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Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

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Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

I’ve always thought that hearing someone’s story about why they do what they do can be one of the most fascinating ways to get to know a person. I get to understand where they come from, what type of experiences they’ve had, what they’re passionate about, what drives them when life gets tough, and if I’m lucky, I get to learn something that I might never have known about them through regular conversation and interaction. Through hearing the stories of others, I’ve been able to learn from the experiences of others, grow in my respect for those individuals, realize that I have much to be thankful for in my own life, and become inspired to press on with my dreams. I wanted to share with you my story about why I’m a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker - why I do what I love to do. I realize now how much I’ve hyped up my story so just as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t think my story is so crazy that you’re going to learn from the experiences of my 23-year life or become inspired to take over the world, but hopefully, I’ll be able to entertain you and you’ll be able to learn a thing or two about me that you didn’t know before.

The Origin Story

The first time I ever went out of my way to work out on my own (I’m making a point to emphasize this as I grew up playing a variety of sports casually and competitively), I did so because I was being a dramatic teenager in high school and I thought my world was shattered after a girl had “broken my heart”. The truth was that I was just a dumb and awkward teenage boy. In my dark, spiraling depression, I told myself that I didn’t end up with that girl, and that I was never going to end up with any girl at all, because I didn’t look a certain way - because I didn’t have a six pack and I didn’t have arms so huge that they couldn’t be lifted above my head.

So what did I do? I turned my emo pain into anger, and I used that anger to fuel my intense P90X and Insanity workout routines. I didn’t know a thing about exercise, so with P90X and Insanity’s promises to get me ripped and lean, I was sold on the video workout plans. I worked out twice a day during one summer, and when the school year started up again, I’d get up an hour earlier than normal to work out before classes - only to have to go to tennis practice for hours after school was over. Every time I wanted to give up during a workout, I reminded myself of what it felt like to have been rejected so that I would press on. At first, it seemed as though my efforts were futile, but as time went on, and as I consistently pushed myself and strictly adhered to my diet, I began to see results.

To make this part of a long story short, I wasn’t facing my romantic problems appropriately and I was only using fitness to cope with my issues instead of using it to better my health. I did, however, learn something extremely valuable: I learned that if I set my mind to something, if I put in hard work and sacrifice and countless hours of dedication, I could achieve anything.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college at the University of San Francisco. I was a biology major with hopes for going to medical school, which means that I was a biology major with family, relatives, and friends who had extremely high hopes for me to go to medical school - no pressure or anything. That pressure was then coupled with dwindling hope as I was barely passed my core classes and was withdrawing out of the chemistry class that I was about to get a D in.

The Epiphany

So what went wrong? What happened to the all-knowing and wise Austin who just learned that he could achieve anything he set his mind to? Why was he getting a D in freshman-level chemistry? The problem was that, instead of studying compounds and electron configurations for classes, he was studying set and rep schemes on Bodybuilding.com so that he could figure out how to get jacked. He was learning that you can’t just achieve anything, but rather that you can only achieve something that you actually give a damn about.

And that was the problem: I didn’t give a damn about chemistry or biology. I loved movement and I loved the way the human body worked, especially in relation to exercise and nutrition. By the end of my freshman year, I had switched my major to kinesiology and it was the best academic decision I could have ever made. Instead of studying “life” by staring at bacteria in a microscope, I was running a living person on a treadmill to figure out their cardiac output. Instead of figuring out how elements were interacting in a beaker, I was learning how the perfect balance of macronutrients can fuel various athletes for optimal performance. For me, kinesiology was the perfect balance of science and movement, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Journey

My time at USF flew by and before I knew it, it was the summer before my final semester of school. I was loving everything I was learning about, and I was very seriously considering a career in personal training. I wanted to help people feel good and look good, but I also wanted to use training as a medium to share with people the lesson that I found so valuable: that they could achieve anything if they worked hard and set their mind to it. I looked into personal training internships and I happened to stumble upon one at Perform for Life.

I applied and was interviewed by Bryant and Justine and accepted for the summer internship. It was everything I wanted and more - like, lots more. Lots more of waking up at 5 AM, and lots more of doing difficult and seemingly endless business assistant work. It was hard work, but I learned more than I could have ever hoped for - I learned the value of community, what customer service and networking in the real world is like, how concepts of training and exercise physiology pertain to real people and not just textbook examples. While learning these positive skills, I also had to learn a hard lesson early on during my time at Perform for Life: how bad the feeling is of my client getting hurt.

I asked myself all kinds of questions. Was it my fault? Could we have avoided the injury? How long will my client be unable to workout? How much is this going to impact their daily life? As you could guess, this drove me to become very careful and methodical in my approach to training. I obsessed over pain and injury management with movement and devoted myself to learning as much as I could about corrective exercise as a means to help people with serious issues. Immediately after earning my kinesiology degree from USF, I went to massage school for a year so that I’d have an additional skill to help my clients - but I didn’t stop there. I took functional neurology courses such as P-DTR so I’d have an even wider variety of tools to help people in pain. My client’s injury made me feel like the heart-broken high schooler again as I immersed myself in anything and everything I could learn about from courses and my mentors so that I could feel like I was making things right.

I may have been going a bit hard on myself, but this time, I wasn’t just using my learning to cope with my issue. I was learning about methods and modalities for healing in movement and bodywork that I genuinely had a passion for. I loved, and still love, learning everything there is to know when it comes to the ways our bodies move, function, and heal, and since our bodies are still such a mystery to us, I know I’ll be learning for a long time.

I think that’s what I love most about being a professional in the health and fitness field - I’m never going to stop finding new things about the way we move and the way we can heal. It’s a never-ending chase to learn about the latest finding or the new best technique and that’s what I love about being a Movement Specialist and Bodyworker. So why do you do what you do? What’s your story? Hope to hear from you soon.


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Are You Holding Yourself Back?

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Are You Holding Yourself Back?

One of the first questions we trainers ask our clients at Perform for Life is “What is your goal?” As you can imagine, we get a wide variety of a lot of responses, from wanting to lose weight to getting bigger/stronger to being able to perform a certain task. I always try to avoid pushing a goal on an athlete, as a goal that I give them won’t truly drive them in a way that a goal they themselves came up with could. As a coach, it’s my job to help my athletes find the "why" that brings them into the gym. Weight loss and/or looking bigger can be your ‘why’ and there’s nothing wrong with that, but a question I like to ask next is “what can’t you do now that you’d like to, within reason, be able to do?”

I like this question because it follows the training philosophy we use at Perform for Life: we want everything to be built off of health and foundational/functional movement first then to work towards performance goals. If an athlete answers with “running”, we then look at why he or she can’t run at the moment. Sometimes it’s because of pain during running, after running, or it’s because the athlete simply doesn’t feel confident in their running. After the initial assessment, we’re able to see how close an athlete may be to this activity, and we’re able to develop a program that will help them work towards it. There are many different starting levels in an exercise program: someone may be working back from an injury, or simply exercising for the first time, so it’s our job to use progressions and regressions to safely work the athlete up to the activity they’d like to be able to do. We know our scope and will be honest as to whether we think we can help our athlete toward that goal, or whether they might need to be referred out to someone like our bodywork specialist Bob Gazso or another health practitioner. The little ‘within reason’ addition to my original question is for just this: we can accomplish many of our goals if we set our minds to them, but there are just some injuries/conditions that will prevent people from doing certain activities.

So why do I want people to really ask themselves, “What can’t I do now that I would like to be able to do?” Because I don’t think there should be anything in life that your body holds you back from - I believe that is true health. If ever you find yourself saying ‘no’ to something because you aren’t sure you’re physically able to do it, take a step back and ask yourself, “Do I want to be able to do this?” If it’s relatively unimportant to you, then move on; however, if there is something fun you’ve already counted yourself out of, maybe it’s time to make a change. Perhaps you’re already doing the activity you enjoy, but want to improve your performance. These are the types of goals that really drive people to the gym because they’re based on movement and quality of life. No one is happy to say they can’t do something, so start knocking things off of that list - think of something you want to accomplish, and start taking steps to accomplish it. This can apply in all realms of your life.

I am in no way detracting from the people out there coming into the gym to put on muscle or lose weight, but to them I’ll just say this: why not accompany that goal with one that has more meaning in your life? Make the gym somewhere that you look forward going to, and somewhere that you’re doing something that will truly improve your quality of life!

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