There’s Never Been A Fitness Book Quite Like This
Kelly and Juliet Starrett have made countless pros faster, fitter, and less injury-prone. Now 50, with two teen kids, the pair have set their sights on a much bigger audience: The rest of us.
What if exercise didn’t stand between us and fitness, mobility, longevity? What if we could just put aside the idea of exercise and still feel good, still get up and chase the kids, enjoy long, steep hikes, and play some serious pickup soccer? Kelly and Juliet Starrett, the former pro athletes, and CrossFit and whitewater legends, are fitness philosophers made for the modern era, in which we sit too much, exercise in spurts, and lose sleep. In their newest book, Built to Move (out April 4, from Knopf), they’re here to convince us all that exercise is not the answer. There’s something much more fundamental and a helluva lot simpler: Get up and move, and keep moving.
“Everything in this book is geared toward seeing you stay active and well into old age,” write the Starretts. “If you add regular exercise into the mix, you’re going to fare even better. But the main thing we want to stress is that to be able to keep moving when you’re older, you need to get or keep moving now.”
The Starretts have staked their reputation on the idea that, above all, we need to move more, in simple ways and throughout the day. The only real way to enjoy a full physical life is honest self-reflection, some stretching and smart body check-ins. Add to that, we all need to look less fondly at our desks and sitting, and celebrate walking and sleep. And there you have it. The Starretts’ program for a better life, and holy sh*t, does it ever hold the potential to be life-changing for everyone, from dad to grandma, from kids to serious athletes.
Where did we all learn how to exercise? It’s a surprisingly hard question for most of us to answer.
When I was reading Built to Move, poring over the stretching diagrams and hyperspecific (and intriguing, all readable) sidebars full of anecdote, advice, and big ideas, my mind kept wandering back to one thought: Where did we all learn how to exercise? It’s safe to say that exercise is not exactly a national priority, not a thing Americans cohesively understand, except maybe as a marketable obsession (Be thinner! Fitter! More fitness-y!). For something that’s so essential, high-stakes, and criss-crossed with expert advice, it’s a surprisingly hard question for most of us to answer. When did the fun of movement turn into the achievement-oriented obligation to work out? How does the joy of physical play turn into the joyless pursuit of fitness?
For the Starretts, part of the answer is “this chairbound, technology-loving, caffeine-fueled world of ours.” Whatever exercise habits we learned as kids can’t compete in an age where you can work a full day and then catch up face-to-face with friends, all without ever leaving your chair, device in hand. Where calories are cheaper, yet food is less nutritious and less delicious. Where we’re taught to sit (throw out that toddler chair, people!) before we’re taught to run. Most of us could use a better foundation — or any fitness principle at all.
We’ve been told over and over and over again that fitness starts with exercise — 150 minutes a week, check. But for anyone who aches, who struggles to run, who can’t seem to improve, who feels the daily dread of the workout, or is just in a rut, the exercise advice falls apart (and then the movement stops). The problem, as the Starretts argue it, is that we have our priorities upside-down. If you’re lost at sea, thirsty and thinking of drinking the salt water, movement — not exercise — should be the guiding star. Exercise is more like the buried treasure that awaits you on the island.
But what does this look like, in more concrete terms? Built to Move is more than an admonition to get up and move: It’s an incredibly layered but easy-to-follow guide, happily logical and progressive, full of pragmatic wisdom. It’s got everything you’d expect from a good fitness book, including useful sidebars and wonderfully personal anecdotes that are oddly relatable, and lots of studies (a favorite: “When you closely observe toddlers, as a group of child development psychologists at New York University did in a 2012 study, it becomes clear just how easily — and frequently — kids pop up and down”… some 17 times per hour!)
Most useful of all, it has tests (see: honest self-reflection, above). These are super simple, enlightening, TikTok-ready tests. In fact, some have quite a home already on TikTok, as the Starretts have been using these self-tests for decades with some of the most prominent fitness folks in the world, from Laird Hamilton to the All-Blacks, to the 49ers, or, as the book’s press release exhaustively lists, the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, the U.S. Olympic Team, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard forces.
When you closely observe toddlers it becomes clear just how easily — and frequently — kids pop up and down.
So can you sit and rise, can you breathe, can you flex on the couch and fire your glutes? Do you really walk enough, can you flex your neck and shoulders, and are you eating 800 grams — 800 grams — of fruits and vegetables before you move on to processed foods? Can you take on the old man balance test, and handle looking straight at your real deal sleep data? These tests are the mirror we all could use to change our way in fundamental (but admittedly small) ways.
After all, why do we buy fitness books? Because something is off. Because we’re looking for inspiration, for motivation, for a reason to change. For once, we have a book that offers up just that — fundamental physical change, for all the right reasons.