Affiliate Series w/ James Scharnick | One Day at a Time – 525lbs

Sevan Matossian (00:00):

This is easy, low stress, and here I am. I’m already breaking a sweat. Bam. We’re live. Hi. Good morning.

James Scharnick (00:07):

Good morning. How are you doing?

Sevan Matossian (00:09):

Dude? I’m doing great. A little slow to the start this morning. I’m glad you got to witness firsthand the technical difficulties that can’t occur. I don’t know how there could be technical difficulties when I was just sleeping, I left the room, everything was great. Then I went to bed and I woke up and everything’s jacked up.

James Scharnick (00:27):

That’s usually how things work, right,

Sevan Matossian (00:29):

Right. James, why are you in bed? You didn’t want to get up today.

James Scharnick (00:35):

Yeah, I was planning on it, but I just felt a little lazy today, so I just wanted to hang out in bed a little bit.

Sevan Matossian (00:42):

You just like, Hey, I’ll do the podcast from my bed.

James Scharnick (00:45):


Sevan Matossian (00:49):


James Scharnick (00:49):

Ahead. Go ahead.

Sevan Matossian (00:50):

No, you go ahead.

James Scharnick (00:51):

I was going to say I’d love to be up in an office with a badass light behind me like you got there, but I didn’t have it set up in time.

Sevan Matossian (01:01):

What’s the deal? You had some crazy mountain biking accident. When I look at your Instagram, it looked like you were improving quite quickly. And to be honest with you, when I scheduled the podcast, I thought by the time we did it, you would be like up, what’s going on with you? Can you tell us the story? Like what happened?

James Scharnick (01:21):

Yeah, I can. So I was mountain biking with a bunch of buddies from the gym actually in Big Bear, California, and I had a little accident, not a little one, actually a big accident. Basically, I went head first over the handlebars into the side of the mountain, thankfully, well, one, I always tell, well, I’ve been telling people CrossFit saved my life twice, once when I started it. Second. I’ve been doing CrossFit for a little over 10 years now, and I swear by building up my muscle structure, my bone density with lifting heavy weights. Thankfully I had no broken bones, but I did go head first into the mountain. We were at a bike park where you ride the ski lift all the way up and then you just bomb the hill down. So yeah, I lost control a little bit, hit front tire, hit a little boulder and kicked me off to the side and kind of threw me headfirst at the speed I was going.


I unable to get my hands out to support myself, so my helmet, my head, my neck took the brunt of the force. I’m a bigger guy, so thank the Lord. I didn’t have any broken bones, but I did have herniations in my C three through C seven in my upper spine that had to be fused and a laminectomy, which is creating space inside of a spinal column because of the herniation. So because of that, I’m a quadriplegic right now, incomplete, which means I don’t have a severed spinal cord. It’s all intact, but it’s damaged. So what it means is I can get better. The problem is when we do CrossFit, everything’s measured for time repeatable, and it’s something that we could improve on, but we have no timetable with spinal cord injuries. I am making progress every single day. I get a little bit more movement. I do have movement in all four of my limbs. It’s just not any functional movement yet.

Sevan Matossian (04:06):

Hey, so basically spear into the ground with your head hitting first, gives you a severe spinal cord injury and you come to and you can’t move anything, can you even talk?

James Scharnick (04:21):

Correct. I could talk right away. I was hyperventilating from getting the wind knocked out of me, so I started calling for help. Luckily, a couple riders came up behind me, were able to start talking to me and call the security team at the bike park we were at. I was faced down in the dirt. I remember thinking it felt like my arms were crossed in front of my chest. I mean, it sounds weird, but how people would be in a casket.

Sevan Matossian (04:54):


James Scharnick (04:55):

What it felt like. But when I opened up my eyes, my hand was pressed up against my goggles and it was twitching. So that really kind of freaked me out. I had to close my eyes the whole time talking to people, but I remember telling people that I couldn’t feel my body right away because I didn’t want ’em to make it worse by rolling me over or twisting my neck or anything. So


Right away I was yelling at people that I can’t feel my body, I can’t feel my arms and legs, and luckily the security team got to me, got my helmet off, put a C collar on me. They were very professional. It took a while to get everything set up, get a board under me. They had to carry me off the trail to a fire road. And then from there I got into a razor with a flatbed on it, kind of like a beef up golf cart, and they took me down the mountain from my crash to the time I got to the parking lot was probably about 45 minutes, so it took a while, but they were very professional, keeping my spine intact with a C collar, and then the ambulance was already waiting for me when we got to the parking lot.

Sevan Matossian (06:15):

And you were a CrossFit gym coach already at the time?

James Scharnick (06:18):

Yes. I got into CrossFit in 2013. We opened up a gym, the original owner of the gym and service CrossFit. I’ve been managing that gym for the last two years. I coach there and then I run all the admin and management office work as well. So that’s my full-time job. I’m there at the gym every day while I was, and then that’s been my full-time job for a while, full-time for two years, but I’ve been working there since it opened in 2014.

Sevan Matossian (07:07):

And James, at one point you were 525 pounds?

James Scharnick (07:11):

Yes, actually, when I got married, I weighed 525 pounds probably maybe a little more. I don’t know. When you weigh that much, you don’t weigh yourself a lot. There’s not a lot of means to weigh yourself. You can’t buy a scale at Target and then hop on it because those have a weight capacity. So I was somewhere around there when I got married,

Sevan Matossian (07:34):

You would peg the scale, so you peg the scale. If it goes to 400, it just says, or if it’s electronic, it just gives you error message.

James Scharnick (07:41):

Yeah, it just gives two straight lines. So I actually worked it, that’s me and my wedding when I’m probably close to my heaviest. And then from there, when I got into CrossFit, I was still about 480 pounds starting CrossFit. In 2013, we started a one car garage, the gym did with the original owner and myself. We met on Facebook when Facebook was a thing, and then she offered to train me free of charge. However, I had to do an accountability contract, which means I had to log a food journal. I had to log all my workouts that I did outside of what she was training me. And the first 12 months of CrossFit, I lost over 130 pounds.

Sevan Matossian (08:39):

Wow. Wow. 10 pounds a month. More than 10 pounds a month.

James Scharnick (08:44):

Yeah, it was crazy. I mean, eating right, eating clean, and then just working out. I was probably working out six days a week at the time.

Sevan Matossian (08:57):

James, pronounce your last name for me.

James Scharnick (08:59):


Sevan Matossian (09:00):

Nik. Just like it looks, dude, 500 pounds is wild. Could you walk and stuff at 500 pounds? Could you get into a car and drive somewhere and go see a movie and you can do normal stuff that way? Yeah,

James Scharnick (09:12):

I was active. I mean active as in walking around. I wasn’t running or anything. I remember when I first started CrossFit, I couldn’t make it like a hundred meters, barely without walking. And then from there, obviously everything improves when you start moving your body and obviously doing CrossFit, but it started out really basic. I remember my first workout was nothing. It’s like 400 meter run, a few rounds of five pushups, 10 sit ups, 15 air squats, and then a 400 meter run. I remember on the runs I had to walk, but I mean basically that’s like a warmup.

Sevan Matossian (09:58):

You actually walked 800 meters at 525 pounds. You did that?

James Scharnick (10:03):

Yeah, A walk slash jog. I mean, yeah, dude,

Sevan Matossian (10:08):

That’s wild. That’s wild. I bet you most people who weighed 525 pounds or who weigh that cannot do that. I was sitting next to a lady yesterday who is probably 300 pounds for an hour, and I heard her breathing the whole time. I could hear her breathing the whole time.

James Scharnick (10:27):

Yeah, it’s weird. I mean, I’m a bigger guy. I’m six seven even

Sevan Matossian (10:32):

Now. Holy shit.

James Scharnick (10:34):

I’m like 295 pounds now.

Sevan Matossian (10:37):


James Scharnick (10:38):

So I’m a large guy. Anyways, I’ve always been big. I played a lot of sports in high school, did three different sports in high school, so I had a good athletic build, I guess. Not really build, I was a big guy, but

Sevan Matossian (10:55):

You could move. I was

James Scharnick (10:56):

An athlete.

Sevan Matossian (10:56):


James Scharnick (10:57):


Sevan Matossian (10:57):


James Scharnick (10:57):

I was an athlete.

Sevan Matossian (10:58):

Yeah. Wow.

James Scharnick (10:59):

So I was playing football, basketball, track and field. I threw shot foot and discus, so I was very active. But after high school, you get into a little party and I was driving a truck, and then from there you just eat like crap and you drink sodas all day and energy drinks, try to stay awake behind the wheel, and that’s when going from really active to seditary lifestyle with no nutrition, the weight just started gradually gaining, and then you get to be like 32 years old when I started CrossFit. And from there, it’s just luckily I was able to be active and I was able to move my body through space. But I remember starting CrossFit, just the air spots were very challenging.

Sevan Matossian (11:53):

Yeah, yeah, I bet. Six, seven. Do you have tall parents?

James Scharnick (11:58):

No, actually, my mom’s about five, six. My dad’s around six foot, and he was the tallest in my family on both sides. And for some reason I entered high school as a freshman. I was six one, and then when I left high school I was six eight. So I’ve shrunk a little bit. As you age, your bones settle and I have back issues. I have a lot of back issues and knee issues just from being that heavy for so long. I always tell people you can’t put a house on eggshells and not expect it to crack.

Sevan Matossian (12:35):

Jake Chapman, James, one of the guys in the comments says the milkman was six eight. Did you have a milkman as a

James Scharnick (12:40):

Yeah, he probably was. Right?

Sevan Matossian (12:44):

Dude, you must, was your whole family shocked? Did you think you were done growing at six one and then you’re like, dude, this just keeps going? Or did you know?

James Scharnick (12:52):

Yeah, they were kind of shocked, but I mean, when my growth and my shoe size kept up with my age until I turned 18, I wear a size 17 shoe. I’m just a bigger guy, and they were kind of used to it by then because I was that big. I was the biggest person in class, tallest person, biggest person. I was always large framed. Even when I played sports in high school and a little bit in college, my playing weight was around 320 pounds as a lineman playing football. So I was always a bigger guy. It was just kind of a thing.

Sevan Matossian (13:35):

Wow. Wow. That’s a size 10 versus, and I’m a size eight. That’s crazy. Yeah, my shoe fits inside your shoe.

James Scharnick (13:47):

Oh, easily. Yeah.

Sevan Matossian (13:50):

James, tell me, I want to walk through your progress. When was the accident, the biking accident?

James Scharnick (13:58):

It was Monday after Father’s Day, so June 19th.

Sevan Matossian (14:02):


James Scharnick (14:05):

Yeah, that was accident. I mean, it was an afternoon. I was in surgery by midnight at Loma Linda Hospital. They flew me. They medevaced me there, which was the closest.

Sevan Matossian (14:19):

So four or five months, four or five months ago.

James Scharnick (14:22):

Yeah, correct.

Sevan Matossian (14:24):

Can you tell me the worst in terms of your, if the metric is being ambulatory, and I’m just curious how the progress has been. The exciting part of this whole story, thank God it has one, is that you’re saying you keep getting a little bit better every day. You’re seeing progress, right? Can you walk me through that? Was there a point where you couldn’t even drink water or you couldn’t chew your food where you were that unable to activate your controls to maybe now you can stand Correct. Can you walk me through just the steps? I’m very curious.

James Scharnick (14:57):

Yeah. It’s a real slow process. Luckily, both of my doctors, my neurosurgeons say they expect me to walk again, but it did take three to five years.


The problem is, is there’s some people that have the same, a similar injury to me that could walk in a year or a year and a half, but there’s others that never walk again with an incomplete spinal cord injury. So one of the hard things for me is coming from a CrossFit background where everything’s measurable, repeatable, we could put a time to everything. We could make sure that we’re doing better. We’re ahead of progress, we’re behind progress with this. There’s no measure stick, so everybody could be different. But yeah, when I started, I was really hard to eat because I had swelling in my neck, which bothered my throat, and it entered the ability to eat. So I had problems eating right away. I had zero movement and a lot of pain throughout my whole body. From there, I was able each day to start slowly.


The problem is it’s a dead slow process. So the progress that I have every day is so tiny that my wife has to help remind me because I get frustrated. I want to see the progress. I want be up walk, excuse me, I want to be up at walking already. But the problem is I’m still bedridden. I have no functional movement in my limbs, so I can’t feed myself yet. If my eye itches or something, I can’t itch my eye, which you don’t know how many times you itch your face throughout the day until you can’t.

Sevan Matossian (16:50):

So right now you can’t move your hands yet. James,

James Scharnick (16:53):

I have very little finger movement, which is ahead of the curve, which they tell me because they say fingers and hands are the last things that you could do. I could bring my one hand up towards my face,

Sevan Matossian (17:06):


James Scharnick (17:06):

It is, that’s about all the finger movement. I,


I don’t have great wrist control yet, so my wrist is just limp, but in my left hand, I can’t bring my hand to my mouth. In fact, the other day I fed myself five bites of food, which is kind of amazing. I can’t hold a spoon yet. So they have to attach it with basically like a Velcro strap to my hand. They make those things that allow you to hold a spoon or a toothbrush and with a wrist support, I was able to feed myself five bites of food, which is a lot of progress because from there I haven’t been able to feed myself. I haven’t been able to give myself a drink of water. So that’s me with the wrist brace.

Sevan Matossian (18:05):

You were brushing, you were brushing your

James Scharnick (18:08):

Teeth. Yeah, teeth.

Sevan Matossian (18:08):

Some people can’t even do that who haven’t been in a bike accident. That’s impressive.

James Scharnick (18:16):

So there, that’s all in the hospital. My Instagram kind of went silent once I got home. I’m home now because my social media manager, which is my wife, not really manager, she just took all those videos and posted them. She became my nurse when we got home. So now we’re so busy each day because she’s taken the spot of a staff of unlimited staff at the hospital.

Sevan Matossian (18:46):


James Scharnick (18:47):

I rang my bell, I could have five people in to help me,

Sevan Matossian (18:51):


James Scharnick (18:51):

Now it’s just my wife and friends and volunteers that come by and hang out with me throughout the day. They help me turn side to side, so I don’t get any bed sores or any more bed bedsores. I have a rather large bedsore that I acquired in the hospital that I’ll have to go back in for surgery later this year to help repair it. So that’s one of the big things that’s hindering my progress right now because I’m unable to sit up in my wheelchair without putting the pressure in my tailbone and in my butt really where my bedsore is. So that’s one of the biggest things that it’s hindering my progress right now.

Sevan Matossian (19:39):

And this is might be a foolish question, I apologize. So is that a workout for you now? Will you do that? Will you be like, okay, bring my hand to my face seven times an hour and make sure you do that every hour? Do you have some sort of regiment you’re doing?

James Scharnick (19:54):

Yes, yes. I work with a physical therapist and occupational therapist. Occupational therapists are mainly for things like you saw getting me to drink, brush my teeth, put on a shirt eventually, and things like that. The physical therapist is looking for strength and making sure I have range of motion and getting my joints moving and working me through a workout. But yeah, literally bringing my hand from extended point to my chin 10 times and I work that maybe three sets. But it’s amazing how doing something like that is like one rep Maxs. So I could do that 10 times, but after about three or four reps, I’m like, I’m spent, man. I was telling our head coach at the gym, there’s no workout I could come up with in CrossFit that replicates how hard doing that five or six times is the way. It just taxes everything.

Sevan Matossian (21:06):

James, what is it about the spine injury that makes it so you lost? Basically the picture I’m seeing is you have this spine and you have all of these extension cords plugged into it. They go to different parts of the body and the cords fell out. That’s the only way I can imagine it. What happened and what are you waiting for to grow back that would make it so you could get your leg back? Is there a cord that just fell out of the spine and you got to wait until it finds its way plugged back in, or what’s the deal? Do they understand that basically?

James Scharnick (21:38):

Yeah, kind of. I mean, you have all your nerves that go down the center of your spine. All the herniations in my upper neck block the signals that allow me to move, basically my body. So if you have a complete spinal cord where a total

Sevan Matossian (21:58):

Herniations are the movements of the discs, sorry, when you say herniations, you mean the discs got moved and that there were things connected to those discs that maybe aren’t connected anymore?

James Scharnick (22:08):

Correct. Yeah. Well now they’re connected with hardware. I have a fusion in my neck, so I have a scar on the back of my head going down my neck where they fus my spine. So basically it damaged all the nerve cords. Now your nerves have, I don’t know how, I’m not that smart. I’m just a CrossFit coach. But your nerves have the ability to help you feel and the ability to help you move and control your body. So I do have feeling throughout my whole body. You could touch my foot or my toe and I could tell you

Sevan Matossian (22:43):


James Scharnick (22:44):

Body part you’re touching


And anywhere you touch. I do have a feeling now it’s limited because of where my injuries in my lower body, it’s just partially numb. But I do feel it now in my upper body and my arms, anytime somebody touches my arms or if I move my arms, it’s like a firing nerve pain. So I do have pain throughout my arms and shoulders, but yeah, it damaged my spinal cord to where now I need to give it time to let my spinal cord repair itself. All the nerves will repair itself, but it takes an undisclosed amount of time and it’s not guaranteed that I’ll be able to move or have functional movement in my body. It’s just we’re hoping that those things will Yes. So I have hardware from my C three through my C six out of a fusion.

Sevan Matossian (23:47):

Do you keep that forever?

James Scharnick (23:50):

Yes. That’ll never come out.

Sevan Matossian (23:52):

Dude, that’s crazy. That’s your neck. Holy shit.

James Scharnick (23:56):

Yeah, and it does limit my range of motion, like my mobility side to side. I noticed like looking left is a lot harder and I can’t really look as far left as I can right up and down isn’t that bad, but left and right, I could definitely feel, I can’t feel the hardware, but I can feel the limited range of motion and the limited mobility in my neck now. But yeah, that’s basically, I don’t know how current that picture is of whoever did that, but basically I have a fusion that’s similar to that.

Sevan Matossian (24:33):

James, are there any drugs that can give you to speed that up? Can they give you testosterone or peptides or there’s any hormonal shit they can do that speeds growth up?

James Scharnick (24:47):

Well, living in California and are great government system, I don’t know how peptides are if they’re legal yet, but I may or may not have had the ability to be on peptides already. And luckily throughout your show,

Sevan Matossian (25:03):


James Scharnick (25:03):

Don’t want to give too big of a shout out, but I’m a big fan and I’ve heard about ’em through your show and researched. And there are, I am taking peptides right now. I’ve only been on ’em for about a week and a half because I was able to find a doctor who works out of state that was able to provide me with those.

Sevan Matossian (25:28):

What am working

James Scharnick (25:29):

On those?

Sevan Matossian (25:31):

Is there any information about that, about peptides and nerve growth?

James Scharnick (25:35):

Well, the biggest thing with the peptides right now is for the wound that I’m trying to heal, I had a large bedsore and they had to, basically my tailbone is exposed. It’s that deep on my left butt cheek. I mean, I don’t know what the medical term for butt cheek is, but

Sevan Matossian (25:54):

Your tailbones from laying on it so much, it pushed through your skin.

James Scharnick (25:58):

So what it did is, I don’t understand bedsores in there really with our technology nowadays, it’s kind of like cave manish because basically you get this bedsore, which is a dead spot on your body and mine somehow we don’t know how, but it got to a rather large bedsore. So as soon as I got transferred to my hometown, the first thing they did is they put me into surgery to debride the bedsore, which is basically cut out all the dead spots or the dead spot. It was just one spot, but it was rather large

Sevan Matossian (26:36):

Like necrotic. So it doesn’t get infected, I’m guessing. Correct, yeah.

James Scharnick (26:39):

Yes, exactly. And with that, they cut through, well, it was on my left glute. So they cut through all your, where they dig out all the dead areas and they see how deep they have to dig to get to healthy tissue. So with mine, they had to dig through the fatty layer, they dig through most of the muscle and they got really close to the bone. And then eventually with the infection, parts of my tailbone are exposed. And that’s still an ongoing thing. I mean, it’s been like you said, four months. But that’s one of the things that I can’t believe there’s not any better healthcare methods that would help you with that because it’s just such a slow process. It hinders me from sitting upright or sitting in my wheelchair because of the pain. And then I actually, with the exposed tailbone and the infection, I actually have a infection in my bone, in my tailbone now. So when they do do the surgery to fill in that bedsore, they’ll remove my tailbone at the same time. So they remove that infected bone.

Sevan Matossian (27:52):

Don’t you need that bone?

James Scharnick (27:55):

They tell me. I don’t, the doctors, and by they, I say the doctors and the surgical team I have, they tell me that I’ll have no effects. Even if and when I’m able to get up to be walking again and they’ll say, I have no effects, and I won’t even notice it. But if they keep it in with it being infected, eventually I will have chills, fevers, and it could

Sevan Matossian (28:24):


James Scharnick (28:24):

Death throughout the later stages of life.

Sevan Matossian (28:27):

Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, my wife had got a really bad infection in her knee when they were trying to put a cadaver meniscus in, and you described exactly what they had to do, the cutting out of the flesh, the discussion of having to amputate the entire leg. It was fucking, and it was barbaric just hearing the doctors talk. It sounded like they had no fucking idea what they were doing. It was just like, alright, well I guess we could do this. I was like, holy shit.

James Scharnick (28:55):

When they first told me about it, they literally said, we’re not going to do anything. And it was confusing the hell out of my wife and I, I’m like, what do you mean you’re not going to do anything? You just spent 20 minutes telling me how dramatic and how bad this is, and then you’re telling me that you’re just going to sit and watch it, basically, because I have no effects of the infection yet. It’s not affecting my body. I don’t have fevers, I don’t have body aches, I don’t have pills. So since it’s not affecting the body yet, they’re basically just going to sit back and observe it. Point,

Sevan Matossian (29:31):

My wife’s got a crazy infection. You don’t want that infection. The infection. And she turned into a different person for 12 hours. The infection was crazy. I didn’t even

James Scharnick (29:39):

Recognize it. Yeah, I

Sevan Matossian (29:40):


James Scharnick (29:41):

I definitely don’t want to do that as it is, it’s bad enough. And with the infection affecting your body, that’s when it gets dangerous. And yeah, it could, depending on where it’s at, it would lead to amputation and it is a scary thing. So

Sevan Matossian (29:58):


The above transcript is generated using AI technology and therefore may contain errors.

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