With schools, gyms, sports and other forms of social and physical activity on indefinite hold, what’s a person to do?

Should you give up on activity altogether, or should you go full speed into a high intensity, daily home workout routine? 

As you know, I’m the sleep guy, but I’m also invested in helping you optimize your overall health – Especially given all that’s going on in the world!

That’s why I recently teamed up with my good friend John Welbourn to discuss exercise in the time of COVID-19.

John, a former NFL player and CEO of Power Athlete, has been feverishly working the last few weeks to help people develop workout regimens to boost their immune systems. 

So before you dust off those old running shoes and try to shave a few seconds off your 5k, I strongly suggest you checkout our interview below to ensure you’re selecting the workout that will best serve you and your immune function.

PS: If you’d like to checkout John’s FREE at-home workout program, simply sign up by clicking the link below.
>> Get free access here

Interview Transcript:

Kirk Parsley:

Let’s talk about your background so the people will listen to you about exercise, and talk about your big brain and the school you went to and all that stuff so that they can also know that you’re not just a dumb jock.

John Welbourn:

Yeah. A little history of me, I grew up in Southern California, the youngest of three boys. Played football, played sports growing up, and tended to gravitate [inaudible 00:00:35] brothers did it, into playing football, and started lifting weights when I was 14 years old. I was a skinny, six foot 165 when I was 14 and by the time I left high school, I think I was six four, 255, 260. So I gained close to a hundred pounds and grew four inches in high school and ended up earning a scholarship to go play football. Went to UC Berkeley.

I think I had a hundred scholarship offers and took trips to SC, UCLA, Colorado, and Nebraska, Berkeley. Selected to go to Berkeley just because I guess, as I think back on it now, my next door neighbor when we were growing up was a guy named Dr. Wilson, and Dr. Wilson was an orthopedic surgeon, and my dad generally considered him to be probably one of the smartest people he’d ever met in his life, just in terms of retention. And my dad was a practicing attorney and actually really smart dude. Graduated high school at 16, graduated college at 20, and was a practicing attorney by the time he was 22, 23 years old. And then did that his entire life. I think he was 55 years as a practicing attorney.

Kirk Parsley:

And what type of law did he do again? 

John Welbourn:

Criminal.

Kirk Parsley:

I mean, like a family court, yeah.

John Welbourn:

Yeah, no. No, he was a criminal. My dad passed away two years ago, and he did a lot of big time murder stuff. He did a lot of murder 1, which is really pretty ugly shit. And ironically you would think for all the lawyers in the world that there would be a lot of people that do that stuff, and there isn’t. It’s a very, very small percentage, like less than 10 or 15 lawyers actually handle the majority of that really nasty murder 1 type of stuff. And my dad was one of those guys and he was on a group that handled the majority of that stuff, because a lot of lawyers either don’t have the aptitude, the stomach, or the skill or just the ability to separate from this ugliness. And my dad was very skilled in that way and also my brother does the exact same thing.

So it’s funny, whenever I talk to my brother, he’s like “You know, when I go out and I’m interviewed to be able to defend these people, I really run into the same lawyers just day after day. It’s always this very, very small group of individuals.” And when my dad passed away, my brother has his cell phone from his office and he’s like, “It’s pretty amazing how I’ll get phone calls, and then they’ll get phone calls to your dad.” And he still gets phone calls. He’s like, “He’s been dead two years, and here could still have a thriving practice.” Just because there are people that do that stuff.

That’s what I though I was going to do. I had, when I went to college, I was a rhetoric major in English philosophy with an argumentative approach. And old lawyer guy named Adrian Kragen, who was dean of the Boalt Hall law school that I met as a young man told me that to be successful as an attorney, you need to be the best reader and writer that is possible. So, you need to do a major that really prioritizes that. So that’s what I did in college. I read endless amounts of books and wrote, and that was really my passion. Graduated in four years, and then I did my masters in education my fifth year, because I needed a one year masters program to play and to finish my last year of football.

So I was actually taking LSATs getting ready to go to Boalt Hall because they had the Adrian Kragen scholarship, which was an endowment for a four year Berkeley Letterman to go to Boalt, and that’s what I was kind of gearing up for. Figured I would be an attorney and follow within my brother and dads footsteps into our family business. Then I got drafted to go play in the NFL. I got drafted in the fourth round, I was the second pick in the fourth round. I was like the 100th pick to the Philadelphia eagles in 99, and went out to Philadelphia, said, “Hey, I’ll go out and play in the NFL for a little bit, make some money, and come back to law school.”

So went out to Philly, and ended up becoming pretty good and actually starting my first game as a rookie. Went out my very first game as rookie, at the end of the first half, stepped in a seam and actually ruptured my patellar tendon. So I came in, they stitched my knee up, and basically told me that nobody had ever come back from this injury, and I should probably think about doing something else, and I was like great. I’ll gladly go back to law school and get the hell out of this Philadelphia Pennsylvania area that reminded me more of Gotham city than anything.

And so I started rehabbing my knee, and that really took me on this journey of not only self-discovery, but also of human performance and understanding. A lot of what… Really understand what a lot of people just don’t know and don’t understand and can’t comprehend, and I didn’t really have anything to do, so I just sunk myself into this strength conditioning deal, and worked with a guy named [Mario de Pasquale 00:05:25] on diet and Charlie Francis, and just a lot of these individuals, and developed a training system in a rehab, and really just decided that if I was going to heal myself, and I was going to become the best version of myself so that I could walk away from this game, and be healthy and strong and go to law school, I was going to have to do it myself. That there was nobody that was going to take me on this journey.

And I ended up putting that into practice, and came back and ended up starting 16 games next year at left guard, started right tackle, and then went on to play another I guess after that would’ve been another eight, nine years in the NFL. So I ended up with 10 years in the NFL, played five years in Philadelphia, four in Kansas City, and then my 10th year was in New England. And retired in ’09, and shortly after I got hurt, which kind of ended my career in my 10th year with the patriots, I got hurt in the last preseason game. I came home, had knee surgery and was rehabbing, and I was approached by a small company at the time, about helping them develop their technology in how to train athletes. And that company ended up growing and becoming the fitness phenomenon known as crossfit.

So the CEO of crossfit, Greg Glassman, hits me up and asks me to not only design my own version of crossfit, but actually they licensed me to design my own version of crossfit, and asked me to go out and teach this methodology, and teach people how to use crossfit principles, the idea of functional movements performed at high intensity and all this other statements on how to train athletes. And what I was most enamored with was the community of individuals, not necessarily all the other ancillary bullshit associated with crossfit. I was really fascinated with this group of individuals, this large, large cross section of individuals that were not professional athletes that wanted to understand performance training.

So when crossfit asked me, what do you think about our style of training as a vehicle for performance? And I’m like, “Well, it doesn’t adhere to any of the principals of athleticism the way that I understand.” It’s all sagittal plane. Everything is just bilateral hip hinging over and over again. So the problem comes down to when you’re developing these movement patterns over and over ad nauseum, you don’t really develop anything, and anybody that’s ever played a sport will tell you that the few things that ever happen is that anybody runs right at you, and it involves a lot more than bilateral hip hinging, squatting. So the way I understand athleticism, there’s different primal movements. There’s really seven things that our bodies can do, and you have to adhere to these principals to be successful, and because that program didn’t adhere to what my model for athleticism was, I just deemed it as unathletic. You can make people extremely fit doing the same thing over and over again, but to foster and develop athleticism there has to be these key components.

Kirk Parsley:

You can make them fit for doing that same thing over and over again.

John Welbourn:

Yeah. You could have somebody just do more air squats. Well, I mean based off the definition for crossfit, if I can do 50 air squats today, and I do 51 tomorrow, and 52, technically I’m increasing my fitness. But the problem is-

Kirk Parsley:

You’re increasing your ability to do air squats in a finite amount of time, and not necessarily anything you do with your athleticism probably closer tied to overall fitness, strength, and we just think of the generalized ideas of fitness being strength and endurance, that it would be more tied to that, but not really athleticism in any sense, I believe, is what you’re saying. So I interrupted you, but so that was the end of your crossfit.

John Welbourn:

Yeah, well so when I started working with crossfit, my company I was teaching a seminar and a training system for them called crossfit Football. My company that I started in parallel as really my holding company and my base company was called Power Athlete, and overtime as the training and I kind of ran into more and more… Let’s see how I could put this. So I put a free workout system for a program called crossfit football, and I think the first day we launched we had about 17,000 hits, and I ended up programming a million workouts. I mean, it was just an astronomical amount of workouts for free, and we have thousands of people from all around the globe following this training system. And then we booked anywhere from 24-40 seminars a year, almost every weekend. We traveled all over the world teaching crossfit football methodology in person to people that were actually doing the program.

So we would show up to Stockholm, Sweden and there’d be 40 people there. 35 of them had been doing our program, and 5 of them hadn’t. Then over the course of the years, as the program increased, we’d go to Cape Town, and we would go to Cincinnati, Ohio, and we’d go to New York, and then everywhere. All over. I think we hit 140 cities. The people that did our training system were dramatically better in terms of athleticism, strength, power, speed, and just overall physical appearance than the people that hadn’t been doing it that had just been doing standard crossfit.

So I could walk in and know within a minute who had bee doing our training program. As soon as we had started doing our warmups and our movement stuff, I knew exactly who was doing our training program. And then I found the people that hadn’t been doing our training program that had been doing more of the standard crossfit template couldn’t do any of our stuff, and at that point, after you see this over the course of almost a decade, and hundreds of times. I mean, jeez I taught 200 seminars and worked with thousands of athletes over the course of that period of time, and owned a gym at the same time, and was writing, and blogging, and traveling, and doing all of the other stuff, and working as a contractor for Naval Special Warfare. All of a sudden, when you start seeing this much data and this much information coming through, you start finding these veins of truth in these things where everything starts getting clumped into these little pieces.

And then you start going back and looking at it and saying okay, what do these people do? If this guy can’t run and change direction, why is it he can’t run and change direction? Well, that’s because it’s never been discussed or never been really stressed within his training program. And then you start understanding that a complete training program looks a very certain way, and then you start understanding that training for fitness is not training for athleticism. You can be extremely fit and unathletic. You can be extremely athletic and unfit, and those are mutually exclusive.

So it just became really a focus for my company and for me with Power Athlete, focusing on performance, not necessarily fitness. Fitness is personal to everybody. Anybody listening to this, in your head I want you to take and think about what do you think fitness is? How do you judge your fitness? How do you gauge fitness? How is fitness important to you? I mean, I spoke with the Ancestral Health Symposium, and there was Dr. Leiberman, who was the guy that really put the barefoot running at the forefront, and he talked about fitness, and he talked about it from a biological standpoint. Fitness is your ability to reproduce. When they look at different animals, or whatever it is within biology, fitness is purely based off your idea to reproduce and he made a joke and he’s like, how many people have one kid, two kid, three kid, and he raised his hands, I got three, and then he showed a picture of Mitt Romney’s got like eight kids, and he’s like “Mitt Romney’s the fittest person in this room.”

Now we don’t know anything about his mile time, his sprint time, nothing. It was just purely based off his ability to reproduce. So with that, I really took this idea that fitness is really personal. The fitness that I needed at 23, and 25, and 27 is very different from the fitness I need at 43. Doc, your fitness today looks a lot different than it was when you were a SEAL, and because fitness is very personal, just throwing an overarching increase work capacity is extremely self serving, and doesn’t really service the individual. So what I wanted to do was create a performance matrix, and say hey performance is the end goal. Was the training successful for what I wanted to use it for? And that’s really became Power Athlete’s focus.

Kirk Parsley:

So that’s a nice segue, thanks for giving me that underhand toss there, because today what we really want to talk about is the fitness in terms of being able to sustain this period of upheaval that we’re currently going through, that whatever we’re calling it, as you said at the beginning of this. The COVID pandemic, or whatever we’re calling it. Right now, obviously, has a lot of people stuck at home, with not access to gyms. Some unfortunate places can’t even go to parks and trails and stuff like that, so currently people are having to figure out one… Let’s back up. So to be honest, what we’re really worried about in this isn’t people getting sick, right.

If this were just everybody coughed and felt short of breath and then felt better, ran a fever and then felt better, no one would be talking about his. We’re worried about people dying, right. So we know that the number one thing that’s leading… The single independent risk variable, or risk factor, is age, right? That’s the most important variable. The older you are, the more likely you are to die from anything, and of course a respiratory infection is going to be harder on you than it would be, you know if you’re 80, it’s going to be harder on you than if you were 20.

John Welbourn:

Well, Robb and I talked about this yesterday, Robb Wolf, and they came out with some really interesting research where they were looking at that they think maybe this Covid-19 deal they’ve been kind of misdiagnosing it, but they’re not seeing the people, or maybe it’s changing, but before there was this idea that people were going to die with pneumonia. That it was standard pneumonia, fluid on the lungs type of deal, and the lungs are going to fill with fluid. And they’re not necessarily seeing that. And what rob talked about is that more what they’re seeing is effects that look like hypoctic kind of situations where the Covid-19 is attacking the red blood cells, and now the red blood cells can’t bring oxygen to the lungs. That it actually-

Kirk Parsley:

Yeah, and that’s why the anti-malarial drugs work, because malaria does the same thing, infects red blood cells, and effects their ability to carry oxygen. When they rupture, this actually affecting the heme groups in the oxygen, and not allowing people to exchange oxygen. Which is why the ventilators are turning out to be not all that useful.

John Welbourn:

Yeah. Well, yeah because they’re hooking these guys up to these ventilators, and what they’re doing is they’re pumping up the ventilators and all the ventilators are doing is pressure testing the lungs, and actually damaging and hurting the lungs.

Kirk Parsley:

And that would hurt anybody’s lungs. It would hurt the healthiest persons lungs. And only about 15-20% of people who go on ventilators are making it off of ventilators.

John Welbourn:

Yeah. So the idea is probably never at any point in this world, and especially with this pandemic, the determining factor for survival is going to be your fitness level. How strong you are, how physically able you are, how fast you can take a lung capacity and turn it into oxygen, and how much, you know, your red blood cell count.

So I mean really looking at these things like it’s definitely weeding out not only people that have preexisting conditions with obesity, diabetes, and other issues that already have something, but also people that are extremely unhealthy, or unfit. Smokers, people that have already something that’s putting them… Stacking the deck against them.

Kirk Parsley:

Yeah, if you think about the body as a finite resource for dealing with the disease, part of that is how good your immune system is, and we’ll talk about that in a second, but part of that is how robust are your resources? Because the more taxes you have on you, so if you’re diabetic, well cha-ching you just lost 30% of your energy stores right there. If you have some serious gut issues, if you have ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s, or some autoimmunity or something, bam you’ve taken away part of your immune system.

If you’re obese, fat’s an endocrine organ. It affects your endocrine system, it affects your overall hormones, it affects your overall wellness and being. So anything that you add to the puzzle, if you’re one of those people that is unfortunate enough to have a severe reaction to this, and there could be some blood typing issues in there, there could some genetics in there, there could be a viral load issue. Of course aging, all of that stuff affects you. The more you have going against you when you get this, the more likely you are to have a bad outcome from it, right. You just have fewer resources.

So what I’ve been trying to talk to people about is regardless of your opinion on this, if you think this is the worst pandemic known to man, and you have concerns it’s going to wipe everybody out, or if you think this is a conspiracy, or if you think it’s no big deal, it doesn’t really matter. The truth is-

John Welbourn:

Well, regardless of what you believe, this is our reality. People are sheltering in place, people are here, so we can either… And there’s rabbit holes. I love the conspiracy talk. The conspiracy theory stuff to me, is so fucking bat brain crazy. The whole 5G cell phone tower one, that’s the new flat earth. I mean, it’s just-

Kirk Parsley:

Yeah, I’m with you on that. I actually have a buddy who I agree with, for the most part, about the coronavirus, and he and I have been talking for over a month about this, about looking back at historical precedence to say how likely is this to kill millions of people? Which was the prediction back then, not based on modeling, but just based on history, and how much worse would this virus have to be than anything else we’ve ever seen to have this whatever.

So we’ve been talking about that and he went full down the 5G releasing and so the exosomes being mistaken for coronavirus, and the PCR test because it’s finding the MRNA from an exosome instead of from the virus. So he and I disagree over that. He’s a super smart guy, I respect his opinion. I respect Peter Attia’s opinion. He’s a super smart guy, he and I disagree on this, too. 

John Welbourn:

Oh, does Peter Attia kind of, is he in the 5G camp?

Kirk Parsley:

No, no not at all. Peter Attia is much more of a doomsdayer about this. Has had this serious concern about tens of millions of deaths in America. Or maybe not tens of millions, I want to say like four to six million kind of was at the beginning. He’s settled down over time, though, and as the models keep proving themselves to be over-predicting, the more information we know, the bigger the numbers that going into the model, the more data going into the model, the more that number starts coming down.

John Welbourn:

True.

Kirk Parsley:

So, yeah. I mean, all that stuff, people can believe whatever they want, but the fact of the matter is, like you said, we’re at home. A lot of people are stuck at home, a lot of people don’t have a lot of access to other things, and the most important things people can do to prevent themselves from being a victim of this, or the people they love and care about becoming a victim, is to focus on their own health, and to encourage the health of other people.

So I’ve been interviewing people and talking about sort of the four pillars of health. Obviously, I harp a lot on sleep. I’m interviewing rob about nutrition and immunity, and there’s obviously stress mitigation, and I specifically wanted to talk to you about how people can exercise at home, and some people have obviously never exercised. They’re not athletic, and they’re not fit, but if they want to boost their immune system, they’re going to have to exercise during this. If they want to be as healthy as they can, maybe they get this virus six months from now, or nine months from now. They could achieve a lot of physiologic change through exercise.

So the first thing that I wanted to, I know you guys have developed the program and we can talk about that along the way. But the first thing I just wanted to know is if someone is exercise-naïve, or just hasn’t been training a lot. We know men in particular get big beer guts, and they haven’t exercised in 10 years, but they still think they’re close to where they were. They’re just a few pounds overweight. Those people are obviously going to over do it. If they do it at all, they’re going to overdo it. So can you kind of give a gauge of if somebody isn’t already fairly fit, and their fitness isn’t anywhere near what they think it should be, how do they know how to get into this without completely overdoing it, and actually decreasing their immune system by over-training?

John Welbourn:

I think if your exercise journey in the last, say, three to five years, looks like zilch, I think it just starts with getting off the couch and going for a walk. Let’s set something up where what’s the easiest thing you can do in this environment? You don’t have to go to a gym, you don’t have to do this. It’s probably just I need you to go out, probably just take anywhere from a 15-20 minute walk, and then eventually be able to push that to hey, can I walk in a brisk pace for 20 minutes? Can I walk at a brisk pace 25? 30? 40? 45 minutes? And just getting out and moving within nature. Vitamin D, just changing your environment, getting out and just seeing trees and sky, and just getting out of your house and taking a nice walk, I think, is really the starting point for most people if you have no physical training background, or if this is just something you’ve been away from.

There’s two things I think about. The majority of heart attacks, when they look at men that have heart attacks, usually come on vacation. So what happens is, guys don’t exercise, they decide to go on vacation, they decide to get up, hey I’m going to get up and go for a run, I’m going to go to the gym, I’m going to do some stuff. And because they’re unfit they haven’t gone on vacation, they go on a run, they hit the gym, and then end up coming back and having a heart attack in the hotel room. So there’s a pretty good instance of that one, especially for people that are untrained who just decided, you know what? I’m on vacation, I’m going to go hard today. And the end up not really building up into it. So that one becomes a major key factor.

The other one is when they looked at risk of heart attack, they had all these different tests from everything from blood work, and they were doing VO2 max tests, and stress testing, and they have all of these different things and they couldn’t necessarily pinpoint and predict heart attack based off all of this information, and then they just started actually doing a control where they were asking people to do one set of max reps pushups, and as your pushups went up, if you could do less than five pushups, you had a 40% chance of a heart attack. If you could get 10 pushups, it went down to 35.

And then as it went up, and if you could do 40 straight pushups, your chance of a heart attack was like .01%. So what it meant to show was that there was a correlation between not only upper body strength, but to be able to bang out 40 pushups, you have to be consistently training. So it just was kind of a very simple indicator. So I remember reading that research, and you can find it. I mean, I think the last time I saw it, it was on ScienceAlert. If you google heart attack risk for pushups ScienceAlert, it’ll pop up and you can read the research. So just those-

Kirk Parsley:

And to be clear, just training on pushups isn’t going to prevent a heart attack risk. That’s where jogging came from, which is the stress test is the predictor, so people started running to able to do well on the stress test. So you have to be fit enough to just do 40 pushups without training to do 40 pushups all the time.

John Welbourn:

Well, and to be able to do 40 pushups, you have to be doing a lot of other things, too.

Kirk Parsley:

Right.

John Welbourn:

So I remember when I read the research, we all kind of looked around and we all just laid down and I did like 50 straight pushups. I’m like, “Woo-hoo, thank god I’m not going to die of a heart attack.” No, it’s not that simple. Those are just two predictors. So if somebody has no experience getting in the training space, I just need you to get out and walk, and if you can get out and take a brisk walk, like my mom is 80 years old, and I got her an Apple Watch, and it measures her steps. So right now, she’s averaging like 15-17,000 steps a day, and she’s walking-

Kirk Parsley:

Wow.

John Welbourn:

36 miles a week.

Kirk Parsley:

Man, she makes me look bad. I’m only getting like 10,000.

John Welbourn:

But we started her, “Hey, mom the goal is 10,000 steps.” So she was at 10,000 steps and then she’s like I’m getting this pretty consistently, so then we pushed her to 12, and then to 14, and now she’s at 17, and she’s logging like… I think she’s at 5.5-6 miles a day, is what she ends up walking. She does like two three-mile walks. So she gets up in the morning, she walks, she comes back, and then she walks later. And then we get her a Peloton bike for Christmas, so she’ll ride the Peloton bike one or two days a week, and for her at 80 years old, she is extremely fit. If you met her, you’d think she was in her sixties.

And fitness is important to her, and she wants to be healthy, she wants to be able, she doesn’t want to have to ask people for help for anything, and that’s a big deal. And she’s super fit, and I just see some small marker. She has the watch, we have the numbers now. Whether or not it’s accurate or not, it doesn’t matter because it’s something for her to train for, it’s something performance based that she can go out and she to measure, that she can say, “Hey, I hit 10,000 steps today.” And then that was easy, and now I want to do this, and there was just some small little milestones.

For somebody like her, and for probably a lot of people that are listening to this, just getting outside and walking, like hey I walked for 20 minutes at a good pace and didn’t have to stop, now I’m going to push it out. I think what happens is, is that people kind of hit that set point, and they don’t continue to progress it, and so the minute that you stop progressing, all of a sudden your body acclimates, and next thing you know, the training effect is nil.

Kirk Parsley:

So how do people know if they’re going too far, too fast too far. I’m thinking of like the 45-55 year olds who are still pretty strong and agile, but haven’t been working out and going, “Man, I’m getting close to that dangerous age for this. I’m going to go bust it out and get six pack abs in the next weeks.” How do people know if they’re overdoing this at the beginning? And is it possible to overdo with walking? Is it even possible to overdo walking?

John Welbourn:

Yeah, I mean on a flat surface. I think if you’re going out and hiking, or rucking or you’re trying to climb a mountain, it’s very different to run up in that situation. But I think as long as you’re walking at a brisk pace, and you can walk for 20 minutes and not have to stop and rest, I think you’re probably in a pretty good deal. I think where people get themselves into trouble is actually with jogging, and trying to run. I really like walking in terms of walking out in nature and just getting out, and maybe finding a great trail, and I think that, to me, is by far the best form of building up some low-level aerobic capacity.

I think if you can get out and you can walk, and you come back and the next day you don’t have any terrible muscle soreness, and there’s no pain in the knees and ankles, and you feel like you’re the tin man, and you need to find a container of oil, I think you’re on the right track. If all of a sudden, you come back and you’re smoked, you had to stop two or three times, and the next day you get up and feel like you were hit by a train, you probably went too far, and you probably need to either reduce the volume, or reduce the speed. Or change your shoes, or find a different terrain, or do something to adjust it.

The idea, the old mantra that exercise has to be painful? It does, but that comes later on. A lot of times what we find is if the exercise is too strenuous, and it’s too damaging up front, people tend to have the lowest levels of adherence. So we know this even with them in the training programs. My company, Power Athlete, we do large group performance training. We went in, worked with the 18th Airborne Corps, which is 90,000 troops. We’ve worked with Texas national guard, we’ve also gone in and worked as a contractor for naval special warfare teaching performance to the seals teams for almost 10 years. And then we’ve certified thousands of coaches over the course of years actually going and doing large group performance training.

In 2012, I started putting programs online, and as really just an experiment. I had theories that I wanted to flesh out on training, things like post activation potentiation, blood flow restriction, and just a lot of interesting things that I’d come across that I wanted to test the efficacy of, and so I created an online portal and had up, to I think when we first started, within six months time, we had about 1200 people following my training programs. And then what I was doing was I was using it as really a test, and was able to data mine all their results, and test whether or not the programs were doing what I thought they were. At which point, all of a sudden we hit about 1,200 people, it was just pretty overwhelming, just the amount of transaction and information that was coming over a day, and we started looking at designing an app and developing something really high end, and right as we were going through that process, I was approached by a company called TrainHeroic that asked us to partner with them to helped them develop what we were looking to do.

So we partnered with them, and right now we deliver training programs to about 5,000 people around the world that are following different versions in their different programs. Some of them are very, very athletically based performance programs like Field Strong, and then we have a standard body building program like Jack Street. But one of the things that we were asked to do for the 18th Airborne Corps was to not only design a performance training deal, but also a program which we call, or they ask, they called it the austere training program.

So guys go on deployment, they go out in these austere locations, and a lot of times they don’t have access to lifting weights, or standard barbell implements. So they asked us to develop a training system that utilized what they would have available at these locations. And when we asked for like, okay-

Kirk Parsley:

Very Covid-like.

John Welbourn:

Very Covid-like. So when this whole thing happened, and people started sheltering in place, we already had a program not necessarily put out to the public, but we had built this entire program for really the us army, 1/3 of the US army to implement based off of these austere locations, and it looks like with about $50 worth of equipment that you can get at Home Depot, that involves cinder blocks, some bungee cords, a bag of cement, and a bunch of five gallon buckets. And we developed this whole program, and not only did we develop it, but we tested it with the guys in the US military for almost 6, 7, 8 months, almost a year.

So we knew exactly what we wanted to do and how it all looked, so when Covid-19 deal dropped out, the guys are like, “What do you think we do?” I’m like, “I say we launch the Austere Program.” And so we provided it for free. If you go to powerathletehq.com/covid it’ll take you to a landing page, you submit your email, and we actually email you the workouts every day, and it shows up with workout demos. And it’s really just, we handhold you through the entire training system, and it requires about $50 worth of stuff that you can get at your Home Depot, or you might just have laying around your house.

Kirk Parsley:

As long as Home Depot’s open, people are set. Now, is this actually called third monkey, or that’s an internal dialog?

John Welbourn:

No, we call it the third monkey. So where that comes from is I have a training… So my offline training, the stuff that I do, that I test, I call big monkey, because I’m the big monkey. And the big monkey conversation comes from something like a conversation I had with a guy named Nicholas Romanov. Romanov was, or is, the head and the inventor of the pose method with running, and I had a great breakfast conversation with him years ago where we talked about this idea of volume versus intensity, and he related it to big monkeys and small monkeys, that in Russia they did a test where they observed different monkeys. And certain monkeys played, swung, and battled, and fought and just moved 20 hours a day, and then when it was time to rest, they rested.

And then there were other monkeys that only moved enough to eat. So they would conserve energy, and they would only move enough just to eat. So what they did is, they switched the environments. The monkeys that moved 20 hours a day that wanted to battle, and fight, and swing, and play all the time, they locked them in cages. And then they took the little monkeys the ones that only moved enough to eat, and forced them through these mazes, and had them do all these challenges to get to their food, and the monkeys that hadn’t been used to moving that were forced to move just ended up laying down and dying, and the big monkeys that were locked in cages, as soon as they got out they went over and beat each other to death.

So the theory was that there’s big monkeys, and there’s small monkeys, and he used the analogy in terms of your metabolic system. That certain sports in certain individuals require a ton more movement, and just effort, and are just big monkeys that can handle more volume, and then there’s people that are smaller monkeys that don’t, and we went into athletes.

I played in the NFL, which is definitely a big monkey sport. You have to be able to handle a high amount of training over a long time just to get to the position to getting out onto field, so it just kind of naturally selects for these big monkeys. So that’s where the big monkey comes from, so my training’s called big monkey because I’m a big monkey, but I’m also the head monkey, which is kind of funny here. So it was just kind of some tongue in cheek, but the joke for the third monkey comes from a quote that I saw, and I can’t remember the writer, talked about like hey, in life you got to… I forgot the analogy, but basically if you buy into the story of the arc, that the animals went two by two, so two monkeys were up and you were the third monkey in line trying to get on the arc, and all of a sudden it started raining so you better fight like you’re the third monkey.

I read this quote years ago, and so I have three kids, so I always tell my son all the time you got to fight like the third monkey at all times. You’re the third of these things, so it’s something that I’ve been saying to my kids for a long, long time and then when the program came out, they were like, “Well, what should we call it?” And I ended up just coming up and I was like, “Wow, we should call it big monkey, and no it’s not big monkey because it’s not you know.” And I was like, “Third monkey.” So that’s how the third monkey came up. You got to train like you’re the third monkey on the arc, and it just started raining.

Kirk Parsley:

And that’s the Austere Program. So if people download the TrainHeroic app, they can find that? You can find the third monkey programming?

John Welbourn:

Yeah, so if they go to TrainHeroic.com, and they go to the market place they can search for third monkey, and that actually has all the stuff which has the app, but you got to pay for all that piece. So those are our paid programs. So $15, but you get an app, you get tracking you get community. It’s all the really, really cool features. But for the people that were going into economic hardships, or the people didn’t necessarily want to get into it, if you want to download it for free, it’s just basically give us your email, send it to your inbox daily. So it really just comes down to what you want. If you just want to get an email and do the training, or if you want all the really cool features of TrainHeroic-

Kirk Parsley:

Which is like you compete against other people with TrainHeroic?

John Welbourn:

Yeah, so I mean there’s a huge community associated with it. Coaches are on there coaching, so if you post your movement demos, you get feedback on it. There’s a ton of video demos, but it’s really a pretty good virtual training environment. The people are looking for a virtual community, what we’ve set up, I think, is second to none.

Kirk Parsley:

And this is the one where you actually have videos of like, “Hey, go to Home Depot, buy this, buy that, buy that.” And I’m sure you’re agnostic whether it’s Lowe’s or Home Depot, right?

John Welbourn:

Yeah, yeah, no. Well, the hilarious part is we had all the stuff here to build it, because I had cinder blocks. We had everything here at my place here in Texas because we had developed the program, jeez, probably two years ago so we still had all the stuff. But then we had to actually film the demo of us going and rebuying it at Home Depot. So it’s pretty funny, there’s a good video of [inaudible 00:39:42] worked for me actually going to Home Depot and buying all this stuff. So they brought it back, and I was like, “Man, we got more of this stuff.” So we’ll either build something with it, or give it to some people that need it.

Kirk Parsley:

So if somebody goes to TrainHeroic and actually signs up on the platform, pays the $15, then they’ll be part of that platform infinitum, they can-

John Welbourn:

Yeah.

Kirk Parsley:

And they can then scale up to your other programs, you have lots of other programs on there, right?

John Welbourn:

Yeah, I mean, yeah. The other cool program that we have, which is really by far my favorite, is a program we wrote called Grindstone that was based on I had a private client who was a fortune 500 CEO. Ran the largest privately owned mortgage company in the country, and he hired me to not only be an advisor for him and his family, to help him build a gym, and make sure his kids were on point, but he wanted me to develop kind of a flexible training program where he could follow but it could be done really based on mandatory days, recommended days, and optional days because his travel schedule was so dynamic.

So a lot of days, like Saturday and Sunday were his mandatory days, and then he would travel on Monday to 800 locations, and so then we had these recommended and optional, and I kind of set up what I call the flexible program, where it was based off of hey what is your first available training day? This is mandatory A. Your second available training day is mandatory B, and then all the other ones kind of cascade effect, and as long as you give me at least those two hard training days, we can kind of backfill. And those two mandatory days are the minimal effective dose. All the other stuff just is plugged in based on need.

Because then he’d come for a week and have a week off, or hey I got four days this week, and three days this week. And so when I started writing this program, I was like okay, well this is what I need you to do at a minimum, and then if we can get these recommended and optional, we can get five solid training days, we know we kicked ass. But I don’t want you to feel like if I only got two, we were going backwards.

And that program, which I called Grindstone, because this dude’s nose is on the grindstone, that I developed for him, I ended up launching on TrainHeroic as well, and it’s really been an excellent program not only for single, or not single, but new fathers that all of a sudden have kids for the first time. I’ve been training super hard, but now all of a sudden I got a little one in the house. People who have 80 hours a week, and they’re training in their garage, but they want to still come and get it done, or people like my client who are very successful individuals that have a very dynamic schedule.

So really that program became something I developed for one person and put out, and now there’s thousands of people that follow it that fit within more of my demographic that are over 40, have kids, have a life, but still want to get out and bang it pretty hard, still want to train with athleticism [inaudible 00:42:47] principles.

Kirk Parsley:

Cool. And is that where you prefer to send people to TrainHeroic?

John Welbourn:

Yeah

Kirk Parsley:

And powerathlete.com as well.

John Welbourn:

HQ, yeah. So yeah, if you go to powerathletehq.com you can see all of the information about these training programs. There’s blogs, I got years of this stuff. So I mean, we’ve been around for, let’s say I retired from the NFL in 09, I started this company 09, so we’re going on a number of years that we’ve been doing this stuff. So I think we, and I’m not just saying that because it’s my company, and the guys that work for me put this stuff together with myself, is I think it’s the best stuff in the world, and not only do we have the numbers to say it, but some of the best people in the world follow our stuff for a reason.

Kirk Parsley:

Yeah, well you got a testimonial out of me. I mean, there’s a reason I drive an hour a day to work out at your place.

John Welbourn:

Yeah.

Kirk Parsley:

Yeah. When I live walking distance to probably 10 gyms. All right man, well thanks for your time today. We’re going to post this up. We’ll make sure that my team talks to yours about any sort of show notes, or links that you want to put in there. We’ll make sure that those are all in there for anybody who wants to optimize their health and fitness while they’re Coviding, and then hopefully set some progressive goals after that, and stick with you guys, and create a larger fitness community.

John Welbourn:

Sounds great. Thanks, doc.

Kirk Parsley:

All right, thanks.