Stuart McMillan Olympic Coaching

Stuart McMillan
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Juliet: [0:05:06] Stu, welcome to The Ready State Podcast. I just want to start by saying that this is the first time that you and I have actually met, although you and Kelly have known each other for an age. And I’m just wondering if either you or Kelly can talk about how you guys first got to know each other, just the backstory a little bit. Do you guys remember?

Kelly: [0:05:25] Oh boy.

Stuart McMillan: [0:05:27] Man, no.

Kelly: [0:05:28] You know, when you separate two elemental particles at the beginning of the universe. Maybe that’s too esoteric. There’s a big bowl of milk and there’s two Cheerios and eventually they’re going to bump into each other through Cheerio magnetism. It’s a phenomenon. Let me just say that-

Stuart McMillan: [0:05:45] I think David Deutsch actually talks about-

Kelly: [0:05:47] Oh really?

Stuart McMillan: [0:05:47] Cheerio magnetism in his latest book.

Kelly: [0:05:48] Oh excellent.

Stuart McMillan: [0:05:48] Yeah. Yeah. 

Kelly: [0:05:49] It’s a real phenomenon.

Stuart McMillan: [0:05:50] Yeah.

Kelly: [0:05:51] Maybe it’s the law of infinity.  It’s hard to be… I think if you’re a coach currently who’s serious and you’re not looking at track and field as our elemental roots of movement, of training, I mean that’s where most of our understanding is coming through. It’s impossible then if that’s true to not understand the coaching lineage of Dan Pfaff and the coaches around him, and that leads you right into ALTIS and the work done by you and your staff. So I think I’ve been ALTIS and Stu/Dan aware for a minute. I think that’s where I became… And I’m not sure what the next step was. But I’ve been following your work forever. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:06:32] Yeah, back at you. Before I comment on that, is it Pfaff or Paff? That’s a question I’ve never asked Dan. I’ve known him for-

Kelly: [0:06:41] Kim Basinger?

Stuart McMillan: [0:06:43] Thirty years.

Juliet: [0:06:43] Or Basinger. Basinger or Basinger. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:06:45] But you’re German, right? So you’re somebody I could actually ask this question of.

Juliet: [0:06:50] Yeah, that’s true. What would be the correct-

Kelly: [0:06:51] Pfaff.

Juliet: [0:06:51] It’d be Pfaff.

Kelly: [0:06:52] Yeah. Pfaffer. But at some point, someone came around and was like might have been not Pfaff because they were trying to drop the German. But I don’t know. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:07:07] Yeah, maybe. Maybe.

Kelly: [0:07:08] At this point, I think I’m afraid to ask the master himself how to pronounce his last name.

Juliet: [0:07:12] Yeah, maybe after you’ve known someone for 20 years, it’s a little long.

Kelly: [0:07:16] Well, I say coach.

Juliet: [0:07:17] It’s too late for that question at some point. Okay, so moving on, Stu. Sorry. Can you tell us, because I am not sure everyone in the audience knows, what is ALTIS, what is it that you are doing at ALTIS?

Kelly: [0:07:30] And what’s your relationship to ALTIS?

Stuart McMillan: [0:07:33] Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me on finally. I’ve been a big fan of the pod for… Is this season four you guys are doing?

Juliet: [0:07:41] I think so. Five, six.

Stuart McMillan: [0:07:44] Yeah, it’s been a while.

Kelly: [0:07:45] You know, the syphilis is eating my brain away so I actually can’t remember.

Stuart McMillan: [0:07:49] And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been a little bit upset that I didn’t get an invite until year nine or whatever year you’re on. But that’s okay.

Kelly: [0:07:58] Hang on. We’re going to-

Juliet: [0:07:59] It’s actually better for you because-

Stuart McMillan: [0:08:00] I’ll get over it.

Juliet: [0:08:00] I wouldn’t say we’re great at this, but we are getting better.

Stuart McMillan: [0:08:04] No, you’re really good at it. You are really good at it. Kelly is getting better.

Kelly: [0:08:11] Commentary color. For everyone listening, we’ll get to some meat in a second, but we did try to interview Stu and you were at the Summer Olympics and we did try to have you on and just couldn’t make it work. So we did try to do some of that because-

Stuart McMillan: [0:08:23] That’s right. 

Kelly: [0:08:23] People don’t understand, and I hope we can get into it because we’re staring down the barrel of an Olympics, I don’t think people really understand what that means, and I have a couple things I want to follow up on, on that. But anyway, please start with what is ALTIS and who are you to ALTIS?

Stuart McMillan: [0:08:37] Well, first, I’m one of the co-owners. So I own the company with my two business partners, Kevin Tyler and Andreas Behm. And I’m the CEO and Kevin is the president. And we bought the company from the founder of ALTIS, John Godina, back in 2017. And we started off as a track and field company and it was founded by John, who was a former elite throws athlete from the U.S. I think he’s got two Olympic medals and two or three or four World Championship medals. And he started this company back in 2008 where he identified basically a real lack of high-quality coaching in the throws, specifically in the U.S.

Kelly: [0:09:17] And by throws, you mean s hot, discus, hammer, javelin.

Stuart McMillan: [0:09:20] Yeah, shot, discus, and hammer. Yeah, not jav. The heavy throws, I think you call them. And also, a real lack of real quality coaching education in those events. So he started a company called the World Throw Center back in 2008. His dream was always to expand that into all the other event groups, and recruited myself and Dan Pfaff and a few others after the 2012 Olympic Games in London to come to Phoenix and build this big center, this big track and field center, which we rebranded at the time as World Athletic Center. So we started off that way.

 We had 120 full-time athletes with us in Phoenix, 14 coaches, eight therapists. Total chaos. Absolute chaos. I don’t know if you came that year, Kelly, but it was a lot of fun. But it was totally chaotic. We found out pretty quick that that chaos just wasn’t manageable, it wasn’t sustainable, and we dropped our numbers to 60. And now over the course of time, we’ve got 30 elite full-time track and field athletes with us.

But we started off as a track and field company and doing a little bit of education on the side essentially. A lot of coaches would always come, whether it’s the side of the track that Dan would be coaching on over the course of the last 20 years, or maybe over the course of the last 10 or 15 years with me, coaches would come and visit and say hi and “pick our brains” for a day or two or a week or whatever. So we started to put a little bit of a structure to that and invited coaches out to Phoenix to spend a week with us. So we started this coaching program and that really took off. So what essentially started off as a track and field company that did a little bit of education on the side kind of flipped over the course of time and we’re now more of an education company that does track and field on the side. 

And we’ve really, we’ve gone in heavy on the digital space with using yourself and my buddy John Berardi and a few others as models of people who are doing this really, really well. And we’ve gone into that digital coach education space pretty heavy over the last four or five years now. Yeah, that’s about it. And then very recently we moved to Atlanta. We were in Arizona for nine years. That was long enough.

Kelly: [0:11:35] Hot enough.

Stuart McMillan: [0:11:35] Long enough and hot enough. 

Kelly: [0:11:37] That’s a long time to be in Arizona.

Stuart McMillan: [0:11:40] I was ready to leave Arizona after three or four years. It’s a great place for sprinters to train for seven months of the year. It’s not a fun place for anybody to live for four or five months. And we got to that point where it just became harder and harder for us to recruit athletes to live there. It was harder and harder for staff’s family to live there during the hotter months. It’s easy for me. During the hotter months in Phoenix, I’m usually in Europe or competitions around the world. So it’s not a problem for me. But it just made sense for us personally and as a business to find somewhere else to be. So now we’re in Atlanta, trying to make a go of it here.

Juliet: [0:12:16] So I have like 50 questions about ALTIS. But you piqued my interest when you said you met Dan at the 2012 Olympics. So I assume you were coaching there and had a pre- ALTIS life as a coach. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And did you get your start as a competitive athlete yourself? Two-part question. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:12:36] Okay. So I met Dan in 1995, a long time ago. I think I started coaching in ‘92 seriously. Like in ‘92 I figured, all right, this is what I want to do. And I was friends with a Canadian sprinter named Donovan Bailey who was being coached by Dan. Donovan said to me one day, “If you’re really serious about this coaching thing, you need to come down to Texas. My coach is pretty good.” So I got on the plane, I went down to Austin, Texas where Dan was coaching at the time with a small group of athletes, maybe five or six, and spent three weeks there in 1995. And that just changed my entire life. 

I saw at that point, and I often say this is a blessing and a curse for me in the same way, that it was a blessing that I got to see elite, world class coaching up front. And I could see, okay, this became sort of a lighthouse for me. All right, this is what I want to be, this is who I want to be, this is how I want to do it. But as a curse, I had to go back to Canada and try to do that by myself in a Canadian sports system in Calgary with a bunch of athletes that weren’t at that level, with a bunch of people that weren’t at the level that Dan was working with down there. So it was very, very hard for me.

Kelly: [0:13:54] And I want to jump in and just say for everyone who’s listening, this is really pre-internet. It’s different. Coaching sort of associations, drop in, the transparency of good teaching that’s happening, it’s really difficult to create that world class coaching community. I mean you had to do that from scratch.

Stuart McMillan: [0:14:11] Yeah. I got lucky. We definitely did have to do that from scratch. And I was very lucky that I was based in Calgary, which as you know was host of the 1988 Olympic Games. And from the legacy of those games, they’d built some amazing facilities and were able to accrue some amazing people to come and work there within what’s now the Canadian Sports Institute and at the time was the Canadian Sports Center. So there was some really, really smart sports scientists. There was some really, really good sports medicine people. And there was a really young and burgeoning group of super creative and super curious strength and conditioning coaches in a world that didn’t really even exist in Canada at the time. Matt Jordan came out of there. Nick Ward came out of there. Scotty [inaudible 0:14:57] came out of there. I came out of there. Charles Poliquin was there at the time. Andy Barnett was there. It was a really, really rich environment to learn this trade. So I was super lucky.

But you’re right, there was no internet at all. So that first trip down to Austin, Texas was the first of four or five, next four or five years I would go down there. And any interaction I had with Dan thereafter was a phone call. And this is how I got to know Dan and something we were joking about before. I’d call up Dan, and Dan is very, very thoughtful, super thoughtful. And he’ll pause between sentences like anyone. You’ve never met anyone who could pause like Dan. And when you’re a young coach and you’re on a phone call with somebody who’s an older coach, who’s a real mentor, who’s a real master, and he pauses for 10 seconds in between sentences, it’s really uncomfortable. So that was my learning, right? Is he still there? Has he died? I mean it’s still like that to this day, right? But over the phone, it’s super uncomfortable. That was the way in which you would learn, right? So you’d have a conversation with Dan, and as you know, Kelly, those early days you might have an hour-long conversation. I’d take six pages of notes and that would be the next two months of research for me. I mean that was the power of really having a high-quality mentor like Dan Pfaff was so important to the development of not only me but hundreds of coaches around the world at the time.

Kelly: [0:16:27] And I will say that his coaching, I would even put myself as part of his coaching lineage. People are like, “How do you know some of this, what you know? And I’m like, “Well, let me show you where I’ve gone.” And I’ve sat next to Dan watching him coach. And just for everyone who’s listening, this is probably an exaggeration but I’m not sure that there’s a coach with more Olympic coached medals on the planet. Is that possible, you think?

Stuart McMillan: [0:16:47] Than who?

Kelly: [0:16:48] Than Dan.

Stuart McMillan: [0:16:48] No, I’ve got more than Dan.

Kelly: [0:16:50] You have more than Dan? Oh, did I know that? I didn’t even know. The two of you are titans.

Stuart McMillan: [0:16:55] But I cheat because Dan’s mostly Summer Olympics and I’ve coached a lot of Winter Olympians and it’s way easier to get a Winter Olympic medal than it is a Summer Olympic medal.

Kelly: [0:17:08] I say take smoke if you’ve got ‘em.

Stuart McMillan: [0:17:09] Absolutely. 

Kelly: [0:17:10] You know one of the things that I think is really important as you guys have transitioned and your incredible teaching staff and the resources from the mentorship program that you’ve been doing, this is when I first contacted… I was actually in Phoenix working with a baseball team and swung by and just dropped in on a roundtable discussion which was just led by you and Dan, and sort of had my mind blown. I was like yes, I’ll be there; can I just show up and sit for two hours and listen. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:17:36] How did that go for you? Were you able to do that?

Kelly: [0:17:39] No. I got put on the spot a few times too. I want everyone to understand that you are a coach who I have heard more self-doubt from around understanding process. “I think I have a grasp on this, but I’m not sure. I think this year will be better in terms of my preparation and understanding of how people move, but maybe I’m just totally wrong.” 

Stuart McMillan: [0:18:06] It’s so complex.

Kelly: [0:18:07] And I don’t mean to throw this out. You’re not cavalier. You’re trying to do a very complicated thing and replicate that complicated thing. And the humility around ALTIS is really profound. People ask really straightforward questions. There’s an atmosphere of curiosity. And it is the greatest coaching environment I’ve ever been in just as a participant/person. That kind of curiosity is really unique. You can’t tell who’s the boss. You can’t tell who’s the lead. Athletes have big voice here. I think what I want to make the point of, and I’d like you to talk about this, is that we are losing some of the generational knowledge of our coaches, and Dan’s institutional knowledge has now been sort of kept and codified in a way that other coaches like myself can avail themselves of his experience. Am I right there?

Stuart McMillan: [0:18:57] Yeah, I think you are. I really appreciate that, by the way. We try to foster a really open, curious environment within our own staff, but even more so, our athletes. And then I think that just shows whenever we’re visited by any visiting coaches. They can see the curiosity at work. And out of curiosity comes that creativity and eventually, wisdom. 

I feel like the most curious people are always the most wise. I put you in that list. I’ve got a few really good friends that I would say these are some really super wise people, and it comes from their curiosity. It’s yourself and John Berardi and our mutual friend Rachel Balkovec. I mean she’s just a rock star and she’s that way for a reason. She’s now 32 or 33 or 34. She’s so young but she’s so wise. I mean she’s got wisdom so far beyond her years. And it just comes from now what’s 15 or 20 years of being curious about what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it. 

I got super lucky to meet Dan when I was 26 or something. I already had a little bit of context so I understood what coaching was. And I didn’t know what it could be. Meeting Dan and opening my world to all of these things that coaching actually is. I thought it was pretty narrow, but understanding that, okay, coaching’s everything, man. Everything that I’ve ever read since goes into my coaching brain. Every single thing that I read is how does that relate to coaching. It’s a problem. Just being in Calgary, as I said, and just being surrounded by these incredible people and all learning together at the same time. And we’ve just tried to continue that and foster that up until now. 

The one thing that Dan was that I’ve seen from very few people around the world since then is his openness and transparency to his process. You can just stand there, he will tell you anything. And he’ll tell you when he doesn’t know the thing as well. You can ask him, “Why are you doing that, Dan,” and he’ll tell you. There’s no secrets with Dan. We’re kind of getting to figure that out now. There’s more and more people being open with their transparency. Hey, there’s no secretes in high-performance sport. We kind of know that now. We didn’t know that back in 1995. And in fact, I’d argue back in 2010, it was still really, really guarded. Everyone had their own little way of doing things and kept it to themselves. I’m just so thankful that I wasn’t brought up in that sort of way. I think that’s one of the reasons, going back to what we talked about before and how the two of us met, it’s one of the things that drew me towards what you guys are doing. It’s open. Everything is open. All of it. And I love that. Absolutely love it.

Kelly: [0:21:43] I just want to be able to put Stu’s mobility guy on my resume.

Juliet: [0:21:49] Okay. So I think you would be too humble to admit this, but it’s obvious you have created a really amazing culture for other coaches to learn and for athletes to get better. And obviously Dan was a gigantic influence in sort of how you approach that. But what else? What are your other influences? Is it anything from your childhood or just sort of how you perceive the world? I mean I think creating culture is so important to any organization and you obviously are very good at it. What’s the secret?

Stuart McMillan: [0:22:21] I don’t know if I am.

Juliet: [0:22:22] I had a feeling you were going to say that.

Stuart McMillan: [0:22:25] Honestly. I’m not saying that in overly… out of humility. I just don’t honestly think that I’m that great at it. I just feel like we got a bunch of really smart and curious people together and we just do work and just try to get better at what we’re doing. And I think the culture is just a result of that. It’s not something we… Okay. 

Kelly: [0:22:44] Do you think that it fits a certain kind of people? That if you’re not ready to question foundations, it’s just not for you? And it really is uncomfortable to be in an open environment like that.

Stuart McMillan: [0:22:54] Yeah. 

Kelly: [0:22:56] Let me just be clear for people. There is structure, nothing is [inaudible 0:22:59]. It’s very intentional. But everything is open for negotiation if there’s a better way.

Stuart McMillan: [0:23:03] Yeah.

Kelly: [0:23:04] Is that a correct way of saying that?

Stuart McMillan: [0:23:05] A hundred percent. And I think there’s a selection bias too, right? So whether it’s the athletes coming in or the people that come and work with us, or the coaches that come and spend time with us, they’re all sort of that way anyway because they all kind of know who we are and how we are and why we’re that way. So we don’t get surrounded by a lot of people who are very closed or very the opposite of what we are. So it just kind of picks up a little bit of momentum and it just gathers steam and it just builds over time. 

So I don’t think there’s anything… It’s funny though. I mean it’s a really good question because I think the more and more that you manage staff, the more purposeful that you have to be about the culture. And especially the last three years when we’re all remote, it’s been so much harder. I didn’t ever think about it prior to COVID. We just did the work. We just showed up, we had a great time, we worked together.

Juliet: [0:23:54] Had a rapport. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:23:56] And whatever happened, happened, and it’s awesome. And now it’s not. It’s way harder. It’s way, way harder. Admittedly, I don’t think I do a very good job of it because I like the other stuff. I like learning stuff and coaching and being creative and talking to people. I don’t like “building a culture” purposefully. So it’s hard. 

Kelly: [0:24:15] You are CEO, right?

Stuart McMillan: [0:24:18] Yeah.

Kelly: [0:24:18] How was that transition going from head coach to now you’re in charge of the health of the organization? Did you feel like you were prepared as a coach role to step into that sort of executive role or have you had to stretch and has that made you a better or worse coach?

Stuart McMillan: [0:24:35] Yeah, really good question. I think initially it made me a really far worse coach because I’m essentially doing two full-time jobs now. And you can do it if you really know what you’re doing with both of them. But I don’t know what I’m doing with either one of them. I’m pretty comfortable with my coaching now almost 30 years in. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to get better at it. But if we’re truly “lifelong learners,” we are spending time trying to become better at what we’re doing. We’re never really settled and happy with it. So that’s a full-time job for me. 

And then transitioning into now being a leader of this organization and having, needing to make enough money so we can pay people every two weeks, that’s super challenging, man. I mean it’s really, really hard. And I’d say for two years my coaching suffered. So we bought the company in August of 2017. In 2016, I had I think 14 athletes at the Rio Olympics from 13 different countries. They won five medals. That was a great year for me as a coach because the athletes did well. I feel like I did a really good job of coaching in 2016. I feel like 2017 was my best year as a coach ever. I had three of the top sprinters on the planet. They were winning most of the Diamond Leagues. All three of them were in the top three in the world in their events. I had a really good year. 

And then we bought the company. And 2018 and 2019, I struggled. I really, really struggled. And I tried to go about coaching in a different way. So I don’t know if you’re much familiar with your typical English football Premier League manager system. So often the manager isn’t the one that does a lot of the coaching. The manager manages a lot of the coaches. It’s like head coach in NFL, right? The head coach doesn’t do a lot of the daily coaching. He relies on his position coaches and so on. So in 2018 and 2019, that was what I thought I would transition to. All right, I’m almost 50, I’m now a CEO, an entrepreneur, I gotta make sure that we’re still making enough money that I can pay people. I don’t know if I can do a good enough job of both of these things at the same time, but I have a really talented staff and I feel like I can manage this staff in such a way where it can give me a little bit more time. 

So I started spending less time in the weight room, for example. I would rely on the strength coach to do the entirety of the supervision of the weight room sessions. I started spending less time at the table working on athletes or being beside Jas or one of the other therapists while he or she was working on athletes. And my coaching then just became just being at the track for the most important sessions. And you can probably guess how that went.

Kelly: [0:27:32] Differently maybe.

Stuart McMillan: [0:27:33] I’ve got some really talented people, right? Really talented people. But at the end of the day, the athletes were moving to Phoenix to work with me and not the talented people that were working with me, even though they were doing a great job. So it strained the relationships between myself and the athletes. It became more and more stressful for me as a coach to try to reignite these relationships. It really hindered my ability to try to learn how to be a CEO on the job. It hindered my ability to relate to the staff and manage the staff properly. 

And I’ll be frank, I mean we almost went under. We were almost seven figures, almost $1 million in debt. It required a lot of soul searching and some real grinding, some hard, hard work between myself and some good, good people, for two and a half years to dig ourselves out of that debt and to figure out, okay, can I do this, should I just go and coach somewhere, or can this thing be sustainable, this thing, this ALTIS thing where we’re trying to build this center for athletes to come and perform elitely and this education center that coaches can come and learn from us. Can this actually exist because it’s never existed in track and field.

Kelly: [0:28:43] No, it doesn’t exist.

Stuart McMillan: [0:28:45] There’s a reason why it’s hard. It doesn’t exist, ever.

Kelly: [0:28:48] And you’re not backed by a university or-

Stuart McMillan: [0:28:50] Oh, we’re not backed by anything. It’s a for profit company and we’ve got no sponsorship, no nothing. Every cent that we make goes back into the staff. We’ve got to make sure that we’re paying the bills. It’s a real challenge. Yeah, so to get back to your question, I feel like three years after that I started figuring out, okay, I’m getting better at this. So about 2020. And maybe that was partly due to COVID coming in.

Juliet: [0:29:18] That certainly did not help. That cannot have helped.

Stuart McMillan: [0:29:19] Sure. Well, it didn’t help our business. But it helped in the ability for me to manage my time because all of a sudden, I didn’t have any athletes to coach. So now it’s just about the business. And you know what? I don’t know what it was like for you guys, but for four months, from March, April, May, and June, we were killing it because everybody’s at home. Everybody’s at home and they’re wanting to educate themselves. And then we already had a platform and we had programs. So our sales of our education programs were 10 x for a couple of months. And we were, all right, this is great.

Juliet: [0:29:56] Oh yeah, we had a really good year in 2020 as well. And it was so hard for all of us to gauge, right? Can we keep up this trajectory? We’re pretty sure we can’t. We think it was a weird little blip in time. But man, it felt good to already be an online business that was established in that moment, right? We felt very lucky that we had done that transition. I mean we had gone online basically in 2013. But we saw people in our industry just scrambling to think, oh no, I’m not online in any way.

Stuart McMillan: [0:30:24] Hundred percent. Hundred percent.] ]

Kelly: [0:30:25] Let me ask you this. For you all, the Olympics are a big event. Some people may follow track and field and the Diamond League and sort of the international track and field scene. But a lot of people’s exposure to track and field is some of these events even like bobsleigh-

Juliet: [0:30:41] Look at you saying bobsleigh like a boss.

Kelly: [0:30:43] It’s actually correct, I’ve learned.

Stuart McMillan: [0:30:45] Really? Are you going to say bobsleigh in America?

Kelly: [0:30:47] We have to.

Stuart McMillan [0:30:48] You’re in America, man.

Kelly: [0:30:48] I know. Bobsleigher. I think it sounds better. I just don’t want to get in trouble with my international friends. The Olympics were shunted for a year. Every athlete I knew suddenly was caught in the middle of uncertainty. Every coach wasn’t getting paid. It was chaos in the middle of your master program. How’d that go?

Stuart McMillan: [0:31:13] Yeah, it was challenging. So I used to coach a former bobsledder– because he’s American. His name is Steve Mesler. And Steve went to three Olympic Games and he finished his career with a gold medal in Vancouver. And then shortly thereafter, he became a board member of the USOPC. So he had some insight into what was going on and what potentially could happen with the games that many other coaches around the world didn’t and many of the athletes didn’t. So we were kind of ahead of the game. We knew that these games weren’t going to happen weeks, maybe a couple months prior to everyone else. At least we got a bit of a head start, okay, what are we going to do. We know that we’re not going to be at… These Games aren’t going to happen. So does that mean that we train all the way through anyway and get ready for the next year? 

Kelly: [0:32:06] Wow.

Stuart McMillan: [0:32:07] Or does it mean that we take a break? Or does it mean that we send everyone home and let’s not worry about it? So at least it allowed us to be a little bit less reactive and a bit more we could plan ahead a little better. So from that respect, we definitely had it easier than many. 

But we’re a very international group. We’ve got, as I said, in 2016 when we had 120 athletes, they were from almost 40 countries; 37 countries were represented in our roster. And even going into COVID, I think we had 27 athletes from 13 countries. And as you know, all of these countries have their own different COVID rules. So we had a few Chinese athletes, for example, that would go home, or they went home, and they weren’t able to leave their training center for six months. So they had the apartment within the training center, they had their canteen, so where they got the food, and their training. And that’s it.

Kelly: [0:33:03] Six months.

Stuart McMillan: [0:33:04] They could not leave for six months. There were coaches-

Kelly: [0:33:06] Is that a coach’s dream or a coaching nightmare?

Stuart McMillan: [0:33:10] It’s an absolute nightmare.

Juliet: [0:33:12] It’s like a summer camp gone bad.

Kelly: [0:33:14] Where you just don’t even have humans anymore, you just have people rinse, wash, repeat with uncertainty of what’s going to happen or not.

Stuart McMillan: [0:33:20] And I think it was six weeks or two months, the first six or eight weeks of that, because we still at that point didn’t really know what was going on, right, these kids couldn’t leave their room. So all their training was in their room. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of people doing 5K runs around their living room couch. That stuff actually happened. People were trying to train for an upcoming Olympics and at this point they didn’t know it was going to be canceled, by training in their living room.

Juliet: [0:33:49] That is insane.

Kelly: [0:33:49] The most elite living rooms of all time.

Juliet: [0:33:52] Yeah. That’s insane.

Stuart McMillan: [0:33:52] Yeah. It’s insane. So yeah, it was super challenging.

Juliet: [0:33:56] So you obviously, well, I don’t know if people know this, but you have coached I think something like 70 athletes, and as you said earlier, accumulated a ton of Olympic medals. And for those of us that are just fans of the Olympics, we don’t really see at all what’s going on behind the scenes with the coaches and what that’s like. And I would love to just have you paint a picture for people listening to this because I think it’s this mysterious thing. There’s this huge group of people that are there supporting athletes and we never get any insight or view into what it’s like for them. 

Kelly: [0:34:30] To be a coach at the Olympics is as sexy as it gets, right? I mean it’s amazing.

Juliet: [0:34:34] I think that’s probably the word he would use: sexy. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:34:37] Sexy. 

Kelly: [0:34:38] And I’m being facetious. I understand the realities. I still want to go coach an Olympics sometime. I offer to be Stu’s coffee man, bring him an espresso, carry your bags.

Juliet: [0:34:47] Kelly also, he’s really good at lifting heavy things, Stu. So if there’s any lifting or carrying-

Kelly: [0:34:53] Bags of shoes. 

Juliet: [0:34:54] That would allow you to get him to get a credential, he’d be great at that.

Kelly: [0:34:56] But I have to be honest, because I want you to answer this question, but as I have spent more and more time around elite sport, it’s not what people think it is on the other side.

Stuart McMillan: [0:35:04] Oh geez.

Kelly: [0:35:05] Is the Olympics the same way, you think?

Stuart McMillan: [0:35:07] You know, I often wonder what other elite sports are like, whether this is the experience… What would F1 be like? If I’m coaching in F1, is that what it looks like? Does it look like that? Or is it just I’m picking the wrong sports? Maybe it’s that. I don’t know, man. Because I know what it’s like in-

Juliet: [0:35:27] You’re picking the not sexy sports.

Stuart McMillan: [0:35:29] Right. But I know that NFL’s the same, NBA’s the same.

Kelly: [0:35:31] Yeah, it’s the same.

Stuart McMillan: [0:35:32] Major League Baseball’s the same, hockey’s the same. It’s not a good job.

Kelly: [0:35:36] Hard to be a coach.

Stuart McMillan: [0:35:36] Like it’s not. There’s no sexiness about it. So I wonder if there’s any sports out there that is actually sexy.

Kelly: [0:35:43] Which is more fun to coach: Winter Olympics which you have coached a lot, or summer Olympics?

Stuart McMillan: [0:35:47] Oh, summer. Yeah. Summer. So the experience depends on two things: Where the games are and local organizing committee, how good of a job they’ve done at putting the games together. And number two, whether you are inside the bubble or outside the bubble. So if you’re an inside the bubble coach, you’ve got a credential that allows you to go anywhere and you’re inside the village. You’re staying at the village. And if you’re outside the village, you’ve got a credential but it can only get you to the training and it can get you to the competition venue. And then you’re staying outside the village somewhere. You’re not staying within the village. Those are two very, very different things.

Juliet: [0:36:26] And I assume you’ve done both things.

Stuart McMillan: [0:36:29] Yeah, I’ve done both. Yeah. If I had my choice, I’d probably stay outside the village. But it’s so hard now from a security standpoint. You really want to be inside the bubble the entire time so you don’t have to worry about it. But it’s way more fun being outside because then you can go about your life. You can have real food and get away from the Games for a bit. Every Games is very different, as any athlete that’s been to many will tell you and any coach will tell you. For example, Rio, the Olympic village in Rio was about an hour and 15 minutes away from the stadium by bus. And it’s a few years ago now, but I feel like I was on that bus at 9 a.m. every morning and returning back to the village about 11:30 p.m. every night. And I was at the venue-

Juliet: [0:37:23] So sexy.

Stuart McMillan: [0:37:24] All day. Oh, it was so sexy. It was super sexy. Because you might have a two hour or three-hour break in the middle of the day, but you don’t have enough time to go back to the village, so you just stay there. So you stay there with all the people having sandwiches and apples. And then you get back to the village at 11:30 p.m. and you get back to the café and eat a late dinner and go to bed. And you do it again for the next 14 to 15 days. That’s not fun at all. 

But in let’s say London, I lived in London during the Games, and I just stayed home and took a train in and it was awesome because London did an incredible job of putting on the Games. The whole city was just lit up. And it was just an amazing, fun experience, everything about it was great. And Sochi was actually pretty cool. Sochi, I was inside the village. They did a pretty good job. The food was good. The Russian people.

Kelly: [0:38:13] Good coffee.

Stuart McMillan: [0:38:14] The coffee sucked. The Russian people and the volunteers were amazing. And they can play such a large role in the experience of athletes and coaches, the volunteers. People don’t really appreciate that. But if you’ve got a bunch of really good volunteers, it can be so much more fun. And the easy bit is the coaching bit, obviously. And the tough bit is just managing all of those other distractions that go on during Olympic Games. The athletes worrying about their families, for example. That’s a big stressor. Because the families don’t know what it’s like. So the families go there and they’re calling athletes, “Hey, I need to go here, I need to go there.” And athletes are trying to figure it out for them. So it’s-

Juliet: [0:38:54] Yeah, right. That’s a side thing you don’t think about, right? The athletes are trying to make sure their families can get in to watch them and they’re managing all that in addition to competing in the Olympic Games, right? They’re not just living in a complete bubble.

Kelly: [0:39:06] Then if you coach the marquee events, the 100 meters track and field, there’s a whole other magnitude of craziness that is laid on top of that. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:39:18] Yeah, absolutely. We’ve done a better job over the course of time. I’ve been to eight Olympic Games now, I think. Yeah. Eight. And we do now, we have meetings with the Olympians and the family couple months out. We have those conversations. So we do a better job of dealing with those distractions and pressures. But especially for first time Olympians, it’s challenging, sort of managing their expectations and managing their excitement and levels of arousal for what could be their first Games. I’m coaching Kaillie Humphries, as you know is going into her fourth Olympic Games this weekend.

Kelly: [0:39:54] Is it fourth or fifth?

Stuart McMillan: [0:39:56] Fourth: ’06, ’10, ’14, ’18. 

Kelly: [0:39:59] Oh.

Stuart McMillan: [0:40:00] Fifth. Yeah. You’re right. Fifth. She’s going to her fifth Olympic Games and it’s old hat for her now. 

Kelly: [0:40:07] Kaillie is a mutual friend. Will you explain who Kaillie is and where we can find her?

Stuart McMillan [0:40:10] Yeah. Kaillie Humphries is the number two ranked female bobsledder on the planet. She’s a four-time Olympian, three-time medalist, two-time gold. She competed for Canada at the first four of those Olympics and will be competing for the United States at this Olympics. She’s married to a former American bobsledder and has lived in San Diego now for eight or nine years, so just felt she was more of an American now than a Canadian at this point, so is now going to be competing for the US in 10 days. So the U.S. have actually got the two best female bobsledders on the planet, Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries, and they’ll be both competing in the monobob and the two-woman bob. Fingers crossed that they’ll come one, two in both of them. Should be fun. 

Kelly: [0:40:56] The monobob is a brand-new event. Will you tell us about it?

Stuart McMillan: [0:40:59] You know, for many years, Elana and Kaillie were at the head of the pack of trying to get another event in women’s bobsled because the men have two-man and four-man and the women just have two-woman and that’s it. By the way, women’s bobsled only started in the Olympic Games in 2002. So they’ve only been there for five Olympics so far. But it’s only been two-woman. And so for a few years, Kaillie and Elana really tried to push towards getting four-woman in the Olympics. It was a really challenging and difficult thing because there’s just not enough female bobsledders, especially from some of the smaller nations to be able to put together a competitive field in four-woman. So what they decided to do a few years ago was to have a one-woman bobsled. So they built these special purpose built single bobsleds.

Kelly: [0:41:49] They weigh about 300 pounds, right?

Stuart McMillan: [0:41:51] Yeah, I think they’re more than that. I think they’re 330. They’re 155, 160 kilos, so whatever that is. Yeah. They’re heavy. They’re almost as heavy as the two-woman. And they just don’t articulate to where a two-man and a four-man articulate with a front and the rear runners are separate and there’s an axle in between and there’s an articulation point. The monobob, there isn’t. So you still drive it with the same apparatus of what’s called D rings in the front of these sleds. And you drive, but also you just push it yourself and you jump in, and you drive it yourself. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Should be really fun.

Kelly: [0:42:25] I can’t wait.

Juliet: [0:42:26] So I just had to tell you a quick story, speaking of our conversation about things not being sexy, and that is that our little daughter Caroline is 13 and she was invited to train at a water polo camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. And she had a total ball by the way, but I think she got a little bit of insight into spartan way of life because she described her dorm as “a glorified prison cell.” And she went into it thinking the food… I think she went into it thinking it was going to be like a freshman dorm where she could eat all the Fruit Loops she wanted. Or I don’t know what her expectation was. But the food did not meet her expectation. So she loved the water polo part and the whole entire experience. But it was spartan, I would say. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:43:10] Spartan I think is a really-

Juliet: [0:43:12] From an accommodation standpoint.

Stuart McMillan: [0:43:13] Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to put it. But think about this-

Kelly: [0:43:16] I’m going to go with austere.

Juliet: [0:43:19] Austere.

Kelly: [0:43:18] Spartan has too many positive connotations.

Juliet: [0:43:19] Yeah. Yeah. Austere.

Stuart McMillan: [0:43:22] There are Olympic athletes that will live for years in that environment. Years. Not a week or two for a camp. Years. I feel like you don’t want to downplay the importance some of the training centers have for the development of some of the more elite athletes. But I would really love it if they were higher quality, if it’s something that you would actually enjoy living in or if the food was of better quality. I think we can do it so much better.

Kelly: [0:43:49] This brings up a really interesting piece. We know lots of Olympians who have an incredible Olympic experience and then retire and don’t necessarily have health insurance or retirement or a skillset.

Juliet: [0:44:03] Or really any plan.

Kelly: [0:44:04] Or a plan. Right. I don’t want to get into that here because I look at your staff, I see a lot of former athletes who are like, oh, I’m part of this, which is one of my things. I’m like look how healthy this organization is. But in CrossFit recently, I think it just happened, they just signed Monster owned by Coca-Cola and it’s flipped the whole CrossFit community out because they’re suddenly like, oh, look at this, this is a health and fitness business. I’m like the games are not a health and fitness business, the games are like a weird fitness Olympics. I feel like until athletes can make a living and coaches can make a living, because you and I talk a lot about personally how do we create a professional class of coaches who can do that and have a family and retire someday, right? 

And it’s interesting that you mentioned that the Olympic Training Center and Paralympic Training Centers are not necessarily great places. They don’t get the kinds of funding that other countries get. And there’s this really sort of push pull between the economics and the capitalism of the Olympics and the disparity and resources of athletes and coaches. I mean I feel like a lot of people get a lot of money and make a lot of money on the Olympics, and it’s not coaches and athletes.

Stuart McMillan: [0:45:15] Yeah, I think the athletes get I believe it’s four percent of the money that is made through the Olympic Games.

Kelly: [0:45:24] Oh, that much?

Stuart McMillan: [0:45:25] Four. So compare that to NFL CBA, is it 50 or 51, whatever it is the athletes get, right? I often do this thought experiment because there was a time in my life where I was working with a lot of professional athletes and a lot of “amateur athletes,” amateur being the Olympic athletes. And I could have gone either way. And I’ve got a few friends that went the professional route and I stayed the amateur route. And I feel for me the amateur sport just connects with me better. I feel like the athletes are better. I feel like amateur sport, as you know, is far more professionally run or far more professional at the sport performance end of it, the supporting end of it, who supports amateur sport. Coaching quality is far higher. The quality of all the people that align with it within the support structure is far higher generally. I was more interested in that than I was in making money. And many others are, right? I’m not complaining. 

But I often wonder, even to this day, I mean I see some of the performance directors in some of the professional sports around the world, really well paid. Super well paid. So there is money out there for high-quality coaches in many arenas. It’s just not in amateur sport at all. We talk about the IOC and the corruptness of it a lot. But I just don’t feel that it’s ever going to get better until we come up with a different solution than the IOC. The IOC needs to be ran out of town. Somebody else needs to come in, blow the whole thing up, start again, because that’s not working. That system doesn’t work. It’s far too corrupt. There’s far too much money in there for any of it to change at every single level. And none of it gets to the athletes and none of it gets to the coaches. It would drive me crazy if I thought about it for too long. It’s frustrating. Let’s just put it that way. It really is. 

And you really, it zeros me in on and a lot of other people in on what really matters and what is truly important is the performance, the health, and the lives of the young people that we’re trying to guide through this process. But the challenge is more and more after eight Olympics when you’ve seen behind this curtain, when you know what this system is-

Kelly: [0:47:42] How the sausage is made.

Stuart McMillan: [0:47:43] Is not to allow that to color how the athletes are feeling about the whole thing. It’s hard. 

Juliet: [0:47:51] I feel like in these times, we don’t need to get political. I’m actually going to ask you a question, but in these times where people are so politically divided and we have so many struggles in that way, the Olympics are one of the few things where it’s like everybody loves the Olympics, we can all come together and there’s this unity thing. But behind the scenes is this crazy corruption and athletes aren’t supported. So it’s sort of an internal struggle of is this a terrible thing or an awesome thing, is it unifying, is it bad? All right, I’m going to totally turn directions here. We are huge fans of John Berardi I have taken quite a few of his courses. He’s been on this podcast. How did the two of you connect and what are you doing together in partnership? 

Stuart McMillan: [0:48:32] So Science Link was his first website when he first went online in 1999, I think. And I found him through the same way that almost everybody found him, through T-Nation or what was T-Mag at the time. Was it T-Mag or T-Nation? What is it now? Whatever is it now.

Juliet: [0:48:49] I remember T-Nation. But yeah.

Stuart McMillan: [0:48:51] Yeah. It’s the opposite of that. So I said, “Man, this guy’s pretty smart. I like this guy.”

Kelly: [0:48:56] And so reasonable.

Stuart McMillan: [0:48:58] Well, he wasn’t as reasonable back then. He’s super reasonable now. But a guy named Dr. Steve Norris who was a physiologist at Canadian Sport’s Center in Calgary, he’s one of our mentors, he was Matt Jordan’s supervisor for his PhD, or for his master’s anyway. Maybe not his PhD. But a super, super smart guy. He brought in JB for a week to work with I think the speedskating team back in 2000. So we connected then. It’s either 1999 or 2000. And ever since I would bring him out to work with the bobsledders. 

And as soon as I had any sort of position of power and any sort of control over anything to do with budget, I’d get JB involved because JB, honestly, he’s one of the smartest human beings on the face of this planet. He’s got so much wisdom, it’s sickening to me. But he’s become a really, really good friend to the point where four years ago he came down to Phoenix to spend six months of the year in Phoenix so we can sort of hang out more. I mean he didn’t come to Phoenix specifically and only to spend time with me, but that was the reason why he first started coming to Phoenix, because we were there, right? And then two years later, we all up and leave and he’s still there. So it’s a bit of a shame from that perspective. And a shame where at this point in time we haven’t done anything together. I’d really, really like to do something with JB. I got him doing things with the athletes I was coaching over the course of time for probably about a decade before PN blew up, like really blew up.

Kelly: [0:50:27] And that’s Performance Nutrition for everyone. 

Juliet: [0:50:29] Precision.

Kelly: [0:50:30] Precision. Sorry. Of course. 

Juliet: [0:50:31] Precision Nutrition. 

Stuart McMillan: [0:50:34] Yeah. Precision Nutrition. Yeah. So he had an interesting flexion point, right? It’s do I go down this elite athlete road or do I go the gen pop road. He spent a decade in elite sport. So he knows how the sausage is made. He said, “I’m not interested in that. I’m just not interested,” and just went only to gen pop. Started PN with that in mind and then obviously killed it. And then sold PN or sold a vast majority of his ownership in PN three years ago and now he’s looking for what’s next for him. And we’ve talked about that a lot. And I’d love to do something with him. JB, if you’re listening, let’s have a chat.

Kelly: [0:51:17] Let’s have a chat and do something.

Juliet: [0:51:17] You’re like, JB, if you’re listening, I’m right over here in Atlanta.

Kelly: [0:51:20] It’s interesting that you mentioned how often people cut their teeth on the bleeding edge of sports performance, human performance. JB for example. We have a hypothesis that sports matters for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is that we can really take, it can be our lab and it can be the place where we use science and that model of thinking to drive better practices, good practices that we can then apply and try to transform society with, right? And I feel like you guys really live up to that, you and your staff, in terms of saying here’s what we know about the best ways to teach people the fundamentals of human movement — running, jumping, and throwing. And then you’re like, hey, and here’s how you apply this backwards towards high schools, track. You’re a coach wanting to learn the basics of all those things. 

How are we doing in that promise because I see a lot of the… I was thinking of Ian McCowan just recently left. David Joyce is now trying to say, “Hey, I’ve learned this thing in this high-performance world, how do I go back and transform society?” How are we doing taking those lessons of high-performance and transforming back? Is it working? Or are we missing a step? Are our kids better prepared and better coached or is the environment too messy still? Is there too much noise around nutrition and now social media and sedentariness? What’s going on? Give us a grade because you’re sort of sitting at the top of the pyramid seeing the people coming through the program, and that’s culture, society. Is there a change happening and are we living up to our promise as coaches?

Stuart McMillan: [0:52:59] Yeah. I think it’s both. Yes, I do believe that there’s many people doing this better and in better ways. You obviously are a great example of that and the people that you guys influence are great examples of that. And there’s a lot of people doing incredible things. But I do also think that the chaos and the noise that’s just increasing over time are increasing inability to actually think critically about anything from a societal standpoint, is making it harder and harder and harder because all that is doing is just opening up this binary black or white type thinking that just permeates everything in society, including sport performance, health, whatever it is around that. 

So it’s becoming harder and harder and then harder and harder for people to seek out the people that are actually doing good work. So I find on a whole, I think we’re probably doing worse. I don’t know what you guys feel. But I feel like from the outside looking at the rest of this, there’s far more knowledge than there ever has been. We have a far greater understanding of what it means to be a healthy, well-performing, high-performing human being on this planet. But are we healthier and more high performing? Clearly, we’re not, right? We’re not.

Juliet: [0:54:25] Yeah. I mean, no, my take on it is that we’ve done a good job making the best people better and that we’ve also done a good job making the people who have sort of a personal interest in or a proclivity towards taking care of their health and wellness, I kind of hate that word, but we’ve made those people better. But that’s just this little sliver of people. And the rest, there’s too much noise and too much chaos, and people are like, “I’ve tuned it out, or I can’t deal, or I don’t know what to do, I know I should do things.” So that’s kind of where my brain is on it.

Stuart McMillan: [0:54:59] Yeah. I mean going back to what JB again, right? So JB had that realization as well, where he said, “I’m working all this time and doing all this hard work and doing all this research. I’m just doing a better job of affecting this tiny little population of people that are already into it anyway. I need to get to that vast amount of people that don’t know that they need this.” The analogy he gave was everyone knows the difference between an apple and apple pie, but knowing the difference doesn’t stop you from eating the apple pie. So how do I then get people to eat apples and not apple pie? And off of that question, PN exploded, right? That was their niche, that’s what they figured out: how to get people to eat apples and not apple pie. And it was all about transformation rather than information, right? So it’s for me right now, we’re still sorting through all of this information; the giant population is. We’re not really being transformative about any of it. 

Kelly: [0:55:56] We worked with England National Soccer Team, Football Team, bobsleigh, last year. Ben Rosenblatt is their PhD brilliant coach; really just a genius. And one of the things that I really liked him saying was that he was seeing that there was a next generation of young kids who weren’t just football phenoms and spoiled millionaires. They were really dedicated to understanding durability, how do I extend my career, how do I impact backwards, and they were really pushing the organization. I simultaneously see someone like Nic Gill of the All Blacks who realizes that the things that the All Blacks do affects all the clubs down, all the way to the child’s clubs, that it’s still worth the grind at the top, and we are seeing change, but it’s a long game. I don’t know what the answer is to that piece, the grade we’re giving ourselves.

Stuart McMillan: [0:56:50] Yeah. I think the grade that you would give yourself or society if you were in New Zealand would be very different than what we would give here in America. It’s a much smaller system.

Juliet: [0:57:02] I think that’s a fair point.

Stuart McMillan: [0:57:03] I don’t want to downplay the ease of this, but it’s significantly easier to affect the system in New Zealand than it is in America. Very different. As it is in the UK as well. We have some very significant America centric challenges here that nowhere else on the planet does. I really worry. I don’t have the answers, I really don’t. That’s why I look for you guys.

Kelly: [0:57:26] Couple quick questions: I’m creeping up on 50. Should I be sprinting, yes, or no?

Stuart McMillan: [0:57:33] No.

Kelly: [0:57:34] Should adults sprint?

Stuart McMillan: [0:57:35] No. You’re too old and too big.

Juliet: [0:57:40] Too old and too big.

Kelly: [0:57:41] If I wasn’t old and big… because running quickly, for lack of a better word, because a lot of people aren’t going to sprint ever, they’re just going to run more quickly. There’s a dearth. There is a vacuum of that in people’s lives.

Stuart McMillan: [0:57:55] Yeah. I don’t think older people, grownups, should sprint. I think they should run fast and there’s a difference, right? If you look at the gait across the velocities, you’ve got walking gait, you’ve got a jogging gait, you’ve got a running gait, which is just a little bit faster than jogging; you’ve got a strident gait which is now probably what you’re talking about; and you’ve got sprinting. So if I were to go out and sprint, say I would warm up for an hour, let’s say half an hour, and then sprint-

Juliet: [0:58:25] That’s where we are now.

Stuart McMillan: [0:58:27] I’m tearing my hamstring. Guaranteed. And so will you. You can do all of the Stu’s mobility coaching that you want and warming up as you like, and then you go out and you spring maximally by five by 50 meters. You’re not coming out of that well. So what we’re talking about probably is striding, probably bringing a bit more intensity to some of the work that we do. So rather than only going out and jogging, and we just do 3 by 5 mile jogs or walks or whatever three days a week, I think that we should do something a little bit more intense. 

Kelly: [0:59:02] Even if I was just running and picked up the pace for 10 meters, something like that.

Stuart McMillan: [0:59:07] Yeah, that’s one way to look at it, right? You just jog and you’re out for an easy job, and let’s say every minute you did a 10 meter little burst where you just stride at a little bit more intensity, and then you walk for another minute, and then you job. Something like that I think is better than just going out jogging. I think we need to bring more intense movement across the board to all of the stuff that we do, including running and including the stuff that we do in the weight room. So I feel like there is opportunities there to run faster, not necessarily sprint, unless sprinting has been a part of what you’ve been doing for a few decades prior to that. So for you, Kelly, I’d start you off, just do a little 20-minute warmup, and then do some progressively faster 30-meter strides, and then go ahead with the rest of your workout for the day.

Kelly: [0:59:55] Wrapped in bubble tape in a pool, is that what you’re saying? All of those things so I don’t have to contact the ground violently? Is that part of the magic? 

Stuart McMillan: [1:00:04] You’ve got an AlterG there, don’t you?

Kelly: [1:00:08] We have 10.

Juliet: [1:00:09] Okay, so Kelly has, he said two questions, but I’m going to interrupt his second question because I just want to ask. A rumor has come to me that you really enjoy a nice watch and there’s someone else that may be here that also enjoys a nice watch. So I’m wondering if that’s actually found each other and became professionally friendly, is this watch thing. And if you could tell us a little bit about this, and why.

Kelly: [1:00:36] It’s not just watches. I don’t own many watches. But it’s a nice watch and-

Juliet: [1:00:40] I wasn’t talking to you.

Kelly: [1:00:41] And coffee.

Juliet: [1:00:41] I wasn’t even talking to you. I want to hear what Stu has to say for himself.

Stuart McMillan: [1:00:47] I’d always liked Kelly. We’d met a few times and we’d spoken quite a few times. And then I saw him in one of his videos and he had this cool black and blue Bell & Ross on and I fell in love instantly. Instantly. It was more than just a man crush at that point.

Juliet: [1:01:07] You have no idea how happy Kelly is right now. Kelly is going to literally… You can’t see it if you’re just listening, but Kelly has his happiest smile on his face right now.

Kelly: [1:01:14] I would say crap eating grin.

Juliet: [1:01:15] It’s deep happiness.

Stuart McMillan: [1:01:17] I told him immediately. And he said that you bought it for him for his 45th or 40th or something.

Juliet: [1:01:22] Fortieth.

Stuart McMillan: [1:01:23] Fortieth, right? Yeah. So and immediately, I fell in love with you as well. And so this is an awesome… I love both of you guys for that.

Kelly: [1:01:32] I just want to tell people, this is a dumb thing, but I’ve been in enough rooms where high-level coaches, owners of organizations, crazy billionaires, everyone’s wearing sneakers and joggers, and everyone looks at your wrist. It’s the only way. They’re like, oh look, he must be a good coach, he has a decent watch on, he’s not wearing a Timex. Like honestly-

Juliet: [1:01:53] Which I think is funny because you guys are coaches so everyone would think that coaches have some like digital-

Kelly: [1:00:57] Think we wear a stopwatch.

Juliet: [1:00:59] Like I was talking to Stu before, that I have this Garmin where I can track 97 different data points, many of which I don’t understand. But not you guys. You guys, just old school.

Stuart McMillan: [1:02:09] Yeah, I don’t even know what a Garmin is. 

Juliet: [1:02:11] Old school.

Stuart McMillan: [1:02:12] Yeah, that’s terrible.

Kelly: [1:02:13] Okay, real quick. You’re understanding why I can pick Stu’s brain hours and hours and hours. And our text exchanges are amazing. My favorite game is Stu just throws up a picture of an athlete and is like, “What do you see?” And I’m like, “Oh man, how many ways can I get this wrong and the respect of my friend?” It’s really a fun game. You already hinted at that ALTIS has an incredible foundations course, but you also have an incredible rehab… What would you call that course for coaches and athletes right now?

Stuart McMillan: [1:02:43] Yeah. So we kind of coined it. It’s one thing I learned from Dan from the get go, what I’d never seen anywhere else on the planet at the time. I got to the track in Austin in 1995 and there was two tables by the side of the track.

Kelly: [1:02:57] By the side of the track next to the runners.

Stuart McMillan: [1:02:59] By the side of the track. Yep. Next to the runners, where they were warming up. Dan was on one of them and a therapist on the other. And they would watch people move. And then after doing whatever it was that they were doing during this movement part of the warmup of our sprint or whatever, if the coach had seen something or if the athlete had felt something, they’d come back to the table and the coach would make some sort of input generally, or the therapist would make some sort of input. And then they’d send the athlete back off again for some type of movement. This iterative nature of this whole entire system. So it wasn’t just practice started, coach stood by the side of a track with a stopwatch timing runs, and then practice finished. It was this interaction between the coach, the therapist, and the athlete all together trying to figure out this puzzle, this human movement puzzle, trying to improve the very skillful movement of sprinting together. That was the biggest thing that I took away, was this triad, the coach, athlete, and therapist triad and the importance of this. 

And then going home to Canada and trying to implement this within our own practice for the next 20 years. And we coined a term at the time called performance therapy, which was essentially doing therapy to aid in performance. So not rehab, not rehabilitative, after an injury. Not prehab, trying to get people better trying to doing something. Not recovery or regeneration, so just increasing the speed or the way in which they recover from a session. But within the actual session itself. So we coined that, as I said, performance therapy. 

And then about a decade later when myself and Dan and Gerry Ramogida and Gordon Bosworth and a few others were all in the UK working with UK Athletics from 2009 until 2013, we started talking about we need to put some structure to this performance therapy. Because by that time we see a lot of people around the world with tables beside whatever environment that they’re training with, whether it be the track or whatever. But they weren’t doing “performance therapy.” They were just moving the table beside the track and just doing therapy. So there’s a big difference. So we said, okay, we better but this down on paper. We’re going to make some sort of educational program. We didn’t know what it would be like at the time. But five years later, we came up with what’s called the Performance Therapy Course, the ALTIS Performance Therapy Course with Dr. Jas Randhawa.

Kelly: [1:05:35] Brilliant.

Stuart McMillan: [1:05:35] Yeah. He’s absolutely brilliant. He’s the head of medicine at Sacramento Kings. Dr. Gerry Ramogida-

Kelly: [1:05:42] Gerry is currently at the Warriors. Everyone knows.

Stuart McMillan: [1:05:45] Yeah. Gerry’s at Gold State Warriors. And Andy Burke, who’s at the Orlando Magic. And Dan and myself. And I know you were involved in the project. And we had a lot of super smart people involved in building this incredible course that ended up just being a behemoth. 

Kelly: [1:06:05] Turns out it’s not a very complex system, right? It’s so easy.

Stuart McMillan: [1:06:07] As you guys know, right?

Kelly: [1:00:08] Run faster.

Stuart McMillan: [1:06:10] It’s the hardest thing to edit these things down in a way we want to get across what we want to get across, but simply. So it’s 220,000 words and 48 hours of video. And that’s the course. So its size is basically three books and a week’s worth of videos. So it’s too big. So our project the last six months has been to sort of rewrite this thing in a much more practical, applicable way in which people just can go through it in a week or two and get from it what we’re trying to put across. And I’ll tell you, you’ve been probably, you guys have been the biggest inspiration on this. People don’t know this and people haven’t heard the words performance and therapy together before in performance therapy. That’s what you do. That is what Kelly Starrett has done since his very first video on YouTube 10 years ago, whenever it was. That’s performance therapy.

Kelly: [1:07:03] It’s confusing. People don’t understand. Yeah. They don’t get it.

Stuart McMillan: [1:07:06] That’s integration of movement and some sort of therapeutic input. And then giving people or other people the directive that they are responsible for their own is super powerful. It really is. So I’ve really got to give you the props on everything that you’ve done in this space for so long.

Kelly: [1:07:25] Good job, J.

Juliet: [1:07:26] Good job, you. Stu, it is so fun to talk to you. And where can people who want to learn more about ALTIS and the work you’re doing and take your courses-

Kelly: [1:07:36] And your writing.

Juliet: [1:07:37] Writing.

Kelly: [1:07:38] It’s one of my favorite things.

Juliet: [1:07:38] Where can people find you and learn more on the internets and otherwise?

Stuart McMillan: [1:07:42] Yeah, I need to get back to writing. I’ve been so busy with these freaking courses the last few years; I need to get back to writing for myself. But So it’s because .com was gone and all these other dots. So we’re .world. Sorry for that. I’m on Twitter @StuartMcMillan1. So @StuartMcMillan 1. And Instagram @fingermash. And ALTIS is ALTIS across all of the social media.

Kelly: [1:08:08] Finger. That’s right, fingermash. And definitely give Stu a follow because it’s so much richness. It’s like a little daily dose of understanding how people move. And it’s great. I mean really, it’s one of my favorite things as a coach, being able to just drop in and being like, oh, I don’t understand anything. That’s great.

Stuart McMillan: [1:08:24] I appreciate you, man. I appreciate both of you guys so much.

Juliet: [1:08:27] Thank you so much, Stu.

Kelly: [1:08:27] Stu, thank you so much, man.

Stuart McMillan: [1:08:29] Thank you. 

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