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Fish and Popsicles

By Todd Durkin, MA, C.S.C.S.

The Thursday night kickoff of the 2011 NFL season was a high-scoring, crowd-pleasing match between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. Back-to-back Super Bowl champions… What a way to start the season! I’d been gearing up for days. This was going to be a showdown pitting several of my top athletes. A very BIG game and I couldn’t wait to see it.

For days, we had been running a contest on Facebook and Twitter to see who could predict the final score of the game. It was Thursday afternoon, predictions were in, and the afternoon was winding down. We were READY. The pre-game program had begun, when a very unlucky maintenance worker at Arizona Power APS allegedly made a whopper of a mistake and all the lights went out in southern California. It was 97 degrees outside and we were without power. No air conditioning and no television… which meant no big game.

Life is normally pretty easy in southern California. Power outages are rare. We may have earthquakes and more than our fair share of wildfires, but we don’t have annual hurricanes, regular ice storms and other natural disasters of the like. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you I never did see the game that night. Drew Brees, Darren Sproles and the New Orleans Saints dueled it out with the Green Bay Packers on the gridiron, both teams playing like champions. In San Diego, we were busy closing businesses, fighting atrocious traffic, and digging out candles and camping lanterns. It wasn’t the Thursday evening I had planned, but we had a lot of fun, and along the way, learned some lessons about life. I’d like to share these with you.

Fresh fish spoils first. My Fitness Quest 10 team, along with a few clients, had an impromptu happy hour at a neighboring sushi restaurant. No refrigeration in a sushi restaurant means now or never for food inventory. We were happy to help out with a “special” Happy Hour! A lot of fine sushi was consumed while news was trickling in via AM radio and Twitter feeds. Smart phones allowed us to connect with family. Plans were made to meet up at home. We had a great time and it made me wonder why we had never done this before.

Kids know how to celebrate. I made my way home to find my entire neighborhood in full tilt party mode. Man, tell a group of kids who’ve never had a snow day in their lives that school is cancelled due to the power outage and they know how to start a party (they’ll also tell you that popsicles and ice cream melt faster than fish spoils). Every popsicle and every ounce of ice cream in the neighborhood had been consumed by the time I arrived, but barbeques were lit and beverages were iced (I was starting to see a theme). Neighbors came together to share food, drinks, ice, and supplies. It was a reminder to me that we live in a wonderful community with great people. Happy family. Lucky man. Isn’t it amazing how an event such as this can pull a community together?

You don’t need electricity in a tent. The bedrooms upstairs in our house were pretty hot by the time the party was winding down and our kids were lobbying us for a campout in the backyard. So, we put up the tent, grabbed sleeping bags, pillows and a flashlight or two. By this point in our blackout adventure, I had enjoyed an awesome happy hour, a rousing neighborhood party and now a family campout. Under any other circumstances, just one of these would be an “event” and most would require advance prep. We would sync calendars, agree on a date, plan menus, assign responsibilities… you know what I mean. It was another reminder. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated. We don’t need to work so hard to have fun. We don’t need a menu to have a party. Simplify. Breathe. Enjoy.

The darkness can be scary. Late in the afternoon and into the early evening, we listened for updates and learned how extensive the blackout was. People began to speculate as to a cause. Some connected the date (September 8) to tomorrow’s 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Anxious moments. Anxious hours for some. And more reminders that no matter where you live, bad things happen: blackout, wildfire, ice storm, hurricane… Was there more here than first met the eye?

You may know yin yang as complementary opposites. Two parts of a greater whole. On the one hand, I was in the middle of a spontaneous celebration on Thursday – a free-flowing party that seemed to be everywhere I turned. But the whole truth has to include the many businesses that lost money, the most vulnerable who were at risk even more than normal, and the fear felt by some because the darkness can be scary. No matter what you were up to, it was a long night.

Early Friday morning, I sent a note to my team suggesting that this weekend was a time to change things up, to find the yang to the yin of our regular FQ10 workout routines and tempo. To counterbalance the stress of the night before with something a little gentler on the mind and the body. In my early morning class I changed the music and the tempo. We pushed hard for just a short time, then lightened the weight, extended the stretch, and enjoyed some much needed partner massage before we closed with a great reflection. Our nervous systems had been on overload and we needed recovery.

We don’t need a reminder that good things and bad things happen. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live. We make the most of what we have. We gather. We share. We cope. And then we recover and prepare better for next time. Thursday’s blackout in southern California taught me some important lessons: Fish, popsicles, and ice cream all spoil quickly so it’s best to eat them first. You don’t need a reason for a party. You don’t need electricity in a tent, and the darkness isn’t nearly as scary when you’re surrounded with family and friends.

Especially on the eve of this important anniversary,

Peace and love,


Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally recognized performance coach, personal trainer and massage therapist who motivates, educates and inspires people worldwide.  He is the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA, where his wonderful team of 35 focuses on personal training, massage therapy, Pilates, yoga, sports performance training and nutrition to help transform the bodies, minds and spirits of a broad clientele.  Todd trains dozens of NFL and MLB athletes. He is the head of the Under Armour Performance Training Council, serves on the Gatorade G-Fit Team, and is a featured presenter on the Perform Better educational circuit.  He is a two-time Trainer of the Year (IDEA & ACE).  Additionally, Todd provides motivational talks and programs to companies and conferences worldwide.

Men’s Health recently named his gym, Fitness Quest 10, one of the Top 10 Gyms in the US.  Todd has appeared on 60 Minutes, ESPN, NFL Network and has been featured in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Business Week, Prevention, ESPN the Magazine, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, Stack Magazine, Self, Shape, Fitness, the NY Times and Washington Post.  Todd has authored 35 DVDs on strength and conditioning, functional fitness, massage/bodywork and business/personal growth.

His new book, The IMPACT! Body Plan, debuted in September 2010 and is a 10 Week program designed to create world-class fitness and life performance.  You can sign up for Todd’s FREE award-winning Ezine newsletter, the TD TIMES, at or

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