Ten minutes into my interview with Paul Chek I knew I was in trouble.
Ninety minutes later, as my digital recorder beeped that it was full, my only thought was: "What the fuck have I gotten myself into?"
Ten minutes later, I'm back on the phone with Chek with a fresh recorder. Another hour passes and my phone begins to lose battery power. I quickly switch to another one. An hour after that and the recorder is beeping at me again.
This is when I start to panic.
I'd been assigned to interview Paul Chek, I'd been on the phone with him for close to four hours, and I didn't understand a single goddamn thing he was saying.
How was I going to transcribe this? How was I supposed to cut it down to 5000 words for an article? How was I supposed to get info out of this guy when every question I asked about protein and training garnered me an hour long diatribe about magnetic poles, chi, God, the planets, "cosmic consciousness," and the soul?
Was this interview a bust? Had I wasted his time and mine?
No, I didn't think so. Because in the back of my mind, I knew that Chek was one of the best in the world in his field: corrective and high-performance exercise kinesiology. In fact, with his holistic approach, he's practically reinvented the field. I knew that, at 44 years old, Chek could outperform a lot pro-athletes in their twenties. (In his own words, he can "hammer the shit out of them in the gym." And he really can.) And his physique is pretty damn impressive too. There was something to learn here. Maybe a lot.
I also knew that while a lot of Chek's ideas were "out there," all really innovative and powerful concepts sound a little crazy at first... Or hell, maybe he's just a nutcase. I'll leave that for you to decide.
Since it would be impossible to transcribe a four-hour interview, I'm going to bullet point only the most intriguing bits. No questions, just Chek's words. Let me say right now that "sound biting" Paul Chek isn't entirely fair. It's like the story of the blind men who inspect an elephant, each describing something very different because they can't see the whole animal. Chek is a very big elephant.
We're about to begin, so take a deep breath. Don't be gullible. But don't be obtuse either. Here we go.
• I've been doing this for 22 years hardcore. That's a lot of study and work. I've done the equivalent of three or four Master's degrees in the last ten years. This isn't a haphazard, light duty job for me. This is 15 to 18 hours a day, every day. It's all I really enjoy doing. It's all I care to do. This is what I came here to do.
• I've got good pictures. Anybody that needs that kind of verification can certainly get it. That's a 160 pound dumbbell I got up there with one arm.
• My father left my mother when I was three years old. My mother had to work two jobs to support us. By the time she was 18 she had three kids. She was all alone. She spent her whole life soul searching, trying to find support to get her through. That resulted in me as a child going from one church to another and having exposures to different experiences.
I was kicked out of public school so I even had to attend a Seventh-Day Adventist school for a while. And then my mother found Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Paramahansa Yogananda. I was indoctrinated into that. My mother entirely changed as she went to temple and learned to meditate. It was almost like the universe had given me my mother back.
I went to Self-Realization Fellowship summer camp as a teenager and learned advanced meditation from monks. That whole experience catapulted me into a quest to understand religion and spiritual development, and learn why people get stuck and why they don't progress. And while I was doing that, I was developing myself as a therapist and as an athlete.
So I've lived these parallel lives the whole time. The spiritual component has always been there. It's been part of my life since the beginning of my life.
Paul Chek at age 12.
• Why do people go to the gym and lift weights relentlessly, sometimes to the demise of their own health? What's behind that? These are essentially spiritual pursuits. Many people don't understand because they don't know how to investigate their own psyche, and that's what I do for a living.
• Back in 1995 when I launched the C.H.E.K. certification program – which is the four levels of certification and it takes four years to do – I had to focus on very measurable things. There was no need to talk about the Faulty God Model when someone had a blown cervical disk or a torn rotator cuff.
• My job isn't necessarily to make people happy. My job is to tell them the truth.
• I've been working with Mike Modano, captain of the Dallas Stars hockey team, since the beginning of March, 2005. His work with me, as with all my athletes, is a combination of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. His program includes specific training and homework assignments in all those areas.
If you follow hockey at all, you'll be able to see a very big difference between his performance for the year or two before seeing me and his performance this season. He's been interviewed about "the changes" many times now.
Chek consulting and training Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars
• The same people who criticize what I do are in the gym using Swiss balls and don't even realize I'm the guy who started that! When I started that everybody said I was a fucking idiot. Now they're rolling around on the balls and don't even know where the hell it came from!
• Over 85% of the world's population subscribes to some religious practice. One of the things that Western science has done is compartmentalized everything.
As a mirror image of our scientific practices and people worshipping science, we've also compartmentalized our lives to such a degree that we actually segregate our weightlifting, exercise, and food from the church. Yet all the really ancient philosophies that still exist today – yoga, tai chi, chi gong, and many of the martial arts with deep spiritual foundations – those were all practices that integrated lifestyle, philosophy, religion, and exercise. They were complete holistic symptoms.
Here in the United States, we've compartmentalized our lives. People act like idiots at work or grunting silverback gorillas in the gym, then go to church and act like goody two-shoes. All I'm really teaching is to carry it all within you. Don't segregate it. Let the best parts of you shine through in everything that you do.
• When you're working on the knee of a Hindu, it might look like the knee of a Christian or a Muslim, but it isn't. The software that drives it is completely different. In order to be an effective therapist and trainer and coach, I've had to study world religion. The physical body is like a vehicle, but your spiritual beliefs are your software by which you navigate life.
• I've got hundreds of studies on the function of the abdominal wall. Most of them aren't worth the paper they're written on. They were so simplified that uneducated, usually hung-over college students who haven't had enough sleep could to do them.
Chek performing a 200 pound crunch.
• You can't do a scientific study on the function of the abdominal muscles without first making sure someone has healthy organs. The organs are superior in the chain of biological function.
Neurologically, any time any organ is in trouble, the sympathetic nervous system diverts blood and therefore nutrition away from the muscles into the organ to help the organ heal first. You can get by without an arm and a leg, but you can't get by without a liver!
• Everything we see going on in exercise, resistance training, bodybuilding – if it's not spiritualized and it's not managed, then it becomes a dysfunction.
So what do you see? You see all sorts of one hit wonders that win a bodybuilding contest once as an amateur and you never see them again. Why? Because they hurt their back, they hurt their neck, they exhaust their adrenal glands, and they gain so much weight after one contest that they can never lose it again without extreme dietary practices, and that puts them further and further into the hole.
What you end up with is a bar full of 40 year olds that have a picture of themselves in their first bodybuilding contest who say they used to be able to bench press 400 pounds.
• I'm a 44 year old who can run as fast as he did in high school football. I can lift more weight than I ever have in my life. I can outperform almost every single professional athlete in the gym that I've ever conditioned – and that's a lot of them.
And the first thing they ask me every time is, "What drugs are you using?" I tell them chicken, carrots, broccoli, water, sleep, and a reason to be alive. I go into the gym and lift weights because it's a part of my spiritual practice; it's part of maintaining the temple. I don't need to go to church; I am the church.
• The more spiritually developed anybody becomes, the healthier anybody becomes, then the more in touch they are with the intangible and the more real the invisible becomes.
• It's only through a healthy body that you can have a functional, rational mind. Aristotle made his philosophy students workout with the Olympic wresting team. One of the main reasons I train my body is so that my mind works effectively.
• Toxicity means you're bringing in more toxins from the outside than you can release. You can't have a functional detoxification system unless you have a functional digestive system. Anyone who's eating cheap food is likely to have a digestive system that isn't working.
• If you don't want to have problems, eat real food. Stop eating all this cheap crap. I've had multi-millionaires and world-class professional athletes in my office tell me that organic food is too expensive.
I walk them to the window and point to their $140,000 sports car and say, "Eat that fucker then! Because when you die they aren't going to bury that son of a bitch with you!"
It's just a matter of getting your priorities right. The more toxic your body is, the lower your quality of life is.
• If you can't pronounce a word on the label, don't eat it.
• The people who say that organic food is no better then regular are what's technically known as controlbots. A controlbot is somebody whose mind has been taken over by corporate entities or religion or anybody who has an agenda.
The people who say organic food is no better are equivalent to people who don't have enough mental capacity to ask and answer their own questions. They are puppets for the media. All they're doing is regurgitating the garbage that's been fed to them by people who have a strategic plan.
• Look at the rate of disease. In the year 1900, between one in thirty and one in fifty people would die of cancer. Today it's one in two and rising fast.
In the year 1900, the amount of organic food being consumed was dramatically higher than it is today. In the year 1945 they sprayed 200,000 pounds of pesticides and herbicides on American farming soil. In the year 2002 they sprayed two billion pounds, yet crop losses were double what they were comparatively in 1945. This shows the cure isn't working; it's failing yet they continue to use the same leverage to sell the chemicals.
• Scientific studies show that hands-down, bar none, not only is there far more nutrition in food raised organically, but there are detrimental effects to the consumption of any commercially raised food.
This isn't only because the commercially raised food carries the residues of the toxic chemicals within and on them, but the soil microorganisms that are responsible for generating the nutrition to feed the plant and provide much of the immune system of the plant are rapidly killed by the application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
• One of the things commercial farmers do is they put so much salt on the ground that the plants have to suck up huge amounts of water to neutralize the salt and survive. This makes for bigger, lovely looking produce, but in reality you get big empty corn cobs and big empty carrots.
One research study showed that today, to get the same nutrition from one head of lettuce as you did 50 years ago, you'd have to eat 20 heads of lettuce from the commercial farms.
Paul teaching in the Eleiko Sports Center in Halmstad, Sweden.
• There are 51 nutrients that have to be in any food in order to satisfy the appestat, the part of your brain that basically tells you to stop eating. So, what they do with processed foods is they selectively remove nutrients and also add other nutrients.
For example, salt stimulates hydrochloric acid in your stomach. If you eat salty potato chips it encourages the release of hydrochloric acid. If you have a bunch of hydrochloric acid and a handful of potato chips in there, it makes you hungry as hell because if you don't eat something to neutralize the acid it can damage your own stomach and give you an ulcer.
So the stomach sends a message to the brain: "Go find something to eat!" But that's usually interpreted as "Keep eating more chips." So you eat the whole bag of chips or box of cookies trying to neutralize the acid.
At the same time, they use stimulants like sodium chloride to trigger the digestive process along with artificial scents to make you hungry. Then they extract key fats and key nutrients so that your appestat says, "Wait a minute, you've eaten all these chips but there's no nutrition in there."
• There was no nutrition degree in the United States until General Mills started the first nutritional programs. Almost every major nutritional program in major universities is funded by a food processing corporation.
• If you really want to be healthy you need to find stores like Whole Foods that are committed to high quality nutrition.
• There's a tremendous difference in the quality of protein in the meat from an animal given steroids and one raised on its own accord. The one given steroids is lacking certain essential amino acids.
• The US Department of Agriculture has approved the feeding of sawdust, plastic chips, industrial waste, sewage, cement dust, and dead animal parts to commercially raised animals. These are toxins, and the body stores toxins in fat.
This causes the animal to pack on tremendous amounts of fat because all animal bodies, including humans, use fat to wall toxins off away from the nervous system and the vital organs. When they sell these animals, they don't do body fat checks on them and say that some are too fat.
So what they're essentially doing is selling us huge amounts of toxic fat. Red meat isn't bad for you, but commercially raised and poisoned meat is.
• Whey proteins are not created equal. I work with cancer patients. If you want to make a cancer patient sick, feed them cheap whey protein. I have to use organic, raw, cold processed, 80-dollar-a-can protein powder to help these people.
• How much protein does an athlete need? What's the protein source? How was the protein raised? Is it organic protein or commercially raised protein? How bioavailable is the protein? How functional is the athlete's digestive system?
Almost every American older than 35 in this country has a defective digestive system. They're going to have to eat even more protein to even break it down, because if it's going out your butt, it's not making it to your cells!
• I have young athletes come in all the time who are having chronic problems with gas, fatigue, lethargy, short term memory problems, skin problems, their sweat stinks... These are all indicators that their digestive systems aren't working properly. Therefore, how much protein they need is relative to how healthy they are. I have to use predigested proteins in many cases because their digestive systems are so weak.
• We have a tremendous dehydration problem today. The only thing that substitutes for water is water. When you're drinking water you're actually drinking nature's most powerful detoxification agent. The best solution for pollution is dilution. And that means water, not tea, not soda pop, not orange juice... water!
• Colonics can definitely help detox the body, but here's the problem: a lot of people go get colonics, then keep eating the same crap that got them there in the first place. But there's nothing wrong with colonics.
• I've recommended that many of my patients use home enemas. For example, a lot of the bodybuilders and athletes I've worked with have over-stimulated their bodies with ephedrine, caffeine, and other agents that accelerate and excite the sympathetic nervous system.
When you do that repeatedly it shuts down the parasympathetic nervous system, which is basically the digestion and elimination nervous system. So people get chronically constipated and they can't poop. So when I start cleaning these people out, I actually have to re-educate their bowels to move.
I have to have them do enemas usually first thing in the morning, middle of the day, and sometimes at night. They've actually got to swell the colon up to trigger the stretch receptors to encourage it to push back and move the bowel. Essentially, you're almost like potty training your colon again.
• The average human being should pass about twelve inches of well-formed, not foul smelling, fluffy, easy to pass, light brown, earthy-smelling stool per day, if you've got a normal bowel.
You can poop three four-inchers, two six-inchers, or one great big one; it doesn't really matter. You should have a minimum of one really healthy bowel movement a day.
Right now the average American is having a bowel movement once every two to three days. The worst we've ever seen here at my institute is a patient who was having a bowel movement once every thirty days.
• You can cripple the digestive system easily by eating too fast. Most Americans eat way too fast. There's an old Tibetan saying, "Drink your food and chew your water." That means you should chew your food until it's a liquid, and when you drink a liquid you shouldn't just slam it. You should move it around your mouth as though it was food because that mixes saliva with the water.
The saliva carries the energy from the spleen so it adds chi to the water; it enlivens the water so it'll actually have a therapeutic effect on the body. If you just slam piles of water straight into your stomach it's actually very stressful on the body.
Paul in his library.
• Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. If you weigh 200 pounds you have to put 100 ounces of water into the system a day to effectively clean it, detoxify it, and energize the body.
• The longer a food lasts on the shelf, the worse it is for you. Nothing that you should be eating should last more than about a week. If it lasts a month or a year, then it's going to have a lot of chemicals in it or the food processors have had to kill all the enzymes.
• Always go for the highest quality food you can. The highest quality is certified organic. When it comes to meat, always go for free-range.
• When you're eating things wrapped in plastic or stored in plastic, plastic releases estrogenic chemicals and many other types of chemicals. If you want to have a clean diet, the first thing you need to do is buy all glass or Pyrex containers and don't store food in plastic. Throwing a fatty meat into plastic is a bad idea because the fat will suck the toxins right up.
• Over 85% of the American population is on at least one medical drug. That right there is a huge form of toxin. There's no such thing as a medical drug that doesn't toxify your body.
• It takes no more energy on a daily basis to live and eat healthfully like I do than it does to live and eat and feel like shit like most people do. It's really just a diversion of energy.
• People look at my body and say, "You must exercise all the time!" I say, "No, I don't!" I probably spend an hour in the gym. My typical routine is two days in the gym then a day of rest. That's not ridiculous or excessive.
My point is, I'm able to maintain the body of a world-class athlete on a few hours of exercise, some good food, rest, and a willingness to have access to the true me. I don't want to live a life of chemical filtration, of fogginess and haziness. I don't want to spend my days running around chasing doctors and getting health advice from people that are sicker than the rest of humanity anyhow.
• Go back to the days of Eugene Sandow. Look at his body. He wasn't using whey protein. He wasn't using steroids because they didn't exist. He drank milk, ate real food, trained hard, and produced a strong body.
• You go back to the 1940s and a lot of your champion bodybuilders were also competitive weightlifters. They were Olympic lifting on Saturday and posing on Sunday.
Most bodybuilders were not only world class athletes, they were a health cult. There was a lot of spirituality in bodybuilding – that striving toward something better. We've lost that component of it.
Stand at the front door of any Gold's Gym. It won't take ten minutes before you see somebody who's so big that he can barely walk, who hits his aerobic threshold just walking from his car to the door. He's approaching death and he calls that bodybuilding. That's not bodybuilding; that's a dysfunction.
Modern bodybuilders essentially wear their life force on their sleeve but they die on the inside. We have more sick, tired, and dying people that call themselves bodybuilders than we ever have before. They've let go of the spiritual components.
• Anyone with two brain cells to rub together should be able to look at one picture of me and know that you can't do that with just a Swiss ball!
A Swiss ball is a very therapeutic and useful adjunct to add to any weight lifting program. It's a tool. I just happened to have popularized it. So people with sheep mentality immediately think that's all that I do.
• You have to cycle stress and recovery, and not just it terms of training. Let me give you an example. If you're drinking ten cups of coffee a day, that's the equivalent of working out ten times a day, and you wouldn't do that. If you cut half of that out and every second cup of coffee is replaced with water, now you're cycling stress and recovery.
• It takes an average of eight hours of sleep per night for the human immune system to kill down the bacteria population to a safe level, because every single bacterium in your body is urinating and defecating in your body 24/7.
They produce a toxin called endotoxin LPS. If your body doesn't get enough sleep at night, you will progressively be poisoned by the bacteria in your own intestinal track.
• A new car emits over 60,000 toxic chemicals into the environment of that car for at least the first year. When you sit in that car you're literally ingesting those chemicals.
A lot of my patients can't ride in new cars because it stresses their immune system so severely they get headaches. When I used to own a physical therapy clinic, I couldn't use new Swiss balls with many of my patients. They'd just touch the ball and get welts all over their body.
• It's ten times less toxic to be outside of any building in any city than inside the building because of the toxicity of the building materials (the glues particularly.) Any house containing pressboard is gassing out massive amounts of formaldehyde, which is extremely poisonous to the body.
• A commercially made piece of carpet will emit 130 toxic chemicals for the first year it's on the floor. This is why many people get ill in new hotels and office buildings. Whenever you see that reaction, it means the person's biological systems of detoxification are already running at the red line. They can't take it.
There's a very simple way to find out if you're one of those people: if you can't handle the smell of gasoline, it's a strong indicator that your detoxification systems are crippled. A lot of people will immediately get a headache when they're near a gas pump. That means their body has no more reserves. They're in a very fragile state.
• Eating according to your metabolic type is brutally simple, and I can't believe so many idiots keep saying that it's bullshit.
Metabolic typing is nothing other than finding the right ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for your unique needs which change based on your racial or ethnic origin, what part of the world your parents originated from, and what your body's biological and environmental needs are.
• The guy right beside you may be a protein type. On the other side you might have a carb type. Yet you're sitting at a seminar in the year 2006 where they're telling you an athlete should eat 70% carbohydrate and only 30% fat and protein for best performance! And who's sponsoring the conference? Fuckin' Gatorade!
• A healthy person shouldn't smell bad when he sweats. Also, if you're eating more protein than you can process, it produces urea as a byproduct and it stinks. The urine will also develop a strong pungent odor.
• I used to have to weigh every single fighter on the boxing team twice a day. I could tell by the smell of them, by looking at their eyes, and by their behavior exactly which of them were eating correctly and which ones weren't.
I could tell when they were eating fast foods because I could smell the trans-fatty acids coming right out of their skin. The effects of eating at McDonalds three days in a row was devastating on these fighter's bodies.
Paul lifting Anthony Lopez, who's 6'8" and 245 pounds.
• In order for a human being to have a full life, a full experience of God's creation, the universe around us and the earth beneath our feet, you have got to clean up, purify, and fine tune your body to the point where you have access to the truth. When I say truth I mean what's going on at all levels of reality.
Can you feel the chi moving through the soil when you stand on the grass? Can you communicate with plants and trees? Can feel the energy fields on human beings and animals? Can you feel a bird fly by or can you only see it?
These are all things that are very normal experiences for healthy people with a spiritual life who are in sound physical health.
• I don't like little goals because little goals are for little minds and I don't have one.
• I'm working to usher in what used to be. And that is to see the body as the church of health and well-being, and to see the gym as the temple where one exercises, listens to good music, thinks, and has commune with people of like mind.
I want to turn the gyms back into sacred spaces. The gym needs to be a spot where we merge science with spirit.
4 Hours With Chek
I was going to conclude this article by telling you what I thought of Chek and his teachings after talking to him for four hours. Well, I'm not going to. Too often we paint our opinions only with the colors given to us by other people. I'm not going to do that.
Think for yourself on this one. Be your own artist. I think Paul would prefer that.