Dr. Kelly Starrett is a renowned physical therapist, coauthor of the bestselling books Becoming a Supple Leopard, Ready to Run and Deskbound, and cofounder of The Ready State and San Francisco CrossFit. He has consulted with athletes and coaches from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, as well as the US Olympic Team, military forces, and corporations on employee health and wellbeing. Kelly and I recently sat down to discuss his latest book ‘Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully‘ and his insights into the lasting impact of small changes on lifelong vitality.
Taking Ownership of Your Health
The sad reality of human health as of today is that it’s on the decline in practically every way possible. From obesity rates and diabetes risk to substance abuse, stress levels, and injury, people can’t seem to translate the best practices propagated by the health industry into their day-to-day lives. Despite a culture of Instagram-perfect health, preventative medicine and nutrition guidance, many people fail to manage their own well-being.
The negative effects of this can spill over into all parts of life, from creativity levels at work and home to how relationships are formed and maintained. Poor health can leave even the most ambitious people feeling perpetually drained, lethargic, and discontent with life. It’s a phenomenon Kelly has seen first-hand through his work with elite performers on England’s national soccer team. These men are highly trained and the best in their country at what they do, but they simply can’t perform if they don’t get enough sleep and are in too much pain.
The same holds true for the everyday person. If we don’t prioritize our health and well-being, it’s very difficult to even have the energy to try and make meaningful changes in our lives. It’s a slippery slope, and the best way to avoid it is to make sure that our health and well-being are the center of our attention.
The Truth About Living a Long Life
Connecting to the topic of his book, Kelly and I discuss what tangible things can make an impact on our health and, in turn, our longevity. What may come as a surprise to some is that the answer is not diet and exercise – at least not conclusively. He stresses the value of untangling the narrative of health in our minds, and instead of focusing on the physical realm, looks to connect with a deeper set of programs and objective measures. Keto diets, detoxes and intermittent fasting all have their place, but the real game changer to vitality is understanding how our behaviors and attitudes shape our overall health long-term.
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The human body is an amazingly capable machine – one that we’re told can last 100 years. But the key to unlocking its potential isn’t brief bouts of trendy health crazes. It’s the product of sustained, measured commitment to one’s own wellbeing. Kelly references something he calls the 24 Hour Duty Cycle, a program he came up with when working with one of the U.S. Marines’ top aviation weapons schools. Students there are subject to intense, pre-ordained schedules which they have little to no control over. So Kelly and his team set about understanding what this meant for their health, and how they could make small but meaningful changes within these constraints.
Because while the average person’s day-to-day life may not be as heavily policed as a Marine’s, the challenge spoke to a central problem in health today – how do we, as busy working individuals with limited free time, make sure our health remains a priority?
The answer, Kelly says, is finding small but structured ways of integrating good habits into our lives that become second nature over time. This could be anything from setting a regular wake up time and committing to daily meditation, to taking the stairs instead of the elevator or practicing yoga twice a week.
It’s important to remember that no one is expecting us to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and there will be days when working out just isn’t a priority or diet plans get derailed. But if we can find ways to remain consistent, we can start making healthier habits stick in our day-to-day lives and eventually reap the benefits 10, 20, and even 30 years down the line.
Starting From Base Camp
Even Kelly recognizes how tough it can be to involve habits like exercise in our lives when we’ve never done them before. That’s why he emphasizes the power of small, achievable goals that are specific and attainable.
A practice he undertook a decade ago is a great starting point for this. He calls it the 10-10-10 at 10:00 PM. Despite being extremely busy with two young children, Kelly managed to commit 10 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 10 squats for just ten minutes every night at 10 pm.
It was something that his body could handle and it got him in the habit of moving and taking care of himself.
The same methodology applies to nutrition; don’t go for big diet changes all at once, focus on small achievable goals like drinking more water or eating more vegetables. As these begin to become second nature, you can start to build on them and challenge yourself.
The real take away from Dr. Kelly Starrett’s teachings is that health and well-being are not destinations, but an ongoing journey. With proper posture, movement, and lifestyle choices we can get better at nearly anything – from elite sports performance to everyday life. There are varied approaches to improving one’s health and well-being, but the key is to find a way that works best for you. I highly recommend giving Kelly’s new book, ‘Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully’, a read if you are looking for more great insights from the man himself.