In this episode, Ron Williams unravels the secrets to longevity, health, and enjoying the perks of an active life. Ron is a 21 times natural bodybuilding world champion, served as a Master Fitness Trainer for the US Army, was awarded the Natural Bodybuilder of the Decade distinction, is a former Professor of Exercise Physiology and Nutrition, and has been a Life and Fitness Coach for over 35 years. Life hit hard right from the get-go. Dropped at a babysitting house at age 3, Ron went through over 20 houses before he was 15, suffering all kinds of abuse and the devastating sensation of not being loved. But he never stopped believing in himself, and a few years later, he found the secret ingredient of the success formula.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be today. We are so delighted to have you as part of the show. Thank you for joining us. As we start, in our program, today, I just want to let you know, occasionally, over the years, I’ve invited a guest back; someone that has had a big impact on my life. I’ve found that these podcasts are really quite remarkable. I’m the one that benefits most usually, and that’s frequently the way it is. I’d like to tell you about the guests that we have today is extraordinary. He’s one of the most decorated natural bodybuilders in the world, having achieved the highest honor ever awarded in Natural Bodybuilding by becoming the sole recipient of the “Natural Bodybuilder of The Decade” award. He has leveraged his 40 years of experience as a 21-time world champion to develop a transformational five-step process of winning, that helps to build champion teams of any type. We’re excited to have Ron Williams with us.
Ron Williams: Awesome!. Hey, Steve, thank you so much, first of all, for that introduction. And second of all, just for allowing me to be on this podcast.
Steve Shallenberger: Now, this journey really started for me when I was told about Ron—and we were introduced a number of years ago. I’m not sure how long it’s been six years, seven years, somewhere in that range. We had Ron as a guest on our podcast. And during that podcast session, I said, “Ron, you know what? I’ve been wanting to lose 10 pounds for about 10 years. I bet some of our listeners can relate in one way or another to that, as we’re all trying to become as fit as we’re able to be.” And Ron gave some answers to that. And after the show was over, I said, “No, I’m really serious. I want to lose 10 pounds.” And Ron said, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” So, he called me the next day and said, “Steve, good news! You don’t have to lose 10 pounds.” I was excited. And then he said, “You need to lose 25 pounds.” I thought, “Oh man, that’s gonna be tough!” And I asked Ron if he would be a coach to help me. So, I did lose 25 pounds within just three or four months. What’s quite remarkable is I have kept those pounds off. The things that Ron taught me have transformed my fitness level of life; of how I feel about myself and the condition that I’m in. So, I owe a lot to Ron and I’m grateful to have him come back and talk today in part because I wanted to share my experience. I’ll tell you a little bit more about Ron. He has devoted his life to educating, inspiring, coaching, and encouraging people just like me. As a nationally recognized motivational inspirational speaker, he has a unique connection with his audience that stems from his own personal journey of physical and spiritual transformation. And the principles that Ron teaches and uses in his own life, literally are easy to embrace. They’re simple to understand and very effective. His desire is to just equip individuals with the necessary tools to live like a champion. So, Ron, on that note, let’s dive right into this. He’s a dear friend and someone that I admire. Tell our listeners, if you will, about your background, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you.
Ron Williams: You mentioned several things about my life, all of the achievements—well, at least, a lot of those achievements. But I would say I came from a very humble background, where I believe that all of us have a story, and it’s all relative. My story is a little different than everyone else’s. I came from a background. At three years old, I was dropped off at a babysitter’s house. So, I wasn’t given to an orphanage home, I wasn’t dropped off at an agency where they could actually find me home; I was just dropped off at a babysitter’s house, and they just never came back to get me. I found myself in probably 20 different houses—I wouldn’t call them homes because they weren’t homes to me—before I was 15 years old. I went to about 20 different schools. Then remember having a toothbrush until I was 18 years old. As a small child, I was I was beaten, molested, tested, and touched in ways that a child should never be touched. And I remember the man who was part of raising me, he died, and I was eight years old, Steve. This was a turning point in my life. I kind of felt like people didn’t like me very much. But he said something, as he was on his deathbed. He was about 200 pounds; I watched him shrink down to about 99 pounds — cancer ate his body. And as he was lying there on his deathbed, he had a seizure, and I thought he was swallowing his tongue. I found out today that you really can’t swallow your tongue. But anyway, he says these words to his wife: “Raise this boy because nobody loves him and nobody wants.” And I heard him say those words, Steve. And that did something to me; it rang through my whole soul. So, I felt like I was worthless, wasn’t worthy of love, wasn’t worthy of breathing. So, I became suicidal. A lot of different feelings and emotions. I didn’t like my life, didn’t love my life. So it made it hard for me to really love or care for anyone else.
Ron Williams: Everybody that should have loved me seemed like they left me see, Steve: my mother and my father. By the way, Santa Claus never came around on Christmas. So, even Santa Claus didn’t like this little kid. So, that’s the way my life started. I was illiterate. Until I was 18 years old, I couldn’t read. By the time I was 35, I began to write books and became a college professor. So, I always say, “God has a real sense of humor.” But I remember those times and wanting to commit suicide. It was like, “If I didn’t have to wake up tomorrow, everything would be okay.” That was the greatest feeling that I had as a youth: not waking up tomorrow. So, when I hear of people thinking about suicide or feeling suicidal, I know what that’s like. And I want to just say this before I turn it back over to you, Steve, is that suicide doesn’t happen because of what you’re going through today. Suicide doesn’t happen because of what tomorrow is; suicide happens out of your memory. Do you remember what yesterday was like? The day before that? Years before that? And you say, “I don’t want to face another yesterday.” And so rather than facing another yesterday, I’d rather end it today so tomorrow actually looks better than yesterday. People commit suicide out of yesterday, out of their memories.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s an interesting insight. Ron, how did you make the jump of going from such a challenge, very difficult upbringing, in youth, with all those things happening to get in on a good track? What happened? What was the change?
Ron Williams: Actually, I remember just looking at being born and raised in the ghetto and just not buying into that mentality. It just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like the way the ghetto looked. I actually went to the military at 18; they had to give me a waiver to get into the military. I went into the military which started to teach me some digital. And I came back from the military with the same ghetto mentality. But the thing is, when you’re in the ghetto, it’s like the gerbil on the wheel: you don’t know how to get out. It is a mentality. And that mentality, if you don’t change your mind, then you won’t change your life. There are a lot of things you can change: your shoes, your clothes, your house, your car. But when you change a person’s mind, you change a person’s life. So, what happened is my mind changed. At the age of 28 is when I learned how to read, and I learned how to read by learning how to read the Bible. My life changed when I started a relationship with God, actually, which led on a lot of spiritual things and a lot of natural things. But it was my mindset that needed to change so that my condition could change. That’s when I started to become what I consider successful. And there’s a whole thing to that. I want to talk about that in a moment if we can.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, we’re gonna have plenty of time here. Even though these podcasts things just go like that. Let’s jump into it. Thank you for the background, and I love hearing about the transformation. This is what we talk about in Becoming Your Best. When you can capture a vision—an inspiring, passionate, meaningful vision—for you and your life, it can change everything. So being open to that is where the seeds can be planted and where they start to grow. And that happened to Ron, and I appreciate you sharing that Ron. Let’s talk about fitness for a little while, and then we’ll talk about anything else. It’s already been a worthwhile podcast having you share what you have. But I know on top of mind for probably the vast majority of listeners is, from all of your experience, which is you’re one of the very top in the world, in fitness and thinking about healthiness and longevity, what advice do you have to our listeners to maximize their longevity and health?
Ron Williams: Several simple things that are really important: De-stress your life. Whatever it takes, de-stress your life, because 80% of all diseases are stress-related; they come from stress and inflammation. So, if you can get rid of the stress, get rid of the inflammation, you can get rid of diseases. Some of the things we can do is just realize that life is just life — life comes with struggles; life comes with problems. We can’t get rid of that, but we can get rid of our thought process on how we handle them. The other thing would be: Change your habits, your eating habits. If you don’t exercise, exercise. Now, exercise; there are two types of exercise: There’s your resistance exercise, and there’s your cardiovascular exercise. One thing about cardiovascular exercise is it’s good to create longevity. So, it gives you a long life. But resistance training gives you the quality of life. So, it’s really important not just to have a long life, but who wants to have a long life with no quality? So, resistance training actually builds strength in your muscles, strengthens the bones, and gives you a physical toughness where you can overcome some of the things, even some of the sickness that we encounter. So, it’s good to have both. You can ward off osteopenia and osteoporosis by exercise, but cardiovascular exercise alone can actually increase and enhance osteoporosis because you’re losing weight and it doesn’t build density. But resistance training builds density in the muscle and the bones. So, you can ward off osteoporosis by doing resistance training.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good. So, you mentioned that we should figure out how to get the stress out of our lives. That’s one of the things we do well at Becoming Your Best through pre-week planning and having a vision and a direction that you’re going. But doing consistently what matters most by doing pre-week planning and getting that stress out. So, you’re focusing on the things that matter most, but doing it in a way that you’re able to feel at peace about your choices. And you know the things, how you’ve organized your week, are the most important. And you have a way to make decisions, so it allows for a much more peaceful life. So, you may have some thoughts on that, but I love the fact you said it. And thanks for talking about the exercise, the cardiovascular. Most of our listeners are quite familiar with walking, running, swimming, whatever it might be. Tell us more about the resistance training. I know that Ron has helped me with that; at least, I think I’m working on that. Tell us more about that. He has some tools that he recommended. You think about a surgeon; the reason they can do their job is they have the right tools. The reason that somebody can organize well—pre-week planning, for example—they have the right tools that are setup to help him. Ron introduced me to something called the “Iron Chest Master,” along with a video he did that, I think, created this resistance training. Can you tell us about that? What it is? Give us examples of it. And then we can talk about the diet part.
Ron Williams: The first thing is, the body doesn’t respond to weights; the body doesn’t respond to selector pin machines; the body doesn’t respond to any type of heavy, utilized utensils. The body only responds to resistance. If that resistance happens to be dumbbells or barbells, it’ll respond to the resistance itself. If it has to be a selector pin machine, it’ll respond to that. But the best form of resistance, and the most friendly form of resistance, is resistance bands. So, what we’ve done, Steve, is we’ve created some equipment using resistance bands, because what the resistance bands do is they tie into the joints, and they help protect and preserve the joints. And if you use weights, you sometimes want to use heavier weights, so you get a momentum. With the resistance bands, it takes that desire out, and there’s no use in getting the momentum in using resistance bands. So, we’ve taken those same concepts, and we’ve developed the equipment around that with the “Total Body Bar” as well as the “Iron Chest Master.” So, you should find that even when therapists, whether they’re chiropractors or physical therapists, when they’re rehabbing a person, they use resistance bands because it rehabs and it helps protect the joints. Well, if you can rehab with the resistance bands, all you have to do is get heavier resistance bands, and you can strengthen and you can build using those resistance bands. The next thing that’s really important is each one of the muscles is attached to a joint. So, you have to consider the joint as well as the muscle. If you don’t, you will damage the joint, and the muscle will grow. And once that joint starts developing pain, and starts developing chronic pain, you can no longer build the muscle because you can’t use the joint. So, you want to protect those joints; you want to consider the joints so that you maximize your fitness and you’re really getting what you want. You want to be healthy, and you want to keep that muscle strong.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, my friends who are listening in today, you’re listening from one of the very best in the entire world on this. Like, he knows what he’s talking about. I love it. So, these are just a few things that you can do to create greater longevity and also health and strength. So, good tips, Ron. Just two days ago, one of Ron’s videos that he has for exercises, a 30-minute video—I just did it again two days ago. One of the things I love about it, and I’m not trying to promote it, I mean, when you have a good idea, an idea that’s grounded in something that you want to share: One of the things I like about this exercise is it exercises every part of my body. So, it takes the cardio together with the resistance, and it does every muscle group that there is with the resistance. So, I love it; it’s very helpful. I feel better today than I did 10 years ago. So, I appreciate that, Ron. You’ve often told me also another key component is having the right kind of diet. Do you mind taking a couple of minutes on that?
Ron Williams: Absolutely, Steve. One thing about nutrition is: everybody is a little bit different. So, there is no diet that you can really cookie-cut and give to everyone. It’s best to find out. If you gave me a diet that had okra in it, that diet wouldn’t work for me because I cannot eat okra. If I could, I would, but it just turns my stomach. So, we have to find out what’s healthy. What, in that healthy line of food, can you eat? Do you like eating? Because if you eat really, really well for three months, that’s not going to really benefit you long-term. So, we want to develop something that’s going to be long-lasting. And with our kids, what we’ve done is we’ve trained their tastebuds. So, 200 years ago, they didn’t have Oreo cookies; they didn’t have Captain Crunch; they didn’t have “Tricks are for kids.” I know a lot of adults eat “Tricks are for kids,” too. They didn’t have those types of what we call “food”—I call it “food-like substance.” They didn’t have that back then. But we still survived. So, we train our tastebuds. Some things that we don’t like. At one time, Steve, I didn’t like vegetables. This was my thought. And it’s from how I was raised and where it came from: I thought vegetables—they would give you a salad so they could fill you up so that you couldn’t get the real stuff that you wanted. I wanted potatoes; here you are giving me a salad, so I can’t eat much of that. So, I would skip the salad, the greens, and go straight to the steak and potatoes and eat as much of that as I could. But that’s a thought process and the mentality. I didn’t understand the nutrients that I was going to get out of those vegetables. So, with diet and nutrition, it’s good to make sure that you eat from all of the food groups. Essential fatty acids are essential. Essential fatty acids are essential; they are so important for so many aspects—things we don’t even think about. They lubricate your joints; it takes fat to lose fat. So, you need that; it’s not the saturated fat, it’s the essential fats. The carbohydrates—the number one source of energy that the body desires. But there are good carbs and there are bad carbs. Protein—the same thing. We want to make sure we get protein. The proteins are what are broken down into amino acids to actually facilitate the muscles. All of our hormones are made up of protein; all of the enzymes in our bodies are made up of protein. So, we need good combinations of carbs, protein, and fats together to make up a good nutrition plan. But we look at our body composition, and we say, “What do I want done to my body composition? Do I want to decrease fat? Do I want to build muscle? Do I want more definition?” And we design a nutrition plan around our exercise program. And that’s the best way to do it individually. That’s what I do with my clients, Steve.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, and I will never forget: Ron taught me that very early on when we met before—anytime you eat, have those three things in your meal: protein, carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids. I think you gave the example to me, Ron, and I’ve really tried to remember it. You can correct this if I’m wrong, but if you eat an apple just by itself, it takes 20 minutes for the body to digest, and it goes right to—is it glucose or fat? What is it?
Ron Williams: Yeah, if you eat the carbohydrate by itself, depending on what type of carb it is—if it’s a complex carb, it takes an hour. If it’s a simple carb, it only takes 20 minutes to digest and absorb; that spikes the blood sugar level, which causes—you know, that’s where we get diabetes from, the high glycemic carbohydrates. But if you eat a protein, and if you eat a protein and a fat with it, it lowers it on the glycemic scale so that it doesn’t spike the blood glucose level. Because the 20 minutes it takes for that carbohydrate to digest and absorb, it takes two hours for protein and four hours for that essential fatty acid. You combine them together, and it slows the carbohydrate down from spiking the blood glucose level.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so I’ve never forgotten that. And then it goes directly to metabolism. I love it! So, that is an easy thing to remember. And then, Ron said, “Try to have your simple carbohydrates in the morning, and your complex carbohydrates in the afternoon.” Okay, good discussion. These are the foundational things. Ron, one of the things that I admire, that I know you’ve had to do, and you’ve talked about it on the program today, is: in order to accomplish what you have, it takes discipline. In order for each of us who is listening today to have habits that create greater longevity and health—which translates into more energy, happiness, and you feel better emotionally—that, too, takes discipline. So, what have you learned that helps you to be disciplined? How can we do that? What do you recommend?
Ron Williams: One thing, Steve, I think, as a youth, I developed a tremendous amount of willpower, which is a good thing. But it’s also a not-so-good thing. And I’ll explain why. Because, see, in order to start anything that’s going to be positive or different than what you’ve always done, and the habits that you’ve already built require willpower to initiate that. So, many times, what happens is we’ll hear somebody like yourself speak, and it inspires us, and it motivates us. And we say, “I’m going to change now. I’m going to change.” It’s going to require willpower, where one side of my brain goes off, it shuts down, happy hormones stop being secreted, cortisol is secreted, and I’m using my willpower. Willpower is like a muscle—you use the willpower, you use it, and it gets tired. And all of a sudden, you’re frustrated, you’re irritable, and in your mind you know, “If I can just go off this diet plan, or if I could just go back to what I used to do, I wouldn’t feel this way.” Well, the moment you go and you eat that thing you’re not supposed to eat because it was a habit to you, your brain turns back on; you release those endorphins, and it endorses the bad behavior. And then, once that bad behavior has been endorsed, then you look in the mirror, and you say, “But I don’t like what I see.” It starts this vicious cycle. So, when it comes to willpower, willpower eventually will wear out. So, when we’re using our willpower, we’ve got to look long-term and say, “How can we turn this willpower into a lifestyle?” One of the best things to do is to get as much information—because in order to change a thought, the best way to change a thought is to replace it with another thought that’s stronger and that’s bigger. And so now that I realize that when I’m eating, I see all of the negativity of what I’m eating is doing to my body. And now I’m getting this new information about, “If you eat this, this is what’s going to happen.” So, I’m studying this new information, I’m feeling really good about this new information. And then I start to develop some positive triggers around this new information.
Ron Williams: For me, like with exercise, most people don’t know this—I don’t think I’ve ever told you this—but I’ve never really loved exercise; never really loved it. What I loved most was winning. I loved to win. So, I would exercise because it required the exercise to win. And then, when I stopped competing, what am I competing for now? So, I had to change my mindset and start thinking about every person that I’ve worked with. I vicariously can win through their lives. Every person that I speak to, and I stand on stage, I’ve got to look a certain way to represent who I am. I can win by being who I am. So, I’m changing my mind—it’s all about the way I think. So, if I can convert my willpower into a lifestyle long enough, then I have these positive triggers. I have certain things that I like. So, there’s a drink that I really, really love, but I can’t have this drink until after I finish my workout. So, that’s a positive trigger. When you get up in the morning, what clothes do you have set beside your bed? Do you have your work clothes, your suit, your nice clothes, or do you have your exercise clothes? So, that takes away me having to use my willpower. I wake up in the morning, I look over, see my tennis shoes, my workout clothes; that’s what I put on because I’ve already decided to work out. So, we develop these positive triggers.
Ron Williams: Did you know this, Steve, that with cows, if you have a barbed-wire fence, and you put the barbed-wire fence there for the cows not to cross over into the other property, they will tear that barbed-wire fence down; they’ll get tangled up in the barbed wire, and they’ll kill themselves with the barbed wire. But if you put an electrical fence there, they’ll touch that fence one time, and they’ll never go towards that fence again, because there’s a parameter. And there’s a trigger there; they know, as soon as I pass this point, I’m going to get electrocuted. I mean, it’s strange how that works. Well, we can set those same types of triggers in our lives, where as soon as I hit a certain point, I back off, because I know the repercussions of it.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, good. I had a guest on who had played professional basketball for nine seasons. I loved it when we were talking about the subject of willpower and discipline. And he said, “Here are the words I think of: discipline produces confidence, and confidence produces success.” And that’s really a lot of what Ron is talking about today. Well, I cannot believe we’re at the end of our show, Ron. 30 minutes have passed. So, before we wrap up today, what final tips would you like to give our listeners? And then, I’d like to have you share how people can find out about what you’re doing.
Ron Williams: What I would like to share is this: Becoming successful, Steve, what does it take to become successful? I mentioned that at the beginning, I didn’t become successful until I made those shifts and changes. What is real success? Success, to me, is different than what other people may describe it to be. Success, to me, is finding out why you were born and then beginning to do that. That may not mean being a person that has $40 million; it may not mean that. But when you find out what you were born to do and you do it, that’s where success is. If you don’t, I call that person—and I called myself for many years—an imposter. I was an imposter for many, many years. And what creates imposters are words and experiences and things that we go through. It shifts us from our original intention. We have a God-given purpose, and when things start to happen to us in our lives, we’re pulling, we’re headed for this purpose. And little bit by little bit, you get hurt or injured; it starts to slowly take you off purpose. You become insecure and fearful. All these things begin to happen; it throws you off purpose. And then you are heading in a direction that you were never intended to go in because of your fears. I was afraid to speak. I was an imposter because I was born to say stuff; I was born to be in front of people. But I was afraid because of my insecurities and fears. And until I got rid of those things, I was an imposter. Sometimes we hide behind food, Steve; we eat our feelings and our emotions. And that causes us to be overweight, unhealthy, and part of an imposter. We’re hiding ourselves. So, when we can get rid of those things, then we begin to see who we really are, and we can get rid of that imposter.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s great advice. I love it. It’s been a delight to have you with us, Ron. Tell our listeners how they can find out more about you and what you’re doing.
Ron Williams: Well, we have Ron Williams Facebook; we have RonWilliamsChampion.com for our equipment and books and stuff like that. If you ever want me to speak: RonWilliamsSpeaks.com.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, there you have it. We’ve had Mr. Ron Williams with us today: Mr. Universe. Loved seeing you; grateful for you, my friend. You’re such an awesome guy. Thanks for joining.
Ron Williams: Thanks, man. God bless you.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, same, and to our listeners: We’re privileged to have you with us. I’m sure that you’ve picked up some ideas that can be helpful in your life. We’re so grateful for you and the fact you’re working on becoming your best. And the very fact you’re doing that. We have failures, we have challenges. Someone said today, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.” Well, I guarantee, as listeners, you’re trying, and you inspire us. So, wishing you a great day. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, signing off.
CEO, Executive, Corporate Trainer, and Community Leader
Decorated Natural Bodybuilder, Regional Chairman for the National Gym Association, International Natural Bodybuilding Association Hall of Famer