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Podcast 126: Golf Legend Gary Player on Fitness, Health & Happiness at Age 85

June 8, 2021

Global fitness icon and golf legend Gary Player joins the WHOOP Podcast for a discussion about health, life, happiness, and much more.

By Will Ahmed

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At 85 years old, Gary Player still works out harder than most people half his age. He shares his philosophies on exercise, nutrition, and sleep, plus the four factors he believes are key to a long and healthy life.

Gary also talks about his remarkable golf career, how he used visualization to succeed on the course, and why he believes everyone should welcome adversity instead of avoiding it.

I know you’ll find Gary enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring. Enjoy!


Gary Player Podcast Quotes and Highlights:

3:01 – Getting into Fitness. Gary started working out at a young age after being inspired by his older brother, who served in World War II. “The day he left, I can still see him, he was going to fight with America and the Allies at 17 … He said to me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I want to be a professional athlete of some kind.’ He said, ‘You’re too small.’ So he got me a set of second-hand weights and I started using them in 1953. When I started using weights, I was ridiculed. Even my friends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus said, ‘You can’t use weights and play golf.’”

4:18 – Combating Obesity. Gary is passionate about reducing obesity around the world, especially in children. “Obesity is the biggest crime that exists with our health,” he says. “The biggest danger, more dangerous than any disease or war, is obesity. Once you start getting fat, you’re going to end on the mat.”

6:09 – Nutrition. Gary says he doesn’t like to eat bread, bacon, high-fat foods or too much meat, and he doesn’t drink milk.

10:50 – Sleep and Training. “I sleep 9 hours a night. I can very comfortably sleep for 10 hours. And I think one of the reasons I’m so fit at 85, and I am fit at 85, is that when I exercise I’m doing the equivalent of most 40-year-olds in the gym. I’m working out extremely hard.”

Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Golf Game

12:58 – Breathing Techniques. Gary and Will discuss the importance of breathwork. “People don’t breathe properly,” Gary says.

15:24 – Going Pro. “When I told my dad I wanted to be a pro golfer and I was going to turn pro at 17, he said, ‘Are you crazy?’”

17:21 – Jack and Arnie. Gary reflects on playing against Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

18:10 – Four Keys to Living a Long Life. Eat half as much, exercise every day, laugh, and have unmeasured love in your heart.

19:10 – Nelson Mandela. Gary shares stories of his conversations with the late Nelson Mandela. “He had no revenge and no hatred in his heart,” Gary says. “And if anybody had a reason to have hatred and revenge, it was Nelson Mandela.”

20:05 – What Makes a Great Competitor. “A great competitor is a man who really enjoys adversity. How many people can you say enjoy adversity? Very, very few. When I used to play, I used to get on the tee and say, ‘Please, Lord, let me have that adversity today and I’ll show you how to beat it.’”

22:32 – Visualization. Gary details how he used visualization every morning in preparation for his 1965 U.S. Open win. “I brainwashed myself and I really sincerely believed [I was going to win].”

25:39 – Success at an Older Age. “I’ve been saying for years that somebody at 50 will win a major,” Gary says of Phil Mickelson’s recent victory at the PGA Championship. “Now, I’ll say somebody of 60 will win a major someday.”

27:19 – Phil Mickelson’s PGA Championship Victory. Gary shares his thoughts on Mickelson becoming the oldest golfer ever to win a major.

32:05 – Mindset. Gary says he often found his winning mindset through prayer and gratitude practices. “Even today, at the age of 85, I never miss one single day where I don’t say a prayer at least 5 times a day,” Gary says. “I say thank you when I have breakfast. A lot of people don’t have breakfast. … Gratitude is a terribly important thing. It can be taken away from you like that. One tick and you’re dead.”

37:13 – The World’s Most Traveled Athlete. Gary is estimated to have flown more than 16 million miles in his life. “I’ve traveled more miles than any human being that’s ever lived,” he claims. He recommends travelers work out immediately after arriving in their new location, saying it helps replenish your body with oxygen after being on a plane.

37:30 – Being a Great Sleeper. “The reason I sleep well, I think, is because I keep my body moving.” Gary discusses how sleep boosts your immune system.

41:21 – Breaking His Age in Golf. Gary says he has now broken his age in golf more than 3,000 times in a row. “I want to now be the first man to break his age by 18 shots. I’ve done it 16 twice, I’ve done it 14 quite a few times, and I’ll be a year older next year so it will be easier. You’ve got to set goals. Once you stop setting goals, you are on a downward slope.”


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.