaching for the world of sales and business.  My mind was not focused on how my dad viewed his life at 55, or much beyond building a foundation for myself and my spouse.

Even into my 40’s, I continued to focus on providing for my family and doing what needed to be done to strike a work life balance.

I think it was the passing of my family members that triggered the sense of vulnerability that comes as we age.   I was close to my Dad and in laws.  It hit me hard.  It took me a long time to recover, and not sure I have completely.  That was 3-4 years ago.

What does this mean?

I have come to the conclusion that I must work on myself daily.

Keep myself healthy, strong, positive and vibrant.  That process alone is one of the things I enjoy the most. Kind of like an athlete preparing for competition.  Except my competition is life.

I am a huge believer in being our own health and well being advocates. I think it is our responsibility to navigate what we can control around our environment and our mood.

I have received the reminders about how life is short, and how every day is a gift.  I don’t take that for granted.

For that, I feel blessed. 

55 years old today is not what it was 25 years ago.  It can be the age of retirement, but it is not for me at this point.  The workplace has changed so much. It feels like we have control over who we work with and what we do. That is empowering.

My spouse is starting a new career at 53.   I am going back to doing more and more coaching. I am starting to write more.

Years ago, I feel mid 50’s represented a time to wind down.

I don’t feel that way. I feel I am just getting started! 

The 1 Thing University Did Not Teach Me Is What I Needed The Most

Getting a university education is not for everyone.  For many, it is considered that college is the best way to ensure highest earning potential.  For others, they believe there are better ways to accomplish same.

University taught me so many things.  These lessons have provided a foundation for a great career. However, it was not in the planned path.

The lessons learned in school included but not limited to both an academic and self-development foundation.

On the academic side, I gained skills around the following:  

  • Understanding evaluation criteria.
  • Communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Presentation skills.
  • Lesson planning.
  • The world of movement science.
  • The world of teaching methodology.
  • Social sciences like philosophy and psychology.
  • The role of formal education in our society.
  • Research methods.
  • Statistical analysis.

On the self-development side:

  • Time management.
  • Prioritization of tasks.
  • Self confidence.
  • Getting out of my comfort zone.
  • Listening.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Living independently.
  • Being functional with sleep deprivation!

There is so much more.

But there is 1 thing that university did not teach me, something I needed the most.

How to make a living with the education that has received.

University prepares us for many things, but for many, earning an income is not one of them. 

Can a university degree make it easier to get a job?


A teaching degree in Physical Education should always be in need, yes?

Students will always be in need of daily movement, yes?

Much to my surprise, the people in power determining curriculum did not agree.

For 8 years, post university, I taught in various school boards around Montreal.  I started as a supply teacher part time as I finished my thesis.  That got me my first full time job in an K-6 school. 3 schools actually, dividing my time teaching PE in 3 small communities. 

I loved being a gym teacher. 

After 2 years, I ran into my first roadblock. Gym time cutbacks meant less gym teachers. 

I found an opening back in Montreal at Dawson College and joined the PE department there in 1993.

The experience at the collegiate level was very different than teaching younger ages, but equally powerful. Young adults (17 and over) were preparing for university and/or a trade. They had to take a gym class every semester as part of their core course load. They got to choose from classes like stress management, team sports, individual sports, martial arts, outdoor ed like hiking and mountain biking.

1 of the classes I taught was outdoor education for students with disabilities.  We had students up in the Laurentian mountains, north of Montreal, camping, canoeing, hiking and sleeping under the stars. For young adults, some of them had never been out of the city. 

It was life changing for all involved.

Cutbacks put an end to that. Very quickly students had less gym class requirements.  No longer compulsory.  The staff was cut by 50% from 34 to 17.   

In my 8 years of teaching, I always had year to year contract. I would be unemployed in the spring and sometimes renewed in the fall, and often had to find a new position.   My wife and I just moved into our first house,  I felt at a crossroads.  How long do I keep bouncing around?  

It was the spring of 1995 and I made the leap to 100% commission sales position, selling exercise equipment to gyms and fitness centers.  I have never looked back.

It opened a ton of doors for me, and I have been blessed with 25 years of unique experiences and satisfying work.

A lot of financial and professional ups and downs and lessons along the way.

When leaving university, it never occurred to me I would struggle to find an appropriate income.  The art of making a living while making a life is a skill that can be learned and taught. 

I wish that in addition to the academic and self-development lessons I learned, there were also financial ones.   How to maximize earning potential and how to promote your skill set in the wake of what the market needs and where revenue is streaming. 

Now that I think of it, should that not be standard in any academic or technical education stream?

I certainly learned the skills of perseverance and preparation in university, and those served me well adjusting my professional course after 8 years in the field, and 5 years of training. 

However, those adjustments might have been a little less painful with a career management course or 2.   Starting from scratch at 30 years old, was a risky move and many thought I was nuts.

Certainly, I feel very qualified to build that curriculum out now for those in a discipline where the traditional demand does not always equal opportunity.

Students still need to move daily in order to be at their best. However, in 2020 they are still not getting daily gym class. Far from it.   Sitting and screen time is taking over more and more.

Broadcasters are being created everyday with the growth of podcasts, have the learning institutions offering broadcasting adjusted?  I hope so.

All disciplines need to have keyboard skills, have the learning institutions adjusted? I hope so.

Tons of personal trainers and fitness professionals are struggling to make a living.  Have the accreditation groups adjusted to include career management in their curriculums? I hope so.

Devil’s advocates could say that the skill developed in school is what led me to have the confidence to adjust careers as I evolved in my professional life.

There might be a better way we can pass on to the next ones.

I think some more formal guidance in this area could have saved a ton of time on the roller coaster of making a living!

Physical Activity Changed (Saved?) My Life

The words resonate with me almost 40 years later: “You did not workout today did you?”.

In 1981, At 16 years old, I had started going to the gym to rehab my shoulder and strengthen my body to play ice hockey.  I had already had a few bumps and bruises, was almost 6ft 2” but, predictably my muscles had not caught up to my growth!  I needed to get stronger if I wanted to keep playing at higher levels, and boy I wanted to play at higher levels! (that is another story for another day!)

What Mom said to me that day has stuck with me since. She noticed the difference in my mood on workout days vs non workout days.  Enough to let me know.

My time at the gym led me to a part time job there.  Doing fitness assessments and onboarding for new members/exercisers.  It allowed me to build my knowledge, experience and confidence in a physical activity setting, and gave me another physical outlet (in addition to hockey) that allowed me to focus at school (my membership was now free as I worked there!)

When it came time to make a decision what to study in university, I had 2 choices: Commerce/Business or Physical Education. The former I was good at, the latter I was curious about.  My dad was a teacher, and my role model, so I thought teaching and physical activity would be a good pursuit.  So, that is what I did. (My dad, by the way, was the one who suggest that I follow my passion. A very wise man indeed as  that advice has always stayed with me)

I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Physical Education from McGill University.  I studied topics like exercise physiology and the movement sciences. I learned about sports skills and the methodology around teaching and coaching. That included the science of regular exercise and the impact it had on the body and the brain.  My career path was locked in.  I was going to apply all my learning as a teacher in the schools!

I coached and taught for 8 years at all grade levels.  All in a position of leadership around physical activity.  Some friends from university introduced me at that time to the love of my life, mother of my son, and partner for the last 31 years. 

Once I stopped competitive hockey in university, I continued to play different sports well into adulthood. Volleyball, golf, slow pitch, basketball, skiing, cycling and mountain biking, flag football and eventually back to hockey. Physical activity was always a staple to my ways. It was always a part of my life. A big part. Oh yes, and I went to the gym regularly.

Yours Truly On The Big Stage.

There was a feeling after being active that I could not duplicate any other way.  When I was not active, my mood was not the same, neither was my patience or focus or ability to get things done. My energy levels changed and my addictive personality focused on less constructive outlets.  I am very grateful that I have had the wisdom to recognize the power activity had on my life. I also thank my mother who reminded my and help me light the bulb!

The activities also allowed me to be a kid again. To revisit a time where all I did was play outside. Every sport and activity imaginable from hide and seek to tackle football to 1-2 hour bike rides (as a mode of transportation). To play. To develop social skills.  When got my first full time teaching job a few hours from home, playing in the rec basketball league allowed me to meet a ton of new people.

The post activity time  turned into my best thinking time and most productive time.  It is when I planned my lessons and planned my practices. Planned my next career and live moves.

My teaching time was a real joy. Teaching young people skill development, and seeing their eyes light up and their bodies adapt to the new activities. 

The only frustration was the imposed reduction in physical education time for students. This was the mid 90’s and government, at the time, felt PE, like the arts, home economics, car shop and music were expendable. Budgets were cut. Instead of daily PE, students now only had gym class 1x per week.  The demand for the good ole’ gym teacher was declining.  I was offered other subjects I could teach.  I was not as passionate about that possibility. 

I don’t think future generations have been too keen on that either. Since the mid 1990’s we have seen a horrible impact on lack of activity in our youth. 

The decline in PE teaching opportunities led me to explore other options.  I got a temporary position as intercollegiate sports coordinator for the college for Dawson College in Montreal. Loved that job, as I worked with student athletes and coaches, organizing all the behind the scenes work to give them their competitive opportunities. But that was a replacement position, and ended after 1 year.

I answered an ad in the paper for a commercial fitness equipment sales representative for a new company in the area. They offered the job to the guy with no sales experience.  The compensation was all commission, and I think I was the only applicant who would take that gig.   It was the summer and I figured if I did not like after a couple of months, I could go back to teaching.

Selling exercise equipment led to long hours and low pay as I learned the ins and outs of the business. But I still had my connection to physical activity.  

The more I performed, the better I got paid. “Wow” moment.  Over the next few years, I performed well.

After a few years that led to new territories and markets and management and ownership opportunities. Management and ownership gave me a new teaching platform and a business education like no other. (I ended up getting that business education after all!)  

While this was happening, we had our son, and yes, he developed his own interest in sports and activity. And yes, I coached many of his teams growing up. 

Now in my 50’s, and on the “back nine”,  I still very involved in fitness.  My passion for fitness and active living has opened doors and led to a great career in the equipment and education side.  Still a teacher, but a very different classroom.     

Physical activity has opened the doors to many great experiences!

As a father, husband, businessman and coach, I have had to find ways to stay active through a busy lifestyle over the years. 

I always prioritized physical activity, because I knew I was different without it.  I was not the person I wanted to be without it.  I made decisions I did not like without activity in my life.

The Problem with Exercise On The Internet

Exercise online is a bit of mess.

The problem with social media and what we see on the interweb is that most of it is inappropriate. I don’t mean inappropriate in a “parental guidance “sort of way, although there is too much of that as well (put some clothes on people!! ).  I mean more inappropriate for you and me.

Random exercises performed by someone who is ½ our age, or has 10x more experience in the gym, or is a freak of nature, or has no injuries, or (I can go on and on) is not the best guidance for most of us.

I can come up with a few different examples.

Here is one I see often. Back squats.

The squat that we did in high school or perhaps our sporting years, with bar loaded up on the back of our neck and down we go!  Back up, Down we go.

The old school lifters will tell ya that all you need is master the squat, deadlift and bench press and you are good to go.  But those guys have been doing that for 25 years!

The new school fitness coaches will give you all kinds of variations to keep things interesting.  Too many sometimes.

The answer is somewhere in the middle for most of us.

See the rest of the article with video support over on the A040 blog

Our journey continues,