Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nasty looks from old Men

Tuesday afternoon I was walking with a gaggle of kids and parents to one of the many outstanding NYC playgrounds.  Lily jumped into a puddle & got her shoes all wet --- she saturated them to the extent that the rubbing was hurting her feet.  So, I did what any rational Mom would do and said, "Lily would you like to walk with your piggies out?"

The kids were all a little crazy on their school Halloween high -- so I don't think the other parents noticed much.  Or, maybe I'm getting so comfortable with barefooting that I didn't feel as self-conscious as I would have in the past.

We passed by an outdoor cafe on York Avenue and an older man -- sixties or seventies with a shock of white and brown frame glasses was reading the WSJ.  He pointedly looked down at Lily's feet and up at the gaggle of parents to undoubtedly express his displeasure at the sight of a beautiful young girl joyously running barefoot down a NYC street.

I looked straight at him and smiled.  He continued his disapproving stare.  At this point it was a  standoff.  I kept smiling...neither one of us backed down until I passed the cafe. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I was a hero twice in one day

This is actually something I wrote in August.  I wasn't quite comfortable with my self-appointed superhero status at the time.  Now, I understand that heroism is being who you are -- and not apologizing to yourself or the world for not being any more or less.

"To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most people you see everyday, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can have."
Theodore H. White
American political writer

I committed two acts of heroism by 1pm  one hot August day-- simply by not internalizing. 

1) I participated without taking on too much.  After a whole year of being a stay at home mom, I'm itching for some type of project.  I've resisted signing myself up for random tasking.  The big commitment I made to myself is to honor my passions --- but in order to do that -- I have to get in touch with what they are.  So, I volunteered to co-coordinate the first barefoot inspired race.  We had a conference call with the venue.  My co-worker seemed to be calling from a quiet office.  I was calling from my apartment with SpongeBob blaring in the background. Before we conferenced in, I let her know my circumstances and said I was going to listen but mute out.  She worked with the parameters I gave her -- and I saved myself from some embarrassment. 
2) I honestly let a friend know she was cranky -- without making her feel worse.
My dear friend whom I can depend on for just about anything was having a bad day -- most likely caused by poor sleep and fueled by some negative interactions.  I didn't want to lose my positive vibe (it is hard work getting it -- and once I lose it, it is really hard work to get it back).  So I listenend for a short while, and than said, "You aren't happy today are you?"  She took a moment and reflected on her past 24 hours and realized she barely slept & she spoke with someone who really drained her.  These factors combined with the summer heat and our extremely energetic children was causing her doldrums.  We met up later in the afternoon, she got a quick nap and was back to her old self -- she actually thanked me for pointing it out.  I reminded her that she has been there for me for the same things.  

1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run

It has been a while since I posted.  Life got very exciting that last week before the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run.  This race was purely the result of, "we should..." thinking.  You see, in mid-August, Chris McDougall, the author of Born to Run, came to NYC for 2 reasons -- which turned into 3.

They were:
1.  To meet with Bill Clinton to discuss natural running in Harlem.
2.  To do a book signing at Word bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
And....the linking event that made it complete...
3.  My fellow barefooters, John & Maggie Durant, planned an eight mile minimalist run from the Clinton Foundation to Word.

That last reason, turned to more discussions -- a few times while at our barefoot runs, John & I spoke about a barefoot run.  After the McDougall run, John said, "we have to do it this fall -- now is the time".  Personally, I was thinking springtime or next fall.  But John and Maggie were ahead of the curve, as most great minds usually are.  They had already scouted out Governor's Island and had set their sights on October 10th.

Maggie has a brilliant business mind and quickly got things organized and going in the right direction.  They got sponsors, permits, and all the barefooting gurus to join us.  In 6 short weeks, they organized a barefooting convention.  I am ecstatic that I was able to participate and help with some of the planning.  (Sidenote:  any time you have the opportunity to work with bold, visionary, smart and courageous people...TAKE it.)  It was a lot of fun and did not feel like work, even for one second.  I got so much more out of helping than I put into it.

The weekend kicked off with a talk from Dr. Daniel Howell at TipTopShoes. Lily came with me so she could pick up her race packet.  Dr. Howell gave a talk on the benefits of barefooting.  He just wrote a book called, The Barefoot Book:  50 Great Reasons to Kick off your shoes. 
Unfortunately, Lily was full of energy & was running around so much during the talk that I wasn't able to hear most of it.  Since he is a great and patient teacher, as well as a father himself, he did not bat an eye when Lily ran right between him and his audience.  He thought the barefoot 3 year old provided a great back drop for his talk.

I was able to talk to him later that day.  He is in the process of preparing to talk to his local school board about allowing kids to go barefoot in school.  One of Dr. Howell's goals is to see barefeet as a viable option in our society.  He dispelled several barefooting myths (i.e., there are no health codes preventing barefeet in stores or restaurants and it is totally legal to drive barefoot).  I look forward to conversing with him more in the future, especially about barefoot options for kids.

Later that afternoon, there were a series of clinics in central park led by Barefoot Ted and Jason Robillard.
 Barefoot Ted is featured in Born to Run.  Jason Robillard is a barefoot ultra marathoner who founded Barefoot University.  He gives clinics and teaches others how to properly and safely run barefoot.  He also wrote The Minimalist Guide to Barefoot Running. I bought this book several months ago and it has really helped me pay attention to the things necessary to improve my natural running form (from drills, to cues, to strengthening exercises).

In Born to Run, we learn that Barefoot Ted's spirit guide is the monkey --- he wears a little monkey charm around his neck.  He is a truly unique individual who knows himself and is able to objectively look at humans at our time in history. It is as if he has some gene-resistant strain that prevents him from being influenced by media and those around him.  From him I clearly saw how important it is to truly be your own self and your own guide.
When asked about how fast he runs, he said that he doesn't care about time.  He did run the Boston Marathon in ~3:20 -- but prefers to run at a trot.  He said he wants to be, "happy and healthy".  He also had some unique insight into our competitive natures, "if you want to be timed, now is your time in history, people are obsessed with time."  He also pointed out that if you hurt yourself, we are fortunate  enough to have the doctors and therapists to put us back together again.  Ted epitomizes the expression, "be who you are".  Imagine what the world would be like if we were all so comfortable in our own skin.

Jason Robillard reminded us all that we are our best teachers.  Listen to your own feet and body.  Most of all, don't give too much advice.  Some people will listen to advice before they listen to themselves, and may get hurt.  Jason signed my copy of his old book.  It has since been re-printed and is about twice the size.  He took my address and said he was going to send me a copy of his new book.   He said he would send me a copy of his new book because he, "feels bad when people spend money on the first book."  Well today, a mere 9 days after that conversation, a new signed book arrived in the mail.  Jason really followed through.

Saturday night Dr. Dan Lieberman, Harvard Professor gave a talk on the fall & rise of running.  His scientific analysis on the shock transient your body absorbs from heel striking was astounding.  Basically, if you heel strike you are subjecting an almost instantaneous shock equivalent to 5x your body weight from your heel through your neck.  No wonder I always got shin splints and lower back pain.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Barefoot 3 year old

Lily patiently waiting to run with her blue balloon
 In preparation for the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Race next weekend, I was interviewed by race founder John Durant and profiled in the "Wild Profiles".  The focus was on encouraging your children to go barefoot.

Lily playing soccer at playground after a romp in the sandbox, barefoot of course.
 Top 10 Reasons why you should let your child go barefoot
10.  Kids are natural born runners. They love to run and move, let them do it the way they want to
9.  Less boo-boos.  They will barely trip barefooting -- but when they are in thick soled shoes -- they seem to trip a lot more.
8.  Builds up their natural foot strength.
7.  It encourages them to listen to their bodies.
6. They pay much closer attention to their environment and where they step.
5.  Think of all the money you will save on fancy footwear!
4.  Barefoot on the playground makes them more coordinated and improves balance. (If you don't believe this -- try doing tree pose in sneakers). 
3.  Helps stave off obesity and all the ills that go along with it. 
2.  You have a live-in running partner.
1.  Joy -- Next time you are in the park, watch a child run around without shoes.  No pain, no HRM, no watch, that is true happiness.

Lily dashing down Park Avenue during NYC Summer Streets on Aug 7th.

Lily's natural curious ways and questioning eventually made me realize how wise it would be to allow her to run barefoot. You see, I was injured almost every competitive season of my life due to simple sloppy running form.  My heavy heel striking led to chronic shin splints and stress fractures. Little did I know that my "supportive" shoes and orthotics were actually my problem.  It wasn't until after I returned to serious running after Aurora's birth that I realized I needed to change something.  I needed to ditch the shoes!
  Lily's scientific questioning made me realize that the best thing I can do for her is to NOT interfere in the process of her developing her natural running form.  Her body is teaching her how to be a runner better than I ever could.

Lily testing her feet on the bridle path. "Mommy, the little rocks don't hurt anymore!"
Since Lily is only 3, we had a lot of discussions about running "with your piggies out".  It is important to be careful.  Don't step on anything that hurts your feet.  Fortunately, most three year olds won't do anything that hurts.  Now, when we go on the cinder bridle path, she says, "the little rocks don't hurt anymore -- I can run on them now".  When she gets tired, I encourage her to go just a little bit further.  We'll repeat a mantra like, "I can do it, I can do it" for just a few more feet. 

The great thing about kids (especially young ones) is that they have no choice but to put all of their energy into everything they do, and when they are spent, they literally cannot make themselves go any further.  So we really don't have to worry about overuse injuries.

The best advice I can give is to listen to your child, no matter their age, and support them in their  quest to learn more about the world around them.