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Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Barefoot Walking: Benefits and More
Barefoot Walking: Free Your Feet to Minimize Impact, Maximize Efficiency, and Discover the Pleasure of Getting in Touch with the Earth
Paperback– March 26, 2013
by Michael Sandler (Author), Jessica Lee (Author)
From the authors of Barefoot Running, the essential guide to the life-changing benefits of barefoot walking.
As the thousands of people who have fallen in love with barefoot running already know, shedding your shoes is good for the body and the soul. Barefoot Walking shows all readers, no matter their fitness level, how to take command of their physical and spiritual well-being through this simple and easy practice, even if they are daunted by sore feet, achy joints, injury, illness, or feeling out of shape. This book contains special material for children, pregnant women, and seniors, and shows anyone how this gentle, natural activity can literally transform one's life, restoring health, vitality, strength, and balance, and improving focus, mood, memory, and more. Full of tips and tools for going bare, this is the essential handbook for people who want to move their body, connect with the earth, and feel physically and psychologically more alive.
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE LIFE-CHANGING BENEFITS OF BAREFOOT WALKING
Shedding your shoes is good for body, mind,soul and earth.
Barefoot Walking helps you rediscover your physical and spiritual well-being through this simple practice, even if you are daunted by sore feet, achy joints, injury, illness, or feeling out of shape. easy to follow, it includes a step by step plan to keep you going.
In my teens I was diagnosed with exercise induced, and later full-blown asthma. I thought I could just will my way through it, until I started honking like a freight train in races.
Even on multiple inhalers and pills, when the going got tough, my air passages would get inflamed, clamp down, and then it was day-over for catching my breath.
I learned quickly, I had to try and calm myself down fast, and back off (not great when the pack is leaving you behind) until I could catch my breath. It was frustrating, but also my inspiration, for I knew if I wanted to compete at the top, or simply keep myself out of trouble, I'd have to find a better way to breathe, and fast!
That's when I tripped across the book Breathe Play, a 1980's book that introduced me to the idea of controlling your breathing and that by making your breathe a conscious activity, you could expand, strengthen, and even heal your lungs.
I was told I had tiny lungs, and that there was nothing I could do about it. But working on my breath, I went from having teeny tiny lungs with only 60% of the average capacity, to something like the top 1% or better of lung capacity for all people out there my size! (A big surprise to my docs after they tested me!) I went from sucking wind in races, to having extra air. And I went from struggling to get up hills, to making them my forte.
I can remember when people would yell at me in races saying "Shut Up Michael, can't you tell I'm suffering." I just had so much air and was having so much fun, I just wanted to talk! By doing breathing exercises mainly during my workouts, but also on their own, I pretty much doubled my lung capacity, and got off of all the meds and their heavy side-effects.
I often talk about focusing on your breath. But what does that mean? First, it means breathing deep. This is something we're all unfamiliar with in the west. In fact, here in Hawaii, the derogatory term given to white people when they first arrived many years ago, was Haole, which means short breath. When Westerners first came to Hawaii, they were seen breathing with a very shallow ineffective breath. It's what we've all grown up with, but need to unlearn.
So we don't want to be Haole, we want to breathe deep. This means focusing on your breathing (this means shutting off the ipod so you can listen for a few minutes) both in exercises before, and while you run.
There are dozens of great exercises you can do. We'll be introducing many of our favorites in our upcoming Mindful Running Video series this fall. But the simplest, easiest, and perhaps most effective breathing technique you can do to get started is to focus on the exhalation.
We have a Tai Chi and Qi Gong, master who tells us "No one thinks of the exhale. They always say inhale. But it's your exhalation that is most important! When you exhale, you blow out unwanted CO2, you blow out the bad stuff, and you blow out the stuck energy. Then you can get more clean air in. The more you focus on the exhale, the healthier and stronger you will be."
We completely agree. When you run, blow out as much air as you can in each breath. Don't worry at all about the inhalation. It will take care of itself. In fact, try this now, while you're reading this. Take a good deep breath, then blow, blow, blow, blow, blow out all of the air you can as you watch, and feel your stomach squeezing in (if you don't see it, place your on your stomach to feel and help it along). Then relax, and let the air rush back in and see your lungs and belly expand. To your amazement, you'll find it took ZERO effort to get in all the air you just expelled. Even better, it's EASY to strengthen these muscles to move air fast, and breathe deeper.
When you breathe this way, you'll take more steps between breaths, and feel more oxygenated, or more powerful with each breath. Before you may have been running 2 steps inhale, two steps exhale, and now you'll find yourself 3 and 3, or even perhaps four and four. The number's not important, but it means you're getting more air in with each breath.
More air means happier lungs (less chance of the dreaded honk I used to experience), happier legs, less lactic acid buildup, a lower heart rate, less fatigue, and means you can go faster too!
Practice this each time you run. Concentrate on the exhalation, and watch yourself fly!
Side affect: You too may find people telling you to stop talking so much as you run together, as they're panting hard, and you're comfortably breathing deep. Don't sweat it, but feel free to teach this too them as well. Then you could have a conversation!
by The Sakyong, author of
Running with the Mind of Meditation
Walking is the most basic of human activities. It is also one of the most healthy forms of exercise. Not only is it beneficial for our bodies but also for our minds. It helps us connect with nature and the outdoors. It provides a natural basis for meditation and contemplation—a time of the day when we come in contact with our inner feelings, thoughts, and emotions. As humans, it is essential that we have a moment in our day when we can self-reflect, release the busyness and stress, and for a moment, contact how we feel. These very brief moments of switching our allegiance from being extroverted to contacting an inner and deeper aspect of who we are is the cornerstone of living a meaningful life. It helps us prioritize. It allows us to reflect on the meaning of life itself—to come in contact with our inner purpose and motivation. Walking is not simply how we get from one place to another. Rather, it can be a great mixture of mind and body—exercise and spirit. Therefore, walking is in itself a totality of human existence.I am delighted that Michael and Jessica have highlighted many of these key points, especially encouraging how we, as humans, can contact the earth. We can do this as a personal form of health and well-being, or as humans, naturally within the ecosystem of our planet. By walking, we begin to re-contact that natural balance between humanity and our earth.The Sandlers encourage us to remove our shoes and feel the earth beneath our feet, to walk on fresh green grass, to make contact with the sand along the beach, and even to venture out into mountain trails. All this is to reconnect with our own humanity. This is what I appreciate about the Sandlers’ message.
Utilize running, and now walking, not only as a way to exercise but as a way to connect with our own goodness and strength. As humans, we have this basic goodness as the innate quality of who we are.However, through the challenges of life, we often lose contact with this intrinsic strength. When we lose contact with this, the fear and anxiety of life begin to overwhelm us. Te natural harmony between mind and body gets disturbed and we begin to lose life-force energy. In order to restore a sense of vitality,meditation is helpful for the mind and exercise is helpful for the body.In this light, walking is an excellent antidote to disharmony. It provides a perfect balance between movement and stillness. It slows our mind down in order to gain insight, while the increase of movement benefits circulation. Walking also naturally involves the breath. With the simple act o being aware of our breathing process, we are able to be present, which relieves anxiety and stress regarding the past and the future. This simple use of mindfulness is a natural component of walking. Placing one foot in front of the other, there is a natural inhalation and exhalation. As undramatic and simple as this may seem, it has a profound effect on our mental health and physical well-being. We are living in a time when we are constantly being separated from the earth. Most of us live in heated buildings, drive cars, and walk on asphalt in our new shoes, rarely thinking about the earth that supports us. Even though these technologies serve humanity well, they have begun to create an unhealthy buffer between our environment and ourselves. Therefore, it is very much up to each one of us to reconnect with the earth.In this wonderful guide, the Sandlers help us with the challenges we may encounter when we try to enjoy barefoot walking—from changes in posture and physiological differences to how we regard ourselves in the world. It offers a very thorough understanding of how barefoot walking can become an essential aspect of our natural health and well-being. It also communicates Michael and Jessica’s spirit and joy in simply being alive. Based on personal experience,it presents walking not simply as a perfunctory form of transportation but as a symbol of life itself. I hope this book inspires all of us to touch the earth and connect with our humanity.The Sakyong 8 Barefoot Walking • If you’ve never walked for leisure or exercise before, this book will be your guide to taking off your shoes with minimal risk of injury and maximum health and joy. • If you’re looking for a new twist on a tired old exercise program, you’ll find immense success with barefoot walking, especially if you want to get of the treadmill of life (and of the treadmill at the gym) and try something refreshingly fun. • If you’re already a dedicated walker, this book will show you a much more aware way of getting into the zone and improving your stride, form, and performance. • If you’re overcoming an injury—as both of us were—this book will explain how barefoot walking can strengthen your feet and arches in ways you never dreamed possible. • If weight loss is your goal, walking is a proven way to shed pounds—and you don’t need any fancy equipment, rigorous diets, or scales to measure results. In fact, you just need to take off your shoes and step out the front door. • If you think you’re too old to start something new, we are here to tell you that you can teach your old “dogs” new tricks and why, as you age, you owe it to yourself to go barefoot. • For the very young whose parents may be reading this book, we ex-amine how going shoe-less (or nearly shoe-less) in childhood keeps those darling little baby feet fat and strong. And for everyone, no matter your age, shape, or goal, if you’re craving a more spiritual connection to the world, walking sans shoes will give you that as well.It will help you quiet your mind and begin a fantastic journey on the inside.Perhaps instead o “walking barefoot,” this practice should be called “walking yoga” for its mind-body-spirit (or mind-body-earth) connection.Even if you aren’t ready to plunge fully into the barefoot scene, this book can still give you handy tips for exercise, diet, and strengthening your feet, until you’re ready to slip of those shoes.In 2010 we wrote a highly successful book called Barefoot Running: How toRun Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth. We toured the UnitedStates and the world, holding clinics and retreats. Introduction 9 Near you, or (visit our RunBare.com website). At every stop, we were asked about walking barefoot. We know not everyone is a runner—and some never will be. This book is for all non-runners and for runners who are rehabbing from an injury or just need some be-kind-to-your-body cross training and connection with the earth. This book has grown out of our nationwide and international quest to bring the message of going bare— whether you run or walk or just feel the earth be-neath your feet—to millions of people the world over.So kick your shoes of and let the journey of a million steps (in bare feet) begin right now. YOUR STEP-BY-STEP WALKING GUIDE Have you ever traveled to a new city and wanted to see the sights? Te best way is to grab a guidebook, usually called a “walking guide.” Think of this book as your walking guide to—ta-da!— walking without shoes. You’ll see familiar terrain with new eyes and new awareness underfoot. You won’t have to tear off your shoes until chapter 7. First we present a brief introduction to walking barefoot and why it’s so darned good for you—even if you are among those who still think it’s a preposterous idea but were just curious enough to pick up this book. These first few chapters discuss why barefoot walking is a safe alternative and even more satisfying than wearing shoes while you walk. Of course, if you’re new to walking for exercise or just new to walking with-out your shoes, you’ll need some of the basics, and that’s in chapter 7 as we help you start by walking on a broad expanse of green grass. Then we’ll stride right into the warm-up exercises in preparation for a real walking tour in chapters 8 and 9.In chapter 10 we’ll learn how to strengthen and condition our feet, revealing the marvel of nature’s perfect design. Moving on up the kinetic chain brings us to chapter 11, in which we’ll review proper technique and guidelines for drills,strengthening exercises, weight training, and cross training, for a total body makeover. Once our muscles are warmed up, in chapter 12 we’ll keep them loose, supple, and injury-free by stretching. 10 Barefoot Walking Two special populations that are often overlooked in books on walking are children and seniors. Their particular issues with being barefoot are discussed in chapters 14 and 15.Not every sidewalk or road is smooth and easy, so we’ll show you in chapters 16 and 17 how to turn your feet into “all-terrain vehicles” and anticipate the roads less traveled and unpredictable weather conditions. This comprehensive guide would not be complete without a serious discussion of nutrition, in chapter 13. And, unfortunately, injuries come with just about any activity—mostly while wearing shoes—but they don’t have to be surprises, and surely you will need to know how to overcome any injuries or foot problems that sideline you, because you will want to be back out there quickly.Chapter 18 discusses the proven ways to stay healthy.It seems odd to discuss footwear in a book about walking without shoes, but chapter 19 introduces you to minimalist footwear you might want to try—that is, after you’ve let your feet feel the ground.Once you’ve mastered the basics and discovered the joy in walking and truly feeling the earth beneath your feet, you may remain barefoot for life. In chapter 20, we discuss going beyond barefoot walking, both in terms of activities such as running barefoot and in terms of stewardship of our planet. For when your feet meet the dirt, you’ll never walk with a big footprint again. You’re about to embark on an exciting journey, one that we’ve been on and which continues to amaze us. Countless others have found pure joy, health, and emotional and spiritual well-being by stripping of their shoes and going bare-foot. Now you can too. We’ll be cheering you on, giving you advice, and helping you through the tough times. On that note, you can post your questions, and helpful tips, and follow our adventures on our Facebook page, www.facebook .com/RunBare. You can subscribe to our individual pages too, where we each share our own barefoot journeys and photos: www.facebook.com/RunsWithSpirit and www.facebook.com/JessicaLeeSandler. You’re about to step into a brave new world, so let’s begin.