A man standing in front of a boxing ring, demonstrating fitness and exercise techniques in Rhode Island for Burn with Kearns.

Burn with Kearns: Train smarter not harder. Max your gym time – Kevin Kearns

by Kevin Kearns, contributing writer on exercise and fitness

As I approach 57 this June, (holy crap) for perspective my dad died at 48 years old. Is it easy to stay fit and healthy as you age? Some days it is, and some days it’s a struggle. The struggle is the days that you can count on the most.

Let’s face some facts here, just like death and taxes, we are all getting older. I like to say we’re more seasoned, like a good stew or a fine wine. But the fact is we are getting older every day. And we have the lovely mother nature ( the B______) wants you to kick the bucket to make way for the next generation. Facts are facts but you can’t dispute them.

However, as an exercise scientist we can manipulate many variables so we can slow down the aging process. Now, before you go off half-cocked and say, “this is about steroids and HGH”, it’s actually not. There are other ways to “play” with the aging card while we train hard and stay healthy. Or should I say train smarter; not harder.  How do I know? Because I live it every day.

As of the summer this year I personally turned the age of 50!  Yes, the big 50! I’m half a century old as they say. To put that into prospective my father passed at age 48. When I was kid, I thought 50 was old. Now you see actors like Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon approaching the same age. Times have changed because people in general are more health conscious. To add more to the perspective, I have been working out faithfully for 38 years and been personally training people since 1987! So, you could say I have some knowledge, flight time and it’s not my first rodeo.

Let’s discuss the variables you can manipulate with your workouts. Seven years ago, one of my top clients passed away due to cancer. He made it to 80 years old and would have reach 100, I believe. David A was a great client, mentor and friend. I started training him when he was 70 and stopped when he was 77 due to his disease. The one concept he used to say to me is “it’s all about moderation Kevin. What is moderation at 30 is different than 40, and so on”. At 70 years old he would train 3 times a week with me, play singles tennis 2 x a week and walk 2 x a week for 1 hour. He could hit pads for 5 3’s after doing a Burn With Kearns workout.

Variable 1- Everything in moderation

The principle is simple. You are not 20 years old anymore. You need to treat your body like a temple and what you put in is what you get out. When you were 20 years old you had the time, energy and hormone levels to spend 3 hours doing a chest workout. You blink and you are my age, and you have kids, a mortgage, and retirement (I personally don’t believe in this ). So, when you hit the gym, you need to be realistic. My workouts tend to be 30 minutes to 60 minutes or more. They include a moving warm up (5 to 10  minutes) , interval HIT style training, functional strength and a 5 minute cool down. The great part about this style of training is you can hit more muscles than you knew you had, increase muscle endurance, increase cardiovascular conditioning, all while intensity goes up and time goes down. My best time has been 30 exercises in less than 30 minutes, and I’m whipped but can still work.

Variable 2- Change is good – Mix it up. The 2 phrases I absolutely loathe in fitness is “ I usually” and “I always” follow this workout. How can you expect results? Try something new. I started doing yoga in 2008 due to planter fasciitis  in both my feet. How did I get that? From running 340 concrete stairs 3 to 4 x a week for 1 hour. Yoga fixed it and I was able to run on trails within 1 year. It was the best decision I have every made for my overall health and wellness. Over time I realized that yoga was a great workout not only for my body but for my mind. The other added benefits are –

  • increased flexibility
  • increased range on motion
  • increased mobility
  • increase mental toughness (trust me when it’s 105 degrees for 90 minutes you’ll understand
  • new exercises and moves that you can bring into the gym).

Variable 3 – it’s not necessary to kill it every day. This is a tough one for us trainers and athletes. We think we all need to crush ourselves during our workouts. The fact that you are working out should be enough. Every time you train it’s a deposit in your Fitness IRA. If you don’t have an hour to train, train for 30; it’s better than zero. This is a concept that really has to sink in. I have a client who’s my age and 200 lbs.  He has lost 40 lbs. and is now about 200 lbs. He has a shoulder injury that we have rehabbed as well. It’s taken over a year to perform 8 pull ups. This is amazing to me giving where we started. He unfortunately has it in his head that he should be able to do 10 easy. Seriously think about it. How many 51 year olds at 200 lbs. that run a 30 million dollar company with over 100 employees can do even a single pull up. Take the small victories. That fact you can train daily is a gift. It’s not possible to crush every workout. Just shut up and train.

Variable 4 – Teach and old dog new tricks. Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time and could have competed in multiple athletic endeavors. In the 70’s American Footballers were taking ballet to help with their balance, agility, and flexibility. In my business in work with hockey players, baseball players, football players and lacrosse on combat fitness. What is that you ask?  It’s MMA drills and skills as well as striking pads to develop endurance, spatial awareness, balance, agility, and mental toughness. Your next question may be – why?  To prevent staleness and shock your body. What will try today? Dance, surfing, kite boarding, kayaking – the sky is the limit, and these activities not only stimulate the body but the mind as well.

Variable 5 – Yin Yan, you must have soft with hard – I like using steel and iron as well but I also get a great workout from resistance bands. Try using a band workout for “Unloading the muscles” after a heavy weights day the next day. We call it our “Rubber and Steel workout” .  Years ago, I thought bands were for little old ladies. Then I realized that you could get a full body workout and mimic the same exercises in the gym with a simple resistance bands. My bands have traveled with from Alaska to Okinawa and everywhere in between. One particular time I was in the UK teaching a certification for Yarm Martial arts. While in between sessions I went to a park with my band and strapped it to a pole. As I’m working out someone’s dog ran between me. He apologized and then looked at me and said, “Is that you, Coach Kearns?”  He was one of my readers from Fighters Only. The reason why when you go to China, they are all doing Tai Chi (Big hint here!!!)

Variable 6 – Listen to your joints – when in doubt listen to what your body tells you. If running on hard surface hurts, try trail running, or hiking.  Like box jumps? Swap out the box for a high quality fitness trampoline like JumpSport, or try them on sand at the beach. This is a real “ Uh HUH” moment. When I first was introduced to fitness trampolines, I immediately saw the benefit. I love plyometrics but man it does a number on your joints. I can get the same explosive power with these lovely gems without feeling I went 5 rounds with a UFC champion. The other added benefit is the recovery and regeneration properties. After training lactic acid builds up into the muscles and that’s why you feel sore. Bouncing on a quality trampoline helps flush that out as well as stimulate the lymphatic system to stave off illness.

Variable 7 – Eat a Rainbow. There’s a reason why foods are different colors. They have different vitamins and nutrients. The Asian diet is to eat with the seasons. People in the Mediterranean will eat a salad with every meal. We as modern humans fall into a pattern of eating the same thing day in and day out.  My exercise physiology professor once said. “As you age you either have decreased calories and maintain activity or increased activity and maintain calories”. What he was referring to was losing muscle mass as we age. Mix up your foods and eat differently each day. You need to keep your metabolism on its toes too.

The good news is you can still build muscle mass at any age and stave off the B——— Mother


Workout Alternatives

Box Jumps Hard box vs switch to Fitness Trampoline

Stair running vs switch to Trail running.

Heavy dumbbell work vs resistance bands

Sprints vs Yoga

Running vs swimming

Barbells vs Bodyweight

Wrestling vs Muay Thai

Cycling vs Pilates


Coach Kearns – Direct: 508 404 8503

Both of Coach Kearns’ books may be purchased on For more information about Coach Kevin Kearns, including scheduling speaking engagements and classes (both online and in person), please contact him at 508-404-8503 or [email protected].

Author of “There’s Light In The Tunnel” How to Survive and Thrive with Depression  – “Always Picked Last“ A guide to navigating bullies on Amazon and Audible

Coach Kevin Kearns has been coaching in the world of fitness, nutrition, and tactical self defense for over 3 decades. As the former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pro Fighters, and ranked in the Top 5 in the UFC , he is no stranger to the the importance of proper nutrition and proper mindset programming. He has long advocated to all his clients – athletes or the general population – about the importance of programming mind, body and spirit. 

Coach Kevin Kearns BS FMS CPT – Former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pros Ranked in Top 5 by the UFC Personal Fitness Coach, Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant, Youth Wellness Program Provider, Certification Specialist, Personal Self Defense, and Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Specialist