Doctor Ben, Not A Real Doctor here! How did I become such a movement dork and who is Benjamyn Smith?
The Early Years
I’ve been involved in athletics pretty much my whole life. If there was a sport, I probably wanted to try it. Swimming, football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, Muay Thai, rock climbing, horseback riding, this list goes on
Growing up though, I was primarily a swimmer. When I was 10 I was one of the best swimmers on the East Coast in my age group. I wanted to be the youngest swimmer to ever go to the Olympics. Those would have been the ’96 games and I would have been 14. Unfortunately, by the time I was 12, I was in physical therapy for overuse injuries in both shoulders. Ask me my opinion of youth athletics and how they’re mishandled…
Despite my injuries, and the arguments with my shoulders since, this early obsession with sports is what propelled me to my interest in human performance.
The Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding
Like every boy in the 80’s and 90’s, I idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, growing up my favorite movie was Conan the Barbarian. One summer I watched it 2 to 3 times a day!
I picked up a copy of his Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and kicked off my lifting career. I just wanted to get bigger and put on muscle. Actually, I never managed to get very big. That didn’t happen till much later when I focused on power lifting.
But, through that book, I got an introduction to exercise science. True it only focused on lifting, but that was my first step into the rabbit hole.
Computer Programming Wasn’t For Me
I pursued a computer science degree at college and even worked as a programmer for three years. But I just wasn’t cut out to sit behind a desk and stare at a screen all day. So I dropped out of college and went to school to be a personal trainer.
I spent six months at an intensive school, the National Personal Training Institute, and got a great education about nutrition and exercise science. This was a great experience and taught me a ton about program design to reach specific goals.
I worked as a full-time personal trainer for about a year before I decided to change courses again. I know, I know… I have a really short attention span.
In The Navy
I had thought about being a Navy SEAL since I was a kid. At 22 I decided I didn’t want to look back and have any regrets. So I enlisted.
I spent the next year getting ready to go to BUD/s. On the 4th of July 2005, I reported to class 257. Walking across that grinder for the first time is still one of the most amazing experiences of my life!
I was in training for about 2 months before I decided to throw in the towel due to health concerns. I learned a lot from the experience though. Walking away from my dream was incredibly depressing.
I look back on that time so I can remember everything I did wrong so that I don’t do it again. But I did learn an immeasurable amount about what the human body is capable of. I started BUD/s with a severe case of pneumonia and still stuck it out for several weeks of training. I was also not a very good runner at the time. You’d think SEAL training would be more about swimming!
Back To Civilian Life
My time in the military and getting ready for BUD/s only made me more interested in nutrition and fitness. But when I got out I took a job for money rather than pursuing my interests. I still spent a lot of my free time focused on fitness though.
I learned about Muay Thai from one of my friends in the military and decided to check it out. Six months after I started training, I had my first fight. Watching that fight now, I had no idea what I was doing!
I had one more fight after this one and drama at the gym pushed me to another hobby. This is when I took up horseback riding. Know how to make a small fortune? Start with a large fortune and buy a horse. I rode for about three years.
I enjoyed riding immensely, but financially I had to make an exit. Onto something else. Seeing a trend yet?
After horses, I got back into lifting in a major way. I had never been able to add much muscle. I had always been strong for my size but was always just lanky. I wanted to fix that and decided to get as strong as possible.
How do you do that? Powerlifting of course! I spent about 8 months focusing on nothing but getting strong and the three core lifts, bench press, deadlift (the greatest of the three), and squats.
I did get stronger and put on muscle. A lot of muscle actually. I was a full 25 pounds heavier than I am now. I got strong so fast it was a little ridiculous. But what I noticed was that I was ignoring a lot of ranges of motion.
I started thinking about what I could do to supplement my lifting to ensure my physiology stayed balanced and that’s when I came across MOVNAT. I took a certification course and received my Level I certification. I’m planning on doing level II either later this year or next year.
It was exactly what I was looking for! Cue my interest in movement. And the journey continues. These days my sport of choice is rock climbing and I’ve been doing that for four years now. Are you excited yet! That’s longer than any of the others! Maybe I’ll stick with something for once.
The Alphabet Soup
I am a certified personal trainer through the National Personal Training Institute (NPTI). I hold a B.S. in Health and Wellness, and I’m a Level 2 MovNat certified instructor. And since I comment about food production and agriculture a lot, I have a Permaculture Design Certificate from Geoff Lawton.