#063: The Ready State – Co-Founder Dr. Kelly Starrett

Thursday June 09, 2022

“How you prepare today determine success tomorrow.” Mobility is one of those areas where preparation can’t be faked and it can’t be shortcutted. While down at Sandlot Jax and the GORUCK Games Fran Racioppi sits down with Dr. Kelly Starrett, Co-Founder of The Ready State, bestselling author, and physical trainer for many of the most elite athletes in professional and olympic sports for a conversation on movement, mobility and human performance. 

Listen to the podcast here


About Dr. Kelly Starrett

TJP 63 | The Ready StateKelly Starrett, DPT is a coach, physical therapist, 2 x New York Times bestselling author, and speaker. Along with his wife Juliet, Kelly is co-founder of The Ready State. The Ready State began as Mobility|WOD in 2008, and has gone on to revolutionize the field of performance therapy and self-care. Kelly received his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2007 from Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, California.

Kelly’s clients include professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. He also works with Olympic gold-medalists, Tour de France cyclists, world- and national-record-holding Olympic lifting and power athletes, CrossFit Games medalists, ballet dancers, military personnel, and competitive age-division athletes.

Kelly is the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers Becoming A Supple Leopard and Ready to Run. He is also co-author (with Juliet) of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Deskbound. His latest book, Waterman 2.0, offers water-sport athletes a comprehensive guide to optimized movement and pain-free performance.

Kelly and his work have been featured on 60 Minutes, The View, The Joe Rogan Experience, CBS Sports, Outside Magazine, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal and dozens of other podcasts, magazines, and books — including Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body and Tools of Titans.

On top of co-founding The Ready State, Kelly and Juliet also started San Francisco CrossFit and StandUpKids together.

Founded in 2005, San Francisco CrossFit was the 21st CrossFit affiliate in the world. And StandUpKids is a non-profit dedicated to combating kids’ sedentary lifestyles by bringing standing and moving desks to low-income public schools. To date, StandUpKids has converted 95,000 kids from sitting to standing. Earlier in their careers, Kelly and Juliet also co-founded a kayaking camp for children with HIV called Liquid.

In his athletic career, Kelly paddled whitewater slalom canoe on the US Canoe and Kayak Teams. He lead the Men’s Whitewater Rafting Team to two national titles and competed in two World Championships. In his free time, “KStar” likes to spend time with his wife, Juliet, and two daughters, Georgia and Caroline. He also loves to mountain bike, paddle, and sauna. And while Kelly claims to only “tolerate” the ice bath, according to Juliet he actually likes that, too.


The Ready State – Co-Founder Dr. Kelly Starrett

The tagline of the show is, “How you prepare today determines success tomorrow.” It’s a simple phrase but it’s something that we can apply to almost anything we do in our lives. It’s something we spend a lot of time talking about with our guests. We can’t fake preparation. Eventually, if we don’t put the work in and don’t prepare ourselves for everything we set out to do, we will be exposed.

The results that we expect won’t be there. It will show. Mobility is one of those areas where preparation can’t be faked. It can’t be shortcutted. When I was down at Sandlot JAX the GORUCK Games, I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Kelly Starrett, Cofounder of The Ready State, best-selling author, and physical trainer for many of the most elite athletes in professional and Olympic sports.

Kelly joined me in the back of the Land Rover ambulance for our conversation on movement, mobility, and human performance. We compared mobility verse stretching. We spoke about the importance of sleep, and most importantly, we defined how the goal of e human should be to perform basic movements without paying your limitation.

Finally, Kelly puts me on the spot by testing my knowledge of mobility but that’s okay because I forced him to define the term, Supple Leopard. Check out our videos and pictures from this episode and the entire Sandlot event on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. Find all our episodes on our website, JedburghPodcast.com or wherever you get your podcasts. We will see you there.

Kelly, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

Fran and Kelly Starrett at Sandlot Jax

It’s a total pleasure. Before we get into this, does the inside of this smell like Vietnam or Korea?

No, it smells like World War II.

More like on the inside of a JD Salinger novel. That’s where I’m talking to you from.

We are inside the World War II Land Rover Defender ambulance. Jaguar Land Rover of Fairfield, Connecticut has graciously allowed me to put it on a flatbed and tow it down here behind my truck, seventeen hours straight. We are partnering with The Readiness Collective out of Norwalk as well. They have jumped in on this thing. I could not be more excited about the support that we get.

If I had been a fortunate boy, I would have lived in her. This would be my bedroom hangout.

I had Travis Wilson from Alpha Elite Performance who came in. We had him for a little bit. He was like, “This isn’t the first time I have been in the back of an FLA with a bunch of dudes.” I appreciate you taking some time coming in here. Talk about The Ready State and your work in mobility and start talking about what is mobility. What’s the difference between mobility and stretching? How does it affect our lives? How does it affect our longevity? We were sitting here, and I gave you a little bit of my background. You said you got a lot of miles being thirteen years in the Special Forces. I know the first thing you are thinking is, “Do I have mobility?” The answer is, “No, I do not.”

What I think is your perfect expression of your environment. Everyone comes from somewhere and thinks about how many eggs we’ve broken to find a few good dozen. We didn’t need to break as many eggs. It wasn’t long ago that our model was to work hard, break, take some time off, and we will see if we get further next time. That model got us a lot of success. What we realized is that, especially as people talk about longevity and I’m like, “What are you talking about? Rich tech dudes filtering their blood, is that what you mean?”

Like Tom Brady.

The rest of us is, how do we come out unharmed or less unharmed? What is the view of being 100? How do we be durable and reflect that in the realities of being a warfighter potentially or being in a community where you don’t sleep, you don’t have access to good nutrition? You are a stressed animal. What are the best practices? How do we mitigate that? If 80% of Marine Force Recon retired with a full disability, I don’t know how to retire in disability or not on the scale.

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

“How do we come out unharmed…or less unharmed…really with the view of being 100.”

I’m at 90%.

What if we started with the assumption that we can’t prevent that but what if we can say, “Here are the things we can control. Some of it will be beyond our control. Some of it we can’t control. Where do we begin those conversations?” That is the heart of this. If we are particularly getting into what are the essential building blocks? What’s essentialism? It turns out position is the root of everything. Do you have access to your positions and shapes?

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

“Position is the root of everything. Do you have access to your positions and shapes.”

It doesn’t matter if you are rucking, sprinting, setting a world record or playing volleyball. It’s ultimately the same shape over and over again, just repurposed. We don’t empower people to do the PM. We don’t empower people to understand how they work. We say, “Work hard. As long as you got another kilo on the bar or you went a little faster, that must be better.” It’s a real fundamental change in who owns what and what do we expect and why don’t you know this already.

It’s interesting the way that you’ve defined mobility. You talked about putting your body in certain shapes but there’s a second component of that, which is putting your body in these shapes and the normal activity in your normal routine and not having to create an event to get yourself into that.

In the 24-hour duty cycle, I was at the Marine Aviation Weapon Tactical School, MAWTS. I’m like, “Let’s talk about tissue health. Who slept six hours last night?” No hand goes up. I was like, “Who slept less than six hours? There you go. It’s all bullcrap from here out.” The key here is recognizing that one of the mistakes is that we are adding things to the complexity. I’m like, “Now you have to do this other thing.”

The problem is what are you going to give up for that? Are you going to give up hanging out with your family or your friends or being a human? Are we going to track you 24/7? You are doing a stressful activity with your friends. You need to come down. There’s a reason that all the players’ organizations in special sports don’t want continuous monitoring. They need to be off. They need to be human. What we need to do is figure out a more dense way of respecting people’s time so when they are on, they are on, and when they are off, they are off.

We don’t have to give them a laundry list of more stuff they need to do. That means we need to look at our systems and rethink what the environment looks like and what we are asking people. “How do I get seven bottom lines out of a single practice or single behavior?” That is the behavior change. The magic is what you are saying, it can be as simple as, “In the evening, why don’t you sit on the floor instead of on the couch? When you need to fidget, fidget.” Now you’ve got 20 30 or 40 minutes an hour of sitting on the floor, long sit, side sit, sidesaddle 990. That’s one thing you don’t have to do later on.

How’s that different from stretching?

Define your term stretching. What do you think stretching means? Do you stretch? No, you don’t.TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

I used to stretch statically, get your arm above your head and grab something. I’ve started to do more mobility. I’m doing low-range exercises.

What does mobility mean to you?

Mobility to me is my ability to move my body in a way that’s going to loosen my muscles. Before I do an actual workout, I’m doing a series of squats or lunges but in a slower range of motion, maybe at a deeper range of motion but trying to create elasticity before I actually work.

You think by going slower than exercising. We stepped into a whole bunch of rakes without knowing because we haven’t defined our terms. When we talk to athletes and say, “Do you stretch?” Here’s what equivocally people do that works and stop doing what doesn’t work. If you work in a military community and you are working with a bunch of people, and honestly, all of the smart kids I work with in the military are the best in the world at learning a skill. They are presented with all the best teachers, a lot of good teachers.

The soldiers I work with are good at saying, “That will never work. That will fit. I can learn that.” What we’ve seen over the last several years of working in these communities is that people see bullcrap and they see these real special systems that come in that aren’t practicable or not deployable and don’t give results. When we say things like stretching, people don’t stretch because it doesn’t work or doesn’t give them the results or it’s mismatched.

[bctt tweet=”Position is the root of everything.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Underneath that, we haven’t defined what the norm of the range is. I don’t care if you have the gymnastic ability of a 60-year-old Olympian. What is the normative hip range of motion? Why don’t we have those minimums? Do you know what your blood pressure should be? What’s decent blood pressure? 120/80. You are realizing that you are like, “120/80 is this average blood pressure.” What’s a decent range of motion for your hip?

I have no idea.

What would be a decent range of motion in a movement using your hip in a flection position?

Until it hurts.

What we’ve done is we’ve stripped out the components out of training and movement. Let me remodulate. This will help you to wrap your head around what we are trying to do. One is mobility. It means I need to have the raw tissue extensibility. I have the mechanics available. I’m not stiff and neuroprotective. Whatever the mechanism is not allowing me to do that. Second, do I have the skill to manage these tissues? Bench pressing, I need to have enough extension and internal rotation of the shoulder to create stability. I need to do it, not flare my elbows and look like a noodle under the bar. Do I have the range of motion? Do I have the technique?TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

What we saw for a long time was that people would do a lot of skill transfer exercises, and corrective exercises, which is all again towards, you don’t know how to move but meanwhile, your hip capsule is stiff. You don’t have any internal rotation. These systems of course work together. What we’ve tried to do is say, “Let’s establish what normative ranges are that every physical therapist or doctor on the planet agrees, this is what your hips should be able to do. If you can’t do that, let’s get you back to baseline.”

By the way, expressing movement looks like this. It means that you can squat hip crease below the knee with your feet straight and take a breath there. It doesn’t hurt because it shouldn’t hurt. You can do that without having to compensate for the problem. Now we have a language where you can be like, “I’m feeling stiffer or a little behind. I have been sitting in a vehicle. I have had to fly on an airplane.” All of a sudden, you don’t have access to your hip extension. You can work on that if you knew what to look for. We have been basically asking people to take care of their bodies but making them fly blind the whole time.

I was telling you I was in California with Jason Khalipa. We did our interview. We are getting ready to work out the six-minute workout. Before we do it, he takes one look at me and says, “No, stop. You need to do these two exercises to loosen your hip because you are not going to be able to perform these exercises in the way that you need to.” I didn’t do anything. I walked over to him.

The key here is the pattern recognition that I have this correlated movement language of you walking around or having access to your shapes. He was saying, “It can’t just be about output anymore. It’s not about who can work the hardest in the second.” We sold that for a minute.

That was what was in my mind.

No one was working hard and fit. No one is strong, fit, and skilled. We are all protected but that ship has sailed. Throwing a little psychological drama, I’m working out with a world champion. I’m working with Jason Khalipa who’s a mutant. It doesn’t matter who you are and suddenly you are self-conscious. You are worried about not looking like a fool and, “Do I have enough range of motion in my hip?”

The only concern I had was not being embarrassed.

I get embarrassed by my wife and all my friends all the time. What suddenly we have now is this notion that if a position is a thing, then I’m using exercise and training to challenge the position. I can say, “What are the different conditions under which this position should remain robust?” When I say position, I have to be able to access it and control it. Can you do it under load? That’s what most of us think. Make it heavier. Let’s challenge again. Squat heavier, bench and eventually you start cheating.

It’s about the weight.

What happens if I add speed to your load? Suddenly, I can find out how well you can control that if I had a speed component to it. In fact, speed is the great arbiter. You can get away with murder at low speeds. High speeds kill. Speed is the sport of position. What happens when I make you breathe hard and do that skill? Run up the stairs, then administer the IV. You are going to fall apart and be to be a hot mess.

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

“Speed is the great arbiter…speed is the sport of position.”

What happens if I put you under a little cardio-respiratory demand, metabolic demand, and a little psychological stress? Pretty soon, what you see is I have 1,000 ways to challenge your ability to put your arms over your head, carry this or not deflect your back. We are not turning jump like an idiot. Ultimately, when we start to view training that way, it becomes intellectually interesting.

I’m challenging my position and the limits of my skill under these conditions. Jason was like, “I don’t think you can access the position.” What are we getting? We are getting you being able to say, “I can go until I break as long as it doesn’t hurt.” It’s good but what we have ended up there is people who are like, “Let’s not train. Let’s get you on an exercise bike and electrical stimulation to your muscles.” What we see is we have skills that don’t transfer.

What we told everyone several years ago was that, “Strength is never a weakness. As long as you are super fit, you are fine.” I’m like, “Is that the truth?” I’ve had plenty of technical people who fall apart under a little load and strong people who are stiff and get tweaked because they can’t change direction, step over, carry something or do it long.

Ultimately, when you start to view, “Here are these root positions. This is what everyone does,” then if you are training overhead, there are 1,000 ways to get there. Do you want to hang? Do you want to do some pushups? Great. Do you want to do a downward dog? Do you want to swim? They are all overhead positions. Do you want to jerk? We can snatch or press and get there. There are so many ways to get your arms over your head. What’s normal overhead? It’s over my head and now my back looks like a noodle, my elbows are flared and my neck is doing weird stuff.

My shoulders pinching.

When we begin to simplify the system, then suddenly, everyone knows the rules. What we are doing then is real training that transfers more effectively and then we do tests. I’m going to put you on. We are going to go compete. We are going to see how well your skills hold together. If the only thing I do is shoot a straight target and then I got to run up one day and shoot the target, I’m going to fall apart.

It’s because you haven’t trained it.

Why are we thinking the body mechanics skill technique is any different than the other skill?

There’s the term Operator syndrome. You’ve heard of it. We’ve had a number of conversations and we’ve done a number of episodes specifically on Operator syndrome.

[bctt tweet=”What we need to do is figure out a denser way of respecting people’s time so when they’re on, they’re on and when they’re off, they’re off.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I don’t know what Operator syndrome is. Let me guess, you are a mutant and you can do anything.

It’s the opposite. We had Dr. Chris Frueh, a good partner of ours on the show. He has developed the term Operator syndrome, the leader in the medical industry, pushing it. It’s where you have over time, pushed yourself too far. It’s not one day. It’s a career of too much load on the body, mentally, physically, lack of sleep, no rest, where you’ve constantly said that we can continue to go until we break. We break and then we say, “I don’t need any rest,” and I continue pushing myself.

You should deploy to Yemen with your testosterone to 200. That makes a lot of sense.

What happens is guys start going in, especially call operation because his work is specific to special operators but we have seen this in like Naomi Osaka. You can put in Simone Biles. You wake up one day and you are like, “I can’t do this anymore,” and then you suffer from depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, and suicidal tendencies.

This is a failure of the system from the start. It’s not on the individual. Everyone is a product of their system. If you see someone who’s gone that far, it’s because no one has said, “You are redlining again. Your performance is crap. You don’t know. You didn’t take care of these things.” What we said was we will go until we break. How’s that currently going? It’s not going great.TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

One of the things that I ended up specializing in is helping athletes at the end of their careers, extend their careers in the NFL, Tour de France, and basketball. Do you know how hard it is to beat someone who’s playing in the NFL for 10 years and give them another 3 years? They know every trick. They have been playing NFL for ten years. Why are we losing some of our best soldiers to back pain? We think it’s preventable or largely manageable if we begin to practice.

By the way, all the things you are describing, Naomi Osaka, and some of the superstar athletes who are dealing with this pressure, it’s no different. Take war and what we will say is, “There’s less we can control less in war.” You are going to get a flight meal, which is a Little Debbie snack cake and you get 1 MRE for the next 24 hours, sweet. You are killing it. The sleep, we can’t control. There’s some of the nutrition we can’t control. What we realize is when we begin to control and put principles first in a cogent way, where again, everyone knows the rules, what ends up happening is, believe it or not, we get more work out of the individual.

We are ready to go again. I’ve worked in places where they would love to have a rotation of three groups, red, green, and yellow, and they don’t have enough people to do that. You are either on or you are off. You never get time to calm down. What ends up happening is in the short-term, we get worked on. In the long-term, now you have one team.

I remember sitting at a lunch with Senior Navy Special Forces leadership. One of the things they did was start assigning a dollar value to everyone they worked with. It costs you $1.6 million for training. You are out with a hangnail. You are out because your shoulder blade was done. We’ve taken that asset off the table. That’s a $1.7 million asset gone. Suddenly, people start caring about it.

A business would never allow you to do that.

When we start applying those first principles to that thinking and start earlier in the pipeline, in high school, middle school, then suddenly what we realized is, “We thought we were performing at a high level. We were JV. We can get more work done, have better decision-making, and have better durability. Guys and girls will stick around longer because they are getting the best care and feel better.” There’s a lot to untangle there but it seems like it’s a worthy task for ourselves.

How do you educate at the junior level though? It’s one thing to have these conversations at an event like this at Sandlot JAX. We have many elite athletes or even in special operations, which the mentality of this in special operations, I’m thinking back now, ten years old at most, where we actually have started to dig into this functional fitness attitude because it was forever, 3 times 10.

We didn’t know.

Has that trickled down levels into youth sports?

The key here is to think about this as, “What’s our performance environment.” My wife and I and our business have adopted an idea that came from EO Wilson, the evolutionary psychologist, who said, “The highest calling of science is to inform the humanities.” We think the highest calling of sport is to transform the community, which means we need to take those lessons of high performance. We understand how much sleep and warm-up, cool down, nutrition, psychology, readiness, and all that are required for high output.

Let’s apply those things back. It turns out its first principles. What’s the revolution in performance nutrition now? Whole foods, eating apples, and eating a turkey sandwich are better than salami and a shake 100% of the time because the system is complex but there are these foundational behaviors. Going out and working out at Fort Bragg with a group there. Sleep problems in the military are a big deal.

One of the things that this group did was immediately assign people who had a sleep problem, to a band to track their activity. The first order of business is to go ahead and start to increase the number of steps a soldier takes. Why? It’s because number one, we need to decongest and do all that movement, not smash ourselves and rest. We need to accumulate enough non-exercise activity that you actually fall asleep. Think about the last time you carried a pack in a scary place and you hadn’t slept for 3 hours or 3 days. When you sat down, do you have a problem falling asleep? Blackout.

You fall asleep in the truck on the way home.

You have to. If you won’t be needing me, I will be shutting down now. One of the things that we can then do is say, “We learned this, that if we can accumulate non-exercise activity and that may be for you because you are ADD and crazy, 14,000 steps. That means I need to configure your day where there’s more non-exercise activity movement in there so I can untangle the sleep problem.” We need to look at, “Are you a fast caffeine metabolizer, yes or no?” We all live off of caffeine.

I drink coffee all day long.

It turns out caffeine may interrupt collagen synthesis. That’s a problem if I’m trying to protect your tissues but that caffeine you have at 4:00 because that’s when you need the bump because you didn’t sleep last night, now interferes with the quality of sleep. You fall asleep but you don’t sleep.

My loop is crushing me.

We are in the stimulant depressant cycling. In the military, it could be Adderall and Ambien. Welcome to Adderall and Ambien. You are nodding your head because you are like, “I get it.” if you are reading this, you are like, “That’s ridiculous. I only drink caffeine or red wine.” I start to have a hard time understanding what’s what. I have two daughters. We have a hard stop on tech, and phones out of the room. You got to go to sleep and protect their sleep. We sidestep 100 other things.

It’s about controlling what you can control when we can control it and then you are durable enough to manage the rest. For months at a time, you can be a hot mess, come back and we can actually talk. What we see is we end up carrying those behaviors over. That’s how we start. Any of the conversations that I should have with any elite person trying to perform at a high level in the austere environment or not should be things they learned in middle school. They are like, “I know this already.”

[bctt tweet=”When we begin to simplify the system, then suddenly everyone knows the rules. What we’re doing then is training. It’s real training that transfers more effectively.” username=”talentwargroup”]

That will make me snatch more. That’s the conversation I want to get to, not these basics. The key here is that we have been doing this long enough that a lot of lieutenants are now captains and majors, and starting to change the system because they are like, “We cannot eat this way.” The fights to get a deep fryer not installed in someone’s kitchen or someplace. How do we have fruit instead of pie? How do we begin to have people recognize Air Force is doing a great job? They are starting to realize, “We need to look at how people are eating and training people to eat. Why aren’t we training people to eat, sleep, self-mobilize, and deal with pain the same way we are teaching to be able to do these complex tasks?”

I don’t think people put enough stake in nutrition and the effect that that actually has on you.

We messed it up. What do we do? We are like, “This sashimi chicken breast is healthy.” I’m like, “Is it really? Sashimi chicken breasts, you’ve got this brown rice and broccoli. That is a meal we give to the dogs.” Not a lot of micronutrients in there, not a lot of connective tissue and collagen. You are right though. One of the things that we see is there are foundations. Do you eat fermented food? Are you getting 800 grams of fruits and vegetables? Do you eat micronutrients and fiber? Do you hit your minimum protein macros, yes or no? Notice that I haven’t said keto or intermittent fasting. I’m like, “Let’s hit these basics around fuel and tissue health.”TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

Again, what you are seeing is that all of these systems interfere with or affect these other systems. I can’t talk about your pissed-off elbow if you are smashing a Red Bull or a Monster, eating a Balance Bar, packing to chew to go do your job. What we realized is those are coping strategies that you’ve developed. Until I replace those with some other coping strategy, those will remain your coping strategy. You solve that problem for yourself. I know how to go. I know to get myself ready. These are the things I do. It turns out it’s the short game.

I joked earlier about Tom Brady. What’s your assessment of a guy like that who has been able to perform at this level? His attitude is very much in line with what he talks about.

What I would say around his book, for example, what he has shown, this is sophisticated, whether you need to eat certain foods at times a year, that guy is not just massaging his biceps and then playing in the NFL. If you go to the back of his book and read the principles, they are solid principles. They are airtight. When you hear him, what he said was, “Eating a certain way made me feel worse.” We believe you. He started eating differently and feel better. I believe you. There’s enough individuality but it’s not about limiting fruits and vegetables and not eating fiber. Within the principles, there is specialization or tweaking.

The other thing is that he discovered it a long time ago, why is someone training me to like this middle linebacker or lineman? It doesn’t make me better at my job. Suddenly, you are going to be knocking down doors for a few months. Let’s put 10 pounds on you. You are going to be hiking in the hills, carrying your back for 3 days, let’s take 10 pounds off you. We realized that we can train everyone not to be the biggest strongest dude. If we want super-soldiers, let me introduce you to Tren and HGH.

Here’s testosterone. Here are some growth stacks. The super-soldier serum exists out there. We are just not willing to play that game. I have been in some of these rooms where I’m like, “Why are you working on a heating snatch balance on a force plate? You can’t even take a breath or put your arms over your head and we are measuring a lot of dirty data.” It smells like sophistication. I don’t use the word tactical athlete anymore. I’m like, “An athlete we can control for some of the variables. You are a warfighter,” which means it’s basically a bar fight hungry. How do I prepare for that?

I want to ask you about The Ready State itself and the mission of the company. There were three components to this mission. The first one is it’s impossible to reach your full potential if you are in pain, stiff, and tight. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Those are different things. First of all, let’s take the pain piece off. Pain is a low bar, believe it or not.

Even lower for some people.

Let’s change the narrative around pain. The resting state of the human being is pain-free. Let’s use pain as a diagnostic tool, as an indicator that my brain is asking me to care for something. If I want to sensitize you, I will make you hypo-hydrated, put you in a stressful situation, I won’t make you sleep, touch your shoulder and you are like, “It hurts.” What we can begin to think of is if you and I go smash a bunch of pizzas and drink some beer, and then we go shove and suck tomorrow, we are like, “We smashed a bunch of pizzas and ate some beer.”

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

“Resting state of the human being is pain free…let’s use pain as a diagnostic tool.”

What we can end up doing though is begin to see a relationship between behavior and output. What if I said your wattage, poundage, time, and pain were all equal? When your knee was sore, after a run, you wouldn’t panic. You would be like, “I need to pay attention to this. My brain is asking me for a behavior change, which may mean I’m hypo-hydrated or I’m stiff. I’m sensitized.” We can begin to say, “Let’s think differently about pain instead of let me cover it up with bourbon and ibuprofen,” which is what we did. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a big boy and girl time for that, where I’m like, “It’s time for you to take this pain pill and not do your job. We are going to work this out afterward.”

Don’t get me wrong. We are still doing this. Again, what I’m saying is we are not getting the most out of you or the number of years and missions. You can actually feel better and do your job better. That’s our hypothesis. We are leaving capacity on the table. If you are in pain, you can’t generate as much force. You don’t have as many movement solutions. You are going to make bad decisions. You are going to start self-soothing with whatever you have available to you.

That’s going to be ibuprofen and ranger candy. You are going to reach for opiates. You are going to reach for whatever you have until someone gives you a better solution. The first order of business we think that unless your pain is so bad that you can’t do your job or occupy you with your family, that’s not a medical emergency. You can get help for it but you should be able to start taking a crack at this yourself.

What happens when you’re desensitized to the pain though? That takes so long that you don’t know anything else. How do you actually understand, “I’m not supposed to feel like this anymore?

When we are talking about chronic pain and persistent pain and how the brain changes, what we need to be thinking is, “Complex system. What’s the first order of business. Do you sleep? Show me. I don’t believe you anymore. Let me see your WHOOP. You have a WHOOP on.”

You don’t want to see my WHOOP. My WHOOP says, “Go to bed now. It’s 4:00 in the afternoon.

I’m a new parent. My WHOOP is telling me I’m going to die. The key here is we say, “Let’s control what we can control at this moment.” We have a system that’s ready for remodeling. One of the easiest things to do is to begin non-threatening input. We changed your breath. We changed some mobilizations where we can change tissue quality. We can change how the mechanics of the tissues work. Mostly is that we are able to change civically. I have never said that in my life.

We can change how your range of motion, and how much success. A lot of times, what people forget is that pain and movement are mapped in the brain. Eventually, it’s a chronic or persistent pain situation. I don’t even need the movement. Something that looks like the movement and the brain is like, “I don’t know what that is. Let me save you the effort and perceive this pain as a threat.” When we change your movement patterning, what we ended up doing is having an opportunity to lift that needle out of the groove and put it down in a pain-free or a new one, and the brain is clever enough to say, “That’s a different position.”TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

You are not winding your shoulder up before you bench press. You are not flaring the shoulder forward. One of the things that we can do to begin to untangle this chronic pain persistent pain problem is first principles. Show me you are eating 800 grams of fruits and vegetables and getting enough protein. Show me you are getting some collagen. Are you walking? Are you sleeping? Are you decongesting? Do you have a normal range of motion? Full range of motion, why not? You don’t need a doctor to tell you those things. That’s the stuff that you should know already because you came to middle school.

The second part of this mission is your work with elite athletes serves as the proving grounds for these methods. That builds on what you said. You don’t need all this fancy equipment and high-profile trainers to be able to do this. This is something that every person can and should be able to do by themselves.

The problem is we never said, “When your knee or shoulder hurts, what do you do? We haven’t given you a template for that.” Think about if you had one of those old grannies, it was like, “Your knee hurts.” She had some stuff to do. Rub this liniment in. Do this thing. Put your elbow in this Windex, whatever your crazy grandma did. We have basically said pain is a medical problem. Who owns it? It’s not so bad. I’m going to see a doctor. I will suffer through it. I’m not going to see a physical therapist. I don’t have time. It’s gone away in the past instead of saying, “What are you doing? How come you don’t know how to self-soothe or manage this, or take care of your tissue health?”

That’s why we care about sleep, nutrition, and hydration because if you have piss-poor protoplasm, it’s tough to understand what’s going on. What we have tried to say is we have a model for how people move it. It’s a model for explaining complex movement behavior that we can explain why we are using these techniques. There’s a reason why all the rigs are set up to bring your elbows in and create extra rotation because that’s a more stable position to shoot.

[bctt tweet=”Let’s change the narrative around pain. The resting state of the human being is pain-free. Let’s use pain as a diagnostic tool, as an indicator that our brains are asking us to care for something.” username=”talentwargroup”]

You suddenly understand you are like, “Holy moly, some of the postures and positions that we teach actually reflect the physiology.” I’m like, “That’s called throwing a shot putt or throwing a disc or benching. The way we do one thing is the way we do everything. The body is principally driven.” We test our model that explains why we move the way we move. It also predicts why you are going to be able to not move or be able to do something.

We can communicate that. That comes out of our human performance lab and working with every branch of the government, working with hundreds of universities, all the Olympic teams, all Blacks, and the British national soccer team. We keep testing our model, helping people solve their problems in their own community.

The third component of the mission is so people can do it for themselves.

That’s what we feel like is that let’s ask the question, “How’s it going? Are we doing better or worse? Are there less injuries?” No, it seems like it’s accelerating. The traditional ways that we’ve handled some of these things haven’t served us the way we intended. We are clever. We have thumbs. Let’s go ahead and pivot that. Partly, as I’m trying to help people have an operating understanding of how their body works, that’s subversive. Simultaneously, trying to empower coaches who are experts in a movement to be able to say, “If your shoulder hurts, talk to your coach.”

Your coach is like, “Here are ten things we can do that we don’t need to get involved with a medical person. It’s just pain. It’s not a medical problem. You are going to bench and do pull-ups, no matter what.” Simultaneously, we can use that training session as a diagnostic, “How am I feeling?” “Go ahead and carry a pack 100 miles, and then come back and let me know how well you move.”

I learned some of these things the hard way. I have been a tourist on a lot of military bases, where I get to do a lot of stuff where I’m like, “I have been strapped to this guy and back with C-130 for four hours. Now I feel like crap. I haven’t been able to drink anything. I couldn’t warm up or activate my glutes.

You can’t drink water because then you have to pee.

Where are we going to control these things? That is a conversation because people are durable. We don’t have to get it right the first time, we just got to get better tomorrow.

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

“People are durable…and we don’t have to get it right the first time. We just have to get it right, better, tomorrow.”

Can you define the supple leopard?

Two things. One is one of my favorite movies as a kid was Gallipoli. The young sprinter is talking to his uncle and he’s like, “How fast are you going to run?” He’s like, “As fast as a leopard.” I like this young Australian kid. One of my friends who was a rad person, Andy Stumpf, I don’t know if you’ve ever run into him.

I know the name. I know who he is. I have not met him.

One day he was like, “Kelly, the leopard never stretches.” I was like, “There are some type one errors in your thinking. You are not a leopard. That leopard has full access to his physical capacity. It can attack and defend at full physical capacity in a second. Can you?” “Now I’ve got to warm up.”

Jason Khalipa told me I need to stretch first.

What’s interesting is that what are the behaviors that allow me to maintain access and have movement choice and access to my physiology. Warming up makes a difference. Shifting your blood. The fighter pilots do a couple of G-prep turns, “How am I feeling? How heavy is the plane?” They put themselves under a little load as calibration for the day. Why aren’t we doing the same thing? We should be.

Suddenly, when you start looking at training that way, it’s easy to do that. Supple leopard was this idea of like, “You are f***ing awesome. You are a human being.” Let’s give you your access back, so your world contains multitudes and is huge. It isn’t small, “I don’t do that. I’m afraid to do that.” That’s what happens. People’s worlds get smaller.

The Virtual Mobility Coach that you’ve developed. You got 1.3 million people.

We don’t quite have that many subscribers. We have a movement assessment in there that is pretty darn good so that people can begin to understand what their minimums are. They can begin to say, “How am I moving? How do I restore that?” Our system can be dropped into anyone. You speak Pilates, yoga or CrossFit, be YourFit it doesn’t matter. The universal language of human movement is strength conditioning. When I say pushup on every continent, everyone knows what I’m talking about. It happens. When I say squat, everyone knows what I mean. Why don’t we use that language? It happens to be a perfect diagnostic language.

I want to ask you about habits. The Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things as core foundational tasks. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. If they did these three things every day as core foundational elements, then their focus and effort would actually be placed on more complex challenges that came their way because they didn’t have to think about these things. I say that that’s what set the conditions for their success. What are the three things that you do every day that set the conditions for success in your world?

The first thing that I protect first and foremost is my sleep. It means I protect it. I’m getting up at 3:00 in the morning because I’m on West Coast time. I can’t control that. I control what I can control. I’m not going to stress about it. Am I going to be my best athletic self this week? Possible. I went to bed at 11:00. It’s my wife’s birthday. I had a margarita. I got up at 3:00 in the morning and slept six hours. I can’t be the best. I can buffer that and be functional. We protect sleep like it’s our job. The second thing is you need to walk around and move more during the day.

I don’t care what your training is. You need to move more. Counting steps is a simple way as an allegory or a metric for that. Partly it’s because I need you to decongest your tissues. For example, your lymphatic system is the sewage system of your body. Your body makes about 3 or 4 liters of lymph every day, the little fluid in the blister.

All the cellular debris, all the things that are broken down, your joints, everything like that is drained through the lymphatic system, not through your capillaries. You need to drive that sewage through the system so it can be filtered. It’s a muscle contraction that does that. Your lymphatics are built into your muscles. If I contract, I move the lymphatics. If I’m sedentary, I don’t move the lymphatics. That congested heel cord is partly a problem of lymphatic drainage stagnation.

If I can get more movement in, not only do I accumulate more non-exercise activity, and stay asleep but it also decongestant tissues that are ready to be handled and loaded. We look at that. The other thing is that I try to control getting enough fruits, vegetables, and protein. Those are my three big ones. Can I get on a roller for ten minutes at the night? That’s pretty cool. You can start to drop things in as you have time or you have resources and start to see, if I look at the human being in a 24-hour duty cycle, you wake up, you go to bed as the bookends, then it is a matter of, “Where do I plug these things in that makes sense. How do I work on this?”TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

Even now as I’m at the booth, sit on the ground a little bit. That’s how I’m going to work this out. I’m sitting on the ground and trying to walk around a lot. I’m going to control what I can control. Is this going to be a perfect training week for me? No, it doesn’t have to be but I’m not going to shove a bunch of crap in my mouth here too. I can say, “I’m either going to fast a little bit or eat these proteins. I have had a banana. I’m not winning but I’m going to have an opportunity to smash all the salad, fruits, and vegetables.” Those are the principles now that start to make durability a priority, and then we can begin to layer in all these other things.

Protect sleep, walk around and move more, fruits, vegetables, and protein.

[bctt tweet=”We don’t have to get it right the first time. We just need to get better tomorrow. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

If you did those things, a lot of things get cleared up, and then we can talk about breath practice and downregulation. We can talk about how to self-soothe, get hot or cold. Where are the other tools available to me to help modulate those things? It’s not that sophisticated. Carrying a heavy backpack around is a cool way to load your spine and feet.

The nine characteristics of elite performance as defined by Special Operations Forces set the conditions for a lot of our conversations on the show, drive, resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, humility, integrity, team ability, effective intelligence, and emotional strength. it’s always about action. When somebody makes the decision to better themselves, what is the advice that you have for them to do one thing?

My Doctoral work was looking at barriers to adherence. What keeps people from doing what they say they need to do? Out of strength and conditioning, I know a lot about the way the body works in psychology, even in chronic pain because I’ve worked in performance. If you don’t feel like you belong to the group, if the group dynamic is off, it doesn’t matter how fit you are, you’re going to suck on the field and we are going to lose.

Where do we talk about that? We are going to have to talk about that. If you don’t feel safe, it’s games off. You don’t feel like someone has your back. It matters. There are a lot of the drills and things that we do that seem silly but it’s about ritual, human being stuff. Oftentimes, I’m trying to constrain the environment, so I don’t have to make another choice. Here’s a simple idea. If you don’t want to eat cookies late at night, don’t have cookies in the house. It’s that simple.

TJP - E63 The Ready State Co-Founder Kelly Starrett

“Oftentimes I’m trying to constrain the environment so I don’t have to make another choice.”

Do you want to smash a bunch of cookies? Make sure there are a bunch of cookies in the house. I guarantee you that at 2:00 in the morning, you will wake up and be like, “I might as well have a cookie.” If you want your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, cut up the strawberries and put them in the fridge in a little container, they will eat strawberries.

Present people orange slices for dessert, which is what we did in our family. People smashed so many oranges. Do you know how many fat kids running around eating oranges? None. If I can make a better decision without having to make any decision, that’s an environmental constraint. That’s what I’m doing. I set myself up not to have a behavior that is better for me, where I don’t have to make another choice.

Suddenly, if your key is meal prep, cool. If that means you need to get a dog so the dog forces you to leave the house and go for a walk, cool. If you want to drink water first thing when you wake up, have some water by your bed. Think about it in those terms so I don’t have to summon my willpower. My environment is constrained to doing the right thing.

If you want to mobilize at night, which is when we want people to do their soft tissue work or before they go to bed, put a roller next to your couch. You are like, “I forgot about that.” Suddenly, we see rinse, wash, repeat. We have a lot of duty cycles where that behavior starts to make us feel better. As soon as we start to conjoin behavior and outcome, then it’s not an ask anymore. It takes a while for some of these behaviors to set but all of a sudden, you are like, “My back didn’t hurt this week. That’s cool. What have I been doing? Exactly what I wanted to do but I didn’t have to make a choice about that.”

It didn’t become a thing.

We think, “If I’m not doing a perfect practice, I won’t do any of it.” That’s reasonable. For example, one of the things that we love is that we are like, “Several at the gym.” You don’t have time. You have too many things than you need the gym. Do a warm-up, practice a skill, learn something fun, and mess around. At home, do your soft tissue work. In the last ten minutes before you go to bed, I guarantee you nothing is happening. That’s worth noting. You are on Facebook.

You can get a lot of likes late at night.

As my daughter is saying, “You are snapping your hose on Snapshot.” What ends up happening is we found that if we had people do ten minutes, commit to rolling a calf or look at a body part that felt sore, explore something. Ten minutes, that’s it. If you would tell me, you don’t have ten minutes, you are a liar. Last thing in the evening, not only did that out of breath practicing, get none tread input in but also you will fall asleep faster and sleep better because you had that soft tissue input.

Whoever got up after a massage, let’s fight. No one. Let’s massage you with a roller, a ball or something when it makes sense in your life to help you come down from the day so that we sleep again. Suddenly, you get the five days of that or that’s an hour of taking care of your soft tissues a week. That was free in the background. That’s cool. It’s all about behavior change. That is everything.

It’s in our hands. That’s the biggest thing.

We are drowning in tools, for sure. What we were asking people to say, “If it’s essential, how you want to deal with that essential piece is up to you but quit playing the suicide cup game,” like the drink where you take a fountain drink and you would get like Dr Pepper and orange. That’s called suicide. That’s what we are seeing as people’s programs.

They keep bouncing around. I can’t tell what’s essential. What positions are you working on? What energy systems are you working on? What ranges are you working on? Your principles around your food are not. You are like, “I drink this 900-calorie coffee and I don’t have to eat breakfast.” Again, with the simplification of first principles, then you can find the first principles that work for you.

Kelly, I thank you for coming in and joining me in the back here. It’s also fitting that we are in here and we have a Francis and a Kelly and it’s two dudes sitting in the back of the Land Rover.

Kelly Starrett is about as Irish as it gets. I’m a fourth-generation Irish kid. My grandfather was a flight surgeon in Vietnam. My dad flew F-4s. I feel like I’m back at home. I grew up around a military base in Europe. I know what’s up.

If we were in Boston, I’m Italian, you are Irish. We would have to fight now.

Northern Ireland, I’m going to drink the Jameson’s. I’m Protestant.

Thanks for joining.


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