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Juliet Starrett: We are pumped to have Gabby Reece on the podcast today. She is a legend on and off the court. Not only is she a pro beach volleyball world champion, but she’s also a New York Times bestselling author, model, actress, Nike’s first female spokeswoman, TV host, and leader in the world of health and wellness. Her lifelong passion for fitness and healthy living led her to create HIGHX, a high-intensity group fitness program that is a platform to inspire men and women worldwide. Gabby is an avid proponent of empowering people to take responsibility for their own health. Together with her husband, surfing legend Laird Hamilton, she founded XPT, which stands for Extreme Performance Training, which has quickly become a captivating new way of strengthening muscles, increasing cardiovascular and endurance aptitudes, enhancing mental focus, and incorporating unique breathing techniques into the workout.
Juliet Starrett: Her book, My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life, has continued to inspire women across the globe to challenge traditional norms and find personal happiness. Gabby has been featured in countless magazines as a contributor, model, and as a featured athlete and celebrity. She has also appeared on more TV shows than we can name here, as well as in film. Gabby has become a role model to women worldwide, including me, in achieving peak fitness, good health, and overall well being for themselves and their entire family. We are so excited to have her on the podcast today.
Juliet Starrett: Welcome to The Ready State podcast, Gabby. We are super excited to have you.
Gabby Reece: I can hear it in your voice, J Starr. I can hear the excitement.
Kelly Starrett: Hey, if you’re just catching The Ready State podcast for the first time, Gabby, she’s like family.
Juliet Starrett: She’s our family.
Kelly Starrett: So this is honestly a little bit so familiar because we love Gabby and she is … well, she’s the older sister I didn’t know I needed.
Gabby Reece: Yeah. Notice how you said, “the older.” That’s right.
Juliet Starrett: The older.
Kelly Starrett: I meant like the head sister.
Gabby Reece: I’m totally kidding. Okay, what are we talking about? Let’s just get into it.
Juliet Starrett: Let’s get into it, okay. So as you know, this whole season is about aging and longevity, and we have you on because you’re really good at it. Before we get to that, though, unless people have been under a rock, they should know about your storied and amazing volleyball career. But I’m hoping you can just give us a little bit of background on how you found volleyball and a little bit about your college and professional career.
Gabby Reece: Okay, so you want it really short? I’m 6’3″.
Juliet Starrett: So it found you?
Gabby Reece: And I have no other skills except to jump around. No. So the quick story is, I sort of really fell into volleyball my junior year of high school. Late, I know, for all you psycho parents out there who have your kids doing 19 months of club volleyball. It was late.
Kelly Starrett: I actually didn’t know that. I didn’t know it was junior year.
Gabby Reece: It was. I dabbled in the Caribbean, I grew up in the Caribbean, moved to Florida my junior year, highly organized. You know, you’re in America, then. And I am 6’3″, 15 years old at the time. I’m obviously not 15 anymore. They were like, “You’re going to play volleyball and basketball.” And you know what’s so great? The expectation is that I would be good at it. That’s actually not the case. But I could take direction, to be totally honest. I got more offers for basketball than volleyball because I had a better basketball coach in high school and decided that after I went to a BC camp, a Blue-Chip camp, for basketball that I liked the idea of a net between my opponents and myself, especially girls that were 6’8″ or girls named Lady who could almost bounce off the bounce slam dunk and they were 5’9″. So it was like, “Yeah, maybe I should play volleyball.”
Gabby Reece: I went to Florida State. I had an incredible coach at Florida State that helped me not only fall in love with being on a team, but also taught me just some really valuable life lessons. After I finished playing four years at Florida State … I think because I was so late to the game, I still had a great deal of enthusiasm and I really enjoyed that environment of working hard and meeting yourself each day. I think there’s something that was really empowering for me, and also being part of a family, probably one that I didn’t really have growing up. And so I think I was still in love with the sport.
Gabby Reece: Then I moved. I was working at the time in New York in fashion. I had been for about three years and I actually paid to play my last two years at Florida State so I wouldn’t get in trouble with the NCAA. I moved to Miami after I finished school. There I picked up the beach game and after about a year and half of that, I had somebody there say, “You should move to California and play professionally.” And luckily I didn’t know better and I was like, “That’s such a good idea.”
Gabby Reece: I moved to California. I was drafted on a four-person tour right away and the rest … I had a very good college career, I think. I believe I have records still at the school, so either they have had not many talented athletes or their schedule has shortened up or something. But I have records that are close to 30 years old there, and I had a solid professional career. If I can be honest, I think I was always juggling many things because the platform was so small, so I had a lot of side hustles. I was doing other things that supported my habit of playing professional volleyball and I don’t know, I think it’s one of the greatest things for me because … I’ve met a lot of athletes that are groomed to be champions. I certainly was not one of them. And also, it was just about winning and losing, and for me, I think I used sport as a way for not only opportunity but really, if I can be honest, personal development.
Kelly Starrett: That’s an unusually very mature way to think about your career. I’m sure you thought about that when you were 19 that way. One of the things that I think is really interesting about getting to hang out with you and then hang out with the people who are hanging out with you, is that you really can see the whole elephant. I mean, you’re not just holding the snout. You know what it’s like to play in college, you know what it’s like to try to be a struggling professional athlete, you know what the demands of being a face of a sport. And then also, those things sometimes come at large costs and that we aren’t approaching sport in life with this longevity piece. I mean, your knee is a great example, and just the costs and the demands of sports.
Kelly Starrett: So how do you think now … if you go talk to yourself then, what would you change a little bit? Because I think as we talk about aging, we can’t talk about aging unless we’re talking about where we came from and what we were doing then.
Gabby Reece: I think it’s a great question. I think, for me … and I said this to a group of athletes recently … that I would have paid more attention to the things that were in a deep way uncomfortable to me, which would be flexibility and mobility. I, of course … like everybody, really … was okay with discomfort, so the pain of working hard and being out of breath and all of those types of discomfort, but that deep, unsettling discomfort that mobility and flexibility can be for an athlete like myself, I would have paid more attention to that. Because the reason I got a knee replacement three years ago at the age of 46 … which is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty young … was the repetitive trauma, yes, but it was also if I had other things more mobile and working correctly, I could have redistributed the load and my body could have handled it. I definitely believe that.
Gabby Reece: Laird is a great example of somebody who somehow manages to do all the hard big things and all the hard little things. And I was sort of like, “Hey, I only have so much time in the day, so I’m going to focus on that.” So I think I would have told myself that, because if I had understood, “Just do 30 days in a row, just do 50 days in a row, just do 100, you’ll see the difference,” and I didn’t have the patience for that.
Juliet Starrett: I think it’s so interesting you say that because this is always the issue for us in the work we do, which is getting people to care before they get injured. Other than hearing from people like you who wish they could go back and spend more time working on their mechanics and mobility, do you have any other words of wisdom about why people should care before they get injured?
Gabby Reece: Yeah. I think it’s interesting because people even ask me now, “Well, why did you train so hard?” And I’m like, if you’ve been in sports at all … or let’s say you’re a survivor of cancer, J Starr. You don’t need to be told so many times how important your health is, when … Let’s say, for example, your knee is so hurt that you can’t get off a toilet or you’re going through a treatment where you think to yourself, “In this very moment, I’m very clear about all the little simple day-to-day things I’ve taken for granted. And so, if I can contribute to making all of that easier so I don’t have to meet that again, I will.” And unfortunately … Well actually, and fortunately, most of us kind of go through life until we’ve hit an accumulation point if we haven’t had a catastrophic incident. Then we’re breaking down or we’re not well and the problem is we don’t have the mindset or the skillset to know how to tackle that.
Gabby Reece: The other interesting thing is, people actually don’t have the belief of how much they can impact their wellness. So they sort of surrender that to, “Well, this is happening to me.” So I think athletes understand it because they’ve not been able to move, and I think people who’ve had something to contend with on a health level, either through a loved one or themselves go, “Now, when we really get down to it, one of our greatest assets is our health”, and then having people … See, what’s interesting, though, is how do you have guides to help you put together a real strategy and plan about how to do that? Because you might even have the desire, but you don’t actually know what to do.
Kelly Starrett: Let me ask you this in the retrospect, because we both have stubborn, strong women daughters. I do feel like ultimately you are a reflection of your environment. We just didn’t know then. We just did what everyone else did. “Oh, I don’t need to stretch? I won’t stretch. I don’t need to eat like a human being, it’s fine.”
Juliet Starrett: Just eat Red Vines because they have protein.
Kelly Starrett: Right?
Gabby Reece: God, I miss Red Vines.
Kelly Starrett: We actually at one time looked at the package and we saw that a Red Vine had a single gram of protein, and we were like, “This is amazing. All we have to do is eat 10 or 15 of these and we’re set.” And then we realized it was 10 Red Vines equaled one gram of protein. After we were about a tub deep.
Gabby Reece: Yeah. We never do that math when we’re looking at the sugar, right? But somehow with the protein, you’re like, “Oh yeah.”
Juliet Starrett: It’s totally fine.
Kelly Starrett: But I was-
Juliet Starrett: And hey they’re-
Kelly Starrett: Hang on.
Juliet Starrett: They’re fat free, though. They’re fat free, so that was important.
Kelly Starrett: Do you think that there’s a … I mean, we’re in our 40s, you and Laird are in your 50s. Do you think that there’s-
Gabby Reece: No I’m not. I have two more months before I’m 50, holy hell.
Kelly Starrett: Excuse me. We went to high school together. I totally apologize.
Gabby Reece: I’m just joking.
Kelly Starrett: Do you think that there’s a most important decade? Because we have this incredible machine. We buffer it, we run it hard, you can put it away wet. I mean, you can just ride this thing until you can’t. Is there a point when it really matters? Does it really matter in your 20s? I mean, the people who train with you are varied from different aspects of their career. Some guys are finding you late, some guys like Danny find you very early. Is there a maximum decade that you think we really got to pay attention and buckle down because it’s going to pay dividends when we’re 60 and 70, 80, 110?
Gabby Reece: Yeah. I mean, I hate to put limitations on it because I have seen … For me, it would be how hard are you going? So if you are running real fast, then you better come late 20s into your 30s. If you’re a civilian who has a real job and unfortunately you’re sitting in a chair and doing that, you could probably pull off a little bit later. Because the great thing about athletes is they’re so high performance, but they will hit that wall quicker because they get there faster.
Gabby Reece: But it also varies. Obviously it varies on your genetics and your overall lifestyle, because let’s say you’re not doing some of the mobility things, but you live a pretty clean life and your eating’s pretty good and you’re getting to bed and you’re in healthy relationships with friends and such. So I think people have to realize that all of that is part of the deal. And so if you said to me, a guy or girl who’s doing something that is really hard on your body … maybe contact and things … I think late 20s would be pretty important. And it actually would be important … Let’s say you’re an NFL player … so that you’d be walking at 60. And you see this with very tall basketball players, same thing where, “Let’s get them in their early 30s.”
Gabby Reece: But again, you can’t have that conversation without the whole story. So then you’ll get these guys … or girls. And I’m not sexist, but it seems to be a little bit more of a masculine trait, where they’re sort of like they train so hard and then they’re out until 2:00 in the morning, and then they’re eating whatever. And you want to say, “Okay, so you’re doing all this training. It’s pretty brutal. You’re demanding this of your body, but yet you’re not taking care of the other buckets.” So I think that if you’re not paying attention to a lot of it, then sooner’s better. If you’re in a rigorous contact sport, probably a little sooner.
Gabby Reece: I think you can really thrive forever if you catch some things in your early 30s. Having said that, I’m still of the belief, if you haven’t done, again, some really catastrophic damage to yourself, that today’s the day. And I’m 49, so I think that that’s also partially what keeps me going, is I still believe you can actually make that better. I can’t be younger, but I could make that better. Because I keep thinking when I am 60, 70, 80, I want to get off the couch and the toilet without putting my hands on my knees or my legs to get up and I want to have a high quality of life. So I still think always. But if you’re talking about straight athletes, I mean, that’s what I think. Now, if you’re talking about an athlete that shoots a gun or a bow and arrow, that’s a different conversation.
Juliet Starrett: I think I have sort of a two-part question. First of all, how has your training changed over the years? And then, secondarily, what are you prioritizing right now in your own training?
Kelly Starrett: Or living, right?
Juliet Starrett: Or living, because I know-
Kelly Starrett: You know what I mean?
Juliet Starrett: Yeah.
Kelly Starrett: You guys have a pretty rad system that seems to be very consistent and it works.
Gabby Reece: Yeah, I think the training in ways is shorter and harder, if that makes sense. I’m trying to find the ways to stay strong. That’s been another thing as we talk about aging, where there are days where literally I’m like, “I feel like I’m melting.”
Kelly Starrett: I can’t handle the volume anymore. That’s my killer, the volume.
Gabby Reece: Well that’s it. You can’t crush your joints every … It doesn’t work. So I think for me, that’s why I do like the water or things that are of low impact but that reinforce those better patterns. That’s really important to me. And then as far as a human being, that’s so much harder, working on those nuanced things about your own hard wiring. So for me, I’m trying not to use anger as a response to fear. That’s a big one for me. So I can medal up pretty quickly as a response to when something makes me uncomfortable. I go sort of in attack mode, so I’ve been working on that for several years. Because I also believe my lack of flexibility in my body is connected to some of my lack of flexibility in my personality, which has served me very, very well, but only to a certain point.
Gabby Reece: And for people who think that these things are not connected, certainly they are connected, right? So I think it’s really saying, “I’m going to expose myself at least to a couple people and certainly at least to myself.” I have to be honest at least with myself about, like, “Huh, you could do that better.” And acceptance, and also not trying to control things or react so quickly. So these are things I’m trying to do. I’m shortening my training. Some days maybe it’s like … The other day I trained with Laird … which is oftentimes a mistake … and Elijah and I was somehow in the middle of them. So we were in three lanes and I’m like, “Why am I in the middle?” And even though it was work, it was very cardio oriented. So then maybe today was more of a resistance, of a lift, of something else, because I’m like, “Okay, let’s see if we can balance some of this out.”
Gabby Reece: The other thing I always tell people, too, is, “Hey listen. You might schedule Wednesday as your day off, but if you feel badass on Wednesday, train on Wednesday because maybe Sunday’s your day you’re tired, or Saturday.” So I think that that’s really important, too, is getting that relationship with where you’re really at. Not, “I don’t feel like it,” but, “Hey, I’m genuinely tired so I’m going to actively recover and drink extra, maybe eat more calories, and take care of myself today and get back after it tomorrow.”
Juliet Starrett: Kelly and I have really tried to tap into this desire to train feeling rather than having some sort of set schedule like three days one, one day off. We’re just trying to-
Kelly Starrett: It just doesn’t work.
Juliet Starrett: Yeah, we’re just trying to really pay attention. If we just really don’t feel like doing something, we don’t.
Kelly Starrett: Especially since that drive … I mean, I can’t speak to everyone else, but I wake up thinking about what I want to play, do, train, lift for the day. And if you-
Juliet Starrett: I don’t wake up with that feeling.
Kelly Starrett: I mean, it’s hollow, like someone has cut away my demon. And then I really worry that I’m like, “Oh, this is all in my head. It’s not real.” But then when it comes back I’m like, “Oh, I really was listening. I didn’t want to train. My body was telling me what’s up.”
Gabby Reece: Yeah. And I do think, especially if you’re eating’s pretty in check, people don’t realize it is not really about killing yourself six, seven days a week. It’s about training intelligently, doing diverse things. Maybe one or two days is pretty hard. And so I think that that also at times can be a misconception that it’s just misery each day. And in fact, sometimes it’s like, “Yeah, no, I’m just kind of getting some of this done.”
Juliet Starrett: Speaking of eating, I know that people would love to hear what you and Laird’s nutrition routine is and how that is … I mean, we already talked about Red Vines so we know there’s that evolution, but how it’s evolved over the years and what you’re focused on nutritionally right now.
Gabby Reece: Oh my goodness. Well, I grew up … The funny thing is we carbo loaded before our games. Classic.
Juliet Starrett: It’s so crazy. People are still doing that.
Gabby Reece: Come on.
Juliet Starrett: It’s still a thing. I just saw someone on Facebook saying, “My daughter’s soccer tournament’s in Vegas. Where can be go carbo load beforehand?” I was like, “Wah.”
Gabby Reece: Yeah, so she can bonk on her 12 minutes of energy. Yeah, no, I grew up with that thinking, so I even took that early into my career, like, “There’s nothing wrong with a bagel. I mean, it’s just a carbohydrate,” versus, “Oh, the glycemic index on that bugger is off the charts.” Oh, we didn’t talk about that until late 90s. But I would say now … First of all, I will say that I/we eat a lot less. I think a lot of my past eating … It’s different when you’re competing or let’s say you’re going on a long trek. Certainly your caloric intake increases with your appetite. But if you just really pay attention, I think I eat so much less. And I try to eat when I’m hungry, so in the morning I just have coffee with a bunch of healthy fat until about 12:00. I may or may not have lunch, depending on how I’m feeling. If I’m like, “Hey, I could ride it out and eat a really early dinner and have it be big,” I sometimes will do that.
Gabby Reece: And as close to the source as possible. Nothing fancy, plants and animals. And even … last night was a vegetarian night because it’s realizing, too, when you get into the habit of eating certain things because that’s what you do, like meat. And then sometimes you’re recognizing, “I need to back off that.” And Paul Chek talks a lot about listening to your body and not just a belief or an ideology. So I try to eat for how I’m really feeling, which might be like some nights I might be like, “I don’t know why I would like more green or more sweet potato,” randomly, or more fat. But it’s definitely not rocket science, what we’re doing. And like most everyone, I recognize that sugar is … that’s what I’m trying to minimize always, and it’s in everything.
Kelly Starrett: One of the things that is kind of a bummer for me when I come to your house is there’s very little sugar.
Gabby Reece: Is there? I feel like there’s always sugar at my house.
Kelly Starrett: It’s like BYOS. I have to bring my own sugar and sneak it into the basement.
Gabby Reece: I know. It’s like we all have to hide from Laird and then go to bed at 8:00 or something.
Kelly Starrett: I’m afraid of having straight turmeric injected into my bones.
Gabby Reece: I know, right?
Kelly Starrett: One of the things that is hidden in that sugar … and you guys, I have to credit you, really did change our lives. We stopped drinking when we realized that, one, we needed to model this differently for our family in terms of how we were talking to our girls about drinking and stress regulation. And we weren’t big drinkers to begin with, but we noticed that when it went away, a lot of things got better like sleep and stress and how I performed. How did you guys come to that realization? I know Laird’s story a little bit and he’s talked about it on the podcast, Larry.
Gabby Reece: Yeah, Larry.
Juliet Starrett: That’s Larry.
Kelly Starrett: I feel like this is one of the keystones of living forever, is man, you got to pay attention to that.
Gabby Reece: I know, and sober’s so boring, isn’t it? No. Okay, so with Laird, we have very different paths. His was basically for 10 years … at least the first 10 years I knew him … he was a high functioning alcoholic, so it was only pinot noir, it was only at home, he was still in bed before 9:00. But it was every day and Laird, as you guys know, he doesn’t do anything sort of. I think I talked to him that way in my mid-20s like, “Well, why couldn’t you just kind of?” And he looked at me like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” And so I think he realized that that would probably inevitably demo his whole life. I think he was like, “Oh, I should stop.” So that was his path, so for 12 years he hasn’t done that.
Gabby Reece: And for me, quite frankly, if I can be honest, I grew up with a lot of dysfunction around me, adults that were not in control, and one of those things I associate it with was alcohol. And so I really remember thinking as a very young person, “This doesn’t seem really to work out. I mean, it seems kind of fun for a minute and, like, ‘Oh, it’s Carnival and they’re dancing in the street.’ But it just kind of seems like shit blows up everywhere.” So for me, even in college, I think I got drunk twice in college. I was pretty much like, “Could I make my life be a place I want to be all the time and not have to escape from?” And you know what? Clearly you can’t. It’s not like every living moment I’m like, “This is amazing.”
Gabby Reece: However, for me, it felt important. But I have to be honest, it’s probably connected to some of my control issues. I have to be in control. Is, “Let’s see if I can get through this for real as who I am in this moment.” And it doesn’t mean sometimes I don’t think like, “A shot of tequila would probably make Brody’s behavior a lot funnier.” But I try to just kind of go … And then, you know what it is, once it’s not part of your every day life and your friends aren’t really doing it, I just think that’s easier. Having said that, I don’t poo poo it for other people. I did this beach lecture in, of all places in Canada, and they were all on board for 40 minutes like, “Oh Gabby, she’s amazing.” And then somebody said, “Do you drink?” and I was like, “No,” and they were like …
Kelly Starrett: “We can’t even trust you.”
Juliet Starrett: Yeah. It is interesting, though. I’ve noticed that people think that the act of not drinking is in and of itself a judgment of them.
Gabby Reece: And it’s not.
Juliet Starrett: Yeah, it’s not.
Gabby Reece: I can flash you my inside of my coat and tell you all of the things that I am managing of my flaws, and so it isn’t about that. It’s just me having a really personal, “This is my personal quest with it.” And also saying, “Hey, is this celebratory or am I medicating?” And so I think it’s all of that.
Kelly Starrett: I think that really is the perfect segue because what we’ve started to realize is, wow, we really didn’t feel good. In the moment, it took the edge off, I could come down, I had a glass of wine. And then I didn’t sleep well, and that really started to back up. And clearly, everyone knows that there are these tranches of things that are important. You aggregate. You have to eat not like a child at some point, you have to maybe just consider not drinking all the time. But for us, it was about sleep. And one of the things that I know about your family is that you guys really protect your sleep. It’s got to feel like that’s got to be part of this magic because I feel like we’re just burning it at three ends and then we’re so stressed out, we can’t sleep. I mean, Laird is a ninja. You hang out with Laird, all the sudden he’s like, “Late. I’m going to bed.”
Juliet Starrett: “Late.”
Kelly Starrett: Have you always known that, or did you gather that skill a little bit later on? Because it’s something that Juliet and I protect like … It’s the number one thing we protect.
Gabby Reece: Yeah. I think it’s not really me. I think Laird is … coming from a surfing background, surfer’s typically go to bed early because they get up so early because in the old days, you wanted to be in the water before the wind came up or before too many people were there. So this is somebody who’s always gotten up at 5:00 AM or what have you. And then after a while I get bored hanging out by myself and I go, “Well, I guess I should go to bed.” But it was not as easy for me, and quite frankly, it’s always been hard. I’m always trying to figure out little cocktails of magnesium or this and that to get to sleep because I’m a bit of a mental grinder. This is where I try to work everything out in my sleep, or all those conversations I want to have, or the list of things. So notebooks, obviously, by the bedside help.
Gabby Reece: But Laird’s been the big force. You guys have talked a lot about it. He’s heavy duty about getting to bed pretty early. I try my best not to do too much in the room. Sometimes I do because I’m like, “I have not done one thing that was just mindless fun for me in one day,” and sometimes I do it there. And that’s against a little bit our house policy. I own it 100%, but I’m like, for me to watch 20 minutes of a stand-up comedian or documentary, what that gives me is … I’m like, “Okay, I’ll trade it,” at that time. Our room is cold, it’s 64, 65. It’s dark. He sleeps on a chiliPAD. I do not. And I have found that sleep does beget sleep, so the more I get into that rhythm for me as a person who’s not a good sleeper, it does really help. And it certainly helps the disposition of the kids and also how then we interact with each other.
Juliet Starrett: We were really obsessed with prioritizing sleep in our kids and people would say to us, “Man, your kids are so lovely and they’re so nice,” and Kelly and I always thought, “Man, we just make them sleep.” We’re not doing anything else good.
Gabby Reece: Oh yeah.
Juliet Starrett: Or well, excuse me.
Kelly Starrett: And interesting is that Juliet and I have become so sensitive, because we sleep in … it’s the perfect setup. We both talk about, “I can’t wait to go to the sleep room and black out.” And what I’ve found is that when I … I’m now so sensitive … I just was out teaching in New York and basically I’m getting up at 2:30 in the morning to make these things happen … 2:30 local time in California, 11:00 in New York. I’m sleeping in a strange place, new bed, and I do that for three days and I come back and it’s taken me a week to put myself back together. It really has ruined me.
Kelly Starrett: Then Juliet and I were like, “Well, maybe we just need to drink all the time and not sleep so that we’re not sensitized.” We just are puffy and … I can’t lose my hair. I’ve already lost my hair.
Gabby Reece: Right, and you’re not precious. There’s an interesting thing, though, about not being precious. Listen, I think it’s saying, “Hey, when I can get it and control it, I will, and when I can’t …”
Kelly Starrett: Don’t worry about it.
Gabby Reece: “… I’m going to roll with it and I’m going to be the best version of myself in that circumstance and I’ll worry about it in each scenario.”
Kelly Starrett: I’ve definitely helped my friend with his luggage full of magnets that he was putting under his bed when we were traveling, and I’m like, “Maybe that’s excessive. Maybe that’s a little precious.”
Juliet Starrett: That may be a little precious.
Gabby Reece: Yeah, because the stress around it is worse than not the sleep.
Kelly Starrett: That’s right.
Gabby Reece: So people that are like, “Oh my God, I have to eat a meal. It’s been two hours.” It’s like, okay, first of all you don’t need to eat a meal, and second of all, this stress that you’re creating is craziness.
Juliet Starrett: Yeah. We’ve been trying to teach our kids that. They’re like, “I need to eat dinner,” and we’re like, “But are you actually hungry? Do you need to eat? Are you experiencing hunger?”
Kelly Starrett: Welcome to the Starrett’s. We’re the fun house.
Juliet Starrett: We’re the … yeah. God. Womp womp. Talk about womp womp.
Kelly Starrett: You don’t need to eat.
Juliet Starrett: Exactly. I just want to switch and make sure we get time to talk about XPT, and I’m hoping you can tell us what XPT is. You and Laird are always doing such a good job at researching and innovating, and XPT is your latest iteration of that. So what is it and what are you seeing-
Kelly Starrett: And full disclosure, XPT and the principles therein have fundamentally changed our lives and given us more reserve. One of the things that I want to make sure that we’re talking about here is that we’re not trying to frame this as, “Do this, otherwise you’re going to be crippled and decrepit.” Instead, we’re saying, “Man, if you start to take care of some of these basics earlier on, we can actually get more work done and feel better.”
Gabby Reece: I agree with that. What I appreciate about that is sometimes I know it’s very daunting for people, and what I always say is, “Listen, this is just an invitation and we’re just having a discussion around these things so that you have things to consider to support you.” But not, “Hey, we’ve got the answers and this is how you do it.” Because also, even within our own lives, we do that better certain days and certain weeks than others. And also, you have to go like, “Hey, I’m crazy. I have a crazy schedule. I know I’m only going to get five hours of sleep.”
Gabby Reece: But XPT is … I always say Laird’s sort of the motor behind a lot of things, the impetus and the spark, and so XPT was … it was standing for Extreme Performance Training, but if you ask Laird, it would be exploratory. Because our whole thing is how can we be our best selves or organism, our optimum. Whoever we are, if we’re an athlete, if we are at a time in our life we’re running children around, whatever we’re doing, how can we be optimum wherever we are? And so we’ve got the pool element, which I think is sort of the most exotic element. The pillars of the brand are move, breathe, and recover. So the pool, we do things … speaking of aging … where you go, “Hey, I want to be ballistic. I want to do 1,000 reps today. How can I do that and not just kill myself?” So the water created that environment for us and it also, on the other side, gave Laird an opportunity to be more efficient and stronger in the water to support him for surfing.
Gabby Reece: So that started about 12 years ago and we were kind of all his crash test dummies and we managed to put together a pretty great cohesive program. The other parts are … And they talk a lot like you do, Kelly, but differently, not as extensive and as much self care … mobility. And even me, I don’t squat correctly. My mechanics are terrible. So it’s getting these fundamental moves, how can I do this better so I don’t hurt myself. And I’m just talking about in everyday life. And then breathing, which we were turned onto really through Wim Hof being the impetus for that and Rick Rubin.
Gabby Reece: And it was sort of realizing, hey, this is a really old practice and this is something that we all do all day long. It’s one of the most important functions we do for our body, and most of us are doing it wrong because we’re mouth breathing. So breathing became a really important part of the practice because sometimes I feel like we jump steps when we talk about self care, or some people call it wellness. And I think sometimes if we could try to lock in to just some of the real basic things and try to do those decently, we start to give ourselves a fighting chance and then recover.
Gabby Reece: And this was different for me because recovery wasn’t like, “Hey, do you take a day off and recover?” And people say, “Yeah, I take one day off a week.” And it’s like then the notion was, “Okay, how do you support yourself in recovery?” So then that’s where the heat and the ice came in, or for certain people it could be stretching, for certain people it could be a flushing cardio. Whatever that is was to sort of have these pillars of breathe, move, and recover and could we figure out a way to simplify that and share it with other people, and that’s what XPT is.
Kelly Starrett: You guys have a ton of resources. Where can people find out about that?
Gabby Reece: Oh my goodness. Well, they now have Breathing app, so they can go to xptlife.com. So let’s say you want to ramp up or you want to down-regulate before you go to bed or before you kill your family members or you get ready for a big meeting. Whatever tool you need, we’ve got that. And we have quite a few XPT certified coaches that are kind of popping up throughout the country.
Gabby Reece: The other thing that’s really important about XPT for us was this. We are not here to tell people what to do. Now, certain things we know like you guys know, like sleep is … it’s good. It’s a good thing. Hydration, it’s important. Managing stress, valuable. But it was more about, could we get you to ask yourselves the question of, “How do I want to move? How should I eat to support myself? What feels good to me?” Because a lot of times people … I know they want to be told what to do. But the other thing was, could you start that dialogue? Because by the way, that’s a moving target. Like, what I needed to do six months ago is not what I’m doing now and it will not be what I need to be doing in another six.
Kelly Starrett: Yeah, and it’s got to fit into my life.
Gabby Reece: Correct.
Kelly Starrett: I mean, I think that’s the other … We love to just … “I’m going to do the makeover, three day Carl Rogers, where I just reinvent myself, purge everything.” I just had this conversation with a friend who was saying … She just saw this documentary, Game Changers, about everyone just going plant-based all the sudden.
Gabby Reece: Oh, I know.
Kelly Starrett: And I was like, “Hey, hang on. Do you eat any vegetables already?” And she was like, “Well, not really.” And I was like, “So you’re just going to wholesale switch this over to just only eat vegetables, which you don’t already currently eat?” That’s got-
Gabby Reece: And also all the science on this also is, if you are eating actively a vegetarian or a vegan, the chances are you’re a lot more conscious of what you’re eating then. Because those studies also show that means people who eat McDonald’s, they’re meat eaters. So I think sometimes that conversation … It almost at times feels like there’s a political pull to it. I think that that is also a moving target. Like Paul Chek, if you talk to him, he’ll be a vegetarian for a year and then he’ll be like, “My soul told me to eat animal flesh.” And I’m like, “Okay.” So yeah, it’s interesting.
Juliet Starrett: One of the many things about XPT that I think is so cool is that it’s a way for people to put themselves a little bit outside their comfort zone, and I think-
Kelly Starrett: What do you mean? Tell me more about that.
Juliet Starrett: I believe that that is an important thing to do as humans, and having been to XPT and participated in it myself, I know the first time I jumped in an ice bath I was truly terrified and probably would not have gone unless Laird himself was coaching me in to it. So I just think that that is another … There’s so many pieces and parts of XPT that are so spectacular, but that’s just another piece of it I’m such a fan of.
Kelly Starrett: It turns out, to that extent, heat has become a rock base of your family’s practice and our family’s practice. Dr. Patrick has demonstrated or continued to sum the research, which is pretty wow. Getting hot and maybe spending times at these extremes of making my body have to be really cold and make my body really hot can do a lot of protective things for my body. I have also found that … Sometimes Juliet’s like, “We’re going to ride at 6:00.” I’m like, “Okay, so I need to be in the hot tub or the sauna at 5:30 getting hot.” I really do. I feel better when I’m hot. Can you just talk for a second about the heat? Because not everyone can have a sauna at home, but it seems to be a really crucial and critical practice.
Gabby Reece: Yeah, I mean, you’re right about the luxury of having it. But I do think now there’s more and more places that you can access. And I would always encourage people … Let’s say you’re in high stress and you’re around a lot of people. I would see if you could actually try to squeeze it in alone or at least not with people that are going to talk to you. And conversely, if you’re running in one direction in the heat with a friend or a loved one, it’s an interesting connecting place. So like you said, Dr. Rhonda Patrick … I mean, any protocol she puts out there, Laird’s like, “Let me try that.” It’s this idea of the recovery, heat shock proteins, all-cause mortality goes down about 65% for men. They talk about if you can get in there two, three times a week, minimizing Alzheimer’s.
Gabby Reece: So there’s so many positive things you can do … I mean, obviously detoxing. For people who are going to warm up or try to recover, I think the heat is the way to go. Ice is interesting because it’s a hormone regulator. I think ice almost needs to be dealt with separately in this way. Heat and ice as an activity, great. Ice before an activity, great. Ice after training, I wouldn’t, especially for people who go, “Hey, I’m trying to build strength and mass” and all this stuff. Ice, you want to do that separate and away.
Gabby Reece: Heat has really created this profound improvement in our health and we’ve also experimented with a lot of protocols. We run it pretty hot, like 220 to 230. But then you can do longer protocols at 170. And for people go, “I couldn’t sit in there that long,” it’s sort of like, “Well, go in for five minutes and see how it goes.” And even stretching. For me, as somebody who’s a little stiffer, I’ll turn it down, 160, 170, and that’s where I’ll stretch, and it’s so much better.
Kelly Starrett: Amazing.
Gabby Reece: But don’t get me started about the Assault bike in the sauna. Do you want to …
Kelly Starrett: We don’t need to let everyone know that we’re totally crazy. You guys are totally crazy.
Gabby Reece: Oh, no, no, no. I mean-
Kelly Starrett: I practice a lot because when I go to your house and show up for what we call Laird and Gabby Fantasy Camp, I’m like, “I had better have my A game.” And every time, it’s more interesting and more ugly.
Gabby Reece: Oh yeah.
Juliet Starrett: I don’t know if ugly is the right word.
Kelly Starrett: I mean, you guys don’t try to dose people to kill them. No, no. I mean, intellectually sporty.
Juliet Starrett: Yes.
Kelly Starrett: I love it.
Gabby Reece: No, no. The favorite line is … And certain experiments we’re doing and then you’ll hear somebody say, like, “We don’t even know if this is good for you yet.” And it’s like some joke. The other thing, too, is if people measure their glucose … like if they wear one of those glucose meters, when you go in the sauna, your glucose goes up, so they just need to know that.
Kelly Starrett: I appreciate that. Have you guys figured out how to put an Assault bike in an ice bath yet?
Gabby Reece: Oh, you know what? Keep that to yourself. I don’t know.
Juliet Starrett: Don’t mention that to Laird.
Kelly Starrett: I know you guys already have a bathtub motor to make the ice with.
Juliet Starrett: Don’t mention that to Laird.
Gabby Reece: Now that would be okay. Yeah, I know.
Kelly Starrett: That’s okay. Well look, one of the things that you mentioned first of all … because this is really a topic about, “How do I get more done longer?” And that longer is decades. The first thing you mentioned is that you were a member of a family, a team, in high school and then in college. One of the things that … if you had to strip everything away from what I have witnessed and observed in your life, is that you guys are a tribe and you really protect and nurture a sense of community and family. And I mean family like the ohana kind of style family. There are a lot of people who are not in your direct family who are your family. That seems to be the one takeaway that when I walk out, I’m like, “Wow, these people are so fierce in their friendships and fierce in their community.” Even the way you sit down and eat dinner together every night.
Kelly Starrett: Do you feel like that maybe is the overarching thing? Because sleep is important, maybe don’t drink, eat some whole food, don’t be stressed. But that thing alone, of being connected … and you even said being seen and sort of acknowledged in a community … was one of the backbones of your practice early on.
Juliet Starrett: Really quickly, too, peanut gallery. I was at a presentation where someone put up a graph that said connection and community actually were more important to longevity than exercising and some other things that we think about.
Kelly Starrett: And red wine and resveratrol?
Juliet Starrett: Yeah.
Kelly Starrett: I don’t know.
Gabby Reece: Yeah, resveratrol … oh yeah, Dr. Sinclair. Well, what is it, the Harvard study? What’s the longest active study? Is it the Harvard study?
Kelly Starrett: Yeah.
Gabby Reece: Where they had lower socioeconomic kids around the school and they started measuring them at 14 to 16ish and then they had people of all walks of life at Harvard … I believe it’s the Harvard study, forgive me … from 18 to let’s say 21 and they came from all walks of life. They were obviously in the university, so they probably had a different set of circumstances, and now the people are about 80 years old. And what they talked about was some of them were presidents, some were millionaires, lost everything, some became millionaires from nothing. And they said they could have checked them at 40 and 50 and they would have known all the answers at the same at 80, which was they had a connection, if not to just a partner then to a community, and they felt loved and supported and they had these meaningful relationships.
Gabby Reece: And what I want to say about that that I’ve learned over the years is I grew up as an only child, so there’s actually another part of my personality that really prefers to be alone usually. I can avoid conflict and drama when I’m by myself, things like that. So what is interesting about feeling so drawn to the community is it doesn’t mean I have to be best friends with everybody in that community. It means that we’re all in agreement at this time we’re going to come here, we’re going to bring our best, and we’re going to help each other be better. And then you know what? We’re going to go off into our lives. And some of us might spend extra time together breaking bread. Some of us don’t do that. And it is a shared love and support system which is also revolving around being better. We’re not meeting at the bar and being like, “Okay, drinks are on me.” This is a moment where we’re helping each other.
Gabby Reece: And so I think that’s really important sometimes for people when they think about building a community where there’s people maybe I really enjoy talking to and visiting and having intimate relationship with and they wouldn’t be a part of that community. And then I have people who are part of that community that I don’t necessarily really want to hang out with after. So people, I think, kind of shouldn’t be intimidated to give it a try, because not everybody has to be your best friend. You’re just in agreement. And listen, it’s love. It’s getting love, it’s giving love, it’s noticing if somebody looks down and going, “Hey, what’s up? How’s your day today?” This is the stuff.
Kelly Starrett: I’ll tell you, if I’ve learned anything on our nascent podcast experience it’s to end on a summary high note. Gabby Reece, you are the … I don’t know, how would my German roots childhood … You’re the scheisse. I am so grateful to know you and thank you so much for …
Juliet Starrett: Thank you, yeah.
Kelly Starrett: … kind of giving us a glimpse, because maybe I just didn’t care because I thought I was going to be immortal or a mortal, or I thought I might be dead by 30 just with all the stupid kayaking we did, but here we are and all the sudden this really matters to me and I really am grateful that I feel like so much of the influence from you and your family has set me up to be a much more functional and useful human.
Juliet Starrett: Yeah. I mean, we are just so grateful and lucky to know you guys.
Gabby Reece: Well, and I feel that way and I love you guys, and I also really appreciate the idea of not only sharing the message, but I appreciate that you guys are trying to put the power into people’s hands and getting them to realize, “I can be my best advocate for myself and how I feel.” Because it can be a cloudy, gray area and if somebody goes, “Hey, over here. You can do this,” it’s so helpful. So thank you, and like I said, I really love you guys.
Juliet Starrett: And before we let you go, where can people find you on the internets and socials?
Gabby Reece: Oh, my authorized or unauthorized…
Juliet Starrett: Either one.
Gabby Reece: No, I’m joking. So XPT Life would have all of the information on XPT and the Breathing app. GabbyReece is my Instagram. But really, I just hope that … For me, I want to connect with people in a way that I can contribute to something, and if they want to find me, they can.
Kelly Starrett: Word.
Juliet Starrett: Awesome. Word. Thank you so much, Gabby.
Kelly Starrett: Aloha, thank you.
Gabby Reece: Aloha.Back to Episode