The Lion of Olympic Weightlifting, 62-Year-Old Jerzy Gregorek (Also Featuring: Naval Ravikant)

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“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
– Jerzy Gregorek

Jerzy Gregorek (@TheHappyBody) immigrated from Poland to the United States with his wife, Aniela, in 1986 as political refugees. He subsequently won four World Weightlifting Championships and established one world record.

In 2000, Jerzy and Aniela founded UCLA’s weightlifting team. As co-creator of The Happy Body Program, Jerzy has been mentoring people for more than 30 years.

In 1998, Jerzy earned an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poems and translations have appeared in numerous publications, including The American Poetry Review. His poem Family Tree was the winner of Amelia magazine’s Charles William Duke Long Poem Award in 1998.

Naval Ravikant (@naval) also joins us on this podcast, as he introduced me to Jerzy. Naval is the CEO and a co-founder of AngelList. He is an active angel investor and has invested in more than 100 companies. His deals include Twitter, Uber, Yammer, Postmates, Wish, Thumbtack, and OpenDNS, which Cisco bought for $635 million in cash.

As always, I hope you enjoy this episode!

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Want to hear another episode with Naval Ravikant? — Listen to his first appearance on the podcast. In this episode, we discuss the habits and behaviors of highly successful and happy people (stream below or right-click here to download):



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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Jerzy Gregorek:

Twitter | Amazon | The Happy Body | YouTube

  • Connect with Naval Ravikant:

AngelList | Startup Boy Blog | Twitter

Show Notes

  • Introductions and “Victor” unmasked. [06:44]
  • Reconditioning an overweight, out-of-shape 64-year-old with hip and shoulder replacements into a flexible 74-year-old capable of high-speed snatches. [07:33]
  • What I need to work on. [14:48]
  • What Naval has learned from Jerzy and Aniela. [16:26]
  • Jerzy shares his age, weight, body fat, and other stats. [17:06]
  • Naval and I recall our first meetings with Jerzy. [19:44]
  • Jerzy tells the story about how The Happy Body program came about. [21:45]
  • The importance of flexibility, strength, speed, and posture at any age. [23:26]
  • The physical and mental progress a young man with cerebral palsy has made under Jerzy’s training. [25:42]
  • Jerzy’s poetry. [31:23]
  • How Jerzy helped me achieve perfect posture. [32:34]
  • Winning in small increments. [35:16]
  • How Jerzy’s morning routine made me the most flexible person in my yoga class. [37:04]
  • Jerzy explains the mindful structure of The Happy Body program and its meditative benefits. [38:43]
  • On Solidarity, political upheaval, unconditional love, and poetry. [47:34]
  • Why Jerzy believes that people who struggle with weight loss need poetry. [1:00:40]
  • Jerzy recites “Who Cannot,” a poem he wrote that was prompted by a woman who said she had no time for exercise. [1:04:58]
  • Naval and I agree: Jerzy is an expensive trainer, but a cheap therapist. [1:11:18]
  • “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” [1:13:03]
  • The rusty hinge analogy. [1:20:11]
  • The fastest soup eater in the east. [1:23:12]
  • How does a “social beast” like Jerzy control his desire to eat everything on the menu? [1:31:40]
  • How an accidental introduction to weightlifting reclaimed Jerzy from three years of blackout drunk alcoholism. [1:36:28]
  • How The Happy Body workout helped break Naval’s drinking habit. [1:41:36]
  • On daily routines and triple happiness. [1:42:30]
  • What is Jerzy’s daily diet? [1:44:41]
  • Family history, a change in diet, and a medical emergency averted. [1:53:37]
  • Comparing autopsy results between someone with an average lifespan and someone who lived to be more than 120. [2:00:23]
  • Jerzy is 62 and has never had knee problems. Here’s why. [2:04:12]
  • It’s more important to maintain focus on the positives we’re trying to achieve rather than the negatives we’re trying to leave behind. [2:13:53]
  • Why Jerzy ends a workout with Massenet’s Thais: meditation and lavender oil. [2:18:11]
  • Dialogues between the master and the fatalist: choosing one potato over two. [2:27:26]
  • Try to surround yourself with people who avoid these three things: sarcasm, complaining, and blaming. [2:36:45]
  • Parting thoughts from Naval and Jerzy on the “second” body and being present. [2:39:00]

People Mentioned

Posted on: March 16, 2017.

Please check out Tools of Titans, my new book, which shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. It was distilled from more than 10,000 pages of notes, and everything has been vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion. The tips and tricks in Tools of Titans changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for sample chapters, full details, and a Foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger!

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48 comments on “The Lion of Olympic Weightlifting, 62-Year-Old Jerzy Gregorek (Also Featuring: Naval Ravikant)

  1. Wow! I’m so loving this podcast!
    One of those episodes that by the time I finish I want to re-listen!

    I think this is my favorite now!
    I was really blown away by the accomplishments of Jerzy in many areas and definitely will study more THB program!
    It definitely boosted my motivation to work on myself more and better, smarter, and to quit the excuses I have when it comes to working on my physical development and life. And to stop limiting myself and people I work with.

    And I SO LOVE “NO BS” straight style that Jerzy has – he is just so alive and natural, he is getting right to the point and says exactly what he means and how things are instead of sugar coating it.

    The micro-progression style of training – I believe in it totally. So many people underestimate it, they want it all now bypassing the fundamentals, that when mastered step-by-step will give one more progress faster eventually. But they do take time to master, the fundamentals, the basics.

    And flexibility – so important! So true! That’s why I work on it daily. And that’s the thing you definitely can’t rush. And that’s what many people miss and don’t focus on, and that’s where most injures come from, from lack of it.

    And I love the idea of meditative strength/power training discussed. That’s exactly how I feel after each of my workouts in the gym at 4.30 am – like I’ve meditated through my workout. I get in the gym, I work and breathe through every move, I lose the track of time, when I go out after, I feel like I was out of this ordinary existence on some other planet 🙂 Gym is my meditation chamber. I never understood how one can NOT love strength training and pain and efforts – gives me such joy, boosts my self-esteem, gives me the feeling of accomplishment every single workout. I track every workout now – seeing how my strength and fitness, flexibility grow. How it grew from 2 LB db shoulder press after the accident to now 25 IL.

    Thank you so much Jerzy for your work! For being you and bringing into this world all your talents to teach, to inspire, to change lives!

    Thank you Tim and Naval for this one! HUGE thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Tim,

    I’m currently reading the Four Hour Body and wondering why you don’t recommend using PAGG for gaining muscle? If we’re counting macros and eating clean, wouldn’t the PAGG help minimize fat gain?

    Best,
    Kevin

    Like

  3. His eating style seems to go in the opposite direction of fasting or IF, the eating every 3 hours. That fasting for too long will attack muscle. multiple ways to skin a cat? I enjoy the fasting protocol, harder to eat 5 small meals vs one/two large ones.

    Like

      • One recent study has shown an “anabolic window” of 5 hours….meaning you need to eat within 5 hours of working out to maximize muscular gains. Just one study but this could show fasting may limit muscular growth.

        Like

  4. Wow. For me it all came down to [2:00:23] where you open up the body at 70 and find one organ that caused it all to fail and then how he related that to joints. That’s the ticket. One injury, can decay you, because when you stop moving–you start dieing. Period. My knee has just become my priority to heal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I concur Holly. I know for me, the Winsor autopsies from the 1920’s that tried to disprove chiropractic, and instead turned Dr Winsor into a believer ties right into this, as well as the discussions on improved posture (Winsor found degeneration at the level of spine congruent with the nerves to the organ that failed).

      Again, one of the best podcasts to date, and looking forward to more from Jerzy in the future!!

      Like

  5. I am hearing impaired and struggle to listen to podcasts. Are there any transcripts available to read?
    Thank you,
    S.A.

    Like

  6. Tim, I listen to and enjoy each of your episodes; this one stands out, for giving hope to reclaiming our health, location-independently. After a series of *horrible* encounters with 24HourFitness (the gym I was with for years, but which screwed me because my credit card expired and they didn’t notify me, and wanted to jack my rates way up), I’m looking forward to location independent workouts.

    Would you care to compare/contrast Happy Body with Gymnastic Bodies?

    Gustaría expresar mi gratitud por tu ayuda.

    Bob

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My transformation starts now. As a former state champion wrestler and black belt in TaeKwonDo, I’ve started boxing to lose weight, I’ve got an opportunity to fight in an amateur boxing bout for charity in a black-tie event at the Park Hyatt in Beijing. That is, provided that I lose some weight. I’ve lost a lot weight in the past, but this will be the toughest. I just re-read the 4-Hour Body the past two weeks, and… it’s the Slow-Carb Diet from here on out.

    Like

  8. Wow, amazing! I agree with Angela Shurina…totally to re-listen!

    I’m Polish, I don’t go all that crazy about the potatoes…but the way he describes his “potato love” is soooo fracking hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did re-listen 🙂
      On potatoes. I believe it’s all about the food you are genetically most likely accustomed/used to – those foods will work the best for you.
      I’m Russian and could eat sauerkraut by the pound and buckwheat if I let myself to eat non-stop 🙂
      And soups, yeah, grew up on that in Siberia. But that’s again, my genetic background/heritage.

      Like

      • I will re-listen too. So I loved this episode too – such an incredible person. Soups are big in Hungary too, that is always the first course of the meal – there is always soup. (Though I have never seen soup spoons as big as the Russian ones: they are in a league of their own.) Buckwheat – not a huge fan, although that too is a staple in Slovenia and Slovakia I believe. Hmm – we’ve always heard of the famous Mediterranean Diet, is there some value in the Siberian diet 🙂 I did read that snack food companies were trying to figure out how to sell snacks in Russia, but nothing could pry the Russians away from their sauerkraut and beet juice – and my thought was, maybe it should be the reverse, i.e. the westerners should be kicking their junk food habit. Beets FTW!

        Like

  9. It was very inspiring for sure!
    All the accomplishments of Jerzy Gregorek inspired me to keep working on myself to become the better version of me.
    Knowing he’s from Poland made me even more motivated since I’m from Poland 🙂
    Great podcast!
    Thank you, Tim!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great podcast! it was interesting to hear about the diet that Jerzy follows.
    His story and the way he approaches life is very inspiring!
    I also remembered when I was a kid in Ukraine I had a small pin from Poland with Solidarność written on it that I carried with me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This was so fun! One of the best ever. For me, this whole interview came down to how to have fun making hard choices. With Jerzey providing the example not only in sport or mind but in all of life. What a gem! Thank you Tim. As usual, a name I never heard of surprised me in ways I never could have anticipated. Thank you again. And thanks Jerzey and Aniela. Its almost like I could play this on a loop for a year and never tire of it. True medicine for the soul. Thank you.

    Like

  12. I wanted to express my gratitude for this interview – the concept of mastery vs fatalism was a revelation. It’s something I’ve been struggling to understand and articulate for awhile and having words to express the concept is a bit freeing.. I look forward to continuing an exploration of Jerzy’s wisdom.. Thank youuu!!

    Like

  13. Hello Tim and fellow listeners,

    I am following your advice on how to let you know what I think so hopefully this message will cross your eyes at some point. Just finished listening to the interview with Mr. Gregorek and once again I have learned something I can use for my own progress as well as that of my patients’. What better place to take a moment to thank you for creating and feeding your podcast for us to enjoy and learn from.
    I am an Orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and arthroscopy. I stumbled across your podcast only recently. I asked my facebook family for podcast suggestions and yours came recommended more than all others as my friends knew I would be instantly hooked. They were so so right. They know that I have always been interested in what makes top level athletes achieve their success. I created my own major in college to study this (The Neurobiological Basis of Sports Performance). I chose sports medicine and orthopaedics as a means to help people when their function stumbles or point blank breaks. I enjoy the challenge of getting people back to high levels of functioning as well as helping other simply get back to the baseline of becoming a functional human being.
    When not doctoring, I enjoy crossfit, yoga, experimenting with diet, and thanks to your interview with Chris Sommer I am dipping my toe in the GST pool. My goal is to do a proper handstand. I am the same age as you, so I will be testing out Coach Sommer’s plan as a guinea pig for all the patients my age and older I will eventually steer towards GST as appropriate.
    Aside from my own personal tweaking of performance, I find much of what I have heard in your interviews that I can apply to my patients to help them improve. I have been a fan of KStar’s approach to movement and mobility for sometime and I agree wholeheartedly with a statement he makes early in Supple Leopard about how most of his patients were not torn or broken needing surgery to fix them – instead they are in pain due their lack of flexibility and poor movement patterns. I see this daily in my practice and as much as I would love to operate on everyone (hey, I am a surgeon after all) the truth is that most do not need my scalpel. I therefore spend most of my clinical time discussing diet, movement, balancing types of exercise, goal setting, etc… Tips and pearls from your shows have either confirmed what I already knew or completely enhanced the perspectives and tactics I can discuss with my patients.
    It may not shock you to know that much of what I discuss daily was never covered in medical school. The education we received with respect to nutrition, movement, and exercise was either outdated, incomplete, or just plain wrong. I cringe when I hear that doctors still tell patients not to squat or to slow down as they get older. I take the opposite approach. When a patient says it hurts to squat, I have them squat for me. I start correcting poor form and teaching them how their mobility is limiting their success at squatting on the spot. Not typical for most docs and part of the reason I always run behind schedule, but I know it is the right thing to do.
    I want to thank you for sharing your insights with us and letting us listen in on these conversations with so many great experts in their field. Don’t let me mislead you. I am not just cherrypicking the movement gurus and coaches among the episodes. I bounce around gleefully from podcast to podcast learning more about my field and also looking for the connections outside it.
    I wish you continued success and I look forward to catching up on the episodes I have yet to hear and the future episodes you have yet to produce. If you ever need the perspective of a movement focused Orthopod, I am happy to help further the cause.

    Sincerely,

    Chad Zooker, M.D.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tim,

    All the fitness info is great. I listened to this podcast earlier in the day, then proceeded to spend my night watching Penn State dominate the NCAA wresting championship. Penn State wrestlers went 5 for 5 in the finals winning 5 of the 9 weight classes offered. The program is coached by the best college wrestler of all time Cael Sanderson who went undefeated in his 4 years at Iowa State. I would be really interested in listening to a podcast with Cael, where he can try to describe whatever it is he is doing with the wrestling program at Penn State.

    Thanks,
    Terence

    Like

  15. Great Podcast with so many gems! Best Quote…

    “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”

    -Jerzy Gregorek

    Thanks for another great podcast Tim! Keep up the great work!

    Like

  16. Great episode. Simple but deep wisdom. Provokes many inner questions and reflections. Well spended time. Thanks for another great episode.

    Like

  17. Hey Tim,
    Thank you for sharing Jerzy with us. Such an inspiring and articulate teacher. As I am nearly finished reading “Titans” , I just want to let you know how grateful I am for it and your podcasts like this one with people I may never otherwise know about. I’ve been a fan ever since Four Hour Workweek! Many thanks!

    Like

  18. This tamed lion made me cry on my drive home, and laugh so much. One of the most inspiring podcasts you have posted. It is obvious that you and Naval admire and love this man. Thank you for being such great listeners along with us. You both have a great art for mediation.

    Like

  19. Hello Tim,

    I’m curious if the Slow Carb Diet (SCD) is compatible with the Happy Body Program (HBP). I’ve just read Jerzy and Aniela’s ‘The Happy Body’ book and they advocate for a quite different diet than you do. They suggest waiting 3 hours from waking before eating, consuming fruits and breads, etc. whereas your diet consists of eating protein as soon as you wake with no carbs or fruits. These seem contradictory.

    Your book also suggests it is possible to work out too much while on the SCD but the HBP says you should work out everyday. According to the HBP I am close to achieving ideal weight and proportions (using the SCD) but I’m still curious what you would suggest moving forward.

    Once I achieve ideal weight and proportions using the SCD I would like to start the HBP exercise routine to increase flexibility, strength, and speed. What I am unsure of is if I should continue to follow the SCD or switch to the diet advocated for in the HBP book. Is one healthier long term when it comes to aging and overall health? Will I gain or lose weight on the HBP if I continue with the SCD? Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    -Jeff

    Like

  20. Hi Tim, Which is better for a former athlete now is his late 50s – the Happy Body, or the Gymnastics Bodies program? Thanks! John R

    Like

  21. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for the Jerzy interview. Does Jerzy have any Happy Body Videos to learn his techniques?
    Thanks,
    Paul Rashid MD

    Like

  22. Hi Tim,
    My name is Jack, and I am attending college next year. I am attempting to do one notable thing everyday, because I do not like falling into a repetitive cycle. Today, I decided to reach out to someone who has had an impact on me, which happens to be you and your podcasts. I completely understand if you do not reply, but I would like to thank you for producing your content and creating a lasting impact on your listeners.
    Best,
    Jack

    Liked by 1 person

  23. LOVE LOVE LOVED this episode with Jerzey! My favourite so far for sure 🙂 I’ve listened to it 3 times so far! He’s so uplifting, motivating and dedicated plus his laugh is infectious. That boiling hot soup eating story had me howling. Just got my Happy Body book in the mail today and can’t wait to get started. Years of overtraining on University & National teams has left my body so stiff and inflexible. I wish I had a great coach like jerzey who would have helped train us properly. Who knows what amazing heights we would have reached. Body #2 starts now 🙂 Thanks so much for all the great info Jerzey & Tim. Keep up the fabulous work. Many blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you Tim. Absolutely loved this episode. One of my favorites thus far. Been doing THB for 3 weeks now with a torn meniscus and feel fantastic. Flexibility, Strength, Nutrition and Relaxation, this program has it all. I love working within systems that are practical, efficient and cost-effective. THB system is very structured with the ability to be creative with food choices adding other exercise programs(Yoga, strength training, sports,etc.) I’ve communicated with Jerzy a few times over email and the guy is as real and genuine as he comes across in this podcast. Looking forward to hearing more from Jerzy in the future!

    Like

  25. Tim – I have been doing the Happy Body program since you had Jerzy on your podcast. Thank you very much for bringing his work to my attention. The program has made a huge difference in how I feel after my regular workouts and has also spotlighted my lack of flexibility in my shoulders, hips, lower back and ankles. Now when I see people in the gym doing squats I am constantly reminded that people skip right over the flexibility requirement for that type of lift. It’s not fun to work on flexibility and therefore many people (myself included) just skip that step altogether.

    Question – have you been practicing your overhead squats like you mentioned in the podcast with Jerzy? If so, how are those coming? The overhead squat is truly the most difficult aspect of the program for me (especially since your feet are only shoulder width apart in the movement) but I’m keeping at it in hopes of making micro-progressions that would make Jerzy proud.

    Thanks again for all your insights. Keep experimenting! BTW – if you don’t already sell a t-shirt that says “Keep Experimenting” you should seriously consider one. Though I’m not sure if the t-shirt business has the right margins for you 😉

    Like

  26. Such was Jerzy’s voice, and temperament, and philosophy, that “the Happy Body” is bought as a baseline for routine training outside of surf / enduro training days.

    I loved too, Naval’s commentary on the duality of master versus fatalist, and the importance of saying to yourself the words: “I acknowledge reality”. And to wrestle with: what is your attitude, what is your evidence?

    Athletically, Jerzy’s reminder “you have to have flexibility…all, everywhere, so if anything in life happens, you cannot be injured…You have reserves of flexibility” is a nice signpost to all those ‘victims’ of injury, or their genes out there (like my Dad).

    I noted too the importance to recognize the singularity of the brain. And,
    “There are forces inside that cause people to choose the wrong things”

    And loved Jerzy’s telling of Plato’s Chariot – thank you:
    “The chariot is the body and the horses are our emotions, and the rider is our mind. If the horses are dragging the rider, against his will, danger is coming from the horses.”

    And, the three killers of happiness:
    – Sarcasm
    – Complaining
    – Blaming

    Profound. There is so much deep, and simple, philosophy in this episode. Thank you Tim, thank you Jerzy. Oh, will be one clicking too on the Franz Kafka.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Definitely one of the all time best podcasts. What an amazing story… I am reading the Happy Body right now I loved how he compared training to brushing your teeth. And I have to ask, Tim. Please have a round 2 where Jerzy gives a very precise description of his prostate cancer prevention research / routine. That is invaluable information for all men these days!!
    Thanks!!

    Like