F is for Fitness F.I.R.S.T.

I’ve been hesitant (thus far) to create a section of my blog about fitness. But I really want to. Really badly. So, you see, I MUST!

So, what is “fitness” to me? Fitness is so much more than losing weight, or reading memes about food intake. Fitness is about body and mind becoming one, a cooperation and competition in one (a coopertition® , if you will – Thanks Dean Kamen for instilling this in me when I was heavily involved with F.I.R.S.T.!)

F.I.R.S.T., or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, was something I was heavily involved with when I was in high school (and at both high schools, to boot!) At both high schools, it was my chemistry teacher who was involved … and that’s why I was drawn to Chemisty! Basically, you are given a task that your robot has to be able to complete, and then you have 6 weeks to build it, and ship it away. The game evolved over time to include teams, where your robot would have to be able to work with any other robot to achieve a task. It’s a pretty neat coopertition, and if you have never had the chance to be involved with it, I highly recommend you volunteer to be a mentor (if you are over 18), join a team (check out the website to see what kind of team you can join – this is for ALL students, from K-12), if there isn’t a team at your school, make one. I did at my second school, and it’s one of the best things I ever did.

Check out this year’s F.I.R.S.T. game! One of my favourites yet!


“You have teenagers thinking they’re going to make millions as NBA stars when that’s not realistic for even 1 percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is.”  -Dean Kamen

You could say my brain was whipped into shape by F.I.R.S.T., and the teachers that mentored me along the way. Heck, it was because of my chemistry teacher Mr. Vandette that I even grew to love Chemistry, and it’s why I majored in it. And at that time, it was the hardest thing I had ever done.

Then, I got my first, and second, and third jobs – and each of those pushed me and taught me some invaluable lessons about work ethic, who I was, and how I fit in to this larger scientific landscape. Then one day, I was most likely out of my mind, I decided to get a Ph.D. During that time I was patiently hoping for a degree, as I was piled higher and deeper. Eventually, I emerged from the trials and tribulations of graduate school, only to land a postdoc, where I am now. At each of these steps, it was the hardest thing I had ever done.

I can always overcome these mind obstacles, and find a way to push myself forward. But, when it comes to body fitness, it’s like I’m flailing around in Devil’s Snare, waiting for Hermione to tell me to relax. It’s. Just. Impossible. 

I just have to tell myself to “Wake up with Determination. Go to bed with Satisfaction.”


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