Prioritize Mobility. Athlete or non-athlete, old or young, one of the main things people could benefit from would be to take more care of their joints. Mobility is essentially our ability to move through full range of motion with both control and intention. It often gets looked over in favour of building strength or endurance, but in reality, it’s something that underpins not just how well we can perform in sports, but also how freely we can move in everyday life. By taking 10–15 minutes out of our day to mindfully attend to the health of our tissues and joints (through soft tissue work and mobility drills), often time we see that our experience of pain decreases, while our performance and quality of life increase. We’re not just stronger and faster athletes — it’s also easier to keep up with the grandkids and enjoy an active lifestyle in our later years.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke Jones. Luke is a Movement Coach and Content Creator at HERO Movement, where he explores and shares ideas in all things movement, wellness, and adventure. Through in-depth guides, videos, courses, and coaching, he helps athletes, weekend warriors, and everyday people eat, move and live like heroes. His work has been featured in publications like Mind Body Green, Livestrong, Lifehacker and more. Luke currently resides on the north shore of Cornwall, UK, and when he isn’t writing, coaching or training, you can find him clambering rocks by the ocean or adventuring with loved ones.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
Sure! I was involved in fitness and sports from an early age, but the wellness part came later… I grew up competing in football, athletics, and martial arts on a national and international level. In my early teens, I got into lifting weights and strength & conditioning in an attempt to support my performance. Alongside that, I had a keen interest in the outdoors — climbing, cycling and running through the Welsh mountains.
When it came to training and competing, I was very much of the ‘go hard or go home’ mentality for most of my teenage years. I naively thought that the harder I pushed it, the better I would perform, but this eventually came back to bite me. It turns out there’s only so long you can grind before things begin to break down! Inevitably, during my late teens, I developed health issues and recurring injuries. They were a blessing in disguise, forcing me to take a step back and completely reevaluate my mindset when it came to training (and life in general).
It was then that I embarked on a mission to take back control of my health and discover what it truly means to thrive — both as an athlete and a human being. I took a deep dive into all things mobility, recovery, breathwork, nutrition, sleep, stress management, habit-forming, and more. Life became less about testing my physical and mental limits, and more of a learning process — trying to figure out how to be the healthiest, most well-rounded version of me. These days, I still enjoy pushing it with some outlandish adventures from time to time, but I’d like to think it comes from a healthier place!
As I began to turn things around with my own health and performance, it felt like a natural extension to share what I’d learned with others. So that’s what I currently do with my clients and through the free content on my blog at Hero Movement. As the name suggests, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of heroes, and how seemingly normal people can overcome great obstacles and aid others in the process. So as cheesy as it sounds, the central theme of my work is to help people cultivate the mindset and habits of a hero. Not just so they can benefit, but so they can be of greater service to those around them. Ideally, we get this nice trickle-down effect, but it all starts with doing that difficult internal work on yourself.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One from recent memory is a journey up Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England. Early on in the process of rebalancing my body and rebuilding my health, I took an interest in barefoot running and walking. The idea is that our feet are our foundation, and by wrapping them up in spongy, narrow shoes, we’re often doing more harm than good. So I’d been heading out in minimalist footwear and completely barefoot whenever I could for a number of years, and I enjoyed the sense of freedom it brought about.
Fast forward to earlier this year while on holiday in the Lake District, my partner and I stood at the foot of Scafell Pike. It’s not a monstrous mountain by any means at 3,210 feet, so on a whim, I decided to give it a go unshod.
We set off early afternoon, a time when most hikers were already making their descent. As someone who’s struggled with social anxiety, I’m not one to look for attention, but as we ambled past the groups, the wide eyes and double-takes towards my feet were priceless. By the halfway mark, I’d lost count how many serious hikers in their shin-high boots had stopped us and indicated I was more than a little mad, and that I was going to struggle ‘up there’.
‘Up there’ referred to the last third of the climb, which was essentially a scree slope. Tiptoeing my way over razor-sharp stones and precariously balancing from boulder to boulder, thankfully I made it to the summit and back to the carpark with my feet intact — albeit a little sore. A phrase from the absolute hero and adventurer Ross Edgely comes to mind: “naive enough to start, but stubborn enough to finish”.
Now, I don’t tell this story in the hope that you think I’m a badass. In reality, the exact opposite is true… But it’s interesting to me how quickly we can take a concept and adopt it as the norm — like “we have to wear shoes to climb mountains”. I’m not suggesting for a second that everyone should throw away their footwear and jump into barefoot hiking, or indeed that everything we’re told by society is wrong!
But I think there’s value to be found in stepping back now and again to question some of those norms. Instead of just going along with the age-old narratives and accepting everything at face value, why not test things out for yourself? Sometimes the thing holding us back from achieving a goal or becoming the person we want to be isn’t a physical barrier — it’s just a story, and very often we have the power to change it.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
As we touched on above, I’ve always had a degree of stubbornness about me! I don’t know where it came from, whether it’s from sport or something else entirely, but I do know that sometimes it serves me, and other times, it has the opposite effect…
The latter occurred on a regular basis when I was starting out with my blog and online coaching platform. Web design was an alien concept to me, but the combination of being stubborn and lacking finances meant I was going to give it a go. As you can imagine, this resulted in numerous occasions where my website would crash entirely, and I was left scratching my head, trying to pick up the pieces.
One such time, I’d just finished up a guest blog post for a fairly notable wellness site. It was going to be my first step onto the ladder — the plan was that readers would get some value from the content I’d spent weeks writing, and (hopefully) click through to my blog to find out more. Unfortunately, those that did come to visit were greeted with a blank screen amidst a complete meltdown of my site. Whoops.
Thankfully, these days I have a little more experience with the technical side of things, but perhaps more importantly, I’m more open to asking for help. There’s something to be said for knuckling down, figuring things out for yourself, and learning from your mistakes. But sometimes, it’s useful to be able to check the ego and reach out to someone. That same lesson applies in all areas of life — relationships, business, fitness, and beyond. Admitting that you don’t have all the answers and seeking a helping hand isn’t a weakness!
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
With so many great minds in the health and fitness space, it still feels strange to be viewed as somewhat of an authority. I embarked on this journey as a student — someone looking to explore and share ideas — and I still primarily think of myself in that regard. Perhaps, in a way, that’s one of the things that I have going for me. I’m curious to learn and open to changing my perspective. Unfortunately, we see it quite often (particularly in the wellness world) where people tend to latch onto an ideology — whether it’s a specific way of eating or training. Things quickly go from “This is A way to do it” to “This is THE way to do it”.
I’ve no doubt fallen prey to this in the past to a degree, but over the years, I’ve tried my best to distance myself from that way of thinking. Instead of pledging my allegiance to a specific camp, I enjoy experimenting with various methods and modalities, taking what works and putting the rest aside to revisit later. I try to encourage my clients and anyone who checks out my work to think this way too. Don’t just blindly follow what I say — test things out and find what really works for you as an individual.
In terms of my contribution, I think my experience as an athlete and then having that stripped away through the health challenges brings me a somewhat unique perspective. Because I have a heightened sensitivity to stress, I know first-hand how important it is to look at the whole picture when it comes to performing well and living healthily. I’ve explored a wide range of topics, from mobility and mindfulness to recovery and nutrition, collating information from some of the top minds in each area. Pulling all those things together in my own life has given me a pretty good base to help others get out there and do their own version.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m fortunate to have had many amazing people in my life — an incredible family and some great mentors in the fitness and wellness space to look up to. But one person that truly stands out is my fiancée, Michaela.
With the risk of getting cheesy again, over the years, Michaela has played more roles than I could even begin to ask of her — camera woman, carer, editor, teacher, and she continues to be both my biggest fan and best friend. Even when I was starting out with my little website and not a clue in the world how I was going to make it work, she provided her unconditional love and support, and I can never thank her enough.
As of the time of this interview, she’s actually getting started on her own venture into the health and fitness space, and I couldn’t be more excited to see where she takes it!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
That’s a great question. In the age of information overload, it’s increasingly common for people to have a disconnect between what they want to achieve, and then actually being able to put those ideas into action.
1 — One of the main blockages I see with people is that they’re not really clear on their ‘reason why’.
There’s a Japanese concept called ‘Ikigai’, which roughly translates as your ‘reason for being’. It’s the essence that provides you with a sense of purpose in life. If I think back to the changes I’ve tried to make, the ones that I’ve managed to maintain long-term are those that relate back to my values, or my ‘Ikigai’.
With that in mind, before you decide to embark on a change, I think it’s important that you take a pause and dig deep to get to that underlying motivation, rather than just jumping in without giving it much thought. Why do you really want to make that change? Will it truly benefit you, your loved ones and the world around you? Is it something you’re deeply passionate about and willing to commit to, or is it just a passing fad? From past experience, if you can answer those questions truthfully, your chances of success increase significantly.
2 — Another common blockage is being outcome-driven as opposed to process-driven.
Often times, when we think about a change we want to make, the plan consists of jumping in at the deep end whenever the next Monday rolls around. Our focus is on the end goal of looking or feeling a certain way, as opposed to the actual process — how the hell are we going to get there?
As many an outdoor enthusiast can attest, there’s little use in having a destination in mind if we don’t have the navigational skills or tools to help us find our way. If we fail to prepare and we hit that inevitable road bump, it’s easy to pack things in and default back to our original habits — largely because we don’t have a new framework to replace the old one.
So as well as thinking about why you want to make a change, break down the action steps that will allow you to get there. What does your daily plan of action look like? How will you stay accountable? And how will you deal with potential obstacles? Commit to the journey, enjoy the process, and don’t forget your compass and map.
3 — The third blockage often goes hand in hand with the above, and that’s patience.
It’s been said that most of us overestimate what we can achieve in a few weeks, but underestimate what we can achieve in a year (this is a variation of a quote that’s sometimes attributed to Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins — I altered the timeframe, but the basic principle still applies).
In the age of the ‘life hack’, we often want to see results right away, but in reality, change takes time and progress isn’t linear. There’s nothing wrong with having a big goal, but be realistic with the timeframe, and break things down into baby steps. What’s the one thing you can do today that’ll take you that little bit closer? Progress can feel painfully slow at times, but if you look back after several months of consistent action, you’ll be amazed how far you’ve come.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
1 — Prioritise Mobility
Athlete or non-athlete, old or young, one of the main things people could benefit from would be to take more care of their joints. Mobility is essentially our ability to move through full range of motion with both control and intention. It often gets looked over in favour of building strength or endurance, but in reality, it’s something that underpins not just how well we can perform in sports, but also how freely we can move in everyday life.
By taking 10–15 minutes out of our day to mindfully attend to the health of our tissues and joints (through soft tissue work and mobility drills), often time we see that our experience of pain decreases, while our performance and quality of life increase. We’re not just stronger and faster athletes — it’s also easier to keep up with the grandkids and enjoy an active lifestyle in our later years.
2 — Focus on the Breath
Another one of the foundational stones for being a fit and healthy human is the breath. In our modern world, we’re exposed to a crazy number of potential stressors throughout the day, leaving many of us in a perpetually stressed out, fight or flight state. Elevated cortisol levels wreak havoc on the body, increasing fat storage and causing a whole host of other issues.
One of the quickest and easiest solutions is to bring some attention to the breath. We’ll usually notice that we spend most of our time performing shallow chest breaths, in and out through the mouth. One thing we can actively work on in our everyday life is nasal breathing — so in and out through the nose. This simple change can help us become more efficient athletes and increase our parasympathetic tone — which in simple terms means we’re less stressed out!
We can also practice specific breathing techniques to bring about distinct changes in the nervous system. So if we want to wind down and de-stress, techniques like box breathing and slow, alternate nostril breathing work well, whereas if we want to get amped up prior to a workout, something more akin to the Wim Hof method might be more suitable.
3 — Break Up Inactivity
The third tweak goes hand in hand with the first two, and that’s to break up any prolonged periods of inactivity with some form of movement and/or breathwork. It’s common for people to spend 8 hours plus every day sitting, and even if we’re then going to the gym for an hour or two, what we’re seeing is that it’s not enough to offset an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
So whenever possible, I advise my clients to replace any optional sitting with something more active. That might be a standing workstation if your office allows it, where you can lean and stretch, or even sitting cross legged on the floor as opposed to slouched on the couch. Regardless of the position you’re in, aim to take short breaks every 20–30 minutes to have a walk, perform some mobility drills, throw a kettlebell around or do some breathing exercises. Just a few small habit changes throughout the day can significantly increase your activity levels.
4 — Adopt a Movement Practice
My fourth tweak would be to encourage people to take a step back and think about physical training as a movement practice, as opposed to just ‘fitness-ing’. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with just doing fitness for the sake of it if that’s what you enjoy! But if we’re looking to enjoy the balance between high performance and lasting wellbeing, adopting more of a generalist approach to movement might be the way to go.
By that I mean instead of just lifting weights or just running the trails, experiment with all of the above and more. Maybe incorporate some yoga, try swimming, or add in some natural movement training to fill in the gaps. Push, pull, squat, jump, crawl, hike, climb, grapple — mix it up, keep your body guessing and become a Jack or Jane of all trades.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with specializing in one sport or form of exercise if that’s what you enjoy. Just know that the more we specialize, the more we adapt to that one discipline, and in many cases the less versatile we become. There’s always room to complement your training with something different.
5 — Let go of Perfection
I chose to leave this point until last because I think it’s one of the most important ones for you to go away with. While it’s great to be curious about healthy living and to have the drive to make positive changes, remember that complete perfection is an illusion.
I’ve seen countless clients who’ve been caught in the trap of trying to iron out every minute detail of their training and diet, obsessing over minor details, and I’ve been there myself too. Oftentimes, the stress of trying to be perfect becomes a downward spiral, and we actually see better results when we can relax a little and become okay with not knowing all the answers. There’s a weight lifted.
Sure, we can still strive to do our best, but we don’t have to beat ourselves up when we fall short of this imaginary, unattainable ideal.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
1 — Mental Health
For me and many of the clients I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with, one of the main benefits of daily exercise is the power it has to support our mental health. As someone who’s dealt with depression and anxiety, physical movement has been one of the most important factors in supporting my recovery. Even something as simple as a 10 minute yoga flow or a short walk can potentially make a big difference.
2 — Creativity
On similar lines to the above, movement is a conduit to creativity. Neuroscientists agree that the primary function of the brain is to coordinate physical movement. Setting time aside each day for some kind of physical activity gives you the chance to step away from the screen and the stressors, providing your mind the space it needs to run wild. I’d go as far as saying that most of my ideas come to me when I’m out on a run or swimming laps in the pool (with the latter it’s always a challenge to remember things and write them down asap).
3 — Connection
Last but not least, movement can be a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and create solid relationships. We human beings are social animals at heart (even the most introverted amongst us like myself), and we unite through shared struggle. Whether it’s a BJJ class, a running club, or Zumba — get out there and find your tribe!
4 — Bonus Benefit — Overcoming Adversity
I truly believe that physical training is one of the best ways to develop mental fortitude — the ability to endure and overcome obstacles in pursuit of a goal. In the pursuit of goals in our movement practice, we start to become more and more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and this often leaks out to other areas of our lives. This is one of the key characteristics of a modern day hero — by becoming more resilient, we’re in a better position to help others.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
For most people, the first place to start would be some form of walking.
As nomadic hunter-gatherers, locomotion is what we’re built for. There’s evidence to suggest that our ancestors walked up to 10 miles a day, but for modern humans, 10–15 thousand steps is a good baseline to shoot for. If we were all able to increase the amount of time we spent walking outdoors (particularly in minimalist shoes or barefoot when it’s safe to do so), I think we’d see a big decrease in injury rates and instances of chronic illness.
We can always increase the intensity with loaded carries or running, but building the foundation with good old fashioned walking is the first point of call.
The next would be some form of squat or hip hinge.
If you look to the East, in many places the deep squat has been preserved in its original glory as a natural resting position. You can observe it in toddler’s too. As well as being a great position to play with lego in, it’s one of the most important movements for mobilizing the hips, ankles and spine.
Again, we can add load and increase the intensity with all manner of barbell, kettlebell, and plyometric squats and hinges, but the foundation is the deep, unweighted, bodyweight squat. Accumulate 15–20 minutes a day, working towards heels down and an upright torso, and your body will thank you.
The third critical exercise or skill is a toss-up between some form of hanging or throwing.
Let’s cheat and include both! Hanging, and more specifically brachiation (think swinging from monkey bars) is one of the most important movements for nourishing the complex shoulder joint. Getting hold of a doorway pullup bar and hanging for a few minutes each day can also do wonders for your spine.
And then our ability to skillfully rotate and throw with accuracy is one of the things that makes us human! To reconnect with that primal nature, have a play with throwing things of all shapes and sizes — tennis balls and medicine balls work well, as do sticks and rocks out in the wild (be careful with the last two though).
So to summarise: walk more, squat, hang and throw stuff (safely).
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
1 — The first thing would be to prioritize movement quality over quantity.
We like to place a big focus on the amount of weight lifted or how fast we’re able to cover a certain distance, and there’s definitely some value to that. But when we become overly focused on the numbers and we let the ego take over, that’s when we start to see our form break down and injuries are more likely to occur.
So don’t be afraid to take a few steps back. Train smarter, rather than harder. Approach your training with a beginner’s mind, think about quality over quantity, and make sure you have a solid foundation of good mechanics before you start chasing the numbers.
2 — My second piece of advice would be to think long term.
This is somewhat related to the above. People often don’t realize that you don’t have to train at your max to improve your max — that goes for building both strength and endurance. In fact, if we’re looking to get that balance between performance and quality of life, I’d recommend that most training is sub-maximal, with occasional bursts of higher intensity.
I learned the hard way that physical training can be a stress on the body, and when you layer a whole load of crazy interval training on top of your already full list of daily stressors, things start to go wrong, fast. I’m all for testing yourself from time to time, but realise you can do a lot more harm through overtraining than you can from slightly under training. So turn down the dial, don’t be afraid to leave a rep or two in the tank, and think about the long term journey as opposed to the short term gains.
3 — This leads quite nicely to my last tweak, which is all about making recovery a priority.
The harder and more frequently we train and the more stressors we deal with in life, the more focus we need to put on recovery. On that note, it’s important to consume enough high-quality food and get enough good-quality sleep so that your body has a chance to repair and come back stronger. That would be the absolute base level when it comes to recovery.
Something that’s perhaps a little less intuitive is to program your recovery ahead of time. Rather than waiting until you feel exhausted or injured, the idea is that you stay ahead of the curve of overtraining and overstressing the body by consciously selecting your recovery days or weeks. I’d advise planning your restoration sessions like you would your other training, including foam rolling, breathwork — whatever works best for you. It might not be pretty, but it’s just as important as the work you put in at the gym, if not more so.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
Over the years I’ve experimented with various ways of eating, from a fully vegan diet to ketogenic, and plenty in between. The biggest takeaway for me is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
We’re all individuals and what we need can vary significantly based on our genetic makeup, lifestyle and goals. So that’s something I keep in mind with my clients and the content I put out. If I was to give out the exact same dietary advice to everyone, I would be doing them a disservice.
That being said, there are a few basic principles that tend to be pretty universal, and they’re to:
1- Consume predominantly whole foods
2 — Eat slowly and mindfully
3 — Stay adequately hydrated
We can go more detailed than that, but there’s little use worrying about the ideal supplement stack or the perfect macronutrient ratio unless we’ve first established that solid foundation. Let’s form that base before we get caught up in the minutia.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
In terms of physical training, Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett & Glen Cordoza was a game-changer. It was an ‘aha’ moment that helped me completely rethink my approach to training and movement in general. As I’ve touched on before, it really drove home the idea of movement quality vs quantity, and the importance of being proactive with your joint health and general wellbeing.
I’m also a big fan of Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior series, Eckhart Tolle’s work, and some of Jon Kabat Zinn’s books.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe that when we make physical movement a priority, great things happen.
So with that in mind, I’d love for schools and workplaces to have more time and space dedicated to health and wellbeing. This could include standing desks, areas for stretching + play, scheduled activity breaks, and more widespread education around movement and mindful living.
If we were able to raise that standard, we’d no doubt see happier, healthier children, and a more robust, satisfied workforce too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I actually have a list of quotes written on the wall to my right! If I had to pick one, right now it would be:
“This, too, shall pass.” ~ Persian Proverb (I think)
I like it because it’s a reminder that all things are temporary, and it works both ways:
The struggles and dark moments are going to pass eventually. Keep moving, keep trying, and you’ll get through them. But on the flip side, the precious moments pass too. You can never get them back, so make sure you savor them in the moment and show gratitude.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
It would be great to meet Kelly Starrett (@mobilitywod) someday! He’s someone I’ve looked up to for a long time in the fitness space. I’ve learned a lot from Kelly from afar — not just about movement, mobility, and how to communicate effectively, but about becoming a more well-rounded human being. So it would be great to say thanks and have a chat.
Ross Edgley (@RossEdgley) is another legend that I’d love to cross paths with. To be able to dig into the mindset it takes to complete the insane challenges he’s undertaken would be incredible!
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Website: Hero Movement
YouTube Channel: Luke Jones
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thank you guys for the fantastic opportunity!