John Joseph, the frontman of the legendary hardcore band The Cro-Mags, has got stories. Some of them involve playing at New York City venues alongside acts like the Beastie Boys and the Bad Brains. Some are tales of having contracts out on his head after robbing drug dealers while he battled with addiction. Lately, however, many of Joseph’s stories are about the merits of a plant-based diet, and the camaraderie of the triathlon community.

Has the punk rock icon mellowed? Absolutely not. Joseph still performs as hard as ever. “We’ve never had anybody walk out from their show wanting their money back. We come out and lay it down, Cro-Mags every night,” Joseph says. But after packing about three lifetimes into his 53 years, Joseph understands how a clean diet and fitness can help him rock even harder.

Joseph has never done anything half-assed, whether it’s performing, going vegan, or getting fit. Joseph, who is an ambassador for Stance’s new running socks, will compete in his sixth Ironman triathlon this year. In his book, Meat Is For Pussies: A How-To Guide For Dudes Who Want To Get Fit, Kick Ass, And Take Names, the follow-up to his memoir The Evolution Of A Cro-Magnon, he explains the journey he took to get to where he is today.

Recently, I had the chance to go for a run with Joseph through New York City’s East Village neighborhood. He pointed out the locations of bygone music venues and talked about the Tompkins Square riots and his drug muling days. In hip-hop parlance, you’d say that Joseph is still very much “in the streets.” Everywhere we went, people would stop him to give a pound and say what’s up. Afterward, he talked about what it means to be punk rock fit.

Joseph runs through the NYC streets (Photo: Justin Tejada)

Joseph runs through the NYC streets (Photo: Justin Tejada)

“You have to beat the mind with a stick on a daily basis,” Joseph says. “The mind can be your worst enemy or your best friend.” The first thing Joseph does every morning is meditate. And a big reason he started doing Ironman is because it helped him grow mentally stronger. Even he isn’t the best triathlete, training for and racing in Ironmans has helped to not give up and stay focused in endeavors outside of fitness.

There are days when Joseph will run 40 miles, or bike 220, or swim 10. But then there are days when he can only do some burpees and pull-ups. It isn’t how much he does that’s important. It’s that he does. Whether it’s swimming, biking, or running, or strength work with kettlebells, “everyday I just try to do something as part of my regimen,” Joseph says.

At his home, Joseph has two corkboards. One holds all of his screenwriting projects, the other his fitness goals. Both provide visible, tangible reminders of the things he hopes to achieve. “I always tell people to challenge themselves and join a race. Do a Tough Mudder, sign up for a sprint triathlon, sign up for a 10K run,” Joseph says. “Set a goal so you always have something that you’re striving to work for.” After establishing your objective, break it down into bite-size, achievable pieces. Don’t get hung up on running the full 10 kilometers. Instead try to run to the end of the block and when you achieve that goal, run to the next block. Do that enough times and you’ll be at the finish line.

At 53, Joseph can’t just hammer away at his muscles and joints without giving them time to heal. “I spend as much on the reparative exercises as I do the ones that are pounding my muscles,” he says. Before he even starts the bulk of his workout, Joseph puts in an hour doing trigger point exercises to loosen up his muscles and prepare them for the work ahead. Recovery is also a big reason why Joseph adopted a plant-based diet since it helps reduce the amount of acidity in the blood, which in turn makes it easier for his muscles to bounce back after an intense workout.

“Nowhere in the punk rock handbook does it say you have to be out of shape, fat, and fucking lazy,” Joseph says. “Quite the contrary. If you want to really fuck shit up you’ve got to be in shape.” Joseph came up under the wing of the hardcore band Bad Brains, who made P.M.A. (Positive Mental Attitude) their mantra and Joseph took it to heart. “To me, punk rock complained about fucked up shit, and hardcore provided the solutions.” Joseph wanted to perform the energy and excitement that he did in his 20s, and getting serious about his health and maintaining a P.M.A. were the solutions.

Justin Tejada is a writer and editor based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter at @just_tejada.