For breakfast, I had a big fat cucumber, a handful of almonds, and Egyptian Licorice tea. Yesterday I had no caffeine/alcohol/refined sugar/processed food/red meat, and not planning on having any today. Feeling good!

I also went for a jog in my new Vibram Five Fingers:

Bikilas

I suppose I’m just trying to live a natural life. Natural food, natural feet. I wrote a post on Vibrams a year ago when I got my first pair. I’ve always hated shoes, and would go barefoot all the time if it was allowed in the workplace and in restaurants. Wearing Vibrams is a compromise, one foot in the shod world, one foot in the barefoot world.

Speaking of foot shodding, I was sitting in my car yesterday, stopped at a stop light, watching a woman at a bus stop dance. She was doing a little side-to-side shuffle step in front of a high school. It was pretty cute and funny, until I realized she was wearing two different shoes. Not just different shoes, but completely different HEIGHTS – one was a black flat:

Shoe one.

and the other was a brown Espadril:

Shoe two.

So it became less cute and funny, and more like a visit to crazytown. Though considering the sizeable differences in height, she was a pretty good dancer.

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Consumer Fast – Day 2

January 6, 2010

I succeeded in not buying anything on Day 1 of my challenge—and I even bartered my way out of paying for pre-existing dinner plans!

Friends at Catalyst Art Collective downtown are doing a fun little experiment in which you can come over for five days of nommy homemade vegetarian dinners at $5 a pop, or buy individual meals for $7. I’d already committed to Tuesday (Pesto Calzones) and Thursday (The Legendary Peace Patties) before starting the Consumer Fast. So I had my $7 ready last night. Fortuitously, one of my friends jokingly offered to pay me $5 to perform what he considers a loathsome chore—folding laundry. I bargained up to $7 and viola—free dinner! Woohoo for archaic nonmonetary exchange systems!

 This morning, I planned to get up early and do some reading for a project I’m working on. Whenever I get up early, especially to read or write, I always want coffee. I love coffee but have cut back considerably, since I’m pretty sure it contributes to my psoriasis flare-ups. On Day 1 of the CFC, I brewed my own coffee at home in my French press. But…it didn’t taste very good. It wasn’t…fulfilling. That might be because the bag of Peet’s I have has been sitting in my cupboard for a very long time. So I didn’t want to brew at home this morning. I decided (rationalized) that since I’d saved $7 the night before, it would be ok for me to spend two of those dollars on a cup of coffee on Day 2. But I was torn…was I already breaking the fast after only 24 hours?!?

 My plan was to walk down to Organics To Go (makers of the best cuppa coffee in Los Angeles, according to me), take my coffee and my Kindle to Hancock Park (home of the La Brea Tarpits), find a sunny spot on a bench, and read for a few hours. Still feeling guilty about spending $2 on coffee on the second day of my fast, I dug around in my wallet to see if I had any “frequent drinker” coffee cards from Organics To Go. You know, the ones where you get 10 punches and the 11th cup is free. Well guess what—I did. I had a card with 10 punches. WIN! I got free dinner the night before, and I could get free coffee this morning!!!!!! I was ecstatic!!! I pulled on my Vibram FiveFinger shoes (see prior blogs) and strolled down to Organics…but…the tables weren’t set out in front. Maybe the barista had gotten to work late…well, at least the doors are open…but…where is the coffee station? Where is the salad bar that was built into the wall? NOOOO! OUT OF BUSINESS!!! GONE! FAIL!      

 So that sums up my morning: pride (bartering the night before), guilt (wanting to buy a $2 cup of coffee), elation (surprise free coffee card in wallet), redemption (not spending the $2 and sticking to the fast), devastation (favorite coffee shop in Los Angeles is closed. No coffee).

 *sigh*

So I went back home, made a cup of plain Irish Breakfast Tea, which wasn’t bad or good…but had a little bit of caffeine in it, I suppose.  

I was also going through old emails last night and, oddly enough, ran across this DailyOm from Dec 31st:

 >>>
Filling Imaginary Voids – DailyOm.com
“Consuming To Heal: In our culture today, we are constantly encouraged to consume. This includes food as well as purchasing ever newer items that we may not need, often using money that we may not actually have. It could be that we are trying to fill a void we feel within ourselves, but if we take the time to examine it, we know deep inside that this is not the solution. We may notice how quickly the joy fades after our purchase or once the food we’ve enjoyed is gone, and how soon we feel the urge to do so again. This is a symptom of disconnection from our true selves, so the first step toward balance is connection to our center.

When we connect to our center, we access the fullness of who we are as an individual spirit. We also connect to the energy source of the universe, from which nothing can be lacking. It could be that we have been energetically starving ourselves but trying to feed the need physically, outwardly. Once we make the decision to reconnect, we have the ability to examine the behavior from a higher place within ourselves. We can look, without judgment, at the thoughts and feelings that occur before and after our indulgences to find a pattern. We may want to keep track of these observations in a journal so that we can go back if we lose our way.

Often boredom is the main cause for the desire to eat or shop. But when we connect to our center, our intuition can more clearly guide us to the places where our energy can best be used. We can replace the boredom with a meditation practice, a class, a project, seeking a new job, or getting involved in a charity. We may even want to begin planning an adventurous trip. Whatever inspires us tells us the direction we should go. When we find the place we are meant to be, we become so consumed by its constant creation that the frivolous filling of an imaginary void becomes a thing of the past.”  – www.DailyOm.com

>>> 

I didn’t actually read the email above until after I’d started the Fast, but this is exactly why I’m doing it. Getting more connected with the Whys of what I do by breaking habits and patterns and modes of thought that aren’t the best for me. Instead of drinking coffee,  maybe I need to let go of the belief that coffee will help me focus, thus making me a better writer/reader/whatever. Maybe I just need to listen to my body more and get more sleep so I don’t feel the need for it, or energize myself through healthier ways, like exercise and apples. 

Something else that popped into my mind was an article about how humans like rituals. Going to your coffee shop to buy your cuppa and then pouring in your specific amounts of creamer and sugar are definitely ritualistic. The article mentioned that this is probably why Corona beer is so popular—the lime ritual. Maybe it’s time to form rituals that don’t include some kind of intoxicant…caffeine, alcohol, nicotine? Smoking is definitely ritualistic. And people always say it’s the simple habit of having that smoke after dinner that’s the hardest part to change. In our science-based society, where magical or shamanic rituals are no longer accepted, and even religious rituals are falling by the wayside, all we’ve got left is sugaring our Starbucks, liming our Coronas, lighting our Marlboros. Rituals of consumption… How sad.

In addition to my 30 Day Consumer Fast, I’m also forming two new rituals—20 minutes of meditation per day, and 10 minutes of writing (which, as you can tell from this post, tends to turn into way more than 10 minutes). What kind of rituals do you want in your life?

By the way, if you don’t subscribe to DailyOm.com, I highly recommend you do. You will only ever see me use the phrase “highly recommend” when I’m referring to something excellent, so trust me. DailyOm sends out insightful and sometimes jarringly relevant emails Monday-Friday. Hey, new ritual? 😉

17 Miles in Vibram FiveFingers

September 22, 2009

I was aiming for 20. I wore the VFFs every day for a week and a half (including to work–only with pants); walked 2 miles on a Thursday, 5 mile hike on a Saturday, and on Sunday shot for 20 in prep for the 50 Mile MS Challenge Walk. Turns out my feet weren’t ready.

Our 20 mile walk was along the boardwalk between Newport & Huntington Beach. I had access to a few different terrains–concrete, black top, gravel, grass, sand. Walking on grass felt delightful–spongy and cool. Sand feels good too but is, of course, tiring. I noticed that it was difficult for me to comfortably keep up with my co-walkers, my mom & her friend Pam. When walking barefoot or in VFFs, you’re supposed to keep your feet under your body/center of gravity, and without the extra extension of the heel-striking you get in normal tennis shoes, my steps were shorter.  I also had to be more mindful of where I was stepping and make sure I didn’t put the ball of my foot onto any sharp rocks.  After 10 miles, the concrete started to hurt. My feet were just tired from walking in a way they weren’t used to, and by mile 15 the balls of my feet felt pretty beat up from the pounding and lack of padding. At mile 17 my mom made me call my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The soreness of my feet went away within a few hours. I think one’s feet would get accustomed to not being padded and would toughen up. The main pain I had the next day was in the side of my right calf–I’m guessing it’s some kind of stabilizing muscle–I’ve never had very good balance & I think it’s because my ankles are rather weak. Anyways I gave my feet a break on Monday (wore my squishy flip flops) and on Tuesday eve walked to the gym to get on the treadmill and do yoga. On the way to the gym I felt pain on the top of my right foot, kindof like a deep bruise. I figured this was from that tight calf throwing off the delicate system of leg & foot. After some googling I deduced that this was correct and that I had “extensor tendonitis.”

“In this region of the foot the tendons that lead to the toes can become inflamed.
A major cause of this condition is excessive tightness of the calf muscles. When the calf muscles are tight they place excessive stress on the tendons on the top of the foot that pull the foot upward and counteract the calf muscles.
Aggressive stretching of the calf muscle is also very helpful. Anti-inflammatory medications can help.”

So I’m agressively stretching my calves. I’d wanted to wear the Vibrams for the MS Walk but with a month left to train, I decided to wait til next year. I have a feeling that this will happen with a lot of new VFFs wearers–they’ll go overboard, like I did, and complain that the VFFs hurt their feet/legs & give up. I think gradually acclimating your feet & building up the atrophied muscles is key to long-term VFF happy feet!

A few weeks after this, I wore the VFFs for bouldering up at Lake Isabella. I felt like Spider-woman! I scrambled up practically vertical sides of granite slabs and never slipped once. Impressive! I also wore them in the lake, and they protected my feet from the slimy things the rest of my friends were screaming about.

I’m adding my voice to the chorus of support for Vibram’s FiveFinger shoes.

My Vibram FiveFinger Sprints

I was first introduced to VFFs by a friend who reps sporting products like Keen shoes and Smartwool. She’d just picked up the VFF line and was eager to have some “ambassadors.” I’ve always disliked shoes in general—I’ve spent the majority of my life barefoot, in Birkenstocks, or in flip flops. I’d given up on the Birks for the past few years due to the stank factor. So mostly I tooled around in Teva flip flops. But I still had to find shoes to wear to the gym and to hike in, which was always a pain in the foot, as I’d undergone a number of surgeries on said painful feet in high school. To correct ankle problems and bunions, my doctor broke some bones and rearranged them with wires and screws. This seemed to fix most of my problems, until I broke an ankle snowboarding. After that my ankle would occasionally click or give out.

In 2008 I did a 50-mile walk for Multiple Sclerosis with my mother. Thankfully she discovered Injinji socks, which helped keep my toes from squishing each other and rubbing together and making blisters. By the end of the walk, however, I was having problems with my iliotibial band, which was pulling my left hip and left kneecap out of place, making it feel like my hip was going to dislocate or my knee might explode at any moment.

In general though, I go to the gym a few times a week and hike a few times a month and, aside from my toes always disliking being inside shoes, I don’t have many problems.

After seeing VFFs I started researching them online and for the most part read miracle stories about how they cured various foot/knee/joint/back pain in serious runners. People who like going barefoot also loved them. Harvard will soon release a three-year study on barefoot and VFF running, concluding that the two are healthier for your feet.

I believe that nature is essentially perfect, as it forms itself and co-evolved with millions of minute connections that we can’t comprehend. Over and over I’ve seen this to be true—every time humans take a short cut or invent something to help them, it has an equal and negative side effect. The idea that feet are best used as nature evolved them makes a lot of sense to me. One qualm I have is that human feet didn’t necessarily evolve to walk or run on asphalt—grass, dirt or leaves would be more logical, so I do wonder if VFFs shouldn’t be a tiny bit padded to compensate for this human meddling with what’s under our feet.

At this point I’ve been wearing the VFFs for a few days. So far I’ve had no ankle or foot pain (occasionally in certain flip flops I’ll get a pain on the top of my foot between the 2nd and 3rd toes, like they want to split apart—none of that). I walked two miles in them yesterday and was fine, though my feet did feel a bit tired out by the end of it. I’m still trying to figure out how I should land my foot strike—they say to do mid to fore-foot stepping rather than heel-striking, as that’ll bruise your heel and is actually the wrong way to strike since, even in padded running shoes, landing on the heel sends the impact straight up your leg bones to your knees and hips.

On Saturday my mom and I are doing a 20-mile training walk along the beach and I plan to try the VFFs and see how they do. If I can do the 20 ok I should be able to wear them for the 50-mile MS Walk coming up next month.

I love being able to spread my toes apart in the Vibram FiveFingers. I have some flexibility and scar tissue issues with my feet and specifically my toes—I think I probably should’ve had some kind of physical therapy after my surgeries, but I didn’t, so the inflexibility bugs me occasionally. I feel like the VFFs are stretching them out and will keep them from smooshing each other.

I’ve also noticed in the past that my feet and legs seem to twist in an odd way when I walk with a “normal” gait, or heel-striking. I’m wondering if walking in the new “normal” way will correct that.

On a side note, if you wonder why they’re called FiveFingers instead of FiveToes: Vibram is an Italian company, and in Italian the word for toe is “dito del piede,” or finger of the foot. I don’t know why they couldn’t come up with a word for toe instead of calling it a foot finger, but whatever. I’m a total Italophile, so I think I’m going to start using that as a selling point—these are ITALIAN shoes, and Italians know what they’re doing when it comes to shoes!

Two of my favorite moments so far wearing VFFs:

The first day I was wearing them, I went into a RiteAid to pick up some photographs. As I stood in line to pay, I could feel the hard coldness of the linoleum seeping up through the two millimeters of rubber under my feet.

Today I was walking to get my morning cuppa coffee and I had to cross  a wet patch of sidewalk. After getting back on dry asphalt I turned and looked behind me and yes, there were barefoot-lookin’ wet footprints, each toe defined.

http://www.vibramfivefingers.com

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/05/07/vibram-five-fingers-shoes

http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/
http://www.sethigherstandards.com/barefoot-running-vibram-five-fingers-are-worth-it