Small, healthy habits add up over time. Just ask Laird Hamilton, world-renowned big-wave surfer and our resident radical fitness evangelist. At 52, he’s in better shape than most guys half his age. He splits his time between Maui and Malibu, and when he’s not on the beach, he’s chilling with his model-slash-pro volleyball player wife and their picture-perfect family. He’s clearly doing something right.
Check out the eight habits that keep Laird Hamilton healthy, strong, and happy.
Hamilton’s day starts at 5 a.m., so a bowl of cereal won’t hold him over until lunch. He divides his morning nutrition between three mini meals, each of which serves a specific purpose. First breakfast is his version of fat-infused “bulletproof” coffee, which fuels his gym or water workout. Second breakfast is all about muscle recovery and includes protein-rich eggs, quinoa, or yogurt with almond butter. And his third meal, a turmeric juice and apple cider vinegar combo, gives him a mid-morning energy boost.
You don’t need an hour or even a yoga mat to do the simple yoga sequence that Hamilton’s practiced every morning for over 30 years. Before heading to the beach or the weight room, he takes 10 minutes to cycle through four poses that open his lower back, hamstrings, abs, shoulders, and chest. He starts with a one-legged forward bend, moves on to prone cobra, transitions to seated twist, and ends with a basic chest stretch.
Yes, even Laird Hamilton has exercises he’d rather avoid. But, instead of shorting reps or saving the worst for last, he starts his workouts with one of his “can’ts,” giving it his all for a solid five minutes. By tackling his least favorite exercises when he’s fresh, he’s able to make improvements over time.
Fast, half-assed reps have no place in Hamilton’s workout. Not one to trade quality for quantity, he makes sure he’s getting the most out of his strength workouts by slowing the tempo on lifts and bodyweight exercises. For example, he recommends swapping sloppy, unbroken pull-ups for negatives that move through the movement’s full range of motion, strengthening the back and shoulders. To do negatives, start at the top of a pull-up and take a full 10 seconds to lower yourself into a straight-arm hang.
When it comes to drinking enough water, Hamilton doesn’t just wing it. He knows he needs to drink at least three liters of water throughout the day. So, rather than indiscriminately sipping from a glass, he fills three one-liter water bottles and makes sure they’re empty by bed time.
Even guys who hate to stretch will usually make a few half-hearted attempts at loosening up big muscle groups like the quads and hamstrings. But Hamilton makes time for the smaller, stabilizing muscles that are just as important to functional fitness but typically ignored. He uses static stretching and self-myofascial release to open up and dig into the muscles of the forearms, inner thighs, calves, and neck.
Hamilton counterbalances his active, upright life by spending a small part of it inverted. After hours of sitting, standing, and repetitive activities like walking, cycling, and paddleboarding, he’ll kick up into a headstand or hang from a harness in his garage. Twenty minutes later, his spine feels elongated, his organs are decompressed, and blood is flowing to his brain.
You can train like a monster and eat clean 24/7, but skimp on sleep and you’ll never see gains. Hamilton is a big believer in recovery and aims for no less than six hours of sleep every night. He takes daily magnesium supplements, a muscle-relaxing mineral that helps him get to sleep and stay there.