Becoming a Supple Leopard – A Chiro’s Perspective on Kelly Starrett’s Mobility Cert
With Crossfit’s infamous stories of injury, it may seem unusual that I would subject my body to the potential abuse; particularly for someone who relies on using their body for a living. I first got introduced to Crossfit while I was in chiropractic school through one of my classmates. The workout was short, but it left me laying on the floor exhausted and wondering what just happened to me…I was hooked.
I became a sponge for information. I watched hundreds of videos on how to perform a kipping pull up, cleans, and muscle-ups. I read articles about the benefits of performing exercise at high-intensity. I watched people flip tires and walk on their hands, and knew I wanted to be able to do all of those things.
However, I knew the fun couldn’t last if I knew it was something that I couldn’t do safely. An injury to my spine, shoulders, or legs would cost me the ability to take care of patients and make a living. If my chances for serious injury were high, the risk of getting hurt would force me to put away my fun new hobby.
That’s when I stumbled upon the Crossfit Journal and the work of Dr. Kelly Starrett. He’s a Doctor of Physical Therapy, a Crossfit Coach, and an international expert who has consulted with NFL teams, Olympic Athletes, and the U.S. Military on enhancing the safety and efficacy of their training programs. He’s most recently known for his regular contributions to mobilitywod.com and his new book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”. The Journal was a treasure trove of articles and videos where he details effective methods of doing the workouts safely, AND more efficiently. It was a beautiful system where the better I learned how to perform the exercises safely, the faster I got and the better my workout times.
As I got better at doing the movements safely, my times and my strength improved. As a professional who has been an athlete and has worked with athletes, it is difficult to teach someone how to move safely. However, if the movement makes you better and faster, then it was worthwhile. Safe is not sexy, performance is.
Thus my addiction was validated. I had the information necessary to do what I loved to do with the tools and assurance that I could perform safely, and I’ve done so for the past 5 years.
As I finished school, I realized that I had a different set of eyes then what I had before I started school. I could watch people exercise and see where their movements may lead to future problems. Whether it was weight lifting, jumping, running, or throwing, the eyes of someone who is intimately familiar with the body’s architecture . Though I could see the problems happening before my eyes, I didn’t have great tools to help the person fix the underlying problem that would lead to injury; their faulty movement patterns.
Though my primary focus has never been on athletes or athletic performance, I’ve taken care of quite a few athletes who were in need of Structural Correction. One of the most pressing concerns for these girls and guys is how to stay on the training floor while recovering from injury. They’ve been to numerous doctors that tell them to shut the training down for weeks to months, which is like telling a singer to stop singing or a dancer to stop dancing. They would rather not exist than exist without their passion. While in Chiropractic School, I had teachers who worked with elite athletes from NHL/NFL stars to Olympic sprinters. The problem was their ability to put the information they used everyday into a workable framework to use in practice; it wasn’t workable.
This past weekend, I registered and attended Dr. Kelly Starrett’s Mobility Certification offered through Crossfit’s training program. The course is sold out for months in gyms across the country, and by a little bit of luck, I was able to find some open spaces in my own backyard.
The Mobility Cert
Kelly began the course with a concept that was elegantly described and very familiar to those in chiropractic. Just like chiropractic, many people see the world of Mobility framed around a response to pain. While pain frequently puts people in a position to see a professional or to take better care of themselves, it is a system that is forcing the collapse of the modern health care. The cost of treating diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are staggering. The worst part is that most cases of these diseases are completely preventable. They arise as a result from the population treating their bodies poorly for years, and not taking action until symptoms show.
What Starrett is able to do is use simple to use tools that are commonly taught in chiropractic and physical therapy programs, and make them usable for the public at large using inexpensive tools. Things like trigger point therapy, PNF stretching, and targeted stretching programs have been utilized and provided by PT’s and chiros for years are now available for basic problems of the musculoskeletal system.
Now you might be thinking “Wouldn’t giving these tools to people hurt your business?”
On the contrary, I think it makes me a stronger and more credible doctor to teach people how to better care for their own pain. In my world, Structural Chiropractic is not about treating someone’s musculoskeletal pain or Secondary Conditions. It’s about restoring the body back to normal through optimal alignment of the spine. It’s about achieving the full potential of the central intelligence of the brain and spinal cord, because a healthy brain can take better care of you than most any doctor. It’s about returning the person’s nervous system into a state that Starrett called fully human.
I didn’t get into chiropractic to treat someone’s uncomplicated muscle pain. I got into chiropractic to restore someone’s life to the way it was meant to be lived.
Starrett’s concept of being fully human is the most elegant description of being fully expressed that I’ve heard delivered to date. Movement is life, and is what drives the function of the nervous system. If the human body is designed to move in certain ways, any deviation or interference to your ability to move takes away from your ability to be fully expressed as a human being. Sure, it means moving pain free, but more importantly, it means moving to the best of your ability, with great performance and intensity.
Finally, and this is something that I shared with Starrett at the seminar, is the fact that I wished professors in school had the ability to simplify these principles of functional restoration in my classes. Kelly’s ability to understand the neurological and biomechanical implications of his material, but make it digestible for regular people to understand was fantastic. He also made it easier to put his material to use by giving people a framework of Crossfit’s basic movements as a diagnostic guide to identifying movement dysfunction in the gym itself.
Where it used to take minutes to identify and understand the cause of someone’s movement deficiencies, I can now readily identify in seconds. Thanks to his concept of using the” gym as a lab”.
Whether you’re a professional (chiropractor/MD/PT), a coach, a Crossfitter looking to be in the Games, or just a person looking to become more human, if you have the opportunity to take this certification, make sure you jump at it. Get the tools to help others become Supple Leopards, that way, I can focus on what I do best, and that’s Structural based, upper cervical chiropractic.
The underlying theme in all of this? Learn the tools to take the best care of yourself. Take control of your own health, and use the professionals as teachers as the word “Doctor” was originally intended.