At age 60, Gen. Stanley McChrystal still wakes up at 4 every morning for an intense workout


general stanley mcchrystal

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Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal sits aboard a helicopter during active duty in 2009.

For the past four years, retired General Stanley McChrystal has overseen the management consulting firm he founded, the McChrystal Group, but he still exercises as if he were in the military.


In a recent interview on Tim Ferriss' podcast, McChrystal discussed his daily routine and his new book "Team of Teams," which he wrote with former Navy SEAL officer Chris Fussell.

At age 60, McChrystal said it's very important to him to exercise seven days a week.

Here's what a typical morning looks like for him:

  • Wake up at 4 a.m.
  • Head down to basement at 4:30 for 45- to 50-minute initial half of workout: Push-ups, 100 sit ups, three-minute plank, two to three minutes of yoga poses, push-ups, crunches, two-and-a-half-minute plank, yoga, push-ups, crossover sit ups, two-minute plank, yoga, push-ups, 60 flutter kicks, one-and-a-half-minute plank, crunches, one-minute plank, yoga.
  • Go to local gym when it opens at 5:30 for 30- to 35-minute second half of workout: Four sets of pull-ups alternated with incline bench press and standing curls, and between sets one-legged balance exercises; a few other assorted exercises.
  • Get home by 6:20 a.m. Shower and head to the office.

He said he always has one audiobook designated to his workout time and another audiobook designated to his time spent getting ready, which allows him to get even more out of his mornings.


He told Ferriss that when he was a captain he would run 15 miles a day, but he learned as he became older that he was putting too much wear-and-tear on his body. It's why he now alternates weight lifting with running or biking throughout the week, so that he's not putting too much strain on particular parts of his body.

McChrystal said he still exercises intensely for a few reasons.

First, being in shape gives him confidence. Second, it's largely habit, since in the military, he says, a position of leadership is not an excuse to fall out of the best shape you can be in.

And perhaps most importantly, it begins his day with discipline.

"I find that if the day is terrible but I worked out, at the end of the day I can go, 'Well, I had a good workout. Almost no matter what happens,'" he said.


To prove his point, McChrystal discussed the day he learned of the 2010 Rolling Stone article that led to his deposition as the top general in the Afghanistan war and ultimately caused him to retire. In the story, he and his aides are portrayed as critical of the leadership in the White House. He said he remembered learning about the article at 1:30 in the morning, and quickly gathered that it was going to pose a serious problem to him.

"I went and put my clothes on, and I went and ran for an hour to clear my head and de-stress myself," he told Ferriss. "It didn't make it go away, but that is something that I do in those situations."

You can listen to the full, in-depth podcast interview at Ferriss' website or iTunes.

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