How to stay healthy and fit while traveling for work or pleasure:
Interview with Steve Maxwell
Steve Maxwell is a strength coach, physical educator, and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor who has trained and studied throughout the world. Having a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science Steve has an amazingly vast knowledge of sport, training, nutrition, and the effects on the human body. He has over 40 years experience working with athletes and students and has been named as one of the USA’s top 100 trainers by Men’s Journal. Maxwell is a fitness guru who helped introduce many of today’s popular fitness and training modalities to the United States.
Undeniably a true coaching and fitness pioneer Steve Maxwell was the first American to teach kettle bell classes in the United States, and the first certified teacher of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Some of Mr. Maxwell’s students include members of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Eagles. He has worked both as a consultant and trainer for a number of US Government agencies including the DEA, Secret Service, and FBI.
Besides being an instructor, Steve has an impressive history of competing in combat sports. After being reluctantly persuaded by his father, he began wrestling at the age of 10. His relentless work ethic and drive would eventually earn Steve a spot wrestling at the Division 1 college level. Steve continued his athletic career after school wrestling for the US Army. Mr.Maxwell would eventually expand into other combat sports as he became the first American to earn a black belt from Reison Grace. Steve went on to compete in many US and world Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and won multiple world championships.
Today Steve Maxwell lives exclusively out of a backpack as he travels the world speaking to groups of students about the benefits of healthy living and maintaining an active and productive lifestyle. At the age of 62 Maxwell’s body resembles that of a 25 year old athlete, this despite his demanding schedule and continuous travel. Living the Spartan’s nomadic lifestyle Maxwell understands how to make the most of traveling when it comes to health and fitness, how not to let travel disrupt your training, and how to continue to grow stronger and more supple regardless of the hours spent sitting on planes or trains.
With travel becoming more and more prevalent in our lives today it is important to take a lesson from Steve Maxwell and to stay on top of your game while on the road.
Hey Steve it’s great to have the opportunity to speak with you. What I wanted to discuss with you was how to stay healthy and strong while traveling.
Maxwell – This is one of my favorite subjects. People have this idea that you can’t go on vacation or holiday without eating junk or without giving up healthier habits. The mindset is self defeating. The fact that they go in with these ideas is limiting.
I guess it all depends on outlook. You think people need to go in with the idea that they will continue to eat well and exercise?
Maxwell – It is not as hard as people think. They only make it that way.
How do you put yourself in the right frame of mind?
Maxwell – I start right from the moment I get on the plane. I begin with putting myself mentally in the spot where I am travelling. As I sit down into my seat I immediately change my watch and start thinking and acting as if I am in the new time zone. Sometimes I may lose a little sleep, sometimes I may gain a little.
What about your meals?
Maxwell – I immediately go on the new time zone when it comes to eating. I start to schedule my meals for my new location. That means I may skip a meal or two if it is a long flight. It is best to change your food patterns by skipping a meal. I am just sitting on a plane so I don’t need the calories. If I get hungry I will just have a glass of cold water, which usually helps to alleviate the hunger. The problem most people have is that they are uncomfortable with missing a meal. They think they are going to go into some catabolic state. It doesn’t work that way.
So you practice intermittent fasting?
Maxwell – Yes. People are unaware for the most part of just how controlled by food they really are. It rules people’s lives. It can ruin people’s lives! They need to learn that they need not be controlled by their appetites. Hunger is nothing to fear. This is a huge part of travel. Getting your nutrition in line, right from the get go, while you are still sitting on the plane will set you up for success.
Do you consume more water while flying?
Maxwell – When you are in a plane it is equivalent to being at a 7,000 foot elevation. So yeah, you dry out and lose water more rapidly. So while traveling instead of being so concerned with eating people should be more concerned with hydration. Another great way to keep hydrated is with fruits and vegetables. What I do is to chop up fresh berries or vegetables and pack them in a small container. When it is time to eat according to the new time zone I will eat what I have packed with me.
Do you try to sleep on the plane?
Maxwell – If the flight is at night I just try to go right to sleep. I will often listen to a sleep meditation app on my iPhone.
How does that work?
Maxwell – The beats help to slowdown the brain waves. The waves will begin to match the beats. The waves will slow and you will go into sleep mode and can nod off for 2-3 hours and you can wake up pretty refreshed.
Do you do anything to combat the stiffness or tightness which may set in do to sitting on a plane for so long?
Maxwell – I try to get up every hour unless I am sleeping. I will get up and go to the back of the plane and move around. I always try to get an aisle seat so as not to disturb someone by constantly climbing over them.
Do you do just walk then stand for a bit or do you incorporate any type of mobility work?
Maxwell – I will do some Taoist yoga, Qigong, and some energy exercises. I studied a lot of different disciplines over the years so I incorporate a lot.
You do this on the plane?
Maxwell – Yeah, on the plane. I do tapping, self massage, and different types of manipulation. There is lots of stuff you can do on the plane to keep yourself mobile. I always try to staying moving. As a matter of fact while we are talking right now I am pacing back and forth across the hotel room, staying active and mobile.
When you land what is your routine?
Maxwell – The second I land and get settled, if it isn’t night time I will immediately go for a walk. I do what I refer to as “Breathing Ladders”. It is a breath control technique I learned from the Russians. It is a technique where you match your breaths to your walking. How this works is like climbing a ladder. One step inhale, followed by one step exhale. This progresses to two steps inhale, followed by two steps exhale, then three, four, five, and so on. On a good day I may get up to 20 steps on both the inhale and exhale.
How do you get back on schedule with your training regiment?
Maxwell – That all starts before I leave. Before flying I always do an intense workout program. I will get up as early as 3:30 or 4 and will do something very intense. What’s intense? Well, I could do a circuit with rope skipping, calisthenics, some wrestling drills, Hindu Push-ups, and Hindu Squats. I have a homemade suspension device which I can do pull-ups and rows on. I also like to involve some Spiderman Crawls and a Squat Creep, which is a Russian form of the Duck Squat. When I am finished I feel like I could really use the rest so sitting back on the plane is a perfect time to relax.
It also sounds like you consciously include a lot of mobility work into your program?
Maxwell – Yeah pretty much. I give myself an all around good strength, conditioning, and mobility workout.
Take me through your routine on the first morning after you have reached your destination.
Maxwell- I force myself to get out of bed early the next morning. I have a little bit of coffee then I like to go out and have a fasted workout so time between 7 and 9.
What does a typical workout consist of?
Maxwell – It really depends on the day. For example, if I have a jiu-jitsu school available I just may walk in the morning to save my juice for rolling later in the day. If I am going to do a workout I like to follow the 5 pillar system I came up with. It involves a horizontal and vertical push, horizontal and vertical pull, some sort of hinge movement, for my hips, hamstrings, and lower back. Then I go into a variation of the squat, and some sort of core. I will also do a lot of time static contractions which are prolonged isometrics. I will do a hold for up to 90 seconds. These are great to build strength and for hypertrophy. Bruce Lee was a big proponent of isometrics contraction training.
Where do you workout?
You can do these workouts in a hotel room and you don’t need fancy equipment. People may think you need a lot of equipment but you absolutely do not. You can do a 15 or 20 minute workout that will kick your ass, make you strong and keep you strong. And that’s it. In the rest of your time just stay active and do low level activities. (For more on Steve Maxwell’s 5 Pillar System or to see his hotel workout video checkout his website www.maxwellsc.com)
You mentioned isometrics, will you ever combine an exercise with both full range of motion and isometrics? Like for example with a squat.
Maxwell – Sure, actually you can do a Goblet Squat with a kettlebell or some sort of body weight squat until you reached the state of momentary muscular failure then what ever position you are in you continue to isometrically hold this position. Believe me one set and you are done. If you get a point where you can’t do another rep with good form or when you performing a static contraction you reach the point where you are pretty much shaking and you can’t hold it any more, you pretty much did whatever is possible to do to turn on the biological mechanism to produce growth and strength.
Do you do any running or sprinting while traveling?
Maxwell – I will run. But running in general, the way it is done by most people is harmful. It is harmful because most people breathe dysfunctionally. They mouth breathe, they gasp, and they gulp. Most use a very dysfunctional manner of breathing and it can be harmful. It is well worth learning how to breathe properly. But to answer your question, yes I do run, I run in a functional way, not with dysfunctional breathing. I don’t pay as much attention to my heart rate as I do to my breathing. I would tell all of your readers to download this free PDF it is called The Zen of Running. It is an old book that was written back in the 70’s, and I remember seeing it back then and I was a young wrestler in college at the time, and I basically blew it off as some sort of hippie drivel. And then later in I started to think, “Wow that guy made a lot of sense”. This is a free book that anyone can download, and this is the philosophy that I use while running.
This book has to do with just breathing and running, or does it get into all aspects of running?
Maxwell – It has to do with all aspects of running, from almost a spiritual point of view. You should not be running and stressing, it should be about doing it for the ecstasy of it, the sheer joy of moving like an animal.
Now I know you have a lot of kettlebell and other types of workout video but do you have any videos for individuals who are traveling and may not have access to a weight room or weights in general?
Maxwell – I did a Las Vegas series where I show how you can turn a whole hotel room into a gym. Man, I show a lot of cool exercises on how to use what is available to you in your room. I make the video fun and I try to keep people’s attention. I hate these videos where a guy talks for 15 minutes before you even see an exercise. I try to do something within 30 seconds of starting a video to keep the people’s attention.
Steve this has been awesome and I really appreciate you taking the time today to talk.
Maxwell – Awesome, Thanks Sam and best of luck to you.
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Steve Maxwell Kettlebell Workouts on Amazon:
1. The Kettlebell conditioning system book – Steve Maxwell
2. The Spartacus Workout – Steve Maxwell