Christopher Smith is the founder of Smithy Fitness. Chris is a life long fitness enthusiast and coach. He walks the talk. At age 60, he is cranking pull ups with ease and doing one hand hangs making us millennials look frail. Further, he is a local and resides here in Toronto.
Urgen Kuyee (UK): Hi Chris, thank you so much for doing this man.
Christopher Smith (CS): You got it.
UK: Let’s start with your background. Tell us a little about yourself and what did you do before starting Smithy Fitness? Where did you grow up, which school did you go to?
CS: In my teen years, I realized I had two loves – sports (fitness) and money. In grade 12, I had a great economics teacher who taught us about the bond market and then how to take advantage of raising interest rates by shorting bonds. I was always good at math and this kind of blew me away. You can sell something you don’t own??? From there, I started to study the stock market. I decided business and the stock market could deliver that wealth I had in mind and relegated fitness to hobby status. I enrolled in economics at University of Toronto and got my degree in 1983 – a very long time ago!
Fitness was very important all the way through school and later during my career, as an investment advisor. At U of T, I got my senior letter after 3 years. I played on the tennis team, squash team, played intramural hockey, played on the soccer team, worked part time in the physical ed department and participated in all things sports. I also lifted weights regularly.
UK: Amazing. Where did you grow up?
CS: I grew up in Scarborough and I now reside in the Beaches district of Toronto quite near the water. In 1999, I left the investment business to concentrate on my personal finances. I have been trading the stock market full time from home ever since.
UK: Got it. Last month, you posted a short clip of you eating raw meat on twitter. How was that experience?
CS: Surprisingly tasty. I eat a lot of steak and bbq year round. That was the first raw steak I had ever eaten. It tasted like cooked steak only cold. I would definitely eat raw again although bbqing a rare steak is my fave.
UK: The chief reason for this interview is how you crank pulls up with ease. I am a big fan of pull ups as well. How long have you been doing pull ups for? How often do you do it? Is muscle memory a real thing?
CS: I have been doing pull ups for a very very long time. I would have started back in 1977 or 78. I didn’t have them at first but in those days we did a lot of bent over rows. I gradually built up my strength to where I could do 6, then 8, then 10 pull ups. Once I got to 10 I started to add weight. First a 10 lb dumbbell, then a 25 lb plate, then 45 and so on. Once you can do 5 reps with 45 lbs, then unweighted pull ups are a breeze.
I do pull ups twice a week. Once on the field unweighted and once at home weighted. I have a weight vest I use and I have rings hanging in my son’s bedroom. I will do 3 sets of between 5 and 7 reps. Right now, the vest is about 35 lbs.
Is muscle memory a thing? Yes, but also strength built over many years endures. For example, about once a year I will do a muscle up to see if I still can do them and I can do them with ease even without practice. I will be doing my annual muscle up soon and I will post it on my Twitter.
UK: No muscle up for me yet. I am curious, what is your max pull up? 20? 30? Sadly, mine is 8 right now. Maybe 9.
CS: Good question. Last year on my 60th birthday, I did 17 on a very fat bar – the soccer goal crossbar. That probably equates to 20. Right now I am focusing on chest to bar pull ups. They are harder but have a great range of motion.
UK: 20 pull ups, that’s impressive man. I played varsity soccer in my college days. Did a lot of agility drills but my best part was doing hill sprints. Do you do hill sprints? Regular sprints?
CS: I haven’t done hill sprints in a few years. But sprinting I do. Usually about 60 metre sprints, I will do them as part of my outdoor workouts. Not too many, just 3 or 4 and only about 85 -90% of full speed. I’ve found sprints to be dangerous re injuries. Hamstring pull, or calf muscle pull. Got to be a bit careful.
UK: Got it. Let’s talk about Farmer’s carries. You have multiple videos of this exercise on your YouTube channel. Why do you love this exercise so much?
CS: Many things to love about long distance farmer’s carries. After being inside lifting all winter, it is great to get outside, get the sun in your face and burn off a few accumulated pounds from winter. Farmers carries are great for grip strength and there is nearly a perfect correlation between grip strength and overall strength. Gradually, increase the weight you carry and your forearms, biceps, traps, and legs will get stronger and they will grow too.
Two years ago, I did a 90 day farmers carry challenge. This was the genesis of my you-tube channel. What kind of results could I get by carrying every day over that time? Over those 90 days, I lost 11 pounds of fat and added one pound of muscle. My biceps grew ½ inch, my forearms ¾ inch, my neck ½ inch. My chest grew too but that was mostly due to all the push-ups I did during the carries.
In the early days, I carried a 12 and 16 kg kettlebell. Now, I regularly carry a 28 and 32 kg kettlebell. I have way more muscle now at almost 61 than I had a couple of years ago. And that grip strength has improved all my lifts in the gym.
Farmers’ carries are so easy and very little chance of injury. Got to push though. When you want to put them down, walk another 20, 30, or 40 steps. To get the best gains, one has to be willing to suffer.
UK: On your twitter bio, it says diet is 80% of your success. Can you double click on this idea?
CS: Yes, you can workout all you want but if you come home and eat lots of carbs and sugar, you will never get results. I was vegan all through my 30s and part of my 40s. Huge mistake. Although I worked out hard, I could not gain any appreciable muscle. I was okay but I am in way better shape and way stronger now at age 60.
Eggs and meat and fish are the way to go. Lots and lots of it. I eat some potato, very little bread, and not much sugar though my daughter bakes and I always eat some of her goodies! The secret is to eat clean 90% of the time. The other 10% you can do whatever you want.
UK: I struggle with baked goodies too, so good. Do you fast? What is your fasting practise like?
CS: I do intermittent fasting daily. My first meal is usually around 2 pm. I do have black coffee before that, usually at around 10:30 am. My last meal is usually done around 8 pm. So, a 6 hour eating window and 18 hr fast. Also, once every 6 weeks or so, I will do a 48 or 72 hour fast. This is really good for hormonal health. HGH gets a boost as does the Testosterone level. Just giving the digestive system a break from time to time really helps your overall health.
UK: The most I have fasted is 48 hours, a clean water fast. Would love to do a 72 hour fast one day. What are some of the challenges of maintaining a healthy body weight and plus, your extraordinary fitness regimen at age 60? Because let’s be real, cranking pull ups with ease at 60 or any age is not normal.
CS: My habits are so firmly in place now. I find keeping my health at its current level is quite easy. As I mentioned earlier, a real food protein focused diet is of top importance. I also step on the scale every morning and I will tweak my diet if I am adding or losing too much weight. Right now, I am around 170 pounds. I will likely dip a bit from here as it’s summer and I like to be lean. In the winter, I will go up to 175 or 178 lbs as I lift heavy and try to bulk a bit.
Even though I am 60, all the principles hold true for me as they do for you. Train hard, eat properly, allow recovery and you will get gains.
UK: You also have a couple of videos on finance and investing. I believe you call it Smithy Finances. For people my age, you know millennials 25-35 year olds, what would you tell them not to do in the market? What advice should they ignore when it comes to investing?
CS: The investment world is endlessly fascinating. I am an aggressive trader. I am fine with risk if the reward is possible. You need to educate yourself. Read books like – How to Make Money in Stocks, there are thousands of stock market books out there. Many are good.
I would encourage young people to take risks. Don’t play it too safe. Reward comes from taking your swings, you can’t get rich by putting your money in the bank. But, don’t be reckless either. This is where you need to educate yourself in a serious manner. The stock market can make you financially independent but it can also wipe you out if you are not careful.
UK: Yup, I always tell my friends and co-workers – in life and investing, not taking risks is the biggest risk. What is your take on Bitcoin? Do you own Bitcoin?
CS: I don’t own crypto. I am not against it, just not very knowledgeable. I have owned some crypto miners in the past but I have divested of those over the past 6 months.
UK: I would highly recommend you to read the book –The Bitcoin Standard. I have a feeling you will like it. The author of the book loves steak as well. We are almost done here. I am being mindful of your time. Let me ask you this, a hypothetical question but I am curious to hear your thoughts. Let’s say we make a rule for all adults in this world to be able to crank up at least 10 pull ups. What would that world look like to you?
CS: That is a nice thought. Well, it would solve the obesity epidemic. People would be much healthier and much better looking. No way, you are getting pull ups if you are 50 pounds overweight.
UK: What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
CS: I have a 22 year old son. I told him to NOT go to university but instead read and reread great books. Read Think and Grow Rich 10 times before you are 25. Read Darvas’ How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market 10 times. If you like stocks, take and pass The Canadian Securities Course. He has read at least 30 great books over the past few years, many of them multiple times.
Get jacked. Super important. The world rewards good looking and confident people. Lifting weights, being strong and lean will do a lot for anyone but especially if starting out in the world your physical appearance will tell people about your personal discipline.
I also believe everyone should be able to play a musical instrument. Take guitar or piano or voice lessons or some other instrument. Music wires the brain a bit differently and makes you a more interesting person.
UK: Love it. What is the best way for people to reach you and find more about you online?
CS: I put out a video on my YouTube channel about once a week. Usually fitness but sometimes finance and sometimes just some random thoughts or stories. I put my best work out there. My channel is Smithy Fitness.
I like Twitter. You can find me at @SmithyFitnessTo
UK: Got it. Thank you so much for your time today Chris.
CS: No problem Urgen.
This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Thanks to Christopher Smith for his contributions, all errors are mine.