Category Archives: exercise

Why I Run Barefoot

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I’ve been barefoot running, or minimalist running, since April of 2010.  I jumped right on the whole Vibram FiveFingers bandwagon, and I’m still on it now.  I’ve been reading about the lawsuit against Vibram because (from Wikipedia): the company ‘claimed that the shoe “reduce[s] foot injuries and strengthen[s] foot muscles.”‘  

That statement is only as true as each person makes it.  I would have added instead that their shoes “have the potential to reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles.”  

A shoe, just like any tool, is not going to work properly if you don’t know how to use it.  

That falls upon the runners and walkers who buy the shoes.  I have flat feet and I used to suffer from shin splints as well as tendonitis in my ankles.  I used to cry myself to sleep every year when I went to disney world and the walking made my feet ache insanely.  Switching to FiveFingers shoes has completely changed all that for me, but I believe it was how I switched over that did it, not just suddenly walking and running barefoot and I feel the need to share my story here.   

(For those who are curious – these are my shoes of choice for running long distance since 2010 – the Sprints, which are sadly not made anymore so I’m not sure what I’ll do when my current ones fall apart!:)

feet

My running story:

I’ve been in love with running since my father got me into it when I was 13.  I loved it at first because it was something my really cool and funny “Daddy” liked to do every day with our dog.  And when I joined Cross Country in ninth grade, I remember our coach let us run around the track after completing a 4 mile run in the neighborhoods around the High School.  I jogged slowly the whole time, but my coach actually had to stop me because I ran another 4 miles just around the track and he was worried I would overdo it and get an injury.  

He was entirely correct, and I had an amazing first cross country season that year, but when I tried Track in spring, I ruined my legs doing sprinting.  We didn’t have a great track, but also with sprinting, you are pounding on your feet so much more than just running for a few miles in the woods.  Long distance running—slowly—was my destiny, even from way back then, but I didn’t realize it until much later.  

Because my performance with cross country wasn’t that great, I couldn’t have run with a college team, but during college and in my mid-twenties, I started running 10-mile races every summer with my father.  I loved those races more than any 3-mile race I’ve ever done (and not just because I loved running with my Dad).  10 miles felt perfect to me, but I pushed myself a little too far every time, ran in regular running shoes so I pounded my heels too much, and every 10-mile race left me with injuries.    


Everything changed when, soon after it came out, I read the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall:

born to run

It really inspired me.  It reminded me of that first cross country practice where I ran 8 miles because I was having too much fun to want to stop running.  I also love running because I’m a very thoughtful, analytical person, and my thoughts can go all over the place when I’m talking to people (or when I’m just sitting around).  But when I run, it’s like I’m in a therapy session with my higher self. I think clearer.  I listen to myself.  

“Born to Run” also touched upon my desire to be closer to the Earth, to be more natural and closer to animals, too.  I read articles about how walking and running barefoot teaches you to step correctly (on the balls of your foot, never the heel), and when I started running after a long winter living on a sailboat in southern Rhode Island and freezing, I did it slowly.  If you sincerely listen to the advice from doctors and barefoot runners, all of them will tell you to start with half a mile of jogging barefoot or less.  Increase that over time—weeks of time, not days.  I started barefoot running in a field down the street from my marina in April, and just kept going.  I only ran every other day.  I went from running one mile barefoot and two or three with shoes, to eventually running entirely barefoot.  And I didn’t even run on pavement until months had passed.  

Running barefoot isn’t just about being closer to the Earth and feeling the dirt between your toes—it’s about being closer to yourself and listening to your body.  

I love myself more because I run barefoot.  I’ve learned that if running a certain way hurts me, I shift my weight, I run differently, and it works.  It took me only three months or so of running continuously and with discipline I never had before to eventually do 8 miles runs, and then 13 mile runs from Block Island’s Great Salt Pond down to the southernmost point of the island—all of it on beautiful trails or dirt roads.  

me happy   

When I made it to half-marathon-length runs by mid-summer, I realized that I really could run an ultra marathon.  And I wanted to.  I decided on the Vermont 50, which was in late September, and I did the 31.7 mile run (50K) in 9 hours.  I was one of the last people to finish (I think), but I felt amazing.  I walked a lot of the hills, and a lot of the end of it, and for the last 3 miles I actually couldn’t stand the Fivefingers shoes anymore and ran literally barefoot to the finish.  I am probably almost as proud of that race as I am of my first novel being published.  And I told myself I never have to do another one…but lately I’m not so sure.  I’m feeling that ache again to run for 2-3 hours through the woods without stopping.  Maybe this summer, I’ll do it again.    

me-endof32miles

In closing:

Thank you, Daddy, for inspiring me to run in the first place.

Thank you, Vibram FiveFingers, for the shoes my feet needed to run the way they were intended to run—without injury.  

And thank you, Christopher McDougall, for writing the book I needed to read in order to start me on this journey.

 

a free write about writers

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Sometimes, when I read something particularly impressive, I free write.  My “response” isn’t always about what I read, or even about writing, but I feel that free writing is something that helps me step over blocks in my writing process.  (Or it just helps me spill out words onto a page without worrying about grammar, metaphor, plot continuity, etc., etc.)

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I wrote the following free write after reading a chapter of my friend Sean Jackson’s manuscript about rivers.  I just found it on my computer, because I was in a space where I couldn’t work on my latest project and I didn’t want to watch Netflix or read…I was in a blogging mood, but I couldn’t find the right words to say—or any words to say.

I’m happy to have found this and be able to share it…

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There is a particular space where writers exist:  half-way between the sensation of being in love, of being so full we are flying, and of losing everything, that potent feeling of emptiness.

Maybe everyone is here, lurking or lusting over some new shiny thing discovered.  But writers do this in a sort of half-dream state.

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I’m starting to realize we might never leave the page—the real writers—the ones who write because we can’t do anything else, because it’s common and because it’s compulsive to us.

We write because we need.

We write while speaking, while drinking, while sitting around the table watching everyone else.  We bring our writing realm everywhere—because that’s what it is—another realm, a parallel world to the one every human inhabits, a place of refuge, a place we run to as often as we run from it.

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When there’s another writer in the room, the air changes.  I can feel the nudge of their invisible pages while stepping across the floor.  It’s like being home and being in a foreign country at the same time.

And I want to dance.

I want to stay awake until dawn, mingle, cross the room again and again, because each time, there are new pages on the floor, slipping under the table, rising up and getting caught in the lights.  New dreams that make me dream more, too.

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Writers don’t always need words to communicate.

We have our eyes, our eyebrows, the corners of our mouths, the angle of our bodies, the careless movements of our hands.

There is a kind of soul synergy between writers that I’ve not found anywhere else—even amongst other Deaf people.  Writing is a way of seeing and translating what we see at the same time, somewhere along those invisible pages that make the air so much richer.  Full.  In love.  In loss.

As we walk that tightrope together across the sky.

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Okay, here I am again (in real time, April 21st).  I’d like to add that this was a hard thing for me to write, the admittance that writers feel more like family to me than other Deaf people.  Because most Deaf people who identify as “Deaf” with a capital-D, which means they use (or prefer to use) American Sign Language as their primary form of communication and they feel part of Deaf Culture, wouldn’t dare say what I am saying about feeling closer to other writers than other Deaf people.  The Deaf community is a very close-knit, defensive family.  Because their culture is threatened by the Hearing world, by audism (the mentality that to be able to hear and to speak is necessarily better and leads to a higher quality of life), and their culture is largely diluted (the only place in America where there is a HUGE Deaf community is within the only University for the Deaf in the world – Gallaudet University in D.C.).

I do feel a similar sense of being “home” when I meet other Deaf people who are able to sign with me, but Deaf people are still people who all have different jobs, passions, and interests.  It’s surprising when I meet a Deaf person that I ALSO have something else in common with—and that’s the root of why I feel more of an immediate sense of being in tune with other writers from the start.

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Writers can be introverted or extroverted, and I fluctuate between those two polarities on an almost daily basis.  But we all know what it’s like to WRITE—to be so caught up with typing or scribbling across a page that we forget to eat or drink or that we’ve had to pee for the past hour.  Because we get lost in our words.  Because we LOVE words.  Because sometimes, words are better than a sunset, or a cookie, or even another person.  Words sustain us, and writers know this (and that’s where I’m coming from with this post).

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