Foot Rant

Last night I came home exhausted, the sort of exhaustion brought on by overload. I though a hot tub soak and a good read would help me unwind so I could fall asleep. The husband unit had pointed out a good article on running in Outside Magazine, so I grabbed that. I’ve got a running workshop coming up soon and I like to catch all the latest hype and buzz.

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Super bad choice for unwinding. Dang! I hate it when something ruffles my feathers right before bed, especially on a night when I need some good sleep. I almost wrote the letter that night, but made myself wait until morning. Here it is, my first letter to the editor of a major publication (just in case it never gets printed in the actual Feedback column):

The trouble with quoting scientific studies to resolve a question (You Don’t Know How to Run, April 2013) is that studies can only test for a single variable. Biomechanics must be done with regard the the entire body within gravity. Likewise, running is not just done with the feet. If there is no mention of hip flexion, extension and lateral stabilization regarding stride form, then any interpretations of foot impact are moot. Heel strike verses mid-foot strike has another variable too: speed. Good walking form requires heel strike. As we speed up, the heel strike lessens and the foot lands more in the mid-foot (if the foot is properly landing directly below the torso). These are more important variables to consider when improving running form than what kind of shoes to purchase. I loved Christopher McDougall’s comeback to the hype: “When did I ever say buy shoes?”

Here are my added points I would like to make. First–I love Outside Magazine. Second–I am a barefoot runner. As in no shoes.I’ve been trying a couple of minimalist shoes and had some good and some bad experiences with them. I also have run in so-called “traditionalist’s” shoes. Third–I own a business, but hate hype marketing, which, sadly, works great but only until the next fad comes along. Fourth–most of the research in the article was most likely paid for by shoe companies (Joe Hamill, professor of Kinesiology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, is quoted extensively and “has done research for shoe companies”) as is most of the magazine paid for by shoe companies that advertise.

Barefoot running is about finding alignment through natural movement. That sounds so much better than this snippet from the article: “The minimalists believe they’re poised to inherit the earth. The traditionalists have no plans to surrender. The battles are being fought runner by runner, shoe by shoe.” Alignment is based on science and is different than posture, which is is based on social constructs. Rather than science based, this article is posturing the two sides of the discussion as enemy camps. Why are we fighting?

Because of money, of course. According to the article, Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run launched a 500 percent increase of FiveFingers shoes sales. If the next trend is just regular ol’ barefeet, well, no shoe sales will follow. Podiatrists don’t like to promote bare feet because they sell orthotics (sorry that is a generalization, and I know there are good podiatrists that are not just out to sell orthotics, but there is good money in them and that is a fact). Are there injuries on both sides? Of course. Even if we run with perfect form from head to toe, shit happens.

This I know to be true: our feet are beautifully bio-mechanically designed. To work with our knees. And our hips, and torso, neck and head. Gravity is constant. Strength is relative. Speed is an imposed external parameter of running performance which has gained importance due to cultural influences. Aerobic exercise means moving EVERY muscle, one of which is the heart. Alignment is based on physics (gravity being a big player) and means that every joint is able to move in a proper relationship to every other joint. Only then can every muscle properly move to become nourished aerobically and strengthened eventually. That would be an internal parameter of running performance, and much better science than jabbering on about shoes.

Peace out.

 

 

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Meditation Part Deux

Last week I listened to a podcast by my favorite blogger, Katy Bowman, regarding changing habits. She explained to REALLY master a new concept, you need to study 10,000 hours. Which sounds like a lot. Because it is. But wait, she parcels it out and if you study or practice 8 hours a day, that mastery will take about three years. Which still sounds hard, but doable. It takes 4 years to earn a college degree (or if you’re like me and don’t, umm, actually study 8 hours a day, it might take several years longer). Katy was talking about exercise, which I love to do for 8 hours a day. I am in total agreement with her that a body needs to be active most of the day to achieve optimum health. When you like something, and especially when you are already good at it, spending 3 years mastering it seems perfectly reasonable.

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My new goal is to explore deeper awareness. Meditation has never been my forte. I like to walk and there is such a thing as moving meditation, but I want to learn more disciplined meditation. Which, from what I understand, means not moving and not thinking. First off, I like to move, so the sitting in stillness part is hard for me. And then there is my mind. Occasionally I feel moments where something “deeper” is happening while I sit and quiet my mind and body. Soon however, I am thinking–about my last Facebook post and how many responses it got and whether I should be wittier or wondering what is for dinner and reminding myself to remember my mother’s birthday. Oh, and then there was the time two weeks ago when I absolutely could not exhale. What. was. that? I’m pretty sure that although moving and thinking are out, breathing is good for meditation.

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Yesterday I read in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika these words: “the yogi who meditates on the self, takes moderate and pure food and practices siddhasana (a yoga posture) for twelve years, attains siddhi (mastery).” TWELVE YEARS??? Of sitting? And thinking pure thoughts? AND eating well? It seemed extreme–even longer than getting a degree! But I am not doing this for hours every day. 10,000 hours divided by 30 minutes and minus some days is probably more like a gazillion years until mastery. Using all caps and expressing impatience when writing about *enlightenment* is probably a sign that I need a few thousand extra hours as well.

My last post made meditation seem easy. And really–certain aspects of living a meditative life is pretty straight forward. Breathe and think, right? Take action from a place of awareness and intention. And that is exactly right. And generally easy to do unless you live with a three-year old. But what about that enlightenment thingy? Is there a deeper dimension to be-ing?

More from Swami Muktibodhananda in the HYP: “Within us are planes of existence, areas of consciousness, which are in absolute darkness. These planes are much more beautiful and creative than the ones we live on now. However, how are we going to penetrate and illuminate them?”

Which is exactly what I was teaching last week in my yoga classes–but I was referring to the physical body rather than pure consciousness.We attempted to enliven our physical awareness–by engaging certain muscles and coming fully into poses, by breath work, by coordination, and by releasing energy and learning how to relax certain muscles. All of which helps us to become more embodied–more alive in the present moment. For anyone that has a reason NOT to illuminate all the darker areas of the body, this is difficult to achieve. After active asanas, there is a brief meditation done in savasana. That pose is generally not translated, because literally it is “corpse pose.” There is a certain yuckiness to doing corpse pose, but everybody loves *savasana*!

I like to think that by embracing our death, we become more alive and that savasana illuminates that darker dimension to our bodily presence. That it makes each moment more meaningful. But to really go there, to really embrace our full human essence, we must accept that we are not ultimately in control. That loss happens–and really, really, it will.

That is a really big, dark, and scary shadow across those other “beautiful and creative” planes of existence. And our beautiful, creative, and rational minds believe that it might be better to think about something else. Anything else. I don’t really have a problem achieving the fullness of embodiment, but appreciating the fullness of dis-embodiment sucks. And yet, there are those gurus and swamis and enlightened ones that make it sound worth the effort…

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So it will take time. Practice. Patience. Probably at least 12 years. But I do hope that I can illuminate all the planes of existence during my lifetime. I am pretty pleased to be here. I hope to be here a long time. And I would like to see all the beauty on every dimension possible. Because, beauty, is well, a beautiful thing. Pretty enlightening, huh?