Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Legendary Steve Payne Interview: Firestorm Fitcamps, Fat Loss, Hunting, Life

I'm here with fellow fitness professional and legendary old man Steve Payne. He operates Firestorm Fitcamps out of San Antonio, Texas, and despite his advanced age, still pretends that he is a young guy like me. He even has his own blog! Kidding aside, if you live in San Antonio and want to find a great place to work out, he runs one of those rare group fitness bootcamps that actually is known for getting people real results.

Alright Steve, I have some questions for you...

1. I've been wondering this for a long time... and I'm sure my readers will be interested to know this as well... Just how old are you?

Well, I can remember a time when the Rocky Mountains were called the Pebbly Hills…I’m 50. Yes Tim…that’s your age times 3…

2. (For the record, as this blog is being posted, I am actually 22.) How long have you been in the fitness industry, and what is your favorite thing about what you do?

I’ve been involved in the fitness industry in one facet or another since I was 18, which, according to my abacus, is nearly 32 years. However, I have been a full time fitness professional since April of 1992.

What I love best about my “job” is that I get to witness people getting their lives back. I’ve helped people rehab after major surgery and return to normalcy and do things they never thought they’d be able to do again. I’ve seen people transform from the “ugly duckling” to the “beautiful swan” and gain the confidence they thought they might never see. I’ve helped people do things on vacations like out-ski their kids, where the year before they couldn’t last half a day. It’s the little victories like the lady that tells me she can carry her 40 pound bag of dog food from the car all the way inside the house that make me smile. It’s the lady who excitedly tells me she thought she had a mosquito bite on her arm, but then realized it was a muscle developing that thrills me. It’s the man who tells me he can avoid surgery because of the work we did together. It’s the 15 to 18 years of working with a person, developing a relationship of trust, respect, honor and love, one in which you get invited to birthdays, weddings, marriages and funerals, because you’re considered one of the family. This “job” means more than just drawing a paycheck and training people. It means getting to know people…learning about every facet of their lives…their kids lives…their dogs names…laughing with them…crying with them…loving them as much as you love your own family. I’d write more about this but it appears to be raining in my office and there is something in my eye…

3. When I approached you about doing this interview with me, you suggested, "I'll write about hunting pigs with a bow while on a strict diet of beer and turkey jerky...or maybe training old folks." Now's your chance. Can you give me a few paragraphs on these topics?

In order to seriously hunt pigs with a bow, you need good equipment. I’m blessed to have a clientele that knows and appreciates my love of hunting, and last Christmas purchased me a Mathews Z7 Extreme, the premier bow hunting instrument available today. Practice is important, as always, so I endeavor to shoot my bow at least 3 times per week. As for the beer and turkey jerky…what is better for a good hunt than a liquid based, high protein and adequate carbohydrate diet. (Insert cheesy smile here…)

With respect to training old folks, that’s my forte’. I currently have 4 clients at or very near the age of 80, and I love them all dearly. All of these folks have been training with me for at least 15 years, so I look upon them for wisdom, knowledge and solace. They are a blessing beyond compare. In my Firestorm fitcamps! classes, the average age of a trainee is 50 years. Most are women and want the same things I believe each of us want in life: A) to be able to move and work day-to-day with minimal pain and maximum power, B) to have more energy and endurance to keep up with our kids or grandkids, and C) to die VERY young, VERY late in life!

And here’s a tip to you up and coming young trainers out there: We “old” folks need to do less to get more, especially at first. Sure we’ll make good progress, but remember where we are in life. Start us out slow and easy (even if we say we can handle it) and watch us roar into the fast lane in no time. Doing so will mean an assurance in what we “old timers” (yes Greg Justice, I’m talking to you) call “long term client retention.”

4. You've had the opportunity to network with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other fitness professionals in the industry. We all know that when it comes to fat loss, that If you want to be successful, it is important to surround yourself with other like minded people. What are some of the most important lessons (training related or life related) you have learned from other fitness professionals that you would like to share?

I guess the biggest lesson that was taught to me by an email newsletter from Craig Ballantyne on the necessity of a strong social support network. I kind of always intuited this, based on my love of baseball and other team sports. People rather naturally make better progress and gains in a team environment. This is what I love about fitness boot camps. I can allow the group to motivate and encourage people to push themselves. The Bible states it this way, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV)

Rudyard Kipling, in his poem “The Law of the Jungle”, put it this way:
“Now this is the Law of the Jungle - as old and as true as the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back; For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

There is strength in numbers and accountability has many benefits…at least to those who will be held accountable. For those who feel they are above such support, the perils and pitfalls of the human experience await them. What are the names of these perils? Temptation, deceit, a lack of motivation, follow-through and honesty are but a few that come to mind.

The other best lesson I learned was taught to me by my favorite fitness Marine, Jerry Hill of Crossfit Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia on consistency and effort. These are the 2 key elements to any fat loss, or any other goal attainment endeavor, in life. Whatever it is one desires, they must attack with consistency and effort, in everything they do, everyday. Failure to do so means less than stellar results.

5. If you had to make a list of 37 different tips for people trying to burn fat with exercise, what would the tips numbered 13, 29, and 32 say?

#13 – Have a definitive goal. When I’m hunting for pigs with my bow, (which is much more difficult than with a rifle because of the necessity of proximity and stealth) in order to take down my “target”, I must pick a specific spot to focus upon. Failure to do so could mean a missed opportunity, a weak attempt at success or a less than adequate outcome. I like success…therefore, I focus my efforts upon a singular target and strive to hit it. When working toward success in fat loss, you must know where you want to be in order to gauge the effectiveness of your training regimen with respect to your goal.

#29 – Get the best instructor you can find. Just because a guy (and I say guy because I am one) has a 28 inch waist, 19 inch arms and looks like mythological Greek god doesn’t mean he can help you to look like one as well. Maybe he simply picked his parents right. Or maybe he takes “supplements” (wink, wink) to look that way. Who knows? Some of the best coaches I’ve ever met don’t have the “look” of the Muscle & Fiction front page type, but they dang sure know their stuff (and yes, Mike Boyle, I’m talking to you). The old axiom, “Those that can do; those that can’t teach” is a myth. Understanding the path to effective and lasting fat loss is one thing. Being able to translate that information in an understandable and easily implemented form to another individual is another thing entirely.

#32 – Stop worrying about how you look so much and start concentrating on living your life. Looking good is one thing, but it pales in comparison to being truly ALIVE! Grab life by the horns, take it for a ride and enjoy it. Give it your all, but don’t be dumb. Don’t let what you want in the short term ruin what you REALLY want in the long term. You will age (God willing) and will come to understand what professional athletes term “the loss of a step.” Get over it. When you get to be 50 you simply will not be able to do some of the things you could do when you were 25…and that’s O.K. Other priorities should (if you have matured sufficiently) have taken over. Muhammad Ali once said, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Now you think about that…

In my own case, it is my grandchildren and their development, my wife and my clients that I live for, in that order. No, I don't act like a “typical” granddad, and I probably never will. But I realize that while I was 5 feet 10 inches and 175 pounds when I graduated high school, I am probably not gonna see those dimensions ever again, nor want to. I’m cool with that. As long as I keep active and healthy and able to think and play like I’m still a high school kid, I can handle it. As for my grandkids, I want them to experience as much life from me as I gleaned from my grandfather. Without ever saying a lot he taught me volumes.

My wife is my life. I want to remain healthy and active for her. Even though I don’t express it enough to her for putting up with me, I want to be around as long as I can just so I can simply enjoy her and her presence. She is my angel, my love and my best friend. Being healthy ensures we get a little more time together.

With respect to my clients – If I ain’t healthy and a walking billboard of good health, what good am I to them?

6. Nutrition is a key component to any successful exercise regimen. What are some of your favorite "healthy foods" that you would recommend to my readers?

1. Fresh meat and fish. This is why I am a hunter. I only eat what I harvest. I haven’t eaten store bought meat or fish in many years, except on rare occasions. If you’re not a hunter, buy the highest quality, range or grass fed meat (or naturally raised) you can find. It is well worth the investment. 

2. Vegetables. I simply HATE it when I have clients tell me they “don’t like” vegetables. It makes me crazy… and I have one response – “What are you…4 years old? Grow up.” We have several names in the fitness industry for people that don’t eat vegetables: diabetics, stroke victims, heart attack patients, woosie’s, etc… Just eat them, alright? At almost every meal…every day. 

3. Good fats. Yes, there are such things. They come in the form of avocados, nuts, cold water fish, natural butter, olive oil and more. Forget what you may have heard from some medical “authorities” on the matter…eat them, and ENJOY them. They are good for you. Seriously.

7. At the Bootcamp Bootcamp 3.0 event this year in Louisville, KY, you recorded a video for your wife. Would you like to redeem yourself right now?

She loved it, and by proxy me…no redemption necessary. Just for the record, I should be able to eat solid food in another week and walk without crutches by August 1st.

8. Thanks for being a part of this interview. Now's your chance to say whatever you want. Unedited. Here's the catch though. It has to be exactly the number of words that is equal to the age that I thought you were before you told me how old you actually were. I'm not going to tell you that number though. You have to guess. Whatcha got?

A Southern Baptist preacher from San Antonio is in Louisville, Kentucky for a convention and checking into the hotel for the weekend. As he is filling out his paperwork, he comments to the desk clerk, “I hope the porn channel is disabled in my room.” The desk clerk takes a step back from him, looks at him in disgust and says, “No you sick weirdo, it’s regular porn…”

Well, that was 68 words, if I counted correctly... well done! That's exactly right! Steve Payne has just proven that being an old man doesn't automatically make you senile. Thanks for the interview Mr. Payne!

Readers, what do you think? Tell me your thoughts below.


  1. That was great... a mix of entertainment, seriousness, and passion. I'm looking forward to seeing more interviews!

  2. Loved it, great interview! And, for the record, I'm much younger than Steve.

  3. Awesome Tim! I love the questions you asked. It got great responses from Steve.

    Seriously entertaining and educational at the same time.

  4. Tim,
    It was an honor and pleasure to contribute in this manner. Thanks for asking me. And yes, for the record, Greg Justice is WAY younger than me.

  5. Awesome - Steve is a great encouragement and his passion for helping others is evident in all that he does and I'm proud to call him "friend".

    It is refreshing to hear the thoughts and insight from a MAN who makes a difference daily.


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