The readers of qnotes are quite familiar with Jack Kirven’s expertise on health and wellness. Though Kirven writes for the paper, his primary focus is one-on-one training, having worked for several years as an independent wellness coach. Not many coaches have Kirven’s qualifications; he possesses a terminal degree in dance from the prestigious University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and has taught at universities as well as high schools. Kirven’s purpose in life is to guide others in healthy living, and he leads by example. Jack Kirven radiates the self-love and determination necessary to truly enjoy a productive, vigorous life.
Interview: Jack Kirven
qnotes: How did you start your career?
Jack Kirven: I was literally, a bouncing baby boy. My mother couldn’t keep me in cribs, I never slept, I was walking at eight months, and running by 12 [months]. The final straw was when I called her into a room and screamed, “look at this!” I climbed the top of her bureau, did a front flip off it, landed on my back on the bed, somersaulted off there and then ran away.
She and dad decided enough was enough. I definitely would not have wanted to be any of my teachers in elementary school. They bought my sister and me a big, round trampoline. We went through four trampolines before I went away to college. The trampoline wasn’t enough, so mom enrolled me in competitive gymnastics at seven.
By 12 some of the boys on the team were already on their first and second surgeries, so she enrolled me in ballet “to improve my gymnastics.” A year later the ballet remained and gymnastics was done. I majored in Dance, and then went to UCLA and earned an MFA in Choreography. When I finished UCLA in 2002, I also got certified as a personal trainer. It was a natural evolution for me.
qnotes: What professional positions have you filled?
Jack Kirven: I was an educator for several years, first as a full-time high school dance teacher, and then as a professor at several universities for dance technique, choreography, production, multimedia events, fitness, performance art, dance history and identity-based performance art. [Now I’m a] personal trainer and wellness coach.
qnotes: Why should physical health and wellness be a priority for qnotes’ readers?
Jack Kirven: An unhealthy environment of fast food surrounds Americans. It’s easier to make dangerous choices than healthy ones. We’re a largely sedentary culture in the USA, constantly stressed out and sleep deprived. LGBTQ people are more likely to experience the types of traumas that undermine self esteem, and can lead to destructive habits or patterns meant to be comforts. It becomes doubly important for us to take good care of our bodies, hearts and minds.
qnotes: What advice would you give someone who knows they’re out of shape, but struggles with motivation to change?
Jack Kirven: Avoid comparing your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20. [Janet Jackson said] “Never compare. When you compare, someone wins and someone loses. Often, you are the one who loses.”
Set small goals leading towards a large goal. Take baby steps, one goal at a time: drinking more water day by day by gradually cutting out a sweet and/or caffeinated beverage each day and replacing it with water over the course of weeks. Once the water is under control, add another pattern and another as you incrementally improve your entire lifestyle. Avoid beginning or ending anything cold turkey, whether it’s smoking, exercising, stretching or anything else.
You have to give your body and nervous system time to adjust to the new normal. Focus on building habits, and don’t shock your system. Do activities and eat foods you enjoy, so that you associate wellness with reward rather than punishment. There are no short cuts. There are no mysteries. Ignore gimmicks, fads, shots and pills. Stick to the fundamentals. Work very intensely for brief sessions, and take rest days between those intense sessions.
qnotes: How does self-love factor into fitness?
Jack Kirven: People often have a preconceived idea of how they should look, rather than how they should feel. Value yourself enough to get healthy, and the sexy flows from there.
qnotes: What is your favorite form of exercise?
Jack Kirven: Calisthenics, weight lifting, dumbbells and interval training.
qnotes: How would you describe your “happy place”?
Jack Kirven: My dream home, a small 1,000-sq-ft English-style cottage with lots of land for gardens and wilderness, similar to the Bag End in “Lord of the Rings.”
qnotes: Where do you dream of traveling?
Jack Kirven: I’ve already traveled a lot, especially to Europe: France, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany. I’ve been all over the US. I’ve also been to Canada, Mexico, Brazil… [I] want to see New Zealand.
Nearly a year ago to the dot, I wrote an article about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but there I focused on the importance of getting access to a full range spectrum of light. Here I’d like to focus on caffeine and sleep’s effect on SAD. I’ll also offer suggestions for what to do to help you feel better on the dark days.
I don’t generally promote supplements. Most of them play to specific, isolated points of medical research to serve as a magic pill. One remarkable example of this is fish oil.
After a fight with two friends, one of them accused me of being a covert narcissist. That offended me to my core, but then I took a moment to consider whether or not it might be true. What if I am??