Posts Tagged ‘running’

Free your feet: The joys of (almost) barefoot running

In Philippine Star Column on January 14, 2011 at 1:05 am

These shoes simulate running barefoot

It’s the new year and if you are like millions — even billions — around the world, you have probably made a bunch of 2011 resolutions and “getting healthier” is on top of the list. Running, unless you have been living under a rock the last five years, has become one of the most common ways for anyone to jumpstart their get-fit routine. It’s a sport that can be done socially or alone, and doesn’t need ridiculously expensive equipment to start off with, save for a pair of really good running shoes. I’ve been on the running bandwagon for a little over a year now; I’ve joined some short-distance races, and even if I don’t run as often as I’d like to, I do find that after all the whining before finally putting on my shoes there is still no quicker way for me to speed up my metabolism, tone my body and get an overall good feeling of achievement once I’ve improved on my time or distance. I’ve gone through several pairs of shoes in the last 13 months, but was gifted with a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes by Terra Plana to try out.

The shoes, which are way thinner than the heavily padded models of celebrity athlete-endorsed brands, are made to simulate running barefoot. The first thing I thought when I imagined myself (literally) pounding the pavement in them was “Ouch!” Admittedly, it took a while for me to try them on, as I have always associated my other shoes as more protective but I was intrigued by the sleek design. First thing I did was to walk in them, on the street where I normally run for about half an hour. It felt weird to feel the road so close to my soles and I have to be honest, I wasn’t convinced that I would like them at all. Still, I committed to giving myself a couple of days to get used to this new sensation. I asked a friend why barefoot running was being encouraged (I have witnessed several freaks of nature who run around Fort Bonifacio with no shoes); he said that barefoot runners actually believe they are doing their body good by going barefoot. If you’re a fan of foot massages, or are familiar with reflexology, you may find it interesting to know that each foot has 200,000 nerve endings, 28 bones, 19 major muscles, 33 joint centers and 17 ligaments. That’s a whole lot of energy circuitry going on there. The creators of Vivo Barefoot claim that running with their shoes or even running barefoot helps stimulate all 200,000 nerve endings which correspond to other major organs in the human body, therefore boosting one’s immune system and overall health.

The second time I tried on the shoes, I imagined that I was, in essence, getting a foot massage that would make me lose weight at the same time. After a 30-minute walk, I broke into a slow jog, and then picked up the pace and this went on for three kilometers! I was amazed. I know it’s a short distance, but it was definitely a start. How was my body a day after the run? I was anticipating more trauma to my joints and muscles due to the impact but there was nothing more than the usual ache one gets from exercise. I expected my knees to also give me pain, or even my ankles but there was nothing unusual or suspect. After a day of rest, I went out and ran almost-barefoot in my Vivos. I went up to five kilometers, after a 15-minute warm-up, and after my cool-down stretch, I “listened” to my body and felt nothing unusual; in fact I actually felt lighter. Perhaps there was less bulk on my feet or maybe because I could feel the road, I was more aware of my posture and my pace, I kept my center (core tight) and was more focused on my breathing. This may be the key advantage of running “barefoot”: you become more attuned to what your body can or cannot do, and how it heals. That’s a big bonus in my book.

Reading a little more on barefoot running, it also claimed to improve posture, aligning the spine (I was, as I said, more aware of my posture), thus preventing injury, especially to the knees and hips. I am not sure if I would use these shoes for something long distance, let’s say more than a 10k run (maybe I just need to release old conditioning), but I did try on my regular (and very expensive) new trainers over the weekend just for a “break” and I actually felt discomfort. It may all be in my mind but not feeling connected to the surface of the road threw me off a bit, and I didn’t run as long as I wanted. I’m even thinking of maybe just using those trainers for walks with my dog instead.

Barefoot — or almost barefoot — simulated running may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s well worth doing a little research on, as you could be doing both you — and your feet — a favor.

* * * For more information on Vivo Barefoot visit or check out their stores Barefoot Store in SM Mall of Asia, Vivo Barefoot Pop-Up in Alabang Town Center and Terra Plana/Vivo Barefoot in Ayala Center, Cebu City.

Reposted from:
SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated January 14, 2011

The will to run

In Living a Life Off-Center on August 3, 2010 at 12:40 am

I used to be super athletic. I could jump from activity to activity within the day and was euphoric at the end of it. Now I wonder, where has all that energetic enthusiasm gone? These days, aside from eating out, or eating in, anything more strenuous is relegated to later, and then pushed on to much, much later. I started running once upon a time because it seemed a great “couple” thing to do with my then better half, and then nowadays, it just seemed to be the only activity that could match my amazing appetite. So to keep the calories down and to keep the fitness  meter  up, I run, and when I run good, I feel very, very good, and when I run bad, I don’t really care.

I even went so far as to google “Run with joy” online and came up with zip. Although due to a good friend (Celine Novenario the heart and soul of, I got a glimpse of an article that made me realize, just running wasn’t going to make me the supermodel I always dreamed of.  So instead of go run and eat what you can, she made me read this:

Hungry for More

The Newbie Chronicles

Hungry for More

When you start running, you get to eat as much as you want, right?
By Marc Parent

Image by Marcos Chin

From the August 2010 issue of Runner’s World

First, you go for a run, of course. Then what you do is go ahead and take a mess of red beans and let them spill across a big white plate so they just kiss the pile of dry-rub ribs. You go for a run (of course!) and then you roll a grilled cob of corn on a stick of butter until it’s good and gooey and shake some salt and hot pepper flakes on it. Actually, since you went for that run, just go on and do two cobs, but don’t forget to save room for the raspberry pie.

What you’ll want to do with the pie is take out a wedge about the size of a shovel blade and lob on a double dip of ice cream and eat it really fast and think how lucky it was that you got that run in.

Or here’s something else to try. Start with a run like I do and then go to the kid’s birthday party and rush the potato chip bowl with the rest of the children. Stuff a handful of chips into your mouth and laugh wildly over your shoulder at the nonrunning adults nibbling miserably on carrot sticks. Raise a can of orange soda in their direction and watch them tentatively lift their cans of diet. Then chug yours down in one swallow and slam the can on the table and wipe your mouth on your sleeve and let out a howl. Man, you don’t need no stinkin’ diet soda ’cause you ain’t on no stinkin’ diet, so pass the pepperoni, ’cause you just ran your fool head off and you’re hungry as a dog.

Something else I like to do is go for a run, do my normal cooldown followed by a short stretch and a shower, then go into the pantry and rip open a bag of chocolate chips and fill both cheeks. That’s a fun one. And like so many people, I used to drink beer and eat fried fish. Never again! That was the old me. Now I go for a run and then drink the beer and eat fried fish. In fact, for me, the beer and fried fish have become one of the great joys of running. The only other thing I’d really like to try with running sometime would be a little weight loss. I haven’t seen that as much as the beer and fish.

The prospect of losing weight was the primary reason I took up running in the first place. With a crafty bit of magical thinking, I figured there was no possible way I could run and be fat at the same time regardless of what I ate. There is no such thing as a fat runner. This reasoning, coupled with low mileage and a newly raging appetite, resulted in precisely that. But rather than panic when I stepped on the scale, I attributed the rising numbers to a new accumulation of muscle mass. I found a doctor who would support the claim and clung to him like a barnacle. Then I used any chance I could to make the point that muscle mass is so much heavier than a mass of fat. My weight gain was a product of a building athlete, not a midnight pantry raider. After increasing my mileage from one to two miles, and my running frequency from two to four times a week, I finally saw a small drop. Encouraged by that, I built my mileage and waited to see the pounds fall away. And waited, and waited…and ate like a cow the whole while.

We are all at least partially defined by the questions we ask ourselves in the bright light of the bathroom mirror–deep questions with profound implications: Can I run for a few miles and butter my steak too? Somewhere in my gut, I already knew the answer. Somewhere deep in my deepening gut. But the answer, like the gut, wasn’t pretty. The answer was a big fat no. Running may produce or otherwise support many miracles, but the butter/steak miracle is not one of them.

One morning while eating a cinnamon-raisin bagel with honey-walnut cream cheese, I came across an article about exercise and weight loss and went straight to the source study online to pore over the data myself. As reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in September 2009, researchers in Australia tracked 58 “sedentary, overweight/obese” male and female participants who took part in a 12-week, supervised “aerobic exercise intervention” without any change in diet. At the conclusion of the program, the mean weight loss for the group was just over seven pounds, but for 26 participants, the average was only two pounds. Three months of no-cheat toil for two lousy pounds! That’s a long, hard road to beautiful, partner.

I took a giant bite of the bagel and clicked to more studies. One focused on how athletes’ bodies allocate and utilize calories in an effort to discover a phenomena known as “afterburn”–roughly translated as an ability to continue burning fat calories after a workout; a get-out-of-jail-free card for my cream-cheese bagel, thanks to my previous run. And man, who among us couldn’t use just a little afterburn every once in awhile? One problem. It doesn’t seem to exist. In fact, the only good news I found was that exercise seems to keep pounds off once you’ve managed to shave them off through strict cream-cheese-bagel restriction.

One Saturday morning, from the sidelines of our sons’ middle-school lacrosse game, I shared my discoveries with Dr. Matthew McCambridge, Lehigh Hospital physician and medical staff president of the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania. “It’s all pretty straightforward,” he said with a smile. “Weight loss and attending health benefit is essentially a calories-in/calories-out proposition.”

He could have also gone on to tell me that grass is essentially green and the sky is essentially blue, but he’s too much of a gentleman for that. I pressed for clarification all the same.

“To lose weight,” I said, “you have to… eat less.”


“Even if you’re a runner?”

“At the typical distances and durations for the average athlete–yes, even if you’re a runner.”

“But I get really hungry after a run.”

McCambridge, who is trim and muscular, had just completed a 12-mile run. “To lose weight, you have to occasionally allow yourself to get really hungry,” he said with a knowing smile returning to his face. “I haven’t had anything to eat yet today. I’m actually quite hungry.”

I smiled back and nodded, but mine was a guilty smile. I hadn’t just run 12 miles. I hadn’t even run two. And I wasn’t hungry either. After a heaping breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs and pan-fried potatoes, I wasn’t even just satisfied. Two whole hours after my undeserved feast, I still felt quite full.


So there you have it, and yes Celine Novenario, you now have me sadly not reaching for that  second delicious portion til I find a consistent running rhythm!   If anyone out there knows an article that will make me find the joy to run, on a consistent, less whine-y and whinge-y basis, feel free to share!

Running Reflections: The art of active meditation

In Philippine Star Column on July 23, 2010 at 2:30 am

Move in order to meditate

Meditation is often used as a tool to free oneself from the chains of doubt, fear and limitations. Undoubtedly it sounds like a soulful Shangri-la but in my case, it is not an easy destination to get to. For those who have tried to sit still and allow their thoughts to just melt away and let bliss take over and failed, you are definitely not alone. True meditation takes practice and a lot of it; ironically, the harder you try to meditate, the more the state of “peace and quiet” will elude you. So what can you do if you can’t sit still, or get cramps while trying to be motionless in order to achieve a meditative mood? Move.

Active meditation is a good practice to get into the habit of having control over your mind rather than it having control over you. Though there are many descriptions of meditation, its true essence is focus, a focus that is so pure and rich that it cancels out everything unnecessary — pouring energy into whatever it is you’re doing and provides, at a pivotal point, enlightenment. You may have already achieved a Zen-like state when you were once engrossed in an activity that you found so joyful that all your attention was consumed by it. I rediscovered this state during a recent 10k “fun” run. I never thought I’d be a runner, much less join a race before sunrise, and as I crawled miserably out of bed wondering for the nth time why I even signed up, it (literally) dawned on me that if I wanted to win the war with the mind, I had to get moving. I’m not saying that running is the best way to actively meditate but it certainly takes focus and a lot of determination to go the distance. Early on, the mind already begins putting up barriers to prevent you from running: it’s too early, it’s too far, it’s insane — so the first thing you should do to distract these “complaints” is to warm up. Stretching makes you mindful of your breathing, and the slow movements do relax you and since you don’t want to topple over as you try to touch your toes, you have to remain focused on what you’re doing and not what you’re thinking.

Calm a frazzled mind through motion

Then the race begins and you are now brought into awareness of your surroundings, you can now choose to look to the ones who pass you or on the ones who drop behind you. Decisions have to be made: Will you sprint ahead while you feel fresh and strong or are you going to settle into a comfortable pace and gather strength? The best way to gauge is to focus on your breathing: if you feel out of breath, slow down; if you feel comfortable then you can pick up the pace.

There are going to be points of frustration; your mind tells you to stop and not even finish because (it rationalizes) it’s too far, takes too long, you’re too tired. Like meditation, running is an easy activity to quit. All you have to do is stop and walk away. If you get to this state, stop and take a quick break; be aware, though, that your mind at this very moment has prevented you from achieving a goal. This happened to me at the 5K mark, and I was sorely tempted to tuck my tail in between my legs and just go home. The thing is, my body didn’t hurt and I was not out of breath; it was just my mind telling me I couldn’t do it. So, this may have been an “Aha” moment for me because after about a minute of walking, I decided to start running again, this time with the focus on crossing the finish line no matter how long it took; I wasn’t going to stop. I redirected my attention to just putting one foot in front of the other, listening to my breath regularly. So the rest of my run kind of went like this: foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath.

Meditation takes practice

This simple technique, almost like counting 1-2-3, is what eventually got me across the finish line without stopping again and all the mental agony I had undergone halfway through the race melted into oblivion. The body was tired, but I was elated. I got my mind to shut up and if I could do it once, I could certainly do it again.

Walk if you can't run

Walk if you don’t want to run, and lose the iPod if you can. Pay attention to your feet, the sound your shoes make when they hit the road and always be aware of your breathing. Every time your mind strays to a useless thought (read: distracting and detrimental), focus on where you’re going (recommended so you don’t crash into something — like, let’s say, a moving car) and then back to the action of putting one foot in front of the other. Active meditation will never take the place of real quiet time and being able to sit in silence but in the meantime, if you move while you meditate, you could shed some unwanted emotional (and physical) baggage.