Able at 80 – A New Paradigm of Fitness

Able at 80 – A New Paradigm of Fitness Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic

17 May Able at 80 – A New Paradigm of Fitness

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**Author’s Note: Welcome New Jersey Women’s Health Summit listeners!  We intended for the below blog post to be an e-book, equipped with life-changing inspirational tips and a paradigm for fitness that can change you!  Alas, life happened and the e-book has not been created.  The good news is that all of the content that was intended for that e-book is below.  What is below is a 15 minute read.  If you read it, I promise that you’ll get something you can use in your daily life that will put you on the path of health, fitness, and Able at 80! Please let us know what you think and if I can be of service to you in any way, let me know!

I’m not 80 and I’m not what most would describe as unable or unfit.

Though I have suffered a lot.  Spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Because of that suffering, I’m keenly aware of suffering around me.  In a medicine ceremony with the psychedelic grandmother plant ayahuasca, I had a direct experience of universal suffering and compassion providing fuel to heal the world, but that’s for another time.

Not being able to stand anyone’s pain leaves me trying to heal everyone’s pain.  All inclusively.  My own pain, that of my friends, my community, and my world.  Sometimes people tell me to stay out of their business.  I do the best I can to respect their wishes.  But for everyone else, I accept my responsibility.

Unfortunately, attachment to one’s own pain and comfort with one’s current life situation leaves many unhelpable.  Offering to ease their pain and take it away is akin to trying to steal the baby child out of their hands.  Really.  There’s that much resistance.

Getting to the heart of inspiring people to pursue their pain-free, healthiest, fittest, happiest, and flourishing selves has meant figuring out what that highest pain is causing someone to take action in the face of a world that wants quick fixes.

7 Minute Abs.  Weight Watchers.  Gastric bypass.  Biggest Loser.

Able at 80 is about touching on a latent pain inside of all of our psyches.  The fact is that all of us are aging and will one day, pass out of this material existence on Earth into another world.  Up until now, the vast majority of people believed that aging equals sickness, disease, degeneration, and suffering.

I’m here to tell you that the belief is not one based on reality. It’s not true.

I’m here to tell you that the suffering your parents or grandparents are going through right now is caused by their lifestyle choices and beliefs.

Lastly, the pain of watching loved ones suffer is the most effective motivational tool I’ve seen to get you to choose fitness and health NOW, before it is too late.

I write this to inspire you to choose health and fitness.  When you do, you give your spirit the opportunity to be happy and flourish.

Surrounding myself with healthy, fit, happy, and flourishing people inspires me because I want to be happy myself.  And as Grandma Ayahuasca has taught me, we’re all in this thing called “Life” together.

Come be Able at 80 with me.  It starts by being Able Now.

The Inciting Incident

Your grandmother is sitting in the couch next to you, watching television.  You enjoy your time with her and look at her to savor the moment.  Tears are rolling down her cheeks.  She wipes them away with her sleeve.

You don’t need to ask her why she’s crying.

Five minutes before, she called you from the bathroom.


You went into the bathroom where you found her with her pants down, sitting on the toilet bowl.  Having done this dozens of times before, you gave her a bear hug and lifted her up off the toilet bowl.  With space between her butt and the bowl, she was able to pull her pants up herself.

You carried her over to the couch, where she resumes to waste away until God takes her away, as she had demanded God do for the previous six months on a daily basis.  Those demands were formerly less impactful as wishes, when she was still able to wipe her own ass and get herself to the couch.  The dire circumstances of not being able to get herself off the toilet bowl transformed her conversation with God into a one-way demand.

The above is the true story of my very own Babci (polish word for “Grandmother”), who lived with my father and I for two years after her minor stroke until she passed.  As painful as it was, I’m forever grateful to Babci for the lessons I learned.

Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle choices.

Treat it well and it will treat your psyche well. Treat it poorly and … well … the future doesn’t look pretty.

Having the experience of watching a loved one suffer as the growing immobility, surmounting pain, whithering life-force, and ability to do what one loves is taken away is one of the most humbling experiences anyone can have.  In fact, for the patients I’ve seen in my brief six years treating hundreds of chronic pain sufferers, it is the most inspiring and motivational experience one could have to want more health and fitness in life.

Because of the Aging Parent Experience (APE), the Able at 80 Movement takes root.

Let’s plant the seed now: The APE is unacceptable, entirely undesirable, and completely preventable.

To avoid the APE, we need to know why your parents were duped onto the path of suffering.

Every Movement Has a Dictator

Named must your fear be before banish it you can. ~ Yoda

Yoda may have been talking about fear, but he was also talking about changing destinations on the path.

To change destinations and directions, we need to stop, look around, and figure out what got us here in the first place.

The evil hand of the Dictator that controls our path.

If you plant a seed, do you get mad at it when it doesn’t bear fruit in seven minutes of planting?


I don’ t know of anyone who would be discouraged by the unfulfilled promises behind the theoretical product “7 Minute Fruit Bearing”.

What’s not to like behind the thought of that product?  Promising fruit in only 7 minutes, it’s sure to please!  A marketer’s dream!

Except that Nature and it’s sister Law Reality can’t produce fruit in 7 minutes.

But we humans expect fruit in 7 minutes when it comes to all of our own health, fitness, and natural processes:

  • 7 Minute Abs
  • Biggest Loser
  • Weight Watchers
  • Gastric Bypass
  • The use of advil, aspirin, cortisone, kinesiotape, and rocktape

Living in the world of quick fixes has left many hungry for more speed, more results, and more answers.  Suffering is inevitable in this world.  What’s needed is not more speed but complete reprogramming of the paradigm.  We need to live in the world of reality & possibility.  The world of quick fixes has left many fearful based on the observation of loved ones, frustrated because they’ve tried chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists who have left them with the same nagging pain and no diagnosis to understand what is even causing it, and confused about the truth.

Break Nature’s Rules – Get Punished.

The Dictator of the Able at 80 Revolution is mass ignorance of Mother Nature’s principles.  The minions are those organizations that deceive us in believing that fruit can be produced in 7 minutes and perpetuating the Dictator’s core tenet: that you can have success while disrespecting where you come from, Nature’s seed.

A few minions are listed above.  They make money selling a product with a message that others naturally want but never receive.

While “The Biggest Loser” appears to help people lose big weight, the journal Obesity confirmed that losing weight “Biggest Loser” style destroys the loser’s metabolism.  The only people having abs on 7 Minute Abs’ infomercials are the individuals who have spent a lifetime being fit and building those abs in the first place.  Restricting calories like they do on Weight Watchers while allowing consumption of inflammatory foods is a reductionist viewpoint to get results that doesn’t last and even worse, literally kill you over time.  Tying up someone’s intestines through gastric bypass bypasses the fact that there is an emotional reason behind an individual’s eating.  That emotion is sure to manifest through some other outlet in the future.  Using pain-reducing modalities such as advil or aspirin without understanding why pain was experienced in the first place is a sure-fire way to experience more pain in the future.

Is it a surprise, then, that when you break Nature’s rules, you get punished?

What is required is that we follow Nature’s rules, and when we do, health, fitness, and happiness results.  According to Mother Nature, those are our natural birth rights.

Why the Dictator Has A Hold On Us

Health and fitness is not a “knowledge” based problem.

Most humans know we have to move well and eat well to be healthy and fit.  We inherently understand that it’s a process that must be respected.  Still, people aren’t doing pursuing it and continue to spend money on the carrot dangling in front of their eyes: tasty, delicious, and sure to fix quickly.

Health and fitness is a “behavioral psychology” problem.

To escape the dictator, the minions, and feed the movement, we need to escape the dictator’s grasp and decide to play the game of reality and possibility with Mother Nature holding our hands on the path and aligning our actions with the vision of our highest selves

The game starts by understanding the rules.

According to the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change, there are five phases of mental processing:

  1.    Pre-Contemplation – not thinking about it
  2.    Contemplation – thinking about it
  3.    Preparation – getting ready to do it
  4.    Action – doing
  5.    Maintenance – still doing it

Most of us aren’t aware of the current path our body’s health and fitness is on until the APE shows its ugly face.  The APE quickly motivates us go from the Pre-Contemplative phase of Change all the way through Action, with little reason to regress backwards based on the emotional pain that occurs from how close-to-home the suffering hits (your parents are one generation of your genes from being you).

As painful as the APE is, we must magnify it to create the best lives for ourselves.  We must cultivate awareness of the path we are currently on, especially if that path is one of the same lifestyle choices that our suffering parent made in the past. With mindfulness, we can then get our trusty compass out for the destination we dream of for ourselves decades down the road, and simply, choose to walk a different path.

Magnifying the pain to cultivate awareness, add one part APE to three parts self-reflection below:

  • Have you had pain that is either reoccurring? ie. low back pain that comes and goes, neck pain that prevents you from reading or texting for more than 20 minutes, or an extremity injury that prevents you from performing the activity that you love, whether softball, gardening, or golf?
  • Have you had pain that has lasted more than 6 months?
  • Do you know how to respect nature’s rules in order to age gracefully so that you’re more able than you are today like many of the world’s modern hunter gatherer societies?

After self-reflecting, which path are you on?  Are you moving on the path of the APE at 80 or the Path of Able at 80?

Mother Knows Best

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” ~Theodosius Dobzhansky

In nature, our genes have evolved over millions of years through the process of natural selection to survive.  The process removes weak genes and perpetuates the strong.  Therefore, individual traits that allow for the expression of health, fitness, and survival get perpetuated.  Is all of the suicide present in 2016 a surprise to anyone when it comes to how we’re breaking Nature’s rules when it comes to sugar-laden diets, sedentary movement lifestyles and social online engagement?  I digress.

Evolution tells us that Homo sapiens (the species name for us humans) require high quality protein, healthy fat, and lots of clean fruits and veggies to build our bodies up.  We need to move the way nature intended by constantly varying our movements and postures, outside, in company of other organisms (both human and non-human).  We need to limit our exposure to toxins and increase our exposure to nutrient dense substances.  We need to be a part of a tribe, experience love and laughter on a daily basis, dream and pursue those dreams to experience the fullest extent of what it is like to be the blessed Homo sapien’s potential we are here to fulfill.

An Aging Experiment

One of my biggest fears in life is regret.  I will do anything in my power to avoid regret.

The most effective tool in my tool-belt for avoiding regret is the Deathbed Meditation.  Picturing myself on my deathbed, surrounded by loved ones, reminiscing about the moments that characterized the life I lived allows me to see the action steps I need to take to live the life of my dreams.

Although I meditate on what it feels like to be on my deathbed, I have never been able to visualize what I would look like at 80.

As part of this project, decided to find out what I would look like at 80.  Technology does serve a purpose and after 10 seconds of searching, I found an Iphone App called “Aging Booth”.

Let me tell you, I look damn handsome at 80.

Do a Deathbed Meditation

Looking at the image, besides the humility I express in 50 years, I became acutely aware that as far as we really know, this is the only life I get to live.  My relationships, goals, and dreams immediately inflated in size to epic proportions.

If this is my only body, I’d better not gamble with my health so that I can partake in as many moments of wonder and celebration with you as possible.

I’d like to invite you to experience the same awe of life that I did by spending the next 120 seconds of your day to download the “Aging Booth” app, putting your picture in, and reflecting on the fact that you are aging.

You’re either aging gracefully or aging into an APE, the choice is and always will be, your’s.

Reframing Fitness So Everyone Wants It

“I have no pain. Why do I need to workout?” asked my relative.

“You’re 55.  You have no pain now because you don’t do anything. Do you lose or gain muscle mass as you age?”

“You lose it.”

“Do you like watching your daughters age and playing golf?  Do you like helping your wife clean the house?  Do you want to hold your grandkids some day?”


“Well, then when are we starting your workout plan?”

Fitness is not just “cardio” to strengthen the heart or a workout just to burn fat.

It’s much more than that.

Fitness is  the ability to do what one wants to do in life (or might have to do in the future).

Fitness is the ability to go #2 without a toilet bowl like cavemen did or to get up off the ground if you fall.  It is the ability to carry your kids out of a burning building or the ability to swim into the ocean to save your kid, heaven forbid he or she was drowning.  It is the ability to run when time is of the essence, to sit when you must sit, to stand when you must stand, to shovel when snow is on the ground, or to have sex when it is sexy time.

With that definition of fitness, how is your current movement lifestyle serving you?

The CrossFit philosophy addresses 10 individual facets of fitness:

  1. agility
  2. accuracy
  3. balance
  4. coordination
  5. endurance
  6. flexibility
  7. power
  8. strength
  9. speed
  10. stamina

At Barefoot Rehab, we have taken the 10 attributes of fitness and outlined them in house form below so that you know how fitness must be built to be effective.  We call this approach, the soft tissue workout.


A well-rounded fitness program should address all 10 of those attributes.  When implemented, one can change one’s path from sickness to wellness to fitness, increasing health as one increases fitness along the way (as long as you don’t become a professional athlete and overtrain).

If we’re talking about being Able at 80, it means being prepared for anything that life may throw at you.

Fitness resources:

The US. Department of Health and Human Services released a booklet for men and women ages 18-64 based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (

On the National Institude of Health’s website, (

Are you Able?

Assuming you’re currently sitting, stand up.  Sit down.

Congratulations!  You just did a movement called a “squat”!


  • How long did it take you?
  • Was it easy or hard?
  • Did you have to use your arms to help?
  • Did you have any symptoms?

Now, lie on the ground face down.  Get up to your seat.

Another congratulations are in order!  You just did a push-up combined with a burpee.

Self-reflect again.

Are you able?

Born as babies, we learned without anyone teaching us how to roll over, sit up, push up, stand up, squat, walk, and finally run.  Not using these movements has caused us to lose the ability to perform them.

To get them back, we must follow Mother Nature’s lead.  In Nature, we constantly vary our movements by the necessity of life.  We lift heavy things, move our blood through play or hunting, and use minimal repetitive movements or postures.  If nature has fitness engrained into it, we need to come as close as possible to replicating that environment.

Which rules are you breaking?

Movement is what we are seeking.

In the modern world, it may not be as simple as seeking more movement given what our work life and the technological world may demand of us to regain the same fitness that our hunter gatherer ancestors had.

Prioritizing different modalities of fitness may be required.

If you’re a yogi, you may have to prioritize “strength” movements in the 3-5 repetition range to bring balance to the excessive flexibiilty you already have.

You probably can touch the ground with your knees straight or touch your arms to your ears (standards for lower and upper body flexibility that reveal mechanical dysfunction), but you may not be able to squat 1x your body weight (standard for lower body strength).

If you’re a runner, you may have to prioritize “coordination” and perform lunges to buffer how much you love to run and be sure you maintain the ability to run in the future.

You probably can bike and swim without losing your breath (standard for cardiovascular endurance), but you may not be able to do a push-up (standard for upper body strength).

If you’re a lifter, you may have to prioritize “flexibility/endurance” and introduce yoga, swimming, or gymnastics movements to the excessive mass you’ve built up to this point.

You probably can lift a house, but can you touch your toes or scratch our back (standards for flexibility).

In the positive psychology world, the greatest signature strength you can have to live the life you imagine for yourself is self-regulation.  It is the ability to change course for yourself.

If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can reorient yourself to give your body more of what it craves moving forward.

Take Action

Once you’ve got your handy dandy compass out and you determine which direction is true-north, it’s time to step one foot in front of the other and take action.

The question becomes: Where should I spend my time/effort to get the biggest ROI and not experience any diminishing returns?

The answers brings 3 principles to mind:

  1. Quota-based Movement.
  2. Constant Movement.
  3. Walk – Your Dog – With Others – Outside.

Quota-based Movement

You don’t necessarily need to do conventional exercise in order to be able.

You do need to perform a minimum amount of the foundational movements in order to maintain a baseline level of fitness.

This minimum amount is your daily quota, which can be met wherever your current fitness is and slowly increased gradually week by week.

Two basic movements provide the most bang-for-your-buck when it comes to hitting your daily quotas in all ten attributes of fitness.

The squat cover the lower body.

The push-up (on the floor or on the edge of a couch or stable table) cover the upper body.

Choose a quota based on your current fitness level:

  • Beginners: <30 per day.
  • Intermediate: 31-50 per day.
  • Advanced: >51 per day.

Arbitrarily, let’s say you work 8 hours a day, taking a half hour lunch in the middle of your day.  You also choose a quota of 48 for the squats and push-ups.

If you were to perform those movements every half hour, you’d do 16 sets.

Divide your daily quota of 48 by 16 sets … and each half hour you’d be doing 3 squats and 3 push-ups which would likely take you 15 seconds (or in the worst possible scenario, 60 seconds if you need to move slowly to protect a damaged body part).

Do you realize how much good it would do your body to hit that quota every day, for the rest of your life?

  • In a week, you’d do almost 350 reps.
  • In a month, you’d do almost 1400 reps.
  • In a year, you’d do almost 16,800 reps.

And this excludes exercise!  Not to fail to mention that you’d be keeping your Non-exercise activity thermogenesis levels as high as can be, minimizing risk of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and almost every other chronic metabolic condition that affects sedentary people.

Constant Movement

The only healthy posture is one that’s always changing. ~Stu McGill

This one’s fairly simple.  Move as much as possible, all of the time.

Your quota contributes to this principle.  But this principle also means not to maintain sedentary postures for any length of time.

Or when you’re performing the same movement for a long duration, take lots of breaks.

In this category, activities to be conscious of include:

  • Cell Phone use
  • Computer use
  • Reading
  • Other repetitive activities or sustained postures

Walk – Your Dog – With Others – Outside

Walking is arguable the most foundational human movement pattern with a ridiculous amount of health benefits.

Adding your dog to the mix opens up your heart to caring for another living being, instilling compassion, love, and service for another.

Moving with other humans touches on the social aspect to your health.  In the book Blue Zones, Dan Buettner notes that an individual’s tribe is the most important piece to making it 100 years of age.  Using the same movement pattern with other human beings allows you to release oxytocin, the trust hormone, allowing you to connect on a subconscious level.

If you haven’t noticed how being outside just does something amazing to your physiology, pay more attention next time you step outside.  Science is only beginning to touch on what some have already begun calling Vitamin N.

Are you stopped by pain?

If pain is stopping you from walking down the path of “Able at 80”, take a deep breath and don’t fret.

While you certainly have a problem in your body somewhere, you can still begin to move in a way that increases your ability without putting stress on those damage body parts, which would exponentially quicken the rate at which that tissue is degenerating.

The first thing to do is to become aware of how much work you did when you felt the pain.

  • Did you walk 1 mile when your foot started throbbing?
  • Did you squat until your thigh was parallel to the ground when the knee began to ache?
  • Did you have to walk for 5 minutes after getting out of bed before the low back stiffness went away?

Ideally, awareness of these symptoms would be most helpful in a conversation with a qualified muscoluskeletal specialist who could diagnose and treat your condition to leave you not having to worry about the pain.

If you have someone to advocate for your body, great! If you don’t, you can always pick up the phone and ask for a consultation with Dr. Curtis or myself at Barefoot Rehab.  Our purpose in life is to help people transform their bodies.

If you don’t live in North Jersey but want to find someone, you can download The 7 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Pain Doctor.

If you don’t have the resources to address your pain, you simply have to avoid putting so much stress on your body that your body’s fire alarm goes off.


Start moving, but don’t put more water (load or work) in your bucket (capacity or fitness) than it will allow.

Guaranteeing Success: The Principle of Kaizen

The practice of continuous improvement is kaizen.

It is the patient process of trusting that the consistent, gradual work you do will, with certainty, guarantee results.

Nobody ever yells at the seed for the natural process it takes as it takes root, sprouts, then flowers.

But when it comes to our own fitness or health goals, we spend money on things that break the laws of nature.

By performing the above action plan, you’ll notice greater ease in a few days.  More strength and range of motion in a few weeks.  In a month?  Well, you’ll be MORE ABLE.


Are you Ready to be more able?

This is the end.  This is the kick swift to your behind to get out of the nest and fly as you become more able.

Able in movement, body, allowing ability in mind, spirit, and happiness too.

I believe in you.

You can achieve anything you want to achieve.

My Babci suffered heavily at the end of her life.  There are millions of people across the world who don’t have to suffer if they would only be mindful and choose an alternate path.  The power is in your hands.

Thank you for being here with me.  I appreciate you more than you know.  I am committed to your greatest life and will do anything in my power to achieve that end.  All you have to do is ask.

speechbubblesTell us what has stopped you in becoming able in the past?  And what will you do with more ability in the future? How does the process outlined here help ease your mind to realize that you can achieve your health and fitness goals?

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Dr. Chris Stepien, DC, Full-Body ID Certified, ART Certified, CSCS, and CrossFit Level 1 Certified, fixes your annoying and frustrating pains, even when it's been over 6 months and you've seen 3-5 other doctors or therapists without lasting relief Barefoot Rehab in Denville, NJ. And when you're sad, depressed, or not enjoying life, Dr. Chris wants to hug you. He invites you to reach out, no matter what your concern is. Barefoot Rehab is here to serve you.
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  • Able at 80 – A New Paradigm of Fitness | Primal Docs
    Posted at 18:56h, 17 May Reply

    […] Able at 80 – A New Paradigm of Fitness […]

  • Ross Pelton
    Posted at 13:14h, 18 May Reply

    Hi Chris, thanks for all your efforts to encourage people of all ages to exercise and WORK to obtain and maintain good helath. I am 73 years old and have been doing CrossFit for about 5 years. I have a lot of good articles on my blog that teaches people the value of intense exercise. For people who can’t or don’t want to engage in intense exercise,…..any type of movement is better than none. See my blog at:
    In health, Ross

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 14:42h, 18 May Reply

      Hi Ross! Thanks for the comment. You, sir, are an inspiration. I love when “older”, please forgive my language, people step up and start moving functionally. My father is 68 years old and does CrossFit as well. Your website has a plethora of good information! I will definitely stay in the loop myself. Love + Gratitude, Chris

  • John Rasmussen DC
    Posted at 17:11h, 19 May Reply

    Just read your article, thought to myself this guy has to be a DC. Glad you are my friend. Great advice in this article. Covered a lot of aspects of health and being well. Good read.

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 17:22h, 19 May Reply

      Ha. We think alike Dr. Rasmussen! Appreciate your kind words very much. Your logo is amazing by the way. Keep up with the magic in Washington!

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