Why Latter-day Saint basketball player Kyle Collinsworth wants to help 100,000 people get healthy during COVID-19

Basketballer Kyle Collinsworth knows effective goal-setting can be as prized as a quick first step off the dribble.

By focusing on clear objectives, the Latter-day Saint has realized success as a stand-out guard at Brigham Young University, as a full-time missionary in Russia and throughout his ongoing professional career that has included a spot on the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks for much of the 2017-2018 season.

But Collinsworth’s latest goal may be his most ambitious yet: Helping 100,000-plus people get healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former Dallas Mavericks guard Kyle Collinsworth drives against the Houston Rocket's Gerald Green during the 2017-2018 NBA season. Collinsworth is a returned missionary who provided free health guides via social media.
Former Dallas Mavericks guard Kyle Collinsworth drives against the Houston Rocket’s Gerald Green during the 2017-2018 NBA season. Collinsworth is a returned missionary who provided free health guides via social media. Credit: Instagram photo/@collinsworth5

In a recent interview with Church News reporter Jason Swensen, Collinsworth discussed his gospel-anchored motivation to train legions of others by utilizing social media and the lessons he’s learned as an elite athlete. 

He has created a series of free nutrition and exercise guides — with topics that range from blending tasty smoothies to performing a textbook pushup — that everyday people can follow safely in their homes and neighborhoods during the pandemic.

(Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)

Church News: During the ongoing health crisis, you are dedicated to helping people emerge from the pandemic healthier than when it began. What’s your motivation?

Collinsworth: I’ve always been a person that likes to help people.

After I came home from my mission, at the end of my sophomore season at BYU, I tore my ACL. The doctor told me if I cleaned up my diet, I’d be able to make it back on the court in six months.

From that point on, I started to see the power of food — not only on the body, but also on the mind and spirit. 

And so, tying back to COVID-19, I know healthy food can really help lower people’s anxiety and stress. The better I eat, the less stress I have. And I think that’s important at this time to create a healthy lifestyle. 

Church News: Was there a time when you were not a healthy eater?

Collinsworth: (laughing) For the first 22 years of my life I ate terribly — fast food, candy, cake, ice cream. But after I tore my ACL, things kind of shifted to my current approach to slowly add good things into my life, one thing at a time.

People sometimes look at something harmful in their lives and say, “Oh, I could never give that up.” 

But it’s the same as with the gospel. You don’t just focus on “giving things up.” Instead, you add more light to your life, and you no longer desire certain things. It’s very similar to eating unhealthy food and other bad habits. As we add good things to our lives, we no longer have the desire to do unhealthy things anymore. So today, fast food doesn’t even cross my mind.

That’s my approach: taking small and simple steps and improving, one habit at a time. Focus today on adding one good thing. As you do that, your desires change over time.

Kyle Collinsworth and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, do a short workout at their home in Provo on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Kyle Collinsworth and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, do a short workout at their home in Provo on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Church News: Your approach to helping others sound a lot like 2 Nephi 28:30: “Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.”

Collinsworth: For sure. The scriptures also teach that “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). 

With time, one good habit will compound with more good habits and the bad things will naturally be removed. And that’s what I’m trying to do with my health program. Every month we have a new guide. I’ve done past guides on things such as intermittent fasting, smoothies, walking, pushups and salads. It’s all free, and I put it out there to help people.

It’s all about building a lifestyle, slowly and gradually, and trying to do the right thing for the long term.

Church News: Given your background as a professional athlete, it would be entirely appropriate for you to market and monetize your expertise in this area. Why the decision to provide this service at no cost?

Collinsworth: I just want to help people without any hurdles that might get in someone’s way.

I want to provide something where people can get their feet on the ground and get moving. I want to give them a starting point and a method to start them off.

Church News: You have a “teammate” at home (wife and professional track athlete, Shea Martinez Collinsworth) that you can train with, shoulder-to-shoulder, to realize your own fitness goals. How important is it for someone to have that sort of support?

Collinsworth: It’s huge. Do things together. I recommend that someone gets on board with their husband or wife or kids or friends and start at a point where they can all grow together.

Kyle Collinsworth does pushups as he and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, do a short workout at their Provo home on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Kyle Collinsworth does pushups as he and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, do a short workout at their Provo home on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Being able to prepare and eat healthy food together is also a great time for Shea and I to sit back and have a bit of stillness in our lives and appreciate our time together.

Church News: Your Twitter feed includes tweets on fitness tips and healthy recipes intermingled with passages of scriptures and quotes from general conference talks. That sort of “life harmony” is obviously something that you value.

Collinsworth: I’m striving every day to be better in body, mind and spirit. 

Whenever I read scriptures or listen to conference talks, I always find little gems that apply to improving my health and my life.

Just yesterday, I was listening to a general conference talk from Elder Larry R. Lawrence (General Authority Seventy) called “What Lack I Yet?” where he talks about how the Holy Ghost will give you simple things that you can use now in your life. He won’t overwhelm you.

It’s all connected — it’s the same message of striving to do better every day and progress.

Church News: Kyle, you have an ambitious goal: trying to help 100,000-plus people improve their health. Using social media, you are able to interact with many you are assisting. What’s it like to connect with people who tell you that they are perhaps losing a few pounds, or feeling healthier or doing things with their children that they couldn’t do a few months ago?

Collinsworth: It’s why I love doing this. It’s why I’ll continue to do this — for all those success stories of people losing weight or maybe doing 100 pushups in a day for the first time in their lives. I just love hearing that. I love interacting with people and hearing their success stories.

Kyle Collinsworth and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, go for a walk with their dog, Coco, on the mountain near their home in Provo on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Kyle Collinsworth and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, go for a walk with their dog, Coco, on the mountain near their home in Provo on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Church News: Are you planning to continue your online health training once you are back to playing basketball again?

Collinsworth: I plan to continue — maybe not as much, but we plan to have a new guide come out each month. 

(Additional information about Collinsworth’s free guides can be found on Twitter: @bigrussia5.)