Aging Single #4: Moving Your Body in Old Age

: SOLO | Ryan Hurst | Old Age

As his series on aging, retiring and dying single continues, Peter McGraw speaks to Ryan Hurst, Head Coach at GMB Fitness, about moving your body remarkably in old age.


Listen to Episode #219 here


Aging Single #4: Moving Your Body in Old Age

This is the fourth episode in a series on Aging, Retiring, and Dying Solo. Future topics include aging, sexy, and navigating end of life. Before we get into this episode, I will be moving the podcast to every other week for the summer as I need a bit of a break post-book launch. In this episode, I speak to the Head Coach and Program Director at GMB Fitness, known for his extensive experience in martial arts and gymnastics. He co-founded GMB to focus on practical fitness without the hype, teaching strength, flexibility, and body control. His training philosophy, which I like a lot, is training for a healthy life and emphasizes functional movement over aesthetic goals. Anybody who reads this show knows that I’m vain. This is a new perspective for me. Welcome, Ryan Hurst. 

Thank you so much for having me. 

It’s okay to be a little vain if that gets you into the gym.

I love it because we all want to look good naked.

We won’t be talking about that as much in this episode. You and I can chat about that offline. We’re going to be talking about health overall, with a focus on movement for the aging single. The best place to start is for you to elaborate a bit on your philosophy. How did you come to have this orientation? What is it? Let’s dive into that. 

Without going too in-depth, originally, when I was young, starting gymnastics and ended up with martial arts, ended up moving to Japan and that took me into a whole other world there. Me coming into this was a matter of me wanting to be better in my martial art and realizing that had some make some pains and wanted to figure out how I can build my body to put people in awkward positions on the mat and do that a better way. I found out that was my entire life, how truly healthy and in this terms I’m talking about not just being able to beat people up or anything like that, but continuing to feel good in my body while I’m doing things. 

It was a very selfish endeavor in the very beginning. Later on down the road, I paired up with my two business partners and started looking at how I can better help other people. That’s where things started off, moving beyond the gym, to be perfectly honest, because while training is super important, it’s the other stuff that you’re doing outside of the gym that are going to help you to be able to live the life that you want to live. It’s not just a matter of putting in X amount of time, to perform the exercise. You have to think about the other stuff that’s going to help you to be able to live the life you want. It’s different for every single person. That’s why in GMB Fitness, we don’t say, “It has to be this way at all.” All I’m about is trying to help you to figure out what’s going to be best for you to help you to do the things that you want to do in your life better or whatever that might be. 


Lifespan And Healthspan

To anybody who has taken a look at my book, I talk about having a good foundation for life and the value that health has as a part of that tripod, health, wealth, and connection with these three elements, sleep, nutrition, and movement. Before we get into those, one of the topics that has come up in a previous episode on Aging Single is the difference between lifespan and health span. I’m curious, “Do you use those words? How does that fit your philosophy?

Personally, yes. I’m all about health span. I don’t want to live longer if it means that I’m a vegetable in bed. I would prefer to live as well as possible for as long as I possibly can. To me, it’s all about how well I move and how I feel. On a separate note, I have a personal little side endeavor that I do. It’s not a business, it’s something that I enjoy, and I call it the Geo Guide. It’s where I teach my martial arts. I have one where I write an article a week and I publish these. I talk a lot about that my purpose in starting the Geo Guide is to help people to be able to step on the mat forever. That’s what I’m about it’s looking beyond the techniques in terms of this particular style of martial art or something. 

It’s simply, What do you need to do in order to improve your health span on the mats? I’m 51 years old now. I don’t move the way I used to when I was younger. On a separate note, I don’t care to move in that particular way. As we get older or values change, why we’re doing this? I think it’s very important to be able to look at that for what it is and not get hooked into living a life that was many years ago, appreciate where you are right now and live the life that you want to live. Now that’s going to be good for you based on your values. This health span to me is more important than just trying to live longer. It is something that, that we touch on in GMB, but it’s not pronounced that we say, “We’re only looking at health span,” if that makes sense. 

One of the tough things about this notion of healthspan is we know our age. Every year we have a birthday. What gets measured gets managed. One of the tough things about it is your age goes up no matter what. If you’re lucky. A lot of people have some target goal and want to live to some ex age in order to be able to see their grandchildren, be able to travel, enjoy retirement, and so on, but there’s not a number for health span. When you think about health span, it sounds like you’re talking about whether you can maintain activities that are age-appropriate.

It can also be difficult because just because I can do something at a particular age doesn’t mean that same thing is going to be good for another person at that same age. It’s all dependent upon our previous experiences. An example would be when someone would come into GMB and they would see me moving in a certain way and they’d say, “Ryan’s 51 years old.” There are usually two things. I can never move that way. Immediately they think that, or they think, “Ryan’s 51, I should be able to do this.” They do it, and they end up hurting themself because they haven’t prepared themself to be able to move in this particular way.

The first example I gave, look at it and say, “I could never move that way,” is something that we try and reframe the way that people look at that, “No, you’re never going to be able to move the way I move because you are not Ryan Hurst. I’m never going to be able to move the way that you move.” We need to change that and reframe it to, “How can I move a little bit better?” That’s all that matters. What I mean is you’ll never be able to move like me is because literally, you’re not me. You might move better than me and that’s the thing.

When we compare to other people, we lose sight of what is important and that is, “What can we do today?” If you can focus on where you’re at today, like truly how are you feel today and focus on, “This is what’s going on with me today,” and move a little bit better, then you’re doing great. Therefore, if you’re looking at health span, to me, it’s not a matter of chasing a number going forward. It’s simply looking and being aware of where you are right now and appreciating the fact that you can do the things that you can do right now.

You might not be able to do the things maybe you want to do yet, but that’s the big thing is yet. Work on a little bit more to get there. in terms of healthspan, I don’t even think about how long I want to live. I live today. That’s all I think about. This is another topic that I love that you talk about, and that is fact of dying. We could die right after this call. Great. Don’t be scared of that. Don’t fear it. Embrace it. Do the things that you always said that you wanted to do. If you want to move in a particular way, let’s figure out how to help you to get that. 

Instead of always thinking about the future, let’s think about the little things that you can focus on and do right now so that if death is staring you in the face, you’re like, “I’m good to go. Let’s do this.” That’s how I think, this is very me, my background in Japan, having lived there for so long and studying in Buddhism for so long. That’s maybe a little bit different a lot of people, especially I’ve found in the United States, deal with that in different ways. Moving back to that health span topic is don’t compare yourself to other people or chase a number. Use other people maybe as inspiration, but bring the focus back to yourself. Be selfish in order to figure out what you need and then start working on yourself so that you can be better for other people. 

If I could put on my behavioral scientist hat for a moment, one of the things to recognize is that it is very natural as a human to make comparisons. We’re much better at making comparisons across people than we are within ourselves. You can have made great strides with regard to your career, financial stability and health, but there’s always going to be someone who has a better job, more money, a better body, etc. We can hone in on those things. It does a disservice to both our happiness sometimes because we tend to look up rather than down. It gets us off the important task, which is what improvements can I make?

The other one is calling back to the episode about The Big 100 with Bill Kole. I think this is one of the biggest insights that is going to come out of this series, is the value that optimism has in aging. That too often, especially culturally, we think getting old is bad and is going to lead to a decline. We don’t look at how aging leads to an increase in wisdom, perspective, and comfort with ourselves and recognize that being optimistic allows you to be patient as you make these improvements, that you can decrease the amount of pain in your body. You can move better. You can lose weight if you want to gain muscle in ways that there’s not a cultural conversation around.

It is sad, and this is why it’s great to be able to discuss this. If you look at different phases in your life, for example, whether that be you might’ve been an athlete and you’re not an athlete now, and that’s perfectly fine, but it can be freeing, if you will, and give you the freedom to not have to think you have to train that way anymore. You’re doing things now to be honest, because you enjoy it. There are some things that you need to do, maybe you don’t enjoy, maybe not drinking a six-pack of beer every single night or something, I don’t know. What I’m getting at is the fact that if you look at it as phases of life, and as you get older, you mentioned the wisdom side of that. 

Changing things from being the performer to then possibly becoming the teacher to share your wisdom and to look at it beyond yourself instead of bringing it all about yourself, helping those who are younger to be able to hopefully get to where they want to go a little bit faster without making some of the mistakes that you did. I look at a lot about what I do is that. We’re on the same path. I happen to be a little further forward. I’m shining that flashlight behind you to light up the path to hopefully make it easier for you to move forward. Likewise, it’s also important as we get older to search out mentors, people who have been there, who are older than us, who are people that we look up to and say, “How can I do this better at this age?” Instead of dwelling on thinking, “I’m getting older, I might as well hang up my,” whatever it is that you’re doing.

It’s like almost finding a lifestyle mentor, in a sense. Who’s that 75, 85, or 95-year-old who’s living the life that you want to be living? Can you connect with that person, be inspired by them, learn from them and maybe inject a little youthfulness? When you’re exactly in your 50s, you may not think of yourself as young, but when you’re in your 50s compared to a 90-year-old, you are brimming with youthfulness at times. 

A great example here. One of the GMB trainers, we have about 125 trainers located throughout the world that teach GMB. One of our trainers is 76. It’s amazing I’ve learned a lot from him having him around. It gives me hope to be perfectly honest.


The Triple A Model

We are going to talk sleep, and nutrition, and then focus mainly on movement. Before we do that, you have a model that you use, the AAA. What is the AAA model?

This comes back to what we were discussing in terms of like knowing where you are. A lot of us don’t know where we are. We’re going through life, and we’re like, “I want to get in shape, I want to do this, but we don’t have anything to measure.” This is sometimes where you’re comparing yourself to other people can be quite difficult because you’re not that person. You need to figure out where you’re at. This is where we use the AAA framework, and it revolves around making an assessment. You assess how your body is, and then you address the issues that you’re having, whatever might be involved with your strengths, flexibility, mobility, and control then you apply the necessary protocol that’s going to help you to be able to help what it is that you want. 

An example could be as we’re getting older, maybe simply being able to perform a squat. It sounds super simple, but as we get older, especially in the Western world, the range of motion decreases due to the fact that we’re sitting, whether it be in a car, at a desk. We don’t spend a whole lot of time on the ground, getting down to the ground to back up. Therefore, mobility decreases. One thing to think about is using the squat as an assessment, “How are you doing today?” The reason I bring up the squat is because, for example, you might want to get back into a fitness program. There are going to be squats in that fitness program. It is how it is

You can’t skip leg day. 

The thing of it is you might have been able to perform the squat with a certain amount of weight in the past, and that doesn’t mean that you should perform that same amount for a couple of reasons. 1) If it has been a long time, you need to work your way back up to that weight. More importantly, to be perfectly honest, is can your body handle the load? I’m talking about the joints. If we’re looking at the ankles, hips, and lumbar, you need to make sure that you can perform a squat unloaded so that when you start to load it, it’s not going to come apart. Basically, you’re not going to break. This is where these assessments can come into play, and we can be honest with ourselves. 

The other thing is to throw that ego aside. If you’re getting older, that’s fine. Embrace it. Just understand that your body’s different than it was before. How is the squat? We look at how it feels. It’s not a number 1 to 5, it’s literally how does this feel? Do you feel discomfort somewhere? There’s a difference between discomfort and pain. We don’t want to go to pain. If you feel pain, get out of that position, figure out what’s going on and why it’s painful. Have a look at it before you start doing anything. If it’s simple discomfort where, for example, “I’m tight. I realized that I have difficulty squatting down,” let’s figure out, is this an ankle issue with your mobility? Is it a hip flexor? Is it due to something that happened in the past that you didn’t take care of and it needs to be addressed?  ”

That’s where the second part here comes into play, is addressing that issue. What do you need to do in order to help you to improve that? It’s an ankle thing, you need to be aware of it. We say, “This ankle thing is the ankle. It’s not necessarily maybe the hip, then it’s going down to the ankle. It is the ankle.” By knowing that, applying the necessary protocol is simply doing the thing that you need to do in order to help make it better. We try and keep it simple.

A lot of people have all these supplemental things and whatever, but it could possibly be as easy as simply you every day going down and sitting in a squat position. That’s it. A lot of times, people try and overcomplicate things and think they need this special program, tool or something to help them. No, sometimes you don’t and the majority of the time you don’t. It’s a matter of doing the thing that you want to do, but doing it in a safe manner that’s going to allow you to slowly be able to improve that thing that you’re doing. 

Certainly, this is a theme in my classes where I talk to my students about you have problems, but you have to recognize that American culture in particular wants to sell you solutions. They want to sell you pills and exercise tools. A lot of our problems can be solved with time rather than money. Exercise is one of those things. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not have rubber bands, and they did not have supplements, yet their bodies moved wonderfully because they used them all the time in a way that we don’t. I’m glad you used the squat as an example because it’s a very nice example of health span, which is this, a lot of solos want to maintain their independence. They tend to have an autonomous streak, to begin with. They don’t want to have to burden other people rely on other people. They don’t want to have to leave their apartment or their house any sooner than they need to. Let’s be honest, if you can’t get off the toilet, you can’t live alone. 

Even to go a little further like if you can’t get off the floor.

“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” 

Do you remember that?


That clicker. That’s what it is. The more time, and it’s simple. This is what I mean by simple. It doesn’t have to be an exercise program, nor should it be. It’s simply, “Rather than sitting on the sofa to watch your TV, sit on the floor.” I’m not talking all the time. I’m talking about sitting a little bit on the floor, then going back and sitting on the sofa or something like that. The important thing here is to make it simple, it would be stupid not to do it. We think of things in that way, it gets done, then it becomes a habit and that’s it. It’s literally you’re sitting on the floor watching a little bit of TV, you’re still doing the thing that you want to do. By adding that in, it’s easy. You can go back and sit on this for later and stuff, but the fact that you went down to the floor, you sat there, you had to get up off of the floor. You’re working your entire body and doing that forever. 


The Sleep Foundation

That’s great. A little bit of stretching, foam rolling, and there are all these things that you can do while you’re consuming. I lament how comfortable modern couches are because you get into that thing and it’s hard to get out. Let’s talk about sleep. This is foundational. What is your philosophy with regard to sleep and your perspective on pursuing both quantity and quality of sleep as a foundation? 

This is a huge topic of mine because I had trouble sleeping a few years ago. Whenever I do anything, I go real deep. I take a deep dive, try and learn as much as possible. The most important thing is to experiment on yourself and figure out what works for you. I do know that if possible, when it gets dark outside, start to bring things down. What I mean by this is to look at the lights in your house. I don’t watch TV in the evenings. I don’t look at my iPad or any of those things because if I look at a screen, I’m going to have trouble sleeping. That’s me. I wear earplugs. I’m quite sensitive to noise. This is when I grew up. It was a survival thing for me. I wake up and be ready.

I wear earplugs and a lot of people say, “If I wear earplugs, I won’t be able to hear.” It’s not that. It’s drowning out a little bit of the extra stuff that’s happening. I wear those. Sometimes it’s going to take a little bit getting used to. I do encourage people as well, I don’t do it anymore because it’s not necessary for me. I do know that I do keep my mouth shut when I sleep, but I have found that making sure that you’re breathing through the nose when you’re sleeping will give you better sleep. You’ll feel more rested. If you do need to tape your mouth, by all means, do it.

I’ve seen this. I think this is something I need to do. I have not ventured into the world. 

It’s huge. The first time you do it, you probably won’t last one hour, you’ll fall asleep, and then you’ll end up ripping it off in the middle of the night. It does make a huge difference. I want to take a step back though, and look at what sleep is, but doing the things throughout the day that are going to help you to be able to sleep well and deeply. I think that’s the main thing. I don’t drink anymore I do from time to time. I love tequila. The thing of it is it’s not where like, “Let’s go have a couple of drinks.” I can’t do that anymore. That’s just me. If I go have a drink, it’s like, I don’t know what you call it. Is it a finger? I like moving to the United States. I don’t even know. 

I know what you mean. It’s not a normal shot. 

It’s not like a shot. I’m sipping it over the course of however long I’m hanging out with my friends, but I do know I will not sleep as deeply as I would have had I not had that drink. The thing of it is it’s that tie off. I’m not saying don’t drink, because this is the other thing that I think is important, is enjoying your life. If I don’t drink, that’s bad. Maybe if you’re boozing it up every single night, but having a drink and being social and being with your friends, and enjoying life, I think also is a huge thing. Finding that balance is going to be good for you. I keep regular times when I sleep.

Because I’m physical in my life, this is something that I know that if there’s a slight change, it’s going to affect whatever I’m going to do that day. Likewise, though, I don’t get hung up nowadays if there is that change. I’m not like, “I didn’t sleep well last night and get upset because my workout isn’t the way I want it to be.” That stuff doesn’t matter to me at all anymore, then nowadays, it’s, “Great. It is what it is. This is my life. I’m happy that I’m able to work out.”

Quick story. We moved into a new place. The next-door neighbor is in a wheelchair. I ended up chatting him up, and I was like, “What’s up with the wheelchair?” He was like, “Funny story.” I’m like, “Okay.” He was in the US Army and did four tours. Two in Ira. Two in Afghanistan. What he did over there, I’m not exactly sure, but he was exposed to a lot of chemicals. A few years ago, he found out that he had kidney cancer. They tried to do surgery on it. They missed a tiny piece of it. It went to his spine. It gave him spinal cancer, paralyzed now and the doctor is saying, “You’re going to die within 1 to 2 years.” That’s horrible to hear. The thing of it is he’s laughing about it because he is like, “It’s a great example of he’s going to live the life that he can right now.” He has four kids, they live next door, great people. 

The thing of it is this helps me coming back to the thing and being like, no matter how bad your day is compared to what he’s going through, things are cool. If my workout isn’t going the way I think it should go, I need to reframe that and go, “At least I can freaking work out.” Coming back to the sleep portion of this, this is also very important because a lot of people have trouble sleeping because the hamster is running around in their minds. This is why at night, my meditation is I perform my martial art technique that I’m currently working on in my mind as perfectly as possible. Instead of counting sheep, I’m doing that.

There are a couple of good reasons for that, as well as visualization. The brain is training that thing that you’re doing. Let’s say, for example, you start a new workout program and there’s a particular movement that you’re still struggling with. Perform that movement in your mind in bed before you go to bed. Try and do it as perfectly as you possibly can. Studies have found that movement will get better. Little things like that not only help you sleep, it’ll take your mind off of the other stupid stuff that you’re probably thinking of that you should get rid of in order to live your life.

It’ll also help you deeper sleep, therefore helping you for the next day. There are a lot of little things over the years that I’m always focused on using that are very simple, but they stack and add up. I’m helping myself get the sleep I need. Maybe I don’t sleep as well as I did, but I let go of that and focus on trying to do the best I can that day. My advice for sleep might be a little bit different than people saying, you got to have black curtains, a mask, take magnesium, and all this other stuff. I’m looking at, “What is the mental side of things that are keeping you from sleeping and doing the things that you want to do?” 

If I hear you correctly, there’s the issue of hygiene. Having good sleep hygiene in terms of the dark room, the right temperature for you, comfortable, bedding, earplugs, or white noise. These things become a little bit more necessary as you get older. The next thing is routine. Anybody who’s had a baby knows how important a routine is for a baby. Then you become an adult and you go, “I don’t need a routine anymore.” You’re like, “We do benefit from routines. Going to bed around the same time, getting up around the same time.” Having a wind-down routine. I share your perspective about lights and screens. I now do the, it’s 10, 3, 2, 1. No caffeine ten hours before bed. No food three hours before bed. No water two hours before bed. No screens one hour before. With all those things in terms of getting more of my digestion, not having to wake up in the middle of the night to pee and not being super aroused in order to try to do this. The last thing I hear, you have a hygiene routine, and I can’t make it rhyme, but you have this, “Be easy, be flexible.” You don’t have to nail it every single day. 

You have to be good enough. 

There are two types of people. There are the people who are scattered. They’re all over the place. They don’t have a plan, and it’s no wonder that they have troubles in this realm and then there are the folks who are a little more like me. It sounds like maybe you were like this at some point where you’re such an optimizer that everything needs to be perfect and you can obsess about it. You’re in the middle of the night and you’re thinking, “I’m awake. Tomorrow’s going to be horrible.” Know that if you have the basics of this, your body can withstand the occasional restless night’s sleep or a late night where you’re having fun dancing. A joyous life is important. 

I don’t go out to clubs and, and stay up all night because I know it would affect me not just the next day, but probably the day after, because that’s where I am right now. The thing of it is I don’t enjoy my life. Letting things slide is huge. Years ago, the reason I was having trouble sleeping was because, looking at moving to the United States, back to the United States and all this stuff, “I have to do this. What if this happens?” It’s all this like fear.


False evidence, appearing real, the stuff that we make up in our mind. Rather than doing that, I was like, “This is stupid. I did the work. I’m doing the work. I’m going to turn my brain off and then tomorrow I’ll deal with it.” I got good at that. I used something that I know is my meditation in which I go through my martial art practice and it put me to sleep. I still do it to this day, and I love it. 


The 5 P Model

The thing I often will say is this is not the appropriate time for me to work. I point people to, if they do struggle with the rumination element, and oftentimes, the more successful you are, the more this is a problem because that vigilance can pay off during the day. I want to point people to the Solo Thoughts Episode: Do You Have A Watcher? where I take a deeper dive into this issue. Let’s turn our attention to movement, which is your specialty. Your other model is the 5Ps. What are the 5Ps?

I hinted at this earlier, where I don’t exercise. I have a session the reason for this is that if we’re only looking at exercising, then it’s not that you possibly won’t be this way, but there’s a tendency for us not to be as aware as we could be when we’re performing those exercises. Rather than thinking about exercises, I say that I practice because I believe that everything we do is a matter of trying to get better at it. This could be whether you’re looking at a barbell squat bench press. We want to get better at that movement. The better we get at it, the more practice we have, the better our form, the better we breathe when we’re doing it, and the better we feel about that movement. Therefore, the better we will be at it. Therefore, we will get stronger.

GMB, it is using these 5Ps. we first prep our body for the things that we’re going to be practicing. This is coming back to the joints. we’re looking at the large joints that we’re going to be using in that session that day. Let’s say, for example, coming back to the squat example, that you will be squatting. Great. Let’s work on preparing the hips and the ankles for the movement. We keep it short. There’s no reason to spend 30 minutes foam rolling, stretching and doing all this stuff to get into your session. We want to move the body in a way that’s appropriate to get you prepared to be able to practice a movement. The second practice is where we will look at a particular movement, and perform that movement at the highest level possible in order to get a better understanding of that in order to improve that skill. 

Let’s say you’re working on a handstand. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re literally doing a handstand. If you’re learning a handstand, you might not even be going upside down. What you are working on are the things that are going to help you to eventually get there. Coming back to the barbell squat, an example of this would be you don’t start off with your one rep backs right away. You start off by some warmup reps. That’s practicing your form you want to dial in that form that day and get good at the movement. Another example might be kettlebell snatches. You want to work up to that. Get good with the form, the better you can be with that movement and practice it, the more load you can tolerate and the stronger you’re going to get.

The third portion of this is play. In fact, this doesn’t exist in a lot of people’s exercise. Play simply means exploring a movement that you’re already familiar with in order to get a better understanding of that movement. In this case, if we’re looking at the squat, one way that I like to look at playing around with the squat is we use a bodyweight squat without any weight at all. Look at how many different ways you can get into that squat and out of that squat. That’s exploration. I didn’t tell you exactly what squat to use. What you end up doing is finding a position that’s good for you. That’s the most important thing here. If I were to show you my squat and you tried to mimic my squat, it wouldn’t benefit you. 

We use examples and demonstrations simply as inspiration and examples for maybe what you could work on in yourself that’s where play comes into place. The next one is push. This is where the majority of people live in their workouts. Push is literally you push yourself. In this case, it could be done looking at the duration of time. Let’s say for example, that we have body weight squats. I’m going to ask you to perform body-weight squats for a period of time. 45 seconds. You always want to perform these at the highest quality of form possible. Let’s say that you’re performing these bodyweight squats. You’re going all the way down, all the way up, but these are getting difficult for you. You’ll want to adjust the depth of that squat that’s appropriate for you. That allows you to keep your form. 

The thing is, because you have made this adjustment, it allows you to continue to get in volume. Therefore, you’re getting stronger working on, in this case, endurance strength. You’re also working on the mobility that’s going to help you to be better at that movement. It’s not just a matter of strength in this case. Let’s say that it might be a single-leg squat variation that you’re working on. You’re also now looking at not just strength, not just the mobility, but also the control. The control is another factor that’s extremely important. As we age, we need to make sure that we still have control, which means balance and proprioception, awareness of what’s going on within our body as we age. In GMB, what we’re focused on, is bringing this better awareness and using a movement that’s appropriate to your level, and making sure that you are working towards the physical autonomy of that movement. 

In other words, you’re mastering it. By mastering, I mean that in terms of the Japanese version of mastery, where you have a better understanding of that movement today than you did yesterday, and you’re working towards continuing to make it better. The final one then is ponder. Not a lot of people focus on this at all. Ponder simply means, “What went well in that session today? What are some of the things that I might need to focus on in order to make it even better next time?” In other words, what didn’t go well during the session? It could be 30 seconds of thinking about that. This is where now you bring even further awareness, deeper awareness into how that session went. It’s not a matter of going, “I freaking crushed it, drinking your protein, and then taking a selfie.” 

It’s much more than that. It’s saying, “I was doing that barbell squat today. I happened to notice this little tiny tweak in my lower back. I think it’s fine, but I felt it,” and being aware of that because then in your next session might pop up. By being aware of that, then you can come back to those triple A that we have, where you can then assess the issue and then apply the necessary protocol. Finally, I will say about that is everything we do is based on autoregulation. Autoregulation simply means that you make adjustments to that day’s workout that are appropriate to how you feel that day. Just because on a piece of paper it says, “Today is your high-intensity session doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s going to be the best for you that day.”

This is where we’re looking at lifespan. If you crush yourself just because today is your crushing day, it might mean that you’re leading towards injury. If you happen to injure yourself, then rather than possibly backing off slightly, I’m not saying do the session, I’m saying like, adjust the intensity to allow you to continue to get better. Not having to take a break down the road. This is where we’re truly looking at health span and being able to be a better version of ourselves for a longer period of time.

A couple of things I want to reflect on here. One is the value of patience. I don’t know how accurate this statistic is, but the general idea holds, I remember, when do people get injured? They tend to get injured in the first six weeks of a new program. That’s usually because they’re testing their body, they’re challenging their body, they’re learning, and their body’s not ready to get ramped up as quickly as it is. Being easy on yourself and knowing, especially if you’re getting started. I always like to say, “Whatever the issue is, there are two types of people.

There are the people who aren’t doing enough, and the people who are doing too much.” The people who are not doing enough need to recognize that it may take a year to start to see and feel the results of moving. You don’t have to rush it. These six-week programs are a way to sell services. These before and after pictures are infuriating. If you want to change your body, it might take 1 to 3 years to do that. I like this idea. My favorite of the peas is played because people think of their exercise often as work and drudgery, and they have to get psyched up to go to the gym or wherever it is they’re going to do this stuff. Yet, when we were kids, we moved our bodies all the time. We never needed to go to the gym as an 8-year-old. 

We didn’t think about sets or reps. 

We ran, biked, tumbled, played, and crashed into each other. We were on the ground. We were on our knees. We were crawling around. A call back to a previous episode, one of the early ones was with my friend Charlie Merrill. He gave me this term to move with joy. I’ll often go to the gym if I’m a little low energy, maybe I didn’t sleep well, I’m willing to blow up my workout in order to move with joy. I’m finding movements that are fun for me. I might bear crawl. I might do a handstand. I might do some pull-ups. I might jump some rope. I do things that make me feel good.

I feel more invigorated and happy that I move my body and so on. The last thing I want to say is for that other person, which I suspect you were at some point in your life, and I was certainly, is doing too much. This is a cultural thing. It’s like, “I’m pushing myself at work. I’m pushing myself in my relationships. I’m pushing myself in the gym. I’m constantly growing and achieving.” There’s a counterintuitive notion, especially as you start to age, which is that sometimes pulling back is more.

I had this experience during the pandemic where I improved my sleeping and my nutrition, but I worked out much less and moved with joy much more. I remember six weeks into this, I looked at myself in the mirror and I looked better than when I was getting super aggressive. Recognizing which one of those people you are, do you need to gently ramp up or down to find that sweet spot for your age and your body, knowing that your body can heal and that it can improve even later in life?

I was there. That was me. I don’t even work out half as much as I used to, but I feel better and everything about it. 

I’m going to ask you a big question, and then I want to go through some audience questions, more rapid-fire here. I think people want to know, “What should I be doing?” I want to offer one thing, which I’m certain you’re going to agree with it. Then I want you to say, What is that other thin or things with regard to movement? The thing I want to say is, if you can, you ought to be walking a lot more than you think you need to be walking, and that it should be a daily practice that we were built to walk long distances. It’s good for our mind, body, and soul to walk. 

I’m going to say something else, but before that is walk as much as you can throughout the day. That’s the other important point. Not just, “I went on a walk,” but as much as you can. One thing I loved about being in Japan is we would walk everywhere or ride our bikes. That’s what you do. I’m talking like, to pick up groceries, pick up the kids and all of that. There are grace studies showing that being outside completely helps mentally, not just physically. Get outside. Go on a walk. I will add, we already talked about it. Get down to the floor and get back up every single day. If you want to make it easy, you want to make it easy, think of it as this. Get down to the floor, put your shoes on and stand back up. Later, when you take your shoes off, get down to the floor, take your shoes off, and stand back up. 

My house is shoe-free, which you’ll appreciate as someone who lived in Japan. You’re suggesting to get rid of the stool and get on the floor.

We have a lot of people who come over because where I teach martial arts is in my house, and the basement’s all matted out. The people that come aren’t used to taking their shoes off in the beginning. What we did was in our entryway, I put down green tape, which is the line, “No shoes beyond this line.” It’s interesting that in the beginning, a lot of the people that were coming to me, their white belts, and they had difficulty taking off their shoes because there was no place to sit. There was no stool for them to sit down and take their shoes off. Now they don’t have a problem at all. That’s one little trick that I think is good. Go for a walk. Before you go for your walk, put your shoes on by sitting down on the ground. Then when you come back, sit down, take your shoes off. 

That’s telling. If that’s like, “The creeks, aches, pains, tightness, and so on is a call to action.”

It’s a good little assessment.

What are the general approaches that you have for beyond the walking, the getting up and down from the ground? 

The other one I would add in there is Bear Crawl. That’s why our main program is called Elements. It’s focused around four animal-based movements. First is the bear walk, which is where you basically have your butt up into the air and your hands and feet are on the ground. The other one is what I call monkey, which has you in a squat, traversing laterally left and right. The next one we can look at is the crab, which is where you now are walking hands and feet. It’s the opposite of the frame. Instead of having your butt in the air, your face up and you’re walking. The last one would I call Frogger. It’s a little throwback to my age. Remember that video game called Frogger, where you jump from the lug to look?

This is, instead of moving laterally in the squat, you’re going forward and backward. The reason for this is you’re looking at full-body mobility. You’re looking at improving rotational strength and cross-lateral strength by reaching and moving your body. You also look at the proprioception of the mind-body connection. When you’re working here, you’re improving your wrist, you’re improving the scapular strength, mobility in the backs of your entire lower body through squatting, by bending the legs, as well as keeping your legs straight, improving whether it be a calf, hamstring, all the way up to a lumbar, flexibility mobility as you’re performing these movements. 

There are a lot of different variations that can be used for that. I believe that these four movements, this is why we have them in this program are dare I say, lost movements. You know, due to the fact that people sit much, don’t get down to the ground and back up. The results we’ve gotten for having people do these four movements is incredible. It’s not a matter of I’m, “I have to stretch today. I have to do this.” No, just do these four movements. What I tell people is like, “If you want to bare minimum, bare minimum program is do each of these movements for a minute a day.” That’s only four minutes. Start off with that, and you’ll be golden. I love it because it hits the entire body. 

You don’t need machines, weights or these things. You have your own body weight and a comfortable place to move.

It becomes more of a moving meditation because the thing is you have to think about what you’re doing, you’re not thinking about all the stuff you got to do that day and other stuff. 

One of the things about doing these things regularly, one of my big ones, and this is related to monkey I think in particular, is every day I try to do this ask to the grass flat-footed with my knees out. If you ever go to India, that’s how you’re going to poop.

In Japan, it is the same. 

My feeling about that is it took me a long time to be able to get the hip and ankle mobility to be able to sit there in a way that’s not painful. I use it to counteract sitting in a chair a lot. My feeling about this is, if I do this every single day, I’ll be able to do it until I die. 

You’ll be good. There you go. That’s what I’m after. Funny story, when I went to college in Japan, I went to a university up North. The dormitory that I stayed in was nice. It wasn’t like literally a hole in the floor, but it is a squatty potty in the sense that it’s not a Western-style toilet. If you’re forced to do something every single day, you’re going to get better at it. My squats are great. I can sit there, read a newspaper, and I’m fine. In the beginning, I was like, “Whoa.” This used to be a standard way of doing things that we’ve lost. Even in Japan now, you find because now all the toilets are Western-style. You don’t find a whole lot of this squatty-potty kind of things there anymore, unfortunately. 

I love this bear crawl frog or crab monkey. It’s great because there are natural movements and so on. What I want to say to someone reading is that could sound very intimidating. For example, when I coached lacrosse, I used to punish the players by having them do bear crawls. Now I do bear crawls. I know Steve, who is an audience who introduced me to you, does bear crawls all the time. He follows GMB. Be easy on yourself. Know that it might take some time to work up to these things. You’re going to need to build strength and flexibility. You’re going to need to loosen up those joints. You don’t have to go into the gym and wreck yourself doing Frogger and Bear Crawl, and so on. 

You shouldn’t. At least in our program, that’s not the point. The point is to improve your strength, mobility, and control in a way that’s good for you by using incremental progression. 


Addressing Listener Questions

Let’s hit some audience questions. I have an audience question about supplements. The question says, “What supplements would be recommended for joint health?” I like glucosamine, but I’m not certain that’s the best. When you think about folks who have this issue, are there nutritional or supplemental things that might help? 

First and foremost, a supplement should be a supplementation to a healthy way of eating. If you’re not getting what you need from real food, then you’ll need a supplement. There is the argument that the soil is different now. We aren’t getting the nutrients because the soil integration is bad, and therefore we have to supplement. I will bring it back to how are you first eating. Are you eating in a way that’s going to be joint-friendly? Are you moving in a way that’s going to be joint-friendly lotion? Pardon me, motion is lotion as they like to say. Are you making sure that your stress is a good kind of stress? In terms of supplementation, though, if you look at it is, “What do you need this for? How are you feeling?”

You might think glucosamine. That’s fabulous. There are other ways you can get that tested out. How do you feel if you are taking that supplement? Is it working for you or not? A lot of people take it blindly. Figure out, can you assess where you’re at in order to address that issue by taking that supplement? How much of that are you taking? Compare it for two weeks or something? Maybe it’s probably best to take it longer and then go off of it and see if there’s an actual change then. There’s that way of looking at it. Can also think about, “You’re looking for the long run and you want to have healthy joints, therefore you’re taking it.” Will it work? You don’t know because had you not taken it, maybe you would’ve been fine. 

Coming back and looking at the way that you eat right now, is it helping you or not is the most important thing to look at rather than branching out into supplementation. It is that trifecta. This is my personal opinion, that everything comes back to diet. I don’t mean diet as in losing weight, I’m talking about nutrition. I believe that is huge. If you find a way of eating that works for you, it should help you to be able to sleep. It should help you to be able to move better as long as you are moving. It should help you mentally. I do believe that there are a lot of foods that can alter the way that we think, in terms of positive or negative. 

The audience writes, “What’s the most common mistake you see people trying to maintain fitness for health, not competition make?”

Trying to do workouts that the pros do. Figure out what’s good for you. They’re competing. 

You see the CrossFitters, you try to do CrossFit stuff to get healthy. 

It’s silly. 

“Research differentiates between the exercise benefits conferred in old age by moderate and high-octane exercises, but I’m unclear on what constitutes high-octane exercises for a 70-plus-year-old is the same that I would consider high-octane right now in my 40s. A specific example would be appreciated.”

It’s a bit out of my wheelhouse because it’s mainly looking at aerobic training, but I do know that to understand that as you’re going to be getting older, things are going to be changing. Finding that level and doing the research that’s going to be appropriate for you at that age, but not just your age, but also looking at your previous experience of performing that particular movement,. That’s also very important to take a look at. If there are numbers, and this is where sometimes I’m with numbers and it depends. I apologize I’m not giving you a specific answer to this. What I would do is look at your age. What is the example that person is giving for that, then looking once again at, “Are you familiar at that movement that they’re asking you to do at a level that’s appropriate for where you want to be?” You’re going to have to practice to be able to get good at that movement in order to improve the numbers, is what I’m getting at. 

There’s some work and this person can look this up about Zones 1, 2, and 3.

Zones 1 and 2. It depends on what you’re doing. If you spend more time in Zone 2, they’ve found that it’s going to be a lot more beneficial than just going full out Zone 5. You don’t want to be spending tons and tons of time to higher-end zone four or anything like that. I would spend more time in Zone 2, focusing on your breathing patterns and practicing the movement and getting better at that. The more volume that you do at that level, it’s going to improve everything. 

The idea Zone 2 is you can have a conversation, but it’s a little breathy. Another audience writes, “Can you touch on the importance of maintaining muscle mass as we age, especially for single people who need to stay strong and be able to do things for themselves?” This is an important question. 

I believe that, especially as you get older, you need to continue to stay strong. Working not just to maintain, but to continue to push yourself in the appropriate manner is extremely important. Modify the movements, though so that you’re not creating injuries. A great example would be, personally, “I say you should stop weighted barbell squats. Instead, change the load so that it’s front-loaded. Something in the front I think, is more appropriate, but continue to build muscle. It’s extremely important. You might look if you wanted to, rather than going heavy, you can lighten the load, but perform more repetitions.”

They have found that that will also build muscle. It’s a different style of it, but what we’re looking at here again is the health span of this. Make sure you don’t injure yourself and that you’re able to continue to train in order to build. Give yourself plenty of recovery when you’re doing this, and make sure that you’re following a nutrition plan that’s good for you. Muscle is built in the kitchen, as they say. 

Most people who are active aren’t getting enough protein is my understanding. 

We have this tendency to think that you have to go into the gym and push very heavy weights for low reps. While that’s good at getting strong, you can build muscle through high-rep exercises. That’s a little counterintuitive. These bodybuilders will do high-rep stuff and it builds up muscle, 

They’re bodybuilders. What is also important to note is what are you doing it for? That is very important. What is your why? Why are you doing this? If you’re not a bodybuilder,? You don’t need to train the way that a bodybuilder does. You simply need to look at over the course of 1 or 2 years, slowly building muscle. That means not doing it in the way that they’re doing by pushing themself, by using 3 to 5 repetitions of extremely heavy weight. Look at modifying those movements to make sure that you can perform more volume over time and get in the necessary calories that are going to help you to be able to build that muscle. 

I make one other comment about this question. It does become more difficult as you get older, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

They have found that you can build muscle as you age. That is perfectly something you can do. 

To build strong bones. Even those four primal movements that you were talking about are going to help with muscle. This is the last question from Steve, who got me connected to you. He says, “Since you lived in Japan for decades, what do Japanese people do that people in the US, Europe, Australia, etc. should adopt to improve their fitness as they age?” The Japanese have some of the longest life expectancy. 

It’s cultural, and we’ve already talked about it and there are two things. It’s the two things that we already talked about. I guess you could say three, the nutrition side of it, culturally, the way that they eat is much more healthier than anywhere else. Not anywhere else, but comparatively. The two things we’ve talked about is this, walking everywhere and spending more time on the floor. Now you are seeing a change in Japan where people are spending more time in their cars, sitting on sofas and in chairs.

The majority of people though, still on the ground, back up off the ground, taking their shoes off because you don’t wear your shoes in the house. It’s those little things like that. If you think about taking your shoes off in the entryway, you’re forced to bend over, grab the shoes, and do things. You’re getting in a bit of mobility work as you’re doing that. I would say walking, getting down to the ground, and back up off the ground. Those are the two biggest differences. 

What I like about those is they’re easy to start. You don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need a radical change in your routine. You get to sub out some habits for healthier habits. Ryan, thank you for your time. 

Thank you.

I know you’re very active on social media and giving some of these tips and inspiring folks. Given how important this topic is, I hope that this provides a bit of inspiration for folks to start to consider some changes to their sleep, nutrition, and movement in order to live, not just a long life, but a remarkable one.

Good life, yes.

Thank you so much. 



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