My Professional Story
Dr. Michael J. Norwood has the unique distinction of being both a Performance Psychology Consultant and Fitness Expert. He has been researching and consulting in the area of human performance since 1994. He earned his Ph.D. in Performance Psychology with major areas of emphasis in Exercise Physiology and Counseling Psychology from the University of Kansas where he also served as the Director of the Peak Performance Clinic.
Dr. Norwood was later instrumental in co-developing a comprehensive curriculum for one of the first accredited personal training schools in the nation, the Professional Fitness Institute, where he also served as the Director of Education. He then started his own optimal performance consulting practice where he has inspired and encouraged a long list of students, athletes of various sports and levels, Fortune 500 executives, corporate professionals, business owners and busy families in the areas of functional health, fitness and personal mastery.
My Personal Story
As a former elite athlete and life-long health and fitness enthusiast, I have an expansive background of not only working with diverse populations from complete beginning exercisers to elite athletes, but also working on improving my own approach to maintaining an active lifestyle.
I pride himself on being an excellent role model of health for both my family and clients so remaining active throughout my life has never been a challenge up until a few years ago when I started to experience severe pain in both hips any time I tried to sprint, jump, demonstrate lunges or squats or even when standing from a seated position. Often times if I spent long periods of time working at my desk or driving over long distances, I had to take several minutes to “unlock” my hips by intentionally falling to the floor or ground and gently and slowly straightening out both legs due to the excruciating pain. After a loud, dull crack and a minute or two of intense pain I would feel close to normal even though I knew things weren’t quite right.
My ego, bolstered by many years of athletic achievement and fitness success, wouldn’t allow me to think anything was “wrong” so I did what many do and soldiered on with a stiff upper lip (mixed in with a lot of grimaces with every stumble or misstep) until one day I tried running trails, one of my favorite outdoor activities, and simply could not due to the intense pain I felt with each and every stride. I could barely walk back to my car. I knew something had to be done.
I finally decided to have my hips looked at professionally by an orthopedic surgeon and my x-rays showed that I have severe hip dysplasia in both hips (something I apparently have had since birth), no cartilage left in either of my hip joints & to add insult to injury, severe arthritis in both hips as a result of many years and hours running track, playing football & playing basketball at the collegiate & semi-professional level.
After being diagnosed with such a tremendous setback to my physical health, & worse, after receiving the doctor’s prognosis of no longer being able to do all of the activities I love and that have been such an integral part of my entire life: jogging, sprinting hills and stairs, skipping, leaping, lunging, squatting and playing sports competitively, I was devastated to say the least. I felt like someone punched me in the gut and all of the life within me momentarily left my body.
Seeing those x-rays as the doctor explained to me that he had never seen worse hips on anyone my age before was one of the worst days of my life. After that, all I heard from the doctor was white noise like a Charlie Brown character on the phone garbled and incoherent. Nothing mattered at that moment because all I could think of was, what am I going to do now? My whole life is about movement. Always has been. Always was going to be. Now what?
Despite my professional training in Performance Psychology and my ability to instinctively generate effective perspective when something goes awry, I was knocked off my feet by the realization that my life would never quite be the same. My ego was deflated & my very identity as an athlete and an exemplary role model as a performance coach and health & fitness professional were challenged.
Consequently, I felt sorry for myself. I felt angry. I felt betrayed by fate for in my mind I had done everything I was supposed to do to remain healthy, active and vital for the rest of my life. Irrationally, I even felt embarrassed as anyone who knew me associated me with being healthy, highly athletic and physically gifted. I felt confused. I felt alone because while my diagnosis wasn’t a death sentence or as serious as say, a cancer diagnosis, major heart issue or neurological disorder, I felt no one would really understand my “loss” or would even care to for that matter. I reasoned, others would just think or say to me that I’m just getting old like we all do and need to accept it and move on. What’s the big deal, right?
I felt like my livelihood was being ripped away from me without any say so on my part, and I really didn’t know where or how to channel my emotions. It’s like a gifted singer who is told she can no longer sing or a talented artist who is reminded he can no longer create. How do you explain that to someone who has never been as passionate about expression through movement and life deference through intentional daily self-care? I learned that you don’t and you really don’t need to. The most important conversation was the one I had that day and continue to have with myself to this day.
In any event, I gave myself exactly 24 hours to “grieve” and to get over asking unproductive and impotent, “Why me, why now, what now?” questions. To shake all the negative, non-resourceful gunk out of my system and get on with the amazing act of living with full purpose and intention. It’s true. Contrary to the way I was feeling at that moment, others do, in fact, have it far worse than I do and while my condition was a sharp blow and an unexpected setback, I was determined not to allow what I can no longer do get in the way of what I can do. I wasn’t going to allow my new physical limitation to usurp my power to make a difference and favorably impact the lives of others. In fact, I’ve chosen to leverage my experience to my advantage and be even more sensitive, more astute and more resolute in helping others with various forms of pain, physical or otherwise.
I’m committed to helping others reframe their circumstances, to manage and optimize what is within their control and to overcome the illusion of self-imposed limitations by exploring new adaptive ways to reacquaint and rediscover supportive ways to move safely and efficiently.
My experience served as a wake-up call for me to acknowledge that pain is naturally a part of the human condition, but it doesn’t have to define nor dictate the human experience. Pain comes in many forms and my primary aim is to help individuals overcome their temporary hallucinations of limiting beliefs and self-imposed restrictive thinking in order to access more resourceful states of being to achieve desirable outcomes whatever those may be.
Now, more than ever, I’m determined to help the next person see their situation for what it is, provide them with sound strategies to help them move their bodies to the best of their abilities in spite of circumstance and to heal from within before focusing on the illusory and deceptive façade that is currently overemphasized within the fitness industry. Many forms of pain inherent in life are inevitable, but to struggle moving forward is optional.