A Conversation With Nick Folker/Physmodo

Transcript taken from Fitness Candor Podcast episode 132

Eric:                          Hey everybody, welcome back to Fitness Candor Podcast! An original guest from back like long, long time ago, Nick Folker joins us today. He’s back in the flesh, finally, Nick and I’ll link all the, all his original details in the, in the notes, but he’s a performance coach with over a decade of Olympic division one training experience, he’s also the co founder of Bridge Athletic and again that that’s part of our very first podcasts all link, all that in the show notes, but you can learn more bridgeathletic.com. He’s the current VP of Innovation for Physmodo, which basically I’m not going to do it very much justice, that’s what he’s here for, but it delivers a personalized biometric screening, which we’ll learn more about that now. So, Nick, thanks for jumping on and I appreciate it.

Nick:                         Eric, great to be back. And thanks for finding me. Kind of fell off the radar for a bit and you brought me back. So, absolute pleasure to be back and thank you.

Eric:                          I appreciate it. So, let’s just, let’s talk about it man. What have you been up to? What’s going on? What, I mean, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on. You literally just walked out of a meeting, so I’m glad I snagged you, but tell us a little bit about, about what Physmodo is and we can kind of go from there.

Nick:                         So to move back to, you know, take a couple steps back. I moved out to Dallas, Fort Worth area in Texas in September, ended up in Dallas, fort worth a little bit after that. Got connected with this great company for Physmodo. And you know, it’s, it’s great to be back with a very small team, a team of six, seven great individuals, some awesome advisors and people that are helping. And the premise is to do something, you know, if you go to buy a certified car or you’re looking at something, you get that 20 point check or whatever it is. So it’s looking at  getting eyes on individuals and, you know, doing it objectively because using a camera ,and it’s scalable and you can do it in 30 seconds and that’s the key. You know, it’s…we’ve been asked if it’s a replacement for FMS, you know, everyone knows that; we’re definitely not trying to replace it, we just trying to do something,  that is objective and it can take 30 seconds and the great thing too is sensorless and you don’t need to be certified or have a certified trainer. It takes you through check marks, you get four checks, then, you know, get a three second countdown. You do your three overhead squats, you’re not holding anything and you get your, scores in real time.

Eric:                          So let’s scale back even further, your background is in performance coaching, right? So, high level athletes, you get to see how these people move, which you’re already dealing with high level athletes. I mean they’re already very refined. You know, you see they’d probably do the same kind of repetitive movements all the time where it’s just clockwork. Right? So when you are looking at athletes like those versus like the general public, what it is, something to take Physmodo out of it, what are some of the things that you use, some like coaching cues or techniques that you use that would have benefit those, those athletes.

Nick:                         You know, the great thing with the athletes I’ve had is they’re great at the sport. they do. But that because a lot of it was a swimming and water polo you now put them on land. It’s a whole whole different beast. So it was, it was actually, it was refreshing to get them into the weightroom because a lot of them hadn’t done any dry land or movement on land. So it was almost getting it fresh slate. It was the getting them, you know, at the, at the collegiate level, we could see if you can say impose, impose our philosophy and our coaching on them. Versus inheriting an athlete; in football you get…in college, you’re going to get a kid has been lifting since they were 14 or 16. It’s usually a parent or an uncle or brother that knows more than everyone else and has taught to them, you know, bad movement patterns.

Nick:                         And now you’ve got to teach an old dog new tricks. So, you know, in, in terms of helping getting back to it, it’s just we used to pick two or three things we’re gonna work on that day and that’s what we had to make sure that we got done. You know, the human brain doesn’t really remember more than three things. Look at these coaches during a timeout, they’ll go in and not to stray, but they’ll go into timeout and then giving the kids 10, 15 things to do and they screaming, you know, all these different, you know, instructions and commands. It’s like give them three things. Their heart rate is racing. They’re not going to forget those three things.

Nick:                         So we try to keep it simple. And then explain why we’re doing it. You know, it’s, it’s the, the younger athletes now and you know, I was very, very fortunate to work with high level athletes. But my passion is youth sports. I really love working with younger athletes to help them just because I never had that, that coachin, and I, my parents couldn’t afford the extra curricular, you know, the extra coaching and all the camps and all that stuff. So I love trying to give back to that because I never had it. But, you know, getting back to the old athletes like, yes, they were great, but it was just like give them three things, keep it really simple and just, you know, make it repetitive so that they can, you know, it’s Monday, we’re going to work on this Wednesday, that Friday that it’s come back to the next week.

Nick:                         How do we do with Mondays, three cues. If everyone’s hitting it, then let’s move on. But it’s just, you know, keep it simple. You know, we’ve become so, and it’s ironic to say this because the last two companies I’ve been at are both software, but it would become so tech reliant that we actually forgotten how to coach. And the human touch is, it’s amazing. It’s, it’s so unnecessary. You know, I just walked past it. We’re in a shared workspace and I walked past a girl, young girl, she’s here for reading, Coaching and she’s reading a book and I said to one of the guys who go down to the meeting, when you see a 10 year old reading a book, it’s pretty cool. I know it’s random, but it’s like, you know, getting back to the coaching; these tools like, you know,  Physmodo and stuff are awesome because they give us, you know, the camera can tell us things that the human eye can’t pick up, but what do we do with it?

Nick:                         That’s where the human element comes in and that’s what our challenges is to take this and make it actionable and you know, sort of the Silicon Valley word is chewables. It’s like, that’s cool, but like, coaches don’t understand this. What one number with two numbers can we give them to say yeah, they’re ready to go. And to an, I apologize, I’m on a rant but, Physmodo is a screen, but it’s more than that because it’s not becomes a readiness score. So how ready are you to take on today’s stresses that coaching or that kind of stuff? What did you do over the weekend that’s affecting your, your movements score? What did you do? Did you go and, you know, lift a bunch of stuff, overhead, you know, so now we can get eyes on what they did in the last 24, 48 hours or last week and adjust our training accordingly. But that human element, and I think I said this in our original podcast, it’s so important and you know, I, I keep stressing them. People say to me, what do you do is keep that relationship, keep that, that human touch.

Eric:                          That’s a good point. So I want to paint a picture for people, and correct me if I’m wrong because I’m a terrible painter, but you’re standing, you’re standing in front of this device. And I’m trying to, I’m trying to visualize it for people. So when I see this thing, I, the first thing that popped in my head was almost like a Redbox, like a DVD dispensary. So you’re standing in front of this machine that’s capturing you performing a movement, let’s say an overhead squat for instance, but nothing in your hands and whether you’re an athlete or not, just a squat alone is a very basic baseline movement. So you go through this motion, you come back out of the motion, what happens next? What does that machine capture?

Nick:                         So right now, one of the keys is, and this isn’t important to understand, is there’s no video and no pictures being taken, which was very important for our pro athletes, just because of everything that is involved with, you know, their representation and also for the youth sports. You know, the, the other key thing is there is no human touch which is kind of important in youth sports now.  And so that does, those are, those are pretty key. Once you’ve, once you’ve done your three overhead squats, you stand still and you can actually see this little whirlly thing. It’s one of our logos going on above you because that’s how it locates you. And it calculates your scores. You then, if you’re a first time user, you’ll walk up to the, what we call it kiosk, and it has a touchscreen monitor and you’ll input your email because that’s how it identifies you.

Nick:                         And then the second time, so once you’ve, once you’ve done the email, you will be sent a QR Code. So now you download the key, the, the APP with the QR Code. So next time you do it, you just pull up the Qr Code, put it in front of the camera and the screen and it pulls it to you. So there’s no, you know, the user interactions very, very user friendly. Yeah, so it’s, you know, and the other thing too is we are coming out with a new kiosk, it’s a little smaller and sleeker. So it’s, you know, it’s going to be pretty user friendly from a team or coaches side, but also from the, the athlete and it’s, I mean, this is, this is being used across pro sports, college, a youth, physical therapy, chiropractor, military, special ops. I mean it’s, it’s in every single vertical if you want to say that.

Eric:                          So one thing that I really liked about this, and I think sometimes when you talk to strength coaches, personal trainers, people in, in our, on our side of the industry, like the coaching aspect of it, that “human touch”. When you start talking about implementing more technology into it, I feel like people get so scared because they’re like, well, they’re taking our job. Why would you want that thing taking our job? But I think when you think about something like what Physmodo has done, which I really like, is, OK, there’s two pieces to it. When I’m showing someone how to do a body weight squat, they are 100 percent relying on me to make sure three months from now they’re progressing. And it’s my eye, you know, obviously they’re going to start to understand the mechanics of the ankle, here’s the foot placement, here’s how my back should feel. They can understand all that, but I’m going to adjust as I see necessary, especially if they’re under load.

Eric:                          So what I think about this is when you have something that you can hand a person, it takes almost the, takes the pressure off of you a little bit as the coach, as Instructor and says, look, here are three movements, X, Y, and Z, here are your scoring patterns. We need to work on these. That still puts me in the picture, you know, they still need you to help them through that. And you have another tool on your side to say, let’s go check and see where you stand now. And if you’re doing your job right, it almost hold you at a higher standard when you’re doing your job right, they should have a better outcome.

Nick:                         Yeah. You hit the nail on the head there. If you and you know, for coaches that really get this and trainers and sports medicine. This is a huge tool in your toolkit. You know, in the, in the fitness space we have a partnership with TRX which has been amazing, and you know, the cool thing there is lets say go into a gym and they have one of our kiosks in the, there are a number of them, you can do this while your trainer is working with someone else. So while your trainer is finishing up. You can go into, I don’t want to name any, any gym in case, I say the wrong one or one, a different chain gets upset about it, but you go into a, a large chain and one of our kiosks is  there. You do a screening, 30 seconds, you get your score. You’re looking at it, okay cool, while my trainer is finishing up, I’m not going to go bug them and say, what do I need to do today? We push one exercise. So this, you get your five scores after the, after the screen, get a competent school which is out of 100. And then you get full body domain scores. So I’m mobility activation, posture, symmetry, and out of each of those full body domains, we will give you an exercise to work on, one of what we call a joint indicators that it might be my right shoulder because mine’s all jacked from swimming. So I’ll go and work on those and we’ll send you a video to look at. It’s 20 or 30 seconds, got voiceover so you can do that and it’ll take two minutes or five minutes at a, you know, if you want to walk around and get some water while you’re training is finishing up.

Nick:                         So then they can look at your results and go, okay, cool, you’ve done that. I’m ready to go into the workout. So it’s actually helping them and is helping you be more engaged, you know. And let’s say collegiate setting or pro setting, instead of, you know, your guys or girls coming in and just sitting on a foam roller, you know, you do a screen and go, you know, what symmetry is off on your left knee, what do we need to do to make that go from a red, a red indicator to the left or mobility is off because you did a huge field day yesterday, you know, your depth is a bit off big squat day, whatever it is, how do we need to prep so you’re not just throwing stuff against the wall, you know, when they come into the weight room and everyone sits around and talks and foam rolls or getting or use their baseball or does some bands. It’s actually what you need to do to get you ready for the workout.

Eric:                          That’s awesome. And yeah, and again, it takes some of the workload off, and gives it, gives the person some ownership to and some direction, which I like. So yeah, that’s huge. When I set people up, when I can start doing like mobility drills and things with people at the very beginning of the workout and they started thinking, man, I’m gonna have to do this. Every time I come in, I’m like, yes, yes you are, we’ll change them occasionally, but you don’t need to come in and wait for me to guide you through these, you know, these are very basic movement that you can do that. So, that, like you said, it’s a tool in the toolbox. One thing that you and I talked about a few weeks ago was the scope of where, where this could land and you had brought up the importance of showing this to children, not even in sports, which I thought was a really unique idea. So give us a little framework around that.

Nick:                         Well, I think everyone’s very aware of the amount of time, like especially kids are, either spending, trying to improve their GPA or just literally on the couch playing games. You know, in terms of getting them moving, you know, you can create a wellness, if you want to call it that, for lack of a better word, a wellness score or, you know, progression and actually help them with, you know, going, you know, what we can get you moving and then take this into PE courses or you know, extracurricular and say, you know, what, every day in school, let’s, your class comes in, does the screen and you know, we’re going to start with, I don’t know, not to make it militaristic, but five squats or you know, a lunge or something. And so you can actually start showing them that, you know, with exercise there are different things they can do.

Nick:                         And just, you know, some of them might have their posture off because they’re just sitting playing games all day or there’s, you know, the hips got red indicators because they’re just sitting on the couch all day. So you’re looking, I mean the impact this can have done the road, because we don’t know where this is going with the amount of time that people sit playing games inside in dark rooms. You know, what’s the, what’s the medical and the healthcare industry going to be in 10, 15, 20 years. We can get eyes on that now to try and help with those costs. I mean this is, this has huge implications down the road.

Eric:                          Yeah. And I, I wanted to point out something that you and I discussed. I spoke to my friend Ben who’s also been on the podcast and, and we started discussing more and more about this and he, the more we talked about it, the more excited he got because as a, as a physical education teacher, he, you know, in the past 15 years we’ve seen so many phys ed programs get cut from schools. Right. Which I don’t know, I can’t sit here with hard stats and say that’s why we have, you know, an, an overweight children epidemic going on. But it’s certainly not helping because if you’re removing those programs before children get to the school and if they don’t even know what physical activity is, you’re already doing them a disservice. So they’re not learning it in a school environment they’re not getting in that activity in the school environment.  So they’re going home, probably not doing it. And I’m being very general about it. But the point is, when he started talking about this, I’m sure for a Phys Ed teacher, he has to sell his job probably every week, if not every day. And, he’s probably lucky if he has somebody there who understands how important it is. If you’re, if you’re not so fortunate to have someone there who understands how important it is, you know, in upper echelon of the academic setting, you can have this as a tool, again, a tool in your toolbox, but you have hard evidence to say, we took these children from point A to point Z and here’s how we did it. And here are the hard numbers. So data, I think data is something that’s missing in that curriculum.  And Ben agreed and, he, I mean obviously he was super excited about and you guys are linking up. I know that and I think the, like you said, the more data that we have now, who knows what’s going to happen to healthcare, but we see a big, lots of big changes now. And the people coming up who are going to be using it hopefully not as much. But if they are, if they don’t have reference points to start from, if there’s one thing that we can all take it, take control of his is our mental and our physical wellbeing. Definitely physical wellbeing. Like, you know, the, the mental aspect might be one thing. But, when things like these come out, yes, we can say, well, you know, if you’re talking about physical education shouldn’t, should we take all of the mechanics out of it shouldn’t take all the technology out of it. But if we have awesome resources like this, that is, that is basically telling you, here’s the standard, you’re either above, below, right in the middle of you’re right where you should be. Go out and fix it. Go out and adjust, and here’s how. Why wouldn’t we use it?

Nick:                         And that’s, that’s one of the big things is we, you know, we, we’re not, we’re not giving anyone a program or philosophy. We’re giving you the diagnostic or the assessment of what’s going on and saying, yeah, you go, you know, you wrote, you guys, you guys come up with a program, what we’re not going to push out philosophy or methodology on you, which a lot of programs are doing. You know, if you want to start a new PE program or as a strength and conditioning, it’s like, this is, these are suggestions on how to do it. We say, no, this is what we’re seeing wrong. And you know, how about going this way? But it just, it does. It gives PE teachers and sports medicine and coaches and you know, everyone at a starting point of this is where you are and what you did over the last six months, where you in this way, you are now.

Eric:                          Yeah. That’s awesome. So what, what are your expectations? You mentioned healthcare and the first thing that popped in my mind was a physical therapy. Do you guys, are you working with any physical therapist?

Nick:                         This is huge for physio therapy because you can, you’re gonna to, especially if you’re someone on post surgery or a return to play. I mean even just regular post surgery is instead of, instead of getting the piece of paper with 10 stick figures on saying do these three times 10, you know, we can, we can say okay, you know, or having to put you on expensive Cybex machines and going, you know, this is where we think you are like, okay, let’s do you know when you get to a certain point, let’s do your overhead squat it, it doesn’t have to be that deep. You just do it to where you’re comfortable. And we will give you feedback and we can open up the actual, we’re getting 30 frames a second. So we can actually open up the joint angle that you’re at and show you that you were at 165 degrees last week. This week you have 160, then 155, then you know all the other way around. Whichever way you’re looking at going or you know what you’ve just said, acl surgery and your symmetry between right and left knee is way off. So what are we going to work on? Was there a lot of scare tissue? Were you overloading, were you compensating on the one side. How do we get that back? It’s not just again, throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks.

Eric:                          Yeah. The one thing that popped in my head, we’re talking about a physical therapies. I because I’m dealing with somebody who’s fresh out of her fourth hip replacement surgery. So she has a degenerative disease, so it attacks for joints and she’s dealing with it all over the place. So you know, she tries, we try some things and I’m with her an hour and a half. No, two hours a week, two hours a week. And she’s with the PT for an hour a week, so she brings me the PT things. I get to see them. I’m like, look, you have to do these things on your own, you know, so you’re like, you’re more or less like you’re pleading with the person to take some ownership of those stick figures and just say you’re just saying, hey, please do this on your own. You come down here, we need to take what those things on the paper, what they’re doing to the muscle groups.

Eric:                          We need to put them into action down here. It’s hard because the person is still in pain. They’re still uncomfortable, you know, they hate doing those motions. You know, when they come down to the gym, they might, she might be, you know, fresh off of a, a nine hour workday. She’s already frustrated. She doesn’t want to be there. She skipped her exercises because she was up early and then she comes down and see somebody like me where it’s like, okay, let’s try to get the best out of you we possibly we possibly can. You know, it’s, it’s resources like that to where we can always point back to and say, I know you’re frustrated and I know it’s been a long road because it has been months and months and months of this and here’s where you started and here’s where you are now because she can still sit still sit down and stand up. But when I have her do 10 of those in 10 body weight squats or, you know, just standing up from a, from a bench in the gym and she’s still hurting. It’s hard for me to say but, but you couldn’t do five of those six weeks ago.

Nick:                         Yeah. And you know, again, going back to the data, but if you can just go back and say pull up the school and say, look, this is what you would look at. You had a red indicator here and now it’s yellow. You know, it’s, it’s. We were getting them improvement. Yes it’s going to be a bit sore, but we’re actually, we’re getting some improvement. Being able to bring them back and show that and almost gamify it saying, hey, let’s see where you are today. You know I’m trying to work out every morning now and so I’ll, I’ll even if it’s half an hour, get something in and then look at him and my mobility score has improved dramatically just by doing 30 minutes in the morning when I wasn’t doing anything and I’ll come in, I’ll, you know, we have a system yet and I’ll do one and then I’ll just sit all day and I’ll do it again at the, at the end of the day I’m like, okay, wow.

Nick:                         My, you know, my score has changed a bit. What do I need to do if I’m going to work out tonight or if I’m traveling. How has traveling affected me? I mean now we’re getting into some really actionable stuff of teams that are traveling cross country or businessmen and women that are traveling a lot. Travel affects you more than you think. You know, all the stuff we know from jet lag, but from a mobility standpoint, how jacked up to my from the travel and what do I need in the next thing is what do I need to do to get me back to where I was. And that’s the key is it’s not just building on those, you know, just putting sort of as (unrecognizable name) would say that he was the head coach at Cal when doing our first started. He’s like, you’re not painting over a rusted fence. And that’s what happens. You traveled and you need to work out and I need to do something, but maybe you don’t need to do that kind of a workout. Maybe it’s not as much lower body. Let’s do some bike or mobility on lower body and two or three days in, let’s get back to it because your scores improved. It just giving you this set of eyes that you just didn’t have before.

Eric:                          The good thing, another good thing is if you, if people look forward to something like that, I would like to think I like to think of 100 percent, but a better reality is, and I’d like to have 90 percent of the people that come train with me, they enjoy coming in. I don’t know how much that’s true, which is fine, but if you enjoy that, that the good thing about it is whatever the number is, wherever the score is that you get feedback that you get. It’s not necessarily negative, it just, it is what it is and those kinds of things you can improve on. Now if you come see me now and you know, for instance, if you’re going through physical therapy or you asked me how can I have my low back stop hurting.

Eric:                          And, if I say, okay, look, I want you to, I want you to do twice a day you’re going to do a set of 20 cat cows. You’re going to do child poses and a prone Cobra right twice a day. And you come in and see me a couple of days later, I’m like hey did you get those in? Not hard to exercises. I’m being friendly. I just want to know. And you’re like, oh damn, no I didn’t. And it’s like, okay, so we have to, we have to start with another baseline. How do we, how do we actively get that person into figuring out how to do that? So whatever, my point is, you go down and you, if you’re using this device, it doesn’t care whether or not you practiced or not. It just is what it is and it’s still up to you to get better.

Nick:                         And that’s the thing is, you know, I won’t use any specific names, but you do it, you do an assessment or a movement assessment, there is human error involved. So if I’m a young coach, and I’m just starting off somewhere else, got a new client, I want to show them in six months that I’ve done something and I’ve shown some improvement. So you know what? I’m going to score them a little worse than they actually are. And so in six months I’m going to, you know, I can show them some. There’s a lot of human error involved, a lot of manipulation. There is no manipulation. That’s the camera doesn’t care who you are, what time of day it is. It is what it is.

Eric:                          That’s right. Yeah. And I, I’m, I’m thinking about all the people that I know who travel and man, I see a lot of people who travel and they get back. Oh Man, I’ve been, I’ve been, like I said this a lot on the podcast. I know people who listen to fitness podcast. I’ll be here all the time, but you know, we get up in the morning from laying down which sleep is great, you need it. But then we get up, we sit in a chair to have breakfast. We sit in your car to get to work. Most people sit at a desk for eight to 10 hours a day. You get back into your car, back home to sit and have dinner, and then you’re back in bed. So, you know, beating the piss out of yourself, in the gym every single day because you think you’ve been inactive isn’t always the way to go. And that’s, that’s just a cycle back to something you said earlier and I’m glad you said it because it’s, it’s hard to get people to realize that, you know, and in the more beat up you become because of traveling or because of just having an everyday life. It doesn’t mean you need to do more, you just need you to do what’s right.

Nick:                         It’s an unfortunate. I’m not 21 anymore so you know, the little bit of time that I have in the day to work out, I want to make sure it’s right and I want to do the right thing because I can’t rebound like it used to. I can’t go and do five sets of five dead lifts. And you know, what, if it’s the wrong thing to me today, tomorrow, two days, I’ll be fine. Yeah. I, I just, I’m, I’m broken for a week. So you know, that I want to make sure that time that I spend is right and it’s what my body needs it. I mean, this is, I mean, it’s, it’s quantifying movements and you know, the sort of Hashtag we have is quantified readiness was ready to take on today.

Eric:                          I’m going to try to write that down. Quantified readiness. That’s a lot of dead air here. I’ll pencil that in later. Well, cool. I’m glad we got to do this and come in to catch you up. And it sounds like you’re on to some really awesome stuff. So if people have any more questions, comments, concerns, what’s, what’s the best way to reach you? Share your social media and all that.

Nick:                         I mean best way directly, his email. It’s, either nick@physmodo.com or info@physmodo.com. Those, those will both come to me. You know, we were on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter when you know, it’s like I said, small company, so we need to, we need to add a little bit on there, but those are going to be ramping up pretty soon.

Eric:                          Awesome. Awesome. Nick, I appreciate it man. And I know, I don’t know if you got some more stuff to do, so thanks for hopping on. And then if people do have any questions, comments, concerns, reach out and I’m gonna go ahead and say for you, especially if you’re in the education field. I know he’d love to talk to you, so please do so and Nick will talk to you very soon, man. I appreciate it.

Nick:                         Awesome. Thanks Eric. I really appreciate the time and thanks everyone for listening.