Industry Bio: John Appel


johnappel2When it comes to health and wellbeing, Hamilton-based physiotherapist John Appel is passionate about helping people of all ages reach their full potential. But he also knows that in order to do this, he has to ‘walk the talk’.

There aren’t many professionals who truly achieve a healthy work/life balance. Because when it comes down to it, being a professional often involves long hours as part of the daily routine. And ironically, it is often those working in the medical or health related fields, who are the worst culprits. They are so busy taking care of others, that often they forget to take care of themselves.
However, in order to truly be successful, it is important to achieve some sort of ratio of balance between work and life.

To this means, he has recently set up a Wellness Centre in central Hamilton, aimed at providing a full array of services for clients; from physio and nutrition to exercise classes and massage.
And while his own professional services as a physio are in high demand, he automatically builds time into his week to ensure that his family and personal life do not suffer. In fact he manages to keep all facets of his life healthy and thriving.

“It’s hugely important to make sure one part of your life doesn’t overlap all of the others.”

Following his own advice, he recently spent a rare two weeks with his family in Samoa – enjoying time together, surfing and with no technology.

“I left my phone and laptop at home. It was a long busy process setting up my dream (Advance Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre) and I know that I needed to reboot.”

Having grown up in a small resort town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in America, John’s teenage years were spent immersed in the world of sports; mainly skiing, snowboarding and racing semi-pro mountain bikes. These days his love of action is sated by motocross riding and surfing (he’ll find any excuse for an excursion to Raglan beach).

Now happily settled in Hamilton, with his wife and children, John is the first to admit that life is good. And that is largely because he works to keep it that way. He is his own best advertisement; striving to combine his love of family life, work and physical activity – and giving the same focus and dedication to each of these areas.

As director of Advance Physiotherapy in central Hamilton, he also challenges himself to continue his own education and frequently travels internationally to learn about new techniques and developments. John is also a John F. Barnes-trained myofascial release therapist and is involved in training people in Oov; both aimed at improving mobility, strength and wellbeing.

Personal Profile

Name:  John Appel

Age: 40 (just)

Occupation: Physiotherapist and director of Advance Physiotherapy (711 Victoria St, Hamilton).

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, and Masters degree in Physical Therapy Dayton, Ohio.  I am truly passionate about human performance and movement.  I get a real buzz when I see someone achieve something they haven’t been able to do because of a movement dysfunction.  Helping people achieve success is something I have always wanted to do.  Being an expert in human movement has allowed me to make a difference in so many people’s lives.  I really care about each and every person I come in contact with and want to maximise a person’s performance.

Background: I grew up in McCall, Idaho (a small town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains of the Pacific Northwest). At 18 I spent a gap year in Australia which got me hooked on surfing and this part of the world. Then at 21 I spent a year doing volunteer work in Hamilton.  This is when I met my amazing wife Sharon who followed me back to the United States and after six years, we moved back to Hamilton in 2002.  Hamilton has become my home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Your profession: I believe that the medical profession is just scratching the surface of true health and wellbeing.  We are learning something new every day and to be a world class expert I feel it is very important to keep up-to-date with new techniques and advances in medical care. This is why I go back to the States every couple of years to attend conferences and spend time learning techniques that haven’t yet made it to New Zealand.  I’m always looking for something new that will help our clients move from pain to performance.

surfingYour lifestyle: My personal nutritional philosophy is one of balance and eating whole foods.  I like to follow the 80/20 rule, so 80 percent of the time I am vegetarian focusing on plant based protein, rather than animal based protein. That said I still enjoy a good steak. I seldom get to eat out and rarely have takeaways. Foods I avoid are soft drinks, processed foods, pork and shellfish.
I avoid alcohol but will have the occasional wine for special occasions. My favorite meal is Mexican fresh bean tacos with cilantro, peppers and guacamole. Light wholesome and very tasty.
The cornerstone for my personal wellbeing is balance and to enjoy life. I set aside one day a week for family, friends and spiritual growth. At the end of a busy week I find the complete rest from chores and work is very welcome. Research is now starting to show that not only does it reduce stress, but it adds years to a person’s life. I know it is how I live now, that will allow me to be surfing when I’m 90.


Most common piece of advice you find yourself giving people: You only have one body, pain is the body’s warning sign that something is wrong.  Get the niggle, pain, discomfort, or tightness sorted as soon as you can. Don’t wait hoping it will just go away. Pain in the body creates movement dysfunction and guarding patterns. The body is always changing so doing the right work, exercise and treatment will make change in the body no matter how old the injury is. Ask yourself this question. If we could get rid of your problem and get you to maximise your fitness, what is it that you want to be able to do? I’m constantly amazed with what people can achieve with the right attitude and work.

Five common mistakes people make in terms of their general health and wellbeing:

Not getting enough of the following

  1. Sleep
  2. Fresh fruit and veggies
  3. Exercise
  4. Spiritual health

Having too much

  1. Alcohol
  2. Processed foods
  3. Stress
  4. Work

What you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago:  That true wellness is a choice and that you must make molecular change in the body to produce complete authentic healing.

Biggest challenge about your occupation: People looking for the quick lazy fix when they have been abusing their body for 20 years.

Aspect of your occupation you enjoy most: Connecting with people at a personal level helping them achieve goals and success that they never considered possible.

How do you relax? I’m an active relaxer so at the moment I’m most relaxed while surfing.  If I can be surfing in the tropics that is even better.

What you would do if you had more free time? If I had more free time I’ve always wanted to live the life of a professional athlete, training every day, getting daily myofascial release treatment, eating perfectly for my sport and perfecting a skill to the best possible level.  The top three sports I would choose to do this in are surfing, motocross and golf.

Three things you aspire to do/experience:

  1. Surf pipeline on the North Shore and surf it well.
  2. Snowboard the back country of Alaska
  3. Share my unique treatment philosophy with therapists around the world.

Most exciting thing you have ever done: I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie so kind of hard to pick. It would have to be either  bungee jumping Queenstown, sky diving in Hawaii or back country snowboarding  in Idaho.




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