The War Between my Worlds
I love the world of fitness. Getting stronger and being “in shape.” Making significant feats of strength seem ordinary. Figuring out how our mind and body work together and sometimes against each other when striving to meet our fitness goals. Helping others through coaching do with their bodies what they previously thought impossible.
I love the world video games. The now “retro” games I grew up with that took me to new worlds away from the worries of a sometimes difficult childhood. The universes both big and small created by developers for you to get lost in and the stories that are told. The music that gets stuck in your head and can instantly transport you back to when you played the game it surrounded. The experiences that only this form of entertainment can provide.
Two drastically different worlds I live in, with different groups of friends in each. I sometimes struggle to find balance and compromise between them as I try to moderate in-between. Limited energy and time make it difficult to appease them both. The only thing I am sure of, is that both worlds must survive.
Building a Bridge
The best analogy I can provide comes from the outstanding and underappreciated sci-fi show “Fringe” (please try to watch this if you have even the slightest interest in smart sci-fi). One of the core themes of the show involves two parallel Earths. Both fighting for survival. Trying to figure out how to protect themselves by destruction from the other. Eventually (small spoiler coming up for Fringe Season 3) a bridge between the two worlds is created to balance the detrimental effects of anomalies that were previously tearing the worlds apart. A compromise of sorts. No supreme victor, but both survive.
And speaking of parallel worlds, I am sure there is one where I ended up in the video game industry. Two months before my final year of college I had an internship lined up for the coming summer at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning (I eventually made it there two years later). But my love of video games and a desire for a career in that world led me to an internship at the now defunct GameTrailers.com. I had a phone conversation with my future boss and business partner letting him know I had to back out of the internship and go to Santa Monica to cover video games. While the internship at GT was a great experience, in 2008 the economy crashed and no one was looking to hire and I wasn’t sure it was the right move after spending four years in college to get a health science degree. I took it as a sign of sorts that I should continue my pursuit of a career in fitness. The coming years would prove that to have been the right decision.
As the years went on the search for this balance and compromise between my worlds of fitness and video games continued. I know I cannot destroy one to save the other. I am too passionate for both to allow that.
Back in my Play was a significant effort to satisfy that passion for video games. Specifically it was an opportunity to cover retro video games the way I thought they deserved. A positive discussion on the host’s history and nostalgic memories of the games while also revisiting them to see how they held up. Since its inception over three years ago I have recorded over 100 episodes and made some amazing new friends along the way. Back in my Play has been pure joy to produce and one of the highlights of my life since its inception.
Striving for Balance and Compromise
Over a year ago I began my journey of letting go of many of my physical video games. During that time I shed the weight of their distraction as the wall of games was broken down cart by cart and disc by disc. This was an effort in building that bridge and focusing on improving my life outside of video games. While I didn’t get rid of them all and I continued to play video games, it was on a smaller scale.
There are still periods of time when all of my focus is on my work in the fitness world. Spending weekdays working to create the best continuing education offerings in the field through audio and video content, producing the best fitness podcast, or coaching some incredible kids who give me continued optimism for our future. Then some weekends are spent traveling for continuing education or to teach other coaches across the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing all those things, especially meeting and talking with new people. But during that time the video game world suffers. Until the work is done and I feel like it is the best version I can produce, video games take a back seat. In the past Back in my Play episode production would became sporadic; not having the energy or time to produce a show that would meet my quality standards. I would still keep up with coverage of the industry through podcasts and browsing a few video game websites, but the balance was non existent. In the last six months I have made progress, but the push and pull still has periods of unbalance.
When the work is done and time frees up I swing back to my video game world. A perfect example was this past weekend as I clocked in 12-hours on the recently released Titanfall 2. It is a futuristic action-adventure with you in the role of an agile mech pilot with some unique combat abilities given the mission to save your home planet. Titanfall 2 has its hooks in me like no game I have played in the last five years with it’s over the top action and ability to make you feel like you are always doing incredible things. While that seems like a lot of time to be playing a video game, you may be able to relate if you have “binge watched” a TV show on Netflix.
Similar situations of me getting absorbed in the world of video games from my past include spending hours researching parts to build a new gaming/work PC, collecting and restoring arcade games or searching endlessly for a reasonably priced copy of Dracula X: Rondo of Blood on reseller sites. It is a dominant focus that preoccupies me until completion. Krista Scott-Dixon has helped me realize that this is one of my super powers. Helping me do incredible work on projects both personally and professionally. It can also be a weakness if not focused and used for productive tasks.
Going All In?
This in part has caused me to not go “all in” with fitness and the industry surrounding it. I couldn’t completely say good-bye to my video game world and my friends in it. And I don’t want to live in world of fitness 24/7. I love the ability to be working and traveling in between worlds and to be able to make an impact, no matter where I am or what I am doing.
Looking from the outside you will think I am insane to say that. With The FitCast that I started over 10 years ago, recording over 400 episodes and has been named “Best Fitness Podcast” by Men’s Health, to the launch of multiple continuing education businesses, and most recently a successful certification company that is raising the bar of what to expect from a certification. But with all I have accomplished and the work I continue to do, there is always more to strive for.
Much of 2016 the question that continues to occupy me is “What’s next?” Thinking about what else can I do to make an impact on this industry. Something to be proud of. Part of that question involves how we are letting so many people down in the world that want to be healthier or “get in shape” but for some reason we aren’t reaching them…No matter what, my never-ending goal, as written on my whiteboard on the wall to my right, is to always “Make the best version.” A lot of times it means working at 9pm on a Saturday night or doing reshoots of some videos we are producing early on a Sunday morning. A perfect example of that is the Certified Functional Strength Coach certification we built. No doubt in my mind it is the best personal trainer and strength coach certification out there. I am so proud of what we have built, those that have become a part of our CFSC family and the standard it is setting in our industry.
Different than the Others
My reverence of video games certainly differentiates me from many fitness professional. Outside of doing everything we can through application and knowledge to help the people we work with, my conversational interests lean more towards nerdier things. You know, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Pacific Rim, theories of time travel and its practical applications. Nerd stuff. Put it this way, at dinner on a Saturday night I would rather be talking about the works of Koji Kondo and Hip Tanaka or the best vertical shooters on the PC Engine than the upcoming NFL game or MMA match. Spending time with great people is what matters most, but it is even better if they can go back and forth with you on the best versions of Outrun to be ported to home consoles.
Perhaps this story from my last trip to Japan will help clarify what I mean. I was in Tokyo this past April to teach a CFSC event. On the last night the staff took me out to dinner to celebrate a successful weekend event. As a seemingly never ending assault of courses came out of the kitchen and to the table we talked about their memories of growing up in Japan during the video game boom surrounded by NEC, Nintendo and Sega. While we drank iced oolong tea and ate gouza they would ask me a few questions about my career, fitness and the industry in the USA, but as soon as things died down I would return the conversation back to video games with “Yeah… so did you ever beat Ninja Gaiden?” Notwithstanding extreme jet lag and presenting for 10 hours that day, I felt like I could watch their faces light up until the sun rose as business men and women in suits nostalgically retold bouts of Street Fighter 2 with their friends or waiting in line for Dragon Quest V when it launched on the Super Famicom. Our memories of video games were universal. That same passion and enthusiasm fuels me every time I get on skype with a few friends to record episodes of Back in my Play.
My love and enthusiasm for video games took me to Toronto last month. I spent $1500 out of pocket on Airbnb, flights and video equipment to spend three days filming a documentary on Toronto indie game developers (the complete documentary will be arriving in early November). I was driven to share the stories of developers I had met through Back in my Play and the phenomena of the boomin indie development scene in Toronto.
Aside from filming, spending three days with people that have the same appreciation and knowledge of video games was like being in paradise. I could have in depth discussions about even the most arcane subjects of the video game world. It is the same reason that I make sure I stop by 8-4 Ltd. (a localization company) in Shibuya to see my friends each time I am in Tokyo. Sitting around a table with Mark, John, JJ, Hiroko, Roy and the rest of the team drinking chu-hi and talking about video games is always a top highlight of my trips.
The first completed video from the trip is up on the FitCast Network Youtube Channel, where I visited Syd Bolton’s Personal Computer and Video Game Museum with Benjamin Rivers and Jason Canam. In it you will see that energy and passion we have for video games:
I have learned that you don’t turn your back on something that fuels you like that, even if those around you don’t always understand it. For me that is video games. For you that could be movies, music, surfboards, snow globes or something else. Build bridges between your passions and find balance. Its illogical to destroy one world to save the other.