5 ways to boost your resilience in tough times

5 ways to boost your resilience in tough timesUs humans have a lot going on these days.

On an individual level, we’re busy taking care of our families, doing chores, running errands, working one or two jobs and trying to find time to fit in fitness, healthy eating, time with loved ones and self-care.

On a societal level, we’re devouring information, sharing and consuming everything and anything, and trying to deal with what’s going on in the world today; some of it good, like complete strangers showing up to a lonely young boy’s birthday party thanks to a viral Facebook post or a puppy and a duckling who’ve become the best of friends and whose shenanigans are shared on YouTube for all to see… and some of it bad, like the recent horrific incidents involving our own species in the states and all over the world.

It’s overwhelming. It’s despairing. It brings out the best in some of us and the worst in others. And it can be almost too hard to handle. (more…)

What are those things on your feet?

My ugly toe-shoes. Tyler calls them my "fast" shoes.

Sometimes you have to forget everything you thought you knew about running.

After reading the popular Born to Run by Chris McDougall, I found myself in MEC trying on a pair of Vibram’s Five Finger shoes.

For those runner who haven’t read the book, it’s about a running tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara that run crazy distances with nothing more than a thin piece of rubber under each foot, and never suffering any running injuries or problems despite all this.

A major portion of the book is dedicated to explaining why, as humans, we never needed shoes in the first place; apparently, barefoot running is the key to running more efficiently and injury-free, which is why I found myself in MEC trying on a pair of these silly-looking shoes mentioned in the book.

As I was stuffing my toes into the little toe slots in the water/paddling section at MEC, a few older ladies passed by the shoes on display, saying “Now who in their right mind would wear those? Those are hideous.”

Hideous, yes. But as an anthropology student, I couldn’t deny that the science in the book was compelling. According to Harvard biologist and runner Daniel Lieberman, the human foot is made to run. We never wore shoes for the first some-odd million years we’ve been on this planet, so why do we need all this cushioning, arch support and motion control that we apparently need now?

 Arch support? That’s what your arch is for, according to the science. For someone like myself, with flat feet, over-pronation control shoes just weaken your foot muscles by supporting and correcting everything for you. If I were to run barefoot (barefoot being clad in VFF’s – still gotta protect the skin on your feet), I would actually be able to rebuild the arch in my foot over time, making it stronger and more efficient at running, even changing my foot-strike pattern. Interesting, isn’t it?

So why is cushioning so bad? According to Dr. Lieberman, cushioned shoes cause you to strike the ground with your heel first, which is “literally like someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer.” All that cushioning and the way your foot strikes is more jarring than if you were to be running without cushioning or support, because your feet would come down mid-foot first and therefore much lighter as it makes contact with the ground. When all that cushioning is in the way, your body instinctly comes down hard until it finds solid ground. So in essence, according to Dr. Lieberman, “the way in which barefoot runners run is more or less collision-free,” making them far less prone to injuries that plague so many runners today.

From the race mentioned in 'Born to Run'. Check out the difference in the foot-strike between the two runners.

 But since we’ve been wearing this super-support shoes for the majority of our lives, you can’t just squeeze on a pair of VFF’s, run a marathon PB and never get injured again. We’re used to our support shoes, and to all of a sudden run barefoot would most definitely cause an injury. But if you build up to running barefoot, you can strengthen your feet, change your foot strike to mid-foot instead of heel, and ultimately run like we were meant to run: barefoot.

After a few short training runs in my VFF’s, I’ve noticed my calves burn a lot more after than when I wore my over-pronation control New Balance shoes. You do feel much lighter and quicker, and your feet turn over at a much faster rate when you run with a mid-foot strike.

But don’t your feet hurt with only a thin piece of rubber underneath?

Surprisingly, no. My feet feel great. That said, I’m not planning to run the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon in VFF’s.

Thanks to shoe companies realizing that what they’ve been doing all along is actually causing injuries rather than preventing them, there are some great minimalist shoes on the market right now. Even Nike jumped on the bandwagon with their Nike Free. Since I needed new running shoes for the marathon, I went with the Brooks Racer, a racing flat, instead of anything too minimalist to avoid injury.

I’ll wear my VFF’s and get strange looks from folks for my short, half-hour runs to strengthen my feet and help change my running style, but for long runs, I think I’ll stick my racing flats – for now.

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