In 64 years, this Grey Wolf Legend has crammed a lot into life. He was one of the first Americans to be awarded a BJJ black belt under the Gracie family, had a huge influence in bringing kettlebells back to the fitness industry, wrestled at NCAA D1 level, spent several years in the US military, has been a personal trainer to the stars (including Joe Rogan) and now lives a nomadic lifestyle teaching workshops around the world. Personally, Steve has been a mentor of mine for the last 5 years and despite his amazing achievements, has always treated me like an equal. He's a true inspiration. Please read this interview with the man himself and absorb his wealth of knowledge.
1. What is your age? How have you maintained apex health and fitness?
I'm 64 years young... I've maintained a high level of health and fitness by maintaining a solid training and diet protocol that started when I was quite young.
I never lost sight of the big picture and prioritized health and fitness in my lifestyle.
I've seen too many guys lose their youth and vitality by becoming slaves to their jobs and careers. They chased the almighty dollar while sacrificing their health. I combined the two by making my career about health and fitness. My avocation is my vocation. I engineered my life to do what I like and still make a good living. Despite this, even guys that have stressful, busy jobs can still stay fit and healthy. I work with a lot of people like that and help them find their way.
2. Since you turned 40, have you experienced any changes to how your body looks, moves and feels?
Oh sure. Everyone slows down. Everyone gets old and dies. Nobody gets out of here alive! For me it has been subtle, a slow change. I have played some pretty rough sports like wrestling and Jiujitsu. One pays a price for those "rough boy" sports. I have some old injuries that plague me but I always took care of myself, so I've been lucky in that I suffer from nothing too debilitating.
I do however feel those old "dings and nicks"...
Each decade after 45, I could feel a slight loss in endurance and strength. It was particularly noticeable when I hit 54... and again at 64. There's been muscle loss despite doing strength training and I have to spend even more time with mobility drills to remain spry. The older man needs to work even more than a younger guy in order to maintain functionality. I am not talking about over training with a lot of high intensity stuff. There's a place for that, but every day I do Qigong, joint mobility and low intensity cardio work with special breathing drills and exercises. Breath work is neglected quite a bit.
It's easier to gain body fat as one ages. I have really cut back on my food intake in order to maintain body leanness. I still like to get on the mat and play around with Jiujistsu. I've learned the art of the 'soft roll' and know how to protect myself. I'm not afraid to tap early and to tap often, even to lower ranked belts. I am also very picky with my training partners. One of the concessions I made was to roll only with technical fighters and guys my own weight or lighter... No more heavy weights for me.
3. What does your current fitness routine look like?
As I said earlier, I train every day, but not hard every day. I perform two strength training sessions each week that are comprised of body weight calisthenics. I'm not against using barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells it's just that I travel full time and usually have no equipment available. I am literally in a different city or country every two weeks or less. I really enjoy training outside, in nature. I find nice parks in every city in the world. The only equipment I need is a pull up bar. I travel with a suspension device so I can use that to work the pulling muscles of my upper body if no horizontal bar can be found. Every day I do Qigong, Taoist yoga and the Russian Slavic health system. I created my own blend of these systems. I'll also add in yin yoga into the mix.
I enjoy walking and zen running while performing special breathing exercises.
I like to skip rope. It's a skill I learned as a young wrestler and I still enjoy it to this day.
I add in vestibular reset training by doing various crawls and ground movement exercises. I call it “baby training”. Rolling and crawling around on the floor like a little kid. Most adults have trouble with ground engagement and moving around on the floor. 95% of people over 70 have great difficulty getting up and down from the floor. I also practice break falls. Falling is a real problem with older adults. It's one of the leading causes of death in the elderly. I practice falling as part of my martial arts training. I make a special workout with falling drills, as part of my overall mobility program.
4. Have you changed the way you eat as you've gotten older?
I found that after I hit 60 that I had to cut down on portion size. I've experimented a lot with various diets when I was younger. I now follow a strict food combining diet. I found the simpler the meals, the better the digestion. Humans are basically digestive machines. Many folks suffer from poor digestion and don't even know it. There's a litany of negative health consequences from poor digestion. This is caused primarily from over eating, eating too frequently and mixing too many different foods in one meal.
I eat very little starch. I found that I just don't need that much starch and I will "fatten up" if I’m not careful. I usually skip breakfast and don't believe the hype that breakfast is the most important meal. Its better to fast in the morning. Your body is busy getting rid of metabolic waste from the day before. The morning time is when the body’s elimination system is busiest. A large breakfast interferes with this elimination process. I'll only eat a breakfast if there's going to be a long, strenuous day. Even then, I won't eat until I've been up for 4 hours....
I generally eat two meals per day, but as I said, occasionally three. I maintain 4-5 hours between meals. I eat my chief meal midday and a light supper 5 hours later.
The chief meal is a protein with a leafy green salad and sometimes cooked green vegetables. Never any starch. If I do eat starch, it's by itself. I never combine starch and protein in the same meal. The Yogis admonished against this 5000 years ago. It's been long recognized as a poor eating habit. My supper is usually fresh seasonal fruits, ideally locally produced. I'll sometimes have a bit of yogurt or shredded coconut with the fruit.
Very basic, very simple.
One way a person can determine their vitality and health levels is to see how long they can go without eating. The person in poor health needs to eat frequently. A person in good health with a strong constitution can go hours, even a day without undue stress of hunger....
Most people in the modern western world fear hunger. The first little rumbling in the tummy sends them rushing to the refrigerator or cupboard. Most people in the US, EU and U.K. have never experienced true biological hunger. They suffer from "habit hunger". That tummy rumbling is merely an acid response to the time of day. They are so habituated to eating at certain times, that their bodies produce an acid response to the time. If they would drink a cool glass of water and get preoccupied in a creative project, they'd forget about eating and would be fine. It’s ironic that while many parts of the world are starving, the modern western world is eating itself to death...
5. Finish the sentence: When I'm 75 I'll be....
Alive, God willing. I plan on doing what I am now for as long as possible.
I'll make adjustments as needed. But I won't change anything. The principles are the same:
• Daily exercise with Qigong, mobility, breath work, walking, zen running
• Two weekly intense strength training sessions
• Light eating with meals based on fresh veggies and fruits
• Daily prayer, mediation, affirmation, visualization and contemplation