Friday, October 30, 2009

Learning to Play...Again!

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." --Plato

One of my most difficult tasks sometimes in corporate wellness working with adults is to teach them how to play again...and to allow myself to play too. How do I play? I like Frisbees, hiking, riding my mountain bike, concerts, and music.

Fitness doesn't always have to be hard. Light to moderate hiking is a lot of fun. Playing Frisbee is fun. The Hula Hoop thing is coming back! Indo Boards are taking off in schools and way beyond. Biking, surfing, etc. Lots of ways to be fit and have fun at the same time. Beyond just fitness is the larger issue of general health. LOTS of things can help you be healthier from music to reading and beyond...and even playing!

Play keeps us young. This is a GREAT example of how a little innovation in Stockholm can create a lot of play, youth, and healthier behaviors. Enjoy! Thanks to my friend and fellow RKC Marla Diener for sending it my way...--Coach RJ

Need more fun? Go to:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shoe Trends-More on Foot Fitness!

I've been getting more and more inquiries about feet lately. It seems like everywhere I turn, there is something going on with feet these days. My continuing education deals more and more with the fitness of the foot...more they never taught me in school I had to learn on the job in the real world!
As the interest in foot fitness grows, so do product options. Let me summarize my "stance" with feet and shoes based on what I "currently" know (and I'm learning more and more by the day).
  • I tend to believe "less is more." I want to think about how the foot moves without any modern technology. Just the old-school foot doing what it is designed to do in its most natural state. How does a bare foot move without shoes? Without a shoe, the foot reacts very differently. It will grip, stabilize, and attempt to claw the ground to stabilize the rest of the body. The foot will get strong doing all this because it's a lot of work! With shoes, the foot has artificial support, and the muscles and tendons tend to get weaker. With running shoes, the more developed the shoe, the less work the foot has to do which means the body works too hard above the foot in ways it does not want to work. Put huge air bags under the foot? The foot is not happy because it really wants "stability" and not soft squishy instability. It's hard to "claw air" or root yourself into the ground if you have soft shoes. Many of our movement problems today can be traced back to our feet--the first things to hit the ground with forward locomotion--our bases of support from which everything else is stacked.
  • A few years ago, Nike and other shoes companies started picking up on the trend to go back to barefoot running. The research is out. With more technology in running shoes, injuries got WORSE--not better...and yes, these shoes cost more too! Enter the Nike Free and some other options. Enter the Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) I've been talking about lately. Also enter other shoes with very different designs claiming to work more muscles like the MBT, etc.
  • MBT and Toning Shoes: These shoes are gaining in popularity. They claim to make a person work harder in the calves, hamstrings, glutes, etc. I'm sure they do because the shoe is curved in many of them--or somehow less stable due to design which requires one to work much harder to stand upright and move forward; however, the MBT shoe is curved in the opposite direction of the "natural curve" found in the arch of the foot. I go back to less is more and what the foot looks like naked. Less shoe--more foot fitness. Less shoe--more natural biomechanics. Some of the new toning shoes have very thick soles that radically alter how you walk if barefoot. More emphasis is put upon the "heel-to-toe" stride which is the opposite of how you would walk while barefoot. The trend I've been following with "Chi Running," barefoot walking/running, and shoes like the Nike Free or Vibram Five Fingers is more of the mid-foot strike--not the heal-to-toe strike. The support system (arch) is in the middle of the foot--this is where we should be striking--not exclusively on the heel itself. As shoes got better, we put more load on the heel because we had more padding, but this changed our gait and biomechanics away from a "natural" stride and foot strike; hence, more "running" injuries and more foot/ankle problems.
  • I guess we have to go to root cause of movement/gait problems which seems to be pointed more and more at the actual feet. We have lots of problems today with fundamental biomechanics starting with foot/ankle then up to knee, hip, and back. Many of these problems can be traced back to the feet being too weak which then can make the ankles get too stiff as a compensation for lack of foot stability--and the compensations can travel all the way up into the neck and shoulders. Some of the new toning shoes talk a lot about fitness gains "above" the foot, but I have not heard as much about the actual fitness in the foot itself. Go back to root cause. Think FOOT fitness first--then worry about the calves, hamstrings, and glutes later. The feet--they hit the ground first and stabilize everything up the chain of movement. When your feet work well, the rest of your movements up the chain will also be better. If your feet have problems, so will the upper body.

For now, this is my direction with foot fitness and shoes. Using "less" shoe or at least shoes with harder soles seem to be making my feet stronger and happier. If the new toning shoes work for you--great! I had a few people tell me personally that the MBTs helped both diabetic feet and plantar fasciitis foot conditions--I have no reason to doubt them. I'm glad they got relief. Keep thinking about the naked foot though and what can be done WITHOUT any shoes or any technology to make you move better.

Here are a couple of related links if interested in above:

Keep it simple. Keep it cost effective...and keep your feet happy and fit.
In Foot Fitness!
Coach RJ

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Finding VFFs

A lot of people are wanting the Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) but having problems finding them--especially retail at a physical location. I asked my friends and clients where they were finding them. I've compiled a list with a few links for everyone. These are places that came with personal recommendations from my clients or fitness friends. I'm sure there are more, but I don't know of them personally.
Models: I use the "KSO" (Keeps Stuff Out) model because they cover more of my feet so debris does not get inside when I'm out on the grass. Other models are more open top. One is designed for winter--more like a wetsuit so they are warmer. Different colors are offered too. You'll have to explore and see what you like.
Break In Period: I'd recommend wearing them a little bit at a time so your feet can get used to the extra demands. Throwing a pair of VFFs on for the day when you are not ready for them is like going into the gym for a 1-2 powerlifting and plyometrics session when you are completely out of shape...NOT GOOD! Your feet are weak if you have not been going barefoot and wearing shoes all the time. It's about "foot fitness." Feet need time to get in shape with sensible progressions just like other areas of the body. VFFs come with some recommendations, but basically listen to your feet. They'll let you know.


Retail (Cental Coast/SoCal):

Don't understand the whole VFF thing? Check out my detailed post on VFFs and Foot Fitness then Rock Your Feet!!!

In Foot Fitness! -Coach RJ