Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Love Your Body

Just read a blog over at Livestrong where the author talks about getting an e-mail from someone who said "I hate my body." ("Cut Through the BS")

Now, you all know that I am an overweight barefoot runner.  There are a lot of people out there who might think I should hate my body.

But I don't.

I used to hate my body, but now I don't.  I love my body.

I don't believe that love is a REaction. I think love is an ACTION.

I wrote a post about "How to Love Your Voice" over at my Avocational Singer Blog.

What I wrote over there is about how the example of the loving actions a mother takes on behalf of the child she loves can serve as a template for how to love our voices. I highly recommend you check the ideas out in that post because it also can serve as a way to understand how to love our bodies.

An example of loving or hating one's body based on a REaction would be something like this:  I look in the mirror and I approve of what I see -- meets my conditions for acceptability -- and then I feel love for my body.  Or I look in the mirror and don't approve of what I see -- doesn't meet my conditions for acceptability -- and then I feel hate for my body.

A lot of people want to run because they are hoping that running will be a tool to shape them into the kind of body that they can love.  They come from a place of not loving their bodies, and wanting to transform their bodies so that some time in the future they can love their bodies.

But I would like to assert here that it is love for our bodies that transforms.  We have to start with the love.  Love that is put into action.

Using the same analogy as loving our children, we can treat our body as that "child" of ours that we love.

We don't force our children to do unbearably difficult exercise, stand over them and holler and get them to repeat laps and reps.  We try to find something they enjoy and have fun doing, like take them to the playground and let them swing from the monkey bars,  so that they don't even realize that they're getting exercise.  We sacrifice our time to bring them to the playground after school and on weekends, because we want them to have that benefit and not just sit inside and live a sedentary life.  We want them to breathe fresh air and hear the rustle of the leaves in the trees and feel the wind on their cheeks and the warmth of the sun because we LOVE them.

We make sure they go to bed at a decent hour because we want them to feel good.  We know they will be able to function better in their day at school, be in a more cheerful mood, thus eliciting more positive responses from the people around them.  We know their immune systems will function better.  We make sure they go to bed because we LOVE them.

We bring them to the doctor when they are sick and remove them from activities and let them lie on the couch and color and watch TV because we want them to get well.  We take care of their injuries, and make them stop activities so that they can be whole again to enjoy those same activities to the fullest.  We do that because we LOVE them.

We make sure we shop for the kinds of foods that will build and repair their growing cells, tissues, muscles, bones.  We provide nutritious meals for them.  We let them have treats, but within limits.  We don't starve them, beat them, deprive them.  We give them good things in a good way so that they can grow.  We go to a lot of trouble to feed them this way because we LOVE them.

Well, if you replace the word "body" for "children" in the preceding examples, it might be easy see that it is by loving actions towards our bodies that we will have the greatest impact on them.  They will be formed in the most optimal way.

By loving ourselves this way, we don't have to wait until some transformation that turns us into something lovable, because we can be lovable as we are right now.  Not a future lovable.  A NOW lovable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bunker Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement | Video on TED.com

Wow, did you know there was a Barefoot College?

The philosphies of this Barefoot College are very intriguing! Just like there have been companies in modern society convincing us that we have to wear a certain kind of shoe when we run, there are universities telling us we have to have a certain kind of education and a certain type of degree to make it in society.

Bunker Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement | Video on TED.com

After watching the video, I looked up the college web site. Here it is.

I am sure that most barefoot people will find this really interesting.

"The Barefoot College"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barefoot Running Loot

I didn't tell you in my writeup about my time at the 2nd Annual NYC Barefoot Run that we got a little goodie bag.  It feels a little weird to "get" something at a barefoot run because it makes it seem like any other run.  Everybody kind of expects to "get" something nowadays when they go to a run because that's the way it's done and is part of the fun.  I, for one, love having the T-shirt because wearing it in my regular life, at least at this point, is a bit distinctive.  All the other run T-shirts kind of blend all together until they all look like the same T-shirt.  But, in these early days, a Barefoot Run T-shirt is a little unique.

But the whole structure/format/setup of the barefoot run caused one friend of mine to raise a philosophical objection.  She wanted to come to the run only on Sunday, but could not attend all the events on the preceding Saturday.  The fee for the whole weekend was $75.  She wanted there to be a "race-only" fee.  She asked the organizers if this would be possible and they told her no, that the $75 fee applied to participate, whether you were only coming to run the race or not.  After that, my friend wrestled with whether she wanted to pay $75 to just come around the island two times and get a T-shirt.  She decided it was not a good use of her money, and besides that, she found some kind of discrepancy between the fee and the idea that running barefoot was "minimal" and can be looked at as a means to objecting to paying the high prices of the scientifically designed running shoes offered by the big running shoe companies.

My friend raised these objections to me.  Well, I faced the same fee dilemma, also not being able to attend the seminars, talks, workshops, partying and book-signings on the preceding Saturday, but reasoned that I was making a donation to promote a good cause.  I saw it as a contribution to making an event like this possible, a way of supporting the movement in general. My friend's minimalist argument is not lost on me, but there are SO many other aspects of barefoot running to enjoy and so many angles to come from that I don't feel that I'm compromising some kind of principle or anything by paying the fee.

I had intended to share my thoughts about the forward lean aspect of barefoot running.  But, as you can see, I played around with my photo today, and I think it's enough for today to just talk about how I was enjoying the loot from the NYC Barefoot Run.  I shall have to save my reflections on the forward lean for a future blog post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Barefoot Fresca Goes to the 2nd Annual NYC Barefoot Run

Since I took the photos, and told you all I was going, it would make sense that I write up my experience of the 2nd Annual NYC Barefoot Run for you all, even if it is a bit late.  This post might start out a bit uneventful, but keep reading on because I'm saving the highlight of the day -- when I got to meet a very special barefoot blogger -- for the very end.

I had the most wonderful time in the world.

But the night before the run it wasn't looking so good.  Got a weather update for the run in my email and here's what it said:
"We have access to a building on Governors Island that is just off the ferry.  If it’s raining hard, we will set up the run out of that building ..."
"After getting set up indoors, we will make a go at a run in the rain.  Afterwards, people can return indoors."
To a fair-weather barefoot-runner such as myself, this did not sound very appealing at all.  Every time I imagined what it would be like in that building after running in the rain with all those wet sweaty barefoot runners, I thought "ugh!"  Yet, to not do it would be to miss out on the gathering of like-minded souls.  And it would also mean I would not get to meet one of my barefoot blogging heroes, whom I had been so looking forward to meeting.

Waking up Sunday morning, however, it was not looking too bad.  Unlike last year, at the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run, I did not have any companions joining me.  I had to make my way over by myself.  I decided to try driving in, because I wasn't sure if the buses were going to be running regularly on an early Sunday morning.  I was very nervous about parking, and when I got to a certain point on the West Side highway, the police redirected traffic through Manhattan.  This little detour made me a bit late.

So, I caught the last ferry going over to the island.

Amidst the air of celebrity -- whom I think the organizers were referring to as "the Kudus" at this event -- I felt like a very small and insignificant barefoot runner.  So, I felt a little more useful when asked to help carry some boxes coming off the ferry. (See in the photo, the guy with the backpack carrying the box.  He, like me, was a Box-Carrier.  Boxes got loaded on to the little rickshaw).  It made me feel a little more important!

Next was the 15- minute walk over to the part of the island where the race was going to start.

I remember how last year I was all worried about an extra 15 minutes of walking, since I was trying to save myself so I could run twice around the island.  It felt good to know that 15 minutes of walking was nothing this year and would not take away from running (even though I was only planning to run one time around, about two miles).

Instead of the incredibly blue skies and beautiful sunshine from last year, the sky was overcast and gray:

There wasn't a lot of time beforehand for me to connect or talk to people because they were already gathering for the group photo.  If you go to the 2nd Annual NYC Barefoot Run page and look at the group photo, you will see me -- maybe.  Count 8 people in from the right -- about 3 rows back -- and you'll see me standing there in a blue shirt. (I'll tell you a secret.  I chose a bright colored blue shirt because I hoped it would help me spot myself in the photo because last year I couldn't see me.)

This year we were delighted and surprised to kick things off with some beautiful singing -- the singing of The National Anthem by a barefoot-running singer named Melissa.   (If you are on Facebook, you will be able to hear her singing by clicking on the link.)  Melissa had been the sweeper, who had so kindly run alongside me at the "Born to Run" Barefoot Run I had attended summer of 2010 when I was first starting out as a barefoot runner.  I had learned since then that she was a singer, but now I got to hear her for the first time and it was a thrill to hear her beautiful mezzo voice. It was really cool to have such a professional kick-off to the event.

After allowing a couple who got engaged at the event to head out first in the Luna Rickshaw that was being pulled by Barefoot Ted, we all set out on our merry barefoot way.

As I started out, John Durant, who is the co-founder of the Barefoot Runners New York City Meetup group, fell in step alongside me.  What did we talk about?  Why, the weather of course.  How happy we were that it did not rain after all.  I think he left me with the deep philosophical reflection on the fact that when they say 60% chance of rain we always forget that there is a 40% chance that it will not rain.  He is always a very profound guy.

Now, John Durant was very kind to run at my very slow pace for a bit, but I am sure that he could not have continued at that pace forever (nor continue to come up with profound weather statements for much longer).  He needed to get up to speed and head on his way.  Nevertheless, despite how slowly he may have felt he had been running, it was a little bit faster than I usually run.  Due to that fact -- having set a bit faster pace -- I actually found it a little hard to get around the island for the two-mile run I had planned.  Remember, I have not trained that much this summer, so I haven't got much more than 2 miles in me at this given point in time.

As I struggled along, kind of thinking that I might need to stop and walk, which I actually did for a few paces, I spied ahead of me on the path someone who was running a little more slowly than I was (not too many of those out there).  As I was about to pass her, I realized that she was running more at the pace I am accustomed to using, and that I would be better off slowing down to her pace.

I fell in step alongside her and found out it was Marilyn, whom I had met last year at the 1st NYC Barefoot Run, along with her husband John.  They had come from out of state again this year.  Last year, only John had run, but Marilyn had recently taken up barefoot running herself, and this was her first time running at the NYC Barefoot Run.  She remembered me from last year, and we fell in step with each other.  She became my "pacing partner."  John, her husband, came along with us and took some photos:

At one point, back there by that little brown building, my contact lens fell out.  I had a really tough time with sweaty hands and the wind, trying to get it back into my eye.  Marilyn and John were really nice and stood blocking the wind for me.  After several attempts, I managed to get the contact lens back in my eye.

After finishing my one time around, John took a picture of me under the finish line:

Okay, so the run part was over.

Now the highlight of my whole day occurred.  I finally met fellow blogger and barefoot-running mentor, Barefoot Josh.  I felt like I knew him already because he is exactly like he seems on his blog.  I love the fact that even though Josh is a very fast barefoot runner, he makes no judgments and condescends to help the struggling poor little ones find their way into the world of barefoot running.  We had a great, although too short, little chat, and I left that day thinking that as fun as it is to merely go out running barefoot, it is also great fun to meet other people who like to run barefoot too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Barefoot Fresca and the 2nd Annual NYC Barefoot Run

Oh no!  What have I done?

I let myself get to within a week of the Second Annual NYC Barefoot Run without training all summer and without writing in my Barefoot Blog.

How could I have let this happen?

I have run all of about 20 miles this summer.  All barefoot, of course.

Here's what I figured out I did:  Every Monday, I would "begin again."  It was a summer of "beginning again" over and over again. I went out there faithfully on Mondays.  But during the week I would fail to get out there. (There was a lot going on.)  So, Monday would roll around and I would keep beginning again, beginning again, beginning again ...

It was a little frustrating because I wanted to be doing more, but it just wasn't coming together this summer.

But the good news was that I'm solidly in my bare feet this year.  I have a solid barefoot mile in me at all times, and I have been slowly increasing the distance every Monday. All the surfaces that were hurt-y, pointy, or rough last summer are a piece of cake this summer due to the soles of my feet being in great condition for barefoot.  All my barefoot walking is natural and easy like when I was a kid (last summer it always felt awkward and unnatural.)

Most of all, I just can't even think of putting on shoes to run.  The thought of it bothers me a lot.  I would rather skip running altogether than put on shoes.  Not because this is what I think all people should do or something, mind you.  It is a very very strong personal preference.

Okay, so all this means that I do still belong at the NYC Barefoot Run, right?  Even though I didn't run that far.  Even though I didn't tend my blog.  Even though I lost track of everything happening in the barefoot world? (Well, not everything -- I did buy Barefoot Ken Bob's book when it came out).

But this weekend, all the rock stars of the barefoot world are going to be there, and I had hoped to make a little better showing of myself at the event.  Wouldn't you hope for that if you were coming?  I had hoped to be able to run a few more laps this year (Last year I went around twice for around a 4-mile total.)  The furthest distance I've run on any run this summer has been 2 miles.  That would be one time around the NYC Barefoot Run track.  Maybe I would have liked to be running a teensy bit faster this year, or lost a little weight, or got some cool barefoot runner's tattoo on my ankle or something?

There's no way I can miss this, though. I've been signed up for months and I'm going, even if I have to just walk the second time around.  Really do wish I could run a whole lot farther on Sunday, but this is just going to have to do for this year, and MAKE ME COME BACK AND READ THIS POST before I let this happen again next year!!

I realize my blog needs some pictures, so I'm going to decorate it now with some stuff I made for other blog posts I didn't get to, but intended to, write to you this summer.  All summer long I had intended to tell you about the pair of sandals I got from Zappos which I LOVED and highly recommend for barefoot-loving folks everywhere.

They are called Volcom Knock on Wood Creedlers.  When the reviewers gave a little warning about the shoes having no arch support, I knew they were just what I wanted.

I was a little worried about the ring around the toe, but, like one of the reviewers said, amazingly, you don't feel it at all.  They felt like feathers on my feet and went with a little bit dressier look.

I wore these things ALL summer!  I don't have my own picture of how great the shape of the sole of the sandal is, but it was nice and wide in the forefoot area and a good shape for people who believe toes should be able to splay freely in a sandal.  You'll have to go to the link above to see how flat and thin the soles are.

I was tempted to run in them.  They felt like they feel wonderful running, but I did not think they were sturdy enough to hold out for the running experience.  But the fact that I felt like running in them tells me I might do well in a pair of those running sandals, like the ones Barefoot Ted makes. (Have been holding off on that because I am intimidated by the fact that you have to figure out how to get the tying of them right.)

BTW, I won't get anything if you buy these sandals.  I'm just sharing how much I love them with you like I would share with a friend.  There's probably some affiliate program I could sign up for so that if you click the link and buy them I'd get something, but I'm too lazy to go figure it out, and being that I haven't talked to you all this summer, I want to get this post up there.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yay! I'm a Black Sash!

Wait a minute.  That's a picture of a brown sash, not a black sash.  I thought she said she was a black sash.

Yes, that is my "old" brown sash you see over there on the left, with all the progress stripes earned over the past year or so.

I told you in the other post that I was being given a second chance to get my black sash.  That "second chance" meant that I had to show up tonight for sparring class, get changed into my gear in 3 minutes or less, and spar whoever was there.

Apparently all the tall men take the sparring class.  I had to fight 5 tall men who punch and kick pretty hard and, frankly, seem to take all this fighting rather seriously.  If I had been able to spar at the black sash test last Friday I would have been in the group of people my height and mixed men and women.  Plus I would have been fighting people who were tired -- not fresh and springy -- which really makes a difference, I tell you.

I got changed into my sparring gear with a minute to spare.  Guess the practice session I had earlier this week served me well.  Despite my careful calculations and accounting for everything, there are always going to be some surprises.  I got changed in the dressing room where all the ladies from the previous class were in there changing and trying to talk to me.  I had to explain -- with a mouthpiece in my mouth -- while changing that I was doing this for my black sash. "Ahm dng dsh fr mah black ssh."

That didn't phase them.  They kept asking me questions.

The other thing -- ha ha -- that I didn't account for was the velcro from my shoes sticking to the rug!!!  You saw me practice outside where the velcro didn't stick.

Nevertheless, all was well.  As I said, I finished with a minute to spare.

As soon as I got out there, the instructor made everyone form a circle and he put me in the middle.

Here's what I wrote to my friend about it:
"The most I had ever sparred was 3 people in a row, but tonight I had to do 5 and it was really hard.  After I got past the 3rd one, Mr. R., my instructor, told me "This is where you have to push through."  I felt like I was sprinting up a mile long hill.  After number 4, he said, "you have to do one more."  He looked me straight in the eye.  I felt like I was dying, but I looked him straight back in the eye and said, "okay, let's go."

Later he told me that when I looked at him and said "let's go," it was what he had been looking for.  And that's what makes you pass the test."
What's funny about this is that this is the kind of intense workout level that I have avoided my whole life.  I felt really winded, like I was doing sprints, or running hills, which are two type of running activities that I don't usually engage in. This was what I was doing during cycle training when my lips turned blue.  I was literally seeing stars at the end of it.

The other funny thing about it is what I told you in another post.  Fighting was about the last thing on earth I ever thought I'd learn to do.  I am a peace-loving person who does not like violence at all.  I was kind of in shock to find out that all this Kung Fu was showing me how to fight.  I have always been the kind of person who had no interest in fighting and I am truly here by accident (if there is such a thing as accidents in this life).

Well, to make a long story short, I did it.  Err -- I mean -- I DID IT!!

And the ritual is that the brown sash is removed and we don't wear a sash until graduation -- which is tomorrow.  I am so-o-o-o happy that I'm going to be moving on to the black sash classes with everyone else and not be left behind.

And now I'm even thinking maybe I'll try running some hills or something.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If at First You Don't Succeed -- Practice!

I'm getting a second chance!  I suppose that means I should practice!  I guess that means I have to put on shoes!  (Grumble, grumble, complain, complain.)

I thought that it would be enough to practice during class each week over the past six months, but it is obvious that practicing a little at home might have been a good idea.  Since getting into sparring gear in 3 minutes is what cost me during my black sash test, it might pay off to do a little homework now.

First up:  The video below shows that I clearly can get into my gear in under 3 minutes -- with 30 seconds to spare as a matter of fact -- at least while I'm fresh.

Next Up:  Knowing My Left Foot From My Right
Because of the delay to get to my bag -- at least, by my estimation, a 20-second one -- there was no room for any errors.  One thing that happened was that when I put the first shoe on, it was on the wrong foot.  I think there has been a question in my mind whether these shoes have a right and a left or whether they are both the same.  For once and for all I should check this out.

This way?
Or this way?
Okay, after a few minutes I figure out that there definitely is a right one and a left one. (the first picture has it right).  But there definitely IS something weird about these shoes.  One of them has a different shape than the other.  It is narrower and comes more to a point (the left one, btw).  No wonder I was confused, but since I had never really studied them, and only got to know them "on the fly," it has actually been helpful to figure it out once and for all.

The next part is the elastic bands.  I thought I had figured out to come around the outside first, wrap under the instep, and then come back up and cross over the top.  But for some strange reason sometimes I found myself having gone the wrong way the first time and had to reverse it, costing precious seconds.

And here is why!!
Will you just look at that?

Well, I'll be!

Both straps are attached in the same direction.  It's not reversed.

I had been assuming they would be mirror images of each other, and that if I had to wrap around the outside on one, it would be the same with the other.

But this homework I'm doing is revealing some strange things about my equipment and my assumptions.

Here's a video to show how it all really works!

The Final Up:  The Glove
If you remember my sad story, when we were called to the floor, I had all my gear on except for the glove.  As I was walking to the floor, I tried to slip the glove on quickly, but two things prevented me.  One was that the glove was curled closed and needed to be "opened" first.  The other was that I had forgot there was a hand strap in the glove so  I went straight for the fingers and missed.

So, here is a video of me settling on a glove technique.

That's it.  That's all the homework for today.  Sorry I can't show you me doing some fancy Kung Fu spinning hook kicks or flying leaps.  It turns out that is not what being a black sash is about.  Being a black sash is about doing homework like this, and practicing things in slow motion and being less than awesome most of the time as you break things down and work things out.

Kung Fu Black Sash -- A Second Chance

I'm getting a second chance.

I was called in for a meeting with Sifu tonight.

He gave me a choice.  I could come in later this week on the one night that was available for this, take the kung fu class that night, then gear up for sparring and spar whoever is there for the sparring class that follows.

Or, I could wait for cycle training next year.

My choice.

I have already told you -- and I told my Sifu tonight -- that I already feel that I succeeded.  I feel that I succeeded with my goals and objectives and my training.  I do already feel like a black sash, because, like they say all the time, it's something you define for yourself and you possess it within you.  It's not the piece of material or the recognition or award.

So, now, after having had to process what happened at the test, I can have one more chance.  If I pass later this week, then I can be a black sash at the black sash graduation this weekend.  I can stand with my classmates who all started with me four years ago,

I can lay any doubts I have left to rest if I test later this week.

Or, I can wait a year.

I have to let him know tomorrow (which is now today because I didn't post this last night).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Everything Matters -- The Importance of Small, Functional Fitness

A couple of days have gone by and with it plenty of time to ponder the moment of fail during my Kung Fu black sash test.

There might be some who will say I'm over-analyzing with the blog post I'm about to present, but I do not think that I am.  There are some important lessons, details, and revelations in the minutia and I hope that case will be made as I present my thoughts in the words and photos that follow.

Basically I failed my black sash test because I couldn't dress myself.  This may seem like a trivial reason to "fail" after being able to handle apparently tougher physical matters, but I have come to believe that it may not be so trivial after all.

For a while now, I've been on the track of considering what basic functional everyday fitness means to our lives.  I've written about this a couple times on this blog, and most recently as I've been posting the little beginner routines I've found and have been using as warm-up routines. (See "The Joy of Warming Up")

Here I would be mastering these awesome Kung Fu forms and stances and various other Kung Fu physical feats, but little functional fails in my daily life would make me sit back and think.  For example, after kung fu class I would come home in the evening and when I got ready for bed, I would notice that I had trouble crossing my arms and lifting and pulling my t-shirt off over my head.  I was lacking in flexibility and even the simple strength to accomplish this basic task of undressing without some effort and struggle.  I would think that maybe I should rep that, or find some exercise that would develop that needed motion.

Another time I would notice a "fail" would be when trying to put on a pair of shorts.  I would have trouble balancing on one leg and lifting the other leg to insert in the leg hole of the garment.  Another fundamental physical task, needed by us all, to maintain our daily lives.  Having the strength, coordination and balance to dress and undress ourselves effortlessly should be a kind of functional fitness available and enjoyed by us all.  Simple and obvious, right?

Dressing One's Self is Important
When my son was in kindergarten, I was still assisting him getting dressed in the morning.  The "master teacher" at his school told me in a conversation that it was important for me to let him struggle with dressing himself because he would be developing strength in his fingers and arms and motor coordination skills.

And at the other end of the spectrum, sometimes the elderly lose the strength and balance and flexibility they once had that made getting dressed so easy at one time in their lives.  They often end up needing assistance getting dressed.

And the fact that getting dressed and undressed requires effort, coordination, flexibility and strength is evident when there are really important people, like Kings, who end up having a valet or butler to assist him in getting dressed.

In light of these reflections,  this weak link that manifested itself in my failure to "dress myself" in my sparring gear within the required time is not trivial, nor meaningless in a quest to live a better life by freer and more effortless movement.

I'm going to examine one of my functional weaknesses in this blog post (even though there are a number of other ones as well).  This is one of my main ones, however, and I think this has been giving me trouble when I gear up quickly for sparring.

Weak Link:  Hip Flexors
I had three main areas of concern going into my black sash test (besides stamina and endurance).

  1. Worried about stopping during the bicycle crunches during the conditioning segment
  2. Worried about losing balance when doing crane stance
  3. Worried about taking too much time to put my sparring crotch protection piece on
There is actually something all three of these tasks have in common, and another thing two of the tasks have in common.  All three of these physical tasks involve the hip flexors, and two of them involve balancing weight on one leg while using the hip flexors of the other leg.

1. Bicycle Crunches

It wasn't my abs that failed on these, they were pretty strong.  It was the hip flexors.  Doing these bicycle crunches are great for helping strengthen them through reps.  Being overweight meant that I was working with a high level of resistance.  High resistance, lower reps.  That's why the fail. These bicycle crunches came at the end of 3 rounds of conditioning exercises and it was tough.  I improved so much, but maybe not enough to last the whole amount of time.  I didn't know during the testing period whether I would get the best results from doing them every day, or three times a week.  To me, they were like weight training, and they say to do weight training 3x a week, but maybe that was the wrong approach and I would have made faster gains if I had done them every day.

  2. Crane Stance

Right here you see that in crane stance the hip flexor is raising one leg while remaining standing on the other bent leg.

Being overweight means that I need much stronger hip flexors to lift my leg.  It doesn't mean I can't do it, but it does mean that the strength to do it needs to be developed.  It took me a long time to be able to raise my leg this high.  In the first couple of years my foot was just about an inch off the ground.

That is area number one of the test where I could have had a "fail."  During our cycle training, if someone put their foot on the floor while we were doing this, we had to start at the beginning of the stance routine again.  I felt bad in the first few weeks of our training because I was one of the people who caused us to begin again a few times.  But in the later weeks of training I improved on this greatly.

3. Stepping into the sparring gear crotch piece.
There were two leg holes here.  In order to get this on it was necessary to use the hip flexors, while standing balanced on one leg and insert the foot into the hole.  The elastic bands made it tricky, especially if the foot got caught on one of them.  The openings look big enough for the feet, but they were slightly smaller, making it necessary to point the toe to get the foot through the leg hole.

I had considered  sitting down to put this and my sparring shoes on, but there are other problems with my being able to get up off the floor quickly.  I ascertained that I was losing less time doing it standing by going through the whole process of sitting on the floor and getting up from the floor (Maybe I'll do a whole post on the functional daily fitness ability of being able to spring up from the floor easily and well.)

Here we go.

This ain't gonna' be that easy!

Ugh!  Huff !  Puff!  Costing me precious seconds!  Costing me my black sash!!

First on my Kung Fu Fitness To-Do List -- Strengthen those Hip Flexors!!
Those of you who have been reading along on my blog know I was already on to these weak links in my physical conditioning.  I was already on the road to correcting the hip flexor issue because that warm-up routine I wrote about from Project Elastic Steel includes exercises for those hip flexors.

In fact, it's possible that because I was doing the Project Elastic Steel routine along with my cycle training in the last few weeks, I was improved enough to succeed on the crane stance and the bicycle crunches during my test.

The realization of these little weak links came a little late in the game while I was training.  Maybe I did too little too late for this test, but one of the great gains I made by putting myself to the test of this very tough cycle training is that I discovered things about myself and I'm smarter now and know exactly what I need to do and can do to improve.

I hope I've convinced you that this was not an unimportant or trivial aspect of the test.  I still think it's a shame that it cost me so much because I did so well in other areas.  I was, after all, capable of doing it, at least to the minimum required.  Nevertheless, it is all good to know!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kung Fu Black Sash Test Results

Right off the bat I have to report the sad news that I did not pass my black sash test.

It wasn't because I wasn't awesome, because I did an amazing job on the test and I was stronger and better than I'd ever been.  All my training strategies kicked in the way I wanted them to and I knew all my stuff and felt amazing during the test.

So, why didn't I pass?

It was on a technicality..

It was that bleepin' sparring gear that did me in.

Here's what happened.  There was a mob of black sash people at the test because some candidates from another school came and were also part of the test.  It was crowded.  Our sparring gear was lined up in black bags ready for the moment when they told us to gear up.

As I explained in another post, we had 3 minutes to get into the gear.  I had been having a little trouble with this. I always seemed to get everything but one piece on each week when we practiced.  One week it would be the mouthpiece.  The next week it would be the helmet.  Another week it would be a glove.

But the past couple of weeks I've been making it all the way within the 3-minute time frame so I thought I was good.  And, in a way I was.

When the time came to gear up tonight, a mob of kids scrambled to their bags which were piled layers deep in front of mine.  I simply could not get through the bodies to my bag.  There was a delay.  I am sure I lost a good 20 seconds at that point.

But I still would have been good.  I put my shoe on, and thought it was on the wrong foot, so I took it off again, but found out it had not been on the wrong foot.  But I think that shoe thing cost me the valuable seconds I needed.  Losing that 20 seconds at the beginning meant that there was no leeway for any mistakes.

When they called time, I still had one glove to go.  I was holding it in my hand.  They called us in to the floor: "Everybody on one knee."  At this point, I thought I could still slip it really quickly, but then Sifu said the fatal words:

"Nobody make a move."

So, there was no way I could slip the glove on without moving, and I felt that I had to obey what he said.

Next he said,

"Anyone who is missing even one piece of equipment, leave the floor.  You cannot participate in the next part."

Very sadly I rose from the floor, walking off fully geared up except for the glove I held in my hand.  "This can't be happening," I thought.  "It's not real.  I have so much energy left even though we've been at this for hours.  I am so ready for some rounds of sparring!"

But, tragically, it was happening.  And it was happening to one other kid too, who also had been prevented from getting to his bag.  He was crying.

I stood there in my gear, looking like a forlorn Kung Fu panda, just watching everyone spar.  It took a long time.  I think I stood there over an hour.  I felt like I was in some surreal movie.  I just stood there in my sparring gear thinking "Maybe he will change his mind and call me over to spar after all."  But it never happened.

Once they got through the sparring, there was just the 5-minute horse stance to get through.  We had now been there for over 4 hours.  I stood with everyone even though I already had been told that I did not get my black sash.  But I did the horse stance anyway, and I felt really strong and springy, like I could have done a 6, 7 or 8 minute horse stance.

So, it's a really weird report I have to make.  I can't really say I failed in my training or plan because it all worked wonderfully.  I can't say that I didn't know my stuff because I did.  I can't say that I choked because of nerves, because I was amazingly calm, in control and having a really great time.  I can't say I didn't have the stamina, because I was going strong after several hours and lots of hard physical work.

The only thing I can say is that I don't have the sash.

It's feels sort of like not getting the T-shirt at the race (although that's never happened to me at a race, but this is how I imagine it would feel.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Countdown to Kung Fu Black Sash Test -- Eve of Test

It's 10:13pm and I should have been in bed 13 minutes ago.  Today's plan:  Get a good night's sleep.  But I couldn't go to sleep without checking in with you all.

I spent the day mentally preparing myself for sparring by imagining different scenarios and envisioned myself taking care of it all neatly and calmly.

That's about it.  No working out.  No running -- It was way too hot.

I am really glad I am not nervous at the moment.  I HATE that nervous feeling. It interferes with being able to feel the fun of all this. I know it will come back, but right now I'm pretending like the nervous feeling will not come back.  Even if it does, I'm enjoying every minute of being at peace right now. And every minute of not being in pain.

So, as soon as I finish typing these words to you all, I'm hitting the sack.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Countdown to Kung Fu Black Sash Test -- Day 3

Running out of pictures that have to do with Kung Fu.  Had to dig into files from 4 years ago and find a picture at one of our first belt graduations.  Looks like I just got my yellow belt here (and yes, that is an American Flag you see in the background..)

We didn't wear those white uniforms for too long before we moved to the intermediate level and bought our black pants and cool black T-shirts.

My last workout for the week before the black sash test was tonight and it was at a beginner class where they were wearing the white uniforms.  As part of the black sash training we have to "role model" at a beginner class.  The funny part about that is I am always humbled by those people learning in the white uniforms.  They always seem so much better than I am.

Because the beginner workout is lighter, it was necessary to jack up the intensity and work at a high energy level.  This is not my forte -- deliberately performing an activity at a higher intensity level when it can be done perfectly fine at a lower one -- but if I didn't use this last workout on the agenda to work hard, the black sash test on Friday was going to be harder.

Now I won't do any more working out until the test.  Maybe I'll go for a little barefoot run tomorrow morning but that's it.  I will imagine my muscles gaining just a tad little bit of strength as I sleep tonight, and then that will be it.  That will be the most I could do before the test.

I could have made this easier on myself by training a little better.  I could have made this easier on myself by losing some weight.  I could have made this easier on myself by not missing a single class these past six months.  I could have practiced and worked out more at home on my own. But, in the midst of all the business of life, I did what I could.  I've been through the "I could have ..." stage of this process and have arrived at the acceptance stage that I am what I am at this point and my performance on Friday will reflect that.

All I'll be able to bring to the test will be how much I've achieved thus far.  If it's not good enough, then I will have to wait.  If it's good enough, then I'll pass and move on to some higher training.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Countdown to Kung Fu Black Sash Test -- Day 2

Yesterday was a barefoot run -- about 2 miles.  On the agenda for today was my regular Tuesday night advanced class.

I knew I had to work the intensity for tonight's class.  In the regular class, we do less in our conditioning sets than we do in the Saturday morning cycle training, and than we'll do on the test this coming Friday, so my plan was to push it harder tonight.  Kind of like doing hill work or sprints.

During the black sash test we will have to get through the following conditioning section right off the bat, before moving on to anything else:

Set 1
60 jumping jacks
90 seconds (or is it 120?) push-ups
90 seconds regular crunches
Immediately to Set 2
60 jumping jacks
90 seconds non-stop push-ups
90 seconds side-side-middle crunches
Immediately to Set 3
60 jumping jacks
90 seconds push-ups
90 seconds bicycle crunches

It's that last bit of bicycle crunches that always gets me and that I'm very worried about.  If you stop during these sets, they will tap you on the shoulder and you're out of the test.  I almost always have to put my feet on the floor and rest after about 30 bicycle crunches.  I'm just not there yet.  But one of my instructors told me to just keep moving.  What I was able to do this past Saturday was just switch to regular crunches.  If they accept that, I'll be okay.

(Very weird thing that's happening during my bicycle crunches.  Since I NEVER wear shoes with arch support any more except for those old running shoes in kung fu class, I have been getting this really weird charlie horse cramp in the arch of my foot when I get down to do the crunches.  It just cramps all up in this tight contraction in the middle of my foot and hurts really badly and is out of my control to relax it.  It makes me look weird as I start the bicycle crunches.  It is bizarre and I think it's because of the shoes -- doing the jumping jacks in those old running shoes.)

I also have to stop in the middle of the third set of push-ups, but I can stay in plank position and just do one more, then stay in plank and do one more, etc..., so I can get by.

The test is going to be 3 hours long.  We'll be tested on everything we've learned for the past four years.  Punches, kicks, various drills, Long Fist I and Long Fist II, the defense applications of both Long Fist I and II.  And then we'll have to spar.  Some people will have to fight 3 people, some 5, some -- the second degree black sashes -- 10 people.  And at the end of all those hours -- the famous 5 minute horse stance!

Well, now back to my plan for tonight.  My plan was to do deeper and faster crunches and push-ups.  Since in the regular class we have to do half the amount of jumping jacks and half the time for the crunches and push-ups, I figure it would be like when you run faster because you are running a shorter distance.  More intensity with less time.

Then, when I have to go the "longer distance" on Friday, I will pace myself.  I will do slower push-ups crunches and not do them as deeply into the muscles.  Like when you run slower for your "long run" day.

That's the plan anyway.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Countdown to Kung Fu Black Sash Test -- Day 1

Today's plan was to run.  Run barefoot, of course.

But I got called to sing a funeral in the morning, so was planning to run when I came home from that, a little worried that the pavement would be hot.

But as I was getting ready to go sing I got the horrible aura of a migraine -- shimmery jagged lights in my vision.  My DH, who happened to be home, gave me an osteopathic adjustment to my neck, which often keeps the headache from coming.  I got through the funeral and never got the headache, but still felt pretty crummy and had to lay down for several hours.

I only get these dumb migraines about four times a year but I was upset that it spoiled my training plan for the week.

So, I had to force myself to go out and run in the evening.

I felt really out of it because of the migraine, and I really did not want to go out there.  But I kept thinking of that test on Friday -- a three hour test of endurance that I'm not even sure I'll be able to pass.  I knew that this run was important to get in to at least help maintain my aerobic conditioning.

So, I tricked myself.  I told myself that I was only going out for a walk.

It worked.

It is very tricky running out there in the evenings.  There are tons of joggers out there bouncing up and down in their springy running shoes.  There are also lots of fitness walkers with their sweatshirts tied around their waists and their water bottles swinging at their sides.  There are also lots of people walking dogs and talking on cell phones, and families with kids in all kinds of riding contraptions.

In all that, weaving in and out of the people with my little dog, not one person seemed to notice or even blink an eye about the fact that I was out there running barefoot.  In that way I enjoyed it tremendously because we were all just out there doing our thing, whatever it happened to be.  I have a friend who gets hostile comments in the urban neighborhood where he runs, so I feel very blessed to have this place here.

On the way back, I was blessed also with being able to see the most beautiful sky.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera or phone with me to take a picture for you all, so I'll use one I took from a couple of nights ago.  Stay tuned with me all week as I go through the final workouts before my black sash test on Friday!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Love/Hate Affair With Kung Fu Sparring Gear


Ummm … That should read my Love/Hate Affair.

Sparring Gear 9748a

From the moment we got this sparring gear, I had an aversion to it.  In fact, I had such an aversion to it that I would often “forget” to bring my gear to class, and while everyone else was practicing sparring, I would be over with the group that forgot their gear and just practicing forms, which I liked better.

No one really looks that great in their sparring gear, but some of the younger girls can look a little cute in theirs.  I am not one to worry too much how I look.  I don’t let that concern stop me from going out and doing stuff, but I have to admit that the sparring gear was a little too much.  I thought it made me look a lot like Kung Fu Panda.

But really, the aversion to the sparring gear for me was almost as strong as my aversion to sparring.  I mean, I had joined Kung Fu because my daughter had wanted to do it and my friend and her daughter were doing it and I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise.  I looked at all those Kung Fu forms and thought, “They’re kind of pretty – like dance.  I can go for that!”

Sparring Gear 9753a

About two years into Kung Fu the realization came.  “Oh my gosh, I’m learning to fight!”  I have to tell you that it was the farthest thing from my mind when I had joined – learning to fight.

Needless to say I feared it and did not like it one bit.  Fighting seemed as far off my radar as something could possibly be.  I don’t like violence at all.  I never go to any movies that come anywhere near being violent (Kung Fu Panda being an exception, and also the Lord of the Rings Trilogy).

Well, to pass our black sash test we have to spar.  We have to spar against a number of people.  So, we have been sparring during our black sash training.

When Sifu called me in last January to invite me to black sash training, he told us that he would not invite us if he didn’t think we could do it.  He asked if I had any concerns.  I told him it was the sparring.  “What could we do to help you with that?”  I told him that if I had some technique and strategy I would feel more confident.  “Just show me what to do," I said.

All that time I had “forgot” my sparring gear, I had missed out on some training and I was behind.  I have been trying to catch up the past 6 months.

I don’t think I’ve ever participated in a physical activity that is as intense as this sparring.  My little barefoot 16-minute miles just don’t cut it compared to this level of intensity.  It is during the sparring that my lips have turned blue two times.

Sparring Gear 9752a

There are a lot of already black belts in our class that are training to get their second and third degrees.  Some of them are teenagers who are strong and fast and have been training a lot longer than I have.  It has nothing less than comical as I’ve gone up against some of them.  They just set themselves up on one leg and just start kicking and kicking me like I’m some kind of punching bag.


Until this morning.

I have been thinking a lot about strategy and about myself.  I cannot make myself a more advanced person than I am right now.  I have a repertoire of a few moves that I can use, much fewer than the fancy spin kicks and arsenal that some of those girls have.  I’m not speedy, but I do have my brain.

I decided I needed a bit more practice, so a couple of days ago, I attended the sparring class that was just after my regular Kung Fu class.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it because just getting through one 45 minute workout is enough for me.  But I did stay and I learned just a little bit more, and I built my stamina just a little bit more.

So, this morning, I was very calm and I started to do well.  Keeping a cool head helped me.  When the kicks came, I just pushed them out of the way.  I controlled my space and kept far enough away so that I couldn’t be used as a punching bag.  I planned my moves in advance and watched carefully what the other person was doing.  I didn’t swing or kick randomly or wildly, but waited patiently for the opportunity.

And I did much better.

Sparring Gear 9754a






(the dumb mouthpiece that makes us all look like goons)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Joy of Warming Up

It's been over two weeks now that I've been thoroughly warming up before I engage in any physical activity such as barefoot running or kung fu.  It has made a big difference in both my ability to perform these activities, and my enjoyment of them as well.

I posted last week that I was using a very simple, non-flashy, beginner routine that is posted by Paul Zaichik on a youtube channel, "Project Elastic Steel."  The video of his I had posted last week was the first part of  "Episode 2."

I have now progressed to Episode 4 of his little series.

There is much to say about this little series of humble videos.

First, some people who checked the video out may wonder why -- if I am already engaged in working out with somewhat advanced activities that are in kung fu and running -- why does Barefoot Fresca think that she has to do such exercises for not only beginners, but a routine recommended for people who might even have very limited mobility at this point and are looking to get back into exercise?

Well, the sad truth is, that Barefoot Fresca jumped into these more advanced activities sooner than might have been recommended had anyone known what was going on.

Sometimes when an inactive person desires to get active, she might choose an activity or sport that looks fun to her.  Not knowing that years of inactivity has most likely affected her joint mobility, flexibility, strength, overall range of motion in many areas of the body, she may not realize that more developed tasks of movement are not going to come easy and it might be unwise or even unsafe to go full out before some basic physical tasks, ones taken for granted while young, are restored to her.

This is kind of what happened to Barefoot Fresca.  As she learned this awesome kung fu stuff and went out to run, she didn't realize what time and inactivity had done to stiffen her up and rob her of the ability to participate in movement activities.

Okay, enough talking in the third person, I'm going to switch back to talking about myself directly again because it's hard to keep that up.

There are a few limitations that have been hampering my ability to progress with my chosen activities.  Here are some limitations:
  • spinal rotation (unable to perform the simple task of putting my hand on the back of the passenger seat and twisting around to look behind me while backing up while driving)
  • limited overhead reach (having trouble putting heavy frying pan away in the cabinet above the refrigerator)
  • weak knees (unable to do squats and do the back-saving and protective action of bending at the knees to pick stuff up off the floor)
  • lack of strength to get up from the floor (if someone knocked me over in a fight, it would be won because I cannot spring back up off the floor.  I'm the last one up in the kung fu class when we finish our crunches and have to stand back up)
  • deficient strength with kung fu stances that are done with most or all of the weight on one leg -- crane stance, empty stance, etc...
  • difficulty balancing on one leg
 and the list goes on and on.

What I should do, is go back to the beginning and start all over again and perform the routines on Project Elastic Steel -- or something similar -- which contain the seed form of more advanced movements.  But I'm not going to go all the way back to the beginning.  I'm going to continue to enjoy and work on the more advanced stuff I've been learning, while humbly working on these elementary routines.  After all, doing the advanced stuff has gradually strengthened me, improved my flexibility and range of motion.  I modified the advanced stuff to my abilities as I went along and these movements have served to develop me.  It's just that I feel the need to fill in the gaps. By using this routine as the warmup for my other stuff, I believe I can do that -- progressing along with the warmup as I continue to maintain the gains I have made in running and kung fu.

In addition, because I am heavier, I need to build extra strength to manage my body weight.  If I'm not ready to reduce the amount of food I'm eating and lose weight -- which I'm not, for a number of reasons -- then it would be smart develop the strength to bear the weight I do have.  One or the other (or both) is advisable if one desires to experience freedom of movement.

In this beginner routine -- which also makes an excellent warmup for non-beginners -- the task of standing on one leg will build strength in my standing leg that will later form a foundation for better kung fu kicks.

What I like about the Project Elastic Steel videos:
  1. Mr. Zaichik explains the physiology of each movement very thoroughly.  The way he works it is that he goes through the routine the long way first, with detailed explanation -- such as in episodes 1 and 3 -- and then once you know what you are doing, he gives the fast version
  2. His workouts contain all the elements of what they recommend for warmups now -- joint mobility warmup (fantastic!), cardiovascular warmup, muscle action warmup (lower and upper body), dynamic stretches, and -- lastly, when the body is completely warmed -- static stretches.
  3. All the movements in the videos are kind of a seed form that develops over a period of weeks throughout the episodes and become more challenging and more advanced.  This gradually develops a person for more advanced physical tasks.
  4. He is very organized and methodical (something I like).  I even like the way you can keep track of each Episode because he has thought to wear a different color T-shirt for each one.
  5. The videos and routines are very simple and humble, produced at a low cost, apparently -- maybe even right in his home -- and yet containing way more valuable knowledge, information and insight into human movement than a lot more flashily produced videos.
  6. The routines use one's own body weight with a minimum of equipment.
  7. The routines take up very little space (I've been doing them right in the kitchen in front of my computer)
  8. Mr. Zaichik patiently explains what one should do if one has trouble or difficulty with even this basic level of stretching or movement.  He is very reassuring in the way he lets a beginner know that it is okay not be be able to perform a movement or to perform it on a lesser level.  He makes it very clear.
  9. As I said before, I admire the humility and patience of a very advanced athlete to count through these simple movements and exercises with a beginning kind of student.  He has stated in the comment section on his channel that he has an interest in helping people who have been cut off from movement find their way into the wonderful world of physical activity again.
  10. The routines are constructed so that if they are followed faithfully, they will improve a person's physical abilities and enjoyment of body and movement.
I am not a fan of using any kind of equipment for fitness.  I am not saying that anyone who does like equipment is wrong or anything. I am merely speaking that my personal preference has always been for natural ways to improve one's physical capabilities using one's own body weight.  I think this part of my personality and preference and philosophical outlook is part of what gets so tickled about barefoot running and the way I get to ditch that piece of equipment that seemed so essential -- the modern running shoe.

However, there is one piece of equipment I've decided to invest in.  I think it's really important to add some pullup action to my routines, and these videos from Project Elastic Steel include some pullup action.  I've been doing pushups for a while now in kung fu, and I've read and heard that it is wise to train the antagonistic motion of pulling up as well.

In the videos, Mr. Zaichik mentions at the beginning that one could use two chairs and a broom stick for the pull ups.  That's what I've been doing so far.  But my chairs were so low that it was hard to get in the proper position for the pullups.

Then I saw another Paul Zaichik video where he mentioned that you would have to use books on the chair to get the broomstick to the height that is needed. So, I did that, and it was better, but the broomstick kind of bows (guess I don't have a very strong broom) and I really like the contraption he is using in the videos. It is a simple stand and it is very portable and just looks so useful for a variety of things.

I went over to the Elastic Steel web site and found that this piece of equipment is not sold there.  I also read through all the forums and found that this piece of equipment is not mentioned or discussed anywhere.

I searched all over the internet and I found this:

I showed it to my husband and he said to go ahead and get it (even though it cost a pretty penny).  However, based on the way I like to work out, I have a feeling this is a good investment.  I will let you know how I like it once it gets here.

Disclaimer:  I solely have pointed to these videos and products to discuss them from the point of view of sharing what is interesting and useful to me.  I have no connection whatsoever with the people who produce or sell any of these things and get nothing for writing about it.  These people don't even know I exist. Just sharing my personal journey -- discoveries, thoughts, and explorations -- with all of you, dear blog-reading friends..

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunny Sidewalks

Sunny Sidewalks_11-23-23_519

How many times can you look at a photo of these same sidewalks that I run on every day?

Yup, here they are again! I must be breaking all the blog rules about keeping my readers interested by variety.  And yet, dear friends, you keep coming back!

An uncle of mine, who is a pastry artist, once told me that when he was little my grandmother didn’t want to bring a whole box of crayons along when she brought him with her to her appointments, so she just brought one crayon (I wrote about this on my other blog in the post “One Crayon”).  He told me he developed his art talent by the fact that he had to make that one crayon look so many different ways.

Well, something similar is the case with my barefoot running and this blog.  I have to make my one sidewalk look so many different ways and see it from so many different angles because I never go anywhere else.  But, being kind of “stuck” here for the time being in my barefoot running life, I have been forced to see that there is so much to learn right on this one little path and that I do not necessarily need to leave for trails along oceans and up mountain tops in order to discover new things about barefoot running.

Yesterday I wrote about getting myself out there too late and the pavement was too hot.  I told you I would try to go out later in the day.

I kind of chickened out going out later in the evening.  It was Memorial Day, and I had forgotten that this boulevard is crammed with people strolling along looking at the boats on The River.  There would be dogs, and children and crowds of people.  Although Barefoot Fresca is brave and doesn’t care if people see her running barefoot, that was a little too much to go out there with her little dog and weave in and out of that scene.  So, I decided to go out this morning instead even though I have Kung Fu tonight.  I hope I will be able to handle Kung Fu class.

I almost made the same mistake and got out there late again, but not quite as late as yesterday.  The shadow from the wall had already receded and the tiles were exposed to the sun, as you can see in the photo above.  However, it was early enough that the trees along the path were still casting a shadow, which had not been the case yesterday, as yesterday it was past noon and this morning it was enough before noon that there would be some shade from those trees, thus making it possible to run across little hot sections from tree to tree.

Sunny Sidewalks_11-24-12_467

There was no way to run in the shadow because it was right up against the wall, and besides, even if one could be that close to the wall and run, one wouldn’t want to because that wall is very famous for being the place all the doggies like to relieve themselves.  As brave and un-squeamish as I’ve become about sidewalk dirt, I don’t have the inclination to run along that strip.

I did find that the section immediately to the left of the shadow that remained was cooler than the section of sidewalk a little to the left of that.  I think it is because that strip of pavement has only been newly exposed to the sun and had less time to soak it in and heat up.

So, my strategy was to run on that strip.  I tested it out several times and it was definitely cooler than the center of the path.

The day before, my feet had become slightly burnt by the 1/4 mile of hot pavement I had walked on.  Last year I would have given them an entire day off to heal up and toughen.  That worked really well.  But my feet seem to adjust more quickly this year – definitely a sign of leaving beginner-hood behind – and it felt right to go out this morning.  If this run was not part of my black sash training, I would have just waited another day, but I am determined to get two runs in at least this week because I believe it will help my stamina during my black sash test.

There were definitely some hot sections, and I felt a little worried about the fact that I had once again forgotten to bring along a pair of flip flops in case I couldn’t handle the heat.  What’s wrong with me?  Have I become over-confident?  I always went out so prepared last summer (and btw, never had to use the flip flops).  But I just kept thinking about what I knew was up ahead – the haven of “The Shady Section.”  Before I knew it, “The Shady Section” was upon me:

Sunny  Sidewalks_11-33-20_522

Aaah!  The best part!

One worry, though, for the way back.  There would be a long hot section to get through.  It would be a little hotter than on the way there because it will have had at least 20 more minutes to soak up the sun and the wall shadow would have receded even more.  Here is “The Brutal Hot Section”

Sunny Sidewalks_11-43-32_627

As you can see, the shady strip along the wall has become very small, and the rest is hot, hot, hot!  In a few weeks, that hot section will not be a problem.  I know that because last summer it was not.  But until I get my thermal resistant soles built up, this is a little tough and needs to be taken a little at a time.

I stayed close to the shady part, where the tiles were slightly cooler, but when runners coming from the other direction came, I had to move out to the middle where it was hot.

You see, in the hierarchy of runners, the slower, less-experienced runner is the one who has to give way to the “professional” runner.  One can feel the hierarchical energy and one knows when one is supposed to yield.  I’m not exactly sure of this, but I sense out there that the barefoot runner must yield to the shod runner.  It is a humiliation for the barefoot runner, for the barefoot runner must accept the position of being “lower” than the “serious” shod runner, even though the reality is that this may not be so.

Perhaps this is all in my own mind.  Perhaps it is just me who always yields, because I think I am truly the smallest and least of all runners.

But while I was yielding I was thinking, “Sheesh!  Don’t these people with shoes on know that it’s hotter out here in the middle?”

No.  They don’t.  There is stuff that barefoot runners know about these here sidewalks that all the world does not know!! Secret barefoot knowledge!

Sunny Sidewalks_11-49-49_2

One last little bit of secret barefoot knowledge about this path to share.  You can see in the photo to the left that there are sections of the path that have this decorative stone inlaid (which the dogs also LOVE).

When running along the shadow on the cooler part of the tiles, I had to move out when I got to the stones and it was hotter out beside the stones.

All in all it was a great run, and I had some thoughts about it being like resistance training and I think I solved the question I’ve been having about whether to increase speed (intensity) or distance (endurance) first as an overweight runner.  I was going to share the conclusions with you in this post, but it really doesn’t fit because this post is mostly about handling the hot pavement.  So I’ll save my other strategy for another post.

Right now my feet feel slightly burnt again, but I know that will be gone within a day and my feet will be more tolerant of the hot sections than they were today.

Thanks for reading along!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hot Sidewalks

Ouch, ouch, ouch-ouch, ouch, ouch ouch!!

I made a mistake today.  I waited too long to get out there for my planned barefoot run and the shadow from the wall along my boulevard was not there and the tiles were hot -- very hot!

Last year I very methodically and carefully built my mileage up bit by bit.  I started running only about 100 yards, then a 1/4 mile, until I could run a barefoot mile.

While I was gradually increasing my barefoot distance, gradually toughening the soles of my feet, gradually strengthening the unused muscles and tendons and ligaments and bones, I was also gradually acclimating the soles of my feet to the heat of the sidewalk.  I eventually got to the point where it didn't bother me to run on a hot sidewalk, but even so, I planned my runs so that I didn't have the hottest sidewalks and so there would be patches of shade along the way for relief.  I also would carry an emergency pair of Vibrams or flip-flops just in case I got stuck out there or something.

But this year I've been regularly running about 2 miles out there.  There hasn't been a need to build gradually from scratch like I had to last year. Feet have felt great in every other way so I wasn't really thinking there would have to be any kind of re-conditioning for the heat.

But I was wrong.  We had a kind of cold rainy spring and we just plunged straight into hot summer days this past week.

I sort of thought because I had kept my feet somewhat conditioned for the cold that they would be tough enough for the heat too.

Lesson for today:  Cold conditioning is a separate state than heat conditioning.

I got out there and was trying to walk my 1/4 mile to my starting place and I could feel the burn on the bottom of my feet.  I considered just going ahead with it anyway.  I really didn't want to go back.  I wanted to get the run done.

I looked across the street to see if it was shadier there.  Nope.

I could have just ignored common sense and gone ahead and tried running.  But deep down inside I knew that it was not a good idea to go ahead and run.  Why did I know?  Because my feet were telling me.  They were sending really strong signals that I'd be in trouble if I went ahead and did it.  I actually experienced myself block out the "voice" of my feet as I was considering the options, kind of like a mom might block out her kids' voice when she's thinking something over and not realize the kid has a good point.  But suddenly the principle of listening to my body came back to me and what my feet were saying came into clearer focus.  No, don't do it.

So, I made a decision to turn around and come back.  I will go out later when there is some shade.