Starting a new fitness routine can get crazy, overwhelming and seem to take over your life.
Editor’s note: Mobility specialists and CrossFit pioneers Kelly and Juliett Starrett know a thing or two about training for results that stick—and loving life along the way.
Together this dynamic force has been leading the cutting edge in the field of human movement science. They’ll be bringing to 24Life the best of their experience training world-class athletes, sports teams, CEOs and celebrities, as well as everyday athletes. In this column, they share practical tips and mindset shifts for your body and for your life.
It takes more than simply joining a gym and showing up on day one to achieve desired results. From our perspective, a healthy and fit life requires a daily life strategy—one that’s simple, rewarding and fun.
1. Ask the hard questions
In our work, we are fortunate to go behind the scenes of the world’s best programs, universities, national teams and elite military units—we see everyone’s dirty laundry—as well as the ultimate best practices. An interesting insight we have discovered is that the average person is training very, very hard and has become quite sophisticated over the last decade.
Nowadays, recreational athletes are often working as hard as some professional athletes but without all the peripheral support. The observation gave us permission to ask hard and interesting questions such as the following: How do we improve mechanics? How does the average athlete expand the definition of fitness to include positional competency, include addressing soreness or stiffness and include problems in her day-to-day life?
We’re always advising our clients “Hey, look, you can’t train this hard without doing some soft-tissue work every night. And you can’t train this hard without getting eight hours of sleep or more every single night.” The most profound advice we can share consists of really simple lessons that regular people can follow and still have a normal life.
2. Work out less, move more
We believe the training cycle is not just about working hard; it’s about living better in our bodies. How can an everyday athlete change and manage the environment she lives in, the shoes she wears, the kinds of things she eats, how she’s downregulating stress? We make a point of pursuing this conversation about the concept of physical practice. We find that if we keep talking up to people and give them better tools, they can totally integrate these things into their lives.
We need to take better care of our bodies, and why not start now? This means not waiting until you break or going to see and expert for permission to get started. It may be true that as an adult, you have never learned about or even heard about jumping mechanics, positional mechanics, movement restrictions or compensation. This may sound like terminology reserved for a trainer, doctor or physical therapist. Health and fitness professionals should be informed, but so should every one of us. We should know how our body works and where it needs support so that we can make the best decisions for ourselves.
We know that injury, bad shoes, overuse (thanks to phones and other technology) and other factors contribute to movement restriction in a workout. In turn that leads to loss of force production, degradation of power and output, little or no progress on your fitness goals, possibly more pain—and ultimately, you don’t reach your full, human potential.
3. The power of a physical practice
A conversation about fitness or physical practice is really about changing behavior and changing patterns. We like the idea of change one thing at a time. Become consistent in asking yourself what you can control. Life is packed with work and so much to manage, but sometimes it’s possible to carve out an hour and that’s extraordinary.
So we recommend starting with a physical practice for the life you’re currently living. And it’s not just about all-out effort; it’s really about skill. You can always improve your athleticism, but thinking about training as a physical practice to develop skills for active living shifts the conversation to taking care of your tissues … and living a life that feels better and has less pain. Life might require to be on your feet in high heels for a day and lead to sore Achilles heels. What can you do to prevent that pain or manage it?
4. The daily shift
Once you shift your mindset and your workouts from exercise—a chore you might get to once a week—to a physical practice that’s specific to your needs and an integral part of your life, it’s time to make it a “ready state” experience. “Ready state” is a concept we came up with for shifting your daily focus to controlling and managing the aspects of your life that work for you.
We understand this, because we have busy lives too. We have growing children, a business to manage and daily demands that we often can’t predict or control. Life is a moving target based on your kids’ schoolwork, demands at the office, the travel you have to do and so on. The goal is to make your physical practice the one thing that you know you can control today; the one thing that is truly achievable; and the one thing that is exactly what you need to move the needle. This moves you from just thinking, “When do I squeeze this in?” to a more productive mindset: “Hey, this is where I’m going to control this,” or “this is the only thing I can control today.”
5. Go for brilliance on the basics
As unsexy as the conversation is, the best thing you can do is to nail the basics. There’s all sorts of complex things you can do for your health and fitness, but they all require a solid foundation. That’s what your mother and your grandmother and your health education teacher and your doctor have already told you: don’t forget to eat vegetables, and sleep, and actually play and hang out with your kids, and move more. That is the simply the beginning; establish a physical practice that grounds you in a healthy life. And then once you have nailed that and you still have time beyond that, you can innovate the heck out of your routine. But if you’re not doing those basic things then your training likely won’t be sustained as part of your life. The primary principles are sleep, downregulation, improving your tissue quality and improving your position mechanics.
6. Don’t cheat
We just want people to be consistent, and see what changes. Here’s an example. We believe one of the things that people are doing a good job of is training hard. What they’re doing a poor job of is actually moving around and moving enough. They sit for too long and with bad positioning.
You can disrupt that. When people encapsulate their life in the gym and it has no relationship to the rest of their lives, it fails. To create a physical practice, you have to redefine your concept of a workout. It’s not about calories or even reps or weight lifted. Your workout is just a focused, heightened hour of the rest of your life. Think of the training experience as a lifestyle choice: I go to gym and train, or I work with a coach and train, as a matter of skill development—and development of my human movement potential—so that I can take that and apply it to the rest of the day.
7. Make your gym time a sacred time
Those who are most successful with their health and fitness goals have a different perspective. They see the gym as a space, a community and a physical place where they get to focus on aspects of movement to improve their lives. The goal of the gym is to train for something, not to become really good at going to the gym. You can’t just go on a cycle machine and crush yourself and hope that all is going to end up all right. You are a complicated, beautiful, physical machine with a pretty amazing set of software. It turns out most of us don’t have the right software to run the hardware—we need to learn more and retrain our abilities. It’s doable. We have spent the last decade empowering people to understand how they move and being able to incorporate that into the things that matter most to them.