Categorized | Community Spotlight

Form & Function, Josh Sabraw by Robin Will

Posted on 05 June 2014 by Jason

Josh Sabraw, Personal Trainer and Strength Coach, is the proprietor at Form & Function, which just moved to new quarters near OMSI on Portland’s east side.

Form & Function involves more than joining a gym and working up a sweat a couple of times a week. Many of Sabraw’s clients have been that route, and want better results than they can achieve on their own. A surprising number are recovering from injuries, needing to get strong without hurting themselves again. Either way, they identified a need for intervention, and word-of-mouth referral has brought them to Sabraw.
Sabraw looks like a jock and sounds like a psychologist. He talks a lot about trust, and conversation moves seamlessly between the definitions of fitness, the dynamics of motivation, the importance of self-image, and the Zen of self-improvement in every possible way. (If you don’t believe it, read his blog entry on nail-biting, at—he means every possible way.)
Sabraw describes how Form & Function fits in the current marketplace of fitness providers. “Mostly, when people think about gyms and fitness, they flash back to high school,” he says, shaking his head, “remembering coaches who were jerks, and trainers without much background in training.” His first job is to banish those memories.
Today, fitness programs for grownups fall into a handful of categories.
One is a Boot Camp approach, where a program is laid down and clients are expected to follow it. “You adapt to their program; they don’t adapt to you. It’s a good way to hurt yourself,” Sabraw says. He knows that for a fact, because many folks who start on a guts-and-glory program become Form & Function clients as they recover from their injuries!
Another approach to fitness is the big room full of specialized machines. Everything has its place, he notes, while pointing out the cold comfort of interacting with machines. One-on-one work with a personal trainer is an option, he says, although very few folks require that kind of constant attention.
The happy compromise is a semi-private program like the one at Form & Function. “What works best is exactly what I’ve got here—a minimalist gym with dumbbells and ropes,” Sabraw says.
The investment is in personal attention. Form & Function offers unlimited semi-private training visits for a flat fee. Sabraw develops a personal program for each client, and the clients come in on their own schedules, getting as much help as their programs require, and all of the encouragement they need to keep going.
It apparently works for everybody. Sabraw just moved Form & Function into a new Portland location within the confines of Iron Ethos—and 100 percent of his clientele made the transition with him. That kind of loyalty suggests there’s more going on than dumbbells and ropes.
The best guess is that clients are loyal to Sabraw because he is devoted to them. He is careful about limitations, and it’s not unusual for a client to spend a year stabilizing an injury before moving on to bigger challenges. But training is about progress, and when they’re ready for a challenge, he hands them one … “a little sugar in the medicine,” he says … until momentum develops, and clients start feeling their own success.
Sabraw hands out writing exercises for downtime, when routines call for rest, and one of his questions is, “What are you happy about today?” The responses offer a look at the intangibles of training. “I notice my grip feels stronger today,” writes one client. Another client, still ambivalent about training discipline, says, “I’m proud of myself for showing up.” Yet another says, “I feel like I value myself more.”
“Self-image is huge,” reflects Sabraw, and it’s clear that they’re building more than killer abs over at Form & Function.


New location: 210 SE Madison, Portland. For more information, contact Sabraw at 503-593-0179 or visit


Robin Will is a Portland writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

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