Kelly Starrett: Deskbound, Ice Baths & Mobility

Content by: Kelly Starrett

Kelly Starrett Deskbound

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Guy: This week we catch up with coach, author, speaker and physical therapist Kelly Starrett. If you are familiar with CrossFit or mobility, then Kelly needs no introduction. But if this is your first time, then you are in for a treat!

Kelly if the founder of Mobility Wod and he has revolutionized how athletes think about human movement and athletic performance.

And today we tap into Kelly’s wisdom on how we can improve upon our own daily movement, avoid the sedentary trap and also discuss his new book Deskbound.

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to StitcherQuestions we ask in this episode:

  • How should we move if we want to live a long and pain-free life?
  • You mention performing ‘basic maintenance’ on ourselves, please explain…
  • Icing injuries and sprains… yes or no?
  • What are your thoughts on the ‘Wim Hof Method’ for recovery?
  • How do we combat sitting at our desk every day?
  • And much much more…


Get More Of Kelly Starrett:

  • Buy his new book Deskbound

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Full range of products HERE.

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Full Transcript


Hey this is Guy Lawrence, 180 Nutrition and welcome to today’s health sessions and of course, where we’re cutting through all the confusion by connecting with leading global health and wellness experts to share the best of the latest science and thinking and powering people to turn their health and lives around. Today’s guest, we are doing it with Mr. Kelly Starrett. I have no doubt there’ll be listeners today that are familiar with Kelly, especially if you’ve been doing crossfit for a long time, but for you guys that might not be familiar with Kelly Starrett, he is the founder of Mobility WOD which is designed to help you hack your body’s mechanics and provides the tools to preform basic maintenance on yourself, which I think we could all do and be a part of. I believe Kelly is one of the greatest innovators to connect movement with function today.

If you’re not an athlete listening to this, there’s heaps of wisdom in there so stick with it, and of course if you are a high end athlete, there’ll be definitely things to make you reconsider how you train effectively and how you look after and condition the body accordingly as well. We get into also topics, we talk about his new book of course, Deskbound, which is in the mail for me as we speak. If there’s one thing that bugs the shit out of me is the fact that I have to sit often so I’m constantly mixing it up, so he has some great wisdom on that for us today. 

We also even get into the Wim Hof method and ice baths and even icing injuries, should we, shouldn’t we, and so forth. It goes off in all directions but we made sure there’s lots of [pills 00:01:39] of questions to get the most out of Kelly’s experience and wisdom as he is a wealth of knowledge. I must say as well, Kelly, he’s a big open guy, he’s a real deal, he’s full of life and he generally wants to make a difference in this world which is fantastic. It was great to have him on and I have no doubt you’re going to enjoy today’s podcast.

One last thing, I’ve joined the world of Snapchat, believe it or not, yes, I know, but come and say hi on Snapchat to me, my username is GuyL180. If you’re on Snapchat, you’re listening to this, come and hit me up, send me a message, ask me a question, I don’t care. It’d just be good to reach out to you. Let’s go over to Kelly Starrett, enjoy.

Hi, this is Guy Lawrence, I’m joined with Stuart Cook as always, Hi Stu.


Hello, mate.


Our awesome guest today is Kelly Starrett. Kelly, welcome to the show.


Guys, thanks for having me. 


Really appreciate it, mate. Now, I got a sneaking suspicion with our listeners, they’ll be a split crew. 50% will know exactly who you are, what you do, and I reckon we’ll be introducing you to a lot of new listeners which is excellent, we think. You’ve created an amazing community online over the years, through Mobility WOD. You’ve written three books, the third one’s just coming out, is that correct?


That’s true.


My first question is to you, can you take us on Kelly Starrett’s journey a little bit from how it all began, how it all became to get into this point today, really, for the people that may be not familiar?


Normally I would say that that is so trite, it’s a rag to riches story, Cinderella story, no I’m just kidding. The truth is, in short, I was a professional paddler for a long time in college and after and ultimately paddled myself into a [cervical 00:03:37] nerve root problem where I had hand weakness and couldn’t turn my head and that really ended my professional paddling career. Turns out paddling on one side of the boat in a canoe, so taking a million strokes a day only on the right side, kneeling, doing zero soft tissue work, working harder and harder and harder, and having asthma and breathing terribly was a recipe for shutting that nerve root down, right? Now it’s easy to see, of course, you deserved that, it was my fault.

That really started me in this rabbit hole of sports medicine and having a classic athletic shotgun experience where suddenly this happens two weeks before team trials and it’s about how much prednisone can I get on, how many needles can you stick into my neck, how many MRIs can I have? Of course, the problem was I needed a much different approach. I had to get the flames off, sure but really I had big tissue restrictions and asymmetry, it was just a disaster.

That really changed, began to seek and remember, I think it’s easy now to forget that the internet has always been so and there weren’t always podcasts and you couldn’t just go online. If you were lucky enough to bump into someone who had magic hands, maybe that changed your life but we were just scouring the world for information about how to train more officially. 20 years ago, 15 years ago, the landscape was very different. People can’t keep that in their heads about where we’ve come. In short, I decided I needed to go to physio school, I just had this moment of [sitory 00:05:23] and said, “Oh”. 

I was out surfing actually, thank you, and I literally saw all of this in my head. I need to become a physio, I’m interested in strength conditioning, I should be able to get to the bottom of my own problems. We’d always been obsessed with lifting weights, I was Olympic lifting, I was riding my bike, I was doing all of these things. 

My first semester of PT school, and I didn’t know I needed Olympic lift, I just knew that Olympic lifting was important for somehow and I would try to do gymnastics. I didn’t know why, but gymnasts and Olympic lifters are pretty awesome athletes, that was the level of justification. In my first semester of physio school I discovered crossfit which was a very interesting wake up call to the fact that I wasn’t very skilled, I wasn’t very strong, and I wasn’t nearly as conditioned as I thought I was. I certainly wasn’t very strong when my heart rate was 180 which was, aka what it feels like at the bottom of a world cup race, right? Every other sport, heart rate’s high, make the shot.

That really lead me into working with a lot of masters, Olympic lifting coaches, power lifting coaches, gymnasts. What I came to realize then is that the congruence, the consilience of seeing a lot of, and being exposed to a lot of very formal strength conditioning and then being on the rehab side, those were completely different, disparate universes. They don’t even exist in parallel planes, and even the language that strength coaches uses and the way we get to the Olympics, how we train people has nothing to do with rehab. I really struggled to make sense of what I was understanding as a physio and what I was seeing and the exercises that I was taught to prescribe and even icing, things like, you know, this doesn’t fit and I can’t tell a contiguous story between a back injury and bracing. 

You get into some of the deep Shirley Sahrmann genius physio practitioners and it’s difficult to take the step and understand how that immediately translates and scales into high level fitness. It was like, you rehab, then you stop doing all that stuff and then you go back to whatever it is you were doing before. 

Where we ended up, and this is important for people to understand because I think if you are new to us and haven’t seen our tracker or history of work, we come out of a very formal movement training environment. If you aren’t lifting weights and if you aren’t power lifting and Olympic lifting and doing gymnastics and if you aren’t regularly working in the athletic aerobic community and solving strength conditioning problems then our stuff looks a little bit crazy for the first time because you’re like, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Why does screwing my feet into the ground matter? What are you talking about the shoulder? They didn’t talk about that in physical therapy school” and what we’ve tried to do is show our work and our evolution and if you just opened up becoming a [inaudible 00:08:27] for the first time, it would be a shock because it’s a completely different language than the rehab language, it blows people’s minds away.

What has been really the revolution has been how we have always based on our experience that if people gave us information, was good, we would test it for ourselves and then discard what didn’t work, and also figure out how to interlay it into our own complex lives. If I’m paddling twice a day, when am I going to do this and how do I warm up more effectively and cool down. We have always worked on the assumption that if we give people better information and better tools, they’ll make better decisions and this a crucial aspect of this thing.

What we’ve done in the last since we formalized Mobility WOD 2010, so we’re six years into this experiment. We have tens of millions of episodes viewed and tens of thousands, like hundreds of thousands of people use our stuff. We literally, back of the [matkin 00:09:25] math, we have scale models of our stuff in 25 thousand locations. More importantly, if you just say, “Hey, there’s five coaches at every gym”, what we’re really trying to do is help the coach, help the physio, or help the coach and trainer and the athlete begin to understand and have some sense of agency around improving their position, which ultimately improves their mechanics. What we’re able to do then is go from cause to effect and back to cause. Effect to cause. That really does feel strange if you’re a physio or bumping into us for the first time, you’re like, “Whoa, whoa, I can change my hip capsule or I can mobilize my soft tissues?”.

Because we are exposed to so many different disparate groups, we get to see metapatterns and pattern recognition on a scale that a physio working in a clinic seeing five or eight, ten people a day, it would take a lifetime of work. Because we get also engaged in the immediate feedback loop … the thing that kills me about resistance, all we’re doing, we’re not owning anything, we’re just saying, “Hey, this is a model for assessing how people move, what to prioritize first, what to prioritize second, how to anticipate movement faults, and how to improve movement efficiency”, is that people are savvy enough to get it and we get a ton of feedback about what works and doesn’t work and what we’re really trying to do is move beyond the pay wall of Western medicine, which is really for profit medicine and take all of the non-skilled care and get it back into the hands of people earlier on.

Let me give you an example, I use this example in the NFL all the time. When I worked at the NFL they see a lot of broken athletes, they inherit a lot of problems. They’re still big boys and girls, they’re going to play. What turns out, they’re like, “Yeah, if we got those kids earlier in college, things would change”. You’re like, “Okay”, so we go to college and we spend a lot of time in universities, a lot with strength and conditioning communities there and they’re like, “Oh yeah, by the time we get kids from high school, they’re already wrecked”, and you’re like, “Whoa, whoa”. Let me give you the statistic, for one university I was working with, 90% of the incoming freshman men football players couldn’t preform an air squat without knee pain. These are all Americans [00:11:47]



Kelly:We’re not, something’s going on. These are 19, 18, 17 year old kids who shouldn’t be having knee pain when they just go up and down because they’re playing no matter what. Then we get into high school and we start to ask the athletes there, “Hey, how are you moving? What’s going on? Can you preform some basic shapes?”, because there’s a conversation that people are like, “Hey, there’s too much movement variability”, to, “Humans are so special and we’re all different”, that language does not, if that’s true, then we can’t teach a skill to anyone. How do we teach tennis? The back swing? The Russians take 10 thousand, 20 thousand strokes without a racket, grooving those motor patterns and yes, the length of the lever changes, but if you look at the tennis serve of the best athletes in the world or the overhead position of the fastest swimmers, there are efficiencies and mechanics that really start to overlap.

What we saw was that people did not have some fundamentals around being able to express normal range of motion. The problem, and I know I’m ranting, but the problem is it’s difficult for us to run the experiment long enough to always see the correlative or the cause and effects. This is where we are right now, because we have a subjective experience that our data is derived through induction, through so many patterns, we can see so much more information faster than one to one correlation. This is where we are right now and what we’re trying to do and what we’re seeming to do is and we’re having good effect of is giving people better tools to assess position, the bookmarks of full physiology, physiologic range. It doesn’t matter who you are, you should be able to squat all the way down with your heels on the ground. This is, what are we even talking about?

Then we’re also trying to give some of the soft tissue tools away, things that we believe are unskilled and that maybe ruffle feathers, but our model is test and retest. Don’t trust us, see for yourself and I can pull out two, three, five, ten thousand email of saying, “Hey, thanks for helping me improve this,” we don’t always shout about the people we’re working with but what we do see is that people are much more sophisticated than we give them credit for and we give them better information about nutrition and movement and mechanics, boom. We’ll start to see the tide change. That’s how we got here, it’s been a radical, radical ride, that’s for sure.


That’s amazing.


I was going to ask you, I got a question and I was going to ask you, how should we move if we want to live a long and pain free life, but I’m not going to ask that now, I’m just going to change that a little in light of what you told me. Does it not matter what we do in terms of exercise? I’m talking about yoga, Pilates, crossfit, zumba, iron man, swimming, cycling, whatever. Is it more about how we do it, that particular exercise and how we nurture ourselves in terms of recovery, flexibility, mobility after we’ve done the exercise? Is that more important than what we do?


Well, I think everyone needs to have a movement practice. We remain agnostic about how you get there. If you love yoga, it’s a moving practice, good on you. You’re probably not going to go to the Olympics or kick ass on a 5k without also doing some breathing hard and some lifting once in a while but you’re really close there, right?

Pilates, [Joseph 00:15:12] nailed some things, some primary concepts down. If you did Pilates and did some heavy benching and some wind sprints, you’re really coming in on a complete program, there. What’s interesting is that if, one of the things that we’ve tried to do is try to help people understand movement practices by expressing what the shapes, the archetypal shapes of the body are. People are like, “It’s infinite”, and I’m like, “Eh, that’s not really true”. Your spine when you squat is the same thing whether it’s here, or here, or here, it doesn’t really, it’s not infinite. If you’re kipping on a bar, it’s this and it’s this and it’s not infinite. When you do a push up or you finish on the row, the shoulder just does what it does. It’s not infinite, there’s not a billion positions where you end up picking something up off the ground, there are these shapes.

What you can do then, is it’s really easy to see how all of the best practices, so if you’re Pavel guy and you love the kettlebells and [inaudible 00:16:16] [strong first 00:16:16], you’ll see that programming ends up being much more complete because people have worked it out. You’re going to have to be spending some time in a lunge shape, you’re going to have to spend some time hip hinging, you’re going to have to spend some time squatting with the torso upright. People have worked this out a long time ago. Jump into a yoga class, and if you’re a good Olympic lifter, yoga will make instant sense to you, you’ll be like, “I know what’s going on here”.

In fact, we tell this story, I was up at the Byron Resort and I jumped into this yoga class there in Australia and this pudgy yoga lady was like, she looked at me and she was like, “Big fat guy, here we go”, and she gave me the stink eye. I’m pretty mobile and my positions are pretty stable and principals, first principals of the physiology, remain stable. When the yogis are talking about good stable positions, that’s the position you’re pulling in, that’s the position you grab something in. If you understand some of these principals and have also lived in other sports, you can instantaneously see that yogis have thought seriously about how to train and how to position and manage and grease and practice these positions.

Halfway through the thing, the woman was like, “Whoa, I don’t know what the fat guy in the back is doing, but he’s crushing it”. All the ladies were turning around and I was like, “Yoga’s not competitive but I’m crushing you right now”. That’s that idea is that we have to take a step back out of our own disciplines now and we can, and we can really start to see the overlap and points of contact.

What we say is, “Hey, you probably need to move at practice”. If you’re a runner for example but you never express full range of motion in your ankles then you’re going to live in this little tiny window. Here’s an example, if you’re driving your car, you don’t take your car to end range on the wheel often. You’re like, “It’s fine, I’m race car, it’s totally good”, and then you go to turn one day and you’re like, “Oh crap”, ie, I had to go fast, or I had to run up hill, or run up something steep or jump down or use my body in running ways and what we see is that in that tightened efficiency I start rubbing up against the wheel wells and the car starts creating a lot of problems.

To the heart of your question is, the only argument we should be having is, what’s the context? What’s your goal? If your goal is, “Hey, I want to metabolically, reasonably fit so I can support my physiology”, then there are some really, you’re probably going to have to do some conditioning and that could look like biking or swimming. We’d like it to be more skilled, let’s get you off the bike even though we’re big fans of biking, but let’s make it about running or pushing a sled or swimming or something where you’re upright and weight bearing, right? 

You should probably be able to do a push up or know how to scale to get up off the ground and protect your back so you just don’t hinge. It’d be great if you could do a few pull ups because expressing that push up strength. We can start to even put standards there, like, “What do you mean you can’t front squat a 45 pound bar, a 20 kilo bar?”. For me, it means that you have incomplete shoulder position and you don’t understand how to create stability in your hips as you squat. 

The main thing is, if everyone had the range of motion that kindergartners had, then it would just be about skill and conditioning, but that’s not what’s happening. People are missing massive capacity and fundamental primary capacity that theoretically physical therapists think you should have, that theoretically physicians all agree is normal human range of motion but what we’re seeing is that we’re living in these little tiny movement windows.

For example as I’ve been talking to you, I’m squatting down the whole time.


That’s awesome.


Right, because this is a position that if I don’t noodle on, ends up becoming stiff and this is a very athletic position when I Olympic lift or jump and land and squat so I end up spending a lot of time in these fundamental shapes. That is the only conversation we’re interested in. Ultimately if you love to smoke cigarettes, eat little chocolate donuts and surf, that’s great, it’s just an incomplete program. You can still be the best in the world at that, but that’s not an argument about the fact that if you’re missing in rotation your shoulder and your shoulder translates forward, that’s just a weak mechanical position. 

What we want to get people’s minds out of is stop thinking that everything is about pain or injury prevention. It’s about position and force optimization and economy and that when we chase those demons down and we’re always trying to be more efficient, we’re trying to work on our technique, we’re trying to refine our skill and economy. We’ll get injury prevention in the trade, but we never ever even point positive about injury. Resolving someone’s pain is powerful but making them, putting them into a better position to lift more weights or run more efficiently, that really captures people’s imagination and that’s the place where we test our ideas. When you’re in a better head shape and your jaw’s more organized and your spine is better positioned, guess what? Turns out that you can generate more wattage on the bike and that’s what we all care about is generating more wattage, ultimately.


If I say, “Oh my God, this guy is the man, clearly knows his stuff, I want to do all of what you’ve just told me, but I don’t know where to go”, so where would I go to …


Yeah, I was going to say how would you [vet 00:21:50] the physio because clearly you’ve learned this knowledge over the years and you’ve been applying it and testing it. Like you said there’s physios out there that won’t even look at this yet.


Remember, the physio is really good at putting out fires, but what people need is classical education in being a human not, what I call [tissuists 00:22:12]. Stop being tissuists, stop arguing about, there’s a huge important conversation going on about what’s the best way to load and heal a tendon. The physios have finally come up to and said, “Hey, turns out that rest and not disuse is not the way to realign collagen fibers and heal the tendon ultimately. We have to systematically …” and they call that [mechanotransduction 00:22:33]. It’s a very complicated word for moving and pulling on the tendon. I think it’s easy to forget first principals.

The way we begin and what we’ve tried to do on our website and in the books is say, “Hey, let’s initiate a conversation”. For example, if we use the Ready To Run book, it’s a book we wrote about creating some movement standards. Right now, if I can’t squat, the very first Mobility WOD we ever did was a ten minute squat test. Just squat on the ground for ten minutes, just pretend we’re having dinner in Thailand or you have to take a really long poop in the woods, it could be anything. What we’re seeing is this shape killed people. They were like, “I’m burning, my back, oh my gosh, my feet hurt so bad and I couldn’t even get into that shape much less”. That really tells, what we’re saying is this is archetypal end range of motion position of full hip [flexion 00:23:31] and it express full dorsal flexion of the ankle, you’ve just learned something about yourself.

What’s crucial about this is we don’t know what your injury history is, we don’t know what your movement history is. You could’ve worn an exoskeleton in the army, you could’ve been trapped on an airplane or lived in a box like a gimp for 20 years, it doesn’t matter. You tore your ACL in Vietnam. The point is today, what we have done is we have wrapped ourselves in exercise and we have divorced movement efficiency and movement economy and basic range of motion goals. We’ve pulled all of that information out and dissociated it from the training stimulus, and what we said is, “As long as you worked harder, you got better. As long as the wattage went up, it must be okay”. 

We know, everyone who’s listening, who’s ever just tried to go harder and harder until they broke, that’s what happens. You go harder and harder until you break. That was where we’ve said is, we’ve seen that that, we call it fitnessing, the fitnessing concept of living and dying by a stopwatch is an incomplete way of evaluating. What we’re trying to do is, whatever positions you’re in, we can use that as a diagnostic and at the end of the day you’ve got 10 or 15 minutes to improve your positions. That’s what we want people to do.


Everything you say makes sense and I’m just thinking about where our listeners would be at right now. I’d imagine that there’s definitely going to be guys competing at the high end level, whether it be crossfit or athletes or [NRL 00:25:06] players over here, but then there’s going to be the guys three days a week hitting the gym, office workers doing everything and I saw you mention the word basic maintenance on ourselves. Is there things that we could start looking at to just go right … these are little things we could bring into our week or like you said simple tests that we then start to establish new outlook on the way we move and do things?


Yeah, I think that’s very fair is that if this is the first time you’ve had this conversation, you’re like, “Oh my God, where do I begin? How much hip rotation should I have at mid-range flexion of my hip?”. You’re suddenly are using a crazy language, you’re like, “What do I do? Where do I put these bands, torque …” What we’ll say is, “Hey, let’s initiate a conversation”. One of the easiest things we do is say, “Look, any of your tissues that you press on should be painless to compression. It shouldn’t hurt”. If you lay on a [foam 00:26:04] roller, and anyone who’s done this, who’s laid on a roller and you black out from pain, what did you just find? You just found a localized area of tissue compression. We don’t know what the necessary, we don’t have to argue about what’s going on, is it the [fasha 00:26:18], is it the intramuscular stiffness? 

I use Gil Hedley, who’s this wonderful PhD anatomist and he’s the man but he describes all these complex interactions of sliding surfaces. Are your sliding surfaces sliding? Are your hamstrings sliding around your bones and the soft tissues? Do your quads move? Is your patella slide up and down? Does it move around? If you grab your skin, you’ll see that your skin slides over your tendons. Most people if I grab their Achilles, it doesn’t slide at all. What’s happened is that that skin has been completely adhered to the Achilles and if you tack down the skin on your hand, just grab it and tack it towards your wrist and then try to close your hand, you’re going to be like, “What’s happening? I have muscle stiffness, my joint range of motion is tight”. No, your skin is just stuck to the layers underneath.

What we can then do is with that simplicity, with that concept of restoring sliding surfaces or addressing some of the intramuscular dysfunction, and it could be from … it doesn’t matter, but what we found is a problem. If you take a ball or a roller and you lay on your stomach and put it on quadriceps in your legs and it hurts, stop. Don’t go any further. 

Now, we can begin a conversation about making sure that those tissues slide, we can stay on there until we desensitize them, I can contract and relax and tell my nervous system, “Hey, it’s not threatened here, I can get to the bottom”, I can tack the muscle down and then move my knee back and forth and all of a sudden create a little tacking and flossing there. I can apply some techniques and as long as I can take a full breath in and full breath out then I’m not going too deep and as long as it’s not stiff because none of your body should feel like beef jerky, I don’t have to go anywhere else. I can just stay in that region and work a little bit on it for the next ten minutes and then I’ll get as much as I can get done and tomorrow I’m going to put the ball somewhere else. Maybe something that hurts.

For example, in physio we have this language called things like regional interdependence, which means what is the relationship between missing dorsal flexion and being able to, flexing your ankle and being able to extend your hip? Those are clear patterns. What we want people to understand is that you’re responsible for the whole machine. There’s not one part of your body that you get to go on body vacation on, you need it. 

Our runners are missing a ton of extension, they can’t get the elbow to come back very far and so they run like little R2-D2s. The elbows flare out, you know what I’m talking about, right? The elbows flare and they run across their bodies and when your shoulders come forward, [happens 00:28:57] to your neck, you collapse, the same position you look like when you’re typing and all of a sudden you’re like, “Well, I guess shoulders are important to runners, why am I swaying back and forth and twisting when I should be running efficiently?”. 

That’s our point is that you don’t even have to understand what all the complex relationships are, you just have to have what we think is full range of motion. If you can do a push up in a good position without your shoulders popping forward, you’ve got enough position in your shoulders to probably run because those are very similar shapes, one at a time.

If we get people to say, “Hey look, if I’m having knee pain, what’s right above the knee? The muscles of the quadriceps for example and if I mobilize those, often times that may resolve my knee pain but it also may improve my hip extension and my squatting”, right? There was inefficiency in the quadriceps anterior muscular chain system. To go downstream, it turns out your calves are tight, well they’re weirdly attached to your knee somehow via themselves, right? It’s part of the system.

What we’ve done is we’ve just so dissociated people’s understanding of being able to, people are taking tart cherry juice before they go to bed and ice bathing and they’re paleo and they read their heart rate variability and we’re like, “You’re not sophisticated to try to figure out that your knee is just a mechanical system?”, quit it. We don’t even care necessarily what the mechanism of dysfunction is, we can argue about that, maybe you sat too much, maybe you ran and then immediately jumped on an airplane and your calves … it doesn’t matter. What we do is we want people to, if they find a problem, fix it. What I start to systematically do is just begin a conversation with my body and hopefully I can take this systematic approach to adjusting it. Is it a muscle problem? 

We, for example, always are prioritizing the spinal mechanics first. We’re like, “If you don’t know how to stabilize your spine and breathe appropriately while you’re on your load, then it’s really hard to see what’s going on downstream”, right? A lot of your tissue restrictions are caused by your stress and your breathing pattern and your lack of sleep and your mom and your crappy spinal stability, it doesn’t matter. All of those things are going to have to be addressed, but in order so we don’t overwhelm people, take a crack at it 10 or 15 minutes a day. When you start to aggregate that, seven days a week, you can’t believe what you can get done in the course of six months. It’s remarkable. 


Yeah, pain free.


You mentioned, and Guy, you said pain free, but earlier on Kelly you mentioned icing. I would like your word on icing for …




Yeah, for injury. I’ve heard you’ve got to get the ice on wherever you’re hurting and just cool it down and rest and ice it and do all that other stuff. A lot of the new [sorters 00:31:50] now well know you just don’t ice it, let the body, let the blood get to it, let the internal processes fix it. What’s your take on icing?


What’s fun about this is that there is no greater physiologic error that we make as human beings than trying to improve the body’s complex healing processes by applying some localized freezing to the area. If you injured yourself, literally the [vasculature 00:32:20] that’s injured will clot off, the peripheral [vasculature 00:32:25] will start to take up the slack in the rest of the circulation. You start putting out this amazing chemical signal, things start coming in, rebuilding. Once the tissue’s remodeled and you’ve been pulling on it, and using it, remodels it’s shapes, the clot disappears and everything else. You think you can influence that sophistication, that healing cascade by putting a 20 minute ice pack on it? 

It turns out, of course, that there’s not any research that supports icing at all, zero, except it does help with pain. That is a valuable idea, but it backs up the lymphatics and in fact it makes the lymphatics porous, we’ll actually see fluid that should be moving out of the body and evacuating going back into the local tissue causing a secondary inflammatory response. It’s very convenient that people are like, “We should ice it”, and I’m like, “When’s the last time anyone took a tissue temperature reading when they ice?”, that would be none. 20 minutes is a very round number based on you and me and how hot it is. What ends up happening afterwards is your body eventually warms back up.

What we know, for example, is that there’s been a big move away from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for soreness or right after injury because we know that limits prostaglandin release and that means you’re not getting the signaling from the stem cells to come in, the macrophages and the [instant 00:33:46] growth factors in the back of the macrophages can’t come in, it creates a mess. It basically stops the healing response chemically.

The ice does also a similar thing. Icing didn’t exist until the 1950s and ’60s, it just didn’t even exist, we weren’t doing it forever and ever and all of a sudden it gives people feeling like they have agency, I’m icing. Instead, we’ll even go so far as to say Gabe Mirkin who was the physician who coined the term RICE, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It’s like, “Whoa, whoa, we were totally wrong. Resting, maybe not so much. Pain free movement, yes”. He was like, “We were dead wrong on icing, I’m so sorry”. If the guy who coined RICE came out and said don’t do it …

What we need to do is make sure that we have a solution for people. Compression is magic. As much range of motion as we can. We have ways of activating muscle contraction to [double 00:34:40] lymphatic systems, we can do that with electricity. We can elevate. We always say that active recovery is better and a lot of this goes back to the idea that it is easy when I’m injured or something hurts to lay on my back, do nothing, put an ice bag on and then the pain goes away. I’m healed, I’m laying down, I got no pain, it’s all good, except we may not be optimizing how we’re recovering or healing. 

What we need to do is evacuate the swelling which is not a mistake, it’s part of this inflammatory cascade is to swell but we’re not getting the swelling out and what we’ve seen and our experience with the research says is a lot of times it’s that swelling that really causes so much dysfunction and pain so when we stay ahead of the swelling, not only do we heal faster but we also are able to manage this without pain.


Yeah, interesting.


Perfect, that’s excellent.


No, it’s great.


Here’s the caveat. Warm margaritas are terrible. You do want a cold beer sometimes and we do whole heartedly believe in cold water immersion for central nervous system reset like breathing and a cold water bath. I don’t know the last time you got into a cold water tank full of ice up to your neck.


Yeah, about three days ago, actually.


How long did you stay in there? Three minutes?


No, I can build up to 20 minutes.


You go 20 minutes? 


Yeah, I’ve got it down to about five degrees Celsius, not sure where that is. 


That sounds like paradise, you should be at about zero. The issue here is, we have found, and when we do, because we have found amazing results from cold water immersion to reset nervous system and we’re big believers in it but we put it as far away from the training stimulus as we can.


Got it. I was interested to ask you about Wim Hof actually because you mentioned ice and we had him on the podcast a couple months back. What are your thoughts on that because I’ve heard you mention him in the past somewhere about his work.


We always come from somewhere. It was Brian Mackenzie of Power Speed Endurance who is one of Laird’s partners in XPT Life. Laird exposed Brian to this stuff and let’s be honest, panayama breathing, welcome to the club. People have been talking about breathing forever and ever and ever and everyone gets … Greg Cook talks about breathing, he says if you can’t breathe in a position, you don’t own the position. Everyone ultimately starts having a conversation about breathing, if it’s posture restoration institute kids. Everyone is realizing that hey look, this diaphragm and something that we call the mechanical ventilation efficiency. If you’re stuck bent in a tube, you just don’t ventilate very well, your ribs don’t work very well, it’s hard to show me the efficiency.

What I can tell you is that my first time really being exposed to meditation was in college and I really didn’t, sitting perfectly and meditating didn’t really work for me. When I found this breathing practice, today I was a little bit on a timeline so I only got ten minutes of breathing in this morning. I have a daily breathing practice and I use it because it takes so much intention to just make sure that I’m breathing correctly and I’m breathing into the spaces. Sure it makes those pH changes and all the downstream effects that people talk about it but it also allows me to capture what’s happening with my rib cage and my diaphragm, it’s like I’ve done a big stretch pregame warm up so that when I go hit it later on, I’m automatically there.

I also have built up, we practice holding our breath at the end of the exhale so we’ll breathe 30 or 40 breaths per Wim Hof, we exhale, go, and I use that as my nervous system test because when I’m fried, over trained, sleep deprived and stressed, guess who can’t hold his breath for longer than 30 seconds on an exhale? This guy. When I’m chilled out and doing the adaption and well slept and well rested and not traveled, it’s two minutes. I use it as a check and today we’ve been traveling a ton with my wife and today I hit the 30 second mark and I was like, “Oh man, I am cooked”. 

The breathing has been powerful, even my children are in the ice bath. We try to drop our core temperature before we go to sleep. My wife takes a little shot of tart cherry juice, bam. What we’re seeing is that it’s really easy as an athlete or a consumer, just even a recreational person, you can get stuck in these biohack tricks that don’t seem to have any [cogence 00:39:27] to them. You’re like, “Take this turmeric, and I have to drink kombucha and I don’t know why and gluten is bad”. All of a sudden you’re like, “What is going on?” Instead of looking at is, do you have full position of the joint, yes or no, and it doesn’t mean you can’t go do your job but it means maybe there’s some efficiency you’re losing. How’s your sleep? Are you addressing your stress?

Now we can suddenly build this into a little 24 hour cycle for people where they can really wrap their heads around the fact that, “Hey, I am a physical moving animal that needs stress management and sleep” and all of these things fit in there and at the end of the day it’s not like I have to do a whole bunch of extra homework, I’ve just chosen for example to be barefoot whenever I could. Why? Because my heel shouldn’t be elevated all the time. I’m at least going to wear flat shoes, and choosing to sit when I don’t have to in the board meeting or on the airplane or in the commute, I’m just going to stand. Suddenly the lifestyle starts to integrate and all of a sudden things get a little bit better and I crush that workout and [crosstalk 00:40:34] I look better naked and whatever metric works for you. Suddenly you can start to build a life around that. That’s where we see that people have no idea how much better they can feel, how much more ass they can kick at work, all of those things matter.


100%, it’s like all these incremental small choices constantly and if you just change your outlook and view, your attitude, you can just go on a new projectory. 


People are like, “Which protein do you like? Did you eat six to eight fists of vegetables today because if you didn’t, your Olympic lifting, hamburger, vodka lifestyle, Paleo lifestyle is a bunch of bullshit”. What are we doing? We sit and we talk to a lot of athletes, we really are so fortunate. Even on your continent we have teams that we work with and what I can tell you is that people are very sophisticated in trying to solve these problems. 

When we make it more simple and when I ask people for example, I’m like, “Well, how many people got eight hours of sleep last night, or seven hours, or six hours, five hours” People’s hands go up and I’m like, “Look, you’re 30% immune compromised, you’re pre-diabetic for the 24-48 hours”. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. Should you have the frappuccino or not? Maybe not. 

What we’re seeing is that people now I think are working harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives. We have seen, you can go on the internet and literally have access to people’s training and see the mutants out there, mutants, lifting heavy, I can only dead lift heavy once a week but I have friends who dead lift two or three times a week. They’re Silverback gorillas, I just can’t do it. You can get chasing this high performance model where people are working so, so hard now but we’re not taking care of the whole thing. That means you better chill out, you better know how to breathe, otherwise it literally is the commodization of performance. 

What I want to make sure that people understand is that there’s a lot of for profit model on this that people are, how much do you guys charge for your podcast?




Weird, right? That’s my point. Anyone sometimes who’s not willing to show you their methods and models without, you should get paid in the long haul if this is your life’s work but we do see is that we need to move a lot of this information on the fence, it’s always good to work with a coach and a professional but you should have agency to be able to make some of these simple changes for yourself without always tripping over that pay wall.


Yeah, absolutely. Great answer.


Just thinking, giving everything that you’ve told us right now, it seems quite clear that we’re spending a huge block of our day doing exactly what we shouldn’t be doing and again, I wanted to segue this into your new book Deskbound, so most of us are sitting down all day long, eight hours a day, could you tell us a little bit about …


No no, let me jump in. Most people are not sitting eight hours a day, they’re sitting 12-14 hours a day. Remember, you guys, let’s just say Australia is pretty progressive about some things like you make us, the Yanks, the sepos, I didn’t know the word sepos, septic tank Yank, right? Make the sepos look really bad. You nailed the gun thing pretty early on, that really made a difference. One of the things that you have identified as a government is that you guys have now said that sedentary lifestyle is the number one public health concern for the state, ie all of Australia, for the country of Australia. When we then get to the bottom of that, sedentary, the Latin root of sedentary is seder which means to sit, what we’re seeing is that people are not moving enough during the day. 

What we have seen in the United States for example, is that in the last ten years we’ve seen obesity continue to track and global obesity rates have also tracked the number of gym membership sales exactly. It’s not that people aren’t working out, they’re spending a lot of money trying to do it but we’re making this type one error underneath. 

What you’ll hear from the establishment is that this is fear mongering about the health effects, you’re going to sit down in a chair, boom, your head explodes. You evacuate your bowels. It’s not what is going on at all, what we’re saying is, remember humans are skilled movers, when we sit down and surrender all points of contact, that’s an unskilled position. When you stop moving, there are a whole bunch of physiologic effects of that. 

Harvard, just Harvard, I know you don’t believe in Harvard, you need the research but Harvard defines sedentary lifestyle as sitting more than six hours a day. The real health guys are saying, like James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, who’s the nations preeminent researcher on obesity is saying, “Hey look, we really need to try to limit sitting to two hours a day”. I’ll tell you what, if you have a commute and then sit at the table and have dinner with your family, boom, you’ve just hit two hours. 

What’s really, people start tracking this, it’s like there’s a big hand brake on their performance. We can get into the research around the fact that the World Health Organization now puts a sedentary behavior lifestyle as the fourth biggest global killer annually or we can go into the United States and see that for the first time in the history of the world, in the US there are more obese Americans than non-obese Americans and sure that’s McDonalds and Coke but it’s also about our background environmental load. We can see that in the United States diabetes is on the surge and has increased 400% in the last ten years.

We can keep going down. The injury rates in kids under 12, the ACL injury rate up 400% the last ten years. Kids are weaker than they were a generation ago, they’re slower than they were a generation ago. All the research has really ended up painting this picture and it’s painting the picture around the behavior that we just see as innocuous and is a vampire on our physiology and a vampire on our mechanics. 

Let’s take a little mind experiment for example. Is it okay to pick something up heavy with a rounded back?


We’re told not.


We’re told not, right? That’s because we know you can do it, but that is a good mechanism for problems in your spine in the long haul. If everyone’s like, “Hey, lift with your legs, not with your back”, we’ve pretty much all heard that. Is it okay then to sit with a totally rainbowed broken spine for 14 hours a day?

If you say not, what the research has said, is that these positions don’t really correlate with pain very well. We don’t want to correlate them with pain, we want to correlate them with function that when you’re sitting like a shrimp, your jaw doesn’t work the same way, your pelvic floor doesn’t turn on very well, you have compromised breathing, your head doesn’t turn very far. 


Mentally, yeah.


Problem after problem, right, of course. Forget the fact that this is about performance and you can see all the fidgeting that I’m doing, I just keep changing my position as the other one gets stale. The idea here is that when we think about running the experiment for the long haul, we have to be looking at the environment. You can’t say sleeping is really important and then not say that not moving and being in these wretched shapes is also not important. 

What we’ve seen is people haven’t had the skill or the training to think about standing or standing efficiently, they also don’t have some basic maintenance because if you stand and your feet get sore, you just learned something about yourself. We’ve also learned that people go from zero to sit, or sit to stand and they last two hours instead of training for it like a marathon. I think one of you guys is sitting and the other one is standing which I think is cool, right?


Yes, I’m standing.


What’s interesting is that we looked at your functional MRIs and your brain is rocking and your brain is sleepy and we look at kids with ADHD and moving and education gaps and childhood obesity. Choose something that’s important to you, whether it’s corporate dollars or healthcare, the number one most dangerous work you can possibly do is in the United States is not drilling for oil, it’s not underwater cave diving, blowing up nuclear sharks, it’s working at a desk. The desk worker, the office worker has more muscular [inaudible 00:49:24] injuries than any other [inaudible 00:49:26] across the population.

Now at some point you’re like, “Huh, so I shouldn’t be afraid of saying …”, no, absolutely not but try to limit your sitting because it’s an easy way to be more sexy, burn more calories, improve your running positions, et cetera. Inoculate yourself from technology. The Kaiser foundation here in the US, Kaiser the medical group, did a big, huge longitudinal study and looked at kids from 8 to 18 or 12 to 18, 8 to 18 I think, could be wrong, it’s in the book, but they found out that kids are spending an average of 7 1/2 hours a day on a screen. Sure, your heads not going to fall off if you look down but if you’re spending 2 1/2 hours a day on your smart phone with your head bent over, that’s not great. 

What we fail to remember or stitch together is that practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. The reason we train positions and drill technique so much is that it becomes automatic. Because our brains are wired for movement and patterns, ie positions, not for tissues, when I’m stressed or tired and fatigued, I will always default to the time and position that I’ve trained in the most. Which means, that’s you. If your head is ten pounds and for every center inch in front of your body is plus ten pounds, maybe that doesn’t matter very much you’re just sitting but what happens if you’re running a marathon? What is the displacement load on the neck? What happens when we start adding oscillations and cycles? Then you say to yourself, “Well that’s just running”. Humans run, is that okay to be a bent over lady?

What we’re seeing is this is an easy way to radically change global health and global behavior with a very simple intervention and you just need a box, you need to be able to put your laptop up a little bit higher, think differently about your environment and enjoy the ride of being human.


If somebody was to buy your book, Kelly, what could they expect from it?


Deskbound, we try to give people really simple templates of saying, “Here’s the way you can think about your life conceptually so that you can divide your time into optional, non-optional sitting. When it’s non-optional, let’s sit with some skill. Let’s not smash our hamstrings and drive our femurs to the top of the socket and turn our trunk off. We know, for example, that gets braced in a long, habitually braced, if I give you an arch support, what happens to the feet over the time? They start to weaken, right? You start to use the arch support. If I gave you a belt and said, “Hey, wear this belt, this industrial back belt all the time”, what would happen to your trunk musculature? 


Same thing.


Yeah, it would weaken.


Right? We know that because we’ve actually done that. We gave everyone belts and the back injury … but if you’re always using your chair, your abs are turning off in the back of the chair. If you’re slouching and just using the indigenous support. We can sit with skill and then we can also bring some consciousness.

Let me give you an example. Chevron Corporation here that most people are familiar with, they lock the computers at the desk every 55 minutes. Every hour they lock out for an hour and everyone stands up and walks around. When they have board meetings or inside these meetings, the gong goes off every 20 minutes, people stand up, they keep talking, the move around a little bit, they take a stretch, they keep talking and they sit back down. What’s happened is they’ve just built a culture around a little bit more movement. They’ve seen magical changes in every aspect of that.

What we try to do is give people this template and idea that let’s stand with more skill, let’s make sure that the environment fits the physiology, that the work station fits the human geometry and we don’t try to fit ourselves to the work station.

The last half of the book is just about how to basically do some basic soft tissue maintenance on yourself. Here’s some ten minute routines about making sure that your tissues are sliding, that your musculature isn’t stiff, you can even have a, it’s not a stretch to say that people who work on the computer a lot get neck pain, that is not a stretch, right? What do we do about it? In America, we eat opiates, we apparently we just all take Oxycotin trying to blunt that and have a margarita. These are simple myofascial problems that everyone should know how to fix. It’s unskilled care. 

What we’ve tried to do is really give people a glimpse of the research so that they make up their minds about this themselves and not be fear mongered but understand that this is a choice and that sometimes we can make a better decision and we can also choose to change our environment. 

Our daughters for example are now at the first all standing school in the world. We have four kids who are at standing, moving tables. There’s a bar at the bottom that swings back and forth, if the kids want to sit down they can sit on the floor, they can move around, they have agency in the environment. If there’s a laptop or an ipad on there, they’re automatically protected, we don’t even have to talk about good mechanics of the shoulders because they’re [blocked 00:54:40], they’re automatically in these positions.

Since we’ve started our initiative with stand up kids, we’ve tracked and we have about 27 thousand kids in the US in the last year that have converted to the standing, moving situation. Standing still is still an error. The idea is to be constantly in motion. We see this as the simplest, easiest, no brainer change. If you just want to …

Let’s say for example, James Levine, he’s the Mayo Clinic guy, he’s the guy who coined the term sitting is the new smoking, that’s from James Levine. He did a great activity where he, for people who were just moving more, he overfed them 500 calories a day. That’s a lot, that’s a half bottle of wine. He also gave the same 500 calories a day to people who just worked at an office. The people who worked in an office shockingly gained a bunch of weight. People who did not work in an office and were moving more did not gain the weight. They were able to buffer that 500 calories in what’s called non-exercise activity thermogenesis. 

What we’re seeing is, and even in the kids that when you stand, the kids actually, they have measured at the Texas A&M, a delta of two body mass index percentage points. Kids who sit tracked the national average and go up, and kids who stood over two years went down, so a delta of four in that two year period which a radical change. My wife who is a two time world champion superstar, if she just decides to work standing and moving, instead of sitting, she burns an additional 95 thousand calories a year. You know how much ice cream that represents to me? I’m going to spend that ice cream doing something, that is killer.

This is a real simple way to get people moving more when they otherwise can’t because they’ve dropped off their kids at work, to school and they’ve flown to work and they’re so busy and now they’re going to cram in a work run and then what we’re seeing is we’re not appreciating that people are really doing the best they can. We talk to people like they’re idiots and they are not. When you give people solutions and show them how to go up, they’ll work it out, they always do. This is an easy way to make radical change in how you feel and how you function. 


I’m so glad you said that, Kelly. For people listening to this, wherever, like us in Australia, where would we get a copy of the book, is it out and is it available over here?


It is, you can get it on Amazon, you can probably get it on Barnes & Noble. We’re really proud of it and the people who have been part of this revolution, we’re partnering with serious thinkers about the problems of obesity and this epidemic. This is not some gimmick, we’re not selling books, we’re not making a fire so that we can benefit from it, even Michelle Obama has her Just Move initiative which is really taking a big, systematic look at childhood obesity and their initiatives around that. They have selected us as one of their partners because we see that this, especially in the inner city and especially in poor populations where there are less richness in extracurricular activities of young people, this is such an easy way of really inoculating kids against the sedentary technology-driven choices that we’re making. 

iPads didn’t exist when you were kids, maybe you played some video games, we’re always going to watch some TV but you’ll notice that I have a cute couch in the back, but when I watch Game of Thrones I don’t just sit on the couch legs dangling, I sit on the floor or I sit cross legged on the couch and use that once more time of actually letting the human physiology reflect itself. 

We see this as this is a radical social experiment, but you guys, you can go into 60 minute sports Australia and there’s a great story there about some of your classrooms, a classroom of schools switching to a standing, moving work desk. What we’re seeing is that if people want to appeal to the aspects of their ego that matter most to them, ie going faster, looking better naked, it is a no brainer, it’s an easy one to do. 


Yeah great, mate, great. Once you go in and change the culture people are going to want to change anyway. It’s just getting in there and making them think differently.


It is, we just take it for granted. Some of it, remember, these are patterned behaviors. There are so many excellent people doing work about, The Power of Habit is such a wonderful book and how difficult it is to change a pattern, these are complex biologic hard wiring changes that happen in your brain that if you engage in a certain nueropathway, a behavior, that pathway is reinforced with [mylan 00:59:40], it’s a physical [strain 00:59:41] and you default to that. One of the defaults is that I look around for a chair. What happens if there’s no chairs? Amazing.


We have a couple of questions that we ask everyone on the show before we wrap up. 


Yes, these are my real calves, I know everyone wants to know.


I don’t believe you.


The first one is, what are your non-negotiables to be the best version of yourself? 


You better sleep, you better be in touch with your feelings and deal with your stress. For me, honestly, making sure that I never forget that the point of all this, all the work everything is to spend more time with my wife and my kids. That’s it. We run everything through that filter. My wife and I have this thing once a week we call the feelings meeting, because we work together, she’s the wonderful CEO and brains and brawn and we have business meetings and work meetings and all these other things and family meetings but once a week we have this thing called the feelings meeting. I think that there is a lot of richness in the internal environment that we’re missing because we’re not in touch with that because we’re working so hard.


Awesome. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 


It’s really practice. Chop wood, carry water. We’ve heard that a million times in a billion different ways. There is no overnight solution, overnight success, here’s the metaphor. My best friend is a guy named Matt Vincent who’s a world champion highland games athlete. Someone is like, “Hey Matt, how do you get really strong?” He’s like, “It’s really simple, you just squat heavy once a week for ten years, let me know how it goes”.

I think it’s just human beings, we fail to really appreciate what we really need to do is get a dose and response and run the experiment a lot longer. Stop being so impatient, I think the process works, it always works. That’s it, you just need more laps, you need more time and by the time you’re 40 and you start to figure some of this out, then you’re like, “God, I wasted a lot of laps”.


Ain’t that the truth. For everyone listening to this, if they want to get more Kelly Starrett, best place to go?


We have a pretty robust Youtube channel, Mobility WOD, workout of the day, that’s what we’re trying to do is really get into people consciousness that they can re-empower themselves. We have two levels, we have 600 videos on the Youtube and on the site we have another about 1,500 videos. We do daily programming for people there, here’s what we want you to do is spend 10 or 15 minutes working on your positions, and then the books, we’re on the internets, there’s plenty of podcasts out there. The main thing is our messages that, “Look, you are sophisticated enough and are the person responsible for solving these problems in your own family and yourself and there’s no reason you can’t slowly become an expert around this if you just get a dose and response. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you need to go see for yourself and if you put a Lacrosse ball on your glute, your hamstrings and it doesn’t do anything, if you don’t run faster, feel better, then you’re excused.


Kelly thanks so much for your time today, we really appreciate it. 


My pleasure guys, thanks so much, cheers. We’re coming back to Australia.


Thanks, mate.

Kelly Starrett

This podcast features Kelly Starrett who is a coach, physical therapist, author, speaker, and creator of this blog, which has revolutionized how athletes think about human movement and athletic performance. Coach Kelly Starrett received his Doctor of Physical Therapy in 2007 from Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, California.

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1 Reply to “Kelly Starrett: Deskbound, Ice Baths & Mobility”
Robyn says:

Seriously love the fact that you can read the transcript .. by the way!

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