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Kelly Starrett talks about the importance of mobility

By July 10, 2019 October 26th, 2021 4 Comments

“What we’ve got to do is wake people up, and say ‘this is on you, and you can do it.’” – Kelly Starrett

The Unbeatable Mind Experience is the opportunity for you to train in person with Mark and other Unbeatable Mind instructors, and to experience physical, mental, and emotional training in person. You will have a chance to learn under the same conditions as Spec Ops and SEAL candidates in an unforgettable environment of sea and sand. To find out more, go to

Kelly Starrett (@mobilitywod) is a coach, physical trainer, author and speaker and is a co-founder of the website MobilityWOD. He’s worked with Olympic athletes, and was an Olympic competitor on the US canoeing and kayaking team. He has also been heavily involved in the Crossfit world. His book, “Becoming a Supple Leopard” is a bestseller and today he talks to Mark about the importance of just being mobile, whether it’s a regimen or just the way you live.

Learn how:

  • We weren’t designed to live the kind of sedentary life that we now have, so moving is important for everyone from elite athletes to office workers.
  • Set workouts are good, but having a mobile lifestyle for yourself is more beneficial.
  • Our bodies were designed to deal with some physical stress, and they start to deteriorate without any at all.

Listen in to hear what kind of things you can do to keep yourself mobile and healthy.

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Hey folks. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. This is your host Mark Divine. Thanks so much for joining me today, I super appreciate it. I don’t take it lightly. I know you got a lot vying for your attention. The fact that you’re here is pretty unbelievable.

I’ve been asked to remind you to rate the podcast if you listen to it at google play, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Pandora or Spotify. Because the podcast is now available at all those platforms and we have tons and tons of great ratings over at iTunes… I just learned we were number one in the health category… I don’t know if that was like just a one-time thing or how long that status lasted, but that’s pretty cool.

So we’re good on iTunes you can go right there if you haven’t. But it’s the other ones that will help people find it. So I appreciate that.

And also I just want to let you know, if you haven’t heard me say it that just spent 18 months upgrading our online, Unbeatable Mind academy. Which you could almost say has been my life’s work. It’s phenomenal. And it’s all new. And we recently launched that.

And it comes replete with a three day immersion experience which we run twice a year, so really extraordinary if you want to learn the Unbeatable Mind principles and go deep on them. The immersion experience is worth its weight in gold. And the online training is completely revamped and updated and world-class. So check it out at

I’ve known Kelly… I remember Kelly and I were at a CrossFit conference together. That’s where I first met him. We bounced around in the CrossFit world mostly passing like two ships in the night.

I really admired Kelly Starrett’s work. Really setting the bar and creating a whole new language around movement and mobility and durability. And basically the importance of paying attention to the right ways to move your body. He is best-selling author of “becoming a supple leopard,” which I have.

And that thing – holy cow – what a project that must have been. I can’t wait to ask Kelly about that.

But he’s a national champion in canoe – the US canoe team – wicked cool. And I think he runs probably the best and most popular CrossFit course in CrossFit, which is the movement and mobility course.

And he’s a doctor of physical therapy. And he’s got two wonderful daughters – 14 and 19? Is that right, Kelly?

Kelly: 14 and 10. But it might as well be.

Mark: (laughing) Going on 19. Oh man. Great to talk to you Kelly.

Kelly: Oh likewise. And let me just say that I like that you were surprised you were number one… You’ve been number one for a long time my friend.

Mark: (laughing) Thank you, thank you.

Well, when I got the “Supple Leopard,” I was actually kind of stunned. Because this thing is a monster. I mean it’s just this massive book. Some of the nicest photography that I’ve ever seen in a book of this style. And the amount of work that you put into this thing… I can’t even imagine… Because I’m an author I got four books but… Wow.

Tell us about that. Like what was involved in putting that beast together. It’s a beautiful book.

Kelly: Well, first of all, thank you. Second of all, we just crested six years on that thing. It went over a half million copies.

Mark: Congratulations.

Kelly: That’s mind-blowing.

Mark: That is mind-blowing.

Kelly: And I’ll tell you that it takes a village to create something like that. My wife and I between juggling all the businesses and kids and look… The only way to describe it is something like a calling. That we recognize that this is something we need to do. That there’s a hole in the universe… And that’s really the best way to approach something.

We’re talking about your online training, and the work that you’ve done with SEALfit and the immersion as your life’s work.

And the only reason to do something like that is because it’s not about getting the paycheck. It can’t be about work for you.

It has to be done. And there’s no other way around it. And that’s the only way to really, sort of, to rationalize the madness in your head. Because it’s certainly not…

Mark: (laughing) It is. It’s madness.

Kelly: It is madness. And the next edition will bounce out next year – we have so much more. One of the things that is extraordinary about you and your training for me is that people just don’t have a reference for… I mean, like right now breathing is very hot, right? It is such a hot topic. What Brian Mackenzie is doing. Wim Hof, Laird Hamilton but the first time… And I’ve been talking about breathing in terms of down-regulation, in terms of soft tissue changes, for a long time.

But first time I heard about box breathing was you. How do I how do I use breathing to control my state and my awareness and you have been stitching together movement practice, mindfulness training, sort of making yourself a more durable and just more stable person as you project into the world. I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time.

And you can’t appreciate sort of the depth of your teachings until I’m another 10 years into my own experiment. I’m like “oh man, I got a lot right. Wow.”

Mark: Yeah that’s interesting. I agree with that. It’s funny you should say that because I was noticing that about the breathing… In fact, Geoff and I were kind of laughing about it. It’s like wow. All of a sudden breathing’s a big thing. We’ve been teaching this since 2005. And doing it since 1985 is when I started breath training. 1985, when I started my Zen practice and I tell that story.

The reason I was number one in my seal class was because of Zen and breath. Those two were such game changers, you know? Anyways…

Kelly: Isn’t that the truth? It’s interesting, I think… We continue to refine… At the heart of the message, I think, of your work is this notion of being self-reliant. And the notion of being self-motivated and self-reliant. And one of the things that I think that Juliet and I feel strongly about as we sort of put try to push the boundaries of health care and wellness care is we’re about people being able to take ownership of their health. And take ownership of their bodies.

And that’s a dangerous idea, because when a person is independent and self-reliant and can make themselves feel better and treat themselves without outside intervention, you really have a person who can go out and project and do interesting things in the world and not sort of lose their loci of control.

And I think that’s… When we start to look back at where we are now, because we have the benefit of seeing… We’ve been teaching this course for 11 years, like you, every rep is more refinement. It’s never arrived. You just get better at teaching. You’re more efficient…

Mark: It’s a constant state of becoming…

Kelly: Yeah, that’s right and what we see is you can’t… The application of the mission, the application of the process for over a decade now… It’s extraordinary to see how people have integrated it into their thinking.

But also that we’re really coming to see this as an issue of social justice. That no you can’t you can’t see your physician, you can’t like… I mean, let’s be honest, you have a tremendous impact on the world. And if I’m giving us all – and I’ll lump you in together, and you’re a little bit of an anomaly but the mind training is part of it – but, if I lump us in together and say how are we doing? Are we on fewer anti-depressants? Are we self-medicating less? How are we doing with back pain? How are we doing with suicide? I mean, just choose one of those metrics…

Mark: How are we doing, by the way?

Kelly: We are getting our asses kicked. I think that really is at the heart of this, is that we now are really competent beginners. And now it’s time to go. Like, we are gonna lose a generation of people if we don’t get it right.

Mark: So are you saying you’re moving from training people who are trying to go good to great, to becoming more of a public health – I don’t even know what’s the word I’m looking for – like, I don’t know advocate? Yeah, that’s right that’s a good word Geoff. Thanks.

Kelly: Here’s the question. Is what you’re doing only for elite…?

Mark: No, no. Definitely not. The podcast is really… It’s my bully pulpit so we can have a broader impact. I’m not training people with this podcast – although once in a while I veer into that territory. It’s get the word out, you know?

Kelly: Yeah, well I think where we are now is realizing that look, I mean, we like to go fast, we like to set world records, we’d like to have Olympic medals, we like to… We love that. And that’s our laboratory. That’s really how we think about sort of stress-testing the human’s… stress-testing our concepts.

Here’s a good example – in physical therapy there’s a notion – it’s very vogue right now – it’s called the biopsychosocial model which is very old. And how old – if you even think in the context of your teaching and training leadership – you have to look at the whole individual. The way the person interacts with their family. The way they feel supported. The way they feel connected into their environment.

The loose connections they have with the person who pours them coffee and where they buy their groceries. It all matters.

And we can’t strip that out. We can’t strip your sleep out, we can’t strip your movement practice out, we can’t strip your breathing practice out and expect you to win.

Mark: All related.

Kelly: So these things are central to our ideas of performance – as they always have been. And what I’ll tell you now is that we are further able to take the lessons of this high-performance world and project them back into the work that really matters. I mean, that’s what matters is moms and dads and kids. And if we don’t we don’t solve our society problems then for us – for me sport is just circus and so let’s just call it what it is. It’s circus. It’s entertainment – look go run a triathlon, wear a hole in your knee, don’t run over again. It was worth it, right? I hope that peak experience was so good for you.

Or we’re learning what we think is better ways to be more interesting humans. And frankly humans that are gonna be on the planet for a hundred years, because of modern medicine… Like, you’re gonna be around. Because we’re gonna keep your corpse alive for a hundred years whether you like it.

Mark: (laughing) Might as well be high-quality years.

Kelly: Yeah, I’m just saying. This is a choice. And the problem is that there’s so much noise and where I think – this may be unpopular – but right now I think we’re seeing the fundamental de-evolution of the human being happening. From diabetes, to stress, to suicide…

Mark: Yeah, the long tail of the industrial age, right? And we’re at the vanguard. We’re pioneers in kind of a new way that it means to be human which is gonna take probably another two generations for the rest of the world to catch up, I think. Maybe one. I don’t know.

But a lot of things have to break down and get really, really painful for the change to happen. Which is unfortunate.

Kelly: Yeah, it is unfortunate. I mean someone recently asked me a question they’re like “what’s a belief that you have?”

And my belief was that like “oh, we’re gonna save the world, and now I’m like ooh we’re gonna miss a generation of people.” And these are complex structural changes that I’m coming to believe have to be changed and addressed much earlier.

My youngest daughter who’s 10, her two sports are MMA and water polo.

Mark: What a great combination.

Kelly: In terms of suffering and discipline, body control, learning contact – now these are things that we have to teach children. Breathing, mindfulness. I mean, my daughter has a there’s a bounty – when she can get to hold her breath for two minutes there’s a huge chunk. When she can hold her breath for three minutes there’s another huge chunk of money coming her way.

We talk about these things obsessively, because if we don’t prepare our kids then it’s all gonna have to be remedial learning. You’re gonna run into it eventually. How do kids turn off at night when they’re stressed?

It’s the same thing you’re talking to about our executives. So fundamentally, we now have enough data – and we’ve been able to collect it. And now more importantly disseminate it in a real and meaningful way that there are good breadcrumb trails about having a life that feels better.

Mark: Mm-hmm. One of the things that I love about your work is that you really start with movement. You’re like okay if you want to live a good life, you got to move your body. Get off your ass, get out of the chair… Get a standing desk at work. You gotta constantly be moving your body and I fully agree with that. And something that I subscribe to, and really work hard on in my own life.

So where did you kind of… I mean… Where’d you learn this? Like tell us about Kelly and some of the things that let’s say before you became a doctor of physical therapy and you were just an athlete. Why did you start thinking this way? And what were some of your things that shaped you?

Kelly: Well, I’ll tell you… What’s interesting now is that we have this interesting genetic piece. We can take a slice of your genetics. And really understand… There’s some good science… Genetics sometimes promises some things like “which style of wine should you drink?” no, it’s not really a good genetic question.

Mark: (laughing) I was gonna say, if you have the test for that let me know.

Kelly: New York Times just had an article about genetic drive to move. And there is a key component to us about need to move, drive to move. And my genetic drive to move is through the roof. I’m always like I’m excited – you want to train I’m like “I’m down.”

Mark: So it’s different for different types of people?

Kelly: Yes. And there’s a great… In David Epstein’s wonderful book “The Sports Gene” he talks about a study where they took these mice who had high genetic drives to move and they bred them. In a couple generations they had mice didn’t run a mile a day, they had mice that run seven miles day on the treadmill. And they took the treadmill away and those mice fought – tore each other apart, destroyed the environment, right? They gave them Ritalin, they ran a mile a day.

And I think what’s interesting is this is always me. I’ve always been in motion. I’m not like Michael Phelps frenetic, but I am always curious. I’m always playing.

And my daughter now is in the 8th grade. She plays water polo. She’s active. But when I was in eighth grade, I did four varsity sports at a high school. And rode my bike on the weekends. And raced.

I mean, you couldn’t hold me down. So I think on one hand I’ve come to understand that. My own experience.

On the other hand we’ve really come to stitch together… Wilson wrote a wonderful book that I’m sure everyone has read called “Consilience,” which is about…

Mark: (laughing) That was a joke, right? I’m writing it down right now to make sure that I read it, so the next time you call me on something like that…

Kelly: So, this is probably the most important book I’ve ever read, in terms of trying to reconcile… “Consilience” is about the unification of knowledge. And it’s about trying to integrate and make sense of all of these data sets, right? That’s induction. That’s the heart of the matter.

Well if you come back to all of our movement traditions – one of the things that I adore about you is that you are a very hard man, comma, with a yoga practice, right? And that’s not un-hard, but traditionally people didn’t understand what this yoga practice was. And if you come back in and see that human beings… I mean, the book I just finished – which is ironic that we’re talking – I just finished Steven Pressfield’s book about the Afghan war, the Afghan campaign, right? Just three hundred years before Christ there was a military industrial complex moving through Eurasia, right? Just okay that’s sort of a mind-melt.

Mark: It’s mind boggling, isn’t it?

Kelly: It’s mind boggling. Just the logistics. All I can hear it’s like, “oh my gosh. I have to feed everyone, right?”

And so for a long time, people have been thinking critically about how human beings work, what the best way to practice this is. How do you take care of the body?

And those traditions, unfortunately, weren’t written down. But they were passed along to us in our military traditions – military science traditions. I mean it’s Maurice de Saxe – who was the one of the marshals for Napoleon – and his famous word is like “soldiering is in the legs.” and the Prussian military science about marching when it’s hot, versus marching when it’s cold, right? I mean those kinds of things writ large for the rest of us comes out of yoga. Comes out of dance. Comes out of martial arts. Comes out of our running and lifting traditions…

Mark: And eastern martial arts and eastern yoga – which by the way – have common roots. They were the whole, integrated package. You move your body, you trained your mind, you worked the breath that linked the two. You develop your emotional self. And you integrate all that on a path toward wholeness. Or integration.

That’s profound. And a lot of that got kind of split apart, and fragmented, and lost in the west. But you’re right – some of it was kept in the military traditions. But it still wasn’t holistic the way we’re talking about today.

Kelly: Well, I think what we see is that something’s not working. It is better… First things first… And if you jump back into yoga and the first thing that people are talking about is the sun salutation – that’s about what we call the morning spin-up. Like hey, have your coffee… We usually walk our youngest daughter to middle school, so it’s like a mile away. She’s elementary school, she’s finishing fifth grade.

And so we’ve walked a couple miles before eight o’clock. Got our hearts up. And then I open up my hips, or do my breathing practice. Or I do my breathing practice on the way back.

So by the time it’s actually time to go and do something, I already have a significant amount of movement and movement preparation under my belt. And that means that I am much more ready to meet the demands of the day, whether that’s quickly warming up so that I can train as a modern person trying to squeeze it in as a dad and CEO. That means that if hey there’s a spontaneous thing, that I’m more ready and trying to create a better ready state.

And what we have done it and – as you point out – we fail to appreciate sort of the considerable thinking and the considerable practices that have been handed down to us. And now I feel like we’re at a place where we can actually stitch some of these things back together as a modern human experience in a real sustainable way.

That isn’t a shortcut. It’s not a pill. It’s not a hack. It’s not a 7-minute abs… Like, it’s got to be sustainable. And what – as you know, better than anyone else – this is a journey of decades and you’re gonna have to apply the knife, and you’re gonna have to keep pressure on the blade for a long, long time before you start to see change.

Mark: I love that.

sedentary biology


Mark: What’s come to me recently – and I’m gonna say you and I are on the same journey in different veins. We’re doing similar work but with different kind of modalities.

The first kind of generation of people who – I’m going to use my stuff – the first generation of people who really brought eastern warrior modalities to the west did it with 100% of the cultural context and nuance and language of the place where these things came. Because that’s where they were preserved. And so they were only appealing to a very small group of people. And they really got a reputation it’s kind of “woo-wee.” Yoga is Hinduism and martial arts is Buddhism. Or Zen.

And so it wasn’t accessible to the masses. I learned that the first time I used the word yoga or used some sort of Sanskrit term, with my seal candidates. And they all just looked at me cross-eyed and started to fall asleep. And what they’re really thinking “is this guy…? What have we paid our money for?”

So I just said I’ll cease and desist right there. And I stripped all that crap out of it. I call it I stripped the “Fu” out of the Kung Fu. And started to look at this stuff as a universal principle that needed to be recontextualized into a modern western context. And taught in a way that’s going to be appropriate for this audience. This busy kind of population.

And that’s why it’s been successful. And I’ve got a long way to go. Like you said, it’s an iteration.

Does that ring true to you as well?

Kelly: Yeah, I think that’s at the heart of the mystery of de-medicalizing… Of giving people agency over their bodies…

Mark: Because medicine is a whole language that people are scared by.

Kelly: Well, and it was really useful that when I was a young grad student I discovered Crossfit early, in 2003, 2004. And trying to reconcile Olympic lifting, my own experience as an athlete, as a broken athlete, as… Power lifting, running, having a huge set of lungs, being skilled.

Developing athleticism with what I was learning in physio school which was correlates. It’s like “hey, we’re gonna use this battle language. Good. That’s called sports and conditioning in real life.”

“And then we’re gonna speak Esperanto over here on the side.” and I was like “who speaks this language? Like why am I learning this correlate language, for the real deal?”

And that was when I started to realize – to your point exactly – that the heart of the matter was also being able to drop this in.

So I have the stark advantage of sitting back… Coming to the table a generation behind the first wave. Like, I would call myself sort of third wave strength and conditioning coach, right? Which means that I get to see the mistakes and to see… And I always point out… Like my friend Gray Cook who came up with the FMS – his thinking it’s much more sophisticated – this is an online tool you can learn yourself, FMS, to see where you are. Right, anyone can do it.

But that came out in 1996. And I like to remind people – can you show me your cell phone from make 1996 please? What car you still driving from 1996?

Like, we have better tech and it’s being expressed better. And one of the reasons that we do it – we have good success… Because we get to be invited into people’s… Into their realms. Everyone shows us their dirty laundry – is that we’re system agnostic. Because to your point – the foundational elements, the principles between how your body works really aren’t that sophisticated.

Look – the human brain – I say it’s not that complicated – because the shoulder’s the shoulder, right it just hasn’t changed in 10,000 years. And people have been figuring out how the shoulder worked a long time ago.

The brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. Period. Stop. Attached to a body that is robust, and resilient, and adaptable. And will tolerate cigarettes, and little chocolate donuts, and poor sleep, and alcoholism. And it will still thrive.

And when you take that rock off of the back of your body and let it breathe again. It bounces back again, and again, and again.

It’s really remarkable. So what we’ve really tried to do is say “hey look. What’s important to you? By the way, the spine is still the spine. The shoulder’s still the shoulder. These are the things that you should be able to do.”

And let’s have a conversation about that. About what we think is native human capacity. Not elite trained. Like it’s really… I think everyone should be able to run a 5k. Just flat-out.

I think what Joe DeSena has done with the Spartan race… If everyone in America could do a Spartan sprint race – man, we would see so much BS get cleared up.

But let’s just start with “hey, why can’t you get up and down off the ground without your hands? Why can’t even sit on the ground in any position? Like you can’t even operate on the ground.

So what we have created – and in my field were the worst at it – is what I call a generation of apologists. We have really apologetics about saying “hey, everyone is a unique snowflake. You’re just solving a unique problem. You’re okay.”

And I’m gonna say if you want to work at 50% capacity, and take a 30% breath and have a pelvic floor doesn’t work, and a body you don’t trust, and ankles that get stiff… I mean knock yourself out. It is totally your right to do that.

But when we uncover the truth – the Chinese say you’re as old as your spine. Russians say you’re as old as your feet.

I mean it is all there for us. We just need to figure out how to give it so people can work it into their lives. Because it’s not a part of their consciousness yet.

And that means, it’s a failure of their training. So we never fault the athlete until the athlete knows better. Then it’s on them.

So it really comes out of a system and if no one’s ever talk to you about mindfulness, or meditation – then you’re just bundling through the world. If you don’t know how to breathe in a shape, that’s not your fault until someone said “hey, you should be able to breathe in this shape.” then it’s on you.

So what we’ve got to do is wake people up. And say “this is on you, and you can do it.”

Mark: Yeah. Take responsibility.

You have this term – creating a movement rich environment. So that’s kind of using your environment to remind you or to force you to move? Or what does that mean? Creating a movement rich environment?

Kelly: At the heart of what you and I are talking about here, is some mindfulness, right? That there are some maintenance for the human being… Some first principles.

So we talked about moving more. So everyone has heard “hey, you should probably walk 10,000 steps a day.”

That’s what we call our minimum therapeutic dose. So that’s if the RDA set a level so you didn’t get rickets or you didn’t have scurvy, that’s 10,000 steps. Most of us are living below that poverty line. And what’s interesting is I go into schools now and I have this… It’s a spot-checker… And if you’re listening to this and have kids chances are your daughter has her phone in her back pocket the entire day, okay?

Good or bad I’m not gonna say the judgment on that, but what I’ll tell you is that you have a spot-check about how much she is moved during the day. So pull out her phone and her phone is tracking her number of steps. And it’s right on her hips – which is the most effective place to put that motion tracker.

And guess what? You will see that most of our children are moving two to three thousand steps a day. So one of the things that we’re trying to say is “okay, I don’t want to add another thing.” I want to strip it back so it’s so simple for you, that the environment is guiding you into decisionless, mindlessness – not mindlessness – but in no mind conditions.

I don’t have to think. I just go to my desk and I have two choices I can fidget and wobble and perch. Or I can sit on the ground and work. So as we sit here, I’m sitting cross-legged on my table. Working on my ground-training.

Mark: You don’t like chairs, obviously. So chairs are bad.

Kelly: Well, not that. We shouldn’t fear chairs. I mean, my mid-century modern house has some really great mid-century modern chairs in them.

But that’s not the problem. The sitting in a chair isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of everything else that is the problem. So it shouldn’t be about sitting is bad “four legs bad, three legs good.”

It should be about how much can I move during the day? And one of our tier one military groups, one of the ways that they untangle when we’re seeing sleep problems.

Because I’ll tell you what – I just heard an ad on MSNBC on the way home about a new sugar bear – they were making vitamins for your hair and now they’re making sleep vitamins.

Because sleeping is a gigantic problem in this country. And that’s because of the caffeine and alcohol stimulant cycling that we’re on. It’s because we haven’t accumulated enough fatigue. Because we have lights in our house. We’re binge watching. We just have terrible sleep habits.

And I don’t think we realize sort of the price we’re gonna pay for that yet. But one of the things that we try to point out in this tier one military group – in the complexity and the noise and challenge of the military, when guys can’t sleep the first thing to do is give them a device to track the number of steps they take in the day.

And what we find is that when people begin to accumulate enough non-exercise activity, movement, they actually accumulate a fatigue debt. And that’s different than your training in the gym and smashing yourself for one hour. This is different.

I’m talking about moving enough during the day…

Mark: So how does that work? I mean give me a just a sense for metabolically why 10,000 steps is gonna put you to sleep, but banging out a WOD for an hour isn’t going to.

Kelly: Well it may not be enough total, cumulative fatigue, right? The idea is, especially if we look at how… It’s not just heart rate, it’s not all those things. It’s not CNS load.

It’s just this sort of background movement. And one of the things that we can simplify out is that when we improve people’s – and this is our data point right? Like is this training enough? Okay, it’s not. The research is showing an hour… If you sit longer than six hours a day – six to eight hours – then you fall into that sedentary category. And by definition we say sitting – what I’m really saying is falling below this cutoff metabolically of one and a half metabolic equivalents.

Remember the old Stairmaster had the met gauge on it? Like how many Mets are you putting out?

So the idea is if you fall below 1 and a half metabolic equivalence – which is sitting in a chair – then that’s a sedentary behavior. And that has a whole host of very interesting things that happens to your body. The sedentary biology is an emerging field, unfortunately.

Mark: What does standing give you? Is that…?

Kelly: Immediately right above it. Even perching. So even if you just leaned against the barstool, right? Or put your foot up, or leaned against the counter you’re automatically there. You’re even closer if you get near the edge of your chair and you’re not using the back of the chair. So there’s a lot of ways to start to bump up your activity levels.

And the research that’s born, that if you’re gonna sit more than 6 hours a day – and that’s total sitting – so you need to look at your commute. You need to look at your board meetings. You need to look at the time at the table eating lunch, right?

And then it all aggregates. And what we’re seeing is that most of us are actually falling into a sedentary lifestyle. Even though we’re trying to exercise.

Now what they say is – and the research has just come out to bear this – that don’t worry if you exercise moderate intensity – and what that means, it’s actually hard work. Moderate intensity exercise is not redlined, it’s huffing. You’re working. That’s not walking. That’s a moderate light jog – for sixty to seventy-five minutes a day.

So point to the people who are getting that much movement active movement during the day at modern intensities for sixty, seven-five minutes. And your answer is none. Or very few, right?

I mean training that much – if I get 75 minutes of good hard aerobic workout a day in a week I’m like that’s a win, right? Plus we get a couple long rides and one long paddle and but the idea here is “hey, we can be putting in this input.” and the research is showing that and our clinical experience has been borne out – that when we get people moving more during the day – accruing the fatigue and they fall asleep and sleep better.

Now. We said we’re interested in that consilience idea. I should be getting multiple bottom lines and then integrative practice. So I rarely engage in a single activity that only has a single point.

So it turns out that if you want to decongest your body like if you’ve flown on an airplane – which I know you have a lot – you get cankles – your ankles swell up if you’re not moving. Well what’s happening there – your feet are at the bottom of a gravity well, and the only way to pump out that congestion is through muscle contraction.

So one of the ways that we have healthier, more normal tissues is to load them and decongest them. And the heart of that conversation is a principle called meccano transduction which is short for – if you want specific aspects of your body to express themselves genetically at a cellular level they have to have mechanical input. You want your Achilles to be an Achilles? You better load your Achilles eccentrically, isometrically, concentrically. If you want your plantar fascia to work like plantar fascia – and the analogy that one of our friends use is you put a killer whale in captivity and its fin folds over. Because you’ve changed the behavior of the killer whale. And now that killer whale’s spending more time at the surface, right? In captivity.

And second, you’re not loading the fin. The fin isn’t hunting, the fin isn’t swimming, the fin isn’t playing. The fin isn’t fighting. And that fin becomes weak because it’s unloaded.

Now enter the human disk and you’re back. Into your Achilles, into your patellar tendon… What you’re seeing is that you’re not loading it enough. And decongesting it enough. And putting it enough under strain…

Human beings are anti-fragile systems, which means that when you disturb it, it gets better. It rebounds. That’s the focus, the fundamental…

Mark: It’s meant to be used.

Kelly: Yes. And hard. Now, you can start to say “hey, why should I move more?” because that’s what human beings require in order for the human being to operate correctly.

Mark: Yeah. I mean, the greatest problem with modern health is comfort, really. Everything’s become easy and so when you create a movement rich environment, what are the simplest and most fun and effective ways to ensure that you’re going to be moving? Or let’s say you’re working with a client who this is kind of new to. Besides silly things like just sit on the edge of your chair I mean that’s to me that’s not quite in the spirit of what we’re talking about.

Kelly: No, well one of the things that… So I’m not a tracker of my physiology. I just don’t like to track my sleep…

Mark: I’m not either. I’m not a quantified guy.

Kelly: I just don’t quantify it. But I’m aware, and I have quantified it. And if I do some very hardcore heart-rate variability training, the omega wave, using the dc cross… Like I will say I feel like I’m at 70% and it will give me a 70% score. I’ve gotten pretty good at saying, “I’m pretty good today. I’m not pretty good today.”

But one of the first things we do is we try to help people just be aware of their own process. So even the crappiest activity tracker will help you to recognize and remind you initially to be aware of your process. And I think sometimes the way our brains work is that we kid ourselves.

And we see this even with our elite athletes. We, at an Olympic training camp – a holding camp before the Olympics – and we ask our elite athletes are they getting the eight hours of sleep that we all agree is their minimum. They should be getting ten hours of sleep, because they’re training once or twice a day.

And not a single one of them was getting seven hours of sleep. So when we start actually winnowing down and saying, “How do I know? Well, let’s track it.”

So can you hit that? And that doesn’t have to be continuous you don’t have to walk 4 miles. You can just move around a little bit more.

Mark: So the number one thing is just walk more.

Kelly: I would say, walk any way you can. If you’re shy, go for a walk before dinner. Take the stairs. Look at yourself as “I have optional sitting versus non-optional sitting. And if I just get rid of the junk sitting and have a choice I’ll choose to move more.”

And let me say that we have good friends at Varidesk. My wife and I have a nonprofit called Stand Up Kids. We’ve moved kids out of sedentary desks – traditional desk learning environments – into standing/moving environment.

So we have about 90,000 kids in the United States that we’ve transferred. In title one schools, which are really poor schools that are underperforming. We see a miraculous change when kids move more. They engage better. Their attention’s better. They learn better. They recall better. They test better.

They get skinnier. I mean, what is it that’s important to you? It’ll change, if you what? Have the organism move more, right?

And these kids aren’t standing like soldiers. They have an opportunity to fidget. They put their foot up, they lean, they’re being supported. And they can work on the ground. And so one of the things that I love is that Varidesk – a company makes great sit-to-stand and moveable height desks – has a product and the Varidesk – I think it’s called the Varidesk 360? Something like that.

And it’s a small lap tray that’s adjustable. But for me, it pops up right on the floor. And I’ve suddenly got this desk platform that I can sit cross-legged, and I can move high. And it gives me an opportunity and a set-up to just incorporate different positions.

So not only is walking important, but you can see that if you did a little sun salutation – you jumped into yoga – you did some dancing. Whatever it is you want to do – went to CrossFit. Just warmed up your hips like your high school coach did in football, what you’d see is that “hey did I at least do the things that my body was supposed to do today?”

And one of the ways to do that is to change your sort of resting positions. And I’m not the only one to realize and to recognize that hey we were actually floor based creatures. And there are some people – this guy named Philip Beach has written a wonderful book called “Muscles and Meridians.” It’s really trying to reconcile embryology with eastern medicine. So if that sounds esoteric – welcome to my nerd self.

But he has a hypothesis that we tune – our bodies get tuned by sitting in these postures of repose on the ground. Either by lying or by sitting or by being cross-legged or kneeling. That’s one of the ways the body restores its normal positions and normal mechanics.

Mark: Yeah, that’s interesting. And that kind of rings true to me. I love shavasana. It’s the most powerful yoga pose.

And I love sitting on the floor, like you do, to do whatever. Whether it’s meditating or reading. Just feels kind of fun once your hips starting to open.

And then I love walking barefoot. Now they have a term for that. It’s what? Grounding or something like that. Just natural walking.

Kelly: Right. And it’s amazing you bring something up. So one of the ways that you can change your environment, is to interact differently with your environment. And I’ll tell you, if I have cookies in the house, I’ll guarantee I’ll eat all the cookies. Right? That’s what they’re there for. That’s my mission. No one is sleeping in this house ‘til I eat all the cookies.

And so I don’t buy cookies. Because if they’re in the house I’ll eat them.

So I use the same thinking around my environment. And how can…? I have thumb’s, I’m a clever ape… But one of the things that is shocking is that when you go barefoot for a little bit, your stride changes, your foot mechanics change, you pre-stiffen. You don’t strike the ground as hard. You start to be very aware…

Your back will start hurting. There’s a whole lot of idea that… And really clever people are noticing that if you… And this goes back even to tying back into what I said about our friend who’s embryology. In the embryo logic development of the human, there’s a form called the wolffian ridge that develops, and out of there you get the mouth, you get the hands, you get the lips. And nipples, genitals and feet.

And one of the things that happens is these are high sensory motor rich areas. And it’s interesting that we basically put ourselves in these foot coffins that are sensory deprivation chambers for our feet. And we stop feeling and what you’ll see is, it’s not an accident that you start to deprive the body of input from a spinal – from a foot level and you start to get more incidence of back pain. And so just one of the ways that we try to help people have just input into the body is by giving the body more input. And one of the ways you can do that is just by being barefoot, on any surface.

Mark: Yeah. And Chinese medicine says every organ is connected to the foot. So you massage the foot, you’re massaging the lung or the kidney or something like that. It’s extraordinary.



Mark: Let’s talk about myofascia and foam-rolling and how you’re a big proponent of that type of work. And using lacrosse balls on the feet and on pressure points and complex joints. What’s the benefit of that? Help us understand.

Kelly: There’s a couple things, I think, that we can wrap our heads around. One is that when we mobilize – so our language of when we talk about position – what we’re really saying is “do you have the movement language? Do you have the movement software? The training to do a certain thing?”

And that’s why we teach technique in everything that we do. From shooting, shooting basketballs, to running, to kicking a soccer ball… There’s technique everywhere, because human beings figured out that if you train people, they do motor skills better, right? That’s why we pick up and practice, right?

Kids will take… They’ll fall ten thousand times, I mean the ten thousand rule is the number of steps, the number of sit downs, the number of… We see how much learning it takes. And you know, better than anyone else, the key to adult learning is called repetition. That’s straight up.

So one of the things that we see is, okay, we’ve got this motor language – movement language.

The other side of that is okay do you just have the raw mechanics to be able to express that movement language? And I’m not talking about so that you can wash your hair. And I’m not talking about so that you can just exist in a little tiny bubble of your… I sit at the chair, I sit at the computer, I drive my car, I sit at the chair, it’s…

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about do you have access to your full biologic native range of motion?

Mark: Which gives you the full experience of life.

Kelly: Well, or gives you the opportunity for that, right? And our hypothesis is that when you improve capacity, improve range of motion – range of motion and capacity, and you also get the benefits of being inoculated, you’re a more stable person.

And we’re never ever saying you don’t need to train. I just try to remain agnostic about how you want to do that. That can look like a lot of different things.

But one of the things that we use, is we use all of these soft tissue techniques… Do we think it’s a joint capsule problem? Do we think it’s just the fact that your fascia isn’t sliding around very well? Is it that your neuromuscular system has made your muscles stiff by shortening? And are your muscles stiff and fibrotic from being loaded or not moved?

So you have those things and what are the ways that we would restore them? And what we see is that all of these techniques are what we call “position transfer exercises.” so we’re always trying to move, to restore position, to restore shape.

Then the other side is well we have technique training. And that’s called practice. That’s called yoga, Pilates, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, fighting… Whatever you want. So at some point you’re gonna have to do skill transfer exercises or movement transfer exercises. Or you’re gonna have to have access.

Well it turns out that myofascial release is not really a great phrase. It’s some phrase that we just inherited from maybe first generation thinkers who were looking for the right language.

Mark: Interesting.

Kelly: I think the right language is myofascial mobilization. New research just came out of Harvard looking at rat studies and using just mechanical input – like a percussive mechanical input changed and facilitated healing – just by pulsating and getting vibration into the tissues. We saw changes fundamentally in the way these animals healed. Just without application, without loading. Things just got better.

And so one of the things that we know… One, is that what can we measure we can measure your range of motion. We can change the efficiency of that – economy of that range of motion. And I can do it myself. And I don’t need input from someone else I don’t need… And is this only neurologic? It’s largely neurologic.

But we know is that we can have again these multiple bottom lines. So we like to do all our soft tissue work before we go to bed. And one of the reasons we do that is that we know that that’s a good time of the day where you’re actually gonna get the work done. You can do it. There’s nothing going on.

And man, if you’ve ever had a massage, you wake up pretty sleepy. You get up off the table. Which means that we’ve now got a tool to improve your positioning, improve your range of motion, and help you to sleep better.

And what we love is, man, you can do that anywhere, anytime, anyplace. And there are lots and varied ways to mobilize and stimulate the body. And some of it may be just putting some proprioceptive – just some positional awareness in input into how the body works. Say that’s as simple as it is.

But we know it’s foundational works on a lot of lot of levels so… Am I mobilizing scar tissue? Probably that’s not the best way to think about it, right? But what we’re thinking about is “hey do I have a practice? How about this? Make myself feel better?”

My wife just came home from the grocery store. She bought me a bag of cookies. Because she’s my wife.

Mark: Awesome.

Kelly: So seek and destroy.

Mark: It’s going to be a good evening.

Kelly: One of the things that we feel strongly… As we were talking earlier… We feel strongly about, is giving people the tools to make themselves feel better. So one of the things… I heard this inane argument about myofascial mobilization. Someone said, it’s temporary.

And I said “you mean like Tylenol? Or like opiates? Or like dry needling? Or massage…? Like what do you mean it’s temporary? Someone gets out of pain and falls asleep isn’t that the goal?” I said “Ambien is temporary, right? Caffeine is temporary. What are you talking about?”

And so what we’re always saying is “hey man, if I have a person who for whatever reason is not feeling great. Or has a pain related symptom, or something’s going on… The power for that person to be able to make themselves feel better… To self-soothe… To not have to reach for an aspirin and not reach for a Vicodin… That’s powerful. And now we can really talk about a health care reformation.

Mark: Yeah. Well also, when it becomes a daily practice – just like movement of the spine – through yoga, through the twisting and bending and whatnot… Done once or twice or episodically it’s healthy, it’s going to make you feel better. Slap yourself on the back.

But done as a daily practice – it will lead to all sorts of psychosomatic, physiological and emotional benefits, right? And not to mention long life.

And same thing I think with myofascia, right? Because it’s just gonna change kind of the ability of your body to be comfortable within the meat sack, right? And to be able to move, and for the energy to flow. And I think the story’s still to be written about fascia.

Kelly: And I mean just really within two years ago the western medicine community officially recognized fascia as an organ. They’re like “we’ve discovered this thing. It’s called fascia.”

And the rest of us were like “the model for the human being doesn’t actually work without fascia. You can’t even explain how humans absorb force, and transmit energy or support the organs… Like what are you talking about, right? You just discovered it?”

It’s enervated, it has nerve endings, it has sensory information, right? So all of those things matter.

We just learned, for example, some research out of Davis around collagen synthesis. Right now, what’s very hot – bone-broth, whole animal, eating the skin… Supplementing the collagen. Going back to the ways we used to eat as human beings. We always made broths, we made stew, we made soup with what we had. We ate all the bones, we ate all the connective tissue.

Remember rabbit starvation? You eat rabbits, you die. Cause you don’t have enough fat? That’s why you had to crack the bones, eat the brain, eat the organs. Because just meat is not enough. And as we have modernized ourselves into thinking that health is white rice, sashimi, chicken breast, broccoli… That’s a poor, poor diet. That is a terrible…

At least it’s whole food nutrition. Great. Let’s call that a Power bar of modern foods, right? That is very, very the tip of the iceberg the way we should eat and the way we should be thinking about this.

And this research out of Davis looking at collagen synthesis recently discovered that there was a set of genes that were turned on in the in the cell after loading. And the first thing your body does after exercise is to turn on collagen synthesis to make a more robust framework for a bigger engine. So it makes the chassis reinforced.

It starts to put down collagen. Now the chassis is strong. Then when your body gets around to building muscle, it can handle the new forces. And so I think what you’re seeing once again is this complexity of the interface of how are we eating? Is that supporting my tissues?

You can absolutely be a vegan. But it’s gonna be hard work and at some point you’re probably gonna need some collagen from somewhere. And what we’re promoting is “hey what is it that human beings have always done? What’s the through narrative in our cultures?”

And what you’ll start to see is we’ve always cooked our meat on the bone. We’ve always eaten offal. We used to eat sixty kinds of vegetables a year, and now we probably… If you’re a ninja, you eat 20, and the average American eats four.

So we’re not sleeping, we don’t move enough, the variety of our movement isn’t rich enough and what you see is a real suppressed human being that’s thriving in spite of itself. And when you begin to turn those screws and open up those stop valves, what you see is people thrive. They feel better, they look better, they have better quality interactions.

And you and I know that your joints are designed to be a hundred years old you’re gonna outlive your gonads, but not your joints. So welcome to the party and I’ll see you at 100.

Mark: (laughing) Okay. On that note. I planned to outlive my gonads. Maybe I’ll have a cybernetic replacement or something.

Kelly: (laughing) I hope not. Not for you. We won’t be able to keep up man. My only way… I’m strategizing I’m gonna challenge you to a duel when you’re like 90, and even then, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to do it.

Mark: (laughing) That’s awesome. I’ll take you up on that. But what are we gonna duel with? We can’t use a regular weapon… It’s gotta be something fun. I don’t know. We’ll think about it.

Awesome stuff, Kelly. Thanks so much. Thanks for your work. I can’t wait just to watch everything that you’re working on and also… Yeah, I want to get together sometime. So I’ll look you up when I come up to San Fran. Please do the same when you come down here to San Diego.

Kelly: Absolutely we’d love to have you… One of the practices that’s changed our lives is that we have a barrel sauna. Thanks to Laird Hamilton.

Mark: Oh, I love barrel saunas. Those are awesome. So you got one, hunh?

Kelly: Yeah. We’ve had one out for about three years. And we’re in the sauna five or six times a week. And it’s dark, we have to interact, we have to suffer…. And it just gives us it gives… We actually call it church… And it gives us all permission to be together and have zero distractions and focus on not passing out.

Mark: So you go in with the whole family, huh?

Kelly: We do. And all our friends.

Mark: Oh, that’s awesome. Terrific.

Kelly: So come on up and jump in the sauna with us.

Mark: And do you have a cold pool nearby?

Kelly: You know it.

Mark: I thought so.

Kelly: And a pool that’s 12 feet deep. So we’ve got all your flashback from pool training can happen again.

Mark: Dude. I’m coming. That sounds awesome.

All right, Kelly: Again, thanks very much. Now I almost forgot but, I have a little note here that sounds like you’re revamping the whole thing. And you’re gonna relaunch it pretty soon. Can you give us a sneak preview…?

Kelly: Yeah, just like you – where you have a chance to refine – we never believe that we have arrived. In fact, what we realize is that our early machinations at trying to explain our thinking is just… We’re just clumsy. And amateurish, right?

But the fortunate part is that you get a chance to do it again and again. And Juliet has taken on the task – because right now our site is an incredible resource, and we have daily programming. So if you want to see what we’re talking about you can just… If you have a ball and a roller at home, you can get started. We do daily follow-along programming.

But it’s a little bit like the library of Alexandria right now. You walk in and you’re like “where is that scroll I was looking for?”

Mark: “where do I start?”

Kelly: That’s right. Yeah, we’re like “hey, you should swim. And here’s the ocean.” holy crap

So what we realize is that a new user experience… How we’re disseminating information… The recipes… It will just be a lot more intuitive, so that we can take the step to try to get this information – because we have the benefit of it – in a more digestible way. People can share it more and begin to really take their own health – at least around musculoskeletal care – back to themselves.

Mark: Nice. Awesome. So Awesome.

Kelly, thanks again. And keep it up. You’re doing great work and I really appreciate you brother.

Kelly: Always a good hear from you. Thank you, sir.

Mark: Yeah. Hooyah.

All right, folks. Kelly Starrett. Fascinating guy. Doing some amazing work in the in the realm of health, and mobility, and movement. And check out his book “becoming a supple leopard.” it is fantastic.

And also his resource And give him a shout-out in social. And when this comes out I’m sure he’ll shout it out on social too. Right Kelly?

Kelly: Yeah, you bet.

Mark: Thanks for that. And yeah, that’s that. It’s been a long show. It’s been awesome, I’ve learned a ton. Until next time folks, thanks for your support. Train hard, stay focused, keep moving and get that ball and foam roller. Start working on that fascia.

See you soon.

Divine out.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Ron Gellis says:

    Great podcast:). After all is said and done: MOVE. After all is said and done, more is said than done:(

  • Ron Gellis says:

    The more we move, the better we will move and the longer we will move.

  • Ron Gellis says:

    If I have nothing else in common with KStar, it’s knowing no cookie is safe in either of our homes.

  • Greg Rothaus says:

    One topic keeps coming up with people who are serious about fitness: sleep! We need to get enough of it… I know that if I don’t, it has a variety of negative impacts.

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