Steve Maxwell is a personal trainer who has worked with professional athletes, from fighters to baseball players. He is known for being one of the first trainers to introduce kettlebells to the Western world, as well as many other unorthodox tools like club bells.
He advocates a complete body workout over isolation exercises, body maintenance over pure athletic performance, and overall well-being over exercise for the sake of exercise.
In this interview we talk about his beginnings in the fitness industry, his minimalist lifestyle, self discipline, using exercise as meditation, and how faces his fears and doubts.
If you'd like to find out more information about him, you can find his exercise DVD's and blog here.
In the second part of the interview we spoke on his views on self-discipline and motivation. In the third part we spoke about how he sees meditation. And in the last part of the interview we spoke about his views on spirituality.
Hope you guys enjoy.
I had a rule where if I couldn’t fit it into the trunk of my car, then I wouldn’t own it.
KB: Why did you start working out?
SM: When I was in fifth grade, I went through a phase where I was starting to get a little pudgy, and I started getting picked on by a lot of other kids. My father saw this and bought me a barbell set. He started teaching me how to box and encouraged me to try wrestling. He really put a lot of emphasis into fitness.
I took right to it. It was just something that I was born to do. I soon became the strongest boy in my high school. All my efforts were geared towards making myself better at my chosen sport which was wrestling.
We lived near The York Barbell company which was the mecca for Olympic weight lifting. So my father actually took me down to watch the Olympic lifters lift. I got a chance to talk to these guys and watch them train. I really cut my teeth with some high caliber people that really knew what was going on. I'm incredibly fortunate to have that as my introduction into strength training. So many guys are introduced to strength training through these really ridiculous muscle magazines that are geared towards selling supplements.
“I threw my cup away when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough.” - Diogenes
KB: On your blog, you talk about living a minimalist lifestyle. Would you care to describe this lifestyle and how you got into it?
SM: Divorce does that to a man [laughs].
I grew up in a typical American home. My parents were simple people. They didn’t have big material needs. My fondest memories were of camping outside in a little tent. As a kid growing up I had two pairs of shoes, one for the gym and one for school. I had one little suit that I was wore to Church. It was simple. There was never a question of what I was going to wear.
But when I got married, I got into some mass accumulation. After the divorce I just wanted a simple life. So I got rid of everything I owned and moved into an Indian teepee in rural Pennsylvania. It was fantastic. I had one trunk with some clothes and a ten speed bike.
After many years of travelling, I had a rule where if I couldn’t fit it into the trunk of my car, then I wouldn’t own it. I never liked to be tied down. I can basically be anywhere, at anytime, in about fifteen minutes. I lived very simply for many years.
Once I got married in Philadelphia, I opened up a gym, bought my first house, and started accumulating stuff again. It was this constant worry about upkeep. Even though I loved working with people and loved owning my own gym, a lot of the time that I’d be at the gym, I’d just want to get home. Then I’d be at home, and I’d want to get back to the gym.
There was this chronic sense of dissatisfaction. Despite the fact that I had every type of material possession you could possibly imagine.
My wife and I ran the gym together. It was pretty tough on our relationship. We eventually broke up, and I moved out of her place.
I've always had a dream of living in a small RV.
Then I got an invitation to go out to Arizona and work with a professional baseball player. Part of my contract with the baseball player was that he provided me with an RV.
I always had a dream about living in a small RV. It was beautiful. I would work with him on a daily basis with strength and conditioning, mobility routines and so forth. When my contract was up I had the opportunity to buy the RV from him at a ridiculously cheap price.
I lived in that van for basically three years. I can’t tell you how happy I was moving around in that RV. I drove across the United States, coast to coast, eight times. A lot of the time I basically lived in it in different towns. There are stringent laws about living in your vehicle. I used to hide out from local authorities [laughs].
It was really interesting because people are very threatened by a free lifestyle in the United States. They want to bring everyone into the fold, and they don’t like the idea of people living in a free type of manner. It threatens them. The norm is for everyone basically to work some job that they don’t really like and to buy stuff that they don’t really need.
Eventually I started travelling more and more. I got to the point where the van became more of a nuisance. Right now it’s actually sitting in storage, and I haven’t seen it for two years. It’s a kickass van, so if you know someone who wants a really cool van, let me know [laughs]. I started travelling so much because my seminars exploded. I found that I had quite a following in Europe, in Scandinavia. I’m pretty much on the move at least nine months out of the year.
I have my life’s possessions down to a 90 liter bag. If you have any travelers out there, I highly recommend the Patagonia, Black Hole duffel bag.. When you carry your life’s possessions on your back, it's pretty easy to live a minimalist lifestyle [laughs].