Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Over the past few months I've been working on getting some more training business, and had a very cool project lined up, but it seems to have fallen through. Too bad. I collected some testimonials from some of the folks I've worked with over the years for promotional materials, and thought I'd share them.
Thanks to everyone who submitted their praises, I'm quite flattered at how effusive the praise has been.

I've been working with John for about six months now, and I can safely say that not only has my Jiu-Jitsu improved, but my overall fitness level has taken a huge leap as a result of his diet and strength coaching. I was plateaued pretty bad when we started working together, and not only did I break through the wall I was facing, I achieved my long-held goal of fighting at Super Heavy at Pan 2011(under 221lbs, I made 217). Along the way, I managed to learn a lot about myself, and my relationship with food. John got me on a simple, sustainable program that has completely changed my whole outlook on life. This is not hyperbole. I now go to the gym every day with a new sense of "beginner's mind" as I am now capable of things I never could do before both in the gym, and at the highest levels of competition. Every time I step onto the mats, I am amazed at what I can do now, which encourages me to reach even higher. I highly recommend what he does to anyone looking for real, measurable results in their training. I only wish I'd started listening to him sooner.

Griff Sombke
Owner/Instructor, Edmonds BJJ
3x Pan-Am Jiu-Jitsu medalist
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Purple Belt

After finishing 6th at Trials for the 2009 Rowing World Championship team, I set out on a mission to get stronger. The girls next to me had 2x my muscle mass and I knew if I got fitter and more muscle that I would do better. Our boat club has a variety of people in it and when I was talking to Johns' wife she recommended that I talk to John.... so about 4 weeks after returning from trials I sent off a mail to charter a new course to get more muscle and get fitter. Little did I know that it would change my quality of life, change my approach to my workouts and change how I think about sport all together.

From day 1 I knew I was in good hands. John started by having me do a series of seemingly simple exercises like walking lunging and push ups. I did not think much of it but you could tell that John was writing up a prescription for strength... we have to work on hamstrings and glute and hip strength and core and stability were the word that came out of his mouth (I recall it like yesterday.) Great I thought to myself my bio mechanics are all messed up this is going to be a long road.

We met the following week where he demo'ed all the exercises for me and then I did them for him ( I happen to have been a college athlete and had spent some time in the weight room so I knew my way around a little bit.) John handed me a 1 month plan, gave me specific instructions on what I could and could not do for cardio as well as some light advice about what to eat.

Month 1 was the most exhausting but most rewarding. John and I met at the end of month 1 to talk about how things were going. He handed me four months worth of workouts. John was there every step of the way though those four months coaching me though points that I thought I was not going to make it. Supporting me through break downs and tests the challenges of wanting to do hours of cardio which would have stopped me from being strong.

John and I were a team though for the next 6 months. I was exhausted and encouraged the whole way though. When it came close to competition I recall sending John and mail that was something like i am not sure I can do this I am not sure I can finish this off. Anyway with a little coaching and support I did it I went to compete and I had no regrets about my accomplishments. Almost a year later I am still thankful for John b/c I am stronger, fitter, less injury prone and I have more variety in my work outs.

Emily Simonds
Former University of Wisconsin Rower
Elite Sculler

For the past four years, John has been my primary resource for information regarding strength training, postural issues, rehabilitation, athletic performance, and proper nutrition. I came to know him in 2008 through a mutual friend, and we have been in regular contact ever since. Initially, I sought guidance from John as a competitive road cyclist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Specifically, I wanted to learn how to best leverage down time from bike racing such that I could improve my overall strength and fitness at the same time as my performance on the bicycle. This led me to off-season strength training, and I looked to John for guidance in developing a program that would meet my needs without compromising sport-specific preparedness.
I appreciated John’s experiences both as a competitor (rugby, rowing) and a trainer (multiple power-endurance sports) and the insights they have given him. He is sensitive to the unique demands of a variety of disciplines and knowledgeable of many training methodologies, which makes him an effective resource for any population. Some of the most valuable feedback I received from John was directed toward correcting some postural and mobility issues. In addition, he helped me to build an off-season strength training program which complemented bicycle specific strengths and guided me through appropriate in- and off-season periodization. From John, I learned to set goals and prioritize recovery and nutrition alongside workouts such that I was able to improve performance during my final two (injury free!) seasons during a transition into a new, demanding job.
Since that time, I’ve reduced my training volume considerably with a shift in my goals toward maximal training efficiency for general strength and conditioning rather than sport specific performance. I have learned a great deal from John in terms of balancing personal and professional obligations with an effective training program, and I continue to apply his methodology to help achieve an ever-evolving set of goals within the constraints of a busy life. I value John’s perspective both for the knowledge he has and his creative approaches for maximizing training efficiency, and have found his guidance tremendously beneficial. Over the years, I’ve found John to be attentive, thoughtful, comprehensive, and professional. He has been a good friend and an ideal resource for me, and I have no doubt that he will continue to develop his skill set and enrich the training experiences of everyone around him.

J.Q. Bond
Former Cyclocross and road cyclist
Aspiring Meat head.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The 'super-user' effect.

Most people these days use computers every day. Some people even get quite proficient. They use a number of programs, they may even customize their bobs and bits on these programs: record their own macros in excel, change their mouse pointers, change the color scheme in windows. They may know more than their peers at work, and may even 'fix stuff' for their relatives. High level user stuff.
This does not make them an expert in computers. In the IT industry we call these people 'super-users.'
Most of these types of users can manipulate, but they only know one way to do something. They don't understand the underlying principals of WHY something works, they only know that if you shake the chicken bone this way it makes lights blink a certain way. They understand the methods for making the computer work, but not the principals.
Working in IT I very often do not know the methods for making various programs do what people want them to do, but I understand the principals behind them so I can generally get the music to play, and if something is truly broken I know what the fix is. Super-users do not. If something is broken, they keep bashing away with methods until something 'works,' or the machine completely falls apart.
Similarly the biggest guy in your gym, or possibly even your 'trainer.' May know methods that work for them, and may have tinkered around with a few methods that didn't but did work for others, but if they don't understand the underlying principals what they are recommending is simply scatter-shot. They're throwing ideas out to see if they stick. This can lead to serious injuries for trainees at worst, or no results beyond a certain point at best. In short, if your find yourself in this position ditch the super-user and find a professional.

Signs that your trainer is a "super-user:"
  • No assessment: A professional should understand your goals, injury history, ideally take you through a movement based assessment.
  • Everybody does the same thing: there is one program (or two) and every client does the exact same thing just with different weights, extra bonus points if Monday is 'chest and tris day.' Each athlete doesn't have to have radically different programs, but there should be differences.
  • Static programming: you lift the same weights for a while, nothing changes. It's groundhog day every day/week you go to the gym. There needs to be progress. You should see changes in a few weeks/months.
  • No programming at all: you walk in and have no earthly idea what you're going to be doing today other than getting sweaty. Extra bonus points if you have to check a whiteboard for that day's workout. Extra super bonus points if you have to constantly ask "what's next."*
  • You get hurt and nothing changes: People who understand principals do not have to doggedly stick to the same movements. If it hurts your shoulder to back squat your trainer should be able to adjust (even on the fly) and get you a similar training effect.
  • They never ask for feedback outside of the gym. One of the best ways I get feedback from clients is by being facebook friends with them. If someone is posting "hate you all, only my cat understands me." All the time: calories are probably a little too low or workload is too high. If an athlete's status is "I am become death, destroyer of worlds!" probably going to be a good day in the gym.
  • They can't tell you why: everything should be in a program for a reason. Sets, reps, movements and loads should be purposeful.
* There is a place for a bit of randomization when conditioning. Different movements, different modalities at different times, but you should still know before hand the length and intensity of the work you're going to be doing, and you should feel that you are making progress when viewed over several weeks.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Disk us.

So Sunday July 3, The wife and I are headed out to the in-law's place to BBQ and watch some fireworks. The ferry line is insane. It's backed up for 3 miles (about an hour and a half wait to get on the ferry). So we commit, we bring some toys and raisins and stuff for the kiddo, and when he fusses we give him a book, or a toy, or the wife takes him out of the car seat and walks up the road with him, when I catch up she puts him back in the car.. rinse and repeat.. a lot. It's a long wait, but we make the best of it and get down to the dock.
I got into a minor altercation on the ferry, the short version is if your response to an accidental door ding is to accost a young woman and threaten her dashing husband when he steps in your way, you probably need more fiber in your diet.
We get to her in-laws house, and the wife's leg (which had been bothering her some for the past few weeks) is starting to hurt. We chalk it up to too much time getting in and out of the car and hope it'll get better.
Monday she takes it easy, and it's about the same, but she decides to make an appointment for the spine doc and see if she can get into PT and chiro. Tuesday they all see her, she gets a cortisone shot which provides a little relief.
Wednesday morning though it's bad again, but she decides to ride it out. She has an MRI scheduled and should be able to get an epidural injection early next week. She asks the doc for some pain meds and he calls in some Vicodin. Wednesday night she takes it so that she can sleep. Thursday she wakes up vomiting. She and Vicodin do not mix. She tries some other pain meds, but it's very bad. She goes to see her PT who puts her on bed rest. She spends Friday in bed. There are two positions that are not painful, she spends all day Friday switching between the two.
Saturday I get up at 5:30 with the kid, and take care of him. the wife arranged for a friend of hers to come "babysit" the two of them while I go to jiu-jitsu for a couple of hours. I get home to the wife lying on the floor in sobbing in pain, and Emily calling me on her cell phone with one hand and running around trying to get the wife's shoes on (the grizzly is in his crib napping). She fell coming back from the bathroom. Emily and I carry her to the car, and I watch the kid while the wife goes to the ER. I call her dad, he heads to the hospital. I call my cousin Sarah. It's 2:30 p.m. I put the grizzly to bed around 6:30 and my cousin comes over and sits while I bust ass to the ER.
I get there. I give the lady my name and she says "a social worker will come back to escort you to the patient." Ok. I wait.. and wait. I understand that the social workers are busy dealing with fatalities. I try to be sympathetic, but I just needed someone to tell me where to go. I looked at the clock noting It's been a long goddamn time, and waited another hour after that to get walked back. I get to the wife and her dad. My father-in-law is reading a book and dosing. the wife is on good pain meds and fairly comfortable. It starts to get on to 9-10 o'clock and all hell starts breaking loose. We lose our room (triaged out) so we're in the hall way. I can hear the trauma nurse calling the incoming patients, then watch them come through: self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, car accident (with multiple broken bones), car accident, car accident. After each one the spine doc comes in and looks at the wife's chart and orders something done, then disappears for 2-3 hours.
Aside: Very funny story about a drunk guy in the ER: he is a very fat man in no shirt with a very broken nose strapped down to a hospital gurney. Every time the nurse comes in to check his vitals, or whatever he says "You will not touch me!" and "You will not touch me without my attorney present." He can't do anything to prevent them from attending to him, so he gets the bright idea to completely freak out every time they try to take his vitals. So every time the nurse hooks up the monitors, he thrashes (as much as one can when tied down) and screams "ahhhhhhhh." All of which does nothing to validity of the data. The cops that are minding him are laughing their proverbial asses off at him, the nurse just looks bored.
We do our best to enjoy the show until the wife is finally admitted at 2:30 a.m. My father-in-law waits with her while she is transported to her room. I go home. By the time I drive home, and fill in Sarah on the goings on; it's 3 a.m. I crash. the grizzly wakes up at 5. I talk him into snoozing for 15 minutes.. but that's it. We have breakfast, and I gather his stuff up. I take him to see his mother, and arrive when the surgeons are there explaining our options. the grizzly is having none of it. He wants to play with everything, pull on tubes that may or may not be attached to an IV, and go 'visit' the other patients. He just won't sit still. I try to wrestle with him and listen to the docs, I pick up maybe every third word. the wife gets to spend some time with him.. such as it is and I drive him up to the ferry. I meet my mother-in-law at the ferry (she walks on and comes over so that she doesn't have to wait in line) I hand over the kid, and drive back to the hospital.
On the way I buy a Venti drip with 2 shots of espresso in it. As I drink it I can feel myself becoming more coherent. I visit with the wife and we talk about her options.. It's gotta be surgery. There really is no other choice. The surgeons tell us the OR is scheduled for 7:30 am Monday. I spend some time, then go to work to do all of the stuff that needs to be done for me to take Monday off. I'm there for about 4 hours. I go home to do some dishes, make dinner for the wife and I, take out the trash, and pick up some bobs and bits for her.. etc. I bring her dinner (some tasty meatballs in tomato sauce) and we eat together. I hang out for a while then head to work for about another hour and finally get to bed around 11.
I wake at 6 to my alarm and see a text from the wife: the OR is reserved for 7:30, but they're taking her down at 6:30. Shit! I run out of the house, drive 687 mph to the hospital and sprint from the garage to her room. I get there about 30 seconds before they wheel her down, but I can be with her till they take her to the OR. After she wheels out, I go down to the waiting area get the lay of the land and head to the cafeteria. I spend $6 on an ice cream scoop of horrible runny scrambled eggs, two sausage links that make me want to apologize to the pigs that sacrificed themselves for its creation, and a fair cup of coffee. The food sucks, but at least they're stingy with the portions. I wait. I go on facebook and post the goings on, and I wait.. The surgeon comes by and says: she had a "gargantuan" bulge "hammering the nerve root" and described the operation as "Ideal for surgical intervention" and "very satisfying."
I am relieved. Should be about another 90 minutes in recovery or so, then should be back up to the room. I go online and update everyone on facebook. I wait. I email my folks, text her folks, and my cousin Sarah.. and wait.. It's been a while and I’m getting antsy, so I go to the gift shop. I marvel at the weird crap that people will buy sick people. I ponder buying some pumpkin seeds because I'm starving, and there's no way I'm buying any more "food" at that cafeteria. I check the time.. It's goddamn noon.. no way she's still in recovery. I head up to the room. She's there.. been there for 30 minutes or more. Apparently they called my cell phone, but in the basement (where the waiting room is) there is little to no cell reception.. what the hell kind of sense does that make?
I say hello, she is very sleepy. I tell her what the doctor says and sit with her for a bit. I'm hungry.. she's going to be hungry. I talk to the nurse, and she's cleared to eat when she wakes up. I walk out of the hospital and start looking for food. I end up walking a long damn way (apparently I went the wrong direction). But come back with food to a (mostly) awake wife. We eat. She's feeling better and in a couple of hours gets discharged.
Things are getting better. The radial pain in her leg is gone, but the nerve root is still irritated which is causing her to have dulled sensation in her leg. The major issue is she can't lift anything heavier than 10 lbs. for the next 8 weeks. the grizzly weighs more than 30. She can move around and I can put him in her lap but she cannot change his diaper, or get him in the car.
Our friends and family have been amazing. the grizzly is going back to daycare. We have people signed up to come over and help out during the times outside of daycare, and my mom is coming out for a few days next month to help cover daycare ladies' vacation. I have never felt so cared for and indebted as I have the past few days. It's been astounding the outpouring of love and assistance. I don't know what more to say. Couple of people have brought over dinners, people are offering to babysit. My cousin Sarah is making her daughter do 'chores' at our house instead of theirs, flabbergasting. This could have been impossible, but I think it's going to be alright, all thanks to our family and friends.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tastiest Vegetable you're not eating.

Garlic spears.

What the heck are they? they are the buds of elephant garlic. I have always found elephant garlic to have an unpalatable aftertaste, but the buds are fantastic. They have a fairly similar texture to asparagus with a very garlicy flavor.

Nutrition: I have no idea, I can't find the nutritional information anywhere.

How do I cook them: I have found that hot dry cooking methods work well. Rub them with a little olive oil and salt and popped into a 425 degree oven till they are brown and delicious. They work okay on the grill, but you have to be careful that the buds at the top do not dry out too much as they become papery.

How do I pick a good one: like asparagus you want to look out for rot in the middle of the bundle. Bright green is good, they will dry out from both ends so keep an eye out for any yellowing as it is a sign that they have dried out (a little drying of the tips is fine, but too much is too much).

When are they in season, where do I get them? RIGHT NOW! Late spring early summer. They are available all over the PNW, but I have seen them at whole foods and similar specialty grocers in other parts of the country.