Tony Robbins explains how he sustains energy with no stimulants and little sleep
Robbins is not only the personal performance coach of business leaders like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, he’s the head of a conglomerate of companies and the main attraction for long, incredibly lively seminars that he has relentlessly given around the world for the past 30 years.
He told Business Insider that he wasn’t born a naturally energetic person, that he gets little sleep when he’s on tour, and that he doesn’t take stimulants for a boost.
Instead, he’s developed strict habits around diet, exercise, stress management, and the approach to his work. We’ll explain below how one of the world’s greatest distance runners, an 85-year-old Catholic nun triathlete, cryotherapy, and a strange anxiety-reducing headset have contributed to Robbins’ seemingly limitless energy.
Robbins said that he struggled with his weight as a kid, so he embraced working out in his early 20s to boost his confidence. After some time, he was able to get washboard abs, which he thought was incredibly cool — but his flexibility was terrible and he had no muscle balance. He decided that rather than being motivated by vanity, he wanted to prioritize energy supply above all else.
He learned about Stu Mittleman, an American who set three consecutive records for the American 100-Mile Road Race from 1980 to 1982, and then in 1986 set another world record in the 1,000-Mile World Championship when he ran that distance in just over 11 days, running 21 hours straight each day.
Robbins said he had no desire to run such an absurd amount, but he adopted Mittleman’s approach to exercising “slowly” in order to maximize fat burn. In his book “Slow Burn,” Mittleman argues that the ordinary person exercises quickly and intensely, which results in feelings of nausea and pain, but that is not the way to build the most efficient system of energy consumption.
To train like Mittleman, you should maintain a comfortable pace when running and keep your heart rate at a steady level when doing other exercises. A way to think of it is never exerting yourself beyond a difficulty level of 7/10.
He doesn’t worry about age.
After an intense 120-day seminar tour when he was 39, Robbins felt more drained than he ever had in his life. He said that one of his friends told him, “Dude, you’re 39. Most athletes retire at 40 … It’s not like you’re going to be doing this when you’re 42.”
Robbins started to doubt himself. But, being Tony Robbins, he decided to seek out the world’s oldest extreme athletes and figure out their secrets.
One of the people he met with was Catholic nun, Sister Madonna Buder. Now 85, she is a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame and has completed 45 Ironman races and more than 350 triathlons. She was not remotely an athlete for the first half of her life, and only began her athletic career at 40 after a priest recommended running as a spiritual exercise.
And that’s what Robbins found most remarkable. In her book “The Grace to Race,” Buder explains that she never considered her age to be an impediment to her athletic progress, and that she has been driven by the spiritually uplifting nature of pushing herself physically.
He uses blood tests to tailor his diet.
Robbins also found nearly all of the exceptional athletes over 65 he interviewed paid careful attention to their nutrient levels through blood tests.
It inspired Robbins to start getting a blood test every six months rather than annually, and to use the results as a guide to adapt his diet to whatever nutrients he had too much or too little of.
Robbins said he keeps his diet pretty basic, with a focus on green vegetables and fish. He doesn’t consume caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or recreational drugs because he said he wants to keep himself conditioned the same way a professional athlete does.
He uses a strange anti-anxiety contraption.
Robbins is also a fan of the NuCalm system.
A neuroscientist named Dr. Blake Holloway designed the device as a way to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, but found that he actually had a market with dental patients who suffered from intense anxiety while in the dentist’s chair.
The system includes headphones that play relaxing music, light-blocking glasses, mild electric nodes for the throat, and a GABBA amino acid supplement. It looks like something you would buy at a magic shop, but besides dentists, it’s also used by the Chicago Blackhawks NHL team and has been deemed effective at enabling patients to enter a deeply meditative state by Dr. Chung-Kang Peng, co-director of the Rey Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School.
When we recently spoke with Robbins, he said that in the previous day’s media circuit, he had just a half-hour window of free time, and he chose to use the NuCalm system for 20 of those minutes and felt rejuvenated.
The main takeaway: If you can find a way to enter a deep meditative state for 20 minutes, your body may feel refreshed and rid of debilitating stress.
He has an intense morning routine.
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Robbins also has a morning routine that he makes at least 10 minutes for.
If he’s at one of his several homes around the world, he’ll start off the day by immersing himself in one of his cold-plunge pools for one minute or spending three minutes in a full-body cryotherapy tank. When the body’s external temperature drops drastically and suddenly in this way, inflammation decreases and the brain experiences a rush of endorphins.
Then he does his “priming” ritual, which consists of three minutes of a deep-breathing exercise, three minutes of expressing gratitude for three specific things in his life, and three minutes seeking strength and wishing good things for his family, friends, and clients.
Robbins said that he places such importance on his energy levels because “If you don’t have energy, you’re gonna have no passion in your [romantic] relationship … If you don’t have any energy, you can’t do a great job with your kids because they have more energy than you do. If you don’t have energy, you’re not going to run your own business, much less multiple businesses.”
“Energy is life,” he said.