The Jay Kim Show #65: Jason Ferruggia (Transcript)
Jay: This week’s guest is Jay Ferruggia. Jay is a highly sought-after, world renowned strength and conditioning specialist and muscle-building expert. Over the last 17 years, he’s personally trained more than 700 athletes from over 90 different NCAA, NFL, HL, and major league baseball organizations. He also has worked exclusively with Hollywood stars and entertainers. But in addition to being a famous fitness trainer, Jay is also an entrepreneur. He runs a number of ventures on the side. You guys all know that I’m a fitness geek myself, so I was particularly excited to speak with Jay this week. He shares a lot of cool insights about his journey, and some tips for older guys like myself on how to keep fit and stay in shape later in life. Alright. Let’s get on to the show.
Jay, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on. We are excited to have you on today..
Jason: I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Jay: So for the audience listening in that might not have heard of you, maybe you could give a brief introduction. Who’s Jay Ferruggia, and what do you do for a living?
Jason: Sure. I started in the fitness industry in ’94 training people, and I opened my own gym, and I ran that for 15 years. It was primarily strength and conditioning, working with a lot of high-level athletes. And then in 2001, I started writing online, and I started trying to make it a little bit more of a business in 2003 — just started selling some stuff. 2006, I really started to figure out how to make money online and started to transition more of my focus there just because of the obvious reach that I could have online versus in the gym. The busiest day you have, you’re barely going to be able to see 100 people, but you can reach hundreds of thousands online. So I made that my focus since 2006, had the gym for 15 years, and then sold it seven years ago.
And over the last five-plus years, I’ve kind of transitioned into doing a lot of still fitness stuff but a lot of personal development, mindset stuff, communication skills, building relationships, self-confidence. So now I work with people on that. I run masterminds and coaching programs, work with big organizations like the Los Angeles Dodgers on stuff it that. But I still continue to do the fitness thing, run the podcast. I have a fitness app. So a lot of stuff.
Jay: That’s great. I’ve heard your podcast, Renegade Radio, and it’s a good one. You were one of the pioneers. I mean, if you started writing online in 2001, that’s way before… That’s like web 1.0, well before a lot of people were online. So you’re actually kind of where you saw the trend early, I guess.
Jason: O.G. Style, son. Absolutely. Yeah, I was. For sure. It was funny. I was always a terrible student in school. The only thing I was actually any good at was writing, and we were getting such great results, and I was getting referrals all the time, and the business was just… I mean, I was making six figures while I was still 19 or 20 in school. So I was just thinking, I’ve got to start sharing this stuff. Originally, I was just writing about training, but what made my writing stand out was that I told a lot of stories, and I made it kind of info-tainment and made it funny. And from there, things kind of just grew and blossomed and then, what’s interesting is, in 2003, I was making maybe — I don’t know — three to five hundred bucks a month online just selling my own self-published stuff, and then Men’s Fitness did a one-page article on me, and they linked to my website.
Now today, that would do next to nothing, but back then, all of a sudden, I went from selling maybe $300 a month to $300 a day, and I’m like, wow. I failed math a couple of times, but I know that equals six figures, and I know there’s some huge potential here. So let me start really focusing on this.
Around 2006, my good friend Craig Valentine had really kind of figured out how to do it online, so he helped me a bit, and then it’s just been onward and upward since then.
Jay: That’s awesome. Craig was on our show earlier, and he’s doing some group stuff. I think both of you guys were pretty early adopters with that sort of thing. So with regards to fitness, though, was it just something like you were an athlete in school, and you kind of just kept training afterwards that kept you on that path? Or was it specifically like you were interested in sport science and that sort of thing?
Jason: It was more of… As a kid in the ’80s, I saw Schwarzenegger and Stallone on the big screen all the time. I was a huge wrestling fan, so I constantly was watching Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. But here I was, a little skinny fat kid, and I was like, “Man, I want to be like that one day. I want to be larger than life.” So it wasn’t as much…
And it’s funny because back then, every team has a strength coach now, a nutritionist, and this and that. But back then, you didn’t hear as much about training for sport as much as you do today. Back then, it was all about getting jacked and getting big and strong and whatnot. So I did that because I had such low self-confidence, and I was just really insecure. So that was why I got into it, just to get bigger and stronger and help me feel better about myself. In retrospect, I wish I knew how much it could help me because I played basketball. That was my main sport. I got cut from the football team because I was, I think, the skinny [0:06:23 audio goes silent] and from that, from what I grew up watching and my insecurity.
Jay: Right. It’s funny. I feel like there’s… I was always a skinny kid as well. And then I never actually was able to beef up, so to speak. So I probably could have used you back in the day. But then I feel like, as we get older… I’m almost 40 now. I’m a fitness guy. I’m not a fitness guy, but I’m an enthusiast. I like to read and study nutrition and this sort of thing. But now as I’m getting older, I feel like I just want to be lean now. I don’t care as much about having the jacked arms and that sort of thing, which I think a decade ago or more, I would have been like, “I want to look like the Men’s Health cover model. But I’m just kind of more like, I don’t want to get injured, and I want to just feel better when I’m sitting at work. So I’m training more for optimizing my day more than anything. I don’t play sports anymore. I have three kids and this sort of thing. There’s no doubt…
Jason: I can totally relate to that. I graduated high school at 147, and then I got up to almost 230, and that was not a good healthy weight for me. But I stayed at that weight for probably — I don’t know — eight to ten years. And now I’m like 180. I float between 185 and 188 maybe, and I just feel so much better. I never got visible abs, actually, until I turned 40. I’ll be 43 in a couple of days here.
Jay: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.
Jason: Yeah. So I finally figured out how to make that happen. Part of it was just getting over my obsession with being big, like you talked about.
Jay: Yeah. Because it’s both ends of the spectrum. You can’t… It’s science. You can’t get bigger when you’re trying to lean your body fat out. What sort of workout are you on these days? I don’t want to spend too much time talking about fitness, but like I said, I’m kind of a fitness junkie myself. So what’s your workout now on a regular basis?
Jason: It changes every few month. For example, I do upper/lower four days a week, and I do, for lack of a better term, mainly functional movements, big movements. I’ll do some big barbell stuff. I don’t go heavy in low reps like I used to. So the heaviest I might go is a 10-rep maximum where I used to do one and three-rep maxes. So I’ll do some big compound movements. But a lot of dumbbells, a lot of body weight, kettlebells, a lot safer, joint-friendlier stuff than I used to do. So generally three to four days a week I lift, and then I’ll hike one or twice, and I’ll run some hill sprints once or twice a weed too.
Jay: So is that… I know you don’t do any personal training anymore. But I know you still write a lot on your blog and stuff. Again, I’m getting older now, so what would you recommend for people, say like fitness over 40 or whatever? Is there certain changes that you would suggest? Because I feel like I’m okay now, but I think two months ago, I went a little heavier on the squat, and then my recovery day, I think I wasn’t recovering enough. And then the day after that, I went into an upper-body day. But I was doing overhead press, standing, and then it kind of tweaked my back. And it took me like six weeks, just that.
I think five years ago, I could have been fine. But I notice little things here and there. My knees are a little bit sore. How has your workout changed as the years have gone by and what would you recommend for older guys that are listening?
Jason: Yeah. It’s hard to give a straight answer because it depends. I work with guys where I help guys that are in their 40s that really never trained or never trained properly. So nothing really changes for them versus an 18 year old. An 18 year old will recover faster, sure. But if you’re kind of weak, and you’re just at a beginner level, it almost doesn’t matter. If you pay too much attention to that stuff, you’re setting yourself up for failure worrying about that. But if you’ve been training for a long time, and you’re in your 40s, certainly things are going to change. You’re not going to recover as fast. But you can get around that by really making sure, as you get older, you really pay attention to your warmup.
In the old days, my 20s, my warmup might have been five minutes. Now it might be 20. It’s easily 20 minutes. If my training partner is running late, I have no problem with my warmup being 30 minutes. That’s excessive for a lot of people, but as you mentioned earlier, I want to feel good and be ready for my day and be ready for anything. So I don’t want be sore. I don’t want to be stiff. So warming up, cooling down is important. A lot of people just run right out of the gym.
You really need to pay attention to your sleep. In your 20s, you can get away with crappy sleep or five, six hours. As you get older, you can’t. So sleep has to be dialed in. Nutrition has to be dialed in more. All these things you can get away with in your younger days. You can’t anymore.
Now if you do all those things, it makes a huge difference and then age doesn’t become as much of an excuse. You get banged up, and you lose mobility as you get older because you stop playing and stop moving and stop doing stuff so much. So I would say doing stuff more… Sometimes taking the opposite approach doesn’t really work.
That said, you’ve got to be really smart when you’re in the gym — perfect form. Stay away from failure. If something hurts, obviously don’t do it, and three to four strength-training workouts a week without overdoing it. The specifics — it would take me two hours to get into really specifics. But a general plan — most people either do three full-body workouts where you do an upper body push, an upper body pull, a lower body exercise, like a squatting exercise, the hinge, and maybe some kind of loaded carry. You do that three times a week, or you break it up and do upper/lower four days a week. And you can’t wrong with that. Then 12 to 16 total work sets. Can’t go wrong with that.
Jay: Right. Right. Cool. As someone that’s been in the fitness industry for a long time and seen it sort of evolve, what are… I feel like the whole internet has actually helped. It’s hurt and helped. There’s a lot of garbage out there as far as information goes, but it’s also quite transparent now because before, it was like picking up Flex magazine or Muscle and Fitness, and that’s the only source of information that non-professional or non-certified people would have. But now there’s the internet. So you get a bunch of junk, but you also get some really could content out there and information. What’s one thing that you’ve seen happen or maybe that annoys you about the fitness industry in its current state?
Jason: I just think it’s unfortunate for people nowadays to… So I’m talking about the general public. There are so many people on Instagram. Before Instagram, you kind of had to prove yourself a little more. Now everybody on Instagram who has, maybe, good genetics and is on some kind of performance-enhancing drug, sells a coaching program or a workout. And that doesn’t mean that they are qualified as a coach. Who would you want to teach you how to play basketball — Phil Jackson or Michael Jordan? Just because Michael Jordan’s great doesn’t mean he’s going to be a great coach. So you see all these people, and they’re not really qualified. To help people, you should have trained people for at least five years — 10 years is even better — before you start selling programs and whatnot. It’s hard to know really. Unless you work with a lot of people, it’s really hard to know and relate.
So I just think that’s… For anyone listening who is considering buying something online, you research that person’s background and their reputation a little bit and make sure they’ve worked with a lot of people and have a lot of success stories.
Jay: Yeah. On the flip-side of that, Jay, is when you go into the gym and you see the fat trainer — the guy that’s in there that shouldn’t be there. Or, I don’t know. Maybe he’s completely certified and he knows his stuff, but he just doesn’t look like what you would want to look like. So I’ve never understood that. I’ve actually never used a personal trainer. Anyway, well, thanks for that introduction.
Tell me about what you’re working on these days. I know that you have a handful of businesses and you’re now kind of an entrepreneur. You do a lot of different things. So what are you working on now?
Jason: I’m really putting a ton of time and eft and focus into podcast. That’s getting closer and closer to where I want it to be in terms of downloads and sponsorships and guests and all that. So that’s really been my main thing.
We’ve had my membership site since 2009, and we’ve been working for quite a while now on a whole redevelopment and relaunch of that coming up in a couple of weeks here in September. It’s going to be the Renegade Strong app, which will replace the Renegade Strength Club. So it will just be a newer, updated, more 2017 kind of user-friendly app where you get workouts, videos, coaching, and all that. So I’m excited about that. That’s really taken a lot of my time and effort and focus. So just those two things mainly.
And then I had a great opportunity just come to me out of the middle of nowhere in the middle of the summer for any product that should do really well. So I have to work on that a little bit. That’s about it, really.
Jay: On the podcast, you’re up to like 200 episodes now or something like that?
Jason: I think we’ve recorded almost 200, maybe even recorded 200, but we’re at, I think, 189 or something came out today, maybe.
Jay: Can you give our audience an overview? It’s not just fitness that you talk about. I know there’s a lot of other good life stuff that you talk about on there. What’s your premise of that podcast?
Jason: It’s really just helping you unleash your strongest self, and it’s stuff that I find interesting. For example, today Mark Sisson’s on. Last week we had a friend of mine. Torrie Wilson was a big WWE superstar back in the heydey of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. So we have fitness stuff, mindset, personal development. Every episode you’re going to get some kind of takeaway and something you can apply to your life. Hopefully, you’re going to laugh. There’s going to be entertainment in each one. There’s good stories. We get silly, so a wide variety of stuff but all about just getting better.
Jay: Yeah. That’s awesome. I want to talk about life — not life, but I guess optimizing yourself in ways other than fitness. Although fitness is, to me, in my opinion as entrepreneurs, it’s like the number one productivity hack — the difference between when I’m in shape and I’m working out… Even just after I work out, my mind is on fire. I’m in the shower, and I have all these ideas pop into my head. It’s a direct benefit of working out and exercise. There’s a lot of very successful entrepreneurs and professionals and politician, and they all swear by getting their exercise in. A lot of them workout in the morning.
So what are some other areas of wellness, if you will, that you recommend? Are you into meditation at all, that sort of thing?
Jason: I’ve been meditating. I’m not sure if it’s 10 years now. It’s at least seven; I feel like it might be ten. But meditation is huge for me. That made a big difference because coming from the East Coast — and I guess people who meet me now in person, when I tell them that I’m less fired up and intense than I used to be, will be like, “Jesus. What were you like — Sam Kinison on an eight ball or something?” It helped me because I was almost too intense and too fired up. It was almost not good for me in a way. So it helped me get focused a bit and to calm down and to definitely deal with stress a lot better. So I would definitely be like that, like that Sam Kinison character when stress or confrontation came about. Part of that is just kind of that East Coast, growing up outside of New York City. Just everybody is kind of like that.
Jay: Yeah. That’s true.
Jason: Especially if you grow up in an Italian family with loud mouths screaming all the time and cursing. So that kind of was just me for so long. And when I started meditating, it definitely made a difference. And I was cool because a couple of years in it, I would see people at events or something that I hadn’t seen in a while, and they’re like, “Wow. You’re noticeably different.”
I was like, “That’s cool to hear.” So it just helped me in a lot of ways.
Definitely that. And I agree with everything you said about exercise and fitness. That is the foundation. The Rock and Arnold have always talked about that. That’s got to be the foundation.
Jay: Absolutely. Do you meditate every day and at a certain time every day?
Jason: Yeah. I don’t it first thing in the morning when I get up for 20 minutes. If I could fit in a second session somewhere, I will for 10 to 20 minutes as well.
Jay: That’s an interesting one because there’s a lot of entrepreneurs and wellness experts that advocate meditation. I’ve actually tried it, but what ends up happening is, because I do it in the morning… I think I used Headspace or one these apps, and I think I’m not getting enough sleep, so by the 10th day — I was like, I’m going to do it for two weeks or a month and commit to it. But by the 10th day, I found myself just literally nodding off and going back to sleep upright instead of actually going through it. Do you use an app or do you just use a certain technique?
Jason: I use Holosync, which I like. I’ve been using that since day one. Sometimes if I’m somewhere without it… I like to be away from my phone, so I have the original one that came with the CD. I don’t have my phone in my bedroom or anything. So I just have a little CD player. So I’ll throw that on first thing in the morning. I’m big on keeping my phone off, so if I’m at the beach or something, I might just meditate with nothing. And then recently, somebody introduced me to a transcendental meditation teacher, which I’ve been wanting to learn that for years. There are so many people that I admire like Jerry Seinfeld and Howard Stern who were big on that. So I’m going to go through the course probably sometime this fall and get trained in TM.
Jay: That’s a pretty popular one as well. Maybe you could share with us a little bit about your daily routine. Are there any things that you make — in addition to meditation and your workout on your workout days? You mentioned the no-self one thing, which I think is pretty important. And for me, I find myself, I’m most guilty when I’m interacting with my kids because I’m kind of there, but I’m not really present. You know what I mean? So I have to make a conscious effort not to be on my phone. What are some other habits/rituals that you practice that you find has helped you, just overall, in your life?
Jason: So first thing in the morning… I’m big on the whole morning routine. That’s when I get my most productive work done. So cell phone’s off. Email’s off. I use a self-control app I use for Mac. I set that at night. So I couldn’t access, even if I wanted to, any stat-checking sites — like check on my sales or check on my traffic or whatever I might want the check on, do I don’t waste time.
First thing in the morning, I meditate. I read a passage from the Tao Te Ching or Epictetus or something like that, just to get my head right. I work on my most important task. I go through a little thing where I make my own little French-press coffee and all that. I write in a journal. And then, while I’m making the coffee, I write in the journal. I’m reading. And then I work on my most important task for an hour, and I set a timer so I get it done. And then that’s over with. That’s really the extent of it. Sometimes I’ll read more of whatever book I’m reading. It depends on the day and what my schedule is. I generally… Pretty much most days, I read for an hour. If I don’t, and I go to bed at night without having read for an hour, I kind of get bummed out and a little down on myself. So I fit that in somehow, someway. Although lately, to be quite honest, like this summer, my schedule has been insane, so I’ve read less than normal. But that’s’ really the morning stuff.
Then I get outside early because that benefits you in a multitude of ways. You sleep better when you get outside early, especially. And then I like to get Vitamin D. So shirt off, no sunglasses first thing in the morning. That helps you sleep better. It sets your mood for the day. It helps out your circadian rhythms, so you feel better.
Throughout the day, I like to be aware of how much time I’ve spent outside. Most people spend maybe a half hour, an hour, two hours max outside, and they’re inside for 22 hours. We’re just so unnatural. If you think about the way we’re meant to live, it’s so not healthy and so not normal. So I’ll take my laptop outside if I have to work. I’ll do phone calls outside. I try to be consciously aware of getting outside as much as possible.
And then what’s crucially important to me is reaching out to friends and manage time for friends every single day. So texting friends, writing handwritten letters, connecting people. I try to connect people at least three days a week, if not more. Just connect friends to somebody else because it’s one of the best things you could be is a super connector. And scheduling time for social activities, which a lot of entrepreneurs don’t do. They just work 24/7, which is so easy to do. So I make sure every week I have coffee and lunch scheduled at least twice. I have dinner scheduled. I have fun, social activities like going to concerts or going to comedy clubs and dinner with friends. So I always prioritize that, which I think is overlooked. People are always looking for the business tactics and glorifying the 24/7 hustle, and that’s cool. But you burn out. There’s no balance, and it’s not healthy.
Jay: Yeah. I think the whole hustle nation or whatever, it’s a big overplayed. And to that point, people… Craig is a good example. He calls himself the most disciplined man alive, and it’s great that he has these rigid guidelines, and I agree with the fact that there is freedom within structure. But at the same time, there’s also life that just kind of gets in the way sometimes. If you have kids…you never know. Something blows up, and you have to be versatile and agile to dip and dive around these things. So I think that a lot of people are trying to find… And it’s different for every person. But just have to find what works for you. I think it’s good to have a few guidelines and structural elements in your day. But other than that, it’s kind of to each their own.
Jay, it’s been fun catching up and thanks for coming on the show. You said you were pretty focused on the podcast and your online business. Do you still have a coffee business, by the way?
Jason: Yeah, we do. I really don’t do much for it because I have so much other stuff going on. So I’m not sure what the future holds for that. That in itself is a business lesson that I try to teach and remind myself of all the time. Don’t try to do everything, even though something sounds exciting at times. I do recommend that people read books like The One Thing and the 80/20 rule and Essentialism. You do have a much better chance of success if you really focus on just a few things. Focus on your 20%.
We might see outliers like I mentioned, like The Rock or Kevin Hart or Arnold, who seem to do a million things well. But they are outliers. Not everybody can do that. They’re more the exception than the rule. The rule is, if you look at people throughout history who are ultra-successful and memorable — say, Martin Luther King or Ali or Bruce Lee — they did one or two things and did them really well. And if you look across all spectrums, that’s usually the case. There are definitely people who can do a lot of things, but I think you’ll have better chances of success if you do one thing.
And look, if you want to do multiple things, you can. But it’s really hard to do them all at once. Do one thing until you achieve a certain level of success, and then branch out and start something else. And then move on to the next thing. It’s very difficult to do multiple things well all at once.
Jay: Yeah. 100%. That’s great advice, Jay. I think a lot of… And I’m guilty of it as well. Again, because of the internet and social media, you see everyone doing everything. It’s easy to get into that trap where you’re like, “I want to be superman,” and be like everyone and everything — good at everything, which is not really reality.
Jason: Yeah. No, 100%. And then people waste so much time when the reality is that people would be more successful if they spent more time on their people skills and their social skills. And instead of starting a new business or trying to do all these things for your business and trying to optimize social media and your email list and YouTube, if you would spend that time re-reading How to Win Friends and Influence People and go out and go on Meetup.com and go to things… Business is all about relationships. So once I figured that out, and once I overcame my social awkwardness and my shyness and my inability to communicate, everything changed for me. That’s so much more important than figuring out the latest tactics and strategies.
So it’s not just for the balance that I schedule all these social activities, it’s for practice because I’m naturally socially awkward and can’t communicate. So for me, every day I want to put myself out there and be in groups of people or be with friends and practice communicating the same way you practice your sport or going to the gym is practice to improve your squat or whatever it is you do for your business. But that’s crucially important.
Jay: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, cool, man. So you have some sort of product that’s going to drop pretty soon, which I guess we’re excited and will be keeping an eye out for that. Where is the best place for my audience to find you, follow, connect with you, and maybe learn a little bit more about you?
Jason: Just go to jay.fit. That will redirect you to my website because my last name is super hard to spell and remember. You can find everything there. That will give you the Renegade Radio podcast and all of the other stuff.
Jay: Yeah. Awesome. Alright, man. Thanks so much for coming on. We had a good time. Appreciate it.
Jason: Thanks, Jay. Appreciate it.
Jay: Alright. Take care.
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