No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

JP Fitness Summit 2008

Posted by Ben on Thursday, June 5, 2008

I thought it only fitting that my first semi-substantive post be a review of the event that spawned this entire blog. For the sixth year in a row, Jean-Paul Francoeur hosted a commingling of fitness enthusiasts, amateurs, and professionals from all over the Western world at his homegrown JP Fitness facility twenty-nine floors above downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, with live bloggers among the attendees. The majority of summit-goers hail from the JP Fitness forums, a substantial online community of largely fitness-minded people who share an uncommon bond in the realm of cyberspace in that a large number of them have met and solidified friendships in person over the years. The forums also give the average Joe almost unfettered access to some of the biggest names in the fitness industry, not to mention some pretty robust discussions on current events as well as the random conversations that tend to pop up among friends. I’m fortunate to have been a member of this group since, officially, December 2002, though many of us go back to one or two other forums preceding JP’s.

After a two-day whirlwind packed full of seminars and presentations last year, JP opted to lighten the academic load this year, going only one full day and allowing for more unstructured socializing and networking outside the gym and classroom. This year’s presenters were Lou Schuler, Alan Aragon and Steve Cotter. Lou has a laundry list of credentials and publications to his name, the most recent being the books New Rules of Lifting and New Rules of Lifting for Women. Ever the Renaissance man, Lou’s presentation illuminated the cycles of fitness throughout American history and how our country’s populace tended to elect leaders based on the popular perception of fitness of the day (George Washington: tall, lanky, strong; Teddy Roosevelt: big, hyper-active, charismatic; Jimmy Carter: short, thin, avid runner; etc). As Lou said in his own blog recapping the summit, it “was a triple geek-out on my favorite subjects: fitness, history, and politics.”

Alan is a swiftly rising star in nutritional research and application (not to mention a pretty good tune carrier), having already published his first second book, Girth Control, as well as having produced numerous articles and presentations. His free-flowing two-hour seminar, “Frequently Asked Questions in Sports Nutrition,” stemmed primarily from user-generated questions on JP’s forum and covered topics ranging from gauging progress and setting realistic goals to assessing real-world macronutrient (protein, carbs, fat) needs and clarifying the effective parameters of meal/nutrient timing (they’re less important than you think). Lou Schuler, also in attendance, openly lamented how Alan debunked most of his past and possible future literary endeavors. Probably the crowning point in the presentation was altering the body’s “set point,” which is when the body reaches homeostasis at a new weight after substantial loss. According to Alan and the studies he cited, it takes 6-12 months of maintaining a lower weight before the body’s systems adjust to its new condition.

After lunch, Steve settled in for an interactive five-hour session explaining and demonstrating his philosophies behind bodyweight conditioning and mobility, the primary (and some secondary) lifts involving kettlebells, and the regenerative art and practice of qigong (“CHI-gung,” of which tai-chi is a martial implementation). It’s hard to believe, but there isn’t much I could say that would do his presentation justice. Just poke around his website or look him up on YouTube (you’ll have better luck searching “fullkontact”). It’s tough to describe the awe of watching someone ten feet away from you do single-leg SQUAT JUMPS up to a three-foot tabletop and back to the floor—again, all on one leg—repeatedly.

Academics aside, it was a great weekend full of meeting up with old friends for the first time (hey, that happens with the Internet), making new friends, and laughing more than I can remember over such a short span of time. Some gave informal training sessions, others met for early-morning workouts; one local forumite offered up his boat for a small, Friday lunchtime outing on Greers Ferry Lake; and everyone still around on Sunday was treated to a yacht cruise up and down the Arkansas River as well as supper, Wii, and trampolining at JP’s house, where his wife Erika and a couple other summit-goers handled the catering duties. All in all, travel aside, it was a pristine weekend that I highly recommend to anyone interested in (1) making some great, lifelong friends, and (2) learning a few tips and tricks about fitness that will keep you and those lifelong friends around, well, for a lifetime.

Travel note: do not ride a Harley for fourteen hours in each direction for a trip. I’m just saying…

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