Please tell us about yourself. Who are you? I’m 51. I’ve been a firefighter for 30 years, attending the Washington State Fire Academy 87-2. If you were born after March, 1987, I have been firefighting longer than you have been alive. Prior to joining the fire department, I worked as a trainer and manager for an old-school gym in Redmond. Even though I was a competitive bodybuilder at the time, I mostly trained people who were getting into shape, not competitive bodybuilders. Those guys are meatheads. I continued competitive bodybuilding until 1992, when I herniated 2 lumbar discs on the job, carrying a huge man out of a house. In 1995 I married my beautiful wife, Darlene, who has put up with me for 21 years, and we’ve lived in West Seattle for the past 19 years. We don’t have children, not by choice and not for lack of trying. We do have a dog, a cockapoo, whom my wife rightly believes is the next Stephen Hawking.
Tell us about your fitness/coaching/Rocket journey. In 2008, one of my responsibilities in the Fire Department was to run the Health and Fitness program. My boss told me about a Crossfit Level 1 class hosted on the Eastside, and numerous fire departments were sending people. When I told him that Crossfit was bullshit and couldn’t possibly work, he ordered me to take the class. Sir, yes sir! The first CF workout I ever did was at my Level 1, and I did 4 of them in a single weekend! I could barely walk for a week, I was so sore. But a bunch of people knew I was taking the course, so I had to fake like I wasn’t sore, so it wouldn’t kill the program before it even started. I then started doing Crossfit using the website, and when people saw me working out and asked about it, I told them it was too intense for them and they should not try it. Of course (thanks Tom Sawyer) people wanted to try it, their own results rapidly became evident, and it caught on.
When I started Crossfitting, I put my 24 hour fitness membership on hold, and used the money to start buying equipment for my garage gym. One day when I was looking for equipment on Craigslist, I accidentally ended up on the “jobs” section when I searched for Crossfit. I saw the add for a coach, not sure if it even gave the exact neighborhood. One of the guys from the IT department worked out with me at the fire station, and he had started as an intern at a box in Lynnwood, and he loved it. That inspired me to apply for the coaching spot, so I responded to the add, emailed back and forth with Brady, and came in for a trial as a coach. Brady made a big mistake and didn’t fire me on the spot, and I’m still coaching! I love the people and community at Rocket, and I greatly enjoy coaching. Thanks, Brady! (NOTE: Brady and Alyssa’s daughter still calls Dan “the best thing we ever found on Craigslist.)
What does coaching mean to you? It seems that being a coach and trainer has been a theme in my life. Before the fire department I worked as a trainer for multiple gyms. During my FD career, I helped start our public CPR training program, I have been the training officer (twice!), I was one of the department’s first certified “firefighter personal trainers,” I helped start our department’s Crossfit/Functional fitness program, and I have been a co-owner in a CPR/First Aid training business. Before Crossfit I worked out with, and trained, my friends in bodybuilder style workouts. After my Level 1 class, I started doing Crossfit with, and training my friends (and neighbors, and wife’s friends, and wife’s co-workers, and wife’s supervisors) in my garage. I enjoy training people and watching their skills go from introductory, to proficiency, then to mastery. I’m super nerdy, and I have way too many certifications. I love to read up on topics, then put that learning to the test. I enjoy disproving bullshit training theories almost as much as I love testing and proving legitimate training programs.
My Crossfit life has included myriad personal modifications, due to less-than-ideal biomechanics, injuries, and the typical wear-and-tear of firefighting for a living. Far too many professional firefighters have had a surgery or two by their twentieth year on the job. I love the ability to vary, modify and scale workouts, which is generally limited only by my imagination. My go-to workouts at the station include flipping tires, hitting those same tires with a flathead axe, multiple combinations of kettlebells and slamballs, and doing the whole shebang wearing a ballistic vest or firefighting gear.
What are some of your athletic experiences that might surprise people? I took 2 years of formal ballet training, and 1 year of jazz dance training, while I was bodybuilding. So picture this: 240 lbs of meathead (think Singles video * Scroll to the bottom for this gem) in neon colored zebra-stripe Lycra tights and a tank top, at the Madrona Dance Studio scaring the other dance students. No one talked to me for over a year, thinking I was just there to pick up girls. My friends and I were there learning to dance so we could pose better when we were on stage. “What the hell?” you ask? Watch Pumping Iron, it answers all the difficult questions in life.
I also competed at railroad “handcar” racing. I was at the Seattle waterfront one summer day watching this crazy event, people racing these old fashioned “push-down and pull-up on the handle” powered railroad carts, and some guy taps me on the shoulder and says, “You want to try this? A guy on my team is a no-show, and I need someone right now.” So I agree, and for the next two years I was on a team from a Portland gym. We won the National championships, and took second in the world championships. This was in the early 1990’s, I recently googled it to find the exact dates but, guess what, there’s pretty much no records of such an inane sport. But I was there, really, I promise!
Any other thoughts? Anything you’d like to add? Coaching at Rocket continues to be such a rewarding experience for me. I don’t take for granted the honor people grant me when they listen to, and consider what I have to say. I so enjoy talking with people, challenging people and frequently being challenged right back, getting to know people and their goals as well as their obstacles, watching people struggle, sometimes fail and then struggle again and succeed – I love it!
We can’t resist sharing the hysterical video of Dan when he was in the “video dating” reel in the 90’s hit movie Singles. For you kids out there, there was a time when there were no mobile phones, as such, no Tindr. Back in the old days, “video dating” was the big innovation. When Bridget Fonda was video-dating in the movie, it was some hi-tech innovation. This was one of the videos she received. And ya, that’s our Dan. We don’t know why she didn’t go out with him!