Minimalist Anger from Minimal Wisdom

 

 

 

Crazes come and go; but a personal testimony is a hard one to contradict. Recently news came to light that Vibram, the maker of FiveFingers running shoes has settled a class action lawsuit. The article on Runner’s World says the following:

Bezdek alleged that Vibram deceived consumers by advertising that the footwear could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on any scientific merit. “The gist of her claim is that Vibram illegally obtained an economic windfall from her because it was only by making false health claims that Vibram induced consumers to buy FiveFingers shoes, and to pay more for them than they would have otherwise,” Harvard Law School professor, John C. P. Goldberg, told Runner’s World at the time of the original filing.

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I suspect that many–if not most–of the complainants did not heed advice about how to transition from their accustomed, padded footwear to the glove-like Vibram FiveFingers. Presumedly stemming from an instant gratification culture, it’s not surprising to see lawsuits against Vibram’s claims of “reducing foot injuries and strengthening foot muscles”. Transitioning to minimalist running requires patience and hard work, something most of us in the western world find difficult to grasp. For example, it took me about two years to completely ditch my conventionally padded running shoes in favor of Luna Sandals of Born to Run fame and Vibram FiveFingers. Anyone looking to transition must first understand the logic behind such claims of beneficial results before actually attempting to do it.

Born to Run caught my eye in early 2010 because of its exotic appeal, featuring the Tarahumara indians from the Copper Canyons of Mexico in the state of Chihuahua. Christopher McDougall, in his quest to find an elixir for his ever-recurring running injuries, visited a tribe of people whose culture practically revolved around and depended upon their running prowess. It was a way of life. Their nutrition wasn’t the greatest; but it was by far mostly untainted by modern society’s meddling into the food supply. Their physical activity and primarily the way they viewed their ultra-marathon length runs was what set them apart. Their older folks were actually their best runners, whose pace the younger guns followed. Anne Trason, in a 100-mile race in Leadville, running neck-in-neck with the Tarahumara, lost heart when she saw the sheer joy on their faces when she saw them running up a punishing mountain after a brief stop at a checkpoint. And they did this all in home-made…I mean, canyon-made sandals, just like the ones you’d picture ancient native americans or Spartans using.

The logic behind minimalist running is that the human body is already equipped to run as is. The foot-glove, FiveFinger shoes, is only meant to allow your body to rely on its natural mechanics to give you the best form and technique, while rendering a level of protection from filth and sharp objects. Just as when a cast is put on a broken leg, our use of heavily-padded footwear has atrophied our muscles and tendons so much from underuse that we’re initially very vulnerable to injury when going minimalist. Furthermore, one of the reasons people tend to get hurt so often with conventional footwear is because its design doesn’t allow the body to function as it was designed to. Contrary to the lawsuits insinuations, there are multiple studies out of big-name universities especially cited in Born to Run. 

So, what to do? Don’t you dare run a marathon as soon as you first put on a pair of FiveFingers. Your body will scream and hate you for it. Walk in them for a couple of hours a day. Run half a mile. But resist the urge to go all out, because it will feel so good and tempting. Do this for a while and you’ll feel parts of your body waking up, muscles and tendons you didn’t know you had. Gradually, run and walk a little longer with them. Finally, when you feel that your body is adapting well, go on longer runs, but generously give your body a break by weaning it off your conventionally-padded shoes. You should take your sweet dear time. It took me a couple of years before I felt comfortable completely ditching them.

In short, you don’t have to start running in Tarahumara-Spartan-Roman Legionarie sandals nor FiveFingers in order to get stronger and run better. The advantage of running in minimalist shoes though–and especially barefoot–is that your body is FORCED to adapt appropriate running technique, because if you don’t, then you’re really going to damage yourself. You’ll feel the pain either way if you even attempt to land each footfall the way most runners heel-strike with padded footwear. Even if you don’t want to fully adopt minimalist footwear, you’ll gain the advantage of changing your stride and running more naturally, allowing your body’s muscles and tendons to take the impact and rebound in its spring-like effect, instead of pounding your joints and bones mercilessly. It felt so much better and natural to run as a kid, and this is what minimalism is supposed to take you back to.

Personally, my running has never been better. My legs are stronger than they’ve ever been, and I’ve had no running injury since I’ve transitioned. None.

It will feel great, but if you mess it up, then you’re probably an anomaly, or just a typical instant-gratification character. Patience and wisdom is the key.

 

 

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Why Write: The Grande Disclaimer

Why write, even if it’s politically incorrect or assuredly offensive to some or many? Because it’s been the best means of expressing myself. Why my thoughts should matter to anyone, is up to them to decide, although I admit my expressions are not inherently superior to any other’s.  I’m amused and at the same time incredulous that I find it necessary to add disclaimers when expressing a view, whether it be my opinion, observation, or simple explanation of a philosophical view which I may or may not hold. I find it indispensable to try as much as possible to at least understand where people are coming from. This facilitates progress, understanding, and, of course, empathy.

However, I’ve perceived an incredible lack of will to even go as far as trying to sincerely understand another perspective. This goes hand in hand with an incapability or an unwillingness to permit the possibility of one being wrong or incomplete in an understanding, simultaneously dismissing the “other”; and it implies an assumed maliciousness in carriers of different ideas. This may be so, but for it to be the automatic assumption is also assuming the position of omniscience.

No one is exempt from combating this part of themselves. The difference lies in the degree to which one engages in this combat, or to the degree one lazily refuses to allow honesty the chance of giving clarity to one’s life. I agree, it’s often tiring to show up to battle, because it’s much easier to take the path of least resistance, the one that causes you the least amount of pain, embarrassment and inconvenience. I feel the fear often. Nonetheless, if I love truth and right, then I should have the faith (trust) to rest in the assurance that truth can defend itself against any attack in whichever form, be it distortion, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, ignorance and even lies (be they out of fear or any other reason). The level of scrutiny one is willing to put their life and beliefs under determines the level of openness and sincerity, as well as security in one’s position.

It IS difficult to try and check my own biases and tendencies to assume and prejudge (before you have enough information to come to a conclusion). I often realize time after time that I’ve got a long way to go, and probably will never be totally free of this tendency. Having expressed all this, I have a vague conception that many others who aim to live their lives as honestly as possible may hold sincere beliefs and perceptions of reality that I must credit, for they are living to the best of their knowledge and ability. Knowing exactly who the honest and dishonest folks are is also something I dare not tread on, although one can sometimes make a reasonable guess. Instinct is usually right, but I find that instinct is often garbled and distorted by other biases. Moments of lucidity are often rarer and more difficult to be distinguished from the massiveness of noise.

Therefore I have decided to give as much respect and attention to others’ ideas as I hope they’d give me. If I am truly honest, then I wouldn’t be threatened by them. I fully expect a lot of people to be very upset by some or much of my positions. I am no comparison to Jesus, but if he being perfect was hated without reason, then I’m very confident that I will be hated as well–although not as much–but unlike Jesus, there will be imperfections in me that will give at least some ammunition to those who hate me. And it will happen.

So, what do I ask of you, dear reader? I don’t ask that you be so open-minded that your brain falls out (I love this expression). Firmness in one’s beliefs and way of living is to be admired, for it’s rare nowadays in the face of public opinion’s power and pressure to conform. I ask that you remember that I am fairly aware of my imperfections and shortcomings; but I also ask that you be aware of yours, for we are subject to the same forces. I ask that the reader remember that a disagreement does not equate to hate. I hate that my friend is a smoker because it will hurt his health; but I don’t hate HIM. Whether or not smoking is bad for you it’s irrelevant, as long as I truly and wholeheartedly believe it is so, because in this light, I’m only worried about you.

Confronting a different belief may make you very uncomfortable or angry. Ask yourself “why”? I promise to do the same. Don’t automatically assume everybody is out to get you or con you. Be careful, vigilant and prepared; but don’t let it rob you of the opportunity to pick up gems.

Last but not least, all opinions and comments are welcome, as long as they’re reasonably within the lines of decorum. Peace.