Joyce Shulman Walking

Joyce Shulman
Full Transcript

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Kelly: [0:00:04] Hey everyone, I’m Dr. Kelly Starrett.

Juliet: [0:00:06] And I’m Juliet Starrett.

Kelly: [0:00:08] And you’re listening to The Ready State Podcast.


Juliet: [00:00:16] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by LMNT.

Kelly: [00:00:18] Right now, we are in peak LMNT season because they have brought back grapefruit LMNT.

Juliet: [00:00:26] Can we just say it again? Grapefruit LMNT. It is so tasty.

Kelly: [00:00:31] It’s particularly tasty. One of the things you know that I struggle is drinking a lot of water.

Juliet: [00:00:35] Yes.

Kelly: [00:00:36] Usually when I’m thirsty, I’m like, “Let’s have a coffee.”

Juliet: [00:00:38] Left to your own devices, you would drink no water.

Kelly: [00:00:41] Oftentimes, during our training session in the morning when I’m on the bike, I’m just sipping coffee when I warm up. But it’s an Americano so it’s fine. 

Juliet: [00:00:48] And then you tell yourself it’s fine because there’s some water in there.

Kelly: [00:00:49] It’s fine. It’s fine. 

Juliet: [00:00:50] Water was used to make it.

Kelly: [00:00:52] What I know about myself is when I fill up a big bottle, all day… So I have a 48 ounce bottle and I fill that up and I put an LMNT in there and I am more likely to drink it and at least I’ve got 48 ounces of water, less caffeine, less everything else down. So my life changes when I drink more water. It’s incredible. We were all about adding a pinch of sea salt and some flavor to your water. When I chug this gigantic bottle of water with LMNT, I swear I am more lucid, I recover better, I even-

Juliet: [00:01:23] Sleep better.

Kelly: [00:01:23] Stop it. Of course I do. But the real magic, my wattage goes up. I really feel I can push out the watts.

Juliet: [00:01:30] It’s pretty amazing. Do not miss out. Grapefruit salt. It’s so good. We literally drink at least one every day. Right now, if you order through our link, you get a free sample pack with all of LMNT’s flavors. Go to to check it out.

Juliet: [00:01:47] On this episode of The Ready State Podcast, we are delighted to welcome Joyce Shulman. She is the cofounder and CEO of 99 Walks and Jetti Fitness, two wellness and walking lifestyle brands on a mission to forge connection and inspire millions to walk their way to better. Throughout her personal and professional life, Joyce’s regular walking practice has been her key for managing stress, fueling creativity, and maintaining her health. After discovering that the research bears all that she knew instinctively, Joyce and her husband, Eric Cohen, founded 99 Walks and Jetti Fitness to help others experience what recent studies have shown: Walking can improve decision making and executive function; combat depression; increase creativity; and literally add years to your life. In addition to being the pack leader at 99 Walks and Jetti Fitness, Joyce is the author of Walk Your Way to Better: 99 Walks That Will Change Your Life; She’s a TEDx speaker, podcaster, and consultant for companies and women’s groups, where she shares her expertise about the power of authentic communities and the transformative impact of a consistent, intentional walking practice.

Kelly: [00:02:57] I love this conversation with Joyce. I mean she is such an incredible speaker and has really thought deeply about why we should be walking more and how that can transform our lives. 

Juliet: [00:03:10] It’s also fun at this time of our lives as we are going around promoting and talking about Built to Move, where one of the chapters and vital signs is walking more. And we’ve been on the road evangelizing walking here for a few months now and it’s really fun to talk with her about that and share our joint love and obsession with walking, but also hear some of the things that she likes about walking that are sort of outside our own expertise and things that you and I talk about.

Kelly: [00:03:38] Yeah, it’s true. You and I sometimes back into walking through sport and that process. But I think she’s done such a good job elucidating the benefits of community, of mental health, even the initial conversations she has talking about at 16 walking in as an upset teenager, dad’s like, “Go for a walk,” and how that changed her whole mood. This is so wonderful. I think if we are going to get real about transforming our society, having healthier families, it’s got to start with Joyce and her mission to walk.

Juliet: [00:04:15] Enjoy this episode with Joyce Shulman. Joyce, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.

Joyce Shulman: [00:04:20] Thank you. I’m so excited to be here with you guys today.

Juliet: [00:04:24] So we are going to delve into our favorite subject of all I think for probably the vast majority of this podcast, which is the great, amazing thing that is walking and adding more walking into your life. But before we get to that, I’d love to just learn a little bit more about what you were doing before you got into promoting walking and your business 99 Walks. I know that you were the CEO of Macaroni KID. In fact, I feel like that’s actually where you and I were first connected. But tell us a little bit about pre-walking Joyce. What were you doing? What was your early life like?

Joyce Shulman: [00:04:59] Sure. I’m actually going to go back to childhood because it all comes full circle. So I’m the daughter of a coach and a professional dancer. So movement and the connection between mind, movement, and body, has always been something that I’ve known from the time I was a child. And we can talk a little bit more about that. But always intrinsic to everything I did. Like you, I went to law school. And I practiced law for about a dozen years. And honestly, there were things about it I loved. But I woke up one day and realized that as a litigator, my job was to fight other people’s battles for a living, and that’s exhausting.

Juliet: [00:05:38] True fact. I relate to that. 

Joyce Shulman: [00:05:40] So I quit my job. My husband quit his job. Also somebody who has a background in fitness and competitive ski racer and all the things. But he was working in marketing in New York. Quit our jobs, sold our apartment, and moved to the east end of Long Island, as we were talking about earlier, and started on an entrepreneurial journey that’s now lasted 25 years. So founded and exited two media companies, most recently Macaroni KID, which was a digital media company still in business today, and launched 99 Walks, which was the first of our two current businesses, focused on the power of walking and ways to elevate your walking practice. And that sort of brings you to today.

Juliet: [00:06:28] Okay. I love it. Before we get into all things walking, tell us a little bit about what Macaroni KID is and the backstory there, because again, I think that’s actually how you and I were first connected in something like 2015. 

Joyce Shulman: [00:06:41] Yeah. So Macaroni KID publishes hyper local community focused newsletters and websites featuring everything happening for kids and families. When we exited the company in 2020, Macaroni KID was in about 550 communities in the US and Canada, and honestly, I have no idea what their reach is at the moment.

Kelly: [00:07:01] That’s a perfect segue into this world of 99 Walks and walking as community salve, for lack of a better phrase. Macaroni KID is hyper local, which means it really is about the community, the neighborhood, and trying to serve and connect people in those locales. Is that still a resonance that carries over with this idea of walking to create better society?

Joyce Shulman: [00:07:31] So I believe so much in the power of walking together. I actually had the honor to take the TED stage to talk about the power of walking together. And when we first conceived of 99 Walks, it was around how do we connect people in person to walk together. And then it was the pandemic. And then it was, okay, wait, how do we connect people in the virtual world to walk together. And we’ve been exploring both of those things for the past four years. So 99 Walks is a social fitness app focused on women, wellness, and walking. And we encourage people to connect and walk together in whatever form that takes.

Juliet: [00:08:16] Two questions here: How did you come to fall in love with walking and decide you wanted to make a professional go of it and what’s the story with the name 99 Walks? What’s the backstory?

Joyce Shulman: [00:08:28] So I’ll start with… I told you it was going to come full circle to my dad, right? So when I was about 16, you know you have those moments in your life that crystallize and stay with you and you don’t realize it at the time that there are those moments? But I was about 16, it was a spring day, beautiful day like today, and I walked into my house in a terrible mood. And I was a 16-year-old high school girl, so it could have been a bad grade, it could have been mean girls, it could have been absolutely nothing. And my dad took one look at me and he said, “Go for a walk and then we’ll talk.” And the sun rises and sets on my dad, so I will do whatever he tells me to do. And I dropped my backpack on the couch in the den and I walked out the door and I walked two miles in my neighborhood. And I actually remember the path, the streets that I walked. But what I remember so clearly is when I walked back in my house, my whole mood had changed. And it was at that point that I grabbed onto what I call an intentional walking practice. I’m all about getting your steps in. More movement for pretty much all the people, less sitting, all the things. But I also believe in the power of what I call intentional walks and that was the day I discovered how powerful that can be on all the levels.

Kelly: [00:09:50] Where do you think your sage father figured that out? I mean that is such a powerful piece of advice to drop on a young mind right there.

Joyce Shulman: [00:10:01] My dad, who is still alive and fairly well at 94, my dad is the man. So he was a local coach. We owned a boys’ sports camp up in Maine, and to this day I get emails and Facebook messages, as does he, from kids, men… They were kids then, now they’re 60-year-old men. But who will say, “Coach Shulman was the most impactful voice in my life.” So he’s just that guy, he’s that coach.

Kelly: [00:10:36] Did he pick that up from his parents? At some point, there has to be some crystallizing feature around movement or of coaching or understanding that piece.

Joyce Shulman: [00:10:47] That is such an interesting question that I have never asked and I’m on my way to Florida in a couple of weeks. But there’s nothing in his lineage that I can point to. There was no sports in his family; his family was super academic. And I don’t know where it came from. I think it probably came… My dad was a talented runner, he was a sprinter. Really talented. And I think he’s just one of those people for whom sports saved him as a child. I think that’s kind of where it came from.

Juliet: [00:11:20] Well, we relate to that.

Kelly: [00:11:21] Right. It’s why we’re not in jail.

Joyce Shulman: [00:11:24] Right. Exactly.

Kelly: [00:11:26] One of the things that does keep coming up for us is that we always believe that sport is such a way to get to know ourselves. There are a lot of ways—music, art, dance—you can come to know yourself. But probably the most accessible for most people is some kind of physical activity. And sport is such a great vehicle – can be. And it certainly can be mutated and abused for winning and all those things. But I love how instructive that is because we have found, especially in the last 20 years, so much of what we’re coming to understand around the care and feeding of the body, being a member of a tribe, feeling connected. All of the things have really come out of sport and the application of understanding high performance environments and then trying to transmute those lessons into the lives of the rest of us. And that’s such a wonderful example of here’s your dad who’s a great coach and he pulled out this idea of, hey, we can change your brain, we can change your mood by getting you to move and be more intentional. That’s amazing.

Joyce Shulman: [00:12:37] Yeah. He’s a special guy. And Eric, my husband and I, we have an ongoing conversation that you two probably have as well, which is I just consider it such a gift that I love to move. And it’s hard for me to understand people who don’t have that. And I sort of feel for them because it’s easy to say move your body when you know how good that is. Or at least in the alternative when you know how crappy it feels when you don’t move. But not everybody got the memo early.

Kelly: [00:13:11] Or has the intrinsic drive I think that we have. 

Juliet: [00:13:14] I think that’s one of the things Kelly and I have talked a lot about, is we both think we have an intrinsic drive to move because we always have done it and we know we feel good and we often wake up being like, okay, what am I going to do to train today, how am I going to move my body. But I do wonder is that learned as a kid. Is it intrinsic or is it the kids who get early into sports or some kind of movement practice learn like you did at 16 that there are so many other benefits to movement besides the physical improvement, especially when it comes to mood and overall well-being? Is that something we just learned because we happened to fall into sports and movement practices as kids and then we in a way became addicted to that good feeling it gave us and so we kept that practice going into our adult lives? Or is it really certain people have an intrinsic drive to move? And that’s a lucky thing to have. I don’t know. What do you think?

Joyce Shulman: [00:14:14] I think it’s a combination. As all of these things are, it’s fairly nuanced. But I also feel very strongly that what I call the fitness industrial complex has done a terrible disservice to a lot of people by telling people in general and women in particular for the last many decades that fitness and wellness look a certain way and require a certain thing. And I applaud you guys because you are really up on that bandwagon now, as am I, to help disabuse people of that. All movement is good. Every mile matters. You don’t have to do x, y, or z. So I do think that there is at least a cohort of people who have been turned off from physical activity.

Kelly: [00:15:05] And rightfully so. Honestly, I think that’s very reasonable. It’s gross. The gym is gross. The fetishization of diet complex. The vanitization of shaped abs. I mean really, it is horrifying. We were at a book talk. One of our friends who is an avid hiker, big runner, she said, “Hey, I take umbrage to the fact that you don’t call walking exercise.” And I want to know… The point that she was making was why do you not consider it exercise. And we said, it actually transcends exercise. It’s such a vital component to being a human being, we want to put it in the same category as eating and breathing. This is not optional for your body. If you want to exercise, that’s cool. Do you feel the same way? Of course there are benefits. We can make walking up hill, don’t get me wrong. But I think she was a little bit confused of why we had made it such a primacy of a movement practice for the care and feeding of the human. Do you feel the same way?

Joyce Shulman: [00:16:05] It’s funny that you ask it that way because I refer to it, for me at least personally and what it is that I’m advocating for, as walking as a practice. And the whole bucket, if we’re going to do that, what the heck is exercise?

Kelly: [00:16:24] Let me tell you what it is. I have to do all this fake work to do muscles that I don’t need in my real life.

Joyce Shulman: [00:16:31] If that’s exercise, right? That goes exactly to these messages we’ve been handing to people. People say to me, and I suspect you’ve heard this too, people will say to me, “I hate exercise.” Have you ever heard someone say that?

Kelly: [00:16:45] Oh yeah.

Juliet: [00:16:45] Yes.

Joyce Shulman: [00:16:46 And my answer is always, “Well, have you tried everything?” Because we have this vision, to your point, of what exercise is. It’s in the gym, it’s gross, it’s vanity driven. Exercise is everything that’s moving your body in an intentional way. And for the people who say I hate exercise, do you like to dance, do you like to garden, do you like to swim, do you like to walk your dog? The list is endless.

Kelly: [00:17:16] Do you think that it’s the intentional part there that really ends up being the component? And I hadn’t really every thought about that, but that I’m moving my body with intention, that is maybe the definition of exercise. 

Joyce Shulman: [00:17:28] This is a roundabout way to say I don’t have an answer to that. I was recently interviewed. One of the questions was, “Is incidental movement sufficient?”

Juliet: [00:17:40] Things like fidgeting and cooking dinner, would that be what you’d count as incidental movement?

Joyce Shulman: [00:17:45] Yeah. This whole idea of incidental movement. The movement that you get in the course of your ordinary day when it’s not intentional, when you’re not setting out to do… And my answer is, well, really, that depends. Do you sit in an office all day or are you a bricklayer? If you’re a bricklayer, you might get enough physical activity incidental to the rest of your life. 

Juliet: [00:18:10] Right, that’s a complicated question. I hear you.

Kelly: [00:18:12] Well, I think it’s less complicated. But what I think you’re seeing is if we come back to that industrial sport complex concept, industrial fitness complex, is what we’ve been selling, this trillion dollar a year industry, is it serving our communities? And then we can say, well, that piece doesn’t seem to be working. And then we can say your incidental movement doesn’t seem to be sufficient. How do I know? Well, you’re not sleeping, all of the biomarkers are trending in the wrong direction. So maybe there is a piece there. But you’re absolutely right. We have to bring some consciousness and awareness to it. I think that’s what’s so great about this concept of 99 Walks, is it really sets a scaffolding off of which I can find my rationale and reasoning for moving through my environment and getting to know my community, which is part of the reason why we’re such fans of what you’re doing, is you’re really putting people together and giving them reason to belong to each other. 

Joyce Shulman: [00:19:11] Yeah. Absolutely.

Juliet: [00:19:12] So I just wanted to go a little deeper into this idea of what exercise means and how vast it can be. I think people often say, “Hey, you guys are such great parents. What’s the secret?” And Kelly and I are always like, “Hey, the experiment is ongoing. Talk to us when our kids are 30.” We’ve made 1,001 mistakes. But I think one of the things we were very intentional about doing is setting up this universe in our household where movement wasn’t an option. We basically said, look, in our family, you have to move your body; you need to move. But how you want to move your body is the sky is the limit and we will support you experimenting with anything, whether it’s dance or martial arts or formal sports or individual sports. You name it, we’ll help, we’ll sign you up, we’ll support you doing whatever. So under that umbrella of movement’s not an option in our family, but how you move is an option. So we approached our parenting as one of our jobs is to help our kids explore and find out how they enjoy moving their bodies so that when they go off and be adults, they like to do that.

Kelly: [00:20:17] I was just thinking about how Caroline broke her ankle mountain biking. She’s like, “No, biking’s not for me.” She’ll never bike again.

Juliet: [00:20:22] Yeah, yeah. We’ve made a lot of mistakes there. Anyway, I just wanted to get your take on that generally.

Joyce Shulman: [00:20:28] Creating an environment that encourages movement for your family, for your kids… So I’ve got two kids. My son’s in college and he’s always been pretty active. He finds his own way. He’s into boxing, he’s into martial arts. But he recently started walking with a friend in college, especially during finals, and they call it their mental health walks. And he literally called me the other day and he’s like, “You know, I think there might be something to this walking thing.”

Juliet: [00:21:04] That is really funny. We actually were on Rich Roll Podcast and talking with him beforehand. And he’s obviously has been in the health and fitness space for a long time and is raising his kids and he has an adult son. And mostly his adult son hasn’t listened to anything that he said about how to take care of his body. But his son has become a huge fan of Andrew Huberman and Rich is like, he’ll come home and say things to Rich that Huberman has said on his podcast. And Rich is like, “I’ve been telling you that for 20 years.” But sometimes the expert is the person next door, right?

Kelly: [00:21:35] Person who lives a mile away. Right.

Juliet: [00:21:37] So I just wanted to dig a little more into this idea of intentional walking. And especially have you tell our listeners a little bit more about the data and the science and whatever is out there that really supports this idea that walking is so helpful for our mental health. Because Kelly and I are obviously focused more on the physical side when it comes to walking but we are well aware when it comes to the massive mental health benefits. But could you talk a little bit more about that and what the research is saying and what we’re learning as people focus more on this?

Joyce Shulman: [00:22:12] Sure. So for me, I break the benefits for walking into three pillars; just helps me organize all of that data and research in my head. So walking for your mind, your mood, and your body. So when you start talking about your mind, you start talking about brain health. So we could just start there. So there is research that shows, unfortunately, from about the age 50 on, maybe earlier, we lose gray matter of our brain. Our brains literally get smaller, particularly our hippocampus, which is just terrifying for some of us who are 50 plus. And what the research also shows is that a regular walking practice can actually add volume to your hippocampus, make your brain bigger and stronger. And that’s one of the mechanisms by which they believe that walking helps to improve your memory, combat or reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s and all kinds of neurodegenerative kind of diseases. So talking just about the structure, your gray matter. The white matter, which is the scaffolding of your brain, allows your brain to send messages from area to area. They’ve just really started to look at that. And walking helps to strengthen those connections and that scaffolding as well. So just talking about the brain’s structure, super powerful. 

And then the research around how we think. And I know you guys talked a bit in the book about one of my favorite studies out of Stanford University that a walk, a single walk, can boost your creativity by up to 60 percent. And those benefits last for hours after your walk. So going to a lot of what we were talking about earlier, I think we’re in a culture where we think if we have a question, if we have a problem, what we need is one more Google search. Just sit and keep Googling. When so often what you need is to take your incredibly powerful brain out and give it the opportunity to work at its very best. So executive function, resetting decision fatigue, creativity, all of those kinds of basic brain functions that we need, memory. 

So brain, and then talking a little bit about mood, the research is evolving and vast. And what researchers are trying to do these days is figure out the exact prescription: how far, how long, how much do you have to walk to have a positive impact on your mental health. And for me, it’s a little bit of a fool’s errand because everybody’s different and this idea of trying to figure out what the prescription is seems like a lot. But the bottom line around that is that all of the research shows that walking is incredibly powerful to both reduce the symptoms of depression as well as to prevent depressive episodes. And I can talk anxiety. I can talk sleep. You just cued me up to crawl up on my soapbox and talk about this. I could do this for an hour.

Juliet: [00:25:30] This is why you’re here, Joyce.

Kelly: [00:25:31] Do it. Talk about it. Okay, talk about the third pillar.

Joyce Shulman: [00:25:34] We’ll start at the end. So research shows that a regular walking practice can add up to seven years to your life.

Kelly: [00:25:40] Seven years.

Joyce Shulman: [00:25:41] Seven years. Walking can reduce your incidents of a host of diseases: diabetes, heart disease. Oh, I’d love to talk a little bit about the bus driver study.

Juliet: [00:25:52] Yes, let’s hear it. Tell us what it is.

Joyce Shulman: [00:25:54] What’s so interesting to me is if you go back not that far, if you go back into the 1950s, what the doctors believed you needed if you had heart problems or you suffered from a heart attack, is total rest. Have you guys ever dug into this research? It’s so fascinating. 

Juliet: [00:26:11] No. Tell us more.

Kelly: [00:26:11] Well, we know a little bit about-

Juliet: [00:26:12] Yeah, we have a 30,000 foot view.

Kelly: [00:26:15] And a little bit about how gnarly bed rest is for people. It’s super gnarly. We’re realizing now we have to get you up within 12 hours and going because you’re going to kick out all your structural proteins and become very, very weak very quickly. 

Joyce Shulman: [00:26:28] So as late as the ’50s and beyond, if you had a heart attack, they put you to bed for four to six weeks. Bed pans. In some situations, some hospitals, they didn’t let you feed yourself because they thought that motion might be too much effort. And the thinking was-

Kelly: [00:26:45] How did human beings survive before 2.5 million years and we’re like, nope, you can’t bring your hand to your face anymore. 

Juliet: [00:26:52] Oh my God.

Kelly: [00:26:53] Wow.

Joyce Shulman: [00:26:54] Not surprisingly, it didn’t go well. So in the ’50s, they were seeing a rise in heart disease, no surprise, all over the world. And there was what is considered one of the first studies on this topic, which was done in London. So they compared the incidents of heart disease in two groups of men: The first were the bus drivers and the second were the bus conductors. So picture the iconic London double decker buses. They used to have ticket takers. So group number one, they’re the drivers. They’re sitting on their ass. Can I say ass on your podcast?

Kelly: [00:27:30] You can.

Joyce Shulman: [00:27:31] They’re sitting on their ass driving the buses. Group two are the ticket collectors who are walking up and down and up and down the stairs. And that was the only real difference they could find between this very large cohort of men they were studying.

Juliet: [00:27:45] And the conductors are either standing or walking on the bus for the whole thing, right? They’re not ever sitting or barely.

Joyce Shulman: [00:27:52] Exactly. And no surprise to us, the conductors had dramatically lower incidents of heart disease and heart attack and fatality from heart disease. And the researchers were like, huh, maybe there is something to this moving your body thing. 

Juliet: [00:28:12] Hey Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show.

Juliet: [00:28:19] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by Momentous and we are delighted to share that they just launched their aminos and we are fans.

Kelly: [00:28:29] Essential aminos. I have been begging Momentous and the Momentous team to make essential aminos in a tasty from for a minute. And let me tell you why. One is we work with a lot of vegetarian and vegan athletes who sometimes have a hard time getting enough protein in and around exercise to protect their lean muscle mass. This solves the problem.

Juliet: [00:28:48] Plus, you found that if you have a few aminos before you work out in addition to some carbohydrate that you actually feel like you train harder, work harder, feel better during your training.

Kelly: [00:28:57] Yeah. One of the patterns sometimes for me is I don’t want to get up sometimes three hours before, have a meal, and get started with training. But I want to protect my lean muscle mass. So what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been doing this for a long time with essential aminos, is that I’ll put some essential aminos in and then right before I go, I know that my lean muscle mass is going to be covered, I’m not going to tear down my muscles to fuel, and then I drink some carbohydrate, I drink some Momentous fuel during the training ride, during the session. So I feel like I’m really covered in terms of-

Juliet: [00:29:26] That you haven’t had to miss out on three hours of sleep to make oatmeal before you go?

Kelly: [00:29:28] And I don’t want to eat a whole bunch of oatmeal before I’m kicking ass, being awesome. So I find that the other benefit is that the aminos are tasty and I get a little extra water in my system before I go. Very, very palatable. This thing is a game changer for me before I train.

Juliet: [00:29:45] We are huge fans of these aminos. You guys should check this out. Go to and use code TRS for 20 percent off your first purchase.

Juliet: [00:29:59] That’s amazing.

Kelly: [00:30:00] You have become really such an evangelist for this easily democratized, easily accessible, this is a foundational human experience like your heart beating, like breathing, that’s walking. It’s as foundational to human… What has surprised you most in your own practice and in the experiences that people report to you about the transformation in their lives about walking?

Joyce Shulman: [00:30:26] Oh, so much. So the first thing that has surprised me in a really positive way is how quickly people improve. I believe, as you both do, we are born to move, we are born to walk. And I think that manifests itself for most people who will start out saying, “Entirely sedentary, I have no walking practice, I’m 400 pounds and walking is hard,” whatever it is. “My knees hurt, my back.” People improve very quickly. Most. Obviously not everyone. So it gives people the sort of encouragement to go further and do more. And again, balanced against this fitness industrial complex. I think that kind of positive momentum that they feel and that improvement that they feel pretty quickly is really powerful, especially for a lot of people who have felt that there’s no place for them in the world of fitness. So that certainly is a big piece of it.

Kelly: [00:31:33] I love that.

Juliet: [00:31:33] Walking is such an important place that people can start. I’ve talked a little bit on some other podcasts about our close friend Mark Bell who refers to himself as the people’s coach. But he was a 350-pound powerlifter.

Kelly: [00:31:48] World Champion.

Juliet: [00:31:48] World Champion. But he was huge and felt really uncomfortable in his body.

Kelly: [00:31:53] Couldn’t put his shoes on.

Juliet: [00:31:53] Yeah, couldn’t put his shoes on. And so I think he realized at some point that he had to have that body to be able to do what he was doing in powerlifting. But he didn’t want to have that body for his entire life. And his first order of business was walking. And he posted his whole journey on Instagram and he started with something like three 10-minute walks a day. And just last month in April he ran the Boston Marathon. And he’s down to like 220 pounds. He’s still a big dude, but he can tie his shoes, that’s for sure. But it’s just such an important lesson to me that he started his practice by just adding these short 10-minute walks, three, five 10-minute walks a day. And that was enough to get comfortable walking. He started losing a little bit of weight. He started feeling better. And go figure, three or four years later, he ran an entire marathon, which is cool. So is that what you’re seeing when you bring new people into 99 Walks, is that it’s such an accessible place to start any kind of movement practice?

Joyce Shulman: [00:32:56] It’s an incredible accessible place to start. What we see often, and this is really unfortunate testament to our culture and society, most people come to 99 Walks and I suspect to frankly any kind of organized physical activity because they want to lose weight. You ask people why they’re going to do it, they want to lose weight. But very quickly that turns to the recognition that it feels good and the community. I came for this and I stayed for the community. It borrows a little bit from CrossFit, right? There’s all this research that shows we show up for other people before we show up for ourselves. We show up for our tribe. We show up for our community. We crave that kind of connection.

Kelly: [00:33:44] Yeah, we saw that in COVID. A brain is only a brain if it’s around other brains. Period. Full stop.

Joyce Shulman: [00:33:50] Full stop.

Kelly: [00:33:50] One of the things that I would love for you to talk about your experience with, shadows something that happened. We have a neighbor who’s diabetic, was really having some health problems. And I said, “Hey, the thing we need to do is get you walking more, that’s the first thing.” I was like, “You have a dog.” She’s like, “Well, I walk the dog.” And I was like, “I watch you walk the dog. You stand around while you walk 20 feet with the dog. That’s not walking.” And she said, “Well, my feet hurt.” And I said, “Great. Here’s some cushy shoes that are more comfortable.” And she’s like, “I’m really worried about falling.” I said, “Here are two sticks. Here are some walking sticks.” And those walking sticks transformed her experience in the environment. And I know that you are such an advocate of trying to help people understand that a couple trekking poles—and maybe you can talk about your experience with Jetti—how that gives people another way in when they feel timorous about walking. 

Joyce Shulman: [00:34:39] So interesting. We created Jetti Poles. So after we created 99 Walks the question became how do you get people to level up their walk. How do you get more bang for your walking buck? And Jetti Poles are fitness poles. They are not intended to be traditional trekking poles. They are completely redesigned with the intention of being fitness poles. They’re heavier than trekking poles. Not by a lot. They weigh about a pound apiece. And what we have seen is they really do two things. And we call it the Jetti paradox because on the one hand it makes walking feel easier, feel more secure, especially for people with balance issues or concerns or whatever it is. But the truth of the matter is you’re actually working harder. We’ve had them in lab testing and people burn an average of 55.6 percent more calories when they’re walking with Jetti Poles than when they’re walking without. So the Jetti paradox is around what makes something feel easier but you’re actually working harder. It goes to this question of how do we keep leveling it up because as much as we are made to walk, we’re also made to do stuff while we walk. This fascinates me, you talk about in the book, this theory, which I believe, that our ability to walk upright is one of the things that has driven our evolution because it frees our hands. We’re meant to carry stuff. We’re meant to do stuff.

Kelly: [00:36:15] Yeah, that’s pretty much Daniel Lieberman 101, right? 

Juliet: [00:36:18] We were on a podcast on KQED Forum recently and it was one of the few times we’ve been on a podcast where we’ve had people who call in and ask us questions live. And there was a woman who called in, I think she was 90 years old, and she said that her secret was that she walked to the grocery store, and not just that she walked to and from the grocery store, but then when she got there, she would carry her two grocery bags back. And that the grocery clerks knew that that was what she was doing and they would help her even out the weight. But she was convinced that that was a big part of her secret to making it to making it to 90 and still be fully functional and able to move her body.

Joyce Shulman: [00:36:55] She’s totally right.

Kelly: [00:36:56] We have been carrying resources around for other human beings and ourselves for as long as there have been other human beings. Here, I’m going to carry this baby.

Juliet: [00:37:03] Or I’m going to carry this water or this sack of whatever. 

Kelly: [00:37:37:06] That’s right. Or this stack of firewood. It really does make more sense. And interestingly, not only do you create more stability for people, which allows them to work harder without having to down regulate their force, because they’re working about balance and positioning, but when you start adding biceps and lats into the system, you actually make the system more stable. It works better when you have the arms engaged and part of the gait cycle. It’s interesting, we have a local hill, and sometimes I go run the hill, but I go run them with my trekking poles, because it is an order of magnitude gnarlier for me to go push up this very steep hill, pushing myself along as I do it. Of course, that’s not pure sprinting, but I’m not in it for the sprinting game. I’m in it for the I want to be less gross game.

Juliet: [00:37:51] So I would love to dig just a little more into the community aspect. Talk a little bit more about what 99 Walks does specifically in terms of bringing people together and also a little bit about the benefits of walking together, because I know that’s a big part of what you’re about, walking together. And then how 99 Walks is helping people do that and how people can frame that in their own lives separate and apart from 99 Walks. But talk a little bit about the being together while moving piece.

Joyce Shulman: [00:38:23] We are social creatures. We are made to engage with other people. As I said, as you guys have experienced, we show up for other people. And anybody who’s walked with anybody they really enjoy, whose company they enjoy, there is no question that time goes faster. I have one dear friend I walk with, we do four miles, and honestly, it goes by in a moment, because whenever we walk together, we have a lot to catch up on. And there’s science behind what happens when we walk together, what’s going on physiologically that’s helping us connect in a deeper way. 

So what we do is really try to facilitate that in a host of ways. Within our app we have teams. So we have members of 99 Walks who have grouped together around a given topic. Some people like to talk about Disney and some people like to talk about books. So it’s just finding that commonality. We just completed a series of what we call Lace Up and Go events. So we have local 99 Walks events or we have Jetti Fitness members who are just leading local walks and we support in a variety of ways just to encourage them to do that. And honestly, a part of what we do is just advocate for the power of that. And there are so many… In a sense, it’s really simple; in a sense, it’s really complicated. It’s a lot more comfortable when you meet somebody to say, “Let’s take a walk together, let’s meet for a walk,” than it is to say, “Come to my house for dinner.” And as a culture, we just have to keep building those bridges and making those connections. And then there’s another piece of it around conflict resolution. There’s a lot of research around this idea that moving together and walking together for a host of reasons helps conflict resolution. Eric used to refer to it when I would say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” He would say, “Do you mean, do you want to go for a walk and fight?”

Juliet: [00:40:34] I wanted to ask if you had any data to back this up. I feel like I read recently that we can connect better as humans sometimes if we’re not staring each other in the face and that we can actually listen better and that the act of walking next to each other where we’re not looking at each other in the eye, it in some ways makes the connection deeper.

Kelly: [00:40:52] Because we’re looking out not to be eaten by lions and such.

Juliet: [00:40:54] Yeah. Not to be eaten by lions. But I wonder, A, is that true, because I think that we’ve all experienced this nonstop Zoom situation where we’re not only staring at people’s faces but then again at our own face, which creates a very weird thing I think in our brains. Is that the case? Is there actually research to support that idea of connecting and that it’s actually better to not always be looking someone right in the eye in terms of being able to listen and process what they’re saying?

Joyce Shulman: [00:41:22] When my son turns 13, and now I’m raising a teenager, he was my first, and I dug into, crap, how do you raise a teenager. And one thing that I came across that stayed with me all this time is treat your teenager like a wild animal and don’t look them in the eye. God knows I’ve looked. I’ve never seen data specifically around it. But there are therapists who advocate for the power of shoulder-to-shoulder communication. There are therapists who do as many of their sessions as possible while walking. And there’s a couple of things happening. There’s that sense that looking at somebody is confrontational. From one therapist I interviewed, it’s super helpful for kids or those who are on the spectrum or have those kind of processing challenges because when you’re looking at them, they’re trying to process a lot of data. When you’re not looking at them, their brain power is not being absorbed by that. So that was lessons learned from one therapist I interviewed. 

The research around the power of moving together with somebody and the way people will synch up their steps naturally. Even if they’re different heights, they will often synch up their steps. It’s because we want to find that connection. And there is a belief among this cohort of experts that that helps conflict resolution, communication, all those things. You’re sort of in synch. You’re sharing this experience, so the power of shared experiences. And then all the things that’s happening. We didn’t actually talk about hormones. So walking boosts your positive hormones: your endorphins, your serotonin, your dopamine, your cannabinoids, and reduces cortisol levels. So you’re putting yourself in the best possible situation for connection and communication. Your stress is lower, your positive hormones, your mood is better. Distractions are less. We spend so much time distracted by our phones and devices. And I do think it’s getting better because I think many of us are getting more mindful. But even so, just having a phone sitting on a table gets people’s backs up a little bit. 

Juliet: [00:43:44] Yeah, you know, we just had an interesting experience. Kelly and I were in a Zoom meeting with one of our partners at a company called Momentous. And it was the classic tiled, everyone’s on it. There were quite a few people on the meeting. But a couple of the people on the meeting were actually outside walking during the meeting. And Kelly and I realized that we don’t do that often enough. And so we vowed to take our staff meeting this week—it was actually on Monday—we vowed to all take it walking. Not everybody was walking. But one of the things that I experienced in that meeting was even though I was outside so I was having to manage, I was just walking around my neighborhood so I was having to manage walking around other people and sidewalks and I was holding the phone so that my face was in the screen, I actually found that I was way more attentive and processed the meeting much more. Because when I was in my office on Zoom, I think everybody does this, it’s easy to be like, oh, there’s a text and I’m just going to move over here to my email and send a few emails because I’m not the one talking. And so I actually found that I was able to get so much more out of the meeting because I really listened to what everybody said, I was totally present, and there were no other distractions. And I thought, man, Kelly and I are like these walking people, and how is it that it was just last week that we did this and experienced the power of not being distracted?

Kelly: [00:45:02] It’s that environment where you take your environmental cues. So we’re on Zoom, which is technology, so I should sit down. And the same way that the environment shapes us, even if you’re conscious of it, you get shaped by it, whether you like it or not.

Juliet: [00:45:15] Yeah, that’s really good.

Kelly: [00:45:16] I think that’s it.

Juliet: [00:45:17] So I would love to hear, I know that you don’t want to necessarily draw a line in the sand in terms of steps or step count. As you know, in our book we tried to give people a very wide ranging, we thing is reasonable amount of steps to shoot for because our goal in the book is to create these objective measures. So we said 8,000 to 12,000 steps. What is your take on steps? And then I’d love to hear how you approach walking and exercise in your own life. Are you going for one-hour intentional walks? Are you fitting walking in on the periphery of other things you’re doing?

Kelly: [00:45:52] Does it have to be succinct and discrete?

Juliet: [00:45:53] Yeah, tell us a little bit about your actual Joyce daily walking practice and then also are you adding on formal exercise on top of that? I know that’s two questions.

Joyce Shulman: [00:46:04] Yeah, so when we first created 99 Walks, the way the app works is you set your own monthly walking goal. And we don’t dictate how far, how fast, how anything. It’s totally self-driven. And when we first created the app, I played a little bit. And I played with this tendency to want to do more every month.

Juliet: [00:46:24] Gains, Joyce, gains.

Joyce Shulman: [00:46:26] I know. Then you realize at some point, that’s just not working. And I have found for me the sweet spot for me is 50 intentional miles a month. And I do some of those with friends, I do some of those by myself, I do some of those rucking. I’m a huge fan of rucking. I’m all about it. I do some of those with Jetti Poles. I do some of those listening to podcasts. And I do some of those just listening to nature. So that is a standard for me – 50 intentional miles per month. I make it and exceed it most months. When I exceed it, I call it bonus miles.

Juliet: [00:47:03] Can you do the math for us on that? What does that mean on a daily basis?

Joyce Shulman: [00:47:06] My typical walks are between two and four miles, depending. Somewhere between there. Frankly I just rarely have the time… I love long walks, long hikes. My life just doesn’t really present the opportunities for that. 

Kelly: [00:47:22] Two miles is maybe 40 minutes?

Joyce Shulman: [00:47:25] Yep. Little bit less. And then on top of that, I’m a garage CrossFitter. Eric, my husband, is a competitive CrossFit athlete, as you guys know. And during the pandemic we built a fantastic garage gym, so I’m in there about four days a week. 

Kelly: [00:47:46] I want to highlight this for a second, that oftentimes in our athletic communities, what we’ve heard is that we feel like walking is beneath us or doesn’t actually add benefit. I want to give you two examples here. But I want to preface this by saying that we feel you can adapt more effectively to your training if you walk. It helps you decongest; it helps you recover. There’s so many benefits.

Juliet: [00:48:07] Range of motion.

Kelly: [00:48:08] Right. Range of motion. Two examples. There is a World Champion CrossFitter I’m working with, and I’ll just say that with the regionals coming up, the semi-finals, my prescription to handle the volume was to get these evening walks. I just want everyone to know that. And simultaneously, I have a very good friend who’s going through a really gnarly low back situation and has real degenerative changes in the discs, and is in chronic pain, and my prescription this morning: I need you to walk more. I just want you people to understand that on both ends of the spectrum, we have very athletic people and I’m like, “Okay, I need you to walk so you can recover; I need you to walk so you can get out of pain.” I just think sometimes as athletes we think, ah, I’m doing my thing and walking is beneath me.

Juliet: [00:48:48] Yeah, and I think that actually this walking piece has been one of the things that’s resonated most actually with the athletic and CrossFit set in particular, especially because that’s where we come from, is the CrossFit community. And one of the things that we’ve said is that it is amazing and heroic to do CrossFit workouts. If you do 50 kipping pullups you feel like you’ve won the fitness lottery, right? But what we see is in those communities in particular, people actually aren’t getting that additional walking enough on the side.

Kelly: [00:49:15] And losing all these other benefits, as you’re pointing out. I think it’s not just about, hey, I’ve decided to decongest my body, it’s really that now Juliet and I have ditched our phones, and we’re walking after dinner, and we’re reconnecting, and getting organized for the next day. I think I highly encourage everyone to explore this for themselves. Do not take the three of us, our word, for it. This practice is transformational. Juliet has started saying recently, “You know, I think there are two things that humans do together. They eat together and they move together.” And everything else is really just kind of superfluous.

Juliet: [00:49:49] So tell us what you’re looking forward to, what’s next, and where can people find you, Joyce, in the internetosphere?

Joyce Shulman: [00:49:59] Yeah. So what’s next is continuing to build the 99 Walks community, continuing to introduce products through Jetti Fitness that enable people to really level up their walking practice.

Kelly: [00:50:10] You’ve got weight vests there and poles there for starters, right?

Joyce Shulman: [00:50:14] Yep. Not vests, actually. Packs. Because there are some differences, as you know, wearing a weight vest versus putting the weight just balanced on your back, adjust your posture in any kind of way, which is really interesting.

Kelly: [00:50:26] Oh yeah, we’re fans of putting it on your back.

Joyce Shulman: [00:50:29] Yep. So working there through some new things as well. And my book, which is another thing that we had connected about early on. My second book is breaking my spirit, but I swear I’m going to get it done.

Kelly: [00:50:43] I thought that was the title of the book: Breaking My Spirit. And I was like, oh, that’s actually totally appropriate when you write a book. Volume Two.

Juliet: [00:50:52] Yeah. I don’t know what breaks your spirit more, the writing of the book or the marketing of the book. I mean both can be spirit breaking, right? But congratulations. What is the name of your book also just so people know and can look out for it?

Joyce Shulman: [00:51:03] Currently named Why Walk? The Transformative Power of an Intentional Walking Practice. But might change the name to If You Knew This About Walking, You’d Get Off the Couch

Juliet: [00:51:15] And so where can people find you, join your community, learn more about what you’re doing, buy your book and so forth?

Joyce Shulman: [00:51:22] So me personally, you can find me on all the social channels at joycershulman. I have a website, And and And again, all of the social channels there as well. 

Kelly: [00:51:36] We didn’t get a chance to talk about the origin of 99 Walks, but I just want to leave with this: There’s a great idea that 99 percent of design is all hidden–good design—and that you only see the one percent. And I have no idea if this is even relevant. But 99 percent of the benefits that you’re going to get from walking you have no idea exist. You just need to go walk. The walking is the one percent; 99 percent of the benefits, you have no idea how rich that is. So I don’t know if that’s anywhere there, but that’s how I think about 99 Walks.

Joyce Shulman: [00:52:05] I love that.

Juliet: [00:52:07] And before we let you go, I just want to give you a huge shoutout for what you’re doing. I do think that you are one of the voices out there that is trying to fight against the fitness industrial complex and make movement and fitness and health accessible to a much broader audience. So thank you for that and thank you for your influence on us and support and better understanding all the awesome benefits of walking. We are of course out there evangelizing about it with you. So thank you for inspiring us.

Kelly: [00:52:33] We’re so inspired by you, you all.

Joyce Shulman: [00:52:35] Thank you. And thank you for joining me up on the soapbox. It’s a lot less lonely when there are other people with you.

Kelly: [00:52:42] Noted. Noted. 

Juliet: [00:52:44] All right, thanks, Joyce.

Kelly: [00:52:45] Thanks, Joyce.

Juliet: [00:52:45] Thanks for being with us.

Joyce Shulman: [00:52:46] Thanks.


Kelly: [00:52:53] Thank you for listening to The Ready State Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, check out all our episodes here or at And be sure to subscribe or leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. 

Juliet: [00:53:04] Check us out and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thereadystate.

Kelly: [00:53:09] Until next time, cheers everyone. 


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