Fan Friday is coming a day early this week. It's my blog...I make the rules. Plus I have a porch with a cooler full of beer with my name on it this weekend, and I don't want to be stuck behind a computer. I'm sure you all don't mind.
This week's Fan Friday contestant is Lyle Lange, a friend of mine through the Minnesota Chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society. Lyle is one of our more experienced and knowledgeable barefooters. He's a delight to run with. By way of background, he's a security guard who lives in the Twin Cities metro area of Minnesota. He's been barefoot running for nearly two years.
I reached out to Lyle and asked him to do a Fan Friday post for me because I think he exemplifies the mindset of barefoot runner. That is to say, he doesn't believe something simply because that's what everyone else believes. Lyle has done a lot of research on numerous topics that goes against conventional wisdom. He knows a lot of really cool stuff about a lot of different things.
Every time I'm with him, it seems like I learn something new about the world. This post will only scratch the surface of his crazy hippie knowledge. But he has an excellent and very well-researched blog about a wide variety of topics over at Zoo Escapee. Every time I read his posts, they blow my freaking mind off.
He attributes his curiosity about the world to his experience with barefoot running. But I'll let him explain that part...
So Lyle, how did you get involved with barefoot running?
One day I was reading my usual tech blogs. One of them mentioned that there was this book that was creating quite a stir in the running world. Born to Run was espousing this idea that running barefoot, or at least with less padding, is the best way to prevent running injuries.
At this time in my life I was not physically fit. I had done some running years before, but only a small handful of times. I was so out of shape that I preferred to run in the dead of winter at night to control overheating. In my subconscious I knew that I needed to exercise, but I was too cheap and undisciplined to join a gym. I knew that running was a great mostly-free exercise, but I also knew that runners are notoriously plagued with all sorts of injuries to their joints. So this book offered a potential answer to my impasse.
So I went over to the listing for the book on amazon.com. Christopher McDougall had a short video explaining his quest for injury free running. The writeup gave a one paragraph explanation about the mechanics of barefoot running and why it is superior. Right there in my bedroom I stood up and internalized the concept. It all clicked.
In short order I went to the internet and learned about Barefoot Ted and Barefoot Ken Bob. I ordered some sandals from Barefoot Ted, and in no time I was decimating my calves. I loved it.
After about a year of running with the goofy sandals looking like a wood sprite, I took the leap of faith and ran sans slippers. I did what most novices do, and ran far too far. I ran two and a half miles. By the end each foot had a bleeding hole in it. It took weeks for my feet to recover. I was hooked.
I know for you, barefoot has been more than just about fitness. Can you explain that?
As a part of my internet research I've found that going barefoot in everyday life is a good idea. It is rather interesting to see how going barefoot in public causes people to react in unusual ways. Noticing this has gotten me to realize that we all obey a set of unspoken rules without even being aware of it. When these rules are violated most people are too confused to even know how to react. They are rudely confronted with the reality that these rules exist; rules that people had previously been completely obvious to.
Thus has begun my personal exploration into these rules. When these rules are a good idea, it is just fun to exploit these “social vulnerabilities”. That is to say, have a little fun with people. When these rules are actually detrimental, as they many times are, it is good to find that I can break them and maybe make things better somehow. Trust me. I’ve found some strange things.
It still amazes me how something as simple as taking off your shoes can have such a world altering effect.
Tell me about some of the things that you've researched.
In my research there has been a great amount of leapfrogging from strange idea to strange idea. I have explored if sitting in chairs is a good idea or not (short answer: chairs are very bad for you). Right now I eagerly await the release of the book called "Becoming The Iceman". This book is by a guy many consider a mutant (think X-Men only real). He can withstand cold at insane levels. His record for sitting in just shorts covered to his neck in ice is a bit under 2 hours. While many think he is a genetic freak, he says he uses a technique. I hope to learn this technique when I read the book. Part of the book is also written by one of his two "students".
The independence that barefoot running proves (i.e. we don't need some $160 shoes to just go out and run) has prompted me to investigate what can I do without and still be perfectly fine. Most cavemen back in the day had dirt and nothing, yet made it work. Today even our bravest souls need a multiple pounds of things. Christian, you have introduced me to the idea of going without body soap or shampoo, to great success. I should add, my history of ultralight backpacking (sub 10 pounds) reinforces this desire in me to see how little one can use and be perfectly safe and happy.
As for fitness research, I would say a great resource for me has been a guy by the name of John Sifferman and his blog Physical Living [ http://physicalliving.com/ ]. He has a great perspective on fitness (a balanced one). He has introduced me to fitness systems like Tacfit [ http://www.rmaxinternational.com/tacfit/ ], and MovNat. I personally consider MovNat to be the ideal system overall. Another revolutionary system he introduced me to has been something called Exuberant Animal [ http://www.exuberantanimal.com/ ]. The best way to get the gist of EA is by reading the book with the corny title of "Change Your Body, Change the World". It is only after reading it that you realize that the title aint that corny. It is a huge game changer when it comes to fitness. Another resource I recommend to the runner who wants to take running seriously is to read the mammoth book "Lore of Running" 4th edition. It is over 900 pages, so be careful it doesn't put your back out. Pages of gold they are to the serious runner.
I know that I am rambling, but I am only scratching the surface. There are too many things to research, too little time to blog about it.
That's fine Lyle, I don't think we have enough room in a blog post to fill with all of your knowledge.
Folks like Lyle are great because they encourage us to be more curious about the world around us. He's gotten me interested in so many different things. I owe my love of MovNat to him, as well as some of my more extreme opinions about fitness.
Challenging commonly held beliefs isn't just for fun though. It can actually improve your quality of life. If I didn't challenge my own beliefs about health and fitness, I wouldn't be doing half of the things that I am currently. The paleo/primal diet has changed the way my body looks and feels. I feel healthier than ever. Crossfit Endurance has changed the way I look at training for long-distance endurance events, and has provided me with a ton more strength and speed...not to mention more quality time with my family. Those are just a few examples. Bottom line...I wouldn't be the impressive block of man that I am today if I didn't push the envelope a little.
I think barefoot running teaches us that sometimes the path to a better life doesn't always go the traditional route. I don't think shoes represent the only area of modern life where we might have found a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. If you've already started barefoot running, use that mindset to look for other aspects of life where you can go off the beaten path. You'll be amazes at what you find!