Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Barefoot running & fitness as a virtue

The thing I love about barefoot or minimalist shoe running is the thing I am always working toward in pretty much everything I do - moving closer to the essential, removing the excess until I arrive at something fundamental.  That invites an entirely untethered sense of fullness that I think of as the sweet spot.  I've experienced it in my art, in my creative process as a whole, in my yoga practice, in running, in communication, in relationships.  It is something that can be achieved in every area of life.  This is really how I think of fitness in general and is the reason I hit the mat or the trails with dedication and enthusiasm.  I love those activities in and of themselves and because they help me stay fit and clear minded, but on days I just don't feel like doing anything at all, it's important to have a deeper motivation than just physical fitness.  I am able to stay committed over a long period of time because what I am able to do on a run or through my regular yoga practice or with vicious circuit training transcends those activities.  I break through mental and physical barriers, I achieve the seemingly impossible, I push through pain and sweat and sometimes blood.  I go far beyond my comfort zone and face my biggest fears and learn that I can trust myself in those places of uncertainty and vulnerability.  And perhaps most importantly, I learn to smile with my whole body when it sucks the most.  Being fit is not just about running long distances or twisting myself into a pretzel on my yoga mat or about lifting heavier weights or doing an obscene amount of lunges.  I believe being fit means being strong, capable, and empowered in every area of my life, in absolutely everything I set my mind to, in everything I do.

I was sold on barefoot running long before I even heard of Born to Run or the Tarahumara.  After reading Christopher McDougall's fantastic book, I was even more dedicated and enthusiastic about barefoot running.  That book in large part inspired me to start training for longer distances and to work toward my first marathon.  Granted, I don't go totally barefoot, mostly because I do a lot of trail running here in central Texas and need at least a little protection from rocks and debris.  I wear either my Vibram Bikala Five Fingers or my new favorite running shoe, the Merrell Pace Glove.  Merrell has been using Vibram soles for years, and their relatively new entry into the world of running shoes has made a slam dunk for those of us who love minimalist footwear. They look like normal shoes, so I don't get weird looks from people like I do when I wear my Five Fingers.

I'll leave you with a little video about the Tarahumara and barefoot running in general.  I highly recommend reading Born to Run and then go out and enjoy some trails.

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