Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Jerzy Gregorek, who has won four World Weightlifting Championships, and AngelList CEO and co-founder Naval Ravikant. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. When interviews last 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the interview here or by selecting any of the options below.
Tim Ferriss: Hisashiburi janai ka. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. By the way, “long time no see” literally in Chinese is exactly the same – hǎojiǔ bùjiàn. Hǎojiǔ – long time. Bùjiàn – no see. Anyway, I digress. The Tim Ferriss Show is about deconstructing world-class performers to tease out the habits, routines, favorite books, workouts, etc. that you can use. We talk to people from all walks of life – chess, entertainment, athletics, military, you name it. This time around, we are going to name someone who has previously only gone by a pseudonym in this podcast.
We called him Victor, I think, in the episode where Naval Ravikant and I spoke about this mythical sounding, Polish weight trainer, world champion, world record holder who had helped us to completely revolutionize our bodies. Now you’re going to have a name: Jerzy Gregorek. Who is Jerzy?
Jerzy Gregorek emigrated to the U.S. together with his wife, Aniela – who also holds multiple world records – from Poland in 1986 as political refugees during the Solidarity Movement. An accomplished athlete, he subsequently won four world weightlifting championships – that’s Olympic weightlifting – and established one world record. In 2000, Jerzy and Aniela founded UCLA’s weightlifting team, becoming its head coaches. They are the co-creators of The Happy Body Program, which everybody should check out. TheHappyBody.com.
Jerzy has been mentoring people for more than 30 years and the case studies will blow your mind. We talk about a number of them in this episode. In 1988, 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. He is a killer.
He can do full ass-to-heels Olympic snatches with a loaded barbell on an Indo Board, that is a wobble board. He is currently 62, maybe 63 years old. We’ll get into it. Naval, who introduced me to Jerzy, traveled down with me to his house and his gym. Naval Ravikant, @naval, N-A-V-A-L on Twitter, is the CEO and co-founder of AngelList. He previously co-founded Epinions, which went public as part of shopping.com and vast.com. He is an angel investor and has invested in more than a hundred companies. He’s one of the best investors in Silicon Valley.
I call him all the time for advice. He has been involved with more than a few unicorn mega-successes. His deals include Twitter, Uber, Yammer, Postmates, Wish, Thumbtack, and OpenDNS, which Cisco not long ago bought for $635 million in cash. So Naval and Jerzy are two of the most intense people I know. We have a three-person conversation over Marco Polo black tea, which is Jerzy’s one and only favorite tea. Please enjoy this very wide-ranging conversation with the most intense Jerzy Gregorek.
Jerzy, welcome to the show.
Jerzy Gregorek: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Tim Ferriss: So we’re sitting here with Jerzy a.k.a. Victor. Victor was the name that Naval and I came up with to disguise Jerzy previously and we’re sitting here at his home, where he also has his gym in a separate building, about 100 feet from where we’re sitting. Naval, welcome back.
Naval Ravikant: Thanks for having me. The previous episodes we created were great, but the No. 1 follow-up question I always got was, “Who’s Victor?” and “What’s the morning workout routine?” So we’re here with Victor a.k.a. Jerzy.
Jerzy Gregorek: I like Victor. It goes to victory, so yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, Victor and victory. We were talking earlier about how losing is not fun and you must win.
Jerzy, I was hoping maybe you could talk a little bit about a video we were watching earlier. We were watching video of one of your clients who is 74. Is that right?
Jerzy Gregorek: Right.
Tim Ferriss: He has had two hip replacements and a shoulder replacement and he was doing high-speed Olympic snatches, faster that I can certainly even attempt to do them. How do you get someone in that condition to be able to do something like a snatch?
Jerzy Gregorek: He came to us ten years ago. He was 64. He was in pain. He was fat. He was aged and not good. I started simply working with him. Putting him on The Happy Body program. We tried first to recover his flexibility. His flexibility was my first aim. In about a year, he gained all the flexibility.
I brought him from 20 inches squatting on a bench to 19, 18, 16, 12. Finally, he could do the whole thing. Then I started really working with him on the full squat press. That took about a year and he could do actually the movement.
Tim Ferriss: This is where you squat into the bottom position and then press the weight overhead?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, you squat, you press, and you stand up. So that position requires complex flexibility because you have to be flexible in the ankles, you have to flexible in your hips and hamstrings and the spine has to be arched so the shoulders are not really getting any pressure and the arms are straight up vertical. It’s beautiful movement. If you do this movement, you can do anything in life.
But the squat press is a static movement. It is not a dynamic movement. Life sometimes requires from us dynamic movements, right? About two years ago, I started working with him with dynamic movement. It’s about eight years and then we brought him to this full capability, flexibility like a one-year-old. He’s in that place. Amazing. With two hips replaced and a shoulder, he was limited. But it didn’t really matter at all. I adapted to his problem and then made, inch by inch, his body better and more flexible. Once he was ready, then I started doing the snatch drops, dynamic movements.
When actually the bar flies a little bit. So first time.
Tim Ferriss: And that is when you have the bar across your back like you’re going to be doing a back squat and you effectively bounce a few times and then the bar stays where it is, but you drop down into a snatch.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, it’s kind of like a combination of the jerk, when you have the bar on the neck and you jump slightly. Then you do two jumps. The weight is the third one, so we don’t exaggerate on the third one. It’s on purpose that way. You learn not to overdo. When the third jump happens, you jump up, but you go down to the full squat and you receive the bar there. That’s the snatch drop kind of jerk combination and a snatch. It’s the first dynamic approach to develop the capability to the snatch.
Once you have that nailed, and you’ve got it really good, perfect, then you do the snatch drop from that point. It means the bar is on your back. You don’t jump. You snap down and block. So if you’re really good on that, the bar lowers down itself slightly like one or two inches, but you’re already down there to block it, to receive it. If you’re very fast. The speed becomes really important here. When you’re really fast, you can do that. But that is before you do the snatch. When you do that really great, then your snatch is the next one. The bar comes now in the front of you in the hip joint and you’re holding it in front of you.
Now you jump three times, but the third one you let the bar go and you go under and you block. You have to be very fast to block and not to overpull. I have to coach somebody not to overpull. That’s why I came out with these three jumps, so you do jump 1, 2, and 3, you go under. So you don’t focus on overpulling the bar.
Tim Ferriss: Meaning pulling it too high?
Jerzy Gregorek: Too high, yeah. The lifter that pulls the bar the lowest is the best one. The gap between when you sit in a snatch position and how high the bar is pulled, thrown up, is the gap that tells us how good a weightlifter is. That should be about 4 or 5 inches.
But people have 10 inches. They just waste a lot of – they are not really great lifters. Then they compensate a lot and if they improve that, it would be better. We are coming back to our 7 to 4 [inaudible]. His gap is about 5 inches. He’s fast, he’s 7 to 4 and he comes and he stands here. He says, “You know, I’ve been coming here for 10 years. I was 64 when I came.” Then he adds, “You know, I am 74 and I am a lot better than I was at 64. Actually, I couldn’t do this when I was in my 20’s.”
He’s 74 and he does a full-capability snatch. You can imagine that he can do anything in his life. It really doesn’t matter. He can ski, he golf, whatever. Because that is the most difficult movement on this planet.
He can do it. He will be doing this probably at 84, 94, whatever it is. He has a really fantastic quality of life in front of him.
Tim Ferriss: I want to add something then I want to ask you something, Naval. A few points. Just before we started recording, I wanted to see how far I had fallen in a bad way because I haven’t been here in some time. We went into the garage and we looked at, like you said, the angles in that bottom position, among other things, of the press squat. Where I’m pressing the weight overhead and then going down into an overhead squat, ass to the grass. Historically, you’ve taken video and photographs and you’ve looked at the exact angles. At the hip, at the knee, at the ankle, at the shoulder.
You pointed out one thing that I need to work on, which makes sense, given my shoulder issues and so on, but also my inflexibility. Working on that thoracic, that mid-back mobility so that I’m not straining the shoulders.
One of the many things I find fascinating about your approach is – and we’re going to come back to this, but I’m going to go to Naval next – is that you are very good at micro-progression. Like you said, you might have someone come in and they start doing a squat, but you want them to do it technically correct, so if they’re inflexible, you might have them squatting down only a few inches and then very gradually, over time – or stepping onto a box that’s only a quarter inch, and we might come back to this, but you have a patient – there are a lot of people who train elite athletes and they basically babysit mutants.
They take a lot of credit for it. But I’ve seen you work with patients with cerebral palsy who have just gone through complete transformations, really amazing. The concept of micro-progressions, among other things, has really grasped my attention in working with you. But Naval, I thought I would just ask, what have you learned from Jerzy? What do you take away? Aside from these amazing conversations over Marco Polo black tea, which you always have and I’m already sweating because it gets me all amped up.
Naval Ravikant: Mostly I just live in fear of Jerzy. Even though I send my friends to him and my cousins and my relatives, I myself try to avoid him because he’s a fearsome taskmaster and I’m not even sure I’m up to it.
Tim Ferriss: But you did give to me my first visit to Jerzy, which I thank you for.
Jerzy Gregorek: What people say is crazy.
Naval Ravikant: I do that with a lot of people and I’ve definitely gifted more visits to Jerzy than I’ve actually undertaken myself. What was really impressive to me about Jerzy is that he’s an incredible role model. He’s a role model in the sense of – if you don’t mind my asking on air, how old are you now, Jerzy?
Jerzy Gregorek: 62.
Naval Ravikant: 62. And how much do you weigh?
Jerzy Gregorek: 135.
Naval Ravikant: And give me some stats on what you can press or squat.
Jerzy Gregorek: I can squat about 250, 260. I can snatch about 80 kilos now.
Naval Ravikant: 80 kilos is almost 200 pounds, 190.
Jerzy Gregorek: 176, yeah. I can jerk about 100 kilo, 220.
Naval Ravikant: And what’s your body fat?
Jerzy Gregorek: Below 6 percent.
Naval Ravikant: Below 6 percent?
Jerzy Gregorek: Right.
Tim Ferriss: And Jerzy can also – I’ve seen video of Jerzy doing a full snatch on top of an Indo Board, which is a wobble board.
Jerzy Gregorek: Oh, I love that.
Naval Ravikant: And what are your gymnastic credentials?
Jerzy Gregorek: I didn’t do gymnastics. When I was in Poland, I wanted to be a gymnast, but there was no gymnastic team around. There was nowhere to really learn that. But I really loved gymnastics. I did all the stuff by myself on grass somewhere. I really loved that.
Naval Ravikant: Give us a sense of some of the medals you hold.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, I won four weightlifting world championships.
My national records – I sent you the link, yeah? My national records that I set up in U.S. in 1999, I think, they’re still there. There are two of them. So in 17 years, nobody has beaten them.
Naval Ravikant: Wow. So held the record for 17 years, 6 percent body fat, incredible stats in weightlifting and gymnastics, 62 years old. An inspiration to me because when you look at a great physique, a great body, that’s something that cannot be bought. That’s something that can’t be bargained, it can’t be negotiated, and it can’t be inherited. At 62, you can argue whatever genetics you want, but there’s an enormous amount of work and self-discipline that goes into it. To me, Jerzy and his wife, Aniela, who is also a similar character, are inspirations.
Tim Ferriss: And a world record holder.
Naval Ravikant: Yes. They basically say to me, “There are no excuses.” On top of it, they run a reasonably successful business. They are poets.
Jerzy has many volumes of poetry. He has an MFA in creative writing. They’re refugees from the Solidarity Movement in Poland in the fall of the Iron Curtain. He’s also a meditator. When I walk into Jerzy’s house, I’m always intimidated. A house that he basically built, by the way. I walk in and there’s this guy who’s like a lion in his cave or in his den, built, rippling muscle top to bottom, extremely calm, tiptoes out in his socks, serves you tea and reads you poetry.
Tim Ferriss: Until he berates you in the gym.
Naval Ravikant: And actually my first meeting with Jerzy, he made me strip down to my underwear, pinched me with calipers, took photos from every direction and basically called me fat in as many words in the English language as he knew how.
Jerzy Gregorek: I didn’t call you fat. You were fat.
Tim Ferriss: That also sounds oddly reminiscent of my own first meeting, where he reached across and pinched my tit and said, “You’re too fat.” I said, “Okay, I think we’re going to be friends.”
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, so Jerzy’s uncompromising. Jerzy does not accept the New Age version of well, you tried. You tried really hard. It’s your genes. You’re fat because you have big bones. No, you’re fat because you eat too much and because you have no discipline. You’re fat because you’re a fatalist and you have the wrong mindset. Jerzy has a series of books which I recommend, but he follows this duality of master versus fatalist. His books are full of phrases like, the fatalist will say, “I don’t trust science” when they’re making excuses as to why they shouldn’t diet or work out a certain way. Jerzy’s response is, “I acknowledge your reality.”
I love these kinds of little phrases he has. Or where people say “Getting older is depressing.” Jerzy says, “No, life can be enjoyable at any age.” People say, “Diets don’t work.” Jerzy says, “Every diet works.” In other words, you just have to stick to it. It’s more the attitude and the evidence that he presents, which is inspirational.
I prefer to use him from afar that way. But now I know that I have to get back into it as well and start showing up regularly.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t want to bury the lead for people too much. We’re going to bounce all over the place. But could you describe The Happy Body program? At least what you have a lot of people do in the mornings? How would you describe that?
Jerzy Gregorek: You want the story?
Tim Ferriss: Let’s do the story, sure. Why not?
Jerzy Gregorek: All right. Let’s go into the story. It happened around 25 years ago, when I was in the gym and I was a personal trainer in L.A. I coached people daily, seven days a week. They still would not get what I wanted. They would not follow the program.
Tim Ferriss: Was this before or after you embarrassed a bunch of huge powerlifters by deadlifting with the pink shoes more than they could?
Jerzy Gregorek: Around that time.
Tim Ferriss: And you had a ponytail at the time.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, you know, yeah. I’ve found that people really have to have some independence. That they have to take responsibility for what they would do. They need to be connected to the program, whatever the program is. I thought I needed to detach myself from them and create something that they could follow. It has to be measurable. It has to have everything they would need in life from the program to have a good life forever. What is that? How a person needs to be. Well, definitely flexibility came, boom, first.
So you have to have flexibility. You have to have full flexibility so if something happens in life, you cannot be injured. You are flexible everywhere. So if you need any reserves of flexibility, you will have it. That’s why today a lot of athletes are injured, because in the training, they don’t have flexibility. Let’s say volleyball players – they do half squat but not full. But in the game, in any situation where they jump or they do something that requires more flexibility than they do in the training, they’ll get injured.
Tim Ferriss: But they have no margin for safety.
Jerzy Gregorek: They mess up their ACLs and their knees and usually today, volleyball players, especially women, have these problems.
It is important that athletes training in the gym – in the gym they are more intense than actually in the games. If that happens, they cannot be injured simply, because they have reserves. Flexibility first and certain strength is needed. Certain speed and posture is important here so the spine is flexible and the spine is healthy. The spine is really the gateway to health of the legs. If there’s any inflammation, any pressure between the vertebrae, your legs will have pain, soreness and so on.
Tim Ferriss: Not to interrupt, but I will. Is that not one of the reasons that you recommend the hanging after weight training?
Jerzy Gregorek: Right, decompression.
Tim Ferriss: I remember coming in at one point and telling you I had some pain in my leg and you asked me, “Did you hang for the last two days?” I said, “Actually, I didn’t.”
Jerzy Gregorek: Caught you.
Tim Ferriss: I stopped.
Jerzy Gregorek: Bastard. I train a cerebral palsy boy and he jumps only three inches back and forth. When he lands back, he cannot bounce off the floor, so I taught him that bounce. He has slow brain and that brain is not letting him bounce off the floor right away. So if he’s off a little bit, he will stop. So I said, “Bastard!” And that boy said, “Bastard!” So we have this fun.
Tim Ferriss: I should just say on that point, on the cerebral palsy, I’ve seen a lot of impressive things in his house and in this gym, but the before and after in that case is just astonishing.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, I will tell you.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t want to take you off track.
Jerzy Gregorek: When he came here, he barely walked. He didn’t have energy to look at you for more than 30 seconds. He’s never read a book. He’s never watched a movie because he didn’t have energy. He fell asleep right away. No energy at all. When I went with him to the gym and I asked him to press a 15-pound bar, he couldn’t lift that bar off the rack. I just wanted him to simply bench press. 15-bar bar and he couldn’t lift it off the rack. He’s 25 years old, a mature man. He’s very weak. I took the bar away. I put three pounds. I told the father to go away for a walk and I worked with him in the gym.
He lifted three pounds. So I loaded up six. He lifted. So I loaded up ten. He lifted. Brought back 15 pounds. He lifted. So loaded up for 18 powers and he pressed it. So I said okay, so the brain has said in situations that when we load it up, he’s open to progress and progress is going to be fast. I asked his father to come and watch it. So now he’s one year and half. The boy presses 144 pounds. 144 pounds. I’m bringing him almost to the – he is about 160 pounds. So I’m bringing him almost to the place where normal people are, yeah?
Tim Ferriss: That’s beyond a lot of normal people.
Jerzy Gregorek: He’s squatting 160 pounds. He couldn’t really jump.
He couldn’t detach himself from the floor at all, even a one-inch jump. Now he jumps 11 inches.
Tim Ferriss: That’s amazing.
Jerzy Gregorek: Every inch he gets – I started from six inches – we have a special dinner. Early special or something. He loves it. It’s like this celebration. I said, “We need to celebrate.” Every inch is a celebration. He jumped 11 inches about two months ago. Now he’s working on 12 inches. There are some interesting changes along the way. One day, after half a year, when I trained him, his father said, “He spoke to me in the car.” I didn’t know how to relate. What does it mean? He says, “Oh, because he was always sleeping. Today, when we drove, he noticed a car.” I said, “Really? Okay.” I asked [inaudible], “What was the car?” “I don’t know.”
So I asked him, “Okay, next week, see the car and tell me what car it was.” He came back and I said, “Did you see a car?” “Yes.” “What was it?” “Prius.” Okay. The next week, I asked him about the color and who was the driver, how old was the driver? He started really remembering more and more things. His energy was better and he started talking. About one year after, the father said, “We had a conversation for the first time in our life.” I said, “Wow.” And then the father said, “Before that, it was only about, it’s time to go to bed or it’s time for dinner. And that was for 25 years, we didn’t have any talk.”
Today, the boy is in college. The boy reads books. The boy writes. I work with his mind with poetry. Every time when he comes, he recites one poem. Then I analyze the poem to see if his logic works. Now we are the third time already with a book and his intelligence, his way of capturing the meaning of the poem improved so much within one year. He’s almost a normal person to talk, to have fun, to enjoy, interact and so on. So now we are talking about the girlfriends.
Tim Ferriss: What book of poetry did you use?
Jerzy Gregorek: I used Food for Your Soul.
Tim Ferriss: The Happy Body, Food for Your Soul.
Jerzy Gregorek: Right.
Naval Ravikant: Jerzy has a number of books on poetry which are kind of interesting. If you ever want to read a poem about someone struggling to resist eating a bagel, he’s got you covered. They’re deeply personal poems. There’s a lot of pain in here. There’s a lot of struggle, a lot of strife. There are good perspectives. I saw a good poem you had about doctors struggling with the realization that in today’s world, your doctor should be healthy and probably healthier and fitter than you, otherwise why are you listening to that doctor?
It’s like a burden they’ve taken on. These are very human poems. But they’re about topics like losing weight, nutrition, getting healthier, lifting weights and so on. Why did you get into this? Why is this your medium? How has it served you?
Tim Ferriss: Just to pause. Can we come back to that?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Just because I interrupted you asking about your client, but we were talking about Happy Body. So I just want to make sure we get to Happy Body. Then we’re going to come back to the poetry. So you talked about flexibility. You talked about strength. You talked about speed and spine and posture.
Jerzy Gregorek: You talked about your coaching and how your body improved. When you came, you had some pains, you had flexibility situation, problems. I had to work with you to bring you right into the perfect posture. Perfect posture means you have the bar above your head and you can go down and up vertically without any compromises on your joints. Where are the compromises coming from? The flexibility that is needed is in your ankles, in your hips, and in your whole spine. The combined synergy of these three is needed to really make that movement the right way. If the flexibility of the ankle is not right so the knees are going backward, then your hips are going clockwise.
Tim Ferriss: You’re going to compensate.
Jerzy Gregorek: Then you start rounding your back, your spine. But that can lead to problems with sacroiliac and also the spine. So once the ankles’ flexibility is there, your knees are forward and your hips are moving clockwise and that gives you this beautiful arch of the spine if the spine is capable of it. What we noticed today with you – you have ankle flexibility, you have your hips, and then the spine is straight instead of being like a bow, right?
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Jerzy Gregorek: So now our next thing is to focus on sternum, focus on arching the spine so you have a really nice bow and that bow is needed because your arms should be straight up and down.
If the body ends up vertical, then there is no pressure at all on your shoulders.
Tim Ferriss: If I’ve sufficient flexibility in the thoracic spine.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yes, right.
Tim Ferriss: Just for people are wondering, what angles are you looking for at the ankle, knee, hip and so on? Are there specific angles you’re looking for?
Jerzy Gregorek: There is about 29 degrees between the calves and the thighs, the femur. About 29 degrees is fantastic. So when you look at the real weightlifters that go very deep, they will have 20 degrees, 21, 22, and usually people will have when they start, 50, 55, and 60. Degree by degree, you become better. We talked about before, you remember, the winning and the small increments. I like to take people inch by inch or even half an inch, because we become happy when we get better.
When I coach young athletes and let’s say I spread everything out for two or three years – there was this Russian girl. She said, “I need ten years to make national champion. If I have less time, I will never make one.” I see the same way. When I see somebody, I see the spread of two or three years I know where it’s going. I have the time, not that I have the time, the body needs the time to actually get better. I follow what the body’s adaptation is. Let’s say you lift 200 pounds and another one is 201. I watch how it is. The lift should not use all the powers that you have when you break records.
You should have some reserves, like 1 percent or 2 percent. If you break that way, the body has the capability to adapt and the whole training becomes fun. It’s fun to attack records when you have a little bit reserved. Even though they are your records. Increments should have reserves. The progress should be set up that way so you don’t burn yourself out and you wait for the adaptation.
Tim Ferriss: A couple things, real quick. The first is that, as a prescription for me today, I’m going to be doing a press squat, which is where I’m standing, bar on my back as if I’m going to do a back squat. I press it overhead and then I drop down into an overhead squat, kind of ass to the floor. I’m going to be doing one repetition on every minute for 40 minutes.
Just to give people an idea of what a component of my training is going to be, I’ll be doing that every third day. The Happy Body program that Naval and I have both done in the morning, I’d love to dig into some of the details of that, and specifically one of the breakthroughs for me with that program was not holding stretches for too long. I remember going into a number of different stretches. As an example, there’s one – and we can’t do it full justice via audio, of course – where you’re laying on your back, your legs are completely straight, toes pulled back, and you reach up, effectively past your toes with your hands or towards your toes, depending on your flexibility.
Then you would hold it for say, a half a second? A second? And then come out of it and you would do say six repetitions of that. I remember then, months later, that was the only stretching I was doing was that type of stretching in different positions. I went to a yoga class. I hadn’t taken any yoga classes. It was the first time in my life I was the flexible guy in the yoga class.
It just blew my mind.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, I have yoga teachers here. They really become flexible and they teach and they are a lot better than before.
Tim Ferriss: How is the program composed? This morning program that you have a lot of people do.
Jerzy Gregorek: Again, we stopped where we were going. There are 18 exercises in the system that about six exercises are in a sequence. There are three sequences. The program works that you go from one to another exercise in a sequence of six. But the first sequence is the easiest one. Vertically, the program is designed to make you more flexible. When you go to sequence 2, that requires more flexibility, and sequence 3 is the final.
When you see the final squat in the first sequence, Exercise No. 5, power tower – that is the most difficult exercise in that whole 18 exercises. Everything is created and designed to be able actually to do that. That’s the one when you actually do it perfectly; you have capability to be an Olympic weightlifter. You can go and do Olympic weightlifting. If you have this capability, then you can do Olympic weightlifting and everything will be easy for you. The skills. People cannot get Olympic weightlifting skills because they are not flexible. You cannot ask somebody who is not flexible to enter the flexibility points that he cannot sample it.
Now you have the whole program. The program deals with any possible joint that needs to be flexible. The program deals with the strength that is needed, the coordination that is needed. Every exercise now has six different beats. The system is also mindful and meditative. The whole program is designed to be meditation. Not only that, you are getting flexible. Not only are you getting strong, but also you stress release, you meditate and you calm down. How is it designed? Now you have exercise and you have one repetition. I introduce singularity of the brain. It means you do one thing at a time.
That’s the whole mantra. You don’t do two, you do one. In The Happy Body, when you do a press or you do the exercise you describe – you lay on the back and you’re reaching. First is inhale and you focus on inhale. Inhale becomes everything. It becomes just one thing that you do. Then you flex in parts of the body for stability. Then the third is the lift. Always you are lifting. The fourth is coming, the stretch. In the stretch is a stretch – you are reaching for something. You are reaching for more each time. The program also is designed to be progressive, to deliver progress and not just do exercises and be mindless and do every time the same thing and not get better over time.
You’re supposed to be better. Like you dance tango and every year you are a better dancer. But you can dance tango without getting better, right?
Tim Ferriss: Sure.
Jerzy Gregorek: So you have to somehow be open to that reaching and be better and measure everything so you know you’re getting better. The Happy Body system is created to deliver to you the messages every place and every time that you are getting better. It’s measurable and it’s imaginable. So you can imagine everything and you can keep the data. After a while, of course, that data becomes so organic that you don’t need navigation. If you’re on the ocean and you want to go from one island to another one because it’s organic; you know where you are. When you have a system that is that way and you do that system every day, then it creates this capability of knowing that you pushed too much, that you are sore, and where.
Or when you are sore, how to eliminate and so on. Coming back to the one repetition. You are reaching and then you are lowering the weight is No. 5. No. 6, you are exhaling, releasing the tension. Six things you do in every repetition. But every one is single and separate. The mindfulness is 100 percent on what you do. You’re not thinking about your dentist appointment here in this time. Or you are not listening to the music or something. After a while, you can because you are so aligned with it. But it’s better not to, of course. The whole thing is designed to be mindful and meditation happens as well.
Sometimes people while in the gym, they space out. They don’t know what happened. What really happened is they meditated for 40 minutes while doing the program. It’s amazing. Because you do the program at the same time the other things happen. The breathing pattern. Why the breathing is that we hold the breath. It’s [inaudible] holding in the breath and then releasing for counting down the heart. When you inhale, you also, like in weightlifting, you tense the body and then you lift and you hold the breath. We don’t even know that we hold the breath [inaudible] as well. When you are just really, before really hitting, you hold the body. The body is really tough, tight.
Then hit happens and then the release happens. It’s in a split second, but in that split second, it happens. When you do jerking in weightlifting, you hold the breath. You inhale, tighten the body, you go down, you throw the body, you completely relax the body system, you go under, you block, you send up. Every repetition in The Happy Body is created that way. Also, it is created to deliver the joy, the pleasure of doing. You have to really get it that way. When you speed up a little bit, you are passing the time. Your anxiety is increasing and you stop liking it and you want to finish. That’s a really terrible brain. When it happens to you, you slow down.
You become slower and start enjoying the movement. Every breath, every tension, every movement. You’re lowering, you’re reaching for something, you love it, and you enjoy it. Once you get to the pleasure, you want to repeat the pleasure and repeat the pleasure and repeat the pleasure. That is how training is supposed to be. All anaerobic athletes act that way. They love this training. It is not exhaustive training. It’s not like a marathon runner, that you run and exhaust yourself. No. In power training, everything is pleasurable.
Even though you lift 300 pounds, you are ready for it. You are aligned with it. You have some reserves. You do something like a gymnast would do – two flips or whatever it is – and loves it. The same way you should train The Happy Body.
Tim Ferriss: So a question for you – now to get back to what Naval brought up – because I’ve been curious about this for a long time and I want to know the answer. Naval always says, “Jerzy, God, that guy’s so intense.” And then Jerzy says, “Naval is so intense.” So I find that funny. But Jerzy’s been on best behavior. I did hear a story earlier from Aniela, your wife, about how your students at one point were keeping track of how many times you said “fuck” in various lectures. Oops.
But you’re a very intense guy. You’re a very competitive guy. Very data driven, also. I remember how important that has been when we’ve trained together. Keeping track of all the numbers. How did poetry come into your life? It seems to be such a big part of your life.
Jerzy Gregorek: That happened to me in Solidarity. I was mostly in science in Poland. When I was in Warsaw, I started fire protection engineering.
Tim Ferriss: Fire protection engineering?
Jerzy Gregorek: Right. In my fourth year, just before finishing the school and working on my Master’s, it was ’81 and that was the time when Solidarity and the government were really fighting.
Tim Ferriss: Can you describe for people what Solidarity was?
Jerzy Gregorek: Solidarity was a union that was formed in 1980 and it was the first free movement in Poland and was allowed to be legal. When Solidarity was formed very fast, there were 11 million people in Solidarity. The whole movement was to free Poland from Russia, from Communism. I was in the fourth year, working on my Master’s.
Somebody came – the guy who was the leader of the whole school – there were 400 firemen students, as well as firemen inside. Every year, about 100. Somebody came to me and said, “They are working on changing the law for the school.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I was at a meeting with Solidarity and they said that they’re going to make the school paramilitary only.” I said, “What does it mean?” He said, “It means that they want to use fire protection, the whole industry, to fight demonstrations.” At that time, demonstrations were really high. A lot of people were on the streets. In Warsaw, it could be half a million people on the streets demonstrating against whatever the regime was at that time.
I said, “Okay, what can we do?”
Tim Ferriss: They wanted the fire engineers to use water hoses and things like that?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, all the engines. They colored the water, let’s say, spray and catch people later with that colors and so on. Solidarity was looking for more power and government as well. So government fought about doing that.
Naval Ravikant: They wanted you on the government’s side to fight the anti-Communist demonstrations and uprisings.
Jerzy Gregorek: Right.
Naval Ravikant: They wanted you to switch sides and bring your students with you.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, the whole point for me was not really – I said “Okay, we have to go to the Solidarity people and talk about it.” I went and I talked in physics to teachers. We discussed it.
You couldn’t imagine a strike in a fire protection academy. It’s impossible almost. But it’s also possible. So we discussed that and then as the things were progressing, we started aligning ourselves with the students striking in Poland at the same time. It was just a mess everywhere in ’81. Just before Jarulzeski attacked Poland and it was the time when everything went underground. We started this strike and then after ten days of negotiations with the government, the government decided to take us down. They drove tanks into the academy, took us by force, and changed the name of the school.
Then they would ask everybody to sign allegiance to the school back. I have some poems about that I can read if you want. Then you could go back, the 400. Of course, the whole country and fire departments were on strike as well. It was just everyone. They asked us to sign allegiance to the school back. I didn’t sign. About another 80 didn’t. 300-something signed and went back to the school they wanted to form. After that, I was underground. I took the position of looking after the other 80, 90.
Our place of meetings was the church. The church in [Speaking Polish] and the priests that came to help us during the strike – his name was Jerzy Popiełuszko. I have a poem there written about that too. He was the priest that the country loved. Loved for his words, for his love. It was the first time that I was faced with unconditional love. I’ve never seen it in my life. I was 27. I saw people that had it. I was looking at that and trying to find a way why they are that way.
That they have some kind of ulterior motives or something. Because I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen a person that way. I spent three years underground. In ’84, the government had really enough with Jerzy and his sermons that would so inspire people and helping so many people to survive all of what was happening and to be uplifted, that they captured him and tortured and threw his body into the icy river. After that, Poland really mourned a lot. That was very difficult for me too. I left Poland in March of ’85.
After the situations in the Polish department and so on –
Naval Ravikant: You had to do it to survive.
Jerzy Gregorek: I had to go. My friend told me – I was called to the police department and I was waiting to go [inaudible]. This guy comes in and there are a lot of people. This guy comes in and I know him. He was a weightlifter. I said, “What are you doing here?” We hadn’t seen each other for about four or five years. He is the Lieutenant there. I don’t know. I’m on the other side now. He’s asking me what I was there for. I told him. So he went to check it out. He went and came back. He said, “Well, you are assigned to me.”
“You should go and never come back.” I started laughing and he said, “Jerzy, never come back. You would never come out of this building. You’ll never come out. You’ll be here. You’ll stay here.” My [inaudible] come and then I said, “All right. It was just a lucky day.” I said, “Thanks, bye.” And we go. So this was a weightlifter. About two months after, I was out. I was in Sweden. In Sweden, because of my involvement (now I’m back to poetry), with Solidarity people, mostly they heard and then Jerzy and others that they had this Stefan Dvorsky – people that were different.
They were just loving people. I’ve never seen before, as I said. When you see a person that will love you unconditionally, it’s something completely different. It’s like you see God, you know? I brushed off some of it. When I went to Sweden, I started helping people a lot, the Solidarity people. They suffered a lot. They waited sometimes for their wives and children and they escaped there and there were hunger strikes, and all of that was happening. I had this way of talking to people and helping them emotionally.
Helping and uplifting them. Solving in the hat a little bit, changing their attitude so their life could be a little bit better. There was this psychologist on the site who noticed that. She said, “You know what? You have a gift. You do something with these people and they feel better.” She said, “Let me open a clinic here and then you will be teaching and I will be your assistant.” I said, “No, I’m going to the U.S. I’m not staying in Sweden.” When she heard that, she said, “But if you go, you have to write.” I looked and her and said, “Write?” She said, “Yeah, you have to write because you have something to pass on.”
I said, “I’ve never written anything.” She said, “Well, just go home and write. I said, “Okay.”
Tim Ferriss: That’s a very Jerzy-like response.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah. I took the page and it was funny. Whatever was on that page coming, it was in a verse. I couldn’t write anything differently.
Tim Ferriss: So you didn’t try to write poetry? You went to write and –
Jerzy Gregorek: I’d never written any poetry.
Tim Ferriss: No, and then it came out in verse.
Jerzy Gregorek: As a poem. I wrote my first poem. I’d written that poem and then okay, I didn’t write another one for a while, but then I went to Germany and ended up in the U.S. When I came to the U.S., I began writing more poems.
The first book of poetry became about my life, the past life. About 15 years ago, when I was dealing with people, I was watching people when they wanted to lose weight and how that is difficult and how people suffer because they cannot. And how people, even though they want to control themselves, they want change badly, there are forces inside that cause them to choose the wrong things. They are unable actually to succeed in it.
I saw this suffering here in this room over and over. One day – because I thought that poetry was something else. It shouldn’t have any purpose. You write a poem because you are moved by something or disturbed by something and you make the poem. It’s like Baryshnikov said, “I dance and my dance is supposed to disturb and not make entertainment. It’s an art form.” It’s when you create art, you are disturbed by something. When I watched people suffering because of their inability to control themselves, that emotional intelligence was not kicking in and their attitude would not change, I thought if they suffer, then they need poetry.
They deserve poetry. Poetry is not something more than that. That was first time I linked poetry to something like simple weight loss or something. Because poetry is supposed to not have a purpose. But I –
Jerzy Gregorek: – sensed pain and I sensed suffering.
Tim Ferriss: Practicality.
Jerzy Gregorek: I connected the first time a poem to that problem and started writing poems. It took me about four years to write this first book before Food for Your Soul. Different poems, different situations. All of them have really one purpose. All of them talk to the person. They try to connect to that place in a person to come out of the situation positively.
To solve the problem and become positive and constructive. Every poem has this movement inside. I can read you now a poem and give you a story.
Tim Ferriss: Sure. Do you want me to grab the first book?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, grab the book. Let me read it. I will tell you the situation. This is just the first poem.
Tim Ferriss: Do you remember what your very first poem you wrote was about? The one that came out in verse when you were trying to write?
Jerzy Gregorek: I remember, but I cannot recite it.
Tim Ferriss: No, no, but what was it about?
Jerzy Gregorek: About change of the – you see, that poem was about the journey and becoming a good person. The person that is this enlightened person, the good and kind person.
When I sent this poem to Poland, I knew I loved it and my mother and father thought I was crazy. That I had lost my mind.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t want to take us down a separate track, but it’s also worth noting that Aniela – so you were married to Aniela at the time – she suggested you leave by yourself, right? So they wouldn’t think that the family was fleeing.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: There’s a lot more to that.
Jerzy Gregorek: They wouldn’t let us go.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, we’ll probably leave that alone for right now. What is the poem that you’d like to recite?
Jerzy Gregorek: I will tell you first a story about this poem. Every poem has a story. Every poem has the time and it’s locked with suffering and coming out of suffering positively. Do something about it. Even though it’s extremely difficult. I just look at people and it’s like you do something wrong. You know that you’re doing something wrong and you keep doing something wrong.
You cannot come out of that. So there’s other situations usually that inspired me to write the poem. This poem is about a woman, a nurse, in San Francisco. I taught the class, I’m in the class.
Tim Ferriss: This is an exercise class?
Jerzy Gregorek: The Happy Body.
Tim Ferriss: The Happy Body class. Got it.
Jerzy Gregorek: This is about the whole thing. We’ll go to the Happy Body because I didn’t finish the Happy Body yet.
Tim Ferriss: Sure.
Naval Ravikant: There’s a lot more to it actually.
Jerzy Gregorek: Right. This woman tells me that she cannot find the time to exercise. I said, “You cannot find 30 minutes to exercise?” “No.” She told me what she does. I said, “Okay, tell me.” She told me what she does. She has two jobs and she has children and she’s single.
Her life is really tough. When she told me, I couldn’t say anything. It’s really a person that struggles, is a person that doesn’t have time, right? But I don’t easily give up on things like this. You have to have time. Especially when something is good and over time brings goodness, you have to somehow find time for it. It has to be the way. I didn’t know what was the way. I’m driving home from San Francisco and I’m meditating, something is wrong about that, but I don’t know what.
I don’t know how to grasp that whole situation and how to deal with it. It’s this person that is struggling, this person works almost whole day, has children, has to make money, and doesn’t have time for exercise for 30 minutes to improve the life through it.
I came home, went to meditation. Spent two or three hours meditating and I wrote this poem. Let me read it to you now. The title is “Who Cannot?”
Every night, when I wake up, I walk to the kitchen. Every morning, there is still food on my face. How can I stop myself? His coach thought for a moment and then told him, think about all those people who stop themselves from owning and killing and having fun because they finally saw how others suffered. Without them, you would still have slaves, the Holocaust, and the world just for man.
Becoming a man like that is your only chance because there is no one else to force you. Don’t you expect too much from me? Do you really believe I can be a man like that? Who cannot?
The poem focuses on great people in life. Those who know that there’s something wrong. They would not let it go. They would keep doing even whatever was needed to change the situation. There were two lawyers in England who stopped slavery. I watched this documentary. They lost friends. They lost money. They lost almost everything. But they really achieved that place where we didn’t have slavery anymore. Amazing, right? So there is something sometimes in us that we see from the moral point of view that something is wrong and we go for it. I came back to San Francisco.
I read the poem in the class. People starting commenting on it. It came to the woman and she said, “I will never say I cannot to my children anymore. I will rephrase it, but I will not say I cannot. I see now how painful it could be and how damaging it could be for my children.
I was sitting here and I was thinking really about myself and my time. I saw myself that I watch TV, that I read novels, and I don’t have to. That actually I have time.” So you see, that poem helped her to go finally into her own world and accept that she was doing something that she could stop and she could do something else.
Tim Ferriss: It’s worth noting, at least on the cover of this, this is The Happy Body Mastering Food Choices book, the diagram or the illustration is a circle.
The circle is cut in half and one half is white, one half is black. One half is labeled Master, the other is labeled Fatalist. In the middle, there’s a small circle, half of which is on either side and it says Choice. I’d actually like to ask Naval something. Naval, you and I have talked a lot where I tell you I’m going down to train with Jerzy and you’re like, “No, no, he’s too intense. I can’t go down there and train.”
Then I talk to Jerzy and he’s like, “How’s Naval? God, that guy’s so intense.” This is always what goes on. I’m chatting with you at one point and you said, “Well, I feel like I should just pay and go down to talk to Jerzy because the training is really expensive, but it’s very cheap therapy.”
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, I actually did that on one occasion where I came down. We just talked for two hours. He’s a cheap therapist. It’s wisdom, right? Someone like Jerzy has encountered huge difficulties in his life, has done world-class things in multiple disciplines, and there’s a wisdom to that that I don’t think we respect in modern society anymore.
We always crave what’s new, but I would argue that what’s old and time-tested and proven, when there’s someone who’s 62 and fit beyond imagination sitting in front of you, you should listen to what that person has to say, even if you heard it before. You can hear it a new way, a new time with a new intensity and it might make a difference. Not to cut off your question, but you were talking about choice, right? Master versus fatalist and choice. The single, most impactful thing that I’ve heard from Jerzy – there’s many – but the one that always stands out is his philosophy of hard choices, easy life; easy choices, hard life.
I think it’s worth digging into that a little bit because I think that unites what you’re talking about with exercise, with nutrition, and with psychology. It’s kind of the overarching principle.
It’s obvious, but it’s not at the same time. It’s the practice of it that’s hard.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, I think that I learned that from weightlifting. That constant search for making something actually difficult that would help you to get better. You search for it. The progress can only happen if you’re on the edge, when actually something is difficult. I taught a car racer in L.A. about 20 years ago how the progress happens.
Tim Ferriss: This was a car racer?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, he’s an off-road racer – the Baja 1000. His father was breaking records. Billy Robertson – a really fantastic driver. 20 broken bones and really tough. You can all get really tougher.
This is tough. This is Olympic weightlifting. This is off off-road tracks. Like 10,000 pounds and going 140 miles per hour on uneven terrain. It’s just amazing things. He was also on a motorcycle, very fast motorcycle, 160, 170 miles per hour he was racing this stuff. He was diverse in his possibilities. I taught him for flexibility, power, and getting ready for these competitions. His father was in Baja 1000 and broke the records in 1960 on a motorcycle, 48 hours without stopping. They were just getting gas from helicopters. He said that when he finished, he couldn’t straighten his fingers for one week.
Tim Ferriss: From gripping the handlebars, yeah.
Jerzy Gregorek: Like that. When I talked to him, he said, “You know what? It’s like this. I understand this in this way. When I race the car, I have to bring the car to the place of when the tires are spinning, losing the track. Then I slow down to capture the traction. Then I have to speed up again to lose the traction. And on and on and on. I can only progress when I am in that area.” So that is the same with all athletes and whatever we do. That’s the difficult choice. You bring yourself to losing traction.
When you imagine a weightlifter, it would be the same story. You have to come to the place where the records are. You break the records very little. If something happens, you go back to catch the traction. When you heal injuries, it’s the same thing. You go to the place where it’s difficult and you try to stay there. If the body lets you, you stay there and you’re getting stronger or more flexible. If you sense that something is wrong, you go back. The master piece is how to find that place. Where is it, really? Where is that place and you cannot really. If you spin too much, you completely lose the speed and you lose, right? If you don’t bring yourself to that place, then you cannot improve.
The only way to improve would be to have progress, but that progress depends on these difficult choices. The master piece here is to lose the traction, catch up; lose the traction, catch up. When you’re on The Happy Body, you’re the same way. You are supposed to come always to reach for something more just slightly. Like a quarter inch or something. Then you know where you are and you’re reaching for it. That is the athletic brain. The fitness brain is to exercise without it. The whole fitness today is just kind of that way. You go to the gym and you just exercise, but you are now really bringing yourself for the tires to slide. You’re not pushing that direction. You don’t even know where it is.
Because of that, you don’t have progress. I have people sometimes come here and then, “Oh, I exercised for ten years and I didn’t change.” Well, there’s no change because there is no progress. There is no reaching. There are no choices. Difficult choices, easy life, right? We are all good with easy choices. Actually, easy choices are fun. Like we will always choose what’s easy. That comes naturally for us. Fantastic. Everybody’s good about that. Everybody can write a book about that.
Easy choices. So, of course, we will do everything not difficult. Because of that, we cannot progress in life. But those of us that can choose difficult choices, they will have progress and they will have impressive and they will have an easy life because of that. But you have to be okay with it.
I was faced with this the first time, really, in weightlifting. Coach coached me that way. This fine line of searching for difficulties, but those difficulties cannot be too difficult. It has to be just slightly so you get the good feeling. You get better and then you go to the next day and you do the same and get better. Then eventually, the quantum shifts happen when you actually progress a lot. Then back up a little bit and so on.
Tim Ferriss: One analogy that I remember you used with me at one point which changed my thinking or at least opened my mind to different possibilities with flexibility and mobility – I remember in the beginning I had terrible ankle mobility. Really bad ankle mobility. It led to all sorts of knee problems and hip problems.
In the many different types of training that we’ve done together, the concept of achieving that flexibility through movement and motions as opposed to holding static stretches for a long time was relatively new to me. I remember at one point you were talking about the hinge, a rusty hinge. How you can’t try to force it too much or you’ll break it like a paper clip.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, exactly.
Tim Ferriss: So you go back and forth and it’s creak, creak, creak, and it’s barely bending, and then click and you get a little bit further. Then you oil a little bit and you hear the creak, creak, creak, click. Then you have these really unexpected, for me at least, quantum jumps. Where I would go from feeling stuck, stuck, stuck, and then next workout, boom, all of a sudden I have three or four inches of additional reach. That was a new experience for me.
Jerzy Gregorek: It’s funny how things happen to us.
Like Naval, you said that I know so many things and came from many things. But we remember things in life. My father was a locksmith. He was a steelworker and he was a locksmith. I remember, I was probably five years old and he was showing me with the rusty hinge and how we work with it. It was beautiful. He put some oil and moves it a little bit. He gave it to me and I was working it a little bit. I would sense where it was stopping. It helped me to feel how much really to push it. I still remember it. So when I talk to you, he was my master. He was really showing me how to break that hinge the right way.
Not to break it completely, but to open it, to restore it, to rejuvenate it. Eventually, after about half an hour, that hinge was moving with oil and everything like new.
Tim Ferriss: That’s wild.
Jerzy Gregorek: It’s wild, yeah. When you are open to this, you use this metaphor, and I used this metaphor with you, but I remember my father and working on that hinge. It’s a juxtaposition. Those juxtapositions we use constantly in poetry and in life to help people to imagine.
Tim Ferriss: I want to help people imagine another story, which I quite enjoyed. We’ve had a number of lunches here. You were saying before I started recording that in terms of the units for Weight Watchers, what was it? They were like – what are they called?
Jerzy Gregorek: Oh, yeah, they have 30 points.
Tim Ferriss: Points.
Jerzy Gregorek: There was a woman before –
Tim Ferriss: Who was comparing the diet on The Happy Body, which I guess gives her seven points. But you eat a very high volume – or I shouldn’t say very high volume – you eat primarily vegetables or relatively low protein. We’ve had a lot of soup here. Delicious vegetable soup, which you also had for breakfast. We get these gigantic bowls of soup. I just remember barely starting. It was scalding hot and I had three or four spoonsful and you were done with your soup.
Jerzy Gregorek: I’m fast.
Tim Ferriss: At one point, I could swear you told me this story of meeting someone who claimed to be the fastest soup eater. Could you tell that story?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah. You know, I was a very fast eater of hot, boiling soup.
Tim Ferriss: This is in Poland.
Jerzy Gregorek: This is boiling soup; this is not hot, yeah? My father was really good in that too for some reason. But I was a lot better than him. I could eat really a bowl of soup extremely fast, boiling. When I was a weightlifter in Poland, we had this group of athletes that hung out. We went to have soup. We went to this bar and we got tomato soup, hot, really steaming. We started eating. There was this long table and about five of us on one side, about five on the other side. All the track and field, boxers, wrestlers, all that, weightlifters. I finished and the guy on the other side of the table, he looked at me. He was surprised. He said, “You’re finished?”
“You ate your soup?” I said, “Yeah.” “But it cannot be.” I said, “What cannot be?” He said, “I’m the fastest eater. Nobody was ever faster than I.” I said, “Not anymore. It’s over.” He said, “I don’t believe that you just did it. It’s impossible.” I said, “Oh, come on. You want to bet?” Oh, everybody was happy about the bets because weightlifters always bet. So we started betting. We bet and of course, he ate half of the soup and I ate the whole thing and that was it. But the other story is this about fast eating.
We go to Warsaw and in Warsaw, I go to the fire protection academy. This is my first day. I’m depressed.
Tim Ferriss: You’re depressed?
Jerzy Gregorek: Without my Mama, you know? My Mama. I was my Mama’s son, always. I couldn’t really live without my Mama. I was always making the way that I would be home. As I’m looking for the place. I found this place where three guys are sitting. They are all from Warsaw. I sat there and one of them is really this street-smart guy, right? I eat slowly and so on. But there’s no much food. Everybody wants more food than they serve. So he tells me this. “You know what? I have an idea.” I said, “What is it?” “Whoever will finish first will help the other to finish the food.”
I looked at him. I’m just thinking and laughing inside. You just probably picked up the worst person in this world. Just the worst one; that one. I said, “Okay.” The next day, he didn’t eat his second and dessert. I ate my soup, my second, dessert, his second and dessert. The next day. So he started from the second. Pork chop and potatoes or something. He left the soup. So I ate his soup and dessert. He said, “I don’t want to do it anymore.” I said, “Well, if you don’t want to, you have to pay.” So he paid.
It was a lot of money. It was like two months of work.
Tim Ferriss: That’s a lot.
Jerzy Gregorek: We became really great friends. When we’re bad, we’re bad. One day, we went to this Olympic weightlifting seaside during the summer and they were always bringing food to us. They brought one day this cabbage stew with meats and so on in this basin. Like a really big, maybe 20 pounds of it. Then we always wanted to eat more, of course. My friend, Otto, and I said, “No, we could eat the whole thing.” The others were laughing. It was about 40 guys. “You cannot eat this.”
Tim Ferriss: Wait, it was for 40 people and you and your friend said you could eat the whole thing?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, we’d eat the whole thing. Then we started really laughing. And then Otto said, “Come on.” I said, “No, Otto, we cannot eat this. It’s just too much food.”
So when you actually put the spoon down vertically, only the tip of the spoon was in and the basin was between when we sat in front of us, was between my legs and his legs. It was so big.
Tim Ferriss: It was gigantic.
Jerzy Gregorek: Gigantic. Otto said, “We’ll eat it in one hour.” I said, “No, come on.” “Oh, come on, Jerzy. We’ll eat it.” I said, “Okay, we’ll try it.” They all started betting. And the coach said, “No, no, no. I know you guys. One hour? No. 30 minutes.” I said, “Ho, 30 minutes.” We set up one eventually 30 minutes. I said, “Okay.” We ate and we started eating. We were fast. Then it there was maybe two pounds left. I couldn’t make it. Just like –
Tim Ferriss: Two pounds is a lot left.
Jerzy Gregorek: Couldn’t make it. Just like full, done. That was 11:00 p.m. 8:00 in the morning or 7:00 in the morning, we were back in the restaurant and Otto was sitting in front of the milk with rice, probably more than a gallon, two gallons. People were laughing and saying, “Otto, what are you eating?” Of course, you want to bet. They started betting. Otto ate the whole thing there. After eating, I don’t know, it was 10, 15 pounds.
Naval Ravikant: In a way, this is liberating because you’re obviously very healthy and fit, but you have an eating disorder.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, of course.
Naval Ravikant: And you love vodka too. So you have your vices.
Jerzy Gregorek: I love the volume. My challenge as a master here is coming in.
You cannot let the fatalist really win because if you do, your life is not going to be good. What you want has to happen. But for me, to control that volume is really tough. I can eat 10 apples within 10, 15 minutes, and then another 10, followed with another 10. Until my teeth cannot really make it, so I stop. I had to come out with a strategy of how to eat an apple. I came out, I told you before, [inaudible] with a strategy for it. I drive with my daughter to Santa Clara from our home to take her to gymnastics. It takes about 30 minutes. I said I will take an apple and I will finish that apple there. For me, it’s a big challenge.
But when I actually achieved that, I switched – because I’m a taskmaster – so I switched my brain from taskmaster of eating the apple very fast, to actually waiting 30 minutes to eat it. That became my task. Actually eating fast apple become secondary. Now I do it all the time to help myself. I have a lot of people here my way. Because people who are social, I call them social beasts like I am. I’m a social beast. I love people. I love to go for dinners and parties and so on all the time. I’m a social beast. Drinking and eating and so on. How you can beat this and you can be lean and you can be a certain body type and so on.
You have to have data. You have to have a plan. You have to have a strategy for that and you can be, you can be everything. But you have to have some strategies how to deal with it. I created this timing myself. I will take a prune, let’s say, and I will time ten minutes. I will finish the prune in ten minutes. Or a drink.
Tim Ferriss: So you wait for ten minutes and then you eat it?
Jerzy Gregorek: No, no, no.
Tim Ferriss: You take ten minutes to eat it.
Jerzy Gregorek: I take ten minutes. Like I take 30 minutes to eat an apple. No, I would not wait. That would not be fair.
Naval Ravikant: But it’s a challenge; it’s a goal you set for yourself.
Jerzy Gregorek: Challenge is good. I’m really a taskmaster, right? A lot of tasks at that time. It’s very difficult for us to be masters in that you predict the time. That you are good in ten years or five years. I am that way too.
But to get there, to you have to be also the master of this small task. So I am really good in eating and very fast. So I had to somehow trick myself to be the master with 30 minutes and eating as a secondary. So these whole books about mastering food choices, mastering exercise choices and so on and rest choices, they are the books of dialogues. How I came out with these books is that when people were coming here, I heard different voices. Since I am a poet, I sense who is talking. What is the power of the talk? Is it a fatalist? Is the fatalist really strong? Or is the master? How much master is there? 60 percent? 40 percent fatalist?
I started really hearing these dialogues within the head and the mind of the person of my clients all over, all the time. I got the idea one day to come out with five different voices. One would have the fatalist, 100 percent voice. So the picture is the choice is up to the fatalist 100 percent. This is the most traumatic situation for the person. The person cannot come out of that situation.
Naval Ravikant: The fatalist dominates.
Jerzy Gregorek: Dominates, suicidal situation, drug addicts. You have to have help outside. That’s how I was helped in Poland. That Marek helped me to come out.
Naval Ravikant: You were actually an alcoholic before you discovered weightlifting.
Jerzy Gregorek: I was an alcoholic.
Naval Ravikant: Like a real alcoholic.
Jerzy Gregorek: I was a real alcoholic. Three years losing my – every day, I was blacking out every day. I would black out sometimes for two, three days. I left on Wednesday, I came back on Sunday. I didn’t know the days that were before. I thought it was Thursday. Three years like that. You really have to be lucky.
Tim Ferriss: How did you get lucky in that situation? What got you out of that?
Jerzy Gregorek: That’s another story, right? I was drinking with my buddies. We are somewhere in the pub drinking beer and things.
Naval Ravikant: And you’re like 18 years old at the time, 19, something like that?
Jerzy Gregorek: I was 19, 18½.
During this talk when we are talking, there is another guy. He’s drinking with us and he says that his mother threw his weightlifting equipment out of the house. I said, bring all of it to my house. “Can I?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” You know, alcoholics always say everything but they don’t mean it. Or the next day they don’t remember, right? But the next day, I was already drinking in the morning. So I’m drunk at 3:00 p.m. on my couch. There is a knock on the window. I go there and I open the window and Marek is there. I said, “What is it?” Then he said, “I have the equipment. You told me to bring the equipment.”
That I can have it and train in your place. I said, “Okay, bring it in, but I will take a nap.” So he brought everything in, set up everything, but he didn’t do his workout on his own. He tries to pull me in. He said, “Jerzy, come and do it. We’ll do it and then go for a beer.” I was just like sleeping, kind of waking up and recovering. I said, “No, no. Just you go.” “No, no, let’s go. We’ll do a little bit and go.” So somehow he was inviting. He created this space for me to walk in the right way. That’s amazing when that space is created.
You know your friend, Dr. Mike? Michael? The doctor.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, that’s right, Mikola, definitely.
Jerzy Gregorek: He said that what we do, we create this possibility for uncomfortable situations to make them comfortable. That’s what happens. Then that’s what happened to me. That I didn’t want to lift weights and so on. But he invited me the right way. I did a little bit. We went for the beer. Then the next day, kind of the same. We were drinking and then we were lifting. He was kind of okay with it. So the days were passing. I was drinking with him, lifting with him, and drinking. But as months started passing on, I noticed that I was getting stronger because of this lifting.
And stronger and stronger. My strength was coming back. Because I was also the lifter between 13 and 15½. That’s when I lost. I was in high school and fell really into darkness. Training with him, my body was coming back. My master was waking up. I really started choosing less drinking or drinking not so hard liquor. Sometimes not drinking. Definitely more exercise. I started really lifting more and lifting more. After about five or six months, we were really lifting. I really didn’t even notice the change.
He pulled me out of that place. He saved my life.
Naval Ravikant: And actually, in full circle, your Happy Body workout helped me stop drinking. Because it’s the only workout that I’ve ever done where you insisted, strangely enough, that it has to be done daily. A lot of other people will say, well, if you’re doing weights, and there’s a light weights component to The Happy Body. I think of it as a combination of weights, yoga, and meditation. But it has to be done seven days a week. You even said to me at the beginning – I was like, “Well, what if I go to the gym and do something else? What if I go for a run? What if I sprint?”
You said, “I don’t care. Do all of those, but do Happy Body also.” So you have to do it seven days a week and it’s the first thing that I do. It’s very convenient. I can do it at home with just my weights next to the bed. But if I’ve been drinking the night before, it’s terrible. It becomes an ordeal. So the daily morning habit of the workout breaks the nighttime going out and drinking habit. They kind of work in opposites to each other.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah. Also, you know, it is created to deliver the daily hygiene for the body.
It’s really like brushing your teeth. You do The Happy Body. It was created to have this daily routine, every day into the habit and do it. That would set up right away your better mood, set up the way of becoming better over time, and be proud of that. I call that what happens to people when they really do it on a daily basis, when they come through the door, right away they’re happy. If they don’t do it, they are not happy. It’s like winning and losing. So when they come, they are happy and they recognize triple happiness.
I’ve got this in the book – triple happiness. Triple happiness happens when people achieve what they want, they get it. They’re happy that they lost weight or they are more flexible or they are stronger or their posture is better.
They are happy because of it. But then, after a while, also they are happy because they became the person that could do that. That could achieve that. So they became this mind of an achiever. Once they do The Happy Body and they achieve and they become this attractive body, something is attractive about The Happy Body people because they are not tired, they are not exhausted, they are happy. Something about them that attracts others to them. That is the third happiness because you deliver happiness to the outside. Other people are happy when they look at you. There’s something about you that makes them happy.
So I call it triple happiness.
Naval Ravikant: I like that. You get the goal, you become the new person on the way to getting the goal, and then you project that to others and maybe inspire them.
Jerzy Gregorek: You inspire others, right.
Tim Ferriss: A question to you Jerzy, and I know this is a bit of a left turn from what we’re talking about right now. But what does your daily diet look like? What types of meals do you have? What do they look like?
Jerzy Gregorek: In the morning, I will have either juice or soup.
Tim Ferriss: What type of juice? What type of soup?
Jerzy Gregorek: It’s all vegetable. Usually the soup we make are vegetarian soups. Clear vegetarian.
Tim Ferriss: What was in it this morning? What did you have?
Jerzy Gregorek: I had the juice.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, you had the juice. What was in the juice this morning?
Jerzy Gregorek: The juice was beets, carrots, celery, spinach, parsley, and ginger.
Tim Ferriss: Got it.
Naval Ravikant: And just one glass of juice?
Jerzy Gregorek: One big glass of juice.
Naval Ravikant: That was breakfast?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: What is your favorite breakfast soup?
Jerzy Gregorek: I love all soups, but potato. When the potato is in the soup, I love it always. Because we make different soup. We boil in the pressure cooker because it’s really fast. Then blend in vitamins. So it’s purer. The soups we make, we put into the pan, and half of it is carrots, onion, celery, and parsley. The other half is –
Tim Ferriss: Parsley.
Jerzy Gregorek: Parsley.
Tim Ferriss: Got it.
Jerzy Gregorek: Parsley root.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, parsnip.
Jerzy Gregorek: The root. The other half is the flavor of the soup that you want. If you want broccoli soup – broccoli. If you want cauliflower, cauliflower. If you want potatoes, potatoes. So that makes really strong. Tomatoes? Tomato soup. You call it that way. It’s fantastic.
Tim Ferriss: So you have the base, which you described and then the flavor, which is the second half within the pressure cooker.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, and then you blend and then you have your soup. Soups usually we have for lunch, usually. We cook always so we have – what Aniela did the soup? That you are allergic to?
Tim Ferriss: Eggplant. The one thing that’ll kill me.
Jerzy Gregorek: Right. It’s a challenge.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, a challenge. I hope you know how to do an emergency tracheotomy.
Jerzy Gregorek: So then I have a snack. The snack usually is either the bar that we make. We make our own bars.
Tim Ferriss: This is in the afternoon?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, around 10:00. So 7:00 is let’s say juice or soup.
Tim Ferriss: I see. Then you have a bar as a snack. What are the bars made out of?
Jerzy Gregorek: The bars are made out of apples, chocolate, prunes, all kinds of spices like turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger. Then we add seeds to that.
The seeds can be flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. Then everything is mixed. We can add some dates to it to bond everything together. Then I take it out of the food processor and put everything together into this bread looking thing. It looks like a bread and I cut it into pieces. You can add after all the nuts to it and whip them in or you can mix them in the food processor before. Or not to use them at all. People today prefer not to use nuts because they believe that seeds are better for the skin, aging, and nails and so on. We have movement toward seeds more than nuts. But still we make both.
Tim Ferriss: Then you have soup for lunch.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: And then do you snack again or do you just go to dinner at that point?
Jerzy Gregorek: No, then I have a snack about 4:00. That 4:00 snack, I can have a juice or I can have like prunes or the dried fruit. I can have some almonds or use the bar or soup. I love soup, so I can eat soup three times a day.
Tim Ferriss: What is dinner?
Jerzy Gregorek: Dinner is interesting because dinner could be any combination of the protein and veggies or any different strategies. Now I have different strategies for eating dinner my way. I love potatoes. So yesterday, I boiled potatoes and I ate potatoes.
Tim Ferriss: You just had boiled potatoes?
Jerzy Gregorek: Boiled potatoes.
Tim Ferriss: That’s it?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah. I love potatoes. I want more potatoes. [Inaudible]. We were just in Vegas and my daughter competed in gymnastics. When I arrived, there was nothing to eat. I ate french fries. I didn’t have my bars, so I ate french fries. At 1:00 p.m. for lunch, I had french fries. I love french fries. So if I can eat french fries, I will eat french fries. I won’t eat anything else.
Tim Ferriss: Anything made of potatoes.
Jerzy Gregorek: We went to this Italian restaurant. We are inside and I read the entire menu. I don’t like anything up there. There are two other couples. Then I go out of the restaurant. I go to the burger, I buy my french fries, bring it back and I eat over there. $1.65.
Naval Ravikant: That must have gone over well with the restaurant.
Jerzy Gregorek: They said, “What is this?” I said, “Well, you know, I love french fries.” And truly, my french fries are the best food on this menu. There’s nothing better than my french fries. Really. You have potatoes, you have vegetable oil. This is great food.
Naval Ravikant: But when you’re eating french fries, you’re just eating the french fries. You’re not having the burger. You’re not having a giant meal where french fries are a side. You’re basically calorie restricting.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, I count that too. You see, The Happy Body is not a diet. The Happy Body is an approach for people to help them to control calories, volume, to achieve the body they want. Bigger body, smaller body or maintain the body. But it gives people a way of manipulating food and the volume and time and so on. So tech people, this new generation of people, details people, they thrive of The Happy Body.
Why? Because they love the numbers. They love quantifying, self-quantifying. The love this. The Happy Body is all numbers. They really get it right away. To the diet, they get to the exercise; they get to the detail of all exercise and the breathing and so on. They love this stuff. So it’s a perfect system for independence, self-control, self-coaching, which was created that way 25 years ago, but people were not getting that. My generation really had difficulties in that. They were more foodie, more toward having fun but no control. This generation is different. This generation has some kind of emotional intelligence.
They’re willing to compromise. And having fun with actually all this quantifying.
Naval Ravikant: I’d love to ask you more about that. Especially with the meal replacement stuff like Soylent. But before we get to that, I did want to hear your dinner.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, what are you having for dinner tonight?
Jerzy Gregorek: I never know.
Naval Ravikant: Like what’s an average dinner? What is a protein source?
Jerzy Gregorek: Oh, I love let’s say cauliflower. For one thing, it will be either potatoes, cauliflower, or broccoli. I will steam and put the salt on it and eat a big bowl of that. That’s my dinner. So sometimes we make steaks because Natalie eats steaks or fish. I can eat a little bit of that.
Tim Ferriss: So you eat very little animal protein?
Jerzy Gregorek: Very little. My experience is a different story with my situation and prostate.
Tim Ferriss: Which your family has a history of prostate –
Jerzy Gregorek: Seven years ago, we went to Poland to find out because my grandfather was coming from Belarus. We went there and nobody could find any trace of what happened to the family when my grandfather came to Poland. We went to engage others to go to Belarus and find the roots and who we were really, because there is no trace. We were there. We were at the cemetery and my mother had five brothers. I’m standing there and this family person is telling me that you can see here are your mother’s five brothers.
They all died at around 55, all because of the same thing. I said “What was it?” Prostate cancer. I was 55, looking at these graves. I said, “That’s not good news.” So when I came home, boom, I went to my doctor and said, “We need to check the prostate and so on.” So she checked and said, well, it’s big and it has nodules and so on. I said, “Ooh, not good.” She said, “Let’s do PSA.” It came back 9.5. Holy moly.
Tim Ferriss: This is a blood marker for prostate inflammation.
Jerzy Gregorek: I said “Not good.” This is what I will talk later on about. Organ health and physical health. They are two different things.
She sent me to the urologist. He said, “We have to do a biopsy.” I said, “No, we’ll slow down things now. We really need to slow down.” Because I read also – you can trust people or not, but some people said that if you make a puncture, blood can actually travel and if it is cancer there, it can spread it. I said that’s not a good idea. I went to my doctor and I said okay, give me half a year. Because she said if it’s the problem, it grows slowly and so on. Give me half a year and I will come back. I started really researching and finding my best way of approaching how to deal from the food point of view.
At the same time, I sent to 23andme to find out what my DNA and so on. It comes and 33 percent chance of prostate cancer. First killer. I said, that’s serious stuff. Do you want to know really what would kill you? People say do I need to know what can kill me? Some people don’t want to know. I want to know because I’m going to do something about it. If I die, then I have to know before that I did everything so I wouldn’t. But I don’t want to be dying and thinking if I did that and that and that. I didn’t want to be that person. I explored everything possible.
I started my diet. No animal protein and strictly vegetarian and also no grains at all, only vegetables, fruits, some seeds, nuts, and making the bars. Enough to half a year, PSA 5. Another half a year 1. Another half a year 0.1. And it is like this every year. So my doctor checked the prostate. Smooth, nice, beautiful, young. I went back to the urologist. He said, “Wow. Is this the same prostate?” I said, “Yeah, this is the same one.” There’s nothing to do. It’s young, it’s smooth, no nodules, nothing.
So it could be that when you start aging like 35 or when you are 50 and 60, you have to start switching to a different way of eating. You have a margin for error. When you get older, you have to be more perfect and more perfect. You have to find a way to accept what you need to do to become better. To accept that, you accept The Happy Body. It’s a preventive system. It will help you to prevent weaknesses and so on. It will. But you have to have time for it. I want to point to something now. One thing is strength and fitness and other organs in the body. There are two different ways.
When you think about organs, you have to think about eating. When you think about fitness, you think about physical training. Definitely the organs are aligned toward being healthy when you have certain body weight, not too big. Any restriction on the diet works very well. The research points to that my stat was put on a restricted diet would live 40 percent longer. 40 percent. We are talking about 60 or 100, right? So there has to be some kind of control like food. I control my volume. If I didn’t control my volume, I would be 300 pounds very fast. There was a woman in France who lived to 128 years.
We had this friend in geriatrics. He talked to us about this in L.A. He said when they did autopsy of that woman; all the organs were aged evenly. But he said when we open somebody that’s 70 years old, 80, one organ is done. It’s killing the body. All the others could go for another 50 years. Wow. That pointed me to something. It pointed to me that wholeness, general way of approaching food is extremely important. The quality of food is important. Even though you eat meats or whatever, but you choose organic and so on. Then the more veggies you eat, the better. When the physical body is created the same way.
I put together the organs with joints. When you think about joints of the body, they are like organs. When your elbow is not good, you cannot do anything else with the body. It limits you completely. You cannot use the body. You cannot train. You cannot get better. One joint is enough. It ruins your training system. It ruins your progress. It ruins your getting better. The flexibility now is extremely important. That you have flexibility everywhere around the joint so you are not getting the tension from any place.
Once the muscle is on one side of the joint tighter, it will bring the bones together there. Once it happens, the pressure happens. Once the pressure happens, inflammation happens. Once inflammation happens, arthritis happens. Pain comes in.
The Happy Body is the system that stretches evenly the whole body system. It’s a holistic system. Everything every day. That’s why it’s hygiene really. It’s works really perfectly for athletes because I don’t do the same way The Happy Body as other people. For people it’s every day and they challenge themselves and then they do this routine. But athletes use The Happy Body as massage. I do one or two rounds and I’m searching for any tension. For me, I use half of the weight that I could. I work on 50 percent, maybe 40 percent. Instead of 40-pound dumbbells, I will use 15 or 20, which is very light for me.
But I will have to reach all the capabilities of my body. Sometimes I’m sore somewhere, I’m in pain somewhere, I’m tight somewhere and The Happy Body tells me to release it every time. I coach the same way every athlete to do the same thing. Goal first. You play goal, you go to your room, and you do one round. Once you do one round always you will know your body and you’ll know where it got tighter. Then you gently work with that tightness to release that tightness.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, you identify your weaknesses as a diagnostic tool with The Happy Body very quickly. One thing that really also opened my eyes was doing the opposite of what had been drilled into me over many years. There’s a lot of rethinking of this over the last five or ten years since Olympic weightlifting has exploded in popularity.
I suppose one of the ten commandments of lifting for a long time, at least in the United States, was squat to parallel. Don’t go lower. Keep your shin vertical. I had some knee problems. I had a lot of leg tightness, a lot of hamstring issues. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the internet, but once I started focusing on getting maximum mobility in the ankle, the knee, the hip, jutting the knees forward and getting my ass down to my heels, once I started slowing progressing towards that, my knees have never felt better.
Because, I think, in part I have so much room, I have so much slack that is available to me. I guess the way you put it was – I’m blanking – reserve. I have so much more reserve now than I did before.
Jerzy Gregorek: To imagine the angle that we become, you can look at runners.
They will be all kinds of different angles and tightness. When you look at sprinters, their gait is the longest. They are the most flexible. When you look at 400 meters, less flexible. Then one mile, less flexible. Marathon runners would be the least flexible. When they will squat, they will not even reach parallel level because their quadriceps will be very tight. The quadriceps. So if you want to really squat down and be really down and sit like I will sit.
Tim Ferriss: So Jerzy’s sitting. So just to describe here. Jerzy’s in socks, perfect, just ass to the ankles, body upright, and no discomfort whatsoever.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, I’m sitting and I can read a book here.
I’m sitting that way, but imagine that my quadriceps is tight. That’s the Chinese people. They sit for thousands of years that way and they don’t have a problem with knees at all.
Tim Ferriss: In Japan, they call that unko zuwari, which is the shit squat.
Jerzy Gregorek: Also, this is the place where like when we were seven months old or eight. We were that way, every one of us, right? So there are no limitations of hips, believing that we are limited and so on. Nobody had. We all were that better in squatting than on standing. So when we stood up, it was too hard, when we were about nine months old and we went back to squatting. It was better to squat and to be there than to actually stand. So think about it. We were better in squatting than standing. Everybody was that way.
We can be back. Come back to the knee. When I sit like that and my quadriceps is flexible, then you have patella here. Then you have another ligament here attaching to the bone on both the patella and the bone.
Tim Ferriss: Stretching right below his kneecap.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah. If the quadriceps is tight, then it presses the patella down and that is inviting a meniscus problem. So if the quadriceps is really flexible, it never happens. I’m 62 years old. Weightlifting for almost 50 years. I’ve never had knee problems. But when I tell people, they don’t want to do what I do. They want to [inaudible] and they debate with me that it should be parallel and this. Are you crazy? Show me some kind of greatness and then I will follow it. But if you are talking bananas, then there’s nothing for me to follow.
Because half-squat is not good enough. It’s funny, but it’s that.
Tim Ferriss: Also, I should just point out that you’re talking about athletes and everyday people and those people listening might imagine okay, everyday people, they’re using super-light weights, they’re doing this, that and the other thing. But I’ve seen videos of another patient of yours – I shouldn’t say patient, but in a way they’re your patients, your students. You showed me a video of a gentleman. I think he came to you as a war veteran who had a body brace on because he had so much back pain. I think he had some type of spinal issue that he couldn’t move at all.
You showed me a video of him doing an elevated stiff-legged deadlift. So he’s standing on a platform with 315 pounds for I think six repetitions or something. He’s in his 50s or 60s.
Jerzy Gregorek: No, he’s in his 70s.
Tim Ferriss: 70-something. That’s fucking insane.
Jerzy Gregorek: But that’s the coaching, right? When you coach the right way, you take ten years. You did this podcast with somebody Aniela told me about. Somebody talked about ten years.
Tim Ferriss: It could’ve been quite a few people because a lot of them think in those terms. I mean, the people who are great. Oh, it was Coach Sommers. It was Christopher Sommer. He was the former national men’s gymnastic team coach.
Jerzy Gregorek: So when I talk to you about that coach, ten years, ten years is just a really good time. When you have ten years or five, ten years, you can really make a lifter. You can make a poet. You can make whoever you want, but you really need that time. Craig was the one that was in Vietnam. A grenade exploded near him. He was taken to the hospital and his discs shattered.
So they removed all the pieces and sanded the vertebrae and left them that way. Four years after, he is in a brace and he came and cannot walk. He found me in Frank’s gym in North Hollywood. He asked me to train. Frank said, “No, you’re not going to train this guy. This guy is a lawsuit.”
Tim Ferriss: Lawsuit, right.
Jerzy Gregorek: Right away.
Tim Ferriss: Just waiting to happen – especially with Jerzy.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah. So I said, “Frank, he’s a good guy. Let me bring him here, talk to him. He just needs help. He’s not going to do anything bad to the gym.” He says, “Okay, bring him in, but he’s really terrible.” I said okay.
Craig came. I talked to Frank, Craig and so on. Frank heard Craig and said okay. I started training him. He couldn’t bend holding this stick. He just like maybe 5 degrees bends and that’s it. He was in pain.
Tim Ferriss: So at the waist, standing straight, he could only bend forward about 5 degrees, a few inches.
Jerzy Gregorek: Yeah, just pain all the time. He was four years in chronic pain constantly without a disc between vertebrae. So I slowly, gradually, the same way like with everybody, step by step, worked with him. Flexibility, some movements. After about two years, he could do stiff-legged deadlifts all the way down. So his flexibility improved.
But the strength was not yet. So I started really working. Once the flexibility is done, your aim is strength. Once the strength is down, speed. So that’s how the things progress. After about ten years, I brought him to do 315 pounds, stiff-legged deadlift. I showed you the video.
Tim Ferriss: Just so people understand, this is a really low stiff-legged deadlift. This is not to the thighs.
Jerzy Gregorek: Touching the feet.
Tim Ferriss: Touching the bar to the feet.
Jerzy Gregorek: That’s how low. With the bar, 315 pounds. This is the guy who was injured. His life completely changed. He became better than ever. Every year, he asks me to come and do the video. Now because when we left, we are here so I don’t coach him.
Tim Ferriss: You went from Southern California to Northern California.
Jerzy Gregorek: But he knows what to do. He does his training and he keeps his 315 pounds. He’s 72 or 73. He still does his 315 pounds the way that I taught him. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to see it. Very happy, confident, have a good life. He wouldn’t, right? So it’s fantastic. It’s a great story.
Tim Ferriss: What would you say to someone who is training in the gym and they want to take this approach, but they feel impatient because they have people around them who are throwing a lot of heavy weight around and maybe they feel insecure about using light weights or working on flexibility. What do you say to that person?
Jerzy Gregorek: You’re talking about trainer, right? Or the person?
Tim Ferriss: No, not a coach, but to somebody who wants to improve. This is very common in the U.S., where people get impatient. They want to do muscle-ups tomorrow or they want to do Olympic snatch with body weight tomorrow.
Jerzy Gregorek: I’m like a wolf. I pee around and then make my space. We train in Gold’s Gym. I had a weightlifting team.
Tim Ferriss: This is in Venice?
Jerzy Gregorek: In Venice, yeah. We were there for about four years. I had a team before I moved my team to UCLA. People were like you said. I started throwing weights on the ground. Like, boom, boom, boom. So it would be kind of dangerous for others to come in. It created my space. Aniela says, “Why are you throwing weights?” I said, “Well, it’s preventive.”
Naval Ravikant: Form a perimeter of rationality.
Jerzy Gregorek: So people don’t come in, right? But you have to learn to stand your way. You have to become – like a vegetarian that you don’t eat other food and nobody is going to change you.
You have to become the same way everywhere. You have to have your way. If you are the Happy Body, you are the Happy Body. You connect and focus completely on what you do and keep doing that. It doesn’t matter what people think. What really matters is, are you getting better because of what you do? Are the results there? Is the progress there? It’s more important, more interesting to know that somebody doesn’t like you or you don’t have space. You always have space.
I’m never interested in knowing why I am fat. I’m more interested in how to get lean. I’m not interested in how to get poor. I’m interested in how to get rich. Your focus should be always toward that positive thing that you want. Somebody wrote a book on how not to write.
It doesn’t mean you know how to write. It’s funny how people think that if they know how we get fat, they assume that we know how to be lean, which is a completely different story.
Tim Ferriss: It’s not the same.
Jerzy Gregorek: It’s not the same. So why do you waste your time on doing something you don’t like or the message and knowledge that you can get you cannot use at al? You have to stand your ground and wherever you are, you have to be the Happy Body. You have to know that you are the Happy Body. What does it mean? It means eating this way, this way, that way and exercising this way and that way. Wherever you are, it really doesn’t matter.
You go to the hotel, you pick up two bottles of water, and you do the training. You go to the gym, you do the training. If people are pissed off a little bit, well, you give training. Don’t focus on whatever they are doing. Just keep doing your way and don’t focus too much on other people.
It’s more important to do the training. It’s more important that you’re calm and not too angry. Once you focus on that, you become that. It’s not a good energy really. Just be meditative with what you do and they will leave you alone because there’s nothing to do. If you’re a vegetarian, I cannot do anything about you. But in the ‘80s, people would challenge you. They would try to convert you back. But that’s how it was. You were a vegetarian, people didn’t like it. Today, no. We’re past it.
Tim Ferriss: At least in California.
Jerzy Gregorek: At least, maybe somewhere else, I don’t know.
Tim Ferriss: Just a quick question on, you mentioned anger and being relaxed. One of the things that’s very different here as opposed to say in a gym or with most coaches, is the very end of the workout or the session. You bring people into a room, a very comfortable room. You have them lay down, maybe put a light blanket on them. You spray – what is that you spray on them?
Jerzy Gregorek: Lavender oil.
Tim Ferriss: Lavender oil and then you turn on classical music and you have them lay down for a few minutes until the end of a song. Why? What is the purpose and what are the different components of it?
Jerzy Gregorek: So you imagine that I am 20 years ago in the World Gym in Burbank and coaching and North Hollywood Gym and coaching Billy Blank that created Tai-Bo. Thomas Griffin, he was in Karate Kid III and other [inaudible] guys, powerful guys. I put everybody on the ground in the gym at the finish. Five minutes the music. They loved this. Toughest guys, the boxers, and so on. They loved these five minutes.
Why I came out with it? Because I needed something to calm down people. In weightlifting, we do the whole recovery system and the recovery system is [inaudible] and all that helps you to pacify and to recover for the next day. I thought about what could be used for people. It was the time when we meditated. We did TM.
Tim Ferriss: Transcendental meditation.
Jerzy Gregorek: We looked for other forms of meditation. We were exploring a lot of music and the effect of music on people. We liked the music and mediation idea. I collected 11 pieces of music that I thought we could use as mantra for people to switch the sympathetic nervous system to para.
What also was the situation was that people would go home after the training too excited. They could pick up fights and not be nice to each other and kind. I wanted to fix that. The way to fix it, I couldn’t send them to [inaudible] because it was not there. I came out with the meditation, but not really meditation because people like relaxation. So I call it relaxation in the book. Five minutes of music that would be perfect and people would put up with it for five minutes. I found a piece of music that had a profound effect on me. It was like a poem that I can read 1,000 times and I am never tired of it. Every time, it gives me something.
The art is that way. If it’s really powerful art, it’s forever. It’s always different and forever. I can read a poem 100 times, 1,000 times and I read it always anew and always, something happens to me. The same is with that piece of music.
Tim Ferriss: What is the piece of music?
Jerzy Gregorek: It’s a Thais meditation but the Budapest Orchestra.
Tim Ferriss: What meditation?
Jerzy Gregorek: Thais meditation.
Tim Ferriss: How do you spell that?
Jerzy Gregorek: Like T-H-A-I-S. Thais meditation. It’s a Massenet. He’s a composer I think from the 1800s. He created that piece of music at that time. It’s not like it’s something new. I never liked New Age music because it would make me numb and I didn’t feel anything. It’s like nothing was happening.
Naval Ravikant: One time I tried to use my own music for the meditation and Jerzy and said, “No, you use Happy Body music.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, if you’re at Jerzy’s house, it’s Jerzy’s way.
Jerzy Gregorek: Well, you know, it’s not my way.
Naval Ravikant: It’s tuned, it’s perfected.
Jerzy Gregorek: It’s Massenet’s way. Actually, this is the best thing that I found. Anyway, you should trust the master. You should trust somebody that lifts for 50 years and is a poet and pick up that thing, yeah? You don’t have to but if you can come out with your five minutes, it’s fine. I’m okay with it. I would test it anyway. But the five-minute piece of music becomes a mantra after a while. Just five minutes at the beginning you can open your eyes. You’re not irritated and so on.
But after a month or two, you get calmer and you relax faster. So the switch from sympathetic nervous system to para is quicker. You calm down and after two years, you hear this music and you already calm down. It’s like mantra. I don’t even have to say my mantra. If I sit, I close my eyes, I’m almost there. It is happiness. But at the beginning was that I had to repeat my mantra 200 times to get even half a second gap of silence in my brain. Now I don’t have to unless I do it. These five minutes works the same way. After a while, it becomes more and more powerful. It calms you down. It’s useful that purpose. You build the association.
If you have something important in life, you listen to it just before. You do it. It calms you down. If you have an exam or something, then you listen to that when you go to the exam. So you relax to the point that your memory is open because that’s what happens. You need to open your memory. But you open your memory in the best way when you are calmed down. If you have any kind of anxiety, your test is not going to be good, right? The other thing is that your recovery process is kicking it.
It means your digestive system is returning and you reset the recovery of the body after training. A fun story about this is our Happy Body people are going to get married and we go there and they chose to play this music when they walk out.
And then the music and there are like 20 other Happy Body people and everybody is looking because they know the music. They are so happy. Everything is just this happiness the music brings in, but also depth of that music and the meaning of that music is outstanding. I don’t know how they feel about this.
Naval Ravikant: I like it. I think there’s also a Pavlovian response where you just start associating with relaxation, then you just have to hear a little bit and you’re relaxed. It’s just like you were talking about with the mantra as well. It’s a good use of music.
Tim Ferriss: We could keep talking for hours and hours. We’ve got birds, cats, dogs, rain, and tea. We’ve got everything going on. We could talk for hours and hours. I think this is probably a good place to put a temporary pause on this session and we’ll do maybe a Round 2 if people enjoy it, which I suspect they will.
Jerzy, where can people find more about The Happy Body and everything that you’re up to? Is there a particular website that you’d suggest?
Jerzy Gregorek: Probably Amazon is the best.
Tim Ferriss: Amazon.
Jerzy Gregorek: The books are there, all the books are on Amazon. Also on iTunes, but Amazon uses now really great ebook system that is fixed layout. Our book is fantastic for it. It was not like that seven years ago when you needed conversion and so on. Now they have their own app that outlined the whole thing, fixed layout, and you have it on Kindle. It’s there. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. Wow. I said holy moly, that looks cool.
Naval Ravikant: So you would recommend starting with The Happy Body book?
Jerzy Gregorek: Yes.
Naval Ravikant: There’s a hard cover.
Jerzy Gregorek: Okay, a little bit about the book. The main book is the plan, the goals and the plan.
It’s intelligence. It has everything with strategies and intelligence built in. Okay? That’s engineering. So then people need emotional intelligence. They need something that will help them on the road. They need something to build transitions from the one that runs marathons to The Happy Body or to sprinting. We need those transitions built up. It’s not going to be easy. Difficult choices again. If I am in front of two potatoes and one and I know that one is enough for me and two is too much, then I have a response to that.
I either have the response of the fatalist that says well come on, one potato is starving, eat two potatoes. But the master says, but we calculated. One is enough and you will be happy after because you will not get fat. Oh, come on, fat. You live only once, yes? So why not two or maybe three? It would be better. You have these constant situations. In a day, you have maybe 100 different possibilities to make a choice. You can make as a fatalist or the master. All the master books are written to trick the fatalist really. So when you come to the middle level, when you have 50 percent fatalist and 50 percent master, the dialogues in the book end up with the master tricking the fatalist.
That makes the 51 percent master and 49 percent fatalist. It means you will choose one potato, right? It will be difficult. It will be tough. We know it’s tough. It’s tough to become better. It doesn’t matter what it’s in, it’s always difficult. That’s why it’s an easy life. Because when do you, the life becomes easy because of it. In every book there are 12 different dialogues that prepare you for different situations. The book doesn’t end up on that. It also gets you to writing your own dialogues, writing your own ways. How would you write about potatoes and choices with 75 percent fatalist and 25 percent master? Then 50/50 and so on. You explore your own mind, your own attitude, your own way of thinking.
It helps you eventually to lean toward being a master. Once you are there, then you achieve anything you really want. You can achieve the Happy Body because you will be okay with eating on time. Let’s say at 3:00. But if you’re not okay, the fatalist will say, I’m not going to eat 3:00 or 2:00 or 1:00. What is it about that? I am a free man. I want to eat whenever I want. That’s the fatalist, right? The master will say, we have a plan here. What plan? I don’t want any plan. Of course. Plato gave us a fantastic one. He said, “If the chariot is the body and the horse is our emotions, and the rider is our mind, if the horses are dragging the rider against his will, danger is coming.” It’s fantastic.
It tells you everything about what you want to achieve. Paying attention to our emotions, working with them is important. Because horses are great. They are just wild and they want their own way. Right? Like my eating ten apples or 20 apples. I have great horses, but also I need that mind to control my horses. If I do that, then I go really great. Because great horses. So don’t punish the horses. Don’t really do something to these horses to calm them down in a way that you would give them drugs. No. Use the horses, but turn them where you want to go. Then when you do that, you can achieve a lot because they are great horses. So you have other book of poetry, you have these three and then there’s one that we’ve written with Natalie, with Aniela recently.
I got this. This is the book that is a collection of stories. Stories are important. There are so many people here and they said, you know, you have this way of telling the right words to the right person in the right time, over and over. What is it? Nobody can what it is and nobody can use it. There is no method for that. What is it? It’s in the story. Somehow, the story works that way. The ambience where you are in the story is working. It’s opening your possibility to agree in the story with somebody who is tricking the fatalist and becoming the master.
It’s a collection of the stories, but the stories are connected to the Happy Body. Collections of lectures – I have lectures, like triple happiness is one of the lectures inside. Then there are 12 poems from this book. The whole reading is designed; the purpose is for people to read over and over. Because we live around people that are not masters. They are the opposite of it. We have sometimes masters around. Our purpose would be to find masters, find a way how to be around masters. How to be around people that are that positive. How to read books that are positive. How to watch movies that are positive. But positive. Always positive.
Usually American movies end on a positive. It’s good. It’s fantastic. It’s supposed to be that way because it gives you this feeling that at the end, we are okay. It’s important. Every dialogue ends up that way because this is a fantastic way of making the brain, the mind the way that will turn every situation, will find the strategy within every situation to be positive, to use it positively. When you read the whole introduction, you see that so many bad things happen. But every bad thing can turn into a good thing if you do it. Because there is a way to make it happen that way. There is no end of the world.
That’s why I say the past doesn’t exist. It’s what exists is now. What we do now counts. What is it that we do? It becomes past anyway. But once it becomes, more interesting is what now? What are we doing now? We are drinking tea. We are talking to some people that will listen to it. That’s what we are doing. But in one hour, it will be the past. But then it will be in that time, you have to be there and not here. You have to be in our time zone. Because only in the present can you change, you can get better. When you do the training, you are doing the training. When you eat an apple, you eat an apple. So you are there. When you listen to the music, you listen to the music. You are present. That’s mindfulness. That’s exactly what it is.
To really embrace yourself with everything what’s possible in life that’s positive, is extremely important. People and books and whatever it is, but try to be around people who don’t do three things. They are not sarcastic. They don’t complain and they don’t blame.
Tim Ferriss: They don’t blame.
Jerzy Gregorek: Blame. The three killers of happiness. Get out of that.
Tim Ferriss: So can you say those one more time?
Naval Ravikant: Sarcasm, complaining, blaming.
Tim Ferriss: No sarcasm, no complaining, no blaming.
Jerzy Gregorek: If you can do that – and a lot of people that come here, they hang on to that. Once I turn them around, they will stop doing this and they become so happy in life because they focus on what is really positive about their children, about what they do at that moment.
So you can always find that. It’s just you have to stop one thing – complaining that Trump is there, right? Because you have so many people here, they don’t like Trump. I said, listen, he is the President. He will be the President. Find what’s positive. There must be something positive and focus on that. Don’t focus on negative stuff. Focus on positive. Where is it? Once you explore positive, good things, then something happens. But it’s very difficult. It’s easy to read the book and be negative about the book.
It’s not easy to read the book and talk good about the book, because you have to have a craft of saying why the book is good. So whatever is not good in life is easy for us. Whatever is good is difficult. That’s what takes us and makes us better.
Tim Ferriss: I think it’s a skill; it’s a practice, like we’ve talked about. This has been extremely fun. Jerzy, first and foremost, thanks for everything that you do. I encourage –
Jerzy Gregorek: Thank you for being here.
Tim Ferriss: Of course.
Jerzy Gregorek: You bless the place. I hope that you will come and bless it again.
Tim Ferriss: I will be sure to come back and embarrass myself and get yelled at because I need that as my medicine. Naval, any parting thoughts or comments?
Naval Ravikant: I think you’ve got a lot from Jerzy. There’s a lot of wisdom here. The only part that maybe we didn’t cover that may be something in the future is I know that no man is an island and Jerzy is here because of three amazing women in his life. That’s probably what kept you from being an alcoholic or a student martyr of some sort. We’ll have to cover that in the future. But his wife, Aniela, is every bit as amazing. I encourage you to research her and read about her in The Happy Body book also.
I would say even though it’s Happy Body, Jerzy gave me a second body, which is how I describe it to people because my first body wasn’t that great. I like the second one a lot better. I’ll keep improving it. Now that he said it takes ten years and I have no one to blame but myself, it gives me the inspiration to keep going. Thanks, Jerzy.
Jerzy Gregorek: You’re welcome. The second body I like the second body. I see that the first 50 years is the first body, but also it’s the nature versus nurture. You have the nature. You use the body. You don’t care. The body is fantastic. It is restoring itself. It is recovering itself. It’s very forgiving. The next 50 years is nurture. It’s time to be intelligent. It’s time to have goals. It’s time to have plans. It’s time for that. If we start nurturing the body, we can easily go for another 50, right? That’s our second body.
There is this gracefulness that we really need to learn. Once you get that gracefulness, your journey can be pleasant, your journey can be progressive, and your journey can be joyful. You don’t have to wait until you become the Happy Body. You go to a college and you complain all the time because you cannot have parties and you have to study and it will be eight years before you’re an M.D. and then you will be happy. Well, you’ll not be happy because once you become an M.D., you will be happy for a while and then something else comes in.
So it’s very important that you are happy in that moment.
Tim Ferriss: Present moment.
Jerzy Gregorek: Present moment. My biggest success is always when I have a good time. When I don’t have a hangover after people. I used to have hangovers of people 20 years.
Tim Ferriss: You’d have a spiritual hangover after you’d spend time with someone.
Jerzy Gregorek: You don’t know what happens to you when you talk to people, you don’t have a good time, right? I don’t have these things anymore. I have a mindful connection to people and dinners with people that they are really good people too. To have a dinner with friends and not to have a hangover and have a good time, I think this is the biggest success you can have in your life. You can be rich and no friends or no true friends and no present moment.
When you go with four people into a restaurant and everyone is present; everybody enjoys the walk and the sitting at the table and having tea or a drink and dinner and is kind and nice to the waiter. You start conversing about things and your care for things and so on. Something happens to you because of the conversation. Something positive happens. What more could there be in life?
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Jerzy Gregorek: You’re good. You’ve got it.
Tim Ferriss: It checks the box. We have a lot of other things that we could cover that we should cover at some point. I agree on Aniela, who is just an incredible woman.
Jerzy Gregorek: My three women.
Tim Ferriss: Who can still climb a tree that I’d be terrified to climb to get a kite out or a ball out or a frisbee out and has that incredible physicality that is nurture at this point that she can show to your daughter. It’s incredible all around. What I’d like to end on here is (a) everybody who’s listened to this podcast a lot knows you can find show notes, links to the different Happy Body books and much more, maybe some videos of Jerzy at fourhourworkweek.com/podcast for this episode and every other episode. If you want to use the new shorter url, you could try tim.blog/podcast and that’ll take you to the same place. I think we can put a pin in it with the quote that Naval brought up from Jerzy, “Hard choices, easy life; easy choices, hard life.” Jerzy, thank you so much for taking the time.
Jerzy Gregorek: Thank you. It was fun.
Posted on: June 5, 2018.
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