The Ready State Virtual Mobility Coach is like having a virtual Kelly Starrett in your pocket.
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Juliet: [0:04:] Jim, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.
Jim Klopman: [0:04:18] Thank you. I’m really happy to be here.
Kelly: [0:04:21] There is a lot to dig into today. I just want to set the stage for everyone about how you and I met. I was visiting a friend in Austin; we were visiting Tim Ferriss. And I saw this slackline simulator in his garage, Jim. And I immediately was like, oh, I understand this. And then I went home and bought one. I immediately grokked what it was, started to understand. We’ve had a slackline in our home for how long, J?
Juliet: [0:04:50] Forever.
Kelly: [0:04:51] Ten years?
Juliet: [0:04:51] Yeah. Longer. Fifteen years.
Kelly: [0:04:54] We’ve had slacklines at the gyms, we’ve had slacklines as part of our lives. But the problem with having a slackline is you have to have a slackline and you can’t slackline in your house very easily. But I really intuitively understood what you were attempting to do with this thing. And we became friends and our mutual balance obsession was born.
Juliet: [0:05:19] And I just have to add a quick color commentary that I wasn’t in said gym when Kelly found it, but I can tell you that he kind of came running back in the house and was like, “Look what I found. This thing is awesome.” So he was very excited when he landed upon this thing in Austin. So obviously, well, I’ll just let you go ahead and respond to that and then we’ll actually ask you some actual questions.
Jim Klopman: [0:05:42] Well, first of all, I appreciate you not calling it a giant eraser like a lot of people do when they see it for the first time. Yeah, it’s really nice. For the years now that I’ve been wrestling with this subject, I’ve come to the determination that either you get it right away or there’s no explanation that makes you get it. So hearing you get it, it was just life changing for me because I was at zero dollars. I was living in a borrowed house, borrowing money to live. I had top teams using the product but they wouldn’t tell anybody because it was such a competitive advantage. I had top trainers using the product and they wouldn’t tell anybody because it was such an advantage. And the method. And then you came along, and everybody needs to know how damn nice you are. You were great to me, you understood it, you were supporting, you were loving. Yeah. I got out of a major hole because of your phone call, so I really appreciate it.
Kelly: [0:06:37] Oh, I didn’t know that and I’m tickled. Yeah.
Juliet: [0:06:40] That’s so cool. I had no idea. So we in our family think of you as a balance expert and obviously founder of this awesome thing that we have sitting in our kitchen at all times. But you obviously are not 21 years old. So you probably have a long history to tell us a little bit about before you got into caring about and focusing on balance and all that balance can do for us from a health and longevity standpoint. Tell us a little bit about your backstory. How did you get to this point where this is what you focus on and care about? I know you’ve also written a book about balance which I’d like to ask about. But take us back in time a little bit. How did you get to here?
Jim Klopman: [0:07:19] Yeah. I mean I don’t have this in the book, but it’s an interesting story. I mean I had problems my whole life with education. It took me three years to get out of eight grade. I flunked ninth grade. I don’t know, maybe 10, 12 years to get through college. I think I went to seven different colleges. I’d flunk out, go work construction, go back into college, flunk out, go back into construction. And all the while be told that I was pretty clever. And one thing, I know you guys are skiers. I’ve been skiing since I was three. Lace up, leather boots, wire straps holding you in the skis. And I always felt like the only place I felt super comfortable was on a pair of skis. It’s the only place that I felt like the world and me met somewhere. Otherwise, it was just an anxiety ridden thing.
So I came out of there, I found a good company to go work for. I was very successful. I ran Russell Athletic teamwear business for several years. I was in the textile business. And I left that because it was moving over to Asia and I didn’t like the people that were left in the industry. So I just tried to find something new. And I skied one day, my wife gave me a present of skiing one day with the great Stein Eriksen. I was 50 years old and he was 74. And somebody asked me if it was expensive. I said, I’ve paid lawyers that much money in three hours as opposed to six hours with him. But the point was it was probably the most rewarding day I’ve ever had athletically and I’ve lettered in five different sports when I was in high school, so I know about athletic success.
But it was just a beautiful thing. And he was 74. We had fun. We just had fun. One of the reasons we had fun was I’d observed and watched him since I was a child. When I was 13, I would imitate my skiing style on his so I kind of knew how to do that reverse shoulder thing with your feet close together and all that stuff. And I would mess around with him and do that. He just thought that was hysterical.
But I asked him, we spent a lot of time in the lift just talking, and I said, “How do you keep it going at 74?” because he was pretty damn fast. He said, “Well, I ski every day.” I said, “Well, I can’t do that now. I’m still managing careers.” So we talked about some other things and I had read everything about his life, I said, “I know you did gymnastics when you were younger and you won three gold medals in 1954 World Cup Games. Whatever it was. World Cup Games. And he said, “Yeah, I still do a little gymnastics.” And he said, “I think balance is really important.”
So that was age 50 and then for the next five years I’m like, God, guys like you have really hammered this fitness thing, got muscles all lined up, balance everything good. So I was probably as fit strength wise at age 55 as I was when I was 30. The next thing I thought, well, maybe it’s skill level. But you know, the more you do things the better you get. And I would go out and just to mess around I’d ski at 40 percent speed or 60 percent of my normal speed. And I go, God almighty, this isn’t taking any muscle and it isn’t taking any skill; why do people stop skiing when they get older? And I came around to this thing called balance. And I went around to the fitness industry and there was nothing really good. There was the Bongo Board which I had been doing since I was five because I had such bad ADD it was the way my dad would, he’d say, “Jimmy, can you get on the bongo board?” And he’d clock me and drink two martinis and that would keep me quiet and he could drink two martinis.
But it came out of that that I thought, well, maybe this is it. So I found the slackline. The bongo board wasn’t it. There wasn’t anything else in history. I got in the slackline, I said, this is it, I can’t do it, I’m challenged on it. And I didn’t want to walk on a slackline because I know I didn’t ski with one foot in front of the other. So I did single leg positioning, basically balancing on one foot with the other leg next to it. And most of skiing is you’re going to be on one edge or the other edge or even if you’re double edged, then you’re still mostly on that lower ski edge. So I did it for a few months and I went out. And I was fast to begin with. I was freaking insane when I went out after that balance training. I thought, oh my God.
So I came back, tried to build a SlackBow, which is our big, expensive product. Couldn’t. Got with an engineering professor at Auburn University. He talked to me; he was kind of standoffish. I gave him some equipment, showed him some protocols. He calls me a week later and he goes, “I’ll do anything you want me to do.” I go, “What’s going on, man, why the big change?” He said, “I’ve got a PhD in engineering, my specialty is big steam generators in big manufacturing plants, boiler rooms,” he called them. He said, “I got injured when I was 23 and I’ve had back pain since I was 23.” He said, “I’ve been doing your protocols now for a week and I have no pain for the first time ever.” And he said, “I’ve seen every doctor, I’ve taken every pain pill; it’s gone. So I’m in 100 percent.”
Isn’t that cool? So his class took off the SlackBow. I’m partners with Auburn. And then I did one simple study. I said maybe it’s just we can’t ever outperform our balance system. So I took athletes from different areas, didn’t change anything to do with their fitness routine, had them do the 12-minute routine 10 times over maybe like a two- or three-week period, so 120 minutes of intervention. And every single person increased their vertical leap by over 10 percent, except for one guy who had a monstrously high vertical leap to begin with and he only increased 8.5 percent.
So I thought, well, there’s something to this. And as a developer, you discover something and you think immediately everybody’s going to steal your idea so you’re just real reluctant to get the information out. And I would release in bits and pieces. And finally, after about five years, I’m like, I could be screaming from the rooftop and people aren’t hearing what I’m saying. Until you came along, Kelly, I mean I had been called a liar, I had been told that there’s 70 years of balance research studies show it does nothing for you. I’ve looked at all the research. They’re either bad methods and protocols up front or they’re bad effects measured afterwards. And it was loneliness out in the woods.
And we would have results that would blow your mind. I would have, a skier comes in one day, he goes, “I’m going to get thrown out of the group of guys I’m skiing with.” He skied with all the cool kids in Park City like Ted Ligety’s dad. And I said, “Why?” He said, “I’m skiing too slow.” And this was an ex-CIA spook kind of guy. He’s in great shape. He was 64 years old. And he said, “I’m working with my trainer, I’m doing everything I can, I bought new equipment, I got new boots. I still am just skiing too slow for them.” So he skied with that group on Thursday and Saturday. I worked with him on Monday, I worked with him on Wednesday. He came in on Friday, big, scary guy, he said, “What did you do to me?” I said, “What do you mean what did I do to you?” He said, “Did you hypnotize me?” I said, “You’ve got to tell me what’s going on, man. I’m a little scared right now.” So he said, “I was the first man down.” He said, “You took me from last man down to I was on the lift line first waiting for them.”
And just one sport after another sort of came together like that. but the referrals from this were… until, again, you came along the referrals were people like, “I don’t believe it, we’re Americans, you don’t get better unless you work hard, you put in sweat, you put in tears, you have to grind through it, and then you get better.” But we just didn’t get the referrals I thought we’d get. So I left Park City, came back to be close to a daughter. And then the business, you spoke to me when I was in Park City; I was in the middle of moving out. And it just all sort of popped ever since you stepped in.
Juliet: [0:14:58] So Jim, just one question and then a comment. Are you now in Austin because I’m sort of curious where you are.
Jim Klopman: [0:15:04] I’m in Park City, Utah. I have a daughter who lives in Austin, so I’m back and forth to Austin a lot.
Juliet: [0:15:09] And then I just want to say we, like you, have also had every iteration of Bongo Board around our house. And I am a fan of that product. But it is interesting because raising kids, and now we have teenage kids coming in and out of our house. I mean I can’t tell you how many kids, neighbors’ kids, have taken gigantic potentially life ending diggers in our garage after jumping out there right onto the bongo board thinking that they’re invincible. We’ve seen quite a few big hits on those things over the years. So just in terms of scalability especially for older folks, sometimes those are not the devices that-
Kelly: [0:15:50] Yeah, and one of the things that I immediately loved about particularly the SlackBlock, and I want everyone to understand that I have also a plate that slips on my slackline which makes it an order of magnitude more difficult.
Jim Klopman: [0:16:06] Isn’t that fascinating?
Kelly: [0:16:07] Yeah. The moment arm is difficult. It’s very difficult.
Jim Klopman: [0:16:10] That’s exactly right.
Kelly: [0:16:12] One of the things that is amazing and one of the things that I love so much about what’s going on, because I think that we, one, don’t think about balance as a performance limiter.
Jim Klopman: [0:16:24] Exactly.
Kelly: [0:16:25] We don’t think about the coordination and efficiency of the system as a performance limiter. We’re starting to see more and more people come through the world saying, hey, your brain is perceiving the ground as safe or not safe, that you’re transferring power more effectively or less effectively. But when I’ve seen people stand on soft surfaces, their feet just mush apart. And one of the things that I loved about the way you were thinking is that you kept a surface that was hard that allowed me to maintain the integrity of my foot and the integrity of the system on top of the unstable surface, and that really was a game changer.
Jim Klopman: [0:17:06] Right. Yeah. It’s fascinating. With the board on the line too, it’s called a slack plate, what’s fascinating about that is if you were to stand on a one-inch rope, it’s actually easier than standing on a one-inch slackline. And a one-inch slackline’s easier to stand on than a two-inch slackline. And a two-inch slackline’s easier to stand on than a three-and-a-half-inch plate.
And I think there’s two things. I think you’re right, the moment arm makes a difference. But I also think that we have a prehensile, prehistoric instinct to be able to grab the foot that we don’t really know much about.
Juliet: [0:17:40] Yeah. You know, I have to say that I’m astounded to learn that you met so much resistance and that the notion of balance is not widely accepted. Actually, I’m finding this to be a surprise. Especially because in the work that Kelly and I do and sort of my general understanding in the health and fitness business, and also, we run a nonprofit around getting kids standing at school, which probably would have been very good for you as a child in your education, based on what I’m learning.
Jim Klopman: [0:18:09] I did it anyway. It didn’t matter.
Juliet: [0:18:12] Yeah. You already did it naturally. But even just the data that we all know about the fall risk in the elderly and how that is a ticket to, you have, what, two years to live if you break a hip after a certain age or something? Even just watching my own parents, one of the reasons I’ve gotten so… I mean I first of all enjoy it, but Kelly and I have gotten into mountain biking in the last five years. One of the reasons that I got excited about doing that was, A, it’s fun, but also, I watched my mom who by the way, she’s 76, very fit, very active 76-year-old.
Kelly: [0:18:47] Does qigong and dance.
Juliet: [0:18:48] Yeah. And dance. And she did CrossFit for many years.
Jim Klopman: [0:18:52] Dancers have great balance.
Juliet: [0:18:53] But I noticed at age 70 she could no longer ride her bike anymore. She didn’t feel that she had the balance anymore to be able to ride a bike. And I thought, well, she doesn’t really ride a bike very often, and of course that’s a skill that you lose; if you don’t use it, you lose it. So anyway, these are a lot of anecdotal stories to tell you I guess I’m really surprised based on what we know about aging and the importance of balance and the importance of immunizing yourself from fall risks when you get old, that this is such an, A, to me it seems so obvious, and why is this revolutionary, and why is there so much resistance to it?
Jim Klopman: [0:19:31] Well, first of all, I mean, A, the people who through the years have gotten it and worked with me are up here in terms of intellect. You have to connect a lot of dots together. The other is we still run into a lot of dissonance. So we’ll have an athlete, for example, had a golfer, he was a friend of mine, he was a 6.4 something like that, 60 years old, and I only worked with him for three hours. And we have results in golf where we go from 10 to 0 after maybe eight hours’ worth of work. And I just worked with him for maybe three hours at his home indoor range. And he went from a six down to a three. And I saw him a month or so afterwards, I said, “How are you doing?” He said, “I’m a three.” I said, “That’s great.” He goes, “Yeah, I think the balance is part of it. But I got a new driver, I’ve been taking lessons with a new coach,” blah blah blah.
So I said, okay. And I used to hear this all the time, these exact stories in all different sports. Then I saw him maybe three or four months after that. He said, “I want to apologize.” I go, “What’s that?” He goes, “I’m 60.” He said, “I’ve never been a 3 my whole life. I’ve always had new drivers. I always have new coaches.” He said, “It was the balance.” So we have those kinds of results. So people can’t… There’s a dissonance. I can’t correlate it because I don’t know how good my balance is. And we talk about this in the book. We live in a world that’s perfectly flat with these rectilinear surfaces around us and we don’t have a balance challenge. We have a scale from 0 to 100, 25 being what you need to operate in this world in.
And so your balance skills can fall to 35, 40 and you wouldn’t even know it because there’s no challenge every day. So then you have that one challenge and you stub your toe on a curb and you fall and you injure yourself. By the way, for people over 65, the number one cause of falls are curbs. So and that’s the one thing we see in modern life, every step is equally distance apart, every sidewalk is shaved so there’s no lip that you can trip on, but curbs are always different heights and they all look kind of the same.
But the point is, you don’t know how bad it is. So these people don’t know how bad their balance is when they come in the door. So I developed this measurement system. And I’ve seen all the measurement systems out there and they’re all really focused more toward physical therapy and they don’t measure true dynamic balance. So we have a super $10 million project that if we ever got funded, we could start that would measure 18 points of measurement on the body, have to use AI and all this kind of crazy things to make it happen. But in the meanwhile, we’re adding measurement devices to the SlackPlate, to the SlackBlock so that we can at least now give you a score that says you come in the door, wherever you are, and you get a score of 25. And you go on and you get up to 50. And you’re handicap drops, you go, oh, maybe it’s because of that.
We have a school… I’ll say the school, University of Michigan Football and Ben Herbert is the strength and conditioning coach. And he’s a brilliant man, he’s smart, he’s just totally with it. and they use SlackBlock constantly. They use we have a balance measurement system that we gave them. They’re the only ones in the country that have it, that measure nine levels of balance. And he came back to me, I think it was last year or the year before, and of course they’re getting better, they’ve got where they were this year which is pretty good. I don’t think they’ll ever get great because I don’t know if they ever can get those top recruits that Alabama and Georgia can get. But he came back and he said, “Everything that you said is true.” He said, “We keep a score for everybody on the team; if somebody gets better, we feel like somebody needs to be looked at, we’ll score them again. If they drop down, we’ll remediate them and give them more work on balance work.” He said, “Everything’s true in terms of injury, athleticism, ability to see the ball, everything.” So I’ve always known this is true but it wasn’t until we had our own scoring system that we gave it to a big program and they came back with those results.
Kelly: [0:23:28] You know, what I love about it is, and I just want everyone to understand in our strength and conditioning community we’re obsessed with foot pressure and foot organization, and especially understanding complex movements around barbells and jumping. We really look at the foot as a big force sink where we see people squishing out, dumping force, just being inefficient generally.
One of the things that is amazing about this intervention that I think is sometimes less appreciated, one is that you’re driving interception. So can you feel what’s going on and know where you are? And you and I have laughed about wearing sensory deprivation chamber shoes, foot coffins. People have lost the ability to feel and perceive, and suddenly takes input into this thing that makes the difference. But the fact that you can have this literally in your kitchen and you as a person who’s just beginning can hold onto the counter, add stability to it, means that the intervention threshold is there because if it’s in our kitchen, I can be on it five times a day, ten times a day playing with just hooking my toes, turning sideways, making my feet strong, working on different balance shapes.
But I think for me what’s so great is you get immediate feedback of whether it works or not because you fall off or you can’t hold your balance, you have to touch down. And then you can be as wild as you want to be. You can get into plie positions and single and you can hold your breath and look around and integrate all the neuro sort of eye vestibular drills. I have yet to find someone who I can’t exceed their balance capacities. I can make it harder and harder and harder and harder and ultimately the brain responds. And the fact that we can have these little discreet interventions all the time is one of the reasons that Juliet and I in the book we’re working on have balance as a chapter, because we really have come to believe that if we are going to truly be durable, this is a low, not skill, low exercise threshold. You don’t have to be fit to do this. You don’t have to be strong to do this. Children. Who doesn’t benefit from knowing where their foot and body is in space?
Jim Klopman: [0:25:48] Right. Well, one, you understand progressions. I think if you look at the… I mean we have the slack but we also use the… We have balance boards. We have a balance board we’re coming out with shortly. But we recognize the fall aspect of it. So we’ve always had a protocol. I mean I’ve had 70-year-olds get on the Bongo Board. But you have to take them through what you were just talking about, Kel. You have to take them through a progression. If you jump progression, it’s like I can’t bench press 400 pounds, but if you drop 400 pounds on me, you’re going to kill me. Well, it’s the same thing. If I want to get to 400 pounds, I have to progress to it. So you’ve learned how to do that and it’s a very important part of how to use this equipment.
There is no place that it doesn’t fit and that’s the crazy thing about it. And if you put it in your book, just to let you know, every biohacker book that’s out there right now, with the cool kid biohackers, I’m not going to name names, you know who they are, right, their books in biohacking. And this is the number one cause in accidental death and accidental injury for people over the age of 65. And guess what? It goes up one to two percent a year. Medicine’s getting better. So cancer deaths and deaths from heart disease, skipping COVID, for now, have been going down one to two percent a year. Medicine’s working. But we have this one area, this is per capita, has been going up. So it’s not based on old people. It’s based on 100,000 people. So it’s a problem that’s getting worse and worse. And yet we have better and better fitness systems. We have better and better spaces to live in. We should have better and better shoes, but we don’t. I think they’re a big part of the problem.
So it is so important. But if you put it in your book, I mean there’s people out there who write books about brain health and the number one cause of concussions are falls. It’s not Johnny on the soccer field or Sally on the softball field. They’re falls. So it’s a $90 billion a year business. Yet, it’s not addressed. It’s not addressed as disease. And if you look in reporting for the federal government, it’s called an accident. It’s not called a disease. It’s balance loss disease is what it is.
Kelly: [0:27:58] That’s true.
Jim Klopman: [0:27:58] Now here’s the thing. To me, it’s just software. And there’s research been going on for years, and the guy, his name’s Martyn Goulding. I wrote some notes here. But I mean they’re talking about finding neurons and motor neurons that coordinate the left to right movement, the force that’s going left to right to make sure they’re in balance, to make sure there’s rhythm, all these types of things, and these are in processing centers that are in the lower part of the spine. The information doesn’t get to the brain; comes to the leg, foot, up to part of the spine, back down again. So there is software all over the body that’s being changed when you go back and start to activate your balance system.
And that’s why we’ll train somebody, let’s say just relative numbers, and they’ll walk out of the door a level two and they’ll come back three days later will be at a three or a four because the body goes, oh, okay, I get it, supposed to be doing this, and they just get better sort of naturally. They never go backwards.
Kelly: [0:28:57] One of the interesting things that you mentioned just anecdotally, story about less back pain, sometimes what we see is people aren’t getting enough input. Juliet and I are big fans of sometimes we’re like, look, your body, your nervous system, is just an input machine. The reason you have a central nervous system is to perceive change in the environment. That really sort of makes sense of that. You really are designed this way. And what we see is that a lot of people just live in a really homogenous little world, they don’t walk around, they’re on these flat surfaces. And sometimes just giving people a chance to activate their latent systems is really, really powerful.
There is no other place that I see this more important than after surgery because I talked ad nauseum, I’m sure everyone is tired of it, but when we see knee surgeries and lower extremity surgeries, one of the big differences is if you ask someone to do single leg balance, just on the floor with their less dependent leg or non-surgical side, and they do the other side, it’s shocking the difference side to side, which isn’t a strength issue and isn’t necessarily a range of motion issue. It isn’t even a soft tissue issue. It’s an input issue.
And so when we force people to start to integrate and to know where they are in space and making sure that they can breathe and do these things and then start to change the organization of their body, it’s really remarkable some of the outcomes that we have working alongside people and we’ve just added this balance intervention in, which is just asking them, hey, I just need you to be responsible and all you need to do is have some input.
Jim Klopman: [0:30:28] Well, first of all, I mean it’s a new kind of protocol with back issues where they say, “Lie down for three days, just get up and move.” So movement’s always good. And I think more of us need to understand that. What I think is happening too, and we’ve had world class Olympic athletes get on the SlackBow for the first time and they’ll have great balance, but they will say within 45 seconds, “I’m sweating and I don’t know why.” And it’s one of the sales programs problems I have with the whole system is that everything you see in fitness you’ve got to be moving and doing all this crazy… Look at me doing stuff.
Kelly: [0:31:03] It’s hard to measure this. That’s right.
Jim Klopman: [0:031:03] We’re just training the micro muscles, the small muscles all over the body. Well, if you’re training this micro muscle system, there’s not going to be much movement. It’s going to be in the micro muscle system level. So there’s not going to be a lot of big movement going on. But these people are sweating for a reason because these little muscles are being fired all over their body. And I know we’re supposed to… and you know probably the name of every one of them, 700 plus muscles in the body, but I think even within them, they’re broken down into different categories.
We talk about it later, but concentric and eccentric load and how much more can do than the other, so to speak, and what is that muscle that can do that. But when you take these small muscles, they’re the ones that are controlling that whole system in the back. And when we do so much of our weight work and fitness work, it’s on, off with big muscles. So let’s look at the back: If it’s on, off, what is that? That’s a spasm. Or if it’s on, locking in place, holding that spine in place it doesn’t want to be, that’s pain. And so when you activate these little muscles, boom, for some reason it just let’s go.
We have an example. And we have, like I said, several examples, but I like to talk in these little metaphors. Friend of mine, I went to a retreat with him, I brought a SlackBow. This is for an organization I sat on the board of. And he was obsessed with it and he played on it all Friday. And then I saw him Saturday morning and he reached down and palmed the floor. And I said, “That’s great. I can’t do it. Good for you.” He goes, “No, you don’t understand.” He said, “I’ve always been able to do that.” He had cancer, he had a blood clot in that leg, they had to roto root it out, all these things. And he said, “I haven’t been able to get past my ankles ever since they did this six months before.” And he said, “Every morning in the shower with the heat I try to get over, try to get over, try to get over. And then boom, I work on the slack bow and it releases.”
And what happens is the big muscles are also the casting system, so when something goes wrong, they’re the ones that lock you up. And that’s the compensatory muscle firing pattern that’ll occur sometimes. His small muscles had lost their sense of what they were supposed to do. We reactivated the small muscles. He didn’t do any bending over and touching his toes when he was on the SlackBow. He just did balance. That’s it, straight up, how many minutes can I stay on that plate. And it’s the type of thing we see over and over again. And I never… It’s interesting we’re into backs, but I never sell backs when I talk to clients or I don’t even think I mention it much in the book because backs are so sensitive. I mean the research on backs are sensitive. It gives you some idea, I think 85 percent of us, if you ran us under an MRI, have an operable back condition that any neurosurgeon would look at and go, “I could operate on that.” But only eight to ten percent have discomfort or pain. So there’s a whole crew that learn to deal with this.
And I had a client one day who was 82 years old, he was in a horrible motorcycle wreck when he was 18. And surgery in those days was a mess. He lived in a rural area. And when you saw him with shorts on, you were like, oh my God, how does this man even move. He skis, he was part of the Burke Academy Board. He said, “Oh yeah, my legs are a mess. Whenever I get x-rayed, people say, wow, how do you survive with that back?” And I think it’s those micro muscles start to come in and go okay, things are screwed up so we’re going to change the alignment of how things happen in the back and that muscle firing pattern changes. It’s that we have… On Twitter there’s a guy, a physical therapist, goes, “Hey, I’ve had a tweaked knee ever since it was operated on 20 years ago.” He says, “I’m on that block for a month; it’s gone.” And I think those micro muscles, they get in and start to change.
This guy, trying to remember, I keep forgetting his name, Martyn Goulding was interviewed about these motor neurons in the lower spine. And the most beautiful quote that he had in that article was, “I guess we don’t know everything we think we know about the body.” He said, “There’s 40,000 neuroscience researchers in the world and if we knew everything we thought we knew, there wouldn’t be all these damn researchers.” And so he’s right. And it’s a mysterious thing. And I know you work with the body and I know what all of your knowledge, and you are so intelligent, I’m so afraid of this podcast because you’re going to start talking your stuff, and I’m going to go, oh God, I don’t, I have to look half those words up. But I know if you work with the body enough times, there are times that you go, shit, how does it know that or how did it do that or how did it come up with that. So my swollen muscle thing may be a metaphor. I may be totally wrong. But that’s what I think has happened.
Juliet: [0:35:41] So Jim, one of the things I love so much about the SlackBow is that it literally just can be peppered around our house and office in ways that we can just play with it. And I think people intuitively know how to use it and play with it. If it’s just sitting next to our kitchen counter, people will come in and just get on it. That’s how we’ve been able to incorporate some formal balance training into our lives. Kelly uses the word intervention and I don’t even really like that word because I think it’s fun and just should be one of the things we’re doing. To me, intervention sort of suggests that something’s wrong with you you’re trying to fix or something.
But a couple questions. This is sort of a two-part question. I think people feel overwhelmed right now when it comes to health and fitness practices. And so we struggle with this too. How do we make sure people have a complete practice and do all the things they need to do without continuing to add to people’s daily to do list, because I think the more to do list items we add, people become overwhelmed and they think, “Okay, well, I can’t do the 20 things I’m supposed to do for my health and fitness every day, what do I do?”
So I mean first of all, I love that the SlackBow can just sit in the kitchen and be peppered around. I think that’s an easy way to incorporate it without adding a to do list item because you can stand on it while you’re working at your standing desk or while you’re cooking dinner or you can just play with it for five minutes. But what else besides that and using the SlackBow do you recommend people do in accessible ways to practice their balance? Because I’m sold; like I said, we’re including a chapter on balance in our next book. But what do you recommend for people listening to this who… How should people add in a little balance practice and how often? What would actually make an impact?
Jim Klopman: [0:37:29] You know, when I first started doing this, I was telling our regulars you have to do a 12-minute routine, you should do it three times a week. But I’ve had clients come back and go, “I get on SlackBlock for two minutes, three minutes, four minutes a day, and I have great success with that.” But it doesn’t have to be a SlackBlock. I mean you just take off your shoes and stand on one foot. We have probably 16 hours of protocols on all sorts of different things. But most people don’t even realize if you take off your shoes and you were to step and then hold that one leg for two seconds, it’s really hard. A lot of people have a hard time doing that. Take another step. Hold that step for two seconds. And so you’re balancing the same. One, you’re only balancing for a fraction sec and the other you’re balancing for two seconds, but you’re using the same set of muscles to do it.
The other thing is none of us, we talk a lot about this in the book, nobody ever said, “I need to spend more time inside the house.” Nobody ever said, “I need to spend more time at the office.” So one of the reasons for that is we get used to these rectilinear surfaces. Got them all over me now. Got screens everywhere, walls, ceilings. But you go outside into nature, that doesn’t exist. Everything’s fractal. There are no perfectly rectilinear lines. Now if you go back to old Renaissance buildings in Italy and so forth, you may find that they really do break up the horizon a lot inside these buildings and even outside.
So to me, and we have found every athlete that has the best balance, if you look at the best balanced athlete in any sport, they also have the best floor presence. They have the best ability to see what’s going on, to process information. Tom Brady has phenomenal balance; he processes so quickly. Steph Curry has great balance and he also has the ability to process. Wayne Gretzky, all these people have this ability to process and see. And I think that when you balance train, it’s really important not to be looking at a screen. It’s really important to be looking down some horizon. And the reason the really high-priced executives in any company have the office on the top floor with the big window is because they can look out the dang window. When they look out the window, it really helps your balance system because ‘re now incorporating all this data, all these fractal surfaces, and you’re out of this rectilinear world that you have inside.
So anything you can do to stop looking at a screen, look up, take in as much as you possibly can, and you don’t have to use a SlackBlock. Just balance on one foot for 10 seconds and balance on one foot for 10 seconds and it clears your mind. You cannot, we don’t allow music when we train people. It’s an artificial way of shutting off the conscious mind. So I had an athlete one time who insisted on using music. He was a paddleboarder. He went to a paddleboard race, he fell like 16 times. I said, “Did you have your headphones in?” He goes, “No.” I go, “Well, that’s why, dude. You go in and out of balance without your earphones on. Next race, wear the earphones, waterproof earphones.” He didn’t fall once. I want you to face that inner feeling of what does it take to activate this whole system without artificially shutting off the conscious mind. And you have to do it.
And we know when we train, if I go, “Hey, you’re doing well,” they’ll fall off within five seconds afterwards because I’ve activated conscious mind. By the same token, we’ll purposely walk out of the room, and you’ll always hear from the next room, “Hey, I’ve just stood up longer than I ever have before.” Because the judger has left the room. So the point is to open up the mind, do a little bit of balance, but you have to be able to see everything, feel everything, taste everything, smell everything, activate every sense you possibly can—I think they call it mindfulness—and you’ll balance better. And you’ll also clear your mind and be able to go… Just do it for three, four minutes and you’ll be better for the next couple hours.
Kelly: [0:41:08] Juliet and I always jump into yoga class and some of the yoga teachers once in a while just punish you. I’m like, okay, I’ve been standing on my left foot for 10 minutes now.
Jim Klopman: [0:41:16] Yeah, that’s not what it’s about.
Kelly: [0:41:18] And they just make it where you can’t hide and then change your position. And I think one of the things that I really love about the simplicity of what you’re saying is it ties together a couple of things for us. One is very rarely are you able to just stare at a perfect spot. You look up, you look down, you’re judging, on a mountain bike or skis, right, you need to be looking around. Even if you stood on one leg and just turned your head, you’ll fall over. There are so many ways to continue to challenge the system. And my favorite way to upregulate is as soon as we put people into a balance challenged environment, they stop breathing. They just stiffen the whole trunk and simplify the inputs. And we ask them to just breathe and they fall over.
So this balance play is so rich and so easy to just turn up to 10 in so many different ways that it’s amazing. And again, I really do appreciate that you give homage to, hey, here’s what I think may be happening, but really the brain is the most sophisticated structure in our universe trying to make sense of the environment, and when it has more input, it makes better decisions.
Jim Klopman: [0:42:25] Right. Part of that input thing is that we’ve had great success with people who’ve had post concussive syndrome and people who’ve been given up on by allopathic medicine. And when you hear, your ears only collect data, they don’t hear. Your brain processes the sound. So my mom got her hearing aids much too late and she’d lost that ability in the brain to make decisions on what was good sound, what was bad sound. So she was in a restaurant, she plugged in the hearing aid, she heard everything, where normally you can cull out the voice you don’t want to hear and then hear the voice, and that’s what you respond to.
Well, the eyes are sort of the same way in that you get huge amount of data into your eyes, and they’re just data collectors, they don’t see, and only about five percent of the data that comes in your eyes is what you see, hands and color, the cones of the eyes. The rest of the data goes into other parts of the brain. And what happens is that we become focused on that five percent and we lose the fact this other data’s coming in and that’s part of that opening, that vision.
So when I go out into a fractal environment, I can’t line up to anything. Nothing’s going to line up. So I take in everything. And you know when you mountain bike, if you look at that rock, you’re dead. You’re going to right ride into that rock, right? See through the curve, right? Seeing through the curve is the same thing you do in ski racing. You’re supposed to see two gates down. All of these are sort of ways of tricking the brain to not look at anything. You don’t have to see through the curve. Just don’t look at the damn curve, okay? You know what I’m saying? And you have to trust yourself. And when you get to be really good at mountain biking, you’re suddenly popping through rocks and doing things, and you’re like, “Well, how did I know that? I didn’t think about that.”
Or when I ski, I’ll get to the bottom of the hill sometimes and I’ll go, “I just did stuff I’ve never done before, ever, and my body put that whole thing together and made it work.” And that’s a system you’re always trying to activate and get to. But that system does not come through what you see. It comes in a completely different pathway.
And we’re developing patents now on equipment and we’re working on a book that’s basically… One of the working titles is What You See Is Not Really What You See. And it’s true. And you’re always processing all this data. So I agree with you. But you have to let it in and then let the body make the decision. Now we will pick up, and it’ll be interesting to work with you someday, but we will pick up, and clients hate me for this, but I’ll see tensions immediately if something’s not moving. There’s a shoulder that’s not moving; there’s a hand that’s not moving. It’s locked up; fingers are locked up. And these points of tension inhibit the ability to improve balance. And it’s hard to point out those points of tension because as soon as you do, you’ve just added more tension to it, right? So you’ve got to somehow give them other movements to do and other patterns that we take them to that release those tensions.
But from your standpoint, because I don’t know nearly as much as you do about how the body operates, it’d be fun to put a client up onto a SlackBow or SlackBlock and I see tension and sort of whisper to you, “What do you think’s going on?” And then you can ask your questions. And it might be, “Well, I had an injury there.” Or, “I’ve done something to my shoulder,” or whatever the case may be. So these things show up when you put them into balance. A lot of things show up.
And then for me, I always kind of can judge a person’s personality within about three minutes. And I used to be kind of aggressive about it. I don’t anymore because people don’t like that. They don’t want to be told that they’ve got this kind of personality or that kind of personality.
Kelly: [0:46:05] I’ll tell you, there’s an old Dune quote that, “Our test is crisis and observation.” And what you’re really seeing is that when you take someone out of their programmed motor responses and learned movement pattern, you’ll see how they’re solving problems and what their default is. It’s really amazing.
I was just talking to one of the best coaches on the planet in sprinting around with elasticity and springiness, and when people become robot like and stiff, you can’t do all the things the body’s supposed to be able to do.
Jim Klopman: [0:46:36] Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly right.
Juliet: [0:46:39] Well, I just want to tell you one story just because you love skiing like we love skiing. One of our favorite things to watch when we were teaching our daughters to ski is skiing behind them, you know we ski often at the resort formerly known as Squaw Valley, Olympic Valley, and there’d be these packed runs. And we’d watch our six-year-old daughter have to process at fast speed, negotiating the mountain run, which is, I’m not sure how else to describe it, it’s a shit show and there’s people everywhere, good skiers, bad skiers. And watching our six-year-old daughter have to forget about the skiing skill, just watching her brain have to process making these quick decisions and things that eventually would become instinctive to her as a skier but watching her have to think through those decisions, it was cool to watch that actually when our kids were little.
Anyway, I’d love to ask you just a little bit more because you mentioned at the beginning about getting this business going. Because it seems like you, like us and like so many entrepreneurs, started this as a business because it was a problem you wanted to solve, and that is that the traditional slackline is not super accessible to 99 percent of people. And so it’s cool that you started your business that way. But tell us just a little bit about… I mean it sounds like you had some struggles, you met some people, including Kelly, who were able to blow this thing up. But just tell us a little bit about starting this as a business and what that’s been like.
Jim Klopman: [0:47:59] Yeah. I did not know… I sat on the board for The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology for 10 years. And these are mental health professionals who use some of the Chinese methods and tappings and things like that. I was their internal consultant so I was involved in selecting five of their presidents and selected their board of directors. And I’m kind of blowing smoke up my own butt here. But when they lay out their path of growth over the last I guess 20 some years, they have the founders and some of these major events, and one of the major events is when I joined the board. And the thing about it was I’m around the best psychologists in the world and I’ve had these issues I’ve been dealing with for years and it just wasn’t getting anywhere. And then I decided there’s got to be brain damage. I was 58.
I discovered I had ADD when I was 47. That was the first step in the process. I went to an ADD specialist and he said I didn’t have it. It would take five sessions to figure it out and blah blah blah. And halfway through the second session honest to God, these were his words, expert in adult ADD, and he looked at me, he goes, “You poor bastard. You have the worst case of ADD I’ve ever seen.”
And then 10 years after that, still not getting anywhere, I went and had my brain scan done, spec scan done by Daniel Amen and came back I had the brain of an NFL football player. So I had lots of pockets of nonworking tissue. And one of the most interesting areas that I had nonworking tissue was my cerebellum. And if you looked at my cerebellum, it looks like a lot of it’s been damaged. And cerebellum’s supposed to be your center of balance. And I contend that there’s probably nobody within 15 years of my age that has balance as good as I do.
So that was just curious. And they were telling me, “Look, your cerebellum’s in bad shape, you have to do balance training.” No, that’s what I do. “Well, you have to do more.” I said, “There’s no way I can do more. This is what I do.”
Juliet: [0:50:02] Like I wrote the book on this. I can’t do more.
Jim Klopman: [0:50:04] Yeah, I didn’t say that, but I should’ve said that. But the point is, it was really solving something that I had to find an answer to. And then people just got better and came back with great results. And then working with concussion clients. And then you have people send you letters saying you saved their life because they were falling and they did this or they did that. And people say they haven’t slept well in years are now sleeping well. I mean all these things. So then you sort of get… I’m sure that’s happened to you too, to you guys, is that you sort of then get sucked into it even more because you feel like you’re doing some good.
But I was part of the whole sort of Under Armour wicking thing at Russell Athletic probably four years before Under Armour was even formed as a company. And we had phenomenal success with those textiles and what we’d done with those football players and baseball players and soccer players. And the team that came in behind me wasn’t interested in it, but I didn’t have control of that. And I just decided whatever was the next thing that I was going to work on that I thought was a good idea, I wasn’t going to give up on, because developers give up. So there’s a joke about developers are generally lying facedown on the ground with the footprints of the second and third wave that comes through and makes all the money on the product.
And I just knew when I started this, I started a fusion of technology and the advances of how something goes from… My grandfather invented part of the telephone with Alexander Graham Bell, how it went from there to being the company it is today. But you have to kind of suffer the slings and arrows and bullshit that you get when you start off. And it’s like that I guess, oh, I keep forgetting the name of the philosopher who says, every good idea has three phases. First one is it’s impossible; it can’t be done. Second one is it’s not necessary; it’s not worth it. And the third phase of the idea is everybody says look at the great idea I’ve had.
So it’s emotionally hard to separate through those first three phases. And I have. My life is better for the business taking off and like I said, Kelly showing up in my life was a godsend because I’ve never told this. Kelly’s aware he found it in that house. I’d been contacting that guy’s secretary to get together to train with him for over six years. Six years. And I mean I was always trying to make myself available. Being who he is, I’d do anything to get in front of him. So it’s just a funny set of circumstances that Kelly showed up at the right time. The place he found it makes it even weirder still. Some sort of provance that’s involved with this thing that I don’t know about.
Kelly: [0:52:41] Well, I see the truth of it. It’s great. It’s been part of my own experience with my rehabbing my knee after a total knee replacement. You can’t tell if I have a deficit of balance between my left leg and my right leg.
Jim Klopman: [0:52:55] Wow. That’s amazing.
Kelly: [0:52:58] And it exposes positions and fascia and reactions and fatigue. One of my favorite uses of it is I love to see the cost of the session I just did, hard mountain biking or hard training. I come in, I can use my balance and be like whoa, I am shut down. My reaction time is off, my balance is off. And I’m like, wow, that really was an expensive session. So we continue to get it. I also want everyone to know that our slackline is up permanently and my favorite workout in the world is to barbecue and slackline. It’s the greatest workout there is.
Juliet: [0:53:34] It’s a couplet.
Kelly: [0:53:35] It’s a couplet. Barbecue slackline.
Juliet: [0:53:36] Jim, it sounds like you have a lot. Obviously, you’re growing a business. It sounds like you have another book in the works. Tell us what are you excited about, thinking about, looking forward to? What’s next?
Jim Klopman: [0:53:48] Well, we’re trying to do a second edition of the first book and then we’ve got a lot of demands for the SlackBow. We’re going to release that in sort of a little Kickstart deal. And then working on the vision products. But I’d really like the SlackBlock to get out there in a bigger way. We’ve been retarded a little bit by getting things across the ocean. I come from like I said textile industry, total pride made in the USA. I’m a big fan of making as much as I can in the United States. There’s some things because of REPA laws that people don’t like to really make foam here anymore. But we spent a lot of time and money perfecting that foam and we’re always patenting our technology every time we can.
So I feel like it’s crazy to have started a business when I did. Most people should be shutting down. I’m just excited about what we’ve got going forward. And I think Kelly hit it early on in this conversation, is that everybody needs to be improving their balance. It’s a disease. I mean it’s a $30 billion a year problem in this country. And everybody knows this I’m sure, but it’s the number one cause of reasons to go to the emergency room for people over the age of 45 are falls. Over 50 percent of people go to the emergency room over the age of 45 are for falls. And those are the ones that are just bad enough to need a visit to the emergency room. It’s a big problem. It’s a big problem. And we don’t address it as much as we should.
Kelly: [0:55:12] If only there was something we could do about it, Jim.
Jim Klopman: [0:55:17] I know this isn’t a video thing, but I just flipped you the bird.
Juliet: [0:55:21] Oh, we’re getting this on video, Jim. We got this.
Kelly: [0:55:24] Jim, tell us where you can get in the weeds on this. Tell everyone who’s listening the name of your book. Obviously in the show notes. But also, where people can find you, find your product, that sort of thing.
Jim Klopman: [0:55:36] Yeah. Everything is slackbow.com. We’re at Rogue thanks to you. Appreciate. They’re doing well as a product. We don’t have many online retailers other than ourselves. We’ve stayed out of the Amazon milieu for the moment. Not saying we won’t go there someday. But slackbow.com, s-l-a-c-k-b-o-w.com. And I’m [email protected] if anybody wants to write me. And then all social media is slackbow.
Kelly: [0:56:00] Fantastic. Well, I can’t wait to have my balance challenged in person by the man. And again, thank you for so much enriching our lives and giving us this easy solution and play. If you follow The Ready State, you’ll see that the SlackBlock is part of our DNA now and it’ll never get ripped out. It’s always there.
Jim Klopman: [0:56:23] Yeah. Like I said, you guys have been wonderful. You really have. Juliet, you married a good guy.
Juliet: [0:56:31] I’ll keep him. I’ll keep him.
Kelly: [0:56:33] Jim, thank you so much.
Jim Klopman: [0:56:35] Thank you. Appreciate it, guys. See you.Back to Episode