What you believe about movement could make it better for you.

I read about this study not long after it was published and have had many occasions to remember it and tell it’s story, which goes something like this. A sample of 84 of hotel room attendants were divided into two groups. Group 1 participants were in the control group and were not given any special information and continued to perform their cleaning responsibilities as usual. Group 2, the informed group, were given the intervention, which was being told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. On average, hotel room attendants clean 15 rooms a day – work that requires exerting activities like walking, bending, pushing, lifting, and carrying. They were provided with examples of how their work was actually exercise. Remember, subjects in the other group were not given this information.

Although actual cleaning behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. Results suggest the possibility that prior to the onset of the study, room attendants were not receiving the full benefits of their exercise because they were not aware that they were actually getting exercise.

The placebo effect is a favorable response to an intervention — a pill, a procedure, an activity — that doesn’t have a direct physiological effect. The classic example is when people enrolled in a study experience some improvement in their condition even though they were given fake pills that don’t contain any active ingredients. In the case of hotel attendants, beliefs and expectations elicited significant physiological improvements. Simply shifting their mindset to perceive their work as exercise improved their health. The placebo effect was in play.

What if you looked at all of your possible and actual movements in a given day as having potential health benefits?  I include possible movements because humans are inclined to choose convenience over movement. My movement teacher, internationally renowned biomechanist Katy Bowman, sees convenience as the problem. Start replacing the word, “convenient” with “takes less movement,” and you will find that’s how it translates most of the time.

If something is convenient, it means you made less physical movement. If it’s convenient to park close to your destination, it takes less movement. If its convenient to blow your leaves or snow rather than rake or shovel them, it means it you moved less or less of you moved. Even really small things, like the convenience of having your wife or husband hand or bring you something, means you didn’t move much. And less movement is not what most of us need.

If treating some work tasks as exercise has positive health aspects, why not also consider some movements made throughout your day as exercise?   This could be especially fruitful for those with sedentary jobs. Many of the movements that you make (or could make) just getting life done have the potential for maintaining or improving cardio respiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and neuromotor fitness.

How can you stack more movement into your life? For some great ideasI turned to the most passionate and creative people I know, when it comes to moving more. You should know that this group of movers are avid students of courses and writings of Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement. Some, including myself, have trained and certified with Katy as Restorative Exercise Specialists. Movements like walking, sitting on the floor, squatting, and dynamic core activities like carrying, hanging, and swinging feature prominently in our lives and for those of us, who are movement teachers, in our work with clients.

I share with you ideas for more movement that also provide fitness components necessary to be considered exercise – cardio, strength, flexibility, and neuromotor fitness. Your job is to move, move more, and move more of you in your life and contemplate how this movement is physiologically as beneficial as exercise plus it gets life done!

Movement for getting transportation & travel done

I have embraced things that I formerly thought of as inconvenient, uncomfortable, or risky, which mostly means walking everywhere, carrying, climbing, leaping, swinging, and not acting my age. I walk to and from work every day no matter the weather or what I need to carry (once I carried an armload of cherry wood that someone chopped down and said I could have).

At the airport, I hand carry my carry-on luggage through the terminal instead of rolling it – even carrying it up/down stairs instead of using escalators. And I never use the moving walkway.

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I always take the stairs rather than the elevator, even if its 30 flights!

I coordinate my errands so that I can park centrally and walk to each place.

I try to walk all errands under two miles.

If I can’t walk the entire way to my destination, I will drive part of it and park and walk the rest.

I carry my backpack in my arms instead of on my back and change up how I carry it every couple of minutes.

Whenever I go for a walk, I bring a trash bag and pick up garbage along the way, which gets me lots of squatting and stooping, some carrying, and a sense of doing good in the world.

Movement for getting house stuff done

Today I painted my kitchen ceiling, and I left the paint on the floor in the corner and every single time I needed to reload my brush, I climbed down the stool I was using and squatted down to the paint – it took longer than just staying up there with paint right there, but it was an inconveniently lovely movement experience- and the ceiling looks nice.

For grocery trips, I carry one or two hand baskets instead of using a cart.

At Costco, I decline a box so that I have to load and unload items individually to my car and house.

I often prep food in various positions on the floor, and I chop outside when weather permits.

I use a short handled broom instead of a long handled one. (Here is a fun video of Shannon of Purna Wellness doing just that, but there’s more to it. She conveys an important idea about how we often outsource our movement to tools that require us to move less). 

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I use a mortar and pestle to grind spices instead of a spice grinder.

I hang my laundry instead of throwing it in the dryer.

I installed hooks on the tops of the kitchen cabinets for coffee mugs & wine glasses so that every time I use one, I have to really reach for it.

I moved my silverware and favorite coffee cups to the lowest drawers so that i have to squat or stoop to get to them

I keep a lot of herbs in mason jars that I’ve put on top of my pantry cabinet so that I get to climb on the counter or stool in order to get them down.

Movement for getting outside stuff done

When I water my gardens and flower pots I fill two gallon jugs of water in the kitchen and carry them outside to the plants instead of watering with the hose. I make about 10 trips a day during the growing season. When I return to refill I look for different ways to get on the deck rather than always using the steps. e.g. : climb up the high end, butt plop on and swing legs up (challenging with a 70 lb dog who thinks you are playing) etc.

We haul wood up to the house from the woodpile (our sole source of heat) in a plastic sled, but now I often carry armloads of wood up the steps, in different configurations, rather than just dragging the sled up the stairs.

We retired all of our motorized lawn tools for hand tools. Instead of a weed whacker, we use hand clippers; instead of a leaf blower, we rake; instead of a snow blower, we shovel; instead of a rototiller, we double dig the garden beds; we still mow the lawn, with an old fashioned, human powered push mower.

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Movement for getting kids done

I carry my baby (now toddler) in my arms instead of on my back or in a stroller.

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I play on the playground equipment with my children several times a week  – monkey bars, ducking under, climbing over, running around. 

I park a few blocks away from my daughter’s school so we have to walk for drop-off/pick-up.

I let my kids lead our hikes. I have to (try to) do whatever they do – walk across logs, crawl under low-hanging branches, hang from high branches, step from stone to stone, carry a heavy rock or as many sticks as I can as far as I can, walk backwards, wade through streams, run up scree slopes, jump up on and down from boulders.

Movement for getting sedentary done

We got rid of our couch and purchased a low dining table. So we squat and sit multiple ways all day long.

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I switched my desk out for a floor desk with a cushion. We also now watch Netflix in the evening on the floor (in front of the couch, we just pull the cushions off) and I do hamstring stretches while I watch.

We keep the house cooler so all our bodies do more of the work heating us.

I have Metolius rock rings hanging in my car port, and I hang for a few seconds every time I get in and out of the car.

A portion of all screen time (computer, tv, etc.) or reading time has to be done either standing or sitting on the floor.

Please share your ideas for moving more and more of you.

Namaste, Michele

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Why I Walk to Work

Most days I walk to work, in my case a yoga studio. Round trip, its ~3 miles. I don’t speed walk or carry hand weights or pump my arms. I simply walk. It’s one of the big ways that I stack my life around movement. Here is why you might consider walking to work.

Walking to work doesn’t require you to add gasoline or miles to your car and for that trip, your car-bon footprint is nil.

Walking to work can be your workout for the day, which means you won’t have to set aside time later to exercise. If you want to add more movement, plan to add some errands to your walk. Yesterday, I dropped off some items at the postoffice and then added an additional 2 miles to pick up something from the fabric shop.

If you pass by your favorite coffee shop, you can go inside and maybe run into a friend or have social time with the barristas. Whenever I do, Here Comes a Regular, by the band The Replacements plays in my head and I leave feeling happy and connected.

When you walk to work, you interact with neighbors and strangers, who are out mowing lawns, getting the paper, or walking their dogs. You begin to grow your extended community.

When you walk to work, people notice and it plants a seed. The fact that I walk to work has not been lost on my students or other yoga teachers. I regularly hear from people I know, “hey, was that you I saw walking down Yakima Ave.?” You never know, when or where those seeds will grow.

Speaking seeds growing, when you walk to work you really get to enjoy your neighbors’ gardens and how they change with the seasons. And, if you are stealth, you can graze on berries or plunder small starts for your own garden. Or, better yet,  just ask. I find most people are happy to share their garden bounties.

I often listen to podcasts, while walking, from smart movement and somatic thinkers. These are three of my favorites: Liberated BodyYoga & Beyond, and Katy Says. Listening to an educational podcast, while walking to work or walking to do errands is great way to stack your life around movement.

Walking to work replaces sitting in a vehicle with moving your body. One hour of exercise at the beginning, middle, or end of your day cannot not undo the harm done by too much sitting. Sitting in car, sitting at work, sitting for meals, sitting on the couch, sitting at your home computer. In fact, a cardiovascular expert from a consensus panel of the American Heart Association says “Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels.” I recently wrote an article that details other ways that you can replace sedentary with movement.

My wife and I often join each other on our respective walks to work. This stacks movement around family time.

I remove my shoes for sections of my walk to work, which is part of my foot health protocol. Barefooting is ultimately the best way you can improve strength, mobility, and health of your feet.

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If you come up with other benefits of walking to work, please drop me a line.

Namaste, Michele

 

 

 

 

The Inconvenience of Movement

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The July issue of Prevention Magazine featured a 12-page spread on Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. I spent two years studying with Katy and in October 2015, I began working for her organization. While Nutritious Movement has had an influence on how I practice and teach yogasana, it’s greatest impact has been on my own personal life-driven movement practices.

I first heard Katy talk about the relationship between convenience and movement in the context of stacking her life. The idea is that convenience always equals less movement. Think about it. Taking an elevator instead of stairs is convenient but requires less movement. Tossing your clothes into the dryer instead of hanging them is convenient, but requires less movement. Parking close to your destination is convenient, but requires less movement. Driving one mile for a quick errand instead of walking is convenient, but requires less movement. Katy came to the realization many years ago that convenience was not convenient to her health and was in fact debilitating her.

Influenced by Nutritious Movement, I began to notice the big and small ways that choosing convenience robbed me of movement. One of the striking things I discovered was how often I am tempted to ask my partner to hand or bring me something instead of getting if for myself. I had no idea how precious I had become! So I began to intentionally choose movement over convenience. Every day, I am faced with countless decisions to either take a shortcut and “save steps” or to seek opportunities to increase my movement. For instance, at Costco, where I park at the farthest away space, instead of asking for a box, I have my purchased goods placed directly into my cart, which requires me to unload them one at a time into my car; and then several trips into my house. When I return my cart, it is not to the closest stall, but all the way back to the store. These are simple steps that don’t take much time and add up. 

In the Prevention Magazine article, Katy shares numerous ways she chooses movement. For instance, she places her everyday dishes in the lowest cabinets (under the counter) so that she has to squat each time she wants to get a glass, dish, or bowl.

I’ve compiled my own growing list of “inconveniences” that have added movement to my life that in aggregate over days, weeks, months, and years will provide incalculable benefits.

  1. I no longer own a couch or cozy living room furniture. When I wish to sit, I have to get down onto the floor, which is not convenient and requires me to mobilize ankles, knees, hips, and spine. It demands a combination of concentric and eccentric muscle actions to lower me down to the ground and bring me up to standing; and is a realistic test of strength to weight. The benefits of sitting on the floor go far beyond lowering down to and rising up from.
  2. I sleep on a three 3 inch pad on the floor. Again, because it requires me to get down onto the floor and back up again, I’ve added more movement and loads to my parts.
  3. I do quite a bit of computer work, so I had a standing work station built. Prior to making my living as a movement practitioner, I was a research librarian and spent 10+ hours a day sitting at my computer. Now, when I have to be at the computer for long stretches, I either stand or sit on the floor at a sit/squat desk. If you are standing for work, here are my top 25 movements at my standing work-station.
  4. One of the best changes I’ve made to my domicile is adding a squatting toilet. I use Nature’s Platform, which sits directly over my toilet. It provides more realistic squatting loads than that gimmicky foot stool called the Squatty Potty. Nature’s Platform differs from a true squat toilet in that you have to climb up onto it rather than lower to a squat from standing – the way you would do if you were toileting over a hole in the ground/floor, but once you are in a squat on the platform, the experience and benefits are much richer than using a foot stool to hike up your legs.
  5. Over a year ago, we downsized to one car and I walk as many of our errands now as I can. It does take some planning and there are far too many times that I don’t plan well and end up driving to errands that are walkable to save myself time. But I do try to think about where I need to go each week and how I can prioritize walking to get there.
  6. I grew up in Tennessee, where we had no shoes. Just kidding. We had shoes, but I chose not to wear them whenever I could get away with it – all the way up through college. Katy reawakened my love of barefoot living, causing my great neurotic shoe purge that while traumatic has been amazing for how, how much, and how much of my feet move.
  7. And I use my arms more. On my barefoot or minimally shod walks, I carry things in my hands and arms – like my day pack. Instead of using a cart at the grocery store, I carry two hand baskets (when they are available). Instead of using a motorized lawn mower, I use a non-motorized push mower and basic hand tools like clippers, loppers, and hand saws to trim what needs trimming around the garden and yard. Katy is a big advocate for hanging (like from monkey bars and tree branches), but I got bored with hanging, so I started rock climbing again.
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Michele, Datil, NM

If you are inspired to add more movement to your life, but you’ve been sedentary and would like to ease in slowly, I am certified by Nutritious Movement to teach the corrective exercises that Katy features in the Prevention Magazine article. These exercises will prepare your body for the loads required for squatting and getting on & off the floor with grace; adding more steps to get you to and beyond the recommended 10,000; and using your arms for lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, dragging, climbing, digging, chopping pounding, swinging, reaching mantling, scraping, ripping, hoisting, throwing, hauling, heaving and all those other wonderfully nutritious movements your upper body has been missing.

Namaste, Michele

 

Foot Love Workshop Exercises – October 2015

You can find variations of some of these exercises in world-renowned Biomechanist Katy Bowman’s books & DVD included in her Healthy Foot Kit.

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Standing Exercises

All standing exercises should be done in Tadasana aka mountain pose with your feet pelvis-width distance apart, pointing forward, which means the outside edges of your feet should form a straight line (you can line up the edge of one of your feet on a yoga mat to check that it is actually straight and match the other accordingly); and your hips back so that they are stacked over your knees, ankles, and heels and not drifting or thrusting forward. Keep your weight back in your heels. I call this Smart Tadasana Alignment.

Toe Spreading

Lift your toes (this is called extension), spread them away from each other, and place them down onto the mat. Repeat several times throughout your day. You can improve your ability to actively spread your toes by passively spreading them using toe socks.

Short Foot Exercise

A full explanation is linked, but the short of it is to draw the base of your big toe towards your heel, without flexing or curling your toes. It’s OK if they grip the floor. This action lifts your arch, thereby shortening the length of your foot, and strengthening the arch-supporting muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 3 times for each foot. Try to do 5 sets of 3 repetitions per day, holding for 5 seconds each rep. You can perform the short foot exercise any time your standing in yoga postures and as you get stronger, you can do it while balancing. The Short Foot Exercise is comparable to the Strong Yoga Foot.

Balancing

Any single leg balance will strengthen your extrinsic and intrinsic foot musculature. Once you are skilled at balancing on a firm surface, you can explore a variety of unique surfaces – a folded up towel or blanket, a yoga block, a half round, a boot tray of rocks, your yard…Hold for up to one minute and repeat several times throughout your day.

Exploratory feet

Move your feet in exploratory, weird, random, bizarre, strange, silly, varied ways. This can be done sitting in Dandasana (with your legs extended in front of you) or lying down. This is a great way to mobilize your feet before you get out of bed in the morning. Repeat throughout your day.

Top of foot stretch

Extend a leg behind you, pressing the top of your foot into the mat. It is important to keep your pelvis back and stacked vertically over the knee & ankle of your front or support leg as the tendency is for it to drift forward. If balance is a challenge, please use a chair so that you can concentrate on the stretch without worrying about the balance.Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

Top of foot stretch

Top of foot stretch

Calf Elevator

Lift the heels of both feet, coming up onto your tippy toes. Try to avoid letting your ankles blow out to the sides. If they do, then only raise your heels as high as you can keep your ankles stable. Hold for several seconds. Once you are skilled at balancing on both feet, start working towards one foot at a time. You can do this either by lifting the heels of both feet, but letting the work happen mainly in one foot; or you could do this balancing on one foot! Whichever variation you choose, make sure your hips are back. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

Calf stretch

A half round (or half moon as one of students sweetly miscalled it) is best for this stretch, but you could roll up a couple of yoga mats or blanket or use a book. Place the ball of your foot on the top of the half round with your heel on the ground. Keep your other foot even to and pelvic-width apart from the stretching calf. You can advance in this pose by slowly stepping the non-stretching foot forward. If your pelvis moves forward with you or you lose balance or get rigid, bring the forward stepping foot back and don’t progress until you can do so in a relaxed and balanced stance with your hips back. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

I purchased a SPRI Half Round Foam Roller, 36 x 6-Inch that I cut down to one 18″ length and three 6″ lengths that I use for various purposes as yoga props.

Calf Stretch/Elevator Combination

Stand with one foot on the half-round and elevate both heels to a slow count of three. Hold for 3 counts. Lower for a slow count of three. The lowering is where you train eccentrically, generating force while you are lengthening your muscle tendon units. This is how you get stronger at greater ranges and with more control. At the place that you want to give up and drop your heel is the opportunity to exercise muscle control.

Hamstring stretch

I’ll be posting later this week on hamstring stretching, but for now, start from tadasana, place your hands on your thighs and hinge forward at your hip joints, allowing your hands to slide down your legs, keeping your spine in neutral. As soon as your spine starts to deform ie round, stop, come up a few inches and work instead on lifting your tailbone, which will move the proximal muscle attachments for your hamstrings that are located on your sitting bones away from the distal attachments that are located on your lower legs, thus stretching these muscles. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

Ball rolling massage

Place a new, firm tennis ball on a yoga mat or carpet. Keep your heel down as you drape only your toes over the ball, weighting it as much as you can tolerate. Very, very slowly, roll the ball under your toes, from side to side, allowing your toes to spread as you go. After a while move your foot forward so that the ball of your foot drapes across the ball. Again, move very slowly side to side. Continue to move your foot forward in small sections using a side to side motion. When you are deep into the arch of your foot, you might explore some front to back motions, or invert/evert your foot to get into the lateral and medial arches. The benefit from this massage comes when you slow down, take your time, move forward in tiny increments, hang out in sore spots, and remember to breathe. This can and should be done daily as a meditation practice.

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Floor Exercises

Plantar Fascia Stretch – kneeling/squatting

In this exercise, you kneel with your knees pelvis-width apart on a mat or padded surface. Extend (curl) your toes forward. If you can, reach around and separate your toes from each other and make sure they are all extending forward. You may be able to lower your hips, shifting more of your weight onto your feet, but do this slowly and with ease as the thick band of fascia and four layers of intrinsic muscles on the soles of your feet may never have experienced this type of stretch. Images and detailed instructions are linked above.

Barbie foot

This is the exercise where you press your balls forward (of your feet, people!), all toes forward, all toes back, foot back. You know the one. In the balls forward, toes back position, your feet look like Barbie’s. You can use your arms to support you in an upright seated position, but I suggest you place your hands in your lap from time to time and hold yourself up using your own trunk musculature. Images and detailed instructions are linked above.

Bridge with marble

I know you all remember this bit of love from the workshop – a yoga bridge pose holding a marble with your toes and extending your leg. Yes, that one.  Remember, cramping is good…a good reminder, that it, that you should be moving your feet more. Again, images and detailed instructions are linked above.

Ankle circles, point/flex, invert, evert

This can be done seated with legs extended or on your back. My preference is supine with legs extended 90 degrees and soles of your feet facing the ceiling. Try to keep your legs straight and pelvis-width apart and don’t be in such a hurry. Slow, sweeping circles will assure full range of motion. If you fatigue, bend your knees, but keep moving your ankles & feet.

Exploratory feet

Exploratory feet can be done standing in Tadasana with your feet squirming around on the mat; seated in a chair with them wiggling about on a bolster; seated on the floor with them playing mischievously out in front of you; or lying supine, my favorite, with your feet in the air spazzing all over. The object is to make as many movements as you can. According to my teacher Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and math dork, if you apply a mathematical concept called a factorial, a foot with 33 joints can deform into 8,600,000,000,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 unique ways – or thereabouts. Whatever.

Toe spreaders

These exercises will help to undo the harm that shoes with small toe boxes cause to the muscles between your toes that have so little range of motion or strength that you may not even be able to generate enough of your own force to spread your toes. The third exercise, Toe Lifts, was not included in the workshop because a) I forgot; or b) We ran out of time. Whatever.

Namaste, Michele

Dear Friend, you are ruining your feet, and your health, to be fit – an open letter

I have a friend who is having foot pain. Serious foot pain. It has kept him from doing “any vigorous exercise in a full 7 days,” leaving him “pissed off all day and scowling.” This could be the best thing that ever happened to him. He thinks that his pain may have been brought on by “lots of running and time spent in tight climbing shoes.” I think he’s right. I’ve been there brother.

Dear Friend,

We run and engage in other strenuous endurance activities because we think we are doing something good for our cardiovascular health, but we aren’t. Running over a certain point of intensity/endurance is the stress equivalent of being chased by a bear. You may improve your “fitness” aka athletic performance by running strenuously, but you do it to the detriment of your heart and blood vessels. Strenuous endurance activities cause your heart to pump really hard for a long time and may induce pathological structural remodeling of your heart – scar tissue, fibrosis, stiffening of the heart muscle, and premature aging.  Running causes blood to flow turbulently through your arteries resulting in vessel injuries that becomes plaque (yes, that plaque), which is essentially your arteries’ version of scabbing. You’ve only ever heard that you need to get your heart rate up for cardiovascular health. But, keeping your heart rate up over a certain intensity/time overworks your heart and causes a major stress reaction to the rest of your body.

The part of cardiovascular health that you probably haven’t heard is that your muscles, all 600 of them, need to be moving as much as they can, all day long. It’s this skeletal muscle pump that actually pushes blood into your capillaries and on into your cells, feeding them, creating a healthy environment for your nerves, and removing cellular waste via the corresponding lymph system. As I wrote in my post on boobs, its natural movement – lots of walking, squatting, climbing, etc. that is required by our biology. If you are moving throughout your day, your heart can work less because you are instead relying on the skeletal muscle pump to get oxygenated blood to your cells.

If you think running more and faster makes you live longer, the research doesn’t support it. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running over 2.5 hours per week or at higher frequencies – more than 3 times per week – and at faster paces (7 miles per hour or an 8 minute mile) is NOT associated with better survival compared with sedentary non-runners. In fact, strenuous runners were as likely to die, during the 35 years of the study, as sedentary non-runners. Light and moderate joggers fared better, in that order. These joggers ran anywhere from 1 – 2.5 hours per week, 3 or fewer times per week, and at a much slower pace – as low as 5 miles per hour or a 12 minute mile. This study comes on the heels of several studies that show running more and harder is not a healthful activity. High intensity fitness activities, including serious running, are performance based, not health based and do not hold up the gold standards of health – longevity, bone density, joint health, and pelvic floor function. On the contrary, high intensity fitness activities  often break down these standards.

So, I could tell you, my friend with disabling foot pain, to replace strenuous running with light to moderate jogging, but my concern is not for your heart. It is for your whole body health. You took a climbing fall 10 years ago, smashing your foot and ankle on a rock ledge. You wear 5-6 screws in there now.  As a result that foot turns inward when you run. That mal-alignment is obvious from a comparison of the tread wear on the soles of your running shoes. It’s that foot turn that worries me. What I know about foot and gait biomechanics is that if your foot is not aligned as it goes through heel strike, foot flat, heel lift, and toe push-off phases of gait, then your body’s major joints (ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders) will compensate by moving out of their respective alignments. Mal-aligned joints become degenerating joints and chronic pain. It’s not a matter of if that mal-aligned, in-turning foot will wreak havoc; it’s when. It’s happening now to you, my friend, at the local level of the foot. It’s just a matter of time before your feel it other places.

Let’s say a 150lb man walks one mile. Impact forces to his bones and joints are about 110% or just a bit over his body weight, resulting in a mind-boggling force of 175 tons (!) to his feet. If this same man runs, those impact forces are 300-400% or three to four times his body weight, resulting in a staggering force to his feet in excess of 350 tons! With these forces on a hardware-compromised, mal-aligned, painful foot, would I recommend that you jog instead of run? No efff’ing way. My friend you must retire your running shoes (and gets some climbing shoes that fit for God’s sake) and walk instead. Running will not be worth it in the short or long run.

The health benefits of walking are outside the scope of this letter, but please understand that evolution adapted our bodies to walk. Early humans walked or trekked about 8 miles a day to hunt and gather, only running in short bursts by necessity while hunting or being hunted. Your body is adapted to walk. Your body requires lots of walking, every day. Your foot needs you to walk, not run. Unless you are being chased by a bear.

Please let me know if I can help you to move with better alignment. Be well my friend. Michele

I’m a Barefoot Walkin’ Fool!

I walked over 20 miles today completely barefoot. April Fools! But, I did take my longest barefoot walk in the last 30 years – about 2 miles. These are some of the surfaces over which I walked:

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The following items stuck in or to my feet:

  • 2 pine needles
  • 2 goat heads
  • 2 pieces of glass – one green, one clear
  • pine sap
  • a small turd

My feet would have been much dirtier, except near the end of my walk was a large grassy area that still held some dew and that cleaned them off a bit. That is sap on my toe, not the turd. My foot is not as long as it appears.

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Walking barefoot today brought many benefits (turd notwithstanding). These include:

  • Stretching, strengthening, and mobilizing my intrinsic foot musculature that supports my arches
  • Naturally moving the 33 joints in each foot through their full ranges of motion
  • Stimulating sensory nerves in my feet
  • Sharpening terrain shape sensory information communicated to my brain by my feet, which were deforming over natural features so that my larger joints (ankles, knees, hips, and spine) could make subtle adjustments to keep my gait smooth and me upright
  • Toughened up the skin on my feet to allow more barefoot walking
  • Improved circulation, cellular waste removal, and nerve health
  • Allowed my toes to spread fully with each step, countering the negative effects of the restrictive toe boxes of many of my shoes
  • Decreased the jarring, joint degenerating ground force impact that happens when a shoe-cushioned foot strikes the ground
  • Made me happy to think about my years spent barefoot in Tennessee, cuz people don’t wear shoes in Tennessee, ya’ll

Namaste, Michele

Load-Induced Conditions of Your Feet

A theme running through many of my posts on feet this month is alignment. What exactly is alignment? How does it differ from posture? Again, I lean on the words and ideas of another, my teacher biomechanist Katy Bowman, to elaborate on the concept of alignment and to relate it to my understanding of foot health. Posture is the positioning of your body parts in relationship to each other and to the ground. When you are standing still and you straighten your feet or back up your hips, you are creating a posture. When you are performing vrksasana (tree pose) in yoga that is a posture. Alignment, which encompasses posture, is a creation of forces by your body position (posture) while still or moving that loads your tissues. Posture is the positioning. Alignment is the loading forces on your body. Alignment is not just where your hips are (posture) but where all parts of your body are and how fast and hard and how often and in what direction they are moving; and your shape and what you are carrying and where; and the surfaces you are on or under; and the terrain and temperature; and the gear you are using and structures you are interacting with. Alignment is the interactions of all the variables in a particular system right now and whether the forces created by this system that load the tissues of your body are inflicting damage on any one part of the system. An aligned and well body does not damage itself.

Plantar fasciitis, bunions, hallux limitus and rigidus, bone spurs, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, and Achilles tendonitis could all be considered load-induced diseases of the foot. How are loads created to the tissues of our feet? Through our alignment.

Here are some major components of your walking alignment system that impact your feet :

  • body positioning
  • injuries
  • stride and pace
  • intensity of your foot strike
  • range of motion in your hips
  • innervation of your intrinsic foot musculature
  • gait pattern
  • weight
  • your backpack, purse, or other carried items and how you are carrying them
  • the terrain –  wood, tile, carpet, asphalt, concrete, dirt, grass, flat, lumpy, uphill, downhill, slick, hard, soft, holey
  • the shoes you are wearing. the shoes you are wearing. the shoes you are wearing. the shoes you are wearing.

Change one variable in an ecosystem and the impact ripples across that ecosystem, impacting all relationships to some degree. In the case of your feet, their current state is a reflection of their ecological history. Change one of the variables in the list above and you may not see a change. Change many, most, or all of them, and you will change your feet. You can still change your feet.

Namaste, Michele