Laird Hamilton is aware of a bit one thing about scary stuff: In his mid-50s, the legendary surfer is still surfing 60-foot waves that seem like particular results from a catastrophe film. When he goes down, he has to wrestle in opposition to his urge to breathe in water earlier than reaching the floor—and he thinks that being scared has helped make him a greater surfer and a greater man. “It simply makes you respect different issues, and it tends to make folks extra form,” he says. “It will be good if everyone scared themselves as soon as a day.”

However that is not all that is helped him keep ripped nicely into his fifties. Hamilton shared his ideas for coaching as you age, how he fuels his exercises, and what it took to discover a like-minded health tribe to share in his ongoing adventures.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.)

I’d like to start out with the way you begin your day: You’re famously an early riser and enthusiastic about having a morning routine. And a part of that’s excessive thermal experiences—super-hot showers and ice baths. What are the advantages you get from that?

I’m not a scientist. They speak about endorphins and epinephrine and all these chemical substances. And there’s things called heat-shock proteins which are mentioned to assist restore broken cells and eliminate lifeless cells. However I largely go by the way it makes me really feel.

It’s like a warm-up: In case you really feel a bit achy within the morning, and also you’re a bit bit busted up, you go take your self an actual sizzling bathe. you’ll come out of there [feeling great]. We even sauna early. I am going to exit within the morning in the dead of night and sauna to start out the day, a extremely sizzling one. I’ll do one thing actually sizzling, or you might additionally simply soar in an ice tub and get the other of that. Both a kind of sort of excessive thermal exposures is gonna enhance the system. It is gonna rev you up. I might take a chilly bathe, however the issue is most individuals’s showers don’t get chilly sufficient. However the warmth provides you kick.

Additionally, it’s onerous. And one thing concerning the problem has a psychological impact on you. There’s a factor about discomfort. Possibly if we lived in a unique universe, perhaps discomfort would not be so helpful. However the universe that we stay in at this level, we profit from discomfort. If you’d like your rose bush to bloom, you prune it. There’s simply no approach round it.

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Talking of bouncing again from discomfort, you additionally discuss concerning the resilience you construct from browsing massive waves—bouncing again after being smashed by a wave earlier than your breath runs out.

That’s the apex of discomfort—it’s dying, proper? Nothing is extra uncomfortable than when you suppose you’re going to die. Whether or not it’s leaping out of a airplane, driving a quick automotive, or doing one thing the place you’re beneath menace, the apex of being beneath menace is dying.

, you are going to get post-traumatic stress from feeling like you are going to die, that is simply a part of the brilliant mild/darkish shadow. However I believe that that there is a line in fact proper that the place it’s a bit extra sincere solution to to expertise life, to be threatened by dying at instances. That is actually the world that we stay in.

We have modified that fairly considerably by sort of eliminating every part that is actually a menace. And every part that could be a menace, we’ve made much less threatening. And we have been in a position to sort of scale back our publicity to that sort of menace to the purpose the place it is virtually non-existent for lots of people.

That is why I’ll say at instances that it might be good if everyone scared themselves as soon as a day, simply had a bit, “Whoa!” Then they’ll recalibrate. It simply makes you respect different issues, and it tends to make folks extra form.

Worry is one thing I wished to ask you about. In Free Solo, there’s quite a lot of speak about climber Alex Honnold’s mind not permitting him to really feel concern. However in interviews—like this podcast with Whoop—he says he looks like he skilled his thoughts to be desensitized to it. As somebody who additionally tackles, massive scary pure obstacles, do you continue to get scared? Or do you suppose you’ve skilled your thoughts to not really feel it?

I’ve a idea about that! I noticed that half about Alex, and that is my idea: While you’re uncovered to hazard, that’s a really taxing factor on the system. If day-after-day I put you in entrance of a bear that was going to eat you, you’d be exhausted. And if I did that to you day-after-day, fairly quickly, the physique could be like, “Properly, I didn’t get eaten. And being scared is taking an excessive amount of power. It’s too taxing on the system emotionally and bodily. So I’m going to cease being as scared, and see if I nonetheless don’t get eaten.”

You finally get to some extent the place your system doesn’t have the identical response. And someone trying from the surface would say, “Why is he not scared?” He’s! You’ve labored your solution to it.

I grew up getting washed out to sea, proper? So I’d be caught in a rip present, and I believed, “I’m gonna die.” After which the subsequent day, I believed, “’I’m gonna die.” After you exit and also you get sucked out and also you suppose you are gonna die for a 12 months straight … fairly quickly, when you do not die, if you get sucked out the mind’s like, “Properly, I do not suppose i am gonna die as a result of I have not died the final 12 months.”

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I watched the movie and I noticed the phase the place they mentioned [he doesn’t feel fear], and I might relate to folks saying, “Oh, you are not scared and this and that.” It is not that you just’re not scared. There’s an entire system that’s designed to maintain us alive—it’s a primal a part of the mind. Even single-celled organisms have “concern.” In case you put them close to warmth, they’ll run away.

It is simply that you just you’ve a unique relation, you’ve a unique response. Your system cannot cannot react that powerfully to that scenario as a result of it you do it too typically, you’ve got carried out it an excessive amount of. The system could be like, “Hey, I haven’t got sufficient energy. I haven’t got sufficient emotional capability. I simply cannot do it.” In order that’s my idea.

[Alex] mentioned it in one other approach. He mentioned he desensitized or skilled himself to do it. However I don’t suppose you skilled your self to do it—in a approach, you probably did, since you frequently expose your self. It’s not a acutely aware factor. It’s unconscious studying. The acutely aware thoughts strikes too sluggish. It couldn’t really pull it off.

One of many methods you practice your self for these extremes underwater is together with your XPT coaching system. [At XPT training camps, people undergo intense conditioning workouts underwater, combining lifting and swimming.] Is there a protected approach somebody can attempt an XPT-style train or exercise at residence to get a style of that coaching?

We’re reluctant to promote [pool work] without having supervision due to the character [and danger] of what water represents. That’s why the breath work on land is so nice: If you wish to expertise what it might be love to do the pool work, you are able to do that by way of different cardio units out of the water.

Get on a rowing machine or an Assault bike, and every minute—on the minute—hold your breath for 10 seconds and attempt to sustain your tempo. Carry out a exercise session that approach, and that can simulate what we’re experiencing within the water.

For one thing a bit extra indifferent—In your e book, Liferider, you additionally speak about train as being a transferring meditation. How can somebody attempt to get that coaching impact?

An lively meditation exercise has acquired to be one thing that you might detach from, one thing that you do not have to consciously interact with the motion itself. It’s not one thing you’re not good at—it’s important to be sort of good at it so you may let go. So usually it’ll be some sort of cardio—rowing, biking, operating, swimming. For me, it’s paddling.

We speak about stream state: You sort of detach from the immediacy of what you’re doing, and also you’re trying to the space. You’re not simply trying on the factor you’re doing proper now. You’re in a position to simply sort of do it. To get to that place whereas meditating, you’d must be superb, otherwise you’d must be meditation for a very long time.

That’s why I really like browsing a lot. Using waves, for me, there’s a detachment. That’s in all probability the apex of my lively meditation.

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We talked a bit about your morning routine. One other a part of that for you—and for a lot of of our readers—is espresso. Whether or not it’s together with your Laird Superfood creamers or ghee, you’re including fat to your espresso. Why?

, my sustained power is loopy [when I have fat in my coffee]. Currently, we’ve been just having one meal a day. I’ll undoubtedly not eat something till the afternoon, and I can run or journey or swim or surf for six, eight hours, and never want something.

Not everyone’s suited to that specific factor, however everyone advantages from good fat. And lots of people use caffeine. It is fascinating as a result of I’ll eat a good quantity of caffeine, however as a result of the caffeine and the fats are collectively, you time-release it. I can not actually drink straight black espresso from a French press as a result of it is simply an excessive amount of. So regardless that i am consuming extra caffeine in my morning ritual, I do not expertise that. I get this time-released impact. For me, that is sort of like utilizing that as my breakfast. I can simply work tougher for longer.

As we age, we’re speculated to must decelerate—however you don’t appear to care about that. What ought to guys be doing otherwise of their coaching, or fascinated with otherwise, as they hit their thirties, forties, and fifties?

I believe you’ve to concentrate on the harm you’ve taken from the repetitive motions in your coaching, however I believe we put an excessive amount of worth in getting previous. You’re seeing it now in quite a lot of sports activities‚ guys being older and nonetheless performing nicely. A part of it’s taking higher care of ourselves, extra refined data, higher coaching meals. That’s a part of it. However we even have so many examples of, hey, you may simply preserve going. I believe it is actually extra related to need.

Lots of it’s persons are burnt out, and so they’re like, “Hey, I’m previous now.” The organism is in search of a straightforward approach out. So now, if I say “I’m previous” and that will get me off having to work, practice, eat, get a bruise, fall down. I believe that’s the place the unconscious a part of the organism performs into it. It says, “Hey, you’re previous now. You don’t have to go do this factor as a result of it’s going to be onerous and it’s going to harm.” So we’re making an attempt to keep away from the discomfort.

Folks speak about not being 100%. There’s no such factor as 100%—I don’t suppose you’ve been 100% because you stepped into this world and took the primary breath of exhaust from a automotive. It’s your skill to function in discomfort. Are you able to simply preserve rolling damaged? [My friend Don] Wildman, [founder of Bally’s and a Malibu legend who worked out into his 80s,] was the king of that. He’d have a damaged leg and he’s be on a stationary bike with a crutch on the opposite pedal driving with one leg. You simply must chunk down on the strap and cope with it.

That’s simply a part of being human. You’re right here and stuff’s damaged. Stuff doesn’t work. I believe [men in their forties and fifties] have to seek out enjoyable, too. That’s a giant piece of it. Search for issues that curiosity you, which are enjoyable. Everyone knows this: You get on a stationary bike and also you’re driving, and after 20 minutes, you’re considering, “Man, can I get off this factor?” However you journey a bicycle and it is, “Wow, that was three hours?”

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Discover issues which are enjoyable, that you just get pleasure from doing. Then you definitely’ll do extra, you’ll go longer. You gained’t be counting the reps. It jogs my memory of an fascinating examine: Scientists requested, “Who’re the very best at video video games?” And everyone thought it might be the children. Truly, no, it’s not the children. It’s adults that actually wished to play. So the very best folks at video video games are adults, however they actually must need to play.

I do know it’s been just a few years, however I’m sorry for the lack of Don Wildman. While you had been coaching with him, you had been one of many “youthful guys.” Do you’ve your personal “youthful guys” in your life now that you just’re the mentor for, but in addition taking inspiration from?

I’ve acquired a man proper now. He’s a child, nicely, he’s a child, however he’s a person: He’s a giant wave surfer, Luca Padua, and he really lives with us proper now and trains. He’s a giant wave rider from Mavericks up in San Francisco. He got here into my household’s life. My dad used to say that massive wave riders are born, not made. So that you’re sort of born with the spirit of 1. [Luca] is sort of a cro-magnon man—half wild, half civilized.

I believe if you’re youthful, you’ve guys you look as much as, and as you become older, you’ve younger guys as a result of it’s important to return the opposite approach—as a result of these are the one guys which are actually motivated sufficient to do the stuff you need to do. Wildman all the time had these—I used to be simply considered one of 20 younger guys that had been with him, doing the issues he wished to do. That’s what created the bond, and that’s what’s occurred with Luca. I’m doing the issues he desires to do, and he’s doing the issues I need to do.

It’s all the time good if you’re doing one thing, and also you’re like, “Wow, this actually is superb.” However you’re additionally like, I don’t know, “is it actually superb?” Then you definitely get someone that comes alongside and so they say, “Yeah, that is superb.”

That’s the place teamwork comes from. That’s the place neighborhood is available in—when you’ve those that practice collectively, that work collectively, and also you all carry one another up in a approach. It’s not a combative-type state of affairs. Guys will say, “My opponent lifted me up,” however there’s a limitation to that. While you’re collectively and also you’re not competing in opposition to them, their success isn’t at the price of your failure. The success comes from each of your successes. I all the time wished that.

I don’t even consider myself as older. It’s simply the fellows I relate to, which have the power and are motivated like I’m, it simply occurs that I’m older and so they’re youthful. Search for like-minded folks, and that’s what you find yourself with.

Greg Presto is a health and sports activities reporter and videographer in Washington, DC.

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