December 20, 2014
[02:20] Ready To Run
[07:36] Neutral Feet
[23:49] Couch Stretch
[33:09] Floss Bands
[39:04] How Kelly Hunts Down Issues With His Body
[48:52] End of Podcast
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Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield and I actually haven't talked about this on the podcast before, I don't think, but for the past month I've been trying out this new protocol. So as I do every day, I start off each day with a routine, but I've been adding just a little bit to my morning routine, about five minutes of what's called the “Ready To Run” program. So for example, like on Mondays I do something called a “Couch Stretch” and then a “Two-Ball Smash & Floss” on my shins on the front of my legs. And then on Tuesdays, I've got this thing called a “T-Spine Global Smash” that I do and also a “Global Gut Smash”, which just sounds fantastic and feels even better. Wednesdays, I've got this thing called the “Plantar Blitzkrieg”. I mean it's these crazy number of weird moves. I grabbed them all off of page 250 of this new book that's called “Ready To Run”. And on that page, there's this month-long mobility overhaul plan, it's called. It's laid out day by day. It's just these little things you do every day to allow you to overhaul your mobility, as the title implies.
Well the guy who wrote that book actually also wrote another book that I've talked about before quite a bit on the podcast called “Becoming A Supple Leopard”. It's like the bible on mobility and on fixing all your little aches and pains. His name is Kelly Starrett. He is a physical therapist, he works with a ton of folks, the elite Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, athletes from the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the MLB, you name it. A ton of natural and world-rank strength, power athletes, Crossfitters. And he really is the genius when it comes to figuring out pain, figuring out injury, optimizing athletic performance, and this new book really kind of takes the laser sniper rifle to running specifically and how to become a better runner, how to unlock your athletic potential when it comes to running. And it really is a good book and mine is already completely dog-eared with stuff I want to talk to Kelly about today. So Kelly, thanks for coming on the call, man.
Kelly: Oh, man. Good to hear your voice again.
Ben: Yeah! So you've got this book, and you actually you co-wrote it with TJ Murphy who I actually know from the triathlon world.
Kelly: Oh, yeah. I fell in love with TJ, man love, a few years ago. He came as a broken runner to the gym, Brian MacKenzie had sent him, and he was editor-in-chief of Competitor Magazine. I've basically been told that you're going to have to stop running. I was like, “I don't think that's really the case.” And we started sort of this odyssey and journey and it got to the point where he was saying, “Hey, we've got to codify this. Let me help you.” And what's so fun about writing with someone like TJ is he's like Rainman-level savant about every trend in running. He knows everyone, has been to every race, and has a dozen Ironman under his belt and 50 marathons. I mean a ridiculous amount of actual endurance running stuff. And so we can really take this long view and also look backwards and enmesh things.
The perfect guy to be able to sort of lend the embodied knowledge of the last 30 years of messing around with how did we get here and why are we still so injured. Running is the thing that just literally makes us humans and why do we look at it this way and why do some of us heel strike. It was just such a fun experiment and if you're listening, chances are running lives in your life at some point. Well as you know, whether you like it or not, I mean you play basketball, you're a runner. You are going to run if you play frisbee. So what are we even talking about? Like why aren't we looking at running critically because you can run better and you can definitely run safe. I mean it's ridiculous.
Ben: Yeah. The way that you look at running is really interesting in the book. And obviously it's called “Ready To Run” and you actually lay out a bunch of standards that you think people should be ready to be able to complete to really truly be ready to run. I mean you've got like 12 different standards in here. And I mean like I know you've done podcasts about this book before and obviously people can go read the book if they want to dig to each and every one of the standards that you lay out from like hip flexion, hip extension, hotspots, hydration, compression, you name it. But I wanted to ask you about a few of the things, I've got like some pages turned over in the book that I found were really interesting when I was going through it and I kind of see where our conversation goes from there.
Kelly: Let's do it.
Ben: But, yeah. One of the things that you talk about like, Chapter Four, you talk about neutral feet. When you say neutral feet, I'm interested in what you mean by that. Because like for a long time I kind of thought you're supposed to look at your feet in whichever way that they were naturally pointing when you look down your at feet is kind of like the way that you were naturally born and that's the way you should run. Are you saying that that's not the case?
Kelly: Well, let's just say that I mount the wheel in my car pointing to the right. One of my wheels is pointing to the right. I can still drive an hundred miles an hour, but it's going to sort of incur some costs for having my wheels point in a different direction. So what's good news is we've really been able to come to understand what is the best function. And here's what you can understand about that for example is that if you lay down at the beach and you lay on your back in the chair in the sheds, what do your feet do? They fall out, right? They fall to the side and it's really annoying 'cause they end up burning the inside of your legs, you have to kind of prop yourself up so that you get even tanning. These are the important things.
Ben: So much sunscreen.
Kelly: You have to tie your big toes together. Well what's happening there, let me explain that, is that you have normal sort of fascia patterns, so the patterns of your connective tissue are designed that when you stand with your feet straight, you're automatically creating a stabilizing torsion or twisting force in the limb. And one of the problems that we see in the body is these very linear forward and backward simple mechanical systems, and they're not. There's a lot of torsion components of that. In fact if we look at the hip, even the hip capsule, that bag of connective tissue that makes the hip stable, the hip capsule unwinds when your legs fall out. And so you basically are taking all the passive tension out of the springiness, out of this fascial connective tissue system. And so what happens then is that if you aren't training yourself to put your foot down flat, you're basically unwinding some of the passive structures that are, and I don't mean the flat, I mean straight, you're unwinding some of the passive structures that are giving the entire mechanical chain from your foot all the way up into your low back, you're losing that stability, you're losing.
So when we taught, in yoga for example, they figured this out and they call it tadasana, but having your feet straight and your big toe on the ground and they call it “rooting into the earth” right. But that rooting into the earth is really the position we talk about in terms of creating a stable functioning ankle and a knee that's stable and hip that functions well. And if you look at any of the sprinters. I mean you're in the block straight, feet should be straight, and what is useful about this is that most of us end up, like you can understand that like, “Hey, I stand like my mom, my dad.” And they stood like ducks. And no one ever told me to get my feet straight. And so, remember that I think sometimes people forget that not only am I a coach, I'm a physical therapists and I've seen all the injuries. I mean all of them. And I can basically backtrack through the injury through some kind of pathological, the mechanical issue. And the research has shown that probably 80% of injuries are motor control related. That means that we're not sure about the technique and that leaves us with some instability.
For example, if my feet are turned out and every single time I take a step, when the hip is in extension, i.e. behind me, so I start with my foot out, suddenly my hip is never going to be stable. And so what ends up happening if I'm walking like a duck and then I actually take a step in that duck shape, then when as soon as the leg comes behind me, the whole hip architecture has become mechanically unstable. And so that leg really does need to be straight, so as I translate over the hip, then the hip becomes mechanically stable, and then I can generate more force in that position. My hamstrings work like hamstrings, my quads work like quads, my hip flexors work correctly. But the other thing that happens is that as I strike the ground again on my next step, my ankle is unstable and so it takes a long time for the stability of the ankle to kick in all the structures, and this is where I start to see radical pronation. Suddenly then as I, again as I translate over that collapsed foot, we get a collapse in the navicular bone, the big toe starts to kick in, this is the mechanism of the bunion. Now my plantar fascia isn't pulling correctly, now my Achilles is not tracking straight up and down.
And so you know what's easier, it's easier to make sure that you're practicing with your feet straight. And remember that you ended up sort of adopting those patterns for a reason, and those reasons are usually “I've been wearing high heel shoes my whole life”, i.e. I'm not walking around flat, I actually wear high heels, I sit a lot. And so my tissues have adapted to some of those habitual environmental loads, and that becomes the easiest position to be in, sort of the most entropic, the positions of greatest entropy where it cost me nothing, blah. And so basically what you're doing when you're standing without practicing, you're getting feet straight is your laying on the beach with your legs flying out. So if you want your ankles to work correctly, don't want to impinge, all the things up the chain we're talking about, just practice getting your feet straighter. Now I know that there are some people out there listening with hip dysplasia, but that still doesn't mean they need to be turned out as far because remember that my goal is to create as much torsion as I can in the pelvis when I'm standing, if I'm going to create a squatting or deadlifting position with my feet straight, I'm screwing my feet through my hips into the ground externally. So my right foot's on a dinner plate, it spins clockwise. My left foot's on a dinner plate, it spins counterclockwise, but I don't let it spin, and now I've got a mechanism of stability to create my back stability, et cetera, et cetera. So you've got to again create the stability.
Ben: So I'm standing here right now, or let's say somebody is listening, they're standing, they look down at their feet, they're pointed out a little bit, what you're saying is point the feet straight, and then your right foot, and actually I'm standing right now as I'm saying this, your right foot, you're trying to drive that one clockwise without…
Kelly: Through the hip. You're not trying to…
Ben: Without the actual foot moving.
Kelly: That's right.
Ben: You're just thinking about all the muscles contracting that would normally cause that foot to turn clockwise, your left foot counterclockwise, and I'm doing it right now. You kind of feel like your glutes turn on.
Ben: The adductors turn on a little bit.
Kelly: That's right! And look at your arches. You have beautiful arches again.
Ben: Yeah. They come up.
Kelly: And that's what's crucial, so people understand is that it's this whole mechanical movement. ‘Cause remember I'm wired for movement, I'm not wired for musculature. It's the movement that supports the arch, the knee, the whole thing. And when I, go ahead, now, watch this. So you stand with your feet straight, look at how your feet, your weight is distributed. It should be center mass, right in front of your ankle bone, but I should have to sort of three points of contact. You with me? You feel how balanced you are from front to back. Now turn your feet out 30 degrees, 'cause this is where most people are walking and hanging out.
Ben: Okay. So now I'm duck foot.
Kelly: Okay. Now feel where your weight is through your feet. It's all the way on your heels.
Ben: It feels like it. It shifts it backwards. As long as I focus on not leaning into the microphone. Yeah, it's shifting it backwards into my heels. Yeah. Interesting.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah. So what's happened is we've just taken your foot and made it not work like a foot. Right? So you're basically doing wheelies off of that system all the time.
Ben: So one of the things that people should do before they're out putting on this heavy running mileage is get to the point where they can almost like, would you say subconsciously just be able to stand around like if you're standing in line at the grocery store or whatever and if you look down and you're no longer doing that duck foot thing, then you're good to go?
Kelly: Well, I would say two things. One is that before we started, hey, you just finished two back-to-back Spartan races. Right?
Ben: Yeah. About two days ago.
Kelly: How you feeling today?
Ben: A little beat up.
Kelly: Right. So let's pretend like this is a moving target. Let's pretend like I always have a waypoint or a benchmark of saying this is optimal movement mechanics and this what my tissue should feel like. And then sometimes going to be traveling a lot, or I'm going to compete in a bunch of races, or going to some other wacky thing, or I'm going to take my eye off of my performance for a second and then this gives me a place to say, “Oh, look how far away from baseline normal function I am.” It's basically, do you remember in middle school when you were screened for scoliosis by your PE teacher? Remember that?
Ben: No, because I was homeschooled. So I was allowed to have scoliosis as much as I wanted.
Kelly: (laughs) Dude, I'll have a second helping of scoliosis.
Ben: But I have been screened for scoliosis before health fairs…
Kelly: So basically you lean forward and this untrained eye, right, of your gym teacher was like, “Your spine goes left,” “Your spine goes right,” “Your spine goes straight.” Well if that person can identify complex spinal mechanics in terms of “Hey, I'm going left or right”, we can also begin to develop the eye for the problems. So that foot should be going basically straight up and down in a line when someone's running. So if someone is running at you, that foot should look like it's a piston and going straight up and down. And if you see deviation or circling in that foot, it doesn't mean that that person isn't fast, but what you're seeing is lost efficiency and potentially the precursors, the pathomechanical sort of knocking on the door of injury. And what I can tell you unequivocally is I'm going to have to resolve those things either because you're injured or because you want to go faster. And those are the same sides of the coin. So if we can create sort of a ready state for people and some benchmark, “Hey, just practice standing with your feet straight,” now you're becoming and practicing being a better runner all the time. And guess what? You may find that that feels uncomfortable because you're so far stinking away from normal that of let's work on it. We know it takes about seven months to turn all of your connective tissue over in your body, if you're healthy, seven months to remodel all your fascia, eighteen months to literally turn over all your skeletal mass. It takes a while. That's okay. You know what? Staying with your feet straight does? It costs you nothing.
Ben: I remember you talking about that in our last podcast we did on Supple Leopard. And by the way, if you guys are listening in and you want the show notes or anything, I'll put them all over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/readytorun along with the previous podcast I did with Kelly. But, yeah. I remember you talking about how long it takes, Kelly, to reinvent the fascia. And yeah, you got to be in it for the long haul. It's amazing how long it takes to change the body.
Kelly: I think you've just got into the heart of it. So just because you are, I've seen you run and you're a very efficient runner. You run well. And all the aspects of your life sort of support that. And you and I are pretty dorky about some of the things that we do, right? You sleep on grounding sheets and magnets, and I sleep with this cool chilly pad that circulates cold water underneath my body. Why? Because I want to kick ass tomorrow. But my point is we have got to create a ready state for ourselves that lets us then continue to play the long game. And if you did that race, any race, and people can relate to this, one of the two questions we typically ask people about the race, we ask 'em how far it was and we ask 'em how fast they did it. We don't ask them about any other information. How is your technique? How did you overcome? I mean we really dive down and what we have all been saying is, “Hey, let's make this about technique, let's make this about skill, and then we'll test our skill on our capacity with these runs and races.” If we're not looking at that way, then I can guarantee you you're going to run up against the wall that says injury, or decreased performance, or something because that's what the data says is going to happen to you. 80% of us who run are going to get injured in a year. It's crazy.
Ben: It's just like the new college football rankings. It's not about whether you win. It's how pretty you did it. (laughs) I have to admit though too after reading a section of your book, I have not been in flip flops or really high heels either for that matter. But it's…
Kelly: You nailed it. And let's talk about this things. I think people are really much more sophisticated than we ever thought they were. Like you listen to the Ben Greenfield experience, you are, whether you like or not, you consider yourself a one pericenter in terms of nutrition and optimization of sleep. Like you really are paying attention to all these things. I think that what's happening is that a lot of times we've been sabotaging ourselves in our day to day lifestyle mechanics and one of the things that kills us is that most of us are wearing high heel shoes all the time, and then you go out and your shoe is pretty flat, isn't it Ben?
Ben: Yeah. I'm running, well I'm in Skoras primarily right now, which is a zero drop.
Kelly: Oh, great shoe! Yeah!
Ben: So that's a pretty heavy duty thing. You're going running. And you're not just running, you're competing in Skoras. And that means you're doing jump on obstacles that require a full range of motion, your ankles, and your needing your fascia to be fascia. And that means that you have sort of either, one, have been normal all along or have been creating a ready state in your environment. And so what I'm talking about is that people are wearing high heel shoes all time. When I say high heel, that's anything with a differential. So they cruise around, systematically shorten their heel cord 10,000 steps a day, 200 plus steps and 400 meters. I mean just do the math and it extrapolates into freakish amounts of loading cycles. Then we go try to drop down to this barefoot flat shoe which we think, “Oh, we should be able to do,” and all the sudden we end up blowing up. And that was one of the reasons we called this thing “Ready To Run”. People sued Vibram Five Finger, right? And they settled for what? Two and a half million dollars or something like that. I'm like, “What did you think was going to happen?” You've been wearing this one centimeter plus differential, and the average differential is over a centimeter.
And then all of a sudden you went flat and then you expressed your huge [0:22:17] ______ on your crappy you-go transmission and you blew up. You deserve that. That wasn't smart. So what you've done is, “Hey, you're flat all the time, you're barefoot all the time,” whether you're grounding, or just being barefoot, or that's healthier, well what you're doing is you're creating that tolerance for the system to be flat and to function optimally. Then I'm saying, “Hey, let's go ahead and give you a little differential if your mechanics are off.” So if you're going to run, run in less than five mill. Let's give yourself some breathing room to make errors or not be perfect. But then the rest of the time let's be flat versus what we have done, which is wear high heel shoes and then go run in my flat shoes.
Ben: Exactly. So another thing, just to stray away from feet here for a second that you get into the book as another standard is something that you call hip extension. And I was actually in the Seattle airport a couple of days ago doing this this new stretch that you talk about in this book, I was actually in the little kids play area there in the Seattle airport because they have this this perfect little couch in there that runs the length of the wall that's perfect for this stretch in the book that you call the “couch stretch”. And you define it as a weapons-grade technique to open up the hip and the slack upstream of the knee. So what exactly is the couch stretch and why is it so important? Why do you include that in the book is something, it's not only in the book but if you go to the mobility program at the end of the book, it's like on a ton of the days in there. So obvious I think this thing's pretty darn important.
Kelly: So what we try to do with Supple Leopard is I'm like here's my theory, here's what the physiology is, here's how we express that. And it's a really heavy duty tome, it's 400 plus pages. We have a new one coming out that's 500 pages in January. And what I wanted to do was strip away the technique and just give people the manual. Here's what you need to do. Don't worry about why. If you want to know why, you can go read this book. But if you just need to know how to turn your iPhone on and not care how the glass interacts with the battery, then you don't need the other book right. But the part of the theory is, hey when we're looking at normal, sort of the [0:24:32] ______ mechanics, and these are normal mechanics that we're trying to express. Not supernormal gymnast, yogi, hypermobile things. This is things that everyone agrees on as a baseline for human. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Academy of Pediatric Physicians, the family practitioners, all the physical therapists. Everyone agrees on what the range of motion is over the population.
And so my hypothesis and the theory that we work on and the way we treat all dysfunctional at the highest levels of sport is I'm like show me you have full start position and finish position of the movement that you're doing. And the couch stretch is when you take that foot, and put your knee in the corner, and then prop yourself up in sort of a high lunge. What's going to happen is you're going to quickly see that you're missing the end range of the running position. And so I call that sort of in the book, in Supple Leopard I call that Mob Two, or the second position which is the finish position. And so what I'm asking you to do is express leg flexion. So can you bring your, like if you were doing a heel kick to warm up, that's a very common exaggerated position. But what we're seeing is that people actually can't heel kick and have their leg into extension. And so what we're exaggerating in that position is, “Hey, let's spend time in this extension position with the lower leg fully flexed while we simultaneously try to open up the hip.” And what you'll see is that most of us are spending, we're obsessed with standing right now and not sitting but most of us are sitting 10 to 14 hours a day honestly, and it's hard to not sit more than three hours. It's really hard.
But what we're doing is we're not spending any time actually extending the hip into this end range. So you maybe do a little bit of walking, but that hip is not anywhere near to where that it's coming into extension behind you like we do when we run. And so we're basically going hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and then we're barely ever touching those corners. And if you miss having the full range of motion with that leg flexed and the hip extended like in the couch stretch, then what you're going to do is you're going to end up compensating. And people can relate to this. If you grab a telephone pole or like a signpost and stretch your quads, you grab your foot like the classic runner stretch that everyone does for two seconds before they run. You know what I'm talking about? Where does your knee go? It goes out. So if you grab your heel and you knee goes [makes a stretching sound], it flies out, what your body is basically doing is dumping that tension. It's a tension dump. And so by dropping the knee out, you basically shortened the insertion origin of those anterior tissues and you've made it so that there's no tension on the system. Well imagine running and suddenly in the end your leg spins and now you're swinging your leg through space and it's going to be impossible for you to contact the ground.
And so what ends up happening is that lot of times we see a lot of foot strike problems in our population of runners. Foot strike, foot strike, foot strike. We overstride, we're off the right part of my foot, et cetera, et cetera. And that is not a result of a foot contact problem, that is a result of an extension problem because it's a continuous motion. And so if you're a swimmer for example, if you can't finish your stroke with a good shoulder mechanic, what I can guarantee you is that you're not going to fix it in the air onto your next stroke and so your catch is going to be off. Well when your foot comes down when you run, that's exactly like the catch in the water, but most of us are catching at a ridiculously weak position. The problem is, as you know, because we're designed to move and we have to be able to move in order to reproduce, and feed ourselves, and hunt, we have this amazing capacity to buffer these bad mechanics for a long time. Because imagine if we were really that sensitive that if you struck, you're weird with your feet, you would immediately have pain, you couldn't walk, da-da-da, you would be dead on the Savannah in two seconds. But because we can basically buffer all these really, really weird mechanics because the engineering is so good, we confuse that with the right way.
Ben: Yeah. And this couch stretch, basically you're getting yourself into that hip extension, but because the need is touching the ground when you're doing that stretch, you're not allowed to compensate in the same way that you would if you were to do that traditional pull-a-heel-to-the-butt-and-do-a-quad-stretch.
Kelly: That's right. And all I'm asking you to do is a.) it's shocking. I was just with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday and such a great organization, totally progressive. And I was working with one of their pitchers and I was like, “Hey, let me just show you this.” He couldn't even get up into a high kneeling position. So imagine if his job was to extend off the back leg, but he can't extend off the back leg, i.e. he can't run, so what ends up happening to his pitching mechanics? He still can throw 90 miles an hour, that's how good he is, but what happens when you just take the roadblocks out of the way. I mean let's just give you the idea that, “Hey, show me that your tissues are healthy. Show me that you're warming up and cooling down, not being a jackass, let's give you full range of motion on the front and back end of the tissue cycle of the loading cycle, and then now we can talk about “do you have the right technique or not”. But right now, you can't even express good technique 'cause you don't have the mechanics of it.
Ben: Yeah. And you just hold this couch stretch for about two minutes or so on each side and it's amazing.
Kelly: Sometimes I do it for five minutes. It's a hard stretch. It's deceptively hard. But if you're listening in, learn the count stretch. Check it out. And that's definitely one of the pages in the book I'd recommend you flip to and learn ASAP as you're going through it.
Kelly: What's cool is that I'm really like, the things that I'm most interested in right now are how do we scale these things at institutional level situations. Because one on one, anyone comes to see on a private coach, they're going to get better. But how do I take our thinking and apply it to middle school, and high school, and colleges, and big teams, and 50 people? And the couch stretch requires no equipment, can be done anywhere. And for our kids, holy crap, it is a life changing experience for kids.
Ben: Yeah. You don't even need a couch to do the coach stretch. So there you go.
Kelly: And I call it the couch stretch because I would do it watching TV to distract myself.
Ben: Yeah. It's good for any time you have some kind of a surface behind you that you can put the leg up against. Even a wall. It works perfectly.
Kelly: And if you're a runner, literally you should be able to jump up there, keep your butt squeezed, I mean it tells us a lot of things. So if you load up on the couch stretch and try to squeeze your butt, just squeeze your glute, what you're going to see is that people are like, “Oh my. I can't squeeze my butt.” And I'm like, “Oh. You have gluteal deficiency syndrome.” Disorder. Well that gluteal amnesia, what you're seeing is that if your hip is short, your butt cannot squeeze, you cannot activate or recruit your butt. So it's not that your butt is weak that it's in what I call positional inhibition. And so if you want your butt to work really well, you have to have that leg come into extension. If you can't come into extension, your butt never works. And so now you're just living off of your quads, and psoas, and your iliacus, and no wonder your body is freaking out all the time. And that IT band problem that everyone has, it's because their pelvis is so overextended. And then only do their pelvis overextends so that it tightens up the TFL, but as they swing the leg around, they're basically slamming that foot down at 30 degrees or 20 degrees turned out. And then you add this horrible torsion right where that IT band inserts into your lower leg, and of course you can't put a 30 degree twist right in the middle of the cable and not expect some dysfunction. So at the very least, I mean you're nailing it. If we can get into a good the start position, finish position, life gets a lot easier faster.
Ben: Yeah. Cool. I want to hit on something else that you talk about in the book, Kelly. Voodoo bands. Voodoo Floss Bands. I love these 'cause they fly under the radar and not a lot of people really know about this technique. But I love it. And I'm curious if you could describe how it works. Like how do you do floss band, and what do you need to do it, and why should you do it.
Kelly: Sure. Let me tell you the story of the floss band. So we had this world champion powerlifter, world record holder Donnie Thompson, in the house and he was working with a guy named Dick Hartsell who invented the jump stretch bands that you use for making power lifters better and things like that. You use them on for heavy squats and deadlifts. And then he created this band that he was using to just wrap a swollen tissue. So if your ankle was swollen, he was like, “Well, why don't we create tons of compression on that to just deswell the ankle. So you compress the ankle, so Donnie left one of those bands for me. I was like, “This is really great. I totally see that.” And you can go onto our website and see the original video of Donnie Thompson wrapping my ankle.
And then I happened to be out at Westside Barbell with Lou Simmons to work with some powerlifters out there later on and I noticed that those athletes, Lou Simmons and most of those athletes, were literally duct taping their hamstrings. So while they were squatting, they were duct taping. And I was like, “That's pretty severe.” Because the duct tape doesn't stretch and you potentially create a really, really hard edge where the tissue can tear next to the duct tape. Like you know what I mean? It just bulls up tears. But I literally was like, “Hm? Hm?” And I put three and three together, and I went home, and I grabbed that thing, that tape, and I started wrapping it really tight and started moving around it and I was able to get through old the hamstring tears and old surgery repairs and I noticed, 'cause remember I'm a physical therapist and I know what ART is. In fact they taught ART, this sort of fascial…
Ben: Yeah. Active release technique?
Ben: Active release therapy?
Kelly: And if you've ever sat on a lacrosse ball and kicked your leg out, you're doing what we talked about. And pin and stretch, whatever we call it, tack and floss, but I realized that when we teach ART to people, we actually are teaching the circumferencial grip. So I basically grab the whole fascial sheath, so I grab a circular grip around the limb I'm trying to change, and then I have you move. And what I realized was that I could reproduce nearly to full effect all of the ART level treatments with this band and I could do it myself. And as I experimented, some of the things that we came up with was that we noticed that we could create really, get all the layers shearing and sliding again 'cause your tissues should be like layers of warm silk sliding over steel springs and they're not. They're like tacked down, gnarly grilled cheese sandwiches with ice picks going through. It's just so bad. And if you're sitting right now for example, you're not sitting on your sit bones, you're sitting on your hamstrings. And your hamstrings, you're about a hundred degrees, let's say you're an adult male like a 180 pounds, you have 90 pounds of pressure on about six inches of your hamstring at 100 degrees. I mean you're laminating those beautiful contractile tissues together all the time.
And so you can see how quickly a lot of our tissues get stuck down. And restoring those sliding surfaces is crucial as a crucial element to dealing with a lot of dysfunction. What we found is that we're putting the tissues under compression and then releasing the band, also basically cause this reperfusion. Blood came crashing back in, water came crashing back in, and we're able to really restart blood circulation to tissues that weren't well profused and had been shut down from swelling or cold injury and plus restoring the mechanics. And it was easy, and those bands cost like eight bucks apiece, and they never wear out. I mean it was in such a no-brainer.
Ben: Yeah. I think it's awesome. I actually haven't been using a band just 'cause I have so many freaking bicycle tubes in my garage. But, yeah. I mean you wrap above the joint, you wrap below the joint, and just kind of, you have a bunch of diagrams in your book, like your knees for example. You wrap above and below and flex 'em through a range of motion and a tweaky knee feels way different after you've finish doing it. It's as almost like it milks inflammation out of the knee.
Kelly: Yeah. We’re really pushing swelling out of the tissues. So that's good. And then we're also, we're pushing garbage out and bringing groceries in. And then we're also restoring a lot of these sort of very sophisticated tissue level dynamics. So for example one of the problems we see with a lot of the tendonitis, tendonosis level problems, everyone's had a little inflamed tendon in front of their patella and their kneecap. One of the problems is that it's the relationship between the tendon sheath and the skin and also the tendon sheath and the actual tendon. And when we start to restore and how those things slide past one another, literally we see things that have been very, very painful become instantly not painful and then the tissue starts to normalize. Because you're actually doing a real movement, and this is a crucial aspect of this, you're using the tissues the way they were supposed to be used. So you're loading them, you've got approximation in the joint, you're weight bearing, and you're actually doing the movement that it was designed to do, like squatting. So you're not pretending to do a squat-like motion, you're actually doing the motion of trying to change, which really does change how the tissue is loaded and expressed, which is why we always say, “Hey, mobilize at the position of restriction. Let's try to make it as much realistic as we can. And that's pretty profound.
Ben: Yeah. One last question that I have for you, Kelly, is I'm curious, for your day, when you set up your day, are you pretty much starting every day with some kind of soft tissue work? Are you just doing like intensive sessions one or two times a week, like a foam roller session or a session where you're just hunting down tight spots on your body? How does Kelly Starrett personally tackle this when it comes to hunting down issues?
Kelly: Well I'll tell you what, you really speak to something that I think is crucial for people to understand is that I, just like everyone else, am a normal person. I have two kids, I have a job, crazy businesses with my wife, I still get some training in. When do I work this out. And I'm going to just go back for a second because the last time we chatted you talked to me about your gratitude journal, and my wife and I started that practice.
Ben: The five-minute journal?
Kelly: Yeah. We started the five-minute journal at home and it was really, really profound. I told you we'd already sat down with our kids and said, but we started to kind of incorporate that. So the first thing we do is we don't check e-mail, we don't do any of that stuff, we sort of set the intention for the day. What we do that changes our life is the first thing I do in the morning is I walk my kids to school. I know everyone can't do that, but for us it's about a 5K roundtrip trip. So we walk to school every day, and that 25 minutes of walking really does change everything. If I couldn't walk, I would be in a hot tub in the morning. That would be typically what I would do first. But that walking really starts to just normalize the tissue, which is equivalent of doing sun salutation in yoga, which is what they were doing. Let's touch the corners of the archetypes. It's like Pavel's Super Joints, like take your joints into everything they're supposed to do and just moving around. Just degristle yourself in the morning. Just deal with the stiffness.
And so I walk, that gets me hot sweaty, I come back, I've already had probably a little fat, maybe a little protein, then I come back and have a real breakfast. And then right into the gym and right, for example right now, I have been answering e-mails, and podcast, I've done a couple interviews, but I have been working on the floor of the entire time. So I am squatting, I've been kneeling, I've been sort of thinking about getting ready for the workout at two o'clock. And that's what I want people to understand. One is, if you think you're going to save up an hour during the day and then just hit this, you'll never do it. So what I want to do is get people sort of noodling around all day long. Like if you're on the phone, stand up, put a lacrosse ball on your feet, work on your feet. You know what I mean? If you can check your e-mail in a lunge, check your e-mail on a lunge. And suddenly you're sort of just putting a little bit credits in the bank. Then if I'm going to actually train what I would do is I will work on my joints, I'll open whatever I'm going to do, the big priority, and running is pretty simple because it's only one motion.
But then I'll open, I'll prioritize the joint capsules typically first for maybe three or four minutes. As I'm getting hot sweaty, I'll move on things. And then I save all the soft tissue work for afterwards. Either I've just finished training 'cause it really helps me to down regulate or before I go to bed is when I'll do a lot of the soft tissue work because it's down time, my kids are asleep, I can start to unwind, I can see what's tight and gristly from the day, and that has been really, really sustainable. What I have advocated for is if you can spend 10 or 15 minutes a day sort of systematically working through all your tissues, and you don't have to fix everything, everyday, the full thing. Work a little bit at a time, and that aggregates into significant, significant change. I mean if you went to your physical therapist and you were like, “Hey, I spent 90 minutes this week working on this problem,” chances are you're going to not need your physical therapist by the time at the end of the week 'cause you worked on a problem for 90 minutes. That's a long time.
Ben: Yeah. It's crazy. I just introduced in the past two months after realizing how much Spartan racing really truly beats you up, even more so than triathlon in my opinion just 'cause you're moving so many different ways, I'm now up to a once-a-week 60 minute protocol where it's just mobility. I'm just surrounded by balls and foam rollers and I put on a podcast and go to town. And I've kind of got all this medieval torture equipment that keeps showing up at my house thanks to you and others.
Kelly: I think you really hit on something is that on Sunday, I thought we had to go to my daughter's volleyball pre-game, pre-season meeting. And so I went to the gym, I went to our garage, jumped on the bike, and then I literally did the couch stretch and I opened up my hips, and that was what I did for like 25 minutes. I got hot and then I treated that like a session. Then we came back, and then it took me very little time to warm up, and then I did some heavy front squat. That was all I did right. And when I advocate for no days off, there are days where you should not be training but you should be keeping the engine idling and we want you to be thinking about having a training practice seven days a week. So if my normal training is about an hour block, it's okay to substitute one of those days where I would normally be a total rest day, but that total rest day it's called restoration, or recovery, or adaptation, or rolling around on some balls while I watch TV and listen to a podcast. And what you see is that having that one time of the week really does give you plenty of time to sort of deep dives. And you've been making a list, you're a savvy guy and during the course of the week you're sort of saying, “Hey, my hip is sore. I'm going to have to spend some extra time on this.” And then on that one day, boom, you deep dive on that and it works. It's fantastic.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, hell, I count that as a workout. I mean like I'm dripping sweat and breathing hard. I mean it's literally, and I don't want to get crass, but it's very similar to sex. When you're when you're humping a foam roller and moving around like that in all those different positions, it's very similar metabolically to sex. Like that's what you feel like when you've finished. Possibly not quite as good depending on how to get your…
Kelly: Or better. Potentially better. One of the things that I really am advocating for is that I don't think people know what's normal and not normal about their bodies. And what we did in the benchmarks, so I’m running and saying, “Here's what you should be able to do for your body.” And then you can touch that or not touch that. And moving towards those normal capacities will improve your performance no matter what. Even if you don't ever achieve the standard, moving towards the standard is the goal. But one of the things that we tell people is I'm like, “Look. If you lay on a tissue and it hurts at all to compression, it's not normal.” So lay on a roller, lay on a bottle, lay on a beer can, and if it hurts and you feel like you're going to throw up or it's so painful, then that's a dead giveaway that the tissue is not normal. And what you're seeing is that normal tissue is not painful to compression.
So not only do I immediately have this feedback that my tissues are normal or not, no matter what I lay on, a golf ball, a lacrosse ball, it doesn't matter, but also tissues should not be stiff and one of the things that my wife and I do a lot of is we do a lot of partner smashing that we put in the book is that one of us lays down in front of the TV while we've got something on or we've got some music going and we're holding a glass of wine, and then literally I take an old pair of crutches that I used to teach with, and I lean into the crutches, and then I literally take my foot and I try to smash my wife's tissues down. Through her hamstrings, through her quads, through her calf. And what ends up happening is you get large forces that are distributed over the bigger area of my foot and I can create higher global shears and I can tell what's tight and not tight very quickly, I can see what's normal, and it's a way of, even for us, of spending time together. So we teach smashing to all our elementary school kids because kids start to treat themselves. Like how revolutionary is that? So literally we had a kid who had heel pain, I taught her to smash her friend, she and her friend have cured the heel problems for their entire soccer team by teaching each other to just do this little gentle smashing. The chances of you getting hurt smashing are like zero, and this nine year old and 10 year old girl can tell what stiff and not stiff. I mean
Kelly: Work it into your life. If you're an athlete, you're probably looking at your nutrition and your sleep, why aren't you looking at your tissue mechanics? Like it's literally insane that we go as hard as we do now and we're not looking at creating a ready state for the tissues.
Ben: Yup. Absolutely. And for everything from neutral feet, to flat shoes, to thoracic spine, hip flexion, hip extension, hot spots, compression, Kelly goes over basically 12 different standards in this book “Ready To Run”. I highly recommend it, just like I recommended his book “Becoming A Supple Leopard”. They're two books that sit on my exercise library shelf that I actually use that actually come back off the shelf, which means that it must be worth something. So check it out. I'll put everything over in the show notes that Kelly and I talked about today over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/readytorun. And Kelly, thanks for coming on the call today, man.
Kelly: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you so much, man. I appreciate.
Ben: Alright, folks. Catch you later.
For the past 28 days, I’ve been trying out a new protocol.
Each of my days starts with about 5 minutes of a mobility overhaul program I’ve been following.
For example, on Mondays I do something called a “Couch Stretch”, followed by a “Two-Ball Smash & Floss” on my shins.
On Tuesdays, I have a T-Spine Global Smash and a Global Gut Smash.
Wednesdays is a Plantar Blitzkrieg.
I’ve grabbed all these weird, new moves from page 250 in the new book “Ready to Run“, in which author Kelly Starrett lays out a month long, day-by-day Mobility Overhaul Plan.
Kelly, who is also the author of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller “Becoming A Supple Leopard“, just wrote this new book for runners, and it’s designed to help you cross the bridge from the injury-ridden world of the modern runner to the promised land that the new fad of barefoot running has led us to believe exists, to live a running life free from injury, to unlock all the athletic potential that may be hidden within and to allow you to run faster, more efficiently and for longer periods of time.
Kelly travels the world teaching his wildly popular Crossfit Movement & Mobility Course and also works with elite Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard forces, athletes from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and national and world ranked strength and power athletes. He also consults with Olympic teams and universities and is a featured speaker at strength and conditioning conferences nationwide. Kelly believes every human being should know how to move and be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves, and in our discussion we talk about neutral feet, flip-flops, couch stretching, VooDoo flossing, Kelly’s daily mobility routine and much more!