Posts Tagged ‘running’

creating our universe

09/09/2012

We learn from an early age how to create the world around us. We learn labels, we learn definitions, we learn classifications, sub-classifications and distinctions. A toddler learns that a tree is called a tree, a cloud is called a cloud, and Mama and Dada are called Mom and Dad. An adolescent learns the difference between rich and poor, strong and weak, nice and mean. An adult learns what class warfare is, what God is, and what antidisestablishmentarianism could possibly mean.

But at what point does this really continue to benefit us?

the death of the senses

There is an economic principle called the law of diminishing returns. It means, in terms that I can understand, that the more we continue to invest in something, the less we get out of it (see Wikipedia for a MUCH more accurate definition). A marathoner plodding along an 18-week training regimen sees more marked improvement in the early stages of training than in the later stages. Early on, his average race pace may drop from nine-minute miles to eight-minute miles in the space of just a few determined weeks, while in the last few weeks of high-intensity training he will see much less of an improvement than that. Granted, it’s still marked improvement, but the point stands: the return isn’t as great.

So how does this apply to labels? To definitions? To distinctions? How do we measure returns on something like learning? The truth is, most people don’t even try. Learning is a wonderful thing – I believe lifelong learning should be a cornerstone of everyone’s daily experience. But after a point in the learning process – for most of us, in our teenage years – it becomes easy to lose sight of true value. So if we really tried measuring the returns on learning, we’d realize that there are things that are more important. Thus, we accrue knowledge for the sake of accruing knowledge. We learn what a tree is but then forget to experience the tree. Think about it: when was the last time you touched, and felt, a tree? Felt its bark, listened as its branches swayed in the wind, smelled its leaves? Go outside and touch a tree. Right now. I’ll wait . . .

Back already? Good. Carrying on. . . as one of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, says, “The birth of the mind is the death of the senses.”

p’u, the uncarved block

Moments in life can trigger the resurgence of this child-like appreciation for the world around us:

  • Having a child
  • A near-death experience
  • A religious experience
  • Emerging from an emotional depression

But it should be natural (shouldn’t it?), as human beings gifted with life on this wonderful earth, to consciously appreciate the universe around us during what we deem mundane experience. During the ordinary moments. To appreciate the universe, not necessarily in the form in which we initially created it, but rather through direct experience. To sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation. To simply be.

Much like Winnie the Pooh. Open to, but unburdened by, experience.

winnie the pooh, the tao of pooh

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motivational mondays – running barefoot

06/25/2012

When was the last time you felt free? I mean really free. Also known as:

  • Unshackled
  • Careless
  • Unlimited
  • Unrestrained
  • Full of love
  • Happy
  • Ain’t nobody gonna get you down

The more people I meet, I discover that most have a difficult time truly feeling freedom. Whether it’s financial, mental, spiritual or geographical. We struggle with this concept because it feels like there is always something to attend to. Always something that needs our eyes, our words or our hands.

So how can we feel free when our realistic mind tells us we are anything but?

While I could quote The Eagles and their wonderful analogy of chains and keys, I prefer to give a more actionable agenda for starters. So if it’s been a while since you felt that invigorating pseudo-emotion I’ve dubbed freedom, try my Miracle Formula: Run Barefoot.

run barefootrunning barefoot, forefoot strike, running technique, barefoot

Yes, I said it: Run. Barefoot.

Not sure how? Fear not!

Here’s my patented Step-by-Step Guide to Awesomeness™ to walk you through it:

Step 1: Find the nearest open field, free of prickers, devoid of goose poop and chock-full of judgment.*

Step 2: Kick off those Nike Frees, those Saucony Kinvaras or those Converse (for you garage band heroes and hipsters).

Step 3:  Run as fast as you fucking can!

*Step 4 (recommended): Ignore judgment.

Sound crazy? It’s not. I promise you, you’ll feel like a kid again, wild and free.

That feeling may last only a while, but that’s OK. It’s not a form of escapism, as its effects are prolonged in ways you may  not even realize. I guarantee that so long as you don’t step on any fecal matter or prickly weeds, you will feel more free. And if you do step on either of those things, or something else even more ghastly, I think you’ll find a way to laugh it off (but bring a towel, cell phone and first aid kit just in case).

top 10 benefits of running barefoot

Here’s a list for you lazy headline scanners.

The Top 10 Benefits of Running Barefoot:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved happiness
  • Better proprioception
  • Increased kinesthetic intellegence
  • Tougher feet
  • A well-turned calf, as they say
  • Decreased asshole-ness
  • Increased open-mindedness
  • Clearer thinking via that translucent cloud of endorphins
  • Less care about judgment, for you’ve just done something totally ridiculous and awesome

But lo, beware! Those nearest to you may be in danger! For when you finish your barefoot run, you may feel an unrestrainable urge to do any one of the following:

  • Pat the nearest dog on the head
  • Bear-hug the nearest stranger
  • Give a cash amount to the nearest homeless person
  • Punch the nearest KKK member in the face
  • Start doing work you love, for you will now realize you can

I’ve now been actively running barefoot for the past two years. Thus, I understand that eventually you’ll find that that open field just isn’t enough. You’ll want a larger challenge, a wider landscape. You’ll start hitting the pavement barefoot, you’ll realize what it is to fly, and then you’ll want more. I remember one of the first times I went on a barefoot run – about a half-mile in I just started laughing, so full of joy was I.

warnings for new barefoot runners

If you do decide to initiate yourself into the world of barefoot running, especially on pavement, I highly recommend not heel-striking. Information is abound on the interwebz on how to properly run barefoot, but here are a few key pointers for those too lazy or too time-constrained to look it up:

  • Land with your midfoot or forefoot, NOT your heel!
  • Shorten your stride – do not overextend (this is good advice to the shod runner as well – your knees will thank me when you’re 70)
  • Keep your arms at 90° angles, pumping forward and back, not twisting around your torso
  • Relax and enjoy the ride

I don’t want to discuss the mechanics of “minimalist” running too much. That will be saved for another blog post.

Do you have any experience running barefoot? Please share in the comments section!

running and intuition

05/18/2012

Running is like sex. If it doesn’t happen at least once a week, we feel like something is missing. Sunday comes around, we look back on the week and think, “Shit, what did I forget to do…?”

There’s a certain mental calm that takes over in the latter half of a good session (now we’re onto running here, people). Fatigue takes over and it’s all you can do to maintain proper form. And when this happens, when your lungs feel ready to burst and your legs feel like they have ankle weights wrapped around them, something strange happens.

Bliss supersedes the misery.

no mind

How often do we find ourselves governed by the mental chatter abound in our brains? How often do we lose perspective because our emotional status is based upon the last imaginary scene we staged? Our minds have a terrible tendency to distract us from everything the world has to offer. It keeps us from doing our best work. And from fighting our best samurai sword fights.

How many times have you been reading a book and gotten halfway down the page, only to realize you have no idea what you  just read? Or driven a car some place and not remembered anything about the car ride?

This is sad. Running makes me less sad. Here’s why:

I did a four-miler last Monday. Not crazy high mileage, but for getting back onto the running scene I was content with it. But the last half mile I hit a wall (see second paragraph above).

When this happens, a meditative exercise I try to do is to eliminate thought. Because at this point my mind is my arch enemy. It will tell me that it’s not a big deal if I stop. I mean come on, you did 3.5 miles already! That’s pretty good, right? No one’s watching . . . no one will judge . . . you can walk the rest of the way as your cool down and save some time . . . better to start sweating like a beast now than right when you walk into your house . . . you’ll do better tomorrow . . . you already ran some miles this week! What’s the big deal?

Hence, the elimination of thought. And funny things happen when your mind stills and your body is worn out. When you hit what you imagine is rock bottom.

intuition

That last half mile gave me some of my best ideas for my current project. By focusing on not focusing on anything, I’m focusing on one thing. Silence. And silence is a beautiful thing.

Because what you hear in the silence, what crops up in the void, is unfettered and uncorrupted. It’s intuition.

Nobody talks about intuition in the real world. On the job, it’s hard to tell your boss you should do something based on a hunch. They want statistics. They want the ROI. They want to be reassured that they’re not paying you for just having fun. Great Scott! Never that!

The theory of intuition is not new. It’s been embodied in the third eye, in various forms of God, in a (supposed) small deposit of metal at the tip of a man’s nose. The only trouble is so few people spend time developing this intuition. Instead of getting down to the bare bones of what makes us human, we immerse ourselves in pleasant distractions, in browsing our Facebook feeds, in watching the Kardashians, in Modern Warfare 3. We set ourselves within walls of vinyl and atop finished wooden floorboards and think ourselves wise. We cease experiencing lives for ourselves, letting the mental chatter rage on unchecked.

Running, and many other forms of exercise, can help us re-establish that connection with our intuition. Can help us to slow our minds and take a look around.

And in a world gone so awry, the last thing we want to do is lose perspective.

on inspiration

03/04/2011

I’ve been blogging about the concept of hope for a couple months now (see previous posts). Now let’s take that concept and transform it into the active recognition of itself – inspiration.

3. the act

Simply put: inspiration stems from hope. The latter is a wonderful thing but implies no sense of action – that being its primary weakness. It’s a latent word. I can hope to write a best-selling novel, but, as I said in a post last month, this concept does not imply action. You  need a little bit something else to incite action.

Inspiration…now inspiration is coupled with action. You can’t be inspired to do something and then not even begin to formulate plans to attempt it. I feel like that’s an unofficial rule of the word.

2. a source

The only issue with inspiration is that it always needs a source – whether that source comes from something that wells up deep within us as a response to an emotional stimulus, or if it comes directly from someone else’s actions. It can be as simple as a poster you glimpsed to something as complex as a novel. But regardless, inspiration always results from something.

1. define it

I asked a few people how they would define inspiration. Here were their very scientific (and accurate) answers:

  • something that motivates me to move beyond what I may believe myself capable of
  • coffee
  • brainstorming
  • positive feedback
  • me (although I feel this was a sarcastic answer…)
  • whatever fuels your fire
  • vodka
  • guiding you to achieve a goal
  • the ability to focus one’s mind on a goal or project to the exclusion of anything else that would detract from the process
  • the mere thought of a bottle of wine and a pencil in hand

the process

Once you’ve defined what inspiration is to you (and this definition can and will vary WIDELY), you can then determine sources of inspiration.

Personally I don’t need much motivation to feel inspired – it doesn’t take much for me: one glimpse at my favorite pair of running shoes; one thought about how a character will develop in my novel; one scene from the end of the movie August Rush, or one conversation with a visionary.  This is the second part of the process – finding the source. I found at least three things that inspired me to some sort of action before 9 a.m. this morning. Think of what you can find if you take a closer look – or maybe you already know what inspires you, which leads us to our third and final step: act.

What’s inspired you today?

underscheduling my life

09/03/2010

If you’re a regular reader and wonder why I haven’t posted for a few weeks, it was purposeful. And if you weren’t wondering…well poop.

I needed to detach myself from certain aspects of my normative behavior, take a wide-angle view on things by underscheduling my life. I had felt paralyzed for a little while, like I wasn’t making progress with regard to my passions. So, I put a hold on my martial arts pursuits, I stopped fretting over my lack of progress on the guitar, I took a break from running and I stopped worrying about what my next blog post was going to be. I put a lot of thought into creating good content on this blog and I felt myself repeatedly coming up empty. I had 35 drafts of posts with nothing flushed out. When I tried to come back to something and expound upon it, the original intent of the post eluded me. I knew I needed a break.

An influence on this “hold” I placed on things was a slight running injury – I had symptoms of plantar fasciitis, so I web-MD’d myself and laid off for a while. This frustrated me immensely, because when I finally feel a flare of passion for running I come up with a running injury instead of a barefoot half-marathon. Instead of beating myself up over it I made my decision to step back from the world for a bit.

So, instead of producing anything worthy of praise (learning new songs, logging more miles, writing semi-decent blog posts), I played videogames, read a couple books, took more naps and hung out with a new group of friends probably too often – in other words, I became really good at doing nothing. I let simplicity take hold and ran with it, and I’m already feeling the emotional and psychological kickbacks a mere three weeks later. I feel refreshed.

If you’re feeling like I was a few weeks ago, give this theory of underscheduling a shot. Even if you have kids or other responsibilities that take up a vast amount of your time, find a little time in your day to just do nothing. The rewards are subtle but immense.

a different kind of free – running barefoot

07/19/2010

Never before in my life have I been excited to run. It was always a necessary evil to stay healthy and in shape and occasionally relieve some stress. Plus, during high school track season it made my ass look great! But lately I’ve been seeing it differently, as I’ve been taking a different approach. And that approach is to hit the pavement barefoot.

It’s a different kind of free. This type of running allows you to experience something you can’t enjoy whilst huffing and puffing along heel-to-toe with typical running shoes, and for the first time in my life I have looked forward to running. I honestly can’t explain WHY I feel this way about barefoot running. I’ve always preferred the hobbit-like lifestyle, but never has it given me this much enjoyment. It’s just…fun.

“it’s science”

But aside from the aesthetics, there’s also a science to it. A running shoe is essentially a cast. The most expensive running shoes that have the most padding and “support” inhibit the natural pronating movement of the foot. For years doctors have said that pronation is a bad thing, that it leads to injuries such as shin splints, plantar fascitis and various knee problems. But a host of recent studies have shown that the running shoe, in fact, could be the true cause of all of our running problems.

Padded, arched running shoes have only been around since Nike’s experiments with a waffle iron and rubber in the 70’s. And since the 70’s, running injuries have increased at an exponential rate. Nowadays, eight out of 10 regular runners get injured every year. As Nike has evolved and come to realize this…well, check out one of their most recent commercials:

born to run

I recently finished the book Born to Run. It’s about an adventuring journalist’s voyage to simply discover why his foot hurt when he ran. Throughout the novel, you follow his journey to discover a hidden tribe of superathletes in Mexico, meet and befriend a host of eccentric ultrarunners, and learn from some of the world’s best scientists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists. His ultimate conclusion is that homo sapiens were literally born to run.

We evolved that way for a reason – by shodding our feet in padded running shoes, we’ve taken a step back in the evolutionary process. One of the best lines in the book refers to the fact that supporting your arch is inherently wrong – why would you put a support under an arch? It only weakens the structure. If you let the arch stand alone with no support, it is more architecturally sound.

Now it definitely takes some getting used to, that’s for sure. For the past few days my foot has been wrapped to pad the blisters that have begun to populate the soles of my feet…but they’re getting tougher. More calluses are already forming and my calves are consistently sore as my muscles grow.

Bottom line: Barefoot running is an exhilarating experience and one that will hopefully last 26.2 miles this fall for me and my brother.

Here’s a nice wrap-up video about barefoot running (and I strongly recommend you purchase Born to Run – it’s one of them life-changing books folks keep talking about):