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Former NFL Player and CEO of Power Athlete John Welbourn

By October 19, 2016 August 2nd, 2020 No Comments

“We used to see these guys in there benching 600, big chest, everything come out, and you would hit the dude and he would crumble into a million little pieces.” –John Welbourn

Commander Mark Divine has a lengthy and frank discussion with John Welbourn about his opinions of the NFL, how athletic training really can and should work, and where professional football really should fit into the media and entertainment industries. John was an offensive tackle and a guard with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999 to 2003 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004 to 2007. Since leaving the NFL, he started Crossfit Football and Power Athlete HQ. From the state of training, football and politics, Mark and John have a wide-ranging discussion with no holds barred. Entertaining and insightful, don’t miss this podcast.

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Transcript & Shownotes

Mark: Hey folks, welcome back. This is Cmdr. Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast and I’m here at SEALfit headquarters this time with my friend John Welbourn who, if you’re watching video, you can see is a monster of a man and a former NFL player. Couple teams. We’ll get into that. And founder of CrossFit football, founder of Power Athlete, and doing some great work with athletes all around in functional fitness, strength and mental toughness. We’re going to have a really cool conversation but before we get into the juice, let me remind you to go to iTunes to rate this podcast, please, and I keep saying that the reason for that is so other people who don’t know about us or who haven’t heard about this, can find the podcast and be surprised–pleasantly hopefully–when they search for Tim Ferris and all of a sudden there’s the new Unbeatable Mind podcast.

John: It’s good name.

Mark: Thanks. I know. So John, thanks for making the trek down.

John: Yeah, thank you very much.

Mark: Good to see you. Like I say I remember vividly. You’re a hard guy to forget…

John: My sparkling personality.

Mark: Your sparkling personality, and the fact that most…

John: My great dance moves.

Mark: Most of the oxygen in the room gets sucked out when you walk in… Those monstrous lungs of yours. Two thousand nine or so? At a Robb Wolff nutrition seminar up at your gym, which at the time was called…



John: CrossFit Balboa.

Mark: That’s right. CrossFit Balboa. Okay. Gosh, we’ve all come a long way since then. Before we get into kind of like tactics and strategy for training, and nutrition and mental toughness… Whatever it is that where you talk about. Which frankly I have no idea yet but I’m just gonna see what comes up. Let’s talk about you and where you came from how you got involved in football and then the transition to professional life and I particularly want to talk about that really awesome video of the CrossFit games. “The road to the games.”

John: Oh the Every Second Counts video. Oh fuck.

Mark: Yeah, Every Second Counts. That was it.

John: Well…

Mark: I still have a smile on my face when I watched that.

John: Well, I’ll work back to that one. But I grew up here in Southern California. From a young age I did martial arts and fought, and was kind into the fighting stuff and boxing. And then when I got the high school my brothers told me that all the cool kids play football, so I didn’t want to be uncool, so I went out and played football. And it was a pretty good experience. ‘Cause it was like fighting against a bunch of people that had no idea how to fight. I remember the first day this kid came at me with this hands down, and I remember I hit him “in the coach was like “Great job!” And I was like, “Shit, I could be all right at this.”

You get to lift weights, you get to go out and hit, I just kinda gravitated towards it. I was fairly tall and skinny, just start lifting weights and I had some really good you know, introduction to the strength game with a guy named George Zangus who was a power lifter who invented the super suits and the wraps. I used to train in his garage, and therefore I got really got into lifting weights and, nutrition and he was a great historian of training. Not only barbell stuff, but all types of training, and so we learned about this thing that Vince Gironda’s talked about called the Stone Age diet, which is a lot like the paleo diet.

Mark: Sounds a lot like the paleo diet too.

John: I remember when I met Robb Wolff he started talking about the paleo diet, and I was like, “Where you been dude? This is how we’ve eaten for a long time.” And basic barbell training and using that for football. And from there I graduated…

Mark: Was that something that like the high school team you were on was doing, or was this… You are doing it on the side.

John: yeah. Well we actually were such crazy kids that we would lift rates at lunch, lift weights at school, and then leave there and go to a twenty-four hour fitness. So we were actually training three times a day. And do that seven days a week.

Mark: That sounds like Navy SEALs training.

John: The more is better philosophy. With no idea what were doing. Were like ripping out programs out of flax magazine. The Dorian Yates back routine for the Mr. Olympia was like our go to work out. There was no Internet, there was no way… There was no programs…

Mark: Was all trial and error. See what worked and what didn’t.

John: Yeah and we get hurt, that was stupid, we can’t do that. Not realizing that’s we were doing programs that were meant for professionals. High-level bodybuilders. And we were just amateurs and beginners. So there was a huge maturation process for that and really understanding. And from there I got a scholarship to go to UC Berkeley, and then went to Berkeley. Got there and had a… Really too good very good strength coaches. A guy named Todd Rice who got into Olympic lifting and started learning more about dynamic training in speed work, and Olympic lifting, and rate of force, and power production. And a lot of the things you see in my power athlete training program was really… I cut my teeth in those early days. And then graduated there in four years, got my Masters and my fifth…

Mark: You played ball there too, right?

Pro football – Philadelphia Eagles


John: Yes, yeah, I played UC Berkeley. But I graduated early, work to my Masters, and then I got drafted second pick in the fourth round of the Philadelphia Eagles. Came in and started as a rookie, and had a really interesting opportunity where I came in and started as a rookie and at the end of the first half of my first NFL game I ended up rupturing my patellar tendon.

Mark: Oh no. What was your position?

John: Offensive line. I played guard and tackle. I was playing tackle that game.

Mark: So you put on a significant amount of weight. Let’s go back to your training days. See you said you were a skinny kid, tall and skinny. What are you 6’3″ maybe?

John: I’m 6’6″.

Mark: Ok. You’re 6’6″..

John: I was 6 foot, about 165 pounds when I was fourteen. And I started lifting weights, and I got up to about two hundred, two twenty-five. And I was probably about 245, two fifty, when I left high school. And then when I left college I was probably about three hundred and five, 310 pounds. And then I played mostly NFL career about three hundred three ten.

Mark: Jesus. Okay. So you are offenses line in the eagles and you ruptured…

John: patellar tendon. Yeah so the cart me off the field, got off my pants and I remember the doc looks down in my knee cap is sitting where my BMO is. And the doc was like,” that’s real bad.” And I’m like, “we’ll how bad is it.” And he’s like, “well, we’ve never seen anybody come back from a ruptured patellar tendon.”

Mark: Uh-oh.

John: And I look over, the parents are there. They’re so excited, first off and I see like the tears roll down my dad’s face. And I’m like, “oh fuck.” So they put me in surgery that night, since my knee up, three weeks in bed three months before they really let me bend my knee and I had to rehab back. And it was pretty…

Mark: The eagles keep you on through this?

John: Yeah, I had a contract with them. I was on injured reserve and they can’t cut you while you’re injured now once I got back on the field and proved I was healthy, then they could cut you. But I came back in and played and rehabbed and it was really pretty… Like you want to talk about one of the most darkest, most difficult experiences of my life because I got the injury as a starter in the NFL as a rookie. Starter in my first game. Get injured be told that you’re never going to play football again, you never gonna walk, and now I’m rehabbing back. I’m from California in Philadelphia in the middle of the winter and the only thing I could think of is I just wanna train for life. I just wanna get back to normal. And I remember for six months I made zero gains. When I ruptured my patellar tendon, I tore all the nerves, and I couldn’t get my leg to move. I couldn’t get my quad to fire, I couldn’t do anything. And so I started getting on the phone and calling doctors. And figuring out different training programs. And actually I started incorporating some really cool methods into my training that really just switched everything on and got them to go, and actually, ironically, one of them was EMS, which is the electrical muscle stimulation, like the PowerDot units.

But like the ones we had to get were from eBay in the UK, that some dude was making in his garage, that if you got wet you’d probably get electrocuted. And all that knowledge came through Charlie Francis who was Ben Johnson’s sprint coach. His name’s tainted because of Ben Johnson testing positive, but Charlie Francis is a… you know, he’s since passed away, but a genius. And he was really big into EMS. So I went back and read that and contacted different people, and the guy that I was working with at the time was an EMS guy. So using that and then just really understanding training.

Mark: So let’s talk about that. So the electrical stim is just bringing blood-flow…

John: No. You attach pads, and everywhere the pad touches, fires motor units. And that indiscriminate firing of motor units, based off of the intensity, is how hard they fire. But the frequency of the unit will dictate which motor-unit fires. So obviously the higher the frequency of 110, 120 will fire type 2X fibres, the lower ones will fire type 1, type 2 type AB fibers. So I was able to go through and start using this, and actually retrained my muscles to fire, and actually ended up getting some great neural connectivity with it. And that really helped me get back on. And that’s why I’m such a big proponent and user of EMS. We use it in all of our training.

John’s Back


Mark: That’s terrific. So you’re still with the Eagles. They didn’t cut you, because you showed some progress, or they were afraid of you or something like that.

John: No, no. I came back and went to training camp. And in the off season I’d started right tackle. They’d signed a free agent to about a ten million dollar a year contract at right tackle. And so I remember they signed the dude, and I’m like, “All right, I guess they don’t expect me to come back.” And so, I show up at training camp, and they have me as like the third string, left tackle. And I’m like… I’m so far down the depth chart, dude, I was on the second page. And I’m like looking around being like… I remember calling my parents, I’m like, “You know what, my knee’s better, I’m doing okay, but I’m probably not going to be here very long.” And then, just on a stroke of luck, a guy who was the starter at right tackle, the high-priced free agent, ends up tearing a rib muscle in practice.

Mark: Stroke of luck for you, not him.

John: Ironically. And so the guy who was his backup goes in, and they needed a position, and they were like, “Hey, John. Didn’t you used to play right tackle?” I was like, “Fucking assholes.” So I go over and I’m the backup right tackle now. And lo and behold that guy ends up doing poorly, and they elevated me to right tackle. And I went out, ended up playing really well, went to the pre-season and did really well. And we go to the very first pre-season game and I’m starting. Re-gained my position with this guy’s injury. And I go against the first pick in the NFL draft.

And, you know, all the national media’s on him, this is a big deal. And I go out there and I handled his ass pretty well. Shut him down and he didn’t even sniff the ball carrier. Which is to be expected for a rookie. But people put a lot of stress on these guys, “Oh, the second coming.”

And so I go on the media after the game and I’m sitting at my locker. And the media’s all around me and they’re like, “Are you upset that they paid so-and-so ten million dollars, when you clearly were able to come back and win your position?” And my comment was like, “That guy’s really skilled player, he’s really good, have you seen him? He’s a beast. I mean, I’d pay him ten million dollars. He’s a better player than I am.”

And like, instantly defused the media who was looking for some form of like controversy. And the GM comes over and he says, “Thanks, dude. You really helped me out on that one. You made me almost look like an asshole.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s the truth.” And then I realized, that the truth in the NFL in like most places is not really what people want to hear. Whereas I figured it was always easier just to tell the truth and be honest, but it doesn’t fuckin’ jibe real well.

So all of a sudden he comes back. They put me as the backup. And I’m just hanging out, waiting for my opportunity. And we had a… get back to practice we’re in double-days. And all of a sudden we’re in a drill and the guy who’s playing left guard, who was actually drafted my same year, the round ahead of me–ends up getting blown up in a run drill. Gets driven to the back, backfield. Big tackle, everybody’s celebrating. And he’s pissed, coaches are yelling at him. Same play again, he gets driven back same play.

And all of a sudden the head coach, Andy Reid was screaming at him–turns and starts looking around. And like, I just happened to be standing there and not at the water. And he looks and he was like, “John, go in there and play.” I’m like, “All right.”

And so all of a sudden, I realized in that little bit of walk, it was like… and we’ve talked about this, I’ve got a whole blog post about this thing, and I’ve told this story before, but I called it my 8 mile moment. Which is funny, because it was actually before the Eminem movie come out, and later that we called it “8 mile,” but that like that one opportunity where I was like walking up there. And I’m sure you guys have all had similar deals, where you can just trace things back to just one moment in your life. One decision. And how many people are globally aware, cognisant of their surroundings enough of what’s going on, and not just heat of the moment to actually take a step back and be like, “This is my moment. If I do well here, it will send me one way. And if I don’t, I will go the other way.”

And walking over there I knew, I was like, “I gotta light this dude up. I gotta win this.” So we get down and they call the play. Same play. And literally I just gave everything I had, and ended up lighting that dude up. Driving the dude down. We went out for a big run, blew the whistle. Play dead. Everything’s over, so we moved to the next drill.

So they call up, I’m still standing at the back. The guy who was starter runs back up there. And I’m sitting there watching. Very first play. Shake move, swim, sack. Gets beat. Andy Reid, “Get his fuckin’ ass out of there!” Put me in and I play tackle. So playing guard after you play tackle is like a cake-walk. And I’m out there playing, I’m good at pass-pro. And after the deal he walked over and said, “This move’s permanent. You’re in.” And I went to start there for the next X amount of years.

Mark: That’s cool

John: And so I beat that guy out who was actually a good friend of my best friend, and drafted the round ahead of me in my first year. And he was my backup for the next number of years.

Pro football – Kansas City


And then I left there and went to the Kansas City Chiefs, and played there.

Mark: Why did you do that? What was the reason for that?

John: I got into a contract dispute. I had hurt my knee and they needed me to play. And I said to them, “Hey, no problem. I’ll play, but I need you to at least do something for me in terms of giving me some more money.” Maybe in the off-season, ’cause they wouldn’t give me a workout bonus. Something. Just kick me something. You guys are asking me to get cut on a Monday, and play on a Sunday when I’m obviously not ready to play. Compensate me. And so I went out and played, we went to the NFC championship game. End up barely missing it, not going to the Superbowl. I go in at the end of the season, and they were like, “Go fuck yourself.” I was like, “All right. Fuck me? Fuck you.”

And I should have realized at the time, that’s the way shit goes. And you just keep your mouth shut and get back in line. But I had a little bit of pride about me, and made some dumb comments and ended up getting traded.

So, stupid, yeah. ‘Cause I figured… I’m like “Fuck,” I was one of the top rated guys in my position. I was high in the world. Just came off all these NFC championship games. We’re kicking ass. I mean, dude, I’m at like the highest level, and they ship me off. And I don’t think they could send me to a worse place than they did. They traded me to Kansas City.

Mark: So they traded you? Did you have any say in that?

John: Nope. Nope. And I shoulda walked.

Mark: Football’s a strange world.

John: It is. It is. I shoulda walked, I shoulda not signed. But my agent gave me some bad advice. He said, “Hey, go in here. Start. They’ll pay you.”

Mark: So if you had walked, then you would have become a free agent again?

John: No, I don’t know what would have happened. They probably would have brought me in and cut me. Who knows? But we would have seen.

But I then I went in and like a good little soldier, I went and played for Kansas City and their owner and their general manager said, “We’re not repaying you. We’re gonna fuck you over for what you said to that other guy.” So…

Mark: Interesting.

John: Yeah. So pro-football is an extremely dirty game.

Pro-football – taking care of business and nothing else


Mark: It sounds like dog-eat-dog. But that was years ago. Has it changed at all, has it gotten better?

John: I don’t know. I mean, I think if anything… I had a guy ask me recently about the NFL. “It seems like people are bigger and stronger and faster in the game.” And I’m like, “No. Not at all.” The game that I played in, that I retired in 2009 was I think the peak of the NFL. What you see now is something that’s…

Mark: What’s changed about it?

John: The ferocity and the violence of the game has been greatly reduced. Through a systematic… because, you know, guys are getting hurt. You got guys committing suicide and guys that…

Mark: TBI, yeah.

John: Yeah, guys are messed up. And I think they saw the writing on the wall, but there were big hits. I mean, people were getting hit left and right. I mean that was part of the deal. And I think they had to go in and make a change. And I think where they really messed up was in the last CBA, which is the Collective Bargaining Agreement, if they would have gone in and just given all the ex-players, anybody that had played longer than 3 years in the NFL lifetime medical. And taken care of all these guys… none of this what you would have seen with the concussions would have ever happened. Because what happened is the owners were so adamant about not giving medical and not taking care of these guys, that they end up filing lawsuits.

Mark: Right. Which costs them a heck of a lot more.

John: Yeah. It will eventually cost them pro-football. ‘Cause parents won’t want to put their child up on the altar to sacrifice them to the football gods. And all of a sudden that’ll dwindle, and the game will resemble something like it used to be. And it’s all gonna happen because they were greedy and didn’t want to give… I think a couple of years ago the number I read was in the last 20 years, less than 15,000 guys played in the NFL. Less than a thousand played longer than 4 years.

Mark: No shit.

John: So you’re not talking about… all you woulda had to do was write insurance and guarantee less than a thousand people, maybe a thousand people. And they just didn’t want to do it. The owners are… it’s dollars and cents. I mean, it’s a big business. They’re 501(c)(3) status. You know, it’s pretty… it’s interesting.

But what the NFL has done a really good job of is they’ve spent millions upon millions upon millions of dollars to weave football into America’s culture. To where people don’t even realize it’s a business. This is what we do Sunday, Monday, whole deal. So it’s… I mean, they’ve done a great job.

Mark: So you played for 6 years – ish?

John: No, 10 years. And then I got hurt in my 10th year.

Mark: And did you feel the effects of the clashes? The TBI or PTSD or anything like that?

John: No, you know what PTSD’s pretty interesting. I sat through a whole deal on PTSD. And PTSD is more this idea–and I’m sure you guys know more about it than I do–like, why don’t more SEALs have PTSD?

Mark: ‘Cause they’re resilient when they go in. They train for it, and they expect it. And they have some recovery mechanisms too.

John: And once they get out and they come back from deployment, they’re right back into the fight. You guys are into the office, you’re training, you’re always on the next workup. I think where guys get PTSD is when the fight’s over and you come back, and now what do I have?

So I remember like seeing the levels of PTSD and some of the problems in the SEAL team community didn’t really exist ’cause guys don’t have enough time to sit around and think about the stuff. They’re right back in it, and for me, I never… I never had any time to. I mean, I literally got hurt in New England, came home, had knee surgery. And while I was recovering on the couch and my knee in the CPM was when Crossfit hit me up about doing the Crossfit football stuff. And I pretty much… when I started doing the Crossfit football stuff, teams called for me to work out, and I was like, “I’m good. I’m gonna do this other thing. I think this Crossfit thing’s going to get pretty big.”



Mark: So had you started Crossfit already? How did Glassman… how did you guys hook up?

John: I was… so, I live in Orange County. And I was driving up to Carson to train at Athlete’s Performance, which is, as you know, driving the 405 freeway it might be 4 or 5 hours depending on what time you leave. And I just got tired of it. So I got online and found a Crossfit gym, local to me. And went up there and started training.

Mark: Who’s gym was that?

John: Crossfit Newport Beach. So I went up there and started training and one of my buddies who was doing Crossfit up in LA was like, “Oh, you should go to one of the seminars.” So I just signed up for one of the seminars, and didn’t really ever know anything about it. And just happened to show up at the Santa Cruz to Crossfit HQ for the seminar and I just thought we were coming to learn, I didn’t realize we were going to work out. Next thing I know people are like stripping down. I was wearing jeans and basketball shoes. And all of a sudden these people are nuding up to like… in 40 degree weather, I’m holding a coffee. I’m like, “What the fuck are these people doing?” They’re like warming up, everybody’s like…

Mark: (laughing) You get ready to do Fran.

John: Dude we went on like a 5 mile run. Through the mountains, and did like Tabata everything, and then sprinted back and I was like, “Hhhunnh. Okay, that was a good workout.” They’re like, “Okay, let’s ‘Fight gone bad'” And I’m like, “Fight gone who?” So it was pretty funny.

Mark: (laughing) Yeah, those are just starters.

John: Oh yeah, they were just fist fights. They weren’t throwing any workouts at us. So, and then I left there, and then I realized that there was… a lot of the methodology made sense but there was a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense for me. You start looking at creating general…

Mark: It’s general physical conditioning, whereas you’ve gotta take that and apply it to the sport specific…

John: Which is the SPP which is where I come in. And I try to do some general Crossfit stuff. But any time you start pushing up the time domains, you start having a fast twitch, or a conversion of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fiber, or you’ll just burnout. And so all of a sudden, I started adding more Crossfit, typical, traditional Crossfit into my training, and it affected my speed in a negative way. And then I realized when I went out to go play for the Patriots, all the mistakes I had made. And when I came home I realized I will never allow anybody else to make that mistake. So I guinea pigged myself, and then started offering programming that was short, hard, and heavy and fast, and made a bunch of bad motherfuckers over the course of a bunch of years. And then from that… It was crazy, I remember we launched Crossfit football, and I got like, 17,000 hits that first day. And I got like 400 emails.

Mark: I remember that. I remember when you launched it.

John: Dude, it was crazy. That first day, like 400 emails, and like I was getting 4 and 500 emails, and I sat down and responded to every one of them.

Mark: Of course, yeah. (laughing) ‘Cause that’s what you do.

John: That’s what you do, right?

Mark: That’s your baby, of course you do that.

John: And then somebody was like, “Dude, you can’t do this.” So I started my blog “Talk to me, Johnnie.”

Mark: Did you start with a seminar too? Or just start the website and the free WODs and then…

John: Nope. I started it, and it got such a great deal, Crossfit’s like, “You need a seminar.” And I was like, “I don’t know anything about how to create a seminar. And so what I did is I hit up some really good friends, and brought them in. Raphael Ruiz who was my strength coach. Who trained me for the majority of my NFL career. Kelly Starette and some other people and we came in and we actually designed the seminar. And it’s really evolved from that first time, up into what we teach now which is this idea of how to increase athleticism.

So, my whole deal about forging powerful athletes, really creating the power athlete, was this idea how to start with something. How do you create athleticism? And, you know, Crossfit went down the road of let’s quantify and improve fitness.

My deal is, you know, I believe fitness on the time continuum is effectively a cup that you can fill. Think about the fittest you were in your life, could you get more fit? But athleticism is something that’s continual, that you can continue to always develop athleticism, if you can identify it, and then find out ways to improve upon it. So that’s really what we’re focused on is this idea of athleticism and basically making better movers–more athletic people–because I believe all things equal, the best athlete will always be more dominant.

Mark: I agree with that. So someone coming to what is still called Crossfit football… soon it’s going to be called something else it sounds like.

John: Yeah, we’re actually going through a re-branding. Crossfit… like when Crossfit started it was this little gym, entity, idea–now it’s grown into this global brand. And I think the idea that there’s seminars that have Crossfit in it that aren’t necessarily teaching functional movements, performance, high intensity probably dilutes their brand in some way. So Crossfit football will morph into specially seminar about sports specific training.

Mark: Still offered through Crossfit as a special seminar, like Kelly’s is.

John: Yeah, yeah. Similar.

Mark: So someone coming to your seminar is expected to have the GPP and the foundation, and the functional movements and all that. Or can someone come off the street…

John: We’ve… for the most part we don’t really get those people. We mainly get like strength coaches, and people that are searching more… we talk about the “life cycle.” People their first day, they…

Mark: People who are going to coach and mentor football athletes, or…

John: Or just even Crossfitters. We’ll find people that are 2 or 3… we don’t get like the fresh recruits. Like the person who finds Crossfit, “Oh my God. It’s the best thing since sliced bread. And I need to go to a seminar.” We don’t get those people. We get the people that have been through the cycle, that are 2, 3, 4, 5 years down the road. That are called, what we call the life cycle of this. We get those people that are looking for performance training, that are looking for a way to work with their athletes. Maybe they got hit up by a high school or college team. I mean, something to allow them strength conditioning, something that can use to increase performance. Not just 400 meter run, and 50 air squats and hoping to God that’ll increase your football ability.

Crossfit Football Training


Mark: Right. So can you describe the core essence of the seminar? Is it a 2 day seminar you run?

John: Yes, it’s a 2 day seminar.

Mark: So what types of things you do, and what are your objectives?

John: Really are deal is we start with defining athleticism. And so the ability to seamlessly and effortlessly combine primal movement patterns through space to accomplish a known or novel task, is my definition of athleticism. And what primal movement patterns are…

Mark: So a novel task would be something that like is invented on the fly?

John: Or maybe something like, “Hey, let’s go play horse.” And next thing you know you’re 360 dunking on me.

Mark: Right.

John: Or you’re like, “Man, I’ve never golfed before, and I’m gonna go golf.” So a novel task is something known or something just new. ‘Cause if you notice the best athletes have the ability…

Mark: Can transfer those skills to any sport.

John: Yeah. And I’m sure in the SEAL teams, you’ve seen guys who were probably 2 left feet, and then you’ve watched other guys do things, and you were like, “Dude, that guy moves really well. He scales up a wall like it’s effortless.” So we start with there and then what we do is we break it down into this idea of primal movement patterns. So the body is really broken up into…

Mark: Primal versus functional–any difference there?

John: Primal to me is not in the like Mark Sisson, loin cloth running through, throwing… when I think of primal I think basic. So the body…

Mark: Those aren’t novel, by the way. (laughing) Those… the spear has been done before.

John: (laughing) No that’s… thousands of times. So the idea that if I were to divide my body into X, Y and Z axis, right, the lower body if I were to drive a pin this way, we can hinge. And then if I were to draw one down the top, you can rotate which is like lunging. And obviously if we were to drive one this way, you start looking at like the changing of the iliac crest is like stepping up. So really just athleticism in terms of ground-based stuff is just the combining of this X,Y and Z axis, which is the ability to hinge, like squat, step and lunge. And when you watch everything, when you watch people move, you watch people run, change direction, any sport, it’s just a combination of those three.

But the problem is nobody has a conversation about those. I mean, what does everybody talk about? Hinging? Where the hinge is everything and especially in the Crossfit land…

Mark: Well Crossfit is so linear that the hinges become dominant.

John: It’s everything, so give me something… so we have a squat, we have a snatch you have a clean, you have a wall ball, you have a kipping pullup, you have a kettle bell swing… what else? Box jump. Any type of jumping. I mean, everything is this linear plane and everything involves some hinging.

And the problem is there isn’t a single sport, other than being a catcher that involves just hinging. And even those guys now, what do they do? They squat down, they step… so every sport… if you look at a linebacker for example, usually sets up in this position, takes a step, lifts, runs–and the ability to seamlessly tie together those X, Y and Z axes is what we know is athleticism.

And then, for an upper body? There’s a vertical pull, vertical push, horizontal pull and horizontal push. Now you can do other things on the periphery but those are combinations of that. So when we look at really seven different movement patterns, now are you proficient enough to learn those 7, and then can you learn to put them together? And really, that’s like teaching somebody to read. Like, you start with letters. You teach words. Words become sentences. Sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs become books, and books become novels. It’s the same thing.

But so we start really there. Based off the universal athletic position. The idea that… the reason we call it the universal athletic position is because from this position, everything…

Mark: All those axes can engage.

John: Yeah, but you think about every sport. right? So what sport am I playing? I could be football, I could be baseball, I could be golf, I can do everything. And you know what, like we talk about feet at shoulder width, knees tracking on the insteps, toes straight ahead, and it takes us into why we teach our squat and our hinge with our toes straight ahead, as opposed to a toe open. The idea that from this position I can create internal torque…

Mark: You’ve gotta launch into some sort of lateral, forward movement. And toes out isn’t going to be effective for that.

John: Yeah, you get Force Bleed effect, and you end up tearing knees out. You watch guys like RG3, the quarterback for the Redskins, you know, he goes, puts his foot out here and he wobbles and he tears his knee out. All that stuff is small little basic on teaching movement and just being efficient with teaching this stuff. And then being able to go back and teach these movement patterns…

Mark: So crawl, walk, run. You give a little white board, explaining what you just told us.

John: And then we go do it.

Mark: And then you go start the drills. Each drill being a letter, “Okay, so this is how you move this plane, and this is how you move this plane.” Push-pull, vertical-horizontal. And then you put it together into more complex patterns.

And then do you actually get sport specific with it in the seminar?

John: The idea of movement…

Mark: Or do you let them kinda translate it?

John: yeah, I let them translate. But I had this idea that if you’re big, strong and fast, and you understand movement, you can universally do all sports. Sports is just you’re body’s expression of what you want it to do.

The one thing… I had a really interesting deal where a guy asked me once, “Well, why do we lift weights?” And I was like, “Well, you know, cervically load the spine, overload the central nervous system,” and as I was like riding home on the plane from the seminar, I was like…

Mark: Why do we lift weights?

John: God dammit, that’s a good question. Why do we lift weights?

Mark: (laughing) Because it’s fun. And because we can. And it makes us stronger and harder to kill, didn’t Riptoe tell ya?

John: But if you think about, when you lift weights what are you doing? You’re going from eccentric, isometric, concentric interactions and you’re hopefully travelling through full ranges of motion. So let’s say we take the squat for example. I set up a bar on my back, and here I am doing this basic primal movement pattern where I squat down and squat back up. It’s basic hinging. Now my body’s ability to perform this movement is predicated on my body’s ability to maintain good posture and position through full ranges of motion, right?

Mark: Right.

John: So what do I use. I use external resistance or force like this implement, this bar on my back with round, cylinder weights…

Mark: It’s your truth detector.

John: Yeah. And you load it up, until it’s a little too heavy and then what happens? You go down, your back breaks and something happens. So we started looking at lifting weights as this idea of challenging posture and position, and forcing people through full ranges of movement. And really seeing who people are, and then instead of waiting to see if somebody’s sprinting as fast as they can down the field and watching them run away from you and trying to coach them, we started realizing that, if we can challenge posture and position through these different X, Y and Z axes, then we can effectively make them better and make them stronger. And all things being equal the stronger athlete is usually the more dominant athlete.

Training without weights?


Mark: So there have been a few football athletes, exceptional players–I think Bo Jackson was one of them–who never lifted a weight. How do you account for that?

John: Aaah, I don’t buy it.

Mark: You don’t buy it?

John: I think Bo Jackson did something. I met Bo Jackson when I was a little kid, and he still to this day, never looked like a running back. He was about 6’3″ about 245, 250 pounds, and probably one of the best athletes to ever walk the earth.

Mark: So that was just natural… DNA.

John: God-given ability. But, I mean, he grew up on a farm. I mean, you look at where people…

Mark: Well, baling hay is lifting weights.

John: Dude, I tell the story–years ago when I went to Philadelphia Eagles, we were in mini-camp, and we went in the weightroom, and like, jailhouse scene. Trying to like bench as much as they can. Lift all these weights. Music blaring.

And there’s this kind of like big country dude in there barely benching 225. And I’m like, “Look at this soft-ass white dude.” And so we go out on the field and I, like, see him line-up and I’m like, “Ooh, I got this fuckin’ weak dude next to me.” We come off on a double team and this dude literally hits this dude and sends him ass of tea kettle. Practically knocks me down. And so we go to punch drills, and this dude’s hitting me and it’s like putting my hands on my chest and I’m like, “Oh-ho. Ow.” This guy got rocks in his hand?

So I slid up next to him at lunch….

Mark: It’s all that strong-man, core strength, right?

John: Yeah. I’m like, “What gives man, you couldn’t bench 225, and you’re over here crushing people.” He’s like, deep southern accent, “I really never lifted them weights. But I grew up on a thousand acre hay farm in Georgia, and we used to bale hay.” And he’s taking through all his training. And he’s like, “Yeah, we just did field work.” And I was like… he called and I remember was like “What’s this ‘field work?'” ‘Cause I grew up in the suburbs dude. The only thing we had to do was…

Mark: That’d be great cross-training wouldn’t it? Just go to a farm for a season?

John: But you think, that to me is functional training. Because the term ‘functional training’ is so you fucking bastardized. I wanna break it into a million pieces. Because people like have this idea, what is functional training? Something that allows you to function better? Well, would a bicep be functional training? What if it’s training my brachialis that allows me to do something else? You know, people assume functional training is done without machines, but to me functional… you can make an argument for anything to be functional.

Now I think about functional to be multi-jointed, multi-planes of motion, like you have to swing a hammer, or do something that provides function. Going to the gym and just doing a bunch of fuckin’ nonsense all day. I’m sure, dude… and you are probably the best co-signer on this, because I’m sure you were in the SEAL teams when it was like, “long swim, big bench.” When I got brought in to work with guys from NSW, I really saw like, where the guys were. And Andy Stumpf was like, “Dude, lift some weights. Do a long swim.”

Mark: Run, swim–rinse, repeat. And then throw a barbell on your back and try to do a squat. Do a bench press. See you tomorrow. We just did a lot of that. And we were woefully unprepared, inadequate in a lot of ways.

John: For where it was coming from. And then all of a sudden you guys go, post-9/11 which was the other day. And still to this day I remember like it was yesterday. It still haunts me, and like the fact that we’ve been at war for 15 years, with really… without a clear defined enemy is really just…

Mark: Of course. That’s a whole separate subject…

John: Fuckin’! I’m not gonna get off on that. I get so pissed.

Mark: Back to this functional movement. I grew up… my best friend had a farm.

John: Where’d you grow up?

Mark: Upstate New York. So it wasn’t like one of these sprawling things, it was a dairy farm. But we baled hay, every summer. And one of my favorite memories was just spending all day… I mean I was dumb enough to do it in my tank-tops, so it looked like I came off of the field. I was just cut up all over the place. Burnt to a crisp. But feeling like amazing, ’cause for 6 hours… and we had one of those balers that would, you know, scoop it up, and then roll it into a square bale. About 85 or 90 pounds. And then it’d go “choonk, choonk, choonk” up this conveyor belt. And at the top of the conveyor belt was this arm, that’d just go like this,”foom.” And we’re standing in the back, in this rickety trailer, and this bale of hay would come like a missile at you. And you’re like, “Incoming!” (laughing)

John: (laughing) And it would hit you?

Mark: Catch it and then you gotta stack it, and the whole thing and make sure it doesn’t fall over. And get back in line. But there was two of us, right? Back and forth, back and forth. But the core strength that that built.

John: Like that type of training to me, and that’s where we even developed part of our program, is this idea called… I mean that’s the name of the program called “Field Strong.” Because I wasn’t interested in you being weight-room strong, I wanted you to be field strong, or what we used to call field strong, cock strong. I mean that was a big thing when I played for me especially, I had a big punch an strong hands because I did that in my training. And they’re like, “Oh, that motherfucker’s cock-strong.” And I was like, “Unh, field-strong” Like anything I wanted my strength to be useful on the field. I didn’t want to be weight -room strong. ’cause we used to see dudes like that. We used to call it “Look like Tarzan, play like Jane.” We used to see these guys in there benching 600, fuckin’ big chest, everything come out, and you would hit the dude and he would crumble into a million little pieces.

Mark: We have the same thing with Kokoro with endurance and stamina. I mean, these guys last about 45 minutes into a 50 hour training session.

John: 50 hours. You’re like, “You’re fucked.”

Mark: (laughing) You’re done. Exactly, you can tell. They’re all puffy and their all like, “Rrrrh.” And they walk like Rock’Em, Sock’em robot. And then they get on the pullup bar and their like, “Unh, unh.” They do 4 reps.

John: Or they do 10 and then they come out, and you’re like, “Get up and get some more,’ and they can’t do it. But we used to see that all that time. And the other thing too playing football, is you have to be willing to use your body as a weapon, and the way I kinda… from when I fought when I was younger, I looked at it like… I was always a Mike Tyson fan. So my idea for my football was I was going to try to go in early, I was going to try to hurt people and I was going to land a lot of big blows early and try to get people to quit. And I was telling that to one guy the other day, I was like, “Dude, like 95% of the games that I played, dudes quit.” ‘Cause I would hurt them early. And those 5% are the ones that probably are the mileage on my brain. You know, so, it was a fun game. I really enjoyed the game of football, which was ironic that you guys busted out the football. I could give two shits about the game. What I liked was the one-on-one fighting. I liked the battle, I liked the combat. I liked the fact that I get to get strapped up and get to wear my name on the back of my jersey, and get to go out and whup a dude’s ass for 3 hours and then got paid money for it.

Pro-football – teams


Mark: It really is the American gladiator sport. What about the team… back to football ’cause it’s interesting to me… ’cause SEALfit’s a team sport just like the Navy SEAL teams. And I don’t see a lot of great teaming in professional sports and in particular football. And was that you’re experience, or did you have a good sense of being on a team? Team that supported each other? Did you feel that real camaraderie, or were kind of a bunch of guys out for themselves, and playing a game?

John: I was really fortunate, I played on offensive lines. So as an offensive lineman you play with a unit, ’cause you play with 5 guys and…

Mark: So that’s your sub-unit and you guys…

John: Yeah. And that’s my team. My offensive line was my unit. Those are the guys that I would go fight with. The other people on the team? I could give… I wasn’t really overly worried with them. And I knew…

Mark: So you have all these little individual units kinda doing their own thing, and the coach holds them together basically.

John: Well, the idea is that everybody wants to come… the idea that you’re a bunch of little robots that come together to form Voltron so you can go out and beat everybody and we win. And the reason everybody wants to win is the facility and the environment when you’re winning is one of happiness and joy. A losing team is a bad team to be on. It’s misery. Because coaches are paranoid, everybody’s looking and like… it’s literally like the western movies and everybody’s having a great time at a party in the town hall, and then when they walk in everybody’s hat’s low and their getting ready to get in a gunfight.

So you want to win because you want a good environment and winning leads to more pay and better benefits and everybody has a great experience when you win. When you lose…

Mark: It’s not good. So I gotta ask your advice on something. I mentioned earlier, I got asked to come speak to the Rams. Now, it’s going to be in December, so they’ve got some time to work on their game, but they just moved back to LA, lot of fanfare around that. And they got their asses handed to them, they got shut out in their first game against San Francisco. What you’re saying is the environment in that locker room is probably not good right now.

John: One, I don’t watch football until later in the year, and I don’t know if I’m gonna watch football this year.

Mark: Okay. It doesn’t so much matter what happens in the early season?

Pro-football – politics


John: We’ll talk about that, but just for me personally, it’s kinda my silent protest. One, I don’t think the NFL is doing the things that they need to do to to 1) take care of the players, and I don’t think they’re holding up the standard to which they need to be. The fact that… and I could say that Colin Kaepernick has the right as an American, his first amendment speech… and I believe everybody has the right to free speech. With his silent protest, or you kneeling and sitting. But to me, it’s disrespectful. Especially on 9/11. For the men and women that we lost and the fact that we’ve been at war for 15 years, and we’ve had people now… you can make an argument on whether or not we were over there defending freedom for people, but you know…

Mark: That’s the political side.

John: But hell or high water…

Mark: But the troops were serving their country and serving them…

John: Yeah. And they went over and I’ve had friends, and you’ve had many more, that’ve lost their lives in this conflict. And I look at that the American flag and 9/11 as kind of hallowed ground. I mean, dude, I remember it like it’s yesterday. And the fact that the NFL didn’t say anything, but yet they didn’t allow the Dallas Cowboys to wear something on their helmets to remember those officers that were killed, just shows the hypocrisy. And I don’t really think I’m gonna watch it. Maybe I’ll watch it a little bit towards the end of the year, but it’s part of my silent protest. I don’t like the way the NFL has treated the ex-players, I don’t like the way that they have done a lot of things. It’s a media company, and it’s a PR company, and I think they’re going to cut their own throats based on this shit and I’m just really disappointed in the way its all being handled.

Mark: Well anytime money gets that big, and the system gets that big–and you can even say the Military’s this way–like, when you’re done with the military, don’t let the door hit in you in the ass. You’re done. Nobody gives a shit, and you have to fight for benefits. It’s really crazy.

John: Well, but I mean, isn’t that wrong?

Mark: It’s wrong. I agree it’s wrong. You serve your country for 20 years, or serve the NFL for 10

John: Take care of your people.

Mark: They’re a big part of the family. They’re the elders, right? So you want to engage them and keep them safe.

John: You’ve asked people to do this for you, and they’ve joined up and they’ve made this happen. And you don’t take care of your people? To me, I don’t understand that. And I don’t understand that mentality. And like, the fact that this country doesn’t take care of our vets, to me is…

Mark: That’s a problem.

John: Yeah. It’s a huge fucking problem. And… but yet we have…

Mark: Except, here’s what I say to that. The country is beginning to, but it’s people like you and me and Robb and others who are starting all these foundations. Like Spec Ops Warrior foundation, Navy SEAL foundation and countless others. So the average citizen has identified the gap and is stepping into the breach, because the system has failed them.

John: That’s exactly it. It’s almost like the bureaucracy… and you know this from the military… the bureaucracy is so big that they don’t know. I mean the one I always loved was the fact that September 10th, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld gets up and gives a whole deal about how they lost, what was it? 2.5 or 2.7 trillion dollars. The DoD misplaced it. And then the next day, a plane hits the pentagon and hits that office? You know, like, and then nobody ever talked about that. There’s so much…

Mark: (laughing) End of story.

John: It’s like, “Aaah.” To me like there’s people should hold themselves higher and I realize you have a guy like Colin Kaepernick who are trying to find a way to bring notice to what they feel is oppression, and maybe people aren’t being treated equal. And whether or not that is or isn’t, there has to be a measure for when it’s accomplished. Like they asked him, “Okay, what do you hope to accomplish by this? What would make you not do this?” And he had no answer. He doesn’t know why he’s doing this.

Mark: The only thing it could do is bring attention to himself in a negative way, and have a lot of people like you and me say, “That was extremely disrespectful.” And if you can’t respect other people then how can you respect yourself. And so what are you saying? That you’re a disrespectful human being. That’s what I took out of that. And I know he’s trying to make a point, but the choice, the decision of how to make that point was flawed.

John: Yeah, the picture of him kneeling in front of the soldiers holding the flag, I was like, “C’mon dude.” One of the most important dates for us is when those… I don’t know if you’ve been to an NFL game, but they would used fly the jets real low over, and like the flag, and I thought that was part of the deal. Like, that’s… if it’s America’s game and you’re taking part in it, then you need to be taking part in it. And guys have this great opportunity to get this platform, and your multi-million dollars, you’re on TV, you have this platform. People are going to listen to you. And they’re going to listen to you because your doing this job, not because you are incredibly insightful, intelligent, or have something to say. They’re going to listen to you because…

Mark: I think you probably just hit on probably one of the biggest challenges. Because the problem is there’s so much money, and there’s so much media attention on the individual players that now, for a lot of these players–and I don’t put you in this category–it’s really about them. This is about them. They’re on the world stage.”My fans are out there,” right? And it’s not about serving… to me, it’s about the fans and it’s about what football represents to the country. The individual athletes are important, but they’re just like me and SEAL team. I’m just a cog in a wheel. I’m a number. It’s not about me.

John: But they also have to remember, it’s fucking entertainment. Like I used to get pissed off when guys would get up and try to give war analogies. I’d be like, “Dude, nobody’s going to war here. Nobody’s dying. It’s disrespectful. We’re going out here to play a game. I’m putting on white spandex, and I’m gonna go out there and fight with another dude in white spandex, while a bunch of dudes get fucking hammered and eat hot dogs.” Right?

And that’s all it is. I never made any illusions about what I did, what I like about my job is I got to go out and heavy-weight fight a dude for 3 hours, and try to beat his ass. And that’s it. And like, people always ask me… different rules, like this… I’m the worst person to ask, ’cause I just didn’t give a shit. My deal was like straight-ahead, I understood angles, I understood pursuit. I knew where the ball was, where I needed to be to be able to effectively do my job and be good at it. That’s all I cared about. It was never about the money. It was never about the notoriety. It was never about any of that stuff. It was about knowing exactly how good or bad I was each single day in the biggest stage that I could find to do it. And you know when it’s over? I think part of the reason why I didn’t have PTSD or any of this other stuff was ’cause I was like, “It’s over. Time to go do something else. Time to reinvent myself.”

Moving on


And you know what I have a lot more, a long life… and I didn’t want to parasite off of the game. Most guys, what do they end up doing? “I’m an announcer now, and I’m going to talk about the shit that’s the same shit I was doing for all these years.” And now people know you for what you did in your 20s and your in your 50s or 60s and you never reinvent yourself. I wanted to go out and do something new, I wanted to prove that I could do something more. And contribute in a different way. And talk about my knowledge. Yeah, I really enjoyed the time I did, but taking a bigger step back, there’s a lot of shit that’s wrong. Unfortunately, the money is so big and the egos are so big, that nobody’ll really point it out and talk about it.

Mark: Yeah. So now you can actually make an impact in the world training athletes, inspiring young athletes and coaches. What’s next for you? What’s the big version of John Welbourn going to be doing in 5 years or 10 years? When we grow up?

John: Oh, when I grow up, yeah. For me what we do at Power Athlete is really the embodiment of what I want to do. Which is the idea of performance training at a high level. Not just gimmicks and bullshit, but actually… and that’s actually one of our taglines is “Battle the Bullshit.” ‘Cause there’s a lot of nonsense, I mean, I can only imagine every SEAL opportunity they can… I mean we still joke about the only reason the perfect pushup sold was because it was invented by a Navy SEAL.

Mark: Absolutely.

John: Would they have sold those? No. You attach Navy SEAL to anything it’ll sell. And I remember Andy Stumpf and those guys were all good friends of mine. I remember meeting these guys who were SEALs, and I was like, “You guys are more similar to my dipshit friends than you are anybody else’s dipshit friends.” ‘Cause it was type A personalities, certain reckless guys that wanted to go out and train and do something. It just so happened that they got to play explosives. But I would think that what we do in Power Athlete and more importantly, educating people on a good performance training, that’s not based off dogma, that’s based off of this idea of “Hey, we’re gonna increase athleticism.” We’ve broken it down, we understand it, and now we gotta go back and put some good training together for it.

Nutrition – don’t be weird


Mark: And do you have a nutrition component to that?

John: Yeah. My biggest thing with nutrition is “don’t be weird.” If you feel yourself getting weird, pull yourself back. Eat real foods…

Mark: You think the Zone diet is weird?

John: Yeah, it’s obsessive. I think when you get down to the point where your counting out almonds. And you know, you’re like, put your hamburger patty… I think people, given the opportunity to get weird, people will go fucking weird. I mean with nutrition, with training, with this and I got socks and gear and all this shit.

Like people go deep. And we tell people all the time, “Let me just pull you back from the light.” Like, be normal. Train hard, eat some food. You wanna have some ice cream, don’t sweat about it. If your buddy offers you a beer, have one. But at the end of the day…

Mark: Yeah, we share that philosophy. We call it the 80/20 rule. Do what you know you need to do 80% of the time, and then 20%, who gives a shit?

John: Yeah, base all your stuff around protein. Eat some carbs. Eat some fat. I mean, make everything…. we’re big on the isocaloric, which is just balance. Just 33-33-33. Just make sure you have a balanced diet. Eat enough food to sustain activity. If you need to put on weight, you’re going have to eat more. If you….

Mark: What do you think about ketogenesis? All the D’Agostino stuff?

John: Keto diets I believe are a tool in the toolbox. I think for longevity, and cancer and a lot of things the Dom D’Agostino’s talking about, are really good. I think for cancer research, I think it’s even more exciting. Alzheimer’s and different things.

Mark: Starve the cancer out.

John: Yeah. And I think as people get older, I think you need less and less carbohydrate. I think the diet that my kids eat, is not the diet that I should be eating. Just like the training program that I should do isn’t the one that you should do, or he should do, or he should do. Everybody has a unique deal because we’re all on a unique life cycle. And we all have different levels of exposure–the amateur isn’t going to do the professional stuff. You know, you can relate it to rock climbing or shooting. If you’re teaching somebody just to like sight picture a pose from somebody shooting with a shot timer or doing something more advanced. You know, Andy Stumpf does the wingsuits. How many jumps did he have before he got into wingsuits?

Mark: Thousands.

John: Yeah, thousands. And, I mean, best in the world at what he does, and here’s he’s doing it. It’s not like all of a sudden he jumped out of a plane and was like, “Give me a fucking wingsuit.” Like same thing with I think diet that there’s going to be some periodization of dieting. You watch little kids, they tend to like carbs. And you try to force them to eat protein, and you kinda try to balance it out. And I think as you get older, I think you just need less and less carb and I found that for myself. And I tend to eat less. I tend to eat the majority of my carbohydrate around training and then as the day goes on, and I get further away from the training, I just eat less carb. And I think you know proteins important, I think fats are important, and at the end of the day eat real foods. I mean, nobody ever got strong by eating out of vending machine. And don’t be a fucking weirdo.

Mark: A lot of people have tried, though. It can be really over-complicated. Your summation is spot-on. Eat real food, eat when you’re hungry. Eat enough protein and fat to fuel you recovery…

John: But don’t you think that’s how people make money, though? Is by complicating shit? Like simple doesn’t sell. If you make, like… “I got this like 70 level, multi-tiered system that you have to go through,” and people are like, “I wanna fucking geek out on this.” This is something that sells. We always joke that do a little bit more than you did yesterday. Eat some real food. Sleep a bunch. You know, the basic requirements for life.

Mark: Yeah, it’s like 5 things. (laughing)

John: Yeah, yeah. Like sleep enough, train, eat, drink some water…

Mark: And laugh.

John: Yeah, like have a sense of humor. And don’t take shit too seriously, because you realize in the grand scheme of things, we are here for just like a fraction of a moment. And yet people…

Mark: And everyday counts…

John: Yeah. ‘Cause you can’t get it back. It’s like putting it in the bag.

Mark: I agree with that. Couple more things and then we gotta probably wrap this up, but do you see any–besides like the Powerdot–any promising technologies coming online? I’ve been talking a lot about personalized nutrition, and I think in a few years we’re gonna have like an artificial coach. Like are you worried about being replaced by, or enhanced by artificial intelligence?

John: We do that. What I realized is that the body is the most complex organism, computer on the planet, we get no instruction. So I think people need some guidance, they need some instructions like, “Hey, you know, we’re going to help you with your training. We’re going to show you how to train.” We have some diet coaching where it’s more mentoring where it’s like, “Hey, this is what I want you to eat. But I’m not trying to get you dependent upon me. I want you to learn how to eat, and what works best for you.”

And some people it might not work, and we keep changing until we find what works. ‘Cause not everybody’s the same. Not every training program’s the same. So I don’t really worry about that stuff.

Information glut and nonsense


I mean, what I really think about is as we’ve been inundated with more and more media, more and more social contacts, social touchpoints, more and more information, people have no ability to disseminate what’s good and bad.

All they can know is what’s brightest and loudest, screaming in front of them. If I can pay x amount of dollars to make sure they open their phone, this fucking nonsense pops out, that’s what a lot of people are going to know. Unfortunately, we’ve been so inundated with media and noise that people have no ability to disseminate what’s good and bad.

Mark: It actually… it changes your brain so you lose the ability to focus, to discern the truth. So not only does it keep you distracted so you don’t have the time to find the truth, but you lose the ability to go deep. The research is finally coming out about how the brain is changed.

John: Do you remember when cellphones came out, you used to see people all the time on the phone, and you would hear phone rings. When was the last time you heard a phone ring? No more.

Mark: It’s pretty rare.

John: You know why? Everybody’s on silent, and people check their phones so much, that they don’t really ever have to get a notification. That was something I noticed… like I was somewhere and all these people were like… we were sitting at dinner with our kids, and like, we try to abstain from technology unless it’s a long plane flight. And we bring coloring books and I color with my kids, so we were sitting around and we were coloring something, and I looked and every single person, there was like five people at the table–nobody talking, just faced buried in the phone. And I’m like, “This is what we’ve become. More interested in what’s happening somewhere else than in our own moment.” And people aren’t present anymore. You know, that’s kinda why I mean I guess people really get very good at living vicariously, and maybe that’s why things like the NFL are so popular ’cause now I can distract myself from what I’m doing, and I can live vicariously through the Colin Kaepernicks or different people that are doing this game, and doing something I wish I could do.

Mark: Well the same things happened with the SEAL community. Now people are living vicariously through “Act of Valor,” all the different movies.

We did some work with a new TV show called “Six,” which is going to be a TV show about SEAL team 6, and we’re like, “Okay, we’ll train these guys…

John: What happened to the quiet professional?

Mark: (laughing) I know, exactly. Well we’re all asking that, and you know I’m in a little awkward position, because I’m training SEAL candidates, and these guys come to me and say, Hey, there was a Navy SEAL friend of mine from team 3 who was the technical adviser. He’s like, “Mark, we don’t want to fuck it up. We don’t want these guys to go out there and look like slipknots. So can you put them through like a 5 day BUD/S and Hell week experience?

John: Sure, in 5 days I can get these guys…(laughing)

Mark: (laughing) Exactly. I said, “Well what do you want me to do in 5 days?”

John: You’re like, “I’m gonna need a bottle of tequila, I’m gonna need a tub of ice, and I’m gonna need a bunch of hot pokers. And then I’m gonna need some obsessive compulsive personality flawed people.”

Mark: (laughing) Keep the tequila and the hot pokers coming, right?

John: Exactly.

Mark: It had an impact on them, but of course, my point is that now the public is watching America’s most elite and secret force on TV. And now it’s not exactly the same thing, obviously. It’s TV, you know. But what does that mean as a culture. And a lot of SEALs aren’t happy about it.

John: Well, I mean you know, when I got brought in to work with the SEAL teams, there was a big thing. You sent the briefs and they talk about the quiet professional. Be the guy… be the gray man in a lot of ways, don’t be the guy over there screaming and yelling. Like, what you do and I think there was maybe for a different generation that was the effect. But all of a sudden you get ’em in this Hollywood deal and, you know, guys have sold out.

Mark: It’s the way our whole culture has been affected by media.

John: (laughing) “Hey, I’m snapchatting.”

Mark: Yeah, it’s affected TV, now everyone’s on social media, and everyone wants to be a star. Have their 5 minutes of fame.

John: Well, everyone can be a star.

Mark: Yeah. It’s the “metube” generation, right?

John: I trip out all the time when I see things, and I’m like, “Dude this person got a million followers on Instagram.” And I’m like, “Why?” And you’re like, “No idea.” I mean like, they only… are they posting semi-naked pictures, are they doing something interesting? And I’m like… I get it but I just kinda hope that this thing called the Internet’s a fad and it ends. Like pockets in sandwiches and shit, it just goes out. And I hope we have to get back to the point where like… think about today–I got a fucking bitchy email from somebody, and I read the email, and as I went to compose a response which was equally as cunty, I stopped. And I picked up the phone and I called the person. And I was like, “Hey, what’s happening.” “Hey nothing, everything’s going great.” “Hey, I’m reading your email.” “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. What do you think?” “Well, you know this?” Totally different person.

Mark: Right. Email is dangerous, man. Email has torched more relationships.

John: Unbelievable. And I was ready to go thermonuclear, fucking hit the button, and I was like, “You know what?”

Mark: I don’t know about you, 2 things have happened with me with email. I’ve taken to… if I can keep my response to 2 words, that’s ideal.

John: (laughing) You just send “K.”

Mark: (laughing) I do. I send “K” or “roger that.”

John: “Cool.” “Awesome.”

Mark: Or a smiley face even. I keep it to like as short as I possibly can. Which as you know is challenging. Because all the stuff that you want to say, you’ve got to leave out.

John: It’s also strangely passive aggressive.

Mark: (laughing) Could be, yeah.

John: If I get somebody that one word responses me, then I’ll be like, “This motherfucker. I’m gonna one letter response him.”

Mark: But you could phone and call. And the other thing I’ve done is I’ve started to hit the “delete” button quiet a bit. And now I’m basically going to have my assistant handle all my email.

John: So we have a company policy, if you ever get in that situation, write the email, and then delete it.

Mark: Delete it, yeah. That’s a good call.

John: And it happens all the time. I’ll see Luke or the guys that work for me over there, just fucking hammering up there.

Mark: (laughing) Smoke coming out of their ears.

John: They’ll be awful pissed, and then it’ll be like, “(sigh), delete.” I’ll be like, “Did you delete it?” He’s like, “Yeah, it was a doozy.” And it happens all the time, ’cause people through email, social media, all this other stuff, they lose any semblance of civility. Or more importantly, like, perception. That this is another human being that… everybody’s just this blank screen robot, and they don’t have any perception of right and wrong, and this… it’s the fucking Internet.

And, you know, I think like I want an app that if you’re a dick, the app opens up and gets you fucking punched right in the face. It’s going to be called “Facepunch,” and like all of sudden you’re going to open and a fist is going to come up, and it’s going to sock you in the face. You’re going to be like, “Oh.” And then it’s going to be like “You were a dick here.” And you’ll be like, “Oh, I was a fucking dick. Lemme get punched in the face.” You know, and then you’re going to see somebody who’s all bloodied up, and you’ll be like…

I don’t know, I hope as things go up, there’s a backlash. We’ve gone here and then there’ll be some form of correction over here.

Mark: I think so. I think it’s generational. We’re going through a very, very troubling time right now. A lot of systems… everything’s breaking down.

John: The Chinese… what is it, the proverb? May you live in interesting times. ‘Cause we joke about it. I always said it like it was a positive, and it’s not. It’s not a positive, it’s actually a negative.

Mark: Yeah, we are in interesting times right now.

John: And it’s like, may you live in.. and the idea is, may you live in quiet, peaceful gentle times, where you can watch your kids run in open fields, and drink from a stream. Opposed from interesting times where, you know…

Mark: I think most people don’t really recognize that the last 30 and 40 years have been one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in history.

John: That’s the reason they call the Baby… I tell my dad all the time, he’s a Baby Boomer, the best generation.

Mark: Best generation, yeah. And that’s like, changing rapidly, ’cause a lot of people aren’t equipped to deal with it. That’s one of the reasons my mental toughness training is taking off, it’s like, there are people out there who just haven’t anything tough in their lives, and now they’re like, “I don’t know what to do.”

John: It’s because we don’t force people to do things. Like, I remember somebody asked me about mental toughness, and I never really thought much about being mentally tough. It just seemed like a whole bunch of little not quitting. Like I just never quit anything.

Mark: That’s a big part of it, yeah.

John: If you don’t ever really quit anything, then quiting’s never really an option, and, you know… but you start at a young age of not quitting.

Mark: It’s just like a muscle. You develop it and pretty soon it becomes a non-option.

John: It’s just a whole bunch of little “not quitings.” And all of a sudden you get to the point and like… it’s kind of like, years ago somebody asked me about training, and I gave them a really kind of on the… pulled this analogy out of my ass. I was like, “Can you imagine if our settlers had landed on the west coast on not the east coast? What do you think?” I’m like, “Think about the settlers, the people who were on the east coast.” They started out in wagons and they just were heading west. And they walked, and they were tough, and the plains, and the whole deal, and the streams, and they got through. And then they got to the mountains. And they had that fight up the Sierras.

Mark: (laughing) They’d started here, they woulda quit at the mountains.

John: (laughing) Yeah, exactly. They would’ve been like, “Fuck, I got 2000 miles behind me. I’ve been walking for 6 months.”

Mark: I’m gonna go this way.

John: But I mean they got to it and those people were probably like, “Fuck it. Let’s go.” Opposed like if the mountains were here they probably would have been like, “Unh, let’s go back to the beach.” You know, but that’s a lot like training. It’s a lot like life. You get like small little things and it’s things that I try to teach with my kids. I have 3 kids. My daughter’s like, Well, why do we have to do this?” And I’m like, “‘Cause shit can’t be easy for you. If I did everything for you, everything was easy then what would you learn? What happens when you have little kids? What are you gonna do? Just gonna pick up the phone and call somebody?” So, it’s weird.

Finding John


Mark: Cool, well we’ve been going for a little time here. Where can people find information about Power Athlete and what you’re doing?

John: You can just Google Power Athlete, powerathletehq is the URL. You can find me, John Welbourn if you put in. And we have a charity, “Wade’s Army.” Actually we started a charity a couple years ago based on neuroblastoma, which is actually the largest killer… cancer of children. Severely underfunded, to the point where like in the last 30 years they’ve come out with hundreds of cancer drugs and only 3 for kids. And it’s really, really underfunded and that’s not a lot is known about it, and so we started a charity in memory of a little boy named Wade DeBruin. Passed away, he was my wife’s best friends little boy, and he passed away when he was less than 2 years old from neuroblastoma, and the part that really got us motivated was he was a twin and left his twin sister. And we have twin girls, so while my wife was pregnant, this whole thing was happening. And then when he passed away, my wife’s like “Can we do something?” And I was like… so I do graphic design. I sat down and built a T-shirt. And we printed the T-shirts and sold them and raised like 10 grand the first year, then we raised 50, and then we raised 100. And we actually fund cancer research… different things. And we actually help families that need money, ’cause there’s only 3 or 4 places around the country that actually treat these kids with neuroblastoma.

So these parents might be in Washington, and the only place that treats ’em is in Cincinatti. So these parents have to move out there, and a lot of time, leave their jobs and so we end up doing some funding. We just bought a minivan for a family whose child is in a wheelchair from neuroblastoma, and they needed a bigger vehicle, and they moved from Alaska for treatment. So we got ’em a minivan.

And we have a big T-shirt drive, and we’re doing stuff right now. So you can find us at Wade’s Army. And you can find me on social media. John Welbourn. If you can’t find me, you’re not looking hard. So, and we have a podcast called Power Athlete Radio, which I love to get you on, and talk about a lot of these things. So thank you very much for having me.

Mark: Thank you John, really appreciate it. And if you’re watching this video, don’t go away cause John’s going to put some of the boys through a few drills, I think. Right?

John: Let’s do it.

Mark: Cool.

John: Thank you.

Mark: Awesome. Yeah, great stuff. Thank you very much.