We know that barefoot walking and running (i.e. actually barefoot, or in barefoot or minimalist shoes*) are the natural, optimum way for us to move.
But many people making the transition to barefoot feel overwhelmed and confused with all the alignment, optimum foot fall, stride-length complicate-edness of it all. How can something that’s supposed to be natural take so much thought and effort?
Well the reason I thought of this today was because I realised it wasn’t taking any thought and effort at all. Yes I have been ‘barefoot’, walking, running and everything else, for a couple of years and so this way of moving is natural to me now. It wasn’t at first and yes I did spend a few months contemplating and consciously feeling every stride, every footfall, every stone underfoot.
But its just a habit y’all. Just a habit. And whilst the idea that it takes everyone a precise and scientifically proven 21 (or 28, precise scientific-ness seems to vary) days to change a habit may be according to this rather good article about habits ‘poppycock and horsefeathers’… it takes a number of days. Usually quite a lot of days, of doing the new habit to change it. And by the way, if you miss a couple of days it doesn’t matter, so don’t get hung upon that falling-off-the-wagon thing. Regardless, to change a habit you need to stick at it, even when it feels weird. which it will. Doing healthy stuff generally requires you to change habitual ways of eating, moving, drinking or amusing yourself. Stick at it for a while until its not a weird healthy thing you do, it’s just a healthy thing you do.
So my first nugget of wisdom for today is – chill out about changing habits. Stop thinking and talking about changing habits – just change one today and then do it again tomorrow and keep going, most days, until its normal. When you do your new thing, you’re allowed to acknowledge that it’s weird or odd or different, but don’t waste too much time in that mindset. Tell yourself – ‘This is this thing I do and I like it! I feel good doing it! I do this thing. Its what I do – look at me do it World!’ Before you know it, you will realise that you start to look and sound slightly less insane, and you just, you know.. do that thing.
My run today was awesome. I followed the advice in this brilliant movement post from Aligned and Well + didn’t just go straight ahead. I went out of my way to splash through puddles (and cow poop), I ran up and down banks and hills and zigzag-jumped up and down the pavement as I made my way along one of the few roads I covered. I noticed that when we let our natural instincts and sense of fun decide the route – we tend to favour the grass verge over concrete, the soft ground over hard and the wiggly route over the straight one. Our joints don’t really want us to land heavily heel first, pounding the hardest, straightest, most unforgiving surfaces. Irregular, hilly, lumpy, squiggly ground is kinder + more challenging to our bodies, better for our health, cheaper and much more interesting than the smoothly moving belt of a treadmill. Our bodies are trying to get aligned right, and when we allow them to move more naturally, they tend to make good choices for our joints and overall body health.
So get outside and have some fun with your walking or running whenever and wherever you can. If cow poopy fields are not an option (which you may not consider to be altogether a bad thing) then get imaginative with the terrain at your disposal. Take the hills, jump over stuff, take the wiggly route and well… the road less travelled. Soon the road less travelled becomes a new habit… and you may very well find you like it.
* My Shoes | You can’t actually see my shoes in the pic above for cow poop, but in case you’re interested, they’re Neo Trails from VIVObarefoot – one of my favourite barefoot brands. They clean up quickly and easily under the tap or hose, or just throw them in the washing machine.