Frequent visitors to the YMCA may have noticed 6-foot, 6-inch John Hacker cheerfully encouraging a client to do just one more crunch or one more lunge. While the client may not be smiling at that particular moment, Hacker usually is.
"I love coaching. I know without a doubt that I am doing exactly what I am meant to do," Hacker said.
The 47-year-old fitness coach applies aspects of physical training as well as personal life coaching to help his clients achieve their goals and find balance in their busy lives. Hacker, who overcame a devastating bike accident, believes everyone can achieve physical and emotional fitness with the right tools.
He spoke with the Daily Tidings recently about surviving a serious injury, the iPhone as an exercise machine and his belief that everyone has the potential to reach a state of phenomenal health and wellness.
DT: How long have you lived in Ashland?
JH: We've lived here 3 1/2 years. I had taken a job in Portland, which is where I met my wife, and we wanted to live somewhere with more sunshine and trails. She's a trail runner. Actually, she is an elite marathoner, though most people don't know that because she is so modest. But she is an incredible runner, an incredible athlete. We came to Ashland and we just absolutely fell in love with the place.
DT: How did you come to be a personal trainer?
JH: I was a paralegal for 12 years before I got into a bike accident. I don't remember the accident. I was told I crashed and I was going about 40 miles per hour. I was hurt really bad. I had a skull fracture, a broken back, my brain was swollen and I was in a coma for three days. The doctors didn't think I was going to make it. I had three things working in my favor at the time of the accident, though: I was wearing a bike helmet, I was in the best shape I'd ever been in my life and there was a neurologist on call when I was brought into the emergency. Even so, I had doctors tell me I would be in chronic pain for the rest of my life, I'd never run again and I'd never regain most of my cognitive function. But I did. I was lucky. I had fantastic health insurance and I had physical therapy at the Northern California Institute for Health and Rehabilitation. I loved their philosophy and what they did for me. I loved it so much I became a trainer there, working with other people who had head trauma.
DT: What's the best thing about being a fitness coach?
JH: I just love what I do. I have a client who lost 211 pounds. He lost more than half himself. Now, he's doing triathlons. He's engaging in life now. He's a good friend of mine and I'm so proud of him, so proud of what he has accomplished for himself and so happy that he's loving his life.
DT: What is your personal philosophy about fitness?
JH: Our natural state is phenomenal health and wellness. You can't change your chronological age, but with functional training, good nutrition and a connection to the universe — be it family, friends, or faith — you are going to feel younger, be healthier. And secondarily, you'll look younger, too. If people just worked out, ate healthier and took care of their emotional health we'd save so much on health care.
DT: How did you get started making fitness applications for the iPhone?
JH: A client suggested I do it. I talked to another client who was also interested in doing this and it just took off. Sean Curry is my business partner. Our partnership is so cool. He's the technical side and I'm the creative, crazy side. We have five apps out so far and we're the only client who is embedding video. We're international now; the apps have been selling well around the world. It's great knowing folks in Japan and the Czech Republic are working out to our videos, that we're spreading the word on health and fitness all over the place. Also, the reviews are good. People are liking them, which translates to consistency and that is important for fitness. The apps focus on functional training, so you don't need a gym or expensive equipment to do the exercises. For my Traveler Workout app, all you need is your iPhone.
DT: Do you plan to do any more apps?
JH: Oh definitely. We plan to do many more. My wife and I went to Hawaii for the Maui Marathon. While we were there, we did a Maui Marathon Training app and a Maui Beach Workout. On the app we'll have stuff on training and nutrition, pre- and post-race preparation. For the video we were on this beautiful beach and I was filming, but I didn't want to use weights or anything, so I grabbed a coconut and did the exercises with the coconut. We're just having so much fun doing these.
DT: Do you have other activities planned?
JH: Triathlon season is over this year. Over the summer, I'll do the Mt. Shasta Triathlon, but next year I'm going to do the Maui Marathon with Becky. I only did the half marathon this last time.
DT: Any advice for people who are just starting to work out?
JH: Everything is about balance. If your life is out of balance and you over-eat, over-drink or over-exercise, it's going to effect your quality of life. Before starting a workout plan, everyone should have a physical. I always say, 'John Hacker law No. 1 is to listen to your body. Law No. 2 is to be consistent.' Consistency is the key. Many people don't stick to a workout plan because they don't train right. If you are consistent, you have good technique and you listen to your body, you'll feel good. You'll enjoy your workouts, enjoy your life.
Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail her at email@example.com.