As many of the regular readers have noticed, this “blogzine” is very eclectic, and I have talked about finance, unemployment, movies and fitness
In June I interviewed Christina Adler, one of my newest friends in this whole fitness stage of my life, and got a lot of good feedback from many parts of the world. So, I immediately thought about starting a new, semi regular section to interview people I know and who are excellent fitness role models.
I contacted one of my new buddies, Steven Herman (HermTheWorm on bodybuilding.com), and asked if I could interview him for TQM. Two reasons for my request: A) He is one of my role models in this whole fitness thing and an inspiration in terms of being in the best shape of your life when you are over 40, B) Last month Steven celebrated his 50th birthday (Happy Belated Birthday!), and he definitely looks better now than when he was in his 20s, 30s, and 40s. I definitely say he looks better than most 20 somethings out there, but his transformation wasn’t easy and did not happen overnight.
He was physically active when he was a teenager and in his early 20’s, during high school and college. Coming from a broken home, he describes himself in those years as a “loser”, when he was a mediocre student, did a lot of bad stuff, and at one point in his life, he was practically homeless.
Realizing he had to do something drastic, he turned his passion for art into an academic and professional pursuit. Starting with nothing, he became an “A” student at the renowned School of Visual Arts in New York. Throwing himself into his work, both at school and at his job, he had highly successful career, with stints at several major advertising agencies in New York; a real life, “Mad Men”.
Then when he hit 30 in 1991 he got really out of shape from eating poorly, drinking too much beer, working late nights and weekends all the time (not different to what happens to most successful executives in New York, either in law, investment banking, advertisement…).
In his early 40s, he let himself slide completely and felt old and tired and got into that on and off, yo-yo “dieting and exercising” rut until age 47, when he decided to start working out very seriously and with 100 percent intensity from then on.
Steven has totally exceeded his wildest expectations. It took many hours of training, quantification of nutrients consumed, optimization of exercise sequence, trial-and-error, and tons of discipline and hard work. Overcoming the odds is one of his trademark features, as well as proving the nay-sayers and doubters wrong. With his “loser” past well behind him, today he calls himself “The Can-Do Jew”.
Now, he looks at his photos and thinks: “Is that guy really me?”. Like I say to my new friend Steven: “You are a living proof that 50 is the new 30!”
His personal physical transformation has also led to a change in career path: he is not the New York corporate executive in advertising he once was. He recently got his second personal trainer certification and is avidly pursuing a career in the fitness industry and at 50, a fitness model (not many people can do that).
I personally like the advice I have received from Steven: from his killer ab routine, to the frustration of dealing with some aspects of city life in New York. I really like his mottos: “It’s never too late to be great”, “I am my competition”, and “Failure is not an option.” Aside from that, Steven has a very interesting sense of humor, and is the author of some of the funniest jokes I have heard in decades.
TQM: Steven, first of all, thanks for accepting my invitation to be interviewed for The Quantitative Method. First question: Once you started to make a real effort, how long did it take to start seeing decent results?
Let’s not forget that I was not starting from scratch. I had been in good shape a few times in my life before I let myself completely go to pot, so there was the muscle memory factor involved. If you have muscle and lose it from neglect, it is easier to get it back than having never had any muscle and starting from scratch. That being said, it took three weeks of extremely intense training to see a little bit of a difference. Every week after that I was looking incrementally better. After seven weeks the change was dramatic. The thing is, I trained one hundred percent all out every single day of the transformation and did not put a single solitary thing in my mouth that didn’t help my physique or improve performance. Nothing. No cheats. No bad food. No alcohol (I had just quit drinking cold turkey after being a lifetime alcoholic). It would be physically impossible to train any harder or diet any stricter than I did for those seven weeks — I was exorcising my demons — and that’s why I got such incredible results in such a short amount of time. That and what I mentioned earlier, muscle memory.
TQM: Steven, how do keep your motivation high?
I want to be a fit and fifty fitness celebrity along the lines of a Richard Simmons, Jake “Body by Jake” Seinfeld and Susan “Stop the Insanity” Powter; in order to make that a reality I have to push myself and keep putting myself out there day after day. I’m fully aware that that is a lofty goal, but this is my life, not a rehearsal and I am going to live it on my terms. I don’t ever want to look back on anything I have done and say I woulda’ or I shoulda’. I’m going to follow my dreams relentlessly and give it all I’ve got and let the cards fall where they may. One of my favorite quotes is “Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.”
TQM: Steven, I mentioned in my interview with Christina Adler, that one of the main reasons that I was able to transform myself from fat to fit was keeping track of things like calories consumed, exercises, protein, carbs, fat consumed, fluids, timing of meals, etc. Do you keep track and quantify any of those variables?
I am meticulous about planning out my workouts from day to day and week to week. When I walk into the gym I know exactly what is going to go down that day. If I’m feeling a little stronger, maybe I’ll add a few sets, but I always go in with a plan; but as far as meal planning and weighing my food, no. I know a whole lot about eating for performance and nutrition. I can play it by ear with my diet and always come in on point. I can improvise with my diet the way a jazz impresario can improvise a musical number. I know all the things to eat and the things to avoid and I play within those parameters. I am going to do a cooking show on Youtube called “Cooking up a great body” and I will share my philosophy of cooking and eating right with everyone. I feel like I can help a lot of people eat right without feeling like they are being deprived of eating delicious satisfying food. That’s the name of the game right there.
TQM: Steven, I am noticing a lot more unsolicited compliments from women (especially in their early to mid 20s) now at 46 compared to when I was in my 20s and 30s, ever since I got in shape. I already know you are very popular among women in the forums at bodybuilding.com. Are you experiencing anything similar in real life? Is it New York? Is it that women are more extroverted now compared to when we were younger? All of the above? Any insights?
You want insights? You got’em. It’s probably worse (or better depending on your perspective and level of horniness). I get asked what time it is and for directions on the street from women at least once or twice a week when the weather is nice. When I’m at the supermarket produce section I’m always getting asked by women what’s a good way to cook this or that or some other gratuitous question, which also never, ever happened to me before. Don’t even get me started on the nightmare that is the gym, I think I need to wear a tee shirt that has “Leave me alone and let me train in peace!” on it in bold caps. Underlined. Highlighted with a yellow highlight marker. Make that neon, day-glo yellow. So yes, as art imitates life, the BB.Com forums also imitate life. As far as it being a New York thing? No way, Jose! When I am in South Beach or the Caribbean on vacation (me in a swimsuit = near riots) I can pick up on this subtle vibe I get from women, bulging eyes and drooling. Very subtle, indeed. Are women more extroverted than ever? My guess is yes. I cannot imagine women being any more forward with me than they are now. A little restraint, girls, please, I’m an old Jewish man, for Christ’s sake. So that is my experience and my take on the whole matter, for what’s its worth. Sometimes, I long for the days when women didn’t know I existed; at least I had some peace and quiet back then. Too bad they don’t make burkas for men.
TQM: Steven: there are a lot of people who have seen my personal transformation and ask me if I can help them, or if I think they can change their bodies considering that they are 30, 40, 50 years old, whatever. What I do is recommend certain literature and tell them that if they are willing to put the time and effort, anybody can do it, but there is no magic pill. I am sure you get asked the same question a lot more than me… what do you answer when people ask you that question?
Same thing as you, brother. There is no magic pill. It is not rocket science. If you work hard and eat intelligently and are consistent — that is the most important thing, consistency — then it will happen for you. How long it will take depends on where you’re starting from, how hard you train, how smart you eat and, once again, consistency. I cannot emphasize consistency enough. It’s really important to stick with it. It is human nature to want to quit after a setback, but you need to keep plowing ahead. Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.
TQM: Steven, you recently got your personal training license in order to break into the fitness industry. How is that going for you?
Recently, the head trainer at my gym wanted to set me up with the head of the chain for an interview but I asked him politely if I could hold off a while. When I worked in advertising I always had a business or two on the side and that gave me the taste for being an entrepreneur. What I’m doing now is setting up my apartment so that I can train people there and I will also train people at their homes. That is more lucrative and at this point in my life, I have to be my own boss, even though, at the end of the day, the client is your boss. I have a fabulous, showcase penthouse apartment where I can train people indoors or out. I think a lot of people who feel intimidated by gyms will feel more comfortable in a different setting. I’m working on an ad campaign to attract my first batch of clientele. Being an award-winning ad guy and fitness model, I can both come up with the creative idea and use photographs of myself for the ads. Everything is starting to fall into place.
TQM: A lot of people in this country are going through tough times: unemployment, health issues, anxiety, etc. Many feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and getting back in shape (or in shape for the first time), looks like an impossible thing. Do you have any advice for people in that state of mind?
Yes. No matter how badly life has beaten you down, never give up. At one point I gave up, but then I ungave up. As downtrodden as you think you may be right now, I can guarantee you, I was 20 times worse. I was literally killing myself with alcoholism and I didn’t even care.
When I confided in people that I needed to change, more than one person told me that I was too old to ever be fit again and that I was “damaged goods” so why bother. Don’t listen to “Them”. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s bullshit. Make up your mind that anything you desire can become a reality if you want it badly enough. If you’re not getting it done, then you don’t want it badly enough. So want it. Bad. Put it in your mind that failure is not an option and really, really live by that credo. It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as go and never stop moving forward. Start with baby steps. Take classes, read books, improve yourself, do whatever you need to do as long as it’s legal and moral; but never, never let “them” define who you are or tell you that anything is too difficult or impossible. Remember, Difficult things take a long time, impossible things just a bit little longer. If I can do it, believe me, anyone can do it. It’s never too late to be great. Shalom.
Shalom. Thank you very much Steven! It was nice learning about you and I hope the readers of The Quantitative Method find this interview interesting and inspirational. Good luck with all your endeavors and talk to you soon!
If you want to learn more about Steven and his transformation, visit his page at bodybuilding.com.