Mike Murphy is an undergraduate student studying kinesiology and will graduate in June 2022. He worked closely with Sean Newsom and Matt Robinson in the Translational Metabolism Research Laboratory — an experience that motivated him to pursue his master’s degree in kinesiology.
We asked Mike about his time in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and his future plans.
What inspired you to study kinesiology?
I got into health and fitness after high school, partly due to my job at an athletic club and partly because I started powerlifting.
I didn’t originally intend to pursue it academically — I was worried about making my hobby into a career —but I spent a lot of my free time reading and thinking about training and physiology. This led to an increasing interest in exercise science research, until I eventually threw my hands up and said fine, let’s do it. And here I am.
What are you most proud of from your time in the CPHHS?
The most rewarding experience by far has been getting involved in the Translational Metabolism Research Laboratory. I knew when I transferred from Portland Community College that I wanted to go to graduate school, so getting undergraduate research experience was my top priority.
I reached out to professors whose work I found engaging and expressed my interest, and from there it was just a matter of effort and enthusiasm. I spent many hours in the lab to reach a point where I could assist with ongoing studies and carry out independent tasks and projects.
Undergraduate research has been an unparalleled opportunity for me to gain skills and knowledge. Furthermore, I had the chance to work with a fantastic group of people who share my passions and are willing to mentor me as I consider my future.
Have you received any scholarships or assistance during your time here?
I received the Finley Academic Excellence Scholarship for my transfer GPA.
What are the most memorable lessons you’ve learned as a student?
If by “memorable” we mean “valuable,” I think I’ve probably learned a lot of the same lessons as most college students: prioritization, time management, study skills, which take-out places are busy on Saturday nights, etc.
Honestly, I’ve absorbed so many different bits of advice from mentors and professors that I’d be hard-pressed to pick one or two out of the lot. I guess the lesson from that is to pay attention, because sometimes things people say offhand will stick with you for life.
As for things that are really memorable, though, only one comes to mind: Never volunteer to do a three-minute all-out running test ever again.
What’s next? What are your plans after graduation?
I’ll be starting the MS in kinesiology at Oregon State! I’m very excited to have the opportunity to continue working with the TMRL group on our upcoming projects.
Depending on how things go over the next two years, I’ll be deciding whether to continue pursuing my education or look for a job in the health and fitness industry.
How will you improve the health of your community?
One of my goals has always been to make information accessible and understandable to a wider audience. The fitness industry in particular is packed with misinformation and conflicting advice, which I found myself slogging through when I started getting into lifting.
Finding sources of trustworthy, high-quality information was a huge help for me, and it ended up motivating me to study kinesiology.
It took years of effort for me to get here, though, and not everyone is able to dedicate that kind of time to their pursuit of health and fitness.
Over and over again I hear stories from people who want to start working out, but they have no idea where to start. I want to make use of my knowledge and experience to help people understand what’s important and what isn’t when it comes to training, so the whole experience can become simpler and less stressful.
What does health and well-being mean to you?
I’m a big fan of the 80-20 rule: 20% of the effort gets you 80% of the results.
To me, health and well-being means doing the best you can with what you have, and not trying to be perfect or measure up to some unrealistic standard. Part of this is understanding that doing something is infinitely better than doing nothing, regardless of how small that something is.
We burn ourselves out by trying to do too much, too soon, all at once, in all different areas of our lives. We want the best, fastest results, and we lose sight of how the process actually works along the way.
Health and well-being aren’t all-or-nothing propositions, so there’s no need to go all out right from the start.
The question most of us should be asking is not what is optimal, but what is sustainable. You don’t have to do a lot. If all you can manage is a little bit, but you can keep doing that little bit, you’re making progress, and that’s a win.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in the gym or in school or in your personal life. It doesn’t matter if it’s compared to last year or last week or yesterday. Every little improvement you can make is a win, and we take all of those.
Do you have any advice for incoming students?
Your education is what you make of it. There will be a lot of opportunities available to you over the next few years. You don’t have to take advantage of all of them, but try to get involved in something that interests you!
Even if you just like a class, go to office hours and bother your favorite professor. A lot of them are in this line of work because they like mentoring students. Do your best to make connections.
As a transfer student who arrived in the middle of the pandemic, not knowing anyone, I cannot overstate how glad I am that I found a group where I fit in.
Also, if you’re a kinesiology student, you’ll probably learn at some point that fatigue management is an essential part of effective training. If you’re not a KIN student, I’m telling you now.
Likewise, stress management is an essential part of being an effective student. Remember to take care of yourself, in whatever form that takes. Prioritize the most important things, including your own mental and physical health.