Paleo

The Squat 30/30 Challenge

Import

I’ve started to post some interesting pictures on my Facebook account showing me in a squat position. This has had people start asking me questions like: “What are you doing?”, or “Why are you doing that?”, or my favorite from my daughter “Why do you always have to be so weird?”

Chair Sitting

Let me back up a little bit and talk about what the history of the chair in western society has done for our bodies. Sitting in a chair has allowed us to painlessly rest our bodies without having to use vital core muscles that keep our bodies strong and lithe. As the work culture (especially office culture) has developed, so has the amount of time we spend in chairs. If sitting in a chair makes up the majority of one’s day, then the body slowly starts to get weaker. Certain muscles start to atrophy from lack of use. We develop pains and lose mobility. There are even studies that show long periods of sitting put us at risk of increased blood clotting, or deep vein thrombosis (If you google it, you will find tons of articles). Sitting in chairs forces us to put our bodies into a more unnatural position while we weaken and lose flexibility.

The Squat

In other cultures, chair sitting has not always been the norm. The resting squat is a position that goes way back to our ancient ancestors. It is a totally natural position for the human form. If you watch toddlers closely, you can see them squat automatically. Nobody teaches them this. It is a natural position. We learn our way out of squatting as chairs are introduced to our daily lives as we grow up.

While squatting is a resting position, it is much harder to slouch. It keeps those core stabilizing muscles strong. It also keeps our joints more open and flexible. When practiced, squatting staves off knee and back pain and strengthens the muscles that support these areas. Another thing that a squatting practice can help facilitate are healthy digestive and bowel functions. They have even come up with some products for us westerners to aid in our eliminations.  Toilets in certain asian countries are already built in for such endeavors.

The squat consists of bending at the knees, keeping your spine straight, pulling your butt toward your heels while having both feet firmly planted on the ground, heels down. Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple  has made a good primer talking about easing your way into the squat (it’s worth it to check out the ‘asian squat’ video at the end of the article). For those of us in western cultures who aren’t used to this squat, it might take some doing to stretch those muscles and loosen up those joints so that we can even comfortably get down in that position. I’ve worked with my son around this. He used to play the catcher position in baseball and when he went into his squat his heels would come off the ground and he would go up on his toes. This is how catchers are coached to crouch so they can have quick pop ups and mobility. It took some relearning to sit back on his heels and slowly bring his body down into the relaxed squat position.

Of course if you already have knee or back damage, it would be good to check with your doctor before taking up such a practice. That being said, I have learned from personal experience that doing this practice will not create knee joint or back damage, but as I stated only serves to build up those muscles and joints in those areas.

Bodyweight exercise and flexibility expert, Ido Portal created a challenge encouraging people to create the habit of squatting on a daily basis. It’s called the Squat 30/30 Challenge . My friend Wendy Kinal, personal trainer, circus aerialist, accordion player and the nicest badass you will ever meet introduced me to this challenge (She’s always good at pointing out stuff like this). The challenge is to do at least 30 minutes a day sitting in the squatting position for 30 days in a row.  The challenge’s intention is to create that daily squat practice. He specifies this is not about training, but to create that daily habit. If you are anything like me, you might be eager to be in that squat position for the full 30 minutes. Ido points out right in the opening notes, that this is not the intention. The intention is to create a healthy practice of going into this position at any time during your day. Just to add to the challenge, here is a video by Ido Portal showing some great stretches that you can do when in the squat if you should decide to take up the practice.

Happy squatting.

Adventures, Paleo

Walking To Get Somewhere

Barefoot In Yelapa

One of the practices Anne and I have both embraced is living a paleo or primal lifestyle. I often hear people refer to it as the paleo diet. Diet is not the complete package. It’s a lifestyle, a way of living that embraces simplistic practices of health and well being. The wikipedia article I linked to above gives a general idea of what the paleo lifestyle is all about.

One of the most enjoyable I experienced on this trip was all the time I got to spend with Anne walking. Walking is a fantastic form of exercise. I know I have spent countless miles walking and running for the sake of walking and running. On this trip, I never set out to walk for exercise. Every walk Anne and I took was to get to a place we wanted to go. What a concept! Another thing about this form of transportation is whatever we needed at our destination, we needed to carry. Every day I had to evaluate what was going in my bag. I suddenly was concerned about not wanting to lug too much weight. That bag gets awfully heavy in the heat of a long day. 

At first when we set out walking we did our typical exercise thing. We set out at a hard pace to get our lungs pumping, and our hearts going. It’s what we are used to doing. It didn’t take us long to figure out in the heat and the hilly terrain to throttle it back and save our energy. We were going to need to walk back from wherever we were going, walk to dinner later, and walk home after that.

Once we slowed down, something magical happened. We started enjoying our time together. We talked. We held hands, we noticed interesting things about the area, we stopped to look, we took pictures. We lost all thoughts of setting a rapid pace and started living in the moment. We were sucking the marrow out of this adventure.

By the end of our week, we could feel a strength in our legs. It appealed to my paleo sensibilities. Since being home, I have lost that daily walking practice. It’s understandable, it’s been cold, icy, and slippery up here in Vermont.

My house, Mountain Shadow Manor, is about two miles out of town. I have walked to town during the warmer months and have always found the walk enjoyable. After my experience in Mexico, it is a practice I intend to continue.

Peace Bread Delivery

Adventures, Photo Essay

Yelapa – A Photo Essay

Anne and I went on our first week long non-working vacation ever. We’ve been together since 2001 and we have taken little trips, or we have gone places that involved being on team for or leading workshops, but we have never done anything to this scale before.  The most daunting part of our trip was planning it. The stories we carried in our head of what it would take to go (passports, more money than we have, will be taken advantage of because we will stand out as clueless tourist, etc) was threatening to cast a pall on the excitement of what it could be like.  There comes a point where one realizes they need to choose to commit to the adventure or not, stories be damned. We chose wisely. We hopped on a plane to Yelapa Mexico. Neither of us had ever been anywhere like this before. We were going to meet friends who had, so we put our faith in their knowledge. Again, this was a good choice. We let go and lived for the adventure.

I had been in a place of introspection so this trip was full on insights. I may be doing a couple of posts over the next few days just talking about some of the things I learned.

For now, I am posting this photo essay of our trip. I was able to cull it down to less than 50 photos. This was an amazing adventure.

Peace

Either enjoy the photo essay as presented here, or if you feel moved click on an image and scroll through one at a time.

Creativity

A Recommitment to My Creative Process

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I have reached a point in my life where I am plumbing the introspective depths to assess who I am and where I am going. Certain events in my life have brought me here. It continues to be a harsh and painful process. I also understand these life changing events can make me whole and more solid if I am willing to walk through them with my eyes open. A friend of mine recommended journaling as I reflected on my life. So I started to journal. I believe the powers in the universe conspire for me, or any of us, to succeed; aiding me in finding the things I seek. As I started to journal and look for ideas in creating a journaling practice, I discovered a class by tiny house living, minimalist, blogging, creative person – Tammy Strobel.  I signed up for her online course, “Writing in the digital age – a creative guide to writing anywhere”. So far, the course has been just the medicine I need. I have always fancied myself a writer, a musician, a creative person, but I have only stuck my toe in the water around my creative projects fearing full immersion. Over the winter, I even went as far as to say to my stepson Erin (the link is to his latest song, which is in development. I highly recommend checking it out), who happens to be a musician and one of my best friends,  I didn’t think I was all that creative.

You know in sitcoms when someone says something and you hear the record needle scratch? Well, that happened.

– I hate it that the record needle scratch has become  passé, it was such a poignant demonstration of everything stopping –

He looked at me, along with everyone else in the room, and very lovingly and gently told me I was full of crap, then proceeded to list all the creative things he has seen me do. Ah, the stories we create in our minds, they’ve built and toppled kingdoms.

I’ve always been a creative person. It’s just my inner committee has often  gotten in the way of me doing something about it. My own mind has been a great companion and a woeful nemesis. I start to want to create something and the endless analysis gets in the way of me actually starting the process. I believe I could rent my inner committee out as a think tank to aid the U.S. Congress.

There are a bunch of statements of simplicity about what it takes to start moving on a project: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”– Lao Tse, “You can’t think and hit at the same time” – Yogi Berra. Okay, two. There are two sayings I can think of right now apropos to the reboot of my creative process. If you can think of more, I welcome them in the comments section.

The reason for this post is I am making a recommitment. I am recommitting to being actively creative. On a daily basis I will be doing something outwardly creative. This means there will be some kind of daily output, not just spinning it in my mind. I’m curious to see where it is going to take me.

Peace

Race Report

Race Report – Bride’s 5k – Race Director’s POV

I am talking on the phone with my sister, and I offhandedly make one of my jokes saying;

“You guys should run a 5k and then get married”

“That’s a great idea. Will you be the race director?”

This is how it all got started.  My athletic sister (sport of choice: bicycling)  was making plans for her marriage to her cool athletic partner, Steve (Sport of choice: also bicycling, but I wouldn’t put it past either one of them to do distance magma sprints because they are both athletically insane). I heard they had tossed around getting married at the top of a mountain after a hard bike ride, but they realized the less athletic of relatives would opt out knowing they would be heaving a lung up somewhere at the base of the mountain.

I would like to note that heaving a lung does require more athletic prowess than one might think.

Katie and Steve opted for the more traditional marriage, to the great relief to all the relatives who value both their lungs. They put me in charge of organizing “The Bride’s 5k” the morning after the wedding ceremony. We decided on making it a fun run to include the widest range of people. I used mapmyrun.com (BTW I loathe this site. If any of you know of any better route mapping sites I am excited to hear about them) to recon a couple of options. Katie decided she wanted to keep the course in beautiful historic downtown Guilford CT (Here’s the route). I did use Mapmyrun.com to print up an Acrobat file of the race and it had most of the elements that I needed, but I wound up editing it and recompiling in Word.

The wedding went off well, and all who attended were showered by the love of the newlyweds. That is a story for another blog.

I went to bed feeling a new kind of apprehension. This wasn’t just prerace day running jitters, this was a new animal. Holy crap! I am responsible for the entire event and I hardly did anything. I kept having to remind myself this is a simple, no frills, fun event that was supposed to be fun for all because we are going to have fun. I just wanted it to be smooth and fun. Did I mention that it was a fun run?

Being responsible, I wanted to show up two hours early for the event, which had my family rolling their eyes. They whittled my arrival down to 30 minutes before the event. I woke up fairly calm and worked myself into a nihilistic beastly mood.

You people appreciate nothing! I am responsible for this thing! Don’t you know what it means to get ready to go? Why is the TV on?!?

The fam was not amused. Nor were they willing to take on the pretension and self importance that went with being the race director of a fun run. We piled into the car and arrived 20 minutes prior to race start…no-one was there. More eye rolling from the minions. Water! I didn’t think to get five cases of water for the five people that would be running. I was quickly imploding. People were going to show up and find me rocking fetal under the civil war monument.

People started to show up. What I thought would be a half dozen turned out to be  about three times that. They all looked excited to take part. We had people both running and walking. My spirits started to rise. I handed out maps/course descriptions. Last to show were the Bride and Groom. Katie was wearing her veil and carrying her pretend flowers from the rehearsal and Steve was toting a flat of water (my heart danced).

We hastened over to the start line and started the race. The best man, who was German in origin, told us to watch his “German Start”. He put himself on the line and did the traditional track sprint start. The go was given. The group started running to the right. The best man ran left. I could tell that we were going to have fun. For the rest of the run, I had fun. I did hang back at a couple of street crossings to ensure the other runners knew where to go and crossed safely, but after a couple of those, I even let go of that and just enjoyed the rest of the run. Even though I was running bare foot, it was like that was a non entity. It’s just the way I run now. I got quite a few double takes and I heard a couple of “Brave Heart” refferences (oh, and my aunt kept comparing me to Jesus), it was a fun adventure. As I did my final push to the finish, I heard one of the runners declare “Great form!”. That comment had me feeling complete.

I received a good number of complements on the race course. The bride and groom looked smashing all weekend, they really know how to celebrate a wedding. Everyone made it across the line ok. My wife added a little distance to her time by making a wrong turn and figuring it out.  Lots of little stories that make the sum total of a good organized race, but too many to tell. I could do this again.

I would like to thank those of you who participated. You all made it a good time. I would also like to thank my 11 year old stepdaughter Zoe for starting us out and keeping time for all of us, including writing down everyone’s results. Lastly, thanks to my wife and kids for putting up with my crap that morning. You guys are the best.

Rich

The Barefoot Kilt

Just run and enjoy the trip.

Barefoot Observations

Barefoot Running

I made the announcement around this time on facebook that I was going to be performing an experiment. I was going to start running barefoot, on pavement, no shoes, you know, barefoot.

Back when I started running a couple of years ago, someone sent me an add for the Vibram 5 finger shoe . It was a foot/glove type of shoe with a pocket for each individual toe that would allow a runner to go near barefoot while having a protective barrier to keep their feet from getting punctured. I remember Zola Budd running barefoot in the ’80s but she was from Africa and they don’t know any better. I told my running friend about the 5 fingers and he told me to look up Charlie “Doc” Robbins. I did at that and saw he was from the state I grew up in, Connecticut. I don’t know why Charlie being from Connecticut gave barefoot running any credibility, but it stuck in my head and just rolled around like a red sock in the dryer.

As you might be able to tell from the lack of posts in this blog, my running got stale over the last year and it was beginning to look like the staleness was going to permeate into this year’s running season. Running was starting to hurt and I could not get the momentum going, not to mention that I had put on a good twenty lbs. Then I saw a news story featuring this crazy dude (Rick Roeber) who ran the Boston Marathon barefoot. Then someone showed me an article in Men’s Health magazine featuring a tribe of indians in Mexico that lived on chia seeds, bean burritos, and a corn meal stuff called pinole and they regularly ran hundreds of miles wearing slabs of tires on their feet fashioned into sandals. I was intrigued. Right after that I stumbled across an article on the Digg website that suggested maybe our running shoes are doing nothing to prevent us from getting injured, in fact they might even promote injury. That was the last straw. I needed to give it a try and so I tweeted my intention to all of my friends and went on my first run.

Bold new experiment today. I ran a mile…barefoot…on pavement! Feet are raw(understandably), but it felt alright. More experiments coming I am planning to keep going with this.

Something tells me this is a road I need to travel (No pun intended).