032: How To Get (or Stay) Fit in Retirement with Jim Owen
When Jim Owen was 70 years old, he saw himself as an old man for the first time. He was 25 pounds overweight. He suffered from chronic back issues, had two shot knees, and struggled with a frozen rotator cuff. He wasn’t happy, and he wasn’t comfortable – and when he walked into the gym, he couldn’t do a single push-up.
Jim had spent the last 35 years in the investment world. He served as a partner in and sold three firms, wrote a number of successful books including The Prudent Investor and Cowboy Ethics, and delivered 35 talks a year as an in-demand speaker for a decade. His grueling schedule doing what he loved took a clear toll on his physical health – and in retirement he didn’t want to lose what was left of his mobility.
Now, at 78, he’s in the best shape of his life. He weighs 50 pounds less than he did in high school – and can knock out three sets of 50 push-ups on command. His chronic pains have gone away, and he sees his best days as ahead of him.
Today, Jim joins the podcast to talk about his new book, Just Move, the journey he took to turn his physical health around, why exercise is the foundation of the art of aging well, and his mission to help fellow Boomers get active and live their best lives.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why the secret to fitness is slow, steady progress – and why it’s important to set reasonable long and short-term goals to stay motivated.
- The moment Jim saw himself as an old man for the first time – and the first fitness goals he set for himself.
- The big insight from Jim’s first personal trainer that changed everything.
- Why there’s nothing selfish about exercising for an hour a day – and how preventative care of all kinds stops you from putting a burden on your partner, your children, and your fellow citizens.
- The motivation Jim found in wearing compression shirts when he was hugely overweight – and the effect it had on his mindset.
- What it truly means to age well – and why your sense of purpose is so important.
“The truth is, nobody makes money when people are healthy.” – Jim Owen
Just Move!: A New Approach to Fitness After 50
Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn From The Code Of The West
The Prudent Investor: Definitive Guide to Professional Investment Manage
Launch Your Encore: Finding Adventure and Purpose Later in Life
Casey: Welcome to the Retire With Purpose Podcast. As always, this is your host, Casey Weade, and today we’ve got a different type of guest joining us. We won’t be covering finance necessarily. We’re going to be focusing on fitness with Mr. Jim Owen. Jim, welcome to the podcast
Jim: Casey, good morning. How are you? How are things in Fort Wayne?
Casey: Things are extra chilly here in Fort Wayne. It’s about 20 degrees outside and we’re trying to avoid the snow so I’m just trying to stay warm. How about you? Where are you?
Jim: Well, I grew up in Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky but I live now in Austin, Texas. We have a heat spell going on down here at least for the day.
Casey: Well, I can’t quite imagine. I actually just got back from New York City and it was cold there too so maybe my next travel can be down your way.
Jim: That’d be great.
Casey: It’d be great for me too. It’s always nice to get out of the cold weather in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jim, I’ve got to kick things off by asking something about you that I read. Now, this may not be true. Maybe I heard it incorrectly, but when I came across it, I was absolutely intrigued. I understand you’re 78 years old. Is that correct?
Jim: Well, I prefer to say I’m 78 years young.
Casey: Well, I like to say that as well.
Jim: That’s what they tell me. That’s what my driver’s license says 78. I don’t feel 78 but that’s what my driver’s license says.
Casey: Well, a lot of people play golf and they say they’re shooting your age. You’re 75. You can still shoot your age and you’re doing that in push-ups, it would seem. I heard that not just 50 push-ups at a time but you do sets of 50 push-ups at 78 years young.
Jim: Well, when I started on this exercise journey, I was 70 years old and my first day in the gym, Casey, I literally could not do one push-up, not a real push-up. And so, I now do three sets of 50. I don’t do this every day because it would kill your shoulder but what this goes to show you because I’m not that athletic or I’m not coordinated particularly. If I can do this, anybody can. For the kind of secret of this whole thing is just slow, steady progress, do one push-up, well, maybe next week I can do two, and that’s what I’ve done. So, when I say I do through to 50 I didn’t do that for – it took me probably five years, six years to do that and now I’m where I need to be. I don’t do this every day but at least once a week, usually on Friday or maybe Monday I’ll do the push-ups and I, frankly, enjoy it. It’s not like a chore, but believe me on day one, my trainer said, “Jim, let’s do five push-ups.” I said, “Five push-ups? I can’t do one.” He said, “Well, try it.” And I did. He said, “You’re right. We got some work to do.” So, I just kept at it.
And so, one of the secrets if you will of exercising and fitness and that kind of stuff, getting in shape, whatever you want to call it is just setting reasonable goals, long-term goals, and then setting short-term goals. So, my short-term goal was never, “I want to do 50 push-ups.” It was more, “Gee, if I could do five push-ups, that’d be great.” So, very short-term goals. If I just work at this next month, maybe I can do three or four. That’s how it happened. Also, you wake up one day and you’re doing 25 and then that’s… So, it’s a very interesting thing. There’s no overnight secret. There’s no special exercise that the magazines talk about. This is more of I’m kind of an old-fashioned guy doing basic – I do basic stuff, Casey. It’s nothing fancy.
Casey: Well, sometimes people get intimidated by that I would think as we say, “Well, this guy’s doing 50 push-ups. I’m never going to get it to 50 and so I’m never going to get started,” but it’s the smart goals that you’re setting that are specified, measurable, attainable, reasonable that have helped to get to where you’re at.
Jim: Yeah. I would say it took probably, again, just kind of back up here. When I turned 70, I was in terrible shape. I had chronic back issues. I mean, literally, lying on the bathroom floor with agony. That’s how bad it was. Both my knees were shot and my right rotator cuff was frozen. Imagine that. And I was probably 20, maybe 25 pounds overweight. I wasn’t fat but I was just overweight, uncomfortable. Let’s put it that way. And now I’m in the best shape of my life. I weigh 155 and I weighed 205 in high school.
Casey: Now, you’re a bodybuilder.
Jim: Well, I did weightlifting when I was in high school and, Casey, I’d always framed exercise or fitness under bulking up. I don’t know where the heck it came from but I always saw it as bulking up. And of course, when you think about that way, you’re lifting “heavy”, whatever that means. To me is barbells and that kind of thing. Your CrossFit does this. They “bulk up” and now I don’t think about how much I lift. It doesn’t really matter to me what the actual weight is. I’m more interested in the movement itself and to your many readers, listeners, I just want to encourage them to substitute the word exercise which can be like a four-letter word to some people like I don’t exercise. This is not me. The gym, that’s not for me. Think about in terms of movement. Think about when you were a kid, just you move and that’s all I think about it and the reason that it’s the first year or two is tough. When you’re trying to get more fit, Casey, it’s because you’re not used to the movement. So, I will say literally I was a couch potato and my job involved travel out. I spent my entire career, 35 years in the investment world.
That’s all I know is managing money for a fee and somebody will say, “I don’t know much about that,” but I was lucky and the truth is the wind was at my back for about 18 years during the great bull market and the game was be in the market, you did pretty well. Some did better than others but I got lucky and I was a partner, Casey, in three different firms, all of which we sold. And so, I became financially independent 10 years ago and I’ve always been very goal-oriented. I just wasn’t happy if I didn’t have goals but I’m now more in the purpose. They said, “Jim, what’s the difference?” Well, a goal is something that everybody got goals. Yours could be to finish your education, start your own business, save up for retirement whatever it may be. A purpose to me is a much more, is a much deeper concept or theme. And a purpose means this is how I want to be remembered or maybe this is how I want to make my mark on the world or this is how I want my children, my friends, my family to think about me when I’m not here. That’s what I call purpose. It can be anything but my purpose in 2004, I’d written a couple of investment books, one of which did real well back in, my gosh, it’s been 30 years ago called The Prudent Investor did real well and I’ve always liked writing.
And I was so dismayed back in the early 2000. I looked around at the world and said what has happened to the great industry that left my whole career in because I used to be very proud to have my wife say, “My husband, Jim, is in the investment world.” I’m always proud of that but I wasn’t so proud back in those days when every single day, Casey, it was a new corporate scandal and, oh my gosh, today is WorldCom, tomorrow it’s Enron, like every single day there was something and I wondered what the heck has happened to this world. It’s like it’s upside down and I don’t want to say that we’re friends but I had a chance to meet Chuck Schwab who is an amazing guy, one of the really great guys of the business. And I said, “Chuck, why have you been silent? Why didn’t you speak up?” He said, “Jim, I didn’t want to put a target on my back.” That was interesting. And so, you don’t want to be Mr. Ethics, so to speak, when we see other people doing these deeds then you become a target. And I said, “Well, to myself, I am going to speak up and I would do it to my writing.” So, I wrote a book called, “Cowboy Ethics.”
Now, where did the name come from? Casey, I have no idea. It popped in my head but the whole idea came from a movie that Kevin Costner did called Open Range and it was a story of Kevin and Bob Duvall. I know Kevin, not that we’re friends, but I lived in Santa Barbara for 15 years and that’s where Kevin lives, that plus Aspen. And the movie is about two cowboys who were pushing cattle over the open range and they got set upon by these townsfolk that say, “We don’t like grazers,” that kind of stuff. So, Casey, it was good guys and bad guys and it took me back to my childhood. I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and I’m now 78 years old, but I can remember like it was yesterday. Every single weekend every Saturday afternoon I would walk down to the local movie theater and we didn’t call it cinema in those days and I saw a 30-minute reel and you’re too young to know what that is but, in those days, when you were a kid, a boy, we watch these 30-minute reels of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry in the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy and there was something about those guys. I don’t know what it was, good guys wore white hats, bad guys wore black hats. So, you could identify who the bad guys were and there was never a theme or storyline to these movies. Just Gene Autry arrives into town.
There’s always somebody, a woman, older woman with a worried look on her face. He said, “What’s wrong, ma’am?” and she would point, she would say, “Gene, there’s some bad guys in the town,” and he would always say, “Don’t worry, ma’am. I’ll take care of them.” And 30 minutes later Gene is riding out of town and the whole town people were, “Yay, Gene. Yay. Yay.” Maybe Roy. I don’t remember what it was. I thought, “Can you imagine everybody in town waving goodbye? What a feeling that must be.” I don’t know what it was but it just stuck with me. So, when I saw this movie, it brought me back to my childhood and I thought, “Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Good guys and bad guys,” and you can Jim that is so sophomoric. It’s almost anti-intellectual. Yeah, but that’s how cowboys looked at the world and there are no gray areas and I tend to do the same thing and everybody knows what’s right in their hearts. Everybody knows what’s wrong in their hearts. They’re doing it. That’s not very different, but you do know what’s right and wrong. And so, I would call it Cowboy Ethics, and I thought the book might sell a thousand copies. You never know. It’s a coffee table book. Easy to read and the photographs were coming from named David Stoecklein out of Sun Valley, Idaho.
And, Casey, he was one of the original Marlboro guys. So, so his photographs whether you read the book or not, if you look at the pictures, you’re going to say, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing.” So, the book is very inspiring. Cowboys, cowgirls, sunset, horses, all of that stuff like that. And I think the book is pretty well written, but the truth is, the photographs was going to draw you into it. That’s the emotional connection. The book sold 150,000 copies and it’s still going strong. I did a 10th-anniversary edition. And so, a lot of what you hear about when you hear my name pop up to that Cowboy Ethics and the code of the West was never written down. I said, “Hm, I didn’t know that. Never written down,” Now, I said, “I’m going to figure this thing out.” The case took about a year to figure it out. “So, Jim, did you interview cowboys or ranchers?” No, not one. I read 100 Western books. I love to read, Casey, and I watched 25 of the classic Western movies, Red River and Lonesome Dove. I’ve seen them all a dozen times. My wife is so tired of looking at this stuff. I never do. And so, if Lonesome Dove is on TV tonight whatever I’m doing I’ll cancel my plans and watch it again for the 25th time. But this book has resonated with people all over the country. It’s amazing to me and so…
Casey: With 150,000 copies that have sold, do you have any stories that you could share with us regarding what impact the book actually had in the financial industry if you will? Because I would assume that this was mostly people in the financial industry are picking up and reading about Cowboy Ethics.
Jim: That was in the beginning but where this thing really took and, Casey, I’ll be totally candid about it. I don’t know if you can really turn around a 50-year-old business guy. I’m not sure at all. I like to think of change some lives but what I realized early on was if you want to make a real difference, you better look to the next generation. And so, we partnered with Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H, FFA, a number of high schools, middle schools, and we, in effect, train the trainers. That’s what we’ve done. That’s my leverage. So, do you ever go into classrooms? Yeah, but I don’t have any special skills with the kids. I’m more into providing content with which the Boys and Girls Clubs use and that kind of stuff. So, we have trained well over a thousand trainers to do Cowboy Ethics in the classroom and that’s that. That’s my leverage so to speak, and in all, we’ve reached easily 30, 40, maybe 50,000 kids around the country, which is amazing and what I want to tell your audience is that it’s always been a grassroots thing. That’s been the secret of it. I don’t need the government or somebody putting us their stamp of approval. I’m more interested in somebody in Biloxi, Mississippi who emails me this morning.
Again, we don’t have marketing people. We don’t need that stuff but somebody from Biloxi or Tallahassee, Florida will email me today. I mean, I get emails every day and say, “Jim, we want to incorporate this in the classroom. How do we do it?” and I get in touch with them, people that do that and next thing you know, we’ve got more people. And so, it’s been grassroots from the very beginning. I’ve been in this speaker’s thing for literally 10 years so I was getting about 35 talks a year, and the problem that I ran into is not the speaking. I love the speaking part. I love connecting with an audience. It’s the travel. It’s getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning, going to the airport, missing your breakfast, late night dinners, sleeping in hotel and motel rooms, hauling bags around, and it darn near killed me, to be honest of that. I’m not asking for mercy. I’m just saying I know how hard I worked to promote this thing all done through speaking and writing and as result, when I turned 70, that’s why I was in bad shape. I was not exercising at all and my diet, I don’t say diet. What I feed my mouth wasn’t really kind of my fault. 11 o’clock at night and you’re at some airport in the morning hour it’s hard to eat healthy on the road and you’re not getting a good night sleep.
And so, these things all added up and I’m really proud of what we do to Cowboy Ethics, how many people we’ve reached. It’s still going strong but I paid a real price. The price is my health. So, when I turned 70, Casey, I looked in the mirror and I never forget this as long as I live. I said, “Oh my God, I’m an old man.” I saw an old man staring back at me. And I came across, Casey, one statistic that I want to share with you and your audience and this is not my opinion. This is like this Mayo Clinic that came up with this and they said, “Out of a very large population, large being I think in this case 100,000 people, if you make it to 70, that’s a big assumption now, statistically on a very large population, you’re going to live another 15 years. And just ask any doctor they’ll say, “That sounds about right,” even if they have not seen that statistic. And I was in there I said it can only go downhill. If I don’t do anything at all it’s going to go down. If I look like this now, I’m an old man shoulders were slumped. I’m just haggard looking. I just looked weak. I said, “Can you imagine in 15 years I’ll be either in a wheelchair, a walker or something, a cane. I said, “I got to do something,” and I wasn’t sure what that something was.
I love to read. So, anybody who has spent time in the investment world as I did 35 years, we all love research and whether it’s good research, bad research, we love to read and we draw our own conclusions. That’s kind of what you do when you’re in the investment world. And so, I started reading about the stuff, talking to people. I’m going to say, “Okay. What am I going to do?” And I started off with a program of walking mainly and on day one I literally could not walk, Casey, two or three blocks without getting, oh my, I’m in bad shape. Just I had aches and pains and I tried walking and I said, “I’m going to set a goal,” and, Casey, this is so crazy but I call this the 30-day challenge and I said, “I’m going to walk every day for 30 days, not going to care about how far I walk, how fast I walk, just going to walk,” and on day one, maybe it was two blocks. Day four, maybe it was five blocks. But I worked up to about 30 minutes of walking. I cannot tell you how much better I felt. You wouldn’t believe it. So, to your listeners out there who may be worried about, “Gosh, I got aches and pains. I need to do something,” start off with a program of walking. One, it’s easy. Anybody can walk if they’re mobile, and, two, you don’t need any equipment. You don’t need fancy tennis shoes. Just whatever you got is fine and don’t worry about how fast you walk. Just get out and move. That’s all.
It’s amazing at the end of 30 days, maybe six weeks, you will look and feel better and your friends is like, “What are you doing? You look great.” Well, what you did, you got off the couch and I was the original couch potato believe me. “Jim, do you have any certifications?” Yeah, I was a certified couch potato for a lot of years but getting up off the couch and simply moving, walking, it can be life-changing. And then I had a common sense in talking to a physical therapist, I started to do some stretching. Nothing fancy and say, “Jim, what’s the best stretch?” What’s the answer, Casey? The stretch that you actually will do. There’s no best stretch. It’s what will you do. I can tell you what I do, but then I got my own issues to worry about. Everybody’s got issues when they get older. And so, all of a sudden, at age of 78, Casey, I have zero aches and pains. None. Now, maybe I wake up in the wrong side of the bed kind of thing but that’s not the same. It’s chronic aches and pains. That’s what hurts. That’s debilitating. Maybe I’ve slept in the wrong side but that’s not the same as chronic. And so, I got in exercising, call it fitness if you want, and it’s been literally life-changing.
And after I started walking and stretching, at the end of six months I said, “Okay. I’m ready to take the next step,” and you say, “What’s that?” I say, “Well, the people I talk to I need to work out in the gym,” so I interviewed trainers and most of them had no interest, Casey, in working with a person my age that I could tell they looked at me and they said to themselves, there’s nothing I can do to help this guy. It was in their faces. I say, “Do you have anybody my age?” “No, not really. My oldest client is 60 or something like that,” but I found this one trainer and he had tattoos over,” I’m going to say he’s got more tattoos than this guy has and this guy said, “Jim, I’ll tell you what, if you do what I tell you to do one year from now, you’ll be in much, much better shape.” And then he said something to me, Casey, I’ll never forget as long as I live. He said, “Jim, here’s the key. What you do on days you’re not with me,” and I work out with Scotty three times a week doing to strength training, he said, “What you do on your court off days is as important if not more so than what you do when you’re with me,” and that was the big insight that changed everything.
And so, I now work out one hour a day, maybe just 45 minutes a day, five, six days a week, and I cannot tell you to change and the big change is not what you think it is. It’s the mental change. It’s really not physical. It’s not a Mr. America where I’m going to enter a Body Mr. Senior Austin or something like that. No. It’s a mental thing. So, when I turn 70 and I’m sure some of your audience can probably identify with is, Casey, when I turned 70, I felt in my heart my best days were over. I feel today, honest intention, my best days still lie ahead and that’s the big win when you get involved with fitness. Yes, it’s the mental part. It’s not the physical part. It has nothing to do with how much you can lift or how many push-ups you can do and that kind of stuff. No, it’s mental and that is I may get hit by a truck tomorrow. I may come down with a stroke next week. Something awful may happen. All I can say is I’m in a better position to deal with that something, whatever it may be, than if I was sedentary and a couch potato then you’re asking for trouble.
So, as it is, if I get, I hate to say cancer or, gosh, knows what could happen to you when you get older, I’m better able to deal with it and that’s all I know. So, I want to – and when you say purpose, now purpose now is to spread this message and that’s why we’re on the phone today. I’m not selling protein powder. I’m not a trainer. Don’t want to be a life coach. I’m a guy that wrote a book, which by the way, Casey, National Geographic has never done a book like this. National Geographic published a book last year. It’s called JUST Move! And I think that sums up what we’re talking about. It’s the idea of sit less and move more. And one thing I know for sure and that is that that sitting is the new smoking. There’s no doubt in my mind that so any of your listeners who have got aches and pains and, “Oh, it hurts to walk across the room,” you’re probably sitting and what the statistics will tell you and this has been at a Cleveland clinic or someplace like that is that the average American adult sits, and maybe you’re guilty too, 8 to 11 hours a day. Think about that. And it’s literally killing us. It’s literally shortening our lives and not to mention the aches and pains and diabetes and all kinds of bad stuff that’s happening because we’re not moving.
Now, your father and your grandfather, you’re from Fort Wayne, may have worked in the fields. My mom has a tobacco farm of all things in Kentucky. Her family did in those days, but they worked. They didn’t have to go to the gym. As long as you want to lift weights, they work from sunup to sundown. It’s that physical labor outside. They kept them a lot “healthier” without all the medication that we had today. So, the other statistic I’m going to throw out to you is that’s shocking to me is that 40% of American adults, that’s 4-0, Casey, are not just overweight, they are obese. He imagined this, so we have the distinction, America is the number one obese country in the world. Congratulations, America, more obese than they are in any other country. So, it’s a combination of eating the wrong stuff, fast food, whatever, plus just not moving. So, I am selling something and I’m trying to sell an idea if you will. Okay. Now, this is my passion. This is my purpose in life now. As long as I’m able, I’m going to tell the same message. You got to get off the couch and do something.
Now, I’m not saying what you have to do, but you can swim, you can walk, you can row a boat, you can do dancing, Zumba classes, whatever you want to do, but you can’t just sit and that’s what we’re all doing between watching TV, sitting in front of the computer. That’s why we’re all hunched over, sitting in front of the computer. Riding cars, so people who do work out will hop in the car, drive for 25 or 30 minutes to get to a gym, work out for an hour, drive back home, and all the good they’ve done, Casey, has been wiped out and then they go watch TV. Well, I worked out. I can watch TV. I deserve some rest. And so, the answer is you got to get up. I’m standing and walking around as we talk. Why? Because if I sit very long, I get tight. Hips get tight, ankles get tight, and then the next day you pay the price. So, I’m not selling protein powder. I’m not saying hire me as your trainer. You’re going to have to buy the book. You go to the library and look at the book. I’m really private. And right now, I’m working on a documentary. I just started this little project of mine. I’m going to go out and find people maybe eight people, nine people who are again not Mr. America or Miss America so much as there are people who are aging well.
So, the way I’m kind of framing this is the art of aging well and it goes way beyond exercising. That’s just one part of it. Exercising is the foundation. Okay. It’s only a part of it. The other parts are getting enough sleep, eating clean, however you want to describe it. I’m not a nutritionist and, Casey, by the way, in case your listeners are wondering, I have zero credentials as far as fitness goes. None. I don’t have a degree in kinesiology or I’m not a doctor. I’m just Mr. Guy who at 70 said, “I got to do something,” and I kind of figured out what that something was and I just want to share it now with as many folks as I can and that’s why I’m so humbled and delighted to be on this program and the profile of your listeners is exactly the profile I’m trying to reach. It’s people. So, if you’re 20 or 30 or 40, you don’t need to hear Jim Owen or I have nothing to tell you except good luck. But when you get older and if you’re 60, 65 years of age, if you’re at retirement, new to retirement, you have all the excuses in the world when you’re young. Well, I’ve got a career, I’ve got family obligations. I’ve got this, I got that. When you’re about 65 or 70, hopefully, you’re positioned when you can, you do have the time to devote to yourself.
You go, “Jim, this is awfully selfish.” You think an hour a day is selfish? I don’t think so at all. I think it’s just the opposite because I don’t want to be a burden to my wife. We just had our 50th anniversary, Casey. I don’t want to be a burden to my wife or my kids. I want to live with my wife and be independent in our own little home, apartment, whatever, as long as we can, and keep our health so we work out together, actually, whenever we can. And if so, it’s the fun factor of finding activities that you enjoy doing and I’m the first to tell you, you don’t have to have a fancy gym membership, you have to pay for trainers, all kinds of classes if you want that. You can in the book, we talk about some basic exercises that are old school stuff. That’s what I do. I do old school stuff. That’s all worked for me. I’m doing all this talking. I don’t mean to go on and on but you got me talking. I’m sorry.
Casey: Well, you’ve provided a tremendous amount of value already but you’re answering all the questions I basically have had for you so now you’ve covered all my questions. No, not really. But I think what you’ve exhibited and illustrated is that you’re somebody for the last 20 years that has defined himself as a social entrepreneur and this has become your encore after retirement, the last 20 years. It’s just been to get out there and share your wisdom, whether that’s with the next generation or your peers and better their lives, and that is something that the author in the past podcast guest, Dr. Hans Finzel and Rick Hicks, they talked about in their book, Launch Your Encore, which is your purpose when you get to retirement is to share all these things and make the world a better place, pass it on to the next generation, and I think that’s what you’ve done. You talk a lot about motivation and I think you really answered one of the questions that we have from one of our fans. Doug McCoy asked, “What can an unmotivated couch potato do to get moving?” and I think you answered that. I think that’s just listening to this podcast and coming to the realization of a lot of the statistics that you shared. And I read some of these statistics on your blog and in your book, 28% to 50% of baby boomers don’t exercise at all. I was amazed by that.
Jim: We have 10,000 baby boomers, we’re calling that, turn 65 every day, every day. So, just for a second, put aside the personal side. Put aside Jim Owen and what I’m doing, and so on. Think about the healthcare cost in this country. So, we spend $3 trillion a year plus, maybe about 1,000,000,000,002. Would you believe, and your audience is not going to believe this. This is not for me. This is not my personal opinion. I’m just telling you what the facts are. These are government statistics. About 80% of that $3 trillion can be traced to lifestyle choices. Is that shocking or is that shocking? Roughly, now, it’s true about 15% of somebody’s health is traced to hereditary issues. Can’t control that. So, let’s just take that out of the equation. It’s about 15%. But think about the cost that we’re paying as a society for people who refused to get off the couch and think that was going to cost to you and your listeners, seriously. So, when I see somebody who’s overweight, I don’t body shame them. I don’t think, “Oh, you’re a bad person or a bad character.” I just think they’re going to ask me so to speak, to help with their medical bills when they’re older.
And how can say it any more clearer? We’re going to go to bankrupt as a country if we don’t address this issue of prevention. And the truth is, nobody makes money when people are healthy. Think about that. The doctors don’t make any money when you’re healthy. The hospitals don’t make any money. Big Pharma isn’t making any money. People only make money when you’re sick. What I’m suggesting is let’s take control of the aging process and control what you can. And, Casey, this is real basic stuff. I’m a real simple guy. This is not sophistication at all. Do you smoke? Well, yes, sometimes. For God’s sakes, stop smoking. Okay. Are you overweight? Yeah, probably 40 pounds. For God’s sakes, you got to do something, okay? And it doesn’t mean now that you say, “I’m going to lose 40, maybe only lose 10,” but you can do something to eat a little bit cleaner, a little bit less cheeseburgers and French fries everyday kind of thing. Do you do meditation? Yeah, you ought to. It could be yoga, it could be, whatever it may be. These are all real simple things that everybody can do so that the message is we need to each of us take control of the aging process. That’s the message. And slow down.
Casey: And I think a lot of it comes down to motivation and you’ve talked about this, but I know one of the tools that you said that you use is the power of visualization and I know what this meant to me. When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of all the action heroes, the Van Dammes, the Schwarzeneggers, and I put their picture on my mirror and look at that picture every day, know what I wanted to look like someday and I still continue even just laying down every night before I go to sleep and imagining what I’m going to do in the gym the next day and walking myself to that process. How do you use the power of visualization to stay motivated?
Jim: That’s a great question and the answer is going to surprise you. Okay. I don’t think I’ve talked about this more than once or twice, okay, but I’ve got a secret weapon on this visualization thing. On day one when I was in awful shape, I bought a compression T-shirt. Do you know what that is, Casey?
Casey: Yes, absolutely.
Jim: And people looked at me and said, “Oh my, this guy has no shame. His fat is hanging over his hips.
Casey: I never thought about this being a motivating thing to put on a compression shirt.
Jim: Oh yeah. They said, “This guy’s got no pride at all.” I can see it in their faces and people would look away. They’re looking at me and say, “How could anybody do that to himself?” Casey, that’s all I needed and I wore this T-shirt. I’m wearing a compression shirt right now. I was on extra, extra-large and now I wear a medium and now I’ve got a six, well it’s a four-pack honestly. And I said, “Now, I can wear it with no embarrassment,” but that was the only motivation. It was a visual and people looked at me like my friends said, “Jim, I don’t really want to get overly personal, but do you have any idea what you look like when you wear this stuff?” I said, “Sure I do. That’s why I do it.” So, extra, extra-large then it became extra-large, then it became large. Now, it’s medium. I can’t get much more lean than right now and remain very healthy. So, to be honest about, that’s the visualization. Every day I would go to the gym and people would just look at me almost too embarrassed to say hello. And I’ll tell you, it works.
Casey: And every picture that I’ve seen of you, every interview even that I’ve seen you even wearing a compression shirt, and now I know why you’ve been wearing that compression shirt, and I wonder if we could use a power of visualization if we’re 70, 75, and 60. We just take old Jim Owens picture and stick that on our mirror and we can look at that every single morning.
Jim: Yeah. Real quickly, Casey. Pardon me.
Jim: And for whatever reason, I don’t know why, I’m picking up on what you said about motivation. One of my shirts says, “Geezer-fit,” and I’m geezer-fit. Now, what does that mean? I don’t know. Am I Navy SEAL fit? Don’t be silly but am I geezer-fit? For some reason, that makes me laugh. The one I’m wearing right now says 80 years young. They say, “Are you 80?” I said, “No, no, this is aspirational. I want to be 80 years young.” I’ve only got the T-shirt that I’m going to wear so I’ve already made up when I turn 80. And so, for some reason, I’ve always been drawn to a T-shirt with something original written on it and that’s not a big source of motivation for me. Isn’t that funny? I don’t know why.
Casey: Well, I think just keeping it in front of you, whatever that goal is or whatever you want to be keeping that in front of you every single day so you see it and then you ultimately become it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and one of the things you said, I have a quote here from you, you said you can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old to a surprising degree, how quickly we get old is up to us.
Jim: That is near and dear to me. You can’t help getting older. We all get older but you’re going to get old and you’d be surprised, and by the way, you will never hear me say this. It’s not in the book. I don’t know if all this fitness exercise means you’re going to live a day longer. I’m skeptical about that, but you have a higher quality of life. That I can assure you. Longer? I’m skeptical, but my interest is saying I’m 78. I want to maintain a quality of life, okay, is about by my definition as long as I can. Now, if that’s when I’m 84, okay, it’s the best I could do but do I want to live to be 100? Not so sure. That would take – I don’t even think about that, to be honest to God.
Casey: Well, one of the things that I think, we talk about motivation as being one of the obstacles of getting fit, getting in the gym, just getting up, and walking around, starting the move as you would say and I think a lot of it comes back to actual pain, pain that people are experiencing. I know you’ve had some knee problems in the past that are probably had been difficult to get up and get motivated. You shared a statistic that I found on your blog. I believe it was or in the book, 80% of all Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life. I have chronic back pain myself and I think that comes down a lot of heavy lifting that I’ve done over the years and mom has similar issues. My mom had ongoing pain issues, arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, and she goes through massage, goes physical therapy, and it’s kept her from doing some of the things that she wants to do. My wife’s going to bar class now and she is always asking.
Jim: I think that’s terrific. I’ve never done it.
Casey: Yeah. And mom goes to bar with her and she’s just in constant pain but she’s canceling a lot of these appointments to go to bar with my wife and spend some valuable time with the family and get in shape and have fun because she’s in so much pain. So, I think a plan of action would be for someone that is experiencing a lot of pain that’s actually kind of keeping them from doing fitness and getting fit.
Jim: Well, that you’re asking a really key question and I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds, but this may be a good time to talk about something that I’m – it’s really at the heart of all this thing. Okay. And again, I didn’t know any of this stuff when I started off. If somebody had written a book aimed at folks my age, i.e., 70 as opposed to some kid who’s 28, here’s how to get ripped or something like that or build big biceps, but I couldn’t find the book and that’s why I wrote this book called Just Move. There are five “dimensions” to use that term of “functional fitness”. I just want to real quickly for your listeners to kind of walk you through this, okay?
Jim: One obvious one is I think the proper name is cardiovascular endurance. But we all call it cardio so cardio is critical. So, I mean, every doctor would recommend that you do some cardio. What’s interesting about this, there’s a reason that the doctors are very comfortable talking about cardio. In case that you and your listeners are probably now aware of why that is. Well, the answer is there’s 30 years of statistics on the benefits of cardio so doctors feel very comfortable recommending. Casey, you and your wife, you and your mother need to do some cardio. Because of the statistics are there and that can mean walking. It can mean rowing but slow cardio is not going to get you there and that’s what a lot of you will do. Well, I’d spend 60 minutes on the elliptical, on the treadmill. You’ve got to get your heart rate up for it to really provide the benefits. So, cardio is easy and why do cardio? That’s enough, right?
Casey: I think you’ve emphasized using cardio trackers or heart rate trackers as part of that.
Jim: Yes. So, the easy one and is to track it. Exactly, right. So, personally, what I’ve done I find cardio really, really boring, but I do 30 minutes three times a week on the treadmill and I do high intensity. I’m not saying everyone else should do that but I would rather do 30 minutes of high intensity than 60 minutes of slow go on and on and on. I just find it boring. That’s just me. Now, that takes care of cardio, but that alone is not going to work. It’s not going to cut it. That’s just one dimension. Another one is the core, core strength and stability, and I didn’t know this when I started out. I cannot emphasize enough, Casey, for you and for your mom if you have a bad back it’s often because your core is weak. That was my problem. Nobody told me that. The doc never told me this. That’s the truth. And a core is not your six-pack. That’s what I thought it was. The core is like a band that goes around, it starts in the upper thighs, Casey, and extends to your upper chest in front and back. If your core is weak, the odds are 95% you have back issues. So, when I say, “Jim, what are you the most proud of, however, you want to say it as far as fitness goes?” Well, it’s simple. It’s the core. I have a very strong core. That’s why I have zero back pain, none, because of a strong core and I’ve always worked harder on the core than any part of the body.
So, if you have tight hips, for example, tight hips, tight ankles, that’s what I had, that’s what sitting does to you. That often leads to a bad back, a weak back. It also leads into a weak core. I know it’s complicated stuff and I don’t even want to go there. It’s just trust me, weak core is going to result in back issues and I have friends of mine who I never want to preach to my friends who complained of their backs. Well, if you do any kind of core, “You know, well, what’s core?” I can’t help that person, but that’s what it is. The next one would be flexibility.
Casey: So, far, Jimmy, you’ve labeled the three things that I enjoy the least in the gym, stretching, core, cardio.
Jim: Exactly. Thank you. And the flexibility is the worst. So, again, I just do 24 stretches. They say, “Jim, 24?” “Yeah.” “Well, can you tell me the best one? I only want the best one.” How would I know what’s best for you? Your issues are not the same as mine in all likelihood. What I do is kind of a combination of yoga, Pilates, all rotor movement, Tachi into one. So, that’s what I do. Is it fun? Not really so I do it with my wife so we go to the gym together. We do stretching and I’m good about 30 minutes and that’s it. I do three times a week and then comes balance, which you say balance. Well, here’s the statistics and I bet your mom knows this. The average adult over the age of 65 and over falls once every three years from any given year. It’s unbelievable. If you fall once, the odds are very, very high you’re going to fall again. And what’s the issue about this is that your balance starts to decline, Casey, when you’re in your mid-20s. Say what? Oh, yeah. The difference is when you’re 20 or 30 or 40, you can catch yourself. That’s the difference. So, let’s say you stumble on the rug, you can probably catch yourself if you’re 35. You say, “Whew, that was close,” then you straighten out the rug. When you’re older, you just can’t do that. So, when you’re older, you trip, you go splat. That’s the problem or you fall backwards. And I cannot tell you how many people we know at our age who have fallen and, boy, it is not much fun and people get scared. So, balance may take you five minutes a day. No more than that. It’s just…
Casey: What’s that look like, Jim? What would you do specifically for balance?
Jim: It’s the most simple thing and my wife makes me look like an amateurish so she does in the kitchen when she’s cooking. You stand on one foot. That’s all. I’m doing it right now while we’re talking. Stand on my right foot and you raise your left foot as high as you can. Just hike up your left. I could even do this six months ago. I’m really working on balance now. Balance is better. Is it where it should be? Well, probably not. I’m now on my left foot raising my right. So, I’m raising my other leg as high as I can so that’s all it is. It’s just brushing your teeth. So, the balance does not take much work. It’s just consistent. So, if one of your listeners is, “Well, I’m worried about my balance. My wife is kind of on wobbly,” well, I’m telling you, five minutes a day. No more than 10 at most and the most simple things. Just stand on both feet and walk and put one foot directly in front of the other. You’d be surprised how many people, Casey, cannot do that. I’m doing it right now. I’m walking across the room with one foot in front of the other. It’s actually not easy. That’s balance.
The final thing and this is the most misunderstood part in my opinion of exercising, and this is what people just don’t want to talk about. This is the strength, upper and lower body strength, and the reason that you need this, we can talk another hour about this and I’m not going to do that but, your metabolism slows as you get older. That’s one reason why people gain weight, even if they’re eating the same. For somebody who is 30 years old is going to add on average about a pound a year going forward. Well, that’s very much. Oh yeah? Wait until you’re 60. Now you’re 30 pounds overweight. You say, “I eat the same amount of food I ate when I was 30.” Slowing metabolism and that’s what it is.
Casey: What does your strength training look like, Jim?
Jim: Well, it can look different to a lot of people. To me, it doesn’t mean lifting heavy.
Casey: Well, now I saw a picture of you flipping a tire and not just any tire, but a tractor tire.
Jim: I know and that’s because I find it fun. So, here’s the key. Am I showing off? Yeah, a little bit but we’re going to travel. If I were to go to Fort Wayne tomorrow, let’s say, and I for whatever reason you and I were doing something, an event we’ll say, I would say to somebody, “Who’s the best trainer in Fort Wayne?” There’s always somebody. “Oh, it’s so and so.” I want to work out with them. And that’s how I’ve learned. I’ve learned from working out with some of the best trainers in the country, literally, LA, New York, Miami. Whoever, I travel with Cowboy Ethics in recent years, I was where in Miami who’s the best trainer? And I work out with them and that’s how I learned and for whatever reason, now, we make this very, very clear. What I do with these trainers I would not want to do, nor could I do every day. It’s just that once a month, Casey, I love being what I call tested. And so, well, I have fun. Often women are much, much better than men at training. That’s been my experience. If it’s a woman I always say to her with a straight face, I look at her and say, “This is not going to be some girly, girly workout is it?” with a straight face and the knives come out, and they will say, “I’ll show you.”
Casey: That was with intention.
Jim: They say, “I’ll show you girly, girly.” I did this to this gal in Scottsdale who turns out she was an American Ninja regional finalist and she kicked my butt and I’ve never laughed as hard. She’s the one who put on boxing gloves. This is on the website and she said, “Do you box?” I said, “No, not really.” She’s, “Well, we’re going to box,” and she hit me in the face. She said, “Hit me back.” I said, “My dad said don’t hit a girl.” “Your dad said what?” I said, “Don’t hit a girl.” And she hit me in the face with an uppercut and I say, “What are you crazy?” She said, “I said hit me.” I tried to hit her. She ducked, hit me in the stomach. I said, “Oh my gosh.” She’s in the American Ninja and I laughed until we almost cried. She said, “How many push-ups can you do?” I said, “More than you can.” “Do you want to make a bet?” I said, “What can you do?” She said, “I can do 75.” I said, “No.” “You want to see? Where’s your money?” I said okay $1. I got to 50 and collapsed at the end of the workout and she said, “That’s all you can do? What was wrong with you?” and then we finished and laughed and she said, “Jim, hang around for a while, can you?” I said, “Sure.”
Her next client came in. He was 65 and she said to her client, she said, “Jim, this is my oldest client and this is Nick,” or someone named like that. And she said, “Nick, I had the best workout I’ve had in a long time. Jim is 10 years older than you are and you wouldn’t believe what he could do.” And I just laughed and she laughed and she was on the cover of some Scottsdale fit magazine and we just left. So, a lot of it is having fun. When I do this, I have fun and she’s the one that introduced me to the tires and boxing and all kinds of stuff but that’s not every day. That’s once a month and so I have a blast. And you will say, “You do this every day?” Oh, I couldn’t do it every day, number one, but I do it and I have fun and just laugh. So, I like being “tested”. It’s like saying, “Okay. Jim, I read your book and I thought you’re in pretty good shape,” and I said, “Yeah, for an old geezer.” “Well, let’s see what you got.” And I say, “Well, I’ll tell you one thing, whatever I got, you’re going to get my best,” and that’s nice.
I walk in the gym and I say, “There’s three things,” I’ll do this real fast, Casey, “there’s three things that you need. You need to focus and that is turn the TV off, leave your cell phone in the locker, focus on what you’re doing, which is critical. So, my mind is not wandering around when I work out. Number two is form. You got to work on your form. It’s a moving target so you don’t get good form in a month or even six months. I’m still working on that form. I may have good form doing one exercise, not so good to something else. Last is effort and what I learned a long time ago is I can walk into any gym in the country and work with any trainer, you know, all they expect is I’m giving my best. That’s all they ask. They don’t ask, “Jim, how much can you deadlift?” Nobody cares like a golf score. All they care is Jim giving it his best and I guarantee you, I give it my best every single time. Now, my best may not be the same day-to-day. When you get older, you have low energy. We call them low-volume, low energy days, sure. That was a Wednesday. For whatever reason, had a little cough of some kind, I don’t know why. It wasn’t the best. It didn’t matter. I did the best I could with what I’ve got.
And that’s the message I want to pass on to your listeners is give it whatever you’ve got every time you work out. If you do, I promise you, you’ll be amazed at what you can do. So, don’t go in not only want to be here but the husband or my wife says I need to do this, you never stick with it. You go to be self-motivated to do this and then just have fun. So, I have fun working out with my wife. I have fun working out with other trainers, but then I always go back to my primary trainer. He’s the guy that started me on this journey and we still work out this will be eight years with him next March.
Casey: But Jim I love this…
Jim: I’ve done a lot of talking but those are the five and so the mistake people make is, well, I don’t think I really need strengths training. Well, if you’re a woman, okay, most women had got bones as they get older, osteoporosis. That’s what happens to you so we’re not talking about lifting heavy. We’re talking about lifting. I mean, I lift the most, I do dumbbells, for example. I do a lot of TRX, a lot of dumbbells, sandbags. I like mixing it up. But what I don’t do, I would never put a barbell on my back. You couldn’t pay me to do that. There’s a lot of machines I would never use. Why? Because the repetitive nature is just not good for your shoulder, for example. So, I like dumbbells, free weights. I love bodyweight stuff so what I do is body weight. Push-ups. I do squats. Simple stuff.
Casey: Well, Jim, man, I love those five core things, cardio, core, flexibility, balance, strength. I think you’ve motivated me here and you’re going to have me do a little bit more cardio, core, and flexibility which I know that I’m lacking in. But as we run out of time here, I really want to ask you one last question and just not having good fitness necessarily, but I’m curious what your answer would be. As you talk about financial independence that you reached here at 10 or so years ago and you’ve been retired for quite some time and I’m wondering how would you define retirement.
Jim: Oh, boy. Well, I define retirement probably different. It’s a wonderful question that you’re asking. That’s really profound. Like most people, I did what I had to do in terms of business to make a living from our family, that stuff. The truth is I’ve never been a financial guy. I did it but at heart, I’m a creative guy and that’s where I get my jolly is just creating something out of nothing. That’s what I live by the motto, my own mantra is, “Create. Don’t compete,” and so, I love creating stuff. And what the retirement was meant for me is I can finally do what I’m good at doing. Yeah, I was a rainmaker. That’s what I did. I could always communicate to clients, could always communicate to the Board of Directors and that kind of stuff, and that’s more art than science. That’s what I was good at and a lot of guys in the back office they can actually pick stocks a lot better – I was kind of boring myself. But the point I’m trying to make is that we all have careers and that comes first along with your family and your faith. That comes first.
The good thing is when you’re a little bit older if you saved and been successful investing your money, at some point, okay, now I’m ready for “a new life”. It’s like new life, new me. You can do sort of what you were put on this earth to do. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m doing what gives me the degree of satisfaction that the business world never could be. When somebody says, “Jim, I got a deal I want to look at.” Please, don’t talk to me about business deals. It’s so boring. Let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about meditation. And I don’t want to talk about deals. “Look at this spreadsheet.” A what? A spreadsheet, I wouldn’t spend two minutes looking at that stuff. So, I live and there’s a term that people use who are creative and it’s – all of us have a trait if you’re creative. You know what the trait is? It’s called restlessness. I’m not even sure if it’s even a word. If you ever meet someone, if you ever meet Tom Selleck or Michael Douglas, these guys all live out in Santa Barbara, none of them want to talk about the movies that you want to talk about. Not one of them. Their interest is in the next project and that’s the way I am.
I thought, “Yeah. It’s kind of nice talking.” No. I’m more interested in what I’m doing next. What I’m doing next is the art of aging well and that’s where I get my kicks from. It’s not, “Do I enjoy Cowboy Ethics?” Yeah. I suppose so but not really. I mean, I’ve done that, done that, been there for 10 years and it’s that restlessness that all creative people have in common. It’s what is your next project. If you ever meet a movie star and you throw in whatever reason next to them, just say, “Do you have a project that you’re working on?” and you see their eyes light up. They’ll say, “Yeah. I’ve been working on this project for five years. I can’t get the financing, but it’s so near and dear to me,” and that’s what every creative person has.
So, for me, I’m doing a documentary. I’ve only done one with Cowboy Ethics. It was very successful and this is I’m calling it The Art of Aging Well. It’s not the art of getting fit, it’s aging well which implies there’s a lot more to this than simply exercising or working out, going to gym, and that kind of stuff. It’s beyond that. And let me close by saying one thing, having a purpose is a critical part of this, I think it was a pyramid. The foundation is fitness. The ultimate to me is that purpose is that people who are like your mom or older who have a purpose seem to live happier and more satisfied in life. It’s absolutely true. Everyone I know who is “aging well” has got, now it may be different purposes, sure, but they’re doing something that makes them hop out of bed in the morning with excitement that they look forward to, as opposed to being withdrawn, lonely, looking inward, my life is over, my health is terrible, and that is that negativity that we associate with older people. It doesn’t have to be that way so you can take control of the aging process.
You’d be surprised, okay, and the place to start in my opinion is getting off the couch just walking, just doing some stretching, and gradually over time adding to it these other what I call dimensions but you don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need a personal trainer. I’ve been to enjoy strength training. I enjoy it like it is like my inner athlete I miss when I was a kid, I was overweight kind of clumsy guy. Did I learn football? Sure. Was I elite? No. Never got over not being a better athlete, competitive athlete. I was just an average kid. But now I enjoy the competition if you will of what I’m doing in the gym against myself, not somebody else. Against myself. Just doing a personal best. So, it was the purpose that keeps me going, keeps me young, and I’m really honored and proud that you would have me on your program. I think what you’re doing, Casey, is just terrific. I really do. So, we talked a long time. I don’t want to wear my welcome out, but you’ve been wonderful. I hope I didn’t talk too much.
Casey: No, absolutely. You are the epitome of retirement purpose. You’re obviously a model for so many people that want to age well. You’re passing on tremendous wisdom onto the next generation. And I really appreciate you coming here on the show. If you want to catch up with Jim, if you want to connect with Jim or get his book, Just Move, which is just a fantastic book if you’re say new to fitness or if you’re over the age of 50 and you’re trying to figure out where to get started, just go to JustMoveForLife.com and pick up a copy of his book. Jim, thank you so much for joining us here in the podcast.
Jim: Casey, thank you so very much. It’s been an honor, believe me. Thank you. I’m really humbled. Thank you.
Casey: We’ll catch you next time right here on Retire With Purpose.
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