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.

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