Tony Robbins is 55, but if you see him on stage or even have a casual conversation with him, you’ll see he has more energy than most 20-somethings.
Robbins is not only the personal performance coach of business leaders like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, he’s the head of a conglomerate of companies and the main attraction for long, incredibly lively seminars that he has relentlessly given around the world for the past 30 years.
He told Business Insider that he wasn’t born a naturally energetic person, that he gets little sleep when he’s on tour, and that he doesn’t take stimulants for a boost.
Instead, he’s developed strict habits around diet, exercise, stress management, and the approach to his work. We’ll explain below how one of the world’s greatest distance runners, an 85-year-old Catholic nun triathlete, cryotherapy, and a strange anxiety-reducing headset have contributed to Robbins’ seemingly limitless energy.
He exercises ‘slowly.’
Robbins said that he struggled with his weight as a kid, so he embraced working out in his early 20s to boost his confidence. After some time, he was able to get washboard abs, which he thought was incredibly cool — but his flexibility was terrible and he had no muscle balance. He decided that rather than being motivated by vanity, he wanted to prioritize energy supply above all else.
He learned about Stu Mittleman, an American who set three consecutive records for the American 100-Mile Road Race from 1980 to 1982, and then in 1986 set another world record in the 1,000-Mile World Championship when he ran that distance in just over 11 days, running 21 hours straight each day.
Robbins said he had no desire to run such an absurd amount, but he adopted Mittleman’s approach to exercising “slowly” in order to maximize fat burn. In his book “Slow Burn,” Mittleman argues that the ordinary person exercises quickly and intensely, which results in feelings of nausea and pain, but that is not the way to build the most efficient system of energy consumption.
To train like Mittleman, you should maintain a comfortable pace when running and keep your heart rate at a steady level when doing other exercises. A way to think of it is never exerting yourself beyond a difficulty level of 7/10.
He doesn’t worry about age.
After an intense 120-day seminar tour when he was 39, Robbins felt more drained than he ever had in his life. He said that one of his friends told him, “Dude, you’re 39. Most athletes retire at 40 … It’s not like you’re going to be doing this when you’re 42.”
Robbins started to doubt himself. But, being Tony Robbins, he decided to seek out the world’s oldest extreme athletes and figure out their secrets.
One of the people he met with was Catholic nun, Sister Madonna Buder. Now 85, she is a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame and has completed 45 Ironman races and more than 350 triathlons. She was not remotely an athlete for the first half of her life, and only began her athletic career at 40 after a priest recommended running as a spiritual exercise.
And that’s what Robbins found most remarkable. In her book “The Grace to Race,” Buder explains that she never considered her age to be an impediment to her athletic progress, and that she has been driven by the spiritually uplifting nature of pushing herself physically.
He uses blood tests to tailor his diet.
Robbins also found nearly all of the exceptional athletes over 65 he interviewed paid careful attention to their nutrient levels through blood tests.
It inspired Robbins to start getting a blood test every six months rather than annually, and to use the results as a guide to adapt his diet to whatever nutrients he had too much or too little of.
Robbins said he keeps his diet pretty basic, with a focus on green vegetables and fish. He doesn’t consume caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or recreational drugs because he said he wants to keep himself conditioned the same way a professional athlete does.