One of the things that I need to work on more is sleep. Seven to eight hours of sleep is definitely a must. I see a clear difference in the way I recover and the way I feel on a daily basis when I get eight hours of sleep as opposed to four or five hours.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kenny Santucci at the Strong New York event in New York City, New York.
With over a decade of experience, Kenny Santucci has made himself known as one of New York City’s top trainers and a thought leader in the health and wellness industry. Brand ambassador for Michelob Ultra and Fitaid, Technogym Master Trainer, host of the Fitaid Morning Show, Michelob Ultra MOVEMENT Fitness Festival, Model Beach Volleyball, and more, Santucci has established himself as a force within the fitness space. He has collaborated with industry titans across the health, wellness, and lifestyle space such as Reebok, Under Armour, Adidas, ASICS, Rhone, Melin, Cellucor, Bodybulding.com, CrossFit, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Precision Nutrition, Nautica, TimeOut, Gregory’s Coffee, and more.
Thank you so much for joining us, Kenny! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I grew up in North New Jersey, right outside the city in a very traditional Italian background. I grew up very heavy. It seems to be the stereotypical story nowadays of being a fat kid and then growing up and wanting to be a trainer, but up until high school I was pretty overweight to the point where my doctor was recommending to my family that they should put me on a diet. So I was put on a diet back in 1994 / 1995 by my parents. It didn’t work out well because I continued to gain weight. I was about 230 pounds going into high school as a 13 year old. I promised myself when I got into high school that I would start playing sports and would start taking care of myself.
I used to steal muscle magazines like Men’s Health and Muscle and Fitness from this little grocery store across the street from my high school and I’d rip the pages out. Everything back then was primarily bodybuilding. We’re seeing this revolution or rebirth of bodybuilding. I’ve been professionally in the fitness and wellness space for about 12 years now and I’ve seen so many different things come up. you’re seeing so many of these brands. I mean, I remember it was getting crazy to the point where you’re seeing cycling in the water.
I opened my first gym. I worked for Equinox. I worked for all the boutique gyms here in the city. I opened my first gym in 2013 in New Jersey. I had a CrossFit gym at the height of the CrossFit boom and then came back to the city in 2015 and helped open a pretty big CrossFit gym here in New York City. I was there till 2020 when the pandemic hit. I started doing a lot of outdoor stuff, and then I opened my third gym in October of 2021. So I’m a year into a new gym. It’s a smaller private training space with some group classes.
I think the gym is a very similar kind of religion. You go to church because of who the preacher is. It doesn’t matter the space. I realized that when I was teaching 60 people in the park every day during the pandemic. I had a wheelbarrow full of kettlebells and ropes. We made do. Fast forward now, we just finished a 2022 Strong New York event and it was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.
Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people. I have not done anything on my own. A huge person who just jumps into my head right now is Gunnar Peterson. I’ve met him a couple times before, but he had come out and willingly helped me do the event. He has been nothing but a blessing over the past two years. He’s sent me clients since he’s no longer in the city.
I have to say my family has always been supportive no matter what idea I’ve come up with. My brothers, mom, and my sister have always supported anything I did. The other day when we did the event, my sister was working at the front door. My mom was working the table.
I can’t forget about Kristie Muller. She’s been nothing but a blessing with handling all the business end things I just hate doing. She’s a quick learner and whatever she doesn’t know she’ll teach herself. I think that’s what helps a business succeed. If I had to do both the front and back of the house, I probably wouldn’t have done well.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I feel reluctant to call myself an authority, but I guess I’ve been doing it for a pretty long time. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great companies. I’ve worked with TechnoGym, Reebok, Under Armor, and I’ve been able to really forge a lot of relationships.
I think anybody who’s out there continuously learning is an authority. I think there’s a lot of people who would like to think of themselves as authority, jump on this bandwagon having done it for two or three years, but I’ve been doing it for a pretty long time. I’m very interested in education.When people come out and they’re very dogmatic that this is the only thing, I’m so turned off because there isn’t just one way.
There’s a lot of discipline and mental challenges involved when it comes to the health and wellness space. So I always try to get people to move in any way possible. To find their gateway whether it’s Zumba or boxing or running, whatever it is. It’s like, what speaks to you? Fitness is very personal. That’s why personal training is a billion dollar business.
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests, such searching for something called the Elixir of Life, a potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has, how has your search for health, vitality and fitness taken you on any interesting paths or journeys?
I tell everybody, if you’re looking for the fountain of youth, it’s inside the gym. I never get tired of training or the fitness space. When I do, I go and look for something else. I created the Strong New York event because I was traveling to all these different fitness and wellness events, The LA Fit Expo, Arnold Classic, The Miami Fit Expo, and CrossFit games. That’s how I met my network — your net worth is your network. I learned a lot of cool methodologies of the human body but it’s not just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing as well. I think if anybody’s looking for the fountain of youth or anything where they could really feel younger than what they might actually be I think go work out and get a cold plunge
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? A story or example for each would be appreciated.
1. One of the things that I need to work on more is sleep. Seven to eight hours of sleep is definitely a must. I see a clear difference in the way I recover and the way I feel on a daily basis when I get eight hours of sleep as opposed to four or five hours.
2. Stay away from processed foods. I tell a lot of my clients that it doesn’t serve you, it’s not doing anything. We have this emotional attachment to soda and cake and things that really don’t do anything for us. Food should be looked at as a fuel source. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your food, just look for healthier alternatives.
3. Have good people around you. Have a good network around you that could help you build your business and build a better lifestyle. Have people around you that build you up and push you forward.
4. Do something that helps you feel good on a daily basis.
5. Whether it’s walking or running or taking the stairs, do something for 20 to 30 minutes a day to get your heart rate up. You will never leave the gym and be like, ah, I shouldn’t have done that extra set, or I shouldn’t have done those extra reps.
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
I love having people around me that encourage me to be better and do better. I need to workout on a daily basis. That’s nonnegotiable for me. I need to eat because I want to feel better. When I eat like shit, I feel like shit and it’s kind of a slippery slope that goes downhill. I need to constantly be creating things. I need to create things that I feel will service myself and other people. If you create something that holds value that you truly believe in and love, other people see the value in it as well.
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this narrative vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
I agree that to a certain degree that people just get dealt a bad hand. I have an uncle who ate and lived like shit for a long time in his eighties. And my dad, who was not a healthy man, but wasn’t as bad as my uncle, outlived my father by 15 years. So you never know what hand you’re going to get dealt, but I always say it’s not about longevity, it’s about how long you live a healthy life. Any one of us could get hit by a car or a plane comes through the window, whatever it may be but up until that point, did you live the healthiest, best life you could?
If you’re doing things that aren’t servicing you to live your best life, then are you really living?
Whether I die tomorrow or I live for another 50 years, I would like to live the healthiest. I want to be capable of doing things right. I always want to be an asset to the people around me. I never want to be a liability. I want to be somebody who adds to society, not pulls from it.
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
I think a lot of people when things get hard they’re like, oh well I’m going to get drunk or do drugs. That’s only going to make the problem you have 10x worse. When I’m down, I look for little wins. I need the smallest wins. What could I do right now that’ll make me feel better? That will help out.
What is your favorite book? And how has that book been relevant in your life?
It’s a children’s book called Stone Soup. I use this reference because it’s the mantra and idea behind the whole Strong New York event. You can interpret it two different ways. Some people say he’s a beggar that comes to town and tricks everyone and then I think he’s more of a Pied Piper where he gets everybody together to hang out. It’s this idea that as long as you’re an asset to everyone, as long as you can help people come together and put a smile on their face, that’s the most important thing. You might not have valuables, you might not have goods to share with everyone, but if you can make people laugh, make people feel comfortable, make people feel at home, bring them together, then those skills are just, if not more important than having money or goods.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
You can find us at strongnewyork.com and @strongnewyork on Instagram. Sign up for our newsletter and follow me @kennysantucci
This was very inspiring, Kenny. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.