Steve Jordan graduated from the University of Maryland in 1998 with a degree in Kinesiology. At age 19, he suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling head first from a balcony. After a three-year period of cognitive rehab and brain surgeries, in which he overcame short-term memory loss, “tip of the tongue syndrome,” and facial paralysis, Jordan was able to build a successful career as a personal trainer, eventually becoming a “Trainer to the Stars.” He has worked with celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman and Quincy Jones. On Maryland Day 2017, Jordan led a “No Excuses Workout” session and an attempt to break the record for the largest group holding a plank at one time.
In one sentence, what is public health to you?
Public health is the education, the application of creating awareness and solutions for people worldwide to have optimal health and wellness in their lives.
What inspired you to study kinesiology?
I was inspired because I’ve always had an attraction toward physical activity, movement, sports, the human body and the mind under these situations. I wanted to understand why we move or we don’t’ move. I wanted to understand how to move better and more optimally. I wanted to be able to find solutions to help people get their butt in gear and start moving.
Personal training came to me through an accident that nearly took my life. Physical movement, activity and exercise were tools to not just help build my body up, but also to build my mind and my emotional stability.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get where you are now?
The biggest obstacle that I had to face in my life, or in my career, has been myself. I gotten in the way of my own success and things that I want or could achieve. We all doubt ourselves. We all have our fears. We all have insecurities. After overcoming those fears, insecurities and doubts, I have been successful almost every single time. The mind is a powerful thing.
I was only 19 years-old when my accident happened. I wasn’t certified as a personal trainer at the time. I did not have my first client until I was 21. I built myself up slowly, but surely. I believed that my life was saved for a bigger purpose to restore health and fitness into others that wanted my coaching. I leveraged my experiences in my recovery, education and in life to add to my services. While at UMD I took a business course that taught me to consider “location, location, location” if I wanted to create a successful business. So I kept that in mind when I sought out the opportunities I needed to grow my career as a “Trainer to The Stars.” I made the bold decision to move to Los Angeles and immerse myself in the entertainment community. I networked until I got my first referral. I always give more than I receive and go above and beyond to produce outstanding results for my clients, so I keep getting referrals.
What do you think is the biggest challenge the public health field should be focusing on?
Getting people from knowing to doing. Information is only good if it’s put into action, and I think that’s the biggest challenge the public health has to face. There’s a lot of information out there. There might be sometimes too much information. The information has to be simplified and there have to be solution-based programs where the implementation is very easy and it can be done almost instantly. People are today more challenged because they’re used to instant gratification. Unfortunately, health is not instant. You don’t get instant gratification from doing something healthy. There are long-term gratification and results from healthy living. It’s a challenge to get people to understand that the results won’t come until later on. It’s like saving money. I always related and equate health as your wealth.
What is your strategy and technique for inspiring people to take control of their health?
My solutions are to get people from caring about looking good to caring about feeling good. One of the instant gratifications that you will get from exercise, whether it’s a five-minute walk, a one-minute jumping jack or a marathon, is feeling better. I get people to care deeply about feeling better and to become aware of their emotional state, their state change when they exercise. That, I believe, is the longer-term solution. It gives you instant gratification to be able to feel good, rather than looking good. And if you feel good, you look good.
Can you talk about how you integrate mental health into fitness?
You have to believe it before you can achieve it. That’s an important component to any kind of success in any area of life,—whether it be your health, whether it be your finances. If you don’t believe, you won’t be able to achieve. Having the right mindset is going to increase your ability to achieve success.
What are some of your own fitness and health routines?
Every morning I wake and I put a smile on my face. It creates a more positive mental outlook for the day. I maintain that smile as long as I can, while I’m doing my morning routine. I hydrate first thing in the morning; with water—not coffee or juice. I drink probably about 15 to 24 ounces of water. I don’t down it, but I drink it through a course of an hour and an hour and a half. I have a very well-rounded breakfast, consisting of protein, vegetables and even some carbohydrates, like sweet potato or rice. And then throughout my day, I stretch. I’m always stretching to be able to keep my body limber.
I exercise typically once a day, maybe every other day, but I’m always committed to improving my health or maintaining my health. There are cycles that I go through. Sometimes in my cycle, I maintain my health and fitness; other times I am improving on my health and fitness. I’m either in a maintenance phase or a progressive phase. They’re really distinct because, in the maintenance phase, I’m not working that hard. The muscle is already there. I’m just coasting, but I’m doing the work so I’m maintaining. There are other times when I’m pushing harder and working harder, whether it be more time or resistance or less rest to progress and reach a new fitness level.
Are there any celebrities you were particularly excited to work with?
Every celebrity I’ve worked with is exciting, because it’s always a great opportunity to meet someone who is outstanding in their craft, who has achieved a level of success. But looking back on my career, I would say one of the coolest experiences was working with Dustin Hoffman. He’s an icon. Also, Quincy Jones was also outstanding, an encyclopedia of knowledge and music and entertainment stories that he had. He would share stories, show me personal letters and different types of artifacts that he had from Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. That was pretty cool. I got to hear some pretty unique stories that most people would probably never hear.
Why did you choose public health at UMD?
I was a lacrosse player and I had scholarships to attend other colleges. I went to the University of Maryland without a scholarship or without a guarantee to be on the team, but I was given a letter from the coach at time, Dick Edell, inviting me to the campus. I just remember walking around campus. There was something deeper than just playing lacrosse there (that was my goal, playing Maryland lacrosse), but there was a unique feeling that overwhelmed me when I walking around on the campus. I knew that this was what was good for me.
When I got there, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Going back to my roots of movement and exercise, athletics, sorts, I saw that there was this degree called kinesiology that would allow me to explore those areas, my interests, in a way that would enable me to work in those fields with many different capacities.
Which professor, course or experience impacted you the most during your time here at UMD?
I would say Dr. Elizabeth Brown, my sports psychology professor and academic advisor, had the biggest impact on me. It wasn’t necessarily for the education, but it was because of what she brought to me. She was caring, she was empathetic and she was stern.
She wasn’t a pushover. When you needed a kick in the butt she gave it to you, and when you needed a hug, she gave it to you. When you need to spend a little extra time on a topic or area that you needed a little bit more clarity on, she would give it to you. She’s just a person who cares deeply about your outcome and about seeing you successful.
What advice would you give to current public health students?
Know your “why,” and the “how” will be easy. Know why you want to be in the school of public health, know why you are interested in it, know what you would like to achieve when you’re done. If you know your “why,” the “how” will be easy, you’ll figure it out.