The Art of Communication podcast transcript
Episode 20: The Art of Communication Expert series: Josh Salzmann
Hello and welcome to The Art of Communication podcast with me Robin Kermode. For more information on my online public speaking masterclass, visit robinkermode.com. On The Art of Communication podcast Expert Series today, I’m delighted to be joined by legendary fitness guru Josh Saltzman. He has been a fitness instructor for over 40 years, is a published author, popular media commentator. He works with senior executives, leading entrepreneurs, members of the royal family sports personalities, and actors such as Sir Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Pierce Brosnan, together with Sir Paul McCartney, and me.
Well, me is a very important guy. Let’s not forget me, everybody’s a me. It’s great to work with you, Robin. I mean, obviously, as an actor, you have the exuberance of someone that’s not an actor in the sense that actors tend to be very insecure. You don’t seem like an insecure guy.
Is that what you find about actors?
I found that there’s been a lot of actors I know who get a little nervous. And they always say the same reason is because they’re afraid of being found out that they’re faking it. Well, you’re an actor, you’re supposed to be faking. It is the art of faking it. That’s exactly what it is. So why are you worried about being caught out? But then they say, being caught out about not faking it well enough!
All of us have that thing about not being good enough. But I’m intrigued today just to talk about the link between physical fitness and mental agility and mental health. How much do you think the fitness of somebody affects how their mind works?
Well, there’s no question the fitness of someone, the physical fitness of someone will affect their emotional fitness, and their choice of actions. As a fitness trainer, I’m on show or I’d say I’m acting in a sense, I’m entertaining people, six times a day, all of those people are different. So the communication skills that I use for those people are different for each person. And obviously, you have to listen, watching how a person moves, wanting to catch up on how they were over the last 24 hours. So you can make your decisions about how they should exercise, even if they say they want to hammer themselves in a tough session, you have to make the judgment call how much to push the person, it is so important to be physically fit. Because as we know, from the army, if you’re not physically fit, you’ll get shot. If you’re not physically fit, you’ll make the wrong decision. As I say to people, if I’m not physically fit, I will take things personally. When my client, for instance, is just acting out their fears and anxieties. So I have to be the one, whether it’s a professional athlete, or it’s a CEO, that has to be Mr. Steady Eddy. And that takes a lot of physical strength, because when you’re weak, it’s very hard to have patience.
I’ve never had a personal trainer before I’ve always, like most people, you know, done a bit of running or bit of yoga, or maybe gone to the gym, and I’ve pumped away doing my thing on the cross trainer, whatever. But you work in a very different way. You don’t have any equipment, you work in a very hands on way. So your relationship with your client is very intimate. Can you tell us what your method is because it’s very different from going to a gym.
Well, when I came to this country, about 36 years ago, nobody had any equipment, I learned where I was in in Israel, they learned how to use my hands a little bit with some professional athletes that had done some things of that nature, where you would simulate an exercise using manual resistance. So I can get bespoke on every muscle group you need. But not only that, over the years, I’ve developed to be an osteopath, as well. So in your case, Robin, that you’ve been serving a lot, because you like to play tennis, and I need to release your bicep and your elbow, I can do that with my hands while we’re exercising. So when you’re touching people, not only can you get the pressure, right, but you have to watch people’s energies. But in a good way. I’m strong enough to be able to physically give them a good session. Simulate every exercise you do in a gym with a weight, only it’s me with my hands or a towel, and also be able to handle them emotionally or ride them out, as we say in wrestling, because I was a wrestler. So sometimes if you just leaned on a person long enough, they’d come around to the way they should come around. So that takes a lot of energy. You need to prepare yourself every day through the right mindset, the right nutrition, the right flexibility, and you have to be really grounded. So if I was talking to you as an instructor, and you were on the exercise bike, like you see all the time with personal trainers, and we’re watching TV and commenting on whether we’re both going to get to our holidays, you’re drifting away. You could be kind of agreeing with whatever I say but not really listening to me at all and you’re not engaged because there’s too many distractions. But if I’m in your face, and I got your hands and the only thing you can do is lift them. I’ve got your attention and I’m concentrating on very specific movements. The other interesting thing is, Robin, you’re in great condition for a recreational athlete, and you’re getting in better condition.
Well, because of you!
Well, thank you for that. However, I would say that most people’s fault is they keep repeating the same thing that they’re doing in a gym. And maybe that’s simultaneously parallel with their life, you know, keep repeating the same thing expect something different to happen, you work up a sweat, and they keep finding that every Monday, they’re heavier than they were last week, or they don’t feel stronger. Or, for instance, they’re just aggravating their shoulder, they limped into a gym. We tend to not think of our bodies as our most important asset. You know, if somebody went out from the gym that was limping out of a very high end gym, that they’re paying 1000s of pounds every year to belong to, and their car made a little noise, you can rest assured they take their car to the mechanic right away. But when it comes to their body, they go, Wow, you know, I got a little pain. Who cares? I trained Bob Diamond, and I remember I said to him one time I said, Bob, if you treated Barclays the way you treated your body, I think the whole thing would go under in a week. So you need to train smart, not hard. And this is not something, Robin, than I learned a couple of weeks ago. It’s something you develop. And you know, we all learn, especially with myself, you learn from making mistakes with yourself. And I always say to people good news with having an older trainer, especially someone of 65. If they are still live, they must have learned something.
Yes, you look fantastic. Do you describe yourself now, currently, as fit or healthy? What word would you use to describe your state of mind? That’s not so much your body, but your state of mind?
I’d say I’m in the best shape of my life in the holistic term. Wisdom wise, I’ve learned so much from you, Robin. So let’s be honest here with applauding each other’s professionalism. But the truth is, I’m a sponge, I learned from everybody in my life, I think what’s really important is I’ve learned when to let go of things. And for instance, I think the problem is with clients. And it might be slightly different with you, you know, I’ve had a lot of clients over the years that just book in a personal trainer, because it takes care of their guilt syndrome. And they never get anyplace. So I don’t own that. I do what I can for people, and I give them the best. And then I walk away. And even with my own children, I love them. But I learned the hard way that you can’t change anyone unless they want to change.
The way you work with clients is so intimate. How do you communicate with somebody so intimately? Because you’re going to have people who love their bodies, hate their bodies, feel great, feel terrible, whatever, they have highs and lows and all the things that happen to people in life. How do you react to that? And how do you work in such an intimate, close up way? How do you connect with somebody when you’re closer than most people would be, in that physical space?
What you do is first of all, you need a lot of empathy for people. I think empathy is really important. I believe because of my own history of being a fat child, I was a 10 stone six year old, my dad was a Rabbi, we lived in an Italian Irish neighbourhood, so you know what it feels like to be the underdog, or the person that no one wants to play with. Or when you get up to the front of the line where you ride a pony. The guy says how much do you weigh, son? And you say, I weigh this and they say, No, you’re too fat for this pony. There wasn’t very much political correctness back in the day. Yeah, so I started working out. I was about 10 years old, but it still impressed on my mind what it feels like to not be wanted. And I think that anybody who says, whatever they say about their body, a lot of times, it’s just a cover up. I remember what it was like to emotionally eat. As a young child, when I felt bad about being fat, I used to eat some more Oreo cookies. Or when Wagon Train was on, and Clint Eastwood had some beans. I felt bad about myself, I would grab some nuts. I mean, I was in a constant nausea, as we say, in Yiddish. And a lot of that is emotional eating. So I would say this, that I can communicate well with people because I know the types of people that they could be. And even though they could cover it up with a nice outfit, and a nice house and a nice car, everybody, when you take their clothes off, they’re going to look in the mirror and think yay or nay, or I’m not happy with this. I’ve always managed to get along with people. And I’ve always managed through my life to communicate with people. Don’t forget Robin, I never really took a fitness course in my life. I was a Russian history major. So I think whatever subject the person wants to talk about, you could at least listen to it and have a couple of opinions on it. The art of training people is also the art of making people laugh. You have to be funny. I think you’ll catch people’s attention when you say something, but mixed with all that when you put hands on resistance, there’s not a lot of things they can argue with because I’ve never had a client that I wasn’t stronger than, right. And they also pay attention when they know that you know what they know. And so they what do they say don’t ballony a bollony thrower, because I’ve heard it before,
But also they know that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Can you tell me about your father, you said your father was a Rabbi. Was he a funny man? Was he able to connect with people?
He was able to connect with people. He wasn’t a comedian. I was more of a comedian but what I saw with my dad more than anything, Robin, was his faith. I think that’s really important and I’m not going to say whether it should be a Godly faith or faith in humanity or a faith in Confucianism, whatever faith you have, it’s really important to have faith in yourself. And that’s what faith is right. That’s what his greatest example to me was. He never swore, my dad. I swear like a trooper. So you know, obviously, I’ve gone a few minutes now without using certain words that I usually use. But having said that, my dad what he symbolizes to me, even though I was stronger than my dad, when I was 13, he was probably the strongest guy ever met. He didn’t flinch when life problems came his way. The other thing about my dad, which was really important for training was, when you’re a Rabbi, you have to go to people’s homes that have that have died in Judaism, they call it sitting Shiva where they sit. So death, for most people is a really scary thing. And I remember saying to my dad, when I was coming into someone’s house, whose son had died of leukemia at the age of 17, to me at five years old, seemed like the guy was middle aged, but he was just a child, obviously, I remember saying, What do I say to these people? You know, we’re going into their house, where are these people sitting around mourning their death of their son? He goes, Just say that you’re sorry to hear. It’s fine. There’ll be happy to hear, just, I’m sorry that your son’s gone. When you’re a trainer, a lot of people open up to you about a lot of their problems. And even all the famous people that you’ve mentioned, opened up to me about their issues. And so what you realize is that you’re not afraid of hearing the most darkest things. Let’s put it like that.
And I think also, it’s around, particularly for priests and rabbis, it’s holding the space, isn’t it? And for trainers as well, you know, so if somebody tells you something, you hear it in a non judgmental way. I think often people feel they have to do lots of aha, oh dear, I’m sorry,. And I think sometimes you just hold the space for people.
Because I think people don’t listen, or people aren’t listened to. So if you feel confident that you’re going to steer them, right, physically, it usually goes with steering them right emotionally, and making them think slightly differently. And really, that’s what being physically fit is. I call it being an emotional paratrooper. And that’s how you deal with life. Because those points where you kind of lose it, because you get too angry or too down for something. Those are the times where you’re most vulnerable and where life isn’t very fun. Prevention is better than cure. So I’m always a great believer in getting people to do daily disciplines. It doesn’t stop the bad stuff from happening, or the washing machine breaking down, or the child getting drunk and throwing up in the house, or the golf tournament not going right. But your response could always be better, because you’re physically and emotionally better able to deal with the outcomes of things.
And so if you’re physically fit, you’re able to ride the wave as it were?
No question. You know, they always talk about a child getting cranky. Oh, he’s cranky, needs a nap. We all could use a nap sometimes. Or we could use a break from what is. So I think having a sheduled time with a trainer, the right type of training, not the training that winds you up or beat you up. But the time we just go, this is my time. This is my time to nurture myself. And that’s another thing rather than torturing yourself with training, nurture yourself, you’re trying to make yourself feel stronger, feel better? Why do you need to be crawling down the pavement after walking out of a spinning class? You look like he came out of a tumble dryer, you know, and it’s funny how some people like trainers that yell at them.
Do you know, I’ve never understood that. My wife said to me, you know, why don’t you get yourself a personal trainer. And I don’t think she was saying I was unfit. I think she just thought it might be good for me, and I might enjoy it. And I said, you know, I’m not very good at being shouted at, and I really don’t enjoy it. I watch people in the park outside our window in London, and they’re punching bags and stuff. And you can see this person to shouting their client. And I’m thinking, in what sense is that fun at 5.30 in the morning? So how do you do it differently?
Well, I think you know, there’s points where I’ve had a couple clients, not going into anecdotes, where I’ve had to wrestle them to the ground at like four o’clock in the morning. But that’s something else. I never gravitated when I was being coached to being yelled at to being ridiculed.
I don’t think anybody likes it. Children don’t like it at school either. being yelled at by teachers.
I always remembered the teacher or the coach that stood up my mind was the guy who looked down on me when I was 10 years old. When I started exercising and the ropes came down. Did you ever go to the ropes? You ever see ropes? At school, yeah, well, I couldn’t even do a press up. In fact, I didn’t even walk and chew gum very well at the same time. Right. I was about 160 pounds at that time. So I was about an 11 stone 10 year old and the ropes came down and there was a teacher called Murph. He was one of these kind of big neck guys that looked like he had played professional baseball and just didn’t make the professional and he would take it out on me. And he didn’t like me because I was a symbol of everything that wasn’t fit at the time that and he didn’t want me into his gym class and that day the ropes came down. And the first person he asked to climb the ropes as an example of how to climb a rope was me. So he said Salzman get up, so I went over to climb the ropes. And I call it the walk of shame. And I remember that was the longest few seconds in my life when I grabbed that thick end of the rope at the bottom, and I couldn’t get my feet off the ground. Everybody was looking at me and I tried again, and nothing happened. It was like that scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest where Jack Nicholson tries to pick up the sink and throw it out the window and say, I’m going to get out of here, and he can’t and obviously that was me. And when I sat down, and he said, You want to turn out like him? And it was the most ridiculing, horrible thing to do. It was horrible. But it did me a favour Robin in the sense that I went home and I opened up my spider man magazine and I saw an article from Joe Wieder saying, Are you tired of getting sand kicked in your face? And we didn’t have any sand in the gym, but it felt like a lot of sand in my face. And I wrote away this letter. I said, Dear Joe, I’m a loser. Please help me. And I was crying on the letter so much that I couldn’t write. You can’t write on a letter that’s got teardrops on it with a ballpoint pen because it doesn’t work. So I had asked my mom for another one I asked my mom for 50 cents. A week later these pictures come of all these pre Schwarzenegger guys, because there was before Schwarzenegger all posing, and then the next thing was 39.99 that you had to spend. I didn’t have 39.99. And so my dad bought me some weights and I started lifting one day and running the next. But I think it’s funny because when I see people like the exaggeration of that version of me is like the Mike Tyson’s and the boxers. You can see how fear gives people anger. And that was the fear that I was getting. You know, I was afraid when you’re afraid you get angry. And so Murphy did me a favour.
So Josh, that’s great for men. What about for women? For some of your female clients, they may not want to look like Schwarzenegger. So how does that work?
Well, they wouldn’t want to look like him now, probably. But that’s changed over the years. It’s interesting, Robin, because when I first started in the fitness business, women used to talk about I just want to tone, I don’t want to get muscles. Well, in order to tone you have to get muscles. Now, genetics tell us what kind of muscles we can get. So not everybody can get big, bulky muscles. And what happens with people with big bulky muscles, they have a lot of muscle cells, and they have short tendon attachments. So when they bulk up whether a man or a woman and they flex, they get a big bicep. The education of women training has achieved a lot over the last 40 years that I’ve been in the business, where women know now that muscles are good. Women know now that having muscles in a strong body not only affects the way you look, but it’s preventing osteoporosis because muscles and bones are living tissue. So you need to get your bones. So what women usually want is to be toned and for things to go north. Because when things go south, is because your muscles have atrophied working out with strength training or resistance training. Whatever way you do it, it creates this hypertrophic state, which with the right rest in the right nutrition, creases, a bigger muscle that makes you more toned. So the only way is north. You know, I always say to my female clients and to my men clients too, but you know, we do a little glute exercises, working on the rear end muscles, I say, time to go north.
And actors. Of course, you work with a lot of actors, actors need to be mentally fit as well. I know when I was doing a three hour Shakespeare play on a matinee day, you do it twice, that six hours a day. You’ve got to be physically fit to be able to be mentally fit. What would you recommend to any of our listeners? Are there a couple of things that you could say just try this as a start.
I would just say every day, you should have some sort of ritual where you go through I mean, obviously, people can look at the SuperA.uk website and get some exercises that people can do every day. I’ve a capsule program where I show where you’re trying to check out certain body parts like your neck, your wrists, your back, and how to make sure you’re working right every day. Because the worst thing people do is they just get out of bed. They have their cup of coffee or toast or cereal and they zoom off. I think everybody needs preparation. I think as with actors, where I know there’s been a lot of actors I’ve worked with they’ve done the Alexander Technique. Yeah, there’s exercises that someone leads people through. I know Sir Kenneth Branagh talked about when he does a stage performance. There’s a routine that people kind of loosen up with, depending on how physical the players Yes, but I think everybody needs disciplines. Robin, I’d say this, that every day, you should take some time to get your thinking, right. And whether you listen to tapes on awareness and mindfulness, that’s really important or you learn to meditate really important. You make choices physically, where you make sure your back is loose and your hamstrings are loose, because there’s nothing worse than having a lot on your plate and then getting out of your car or getting off the tube and all of a sudden your back goes or all of a sudden your neck is really tight. And sometimes these things happen anyways, but prevention is better than cure. So I believe that everybody needs to give themselves at least a half hour or even more of preparation if it means getting up earlier in the morning. Even if you have your personal trainer at one o’clock in the afternoon. Don’t leave it to anyone else. Take ownership. Your mind, your nutrition, and your body. Because that’s the only way things are going to happen. Not by depending on anyone else.
When we first met, you said to me, Robin, how much water do you drink? I’m not sure you’re drinking enough water. So I wondered if you could tell us now the importance of water to the body and to the mind,
Water is probably 60 to 70% of your muscles. When you dehydrate, it leads to heatstroke. So everything you do is going to feel tougher to do. When people start exercising strength training properly with me and they do the right osteopathy as well, their muscles are in the right position to be hydrated. And it’s the kind of difference between having a tire that doesn’t have enough air in it to a tire that has the right amount of air in it. If the tires have the right amount of air, you’re going to feel like you’re gliding down the road easily. And that’s kind of how your muscles should feel like they’re springy and bouncy. The other thing that happens on a mental level or a kind of emotional level, when you don’t drink enough, you tend to think that you’re fatigue, that’s due to dehydration, you need something to eat. Yeah, so you need a croissant. Or you need a cup of coffee, or you need some sugar or your car binging. Keep your energy up when actually you just need more water. And if you don’t have enough water, either, you’re going to have more cases of insomnia.
I know that when I’m fit, I feel more confident. There’s no doubt about it, I walk differently, I stand taller, I walk into a room and I feel I have more presence if I’m fit. And if I’m a little bit overweight or a little bit tired physically, I just don’t have the same energy levels. So it really does make a difference to how people judge us. So you said that now you feel in a really good state. When did you start to feel good about your body?
I think I’ve got a huge amount of self confidence when I got to be about 12 or 13 when I had muscles that nobody else had. But I would trace myself back to post my divorce when I really got my act together because it isn’t just what happens to your body physically where your muscles but I was losing my hair when my marriage was going down the tubes. So I blame my hair, my lack of hair on that. But all of a sudden this guy was really long hair from the 70s. And he used to wear a bandana in his class. Now Park Lane was meeting Oxford Circus at Marble Arch in my head. And I didn’t want to let it go. So I had this little mullet and I used to wear baseball hats. And then my next girlfriend after my divorce said no, I like your hair shave. So it was a metamorphosis. Mentally, physically, emotionally, I’m probably the fittest ever was right now. And it’s not regret. But I look back and I think what was I thinking, you know, when you look at a picture of yourself and life wasn’t going well at that time? And maybe when that picture was taken, you didn’t think you were looking very well. And then you look back now you think, Gosh, I was looking completely fine. Yeah, I look great. It’s like eating disorders, the person that looks in the mirror is seeing something other than everybody else is exactly that. So I think it’s really important to be not to be cocky. But to be confident, as Muhammad Ali used to say. You earn the right to feel positive about yourself, because you’re doing enough to feel positive. But why do we wait this long? Yeah, but then again, you almost have to, I don’t want to go biblical on you here, but because my dad’s a rabbi, I asked my dad when I went to Israel the first time, Wy did it take the children of Israel 40 years to go from Egypt to the Promised Land? I mean, if you walked fast, and you had the right sat nav, or even a decent map, or just follow the sun, you would have got there in a couple of weeks. But in a sense, there’s no progression without resistance and to walk around in a circle in the Sinai Desert, you’re weeding out people that aren’t the believers, so to speak. I think we all have to do that wandering. I’ve been 40 years in the fitness profession. So probably now I’ve come into the promised land of how I look at things. But it takes time. And you could write a book and say focus on this, but people will listen, including ourselves, when we’re ready to listen.
It’s the same as, you know, you watch a movie one day, and you think, yeah, it’s a nice movie. Another day you watch the same movie, and you’re in floods of tears, or it motivates you because it resonates, I think we all have to go through that journey. And there’s a right time for us. But from a personal level, I want to thank you, Josh, for what you’ve done for me, because you’ve made me think about my body differently. And I thought I knew a lot about my body. Because as an actor, you do know about your body, and you’re very aware of how you stand and things. But you’ve taught me a different way of thinking about my body, which is not necessarily about bulking up or anything like that. It’s about having everything flowing. It’s all about flow, isn’t it? And I think when things start to flow naturally, then ideas flow in your brain flows and you feel good about yourself. So thank you very much for that. And thank you for joining us today on The Art of Communication podcast Expert Series. It’s been a joy to have you, thank you so much Josh.
Thank you very much ,and we’re going to get on to our physical session now, aren’t we?
Do you know I am looking forward to that. But you’re not going to shout at me now, are you?
No, no, I don’t have a vocabulary for that.
Thank you, Josh. For more information on my online Public Speaking Masterclass, visit robinkermode.com