Author Archives: B32 Athletics
In light of our next workshop, Nutrition Wisdom (Feb 26, register here), we thought we’d take some time to collect a few little nuggets of wisdom and perspective we have on all things nourishment and food. If you’re keen to follow the trail, please click through to the source article of each nugget to read more.
“We push aside our desires in favor of a controlled diet, devoid of the inherent body wisdom we hold, but feel we really can’t trust. Instead we opt for a controlled diet in which there’s a magical balance of food amount, macro-nutrient composition and meal timing that will deliver us to health and happiness. I argue it’s this control which is actually road-blocking our health and happiness, and it is that shifty body wisdom and unfathomable desire that may actually hold the key.” – The Big Secret to Lasting Health
“The fact of the matter is: nourishment is far more than what you put on your plate, on your fork and in your mouth. Nourishment is about all the elements – food, life, love – that provide you the opportunity for growth.” – The 5 P’s of Nourishment
“it strikes me how rarely we see macronutrient-based prescriptions to aid sleep entry and sustained sleep. Using nutrition to trigger and manipulate hormonal release can be just as effective for sleep as it is for physical performance.” – Using Food for Better Sleep
“When done intelligently, periodic restriction of carbohydrate at particular times, for particular people, helps to lean them out and improve some markers of health in the body. However, prolonged restriction of carbohydrate (especially for athletes) depletes the body of the opportunity for optimal performance, proper recovery and any chance of the sustenance of health whilst performing… There are endless permutations and combinations of current body/health status, goals, training styles, sports that all impact the amounts and types of carbohydrate most suited to your fuelling needs.” – Carbohydrate
“Those feelings you get of being clear, conscious and vibrant often come when we’ve managed to eat foods which help to raise or meet our vibrational frequency. Consider the fact that dead and processed matter has a lower (and slower) frequency, while live, unprocessed, real, whole food tends to being higher frequency.” – Light Eats
“Your gut is almost literally the centre of your universe. You can think of it as the doorway between your internal environment and the external world. It is the way your body gets and senses energy and the home of a delicate and intricate ecosystem of bacteria, nerve systems, immune function and endocrine signalling. The effective functioning of your gut is prime for survival, and as such, it’s treated as a near top priority in your body.” – Got the Guts?
“Too little sugar limits resources in the body and creates a situation where those resources must be drawn away from other tissues and processes in order to maintain some kind of homeostasis. When we really limit resources, and that need for resource pulling accelerates, overall reserves in the system begin to dwindle and various processes begin to be impaired, or shut down entirely.” – In Defence of Orange Juice
“Turns out there’s more to digesting food and assimilating nutrients than simply the machinery of the GI system. And frankly, when it comes down to it, no amount of clean nutrition, gut healing protocols and lab tests can quite penetrate this additional layer of complexity. The additional complexity is… YOU. Your mind, your soul, your Self. This is where therapeutic nutrition, supplementation protocols (and even medication) reach their limits… What and who you bring to the table, each and every time you eat, affects the way you digest and assimilate nutrients, and hence, affect the kind of symptomatology that may present. The personality we eat with changes the way we physiologically deal with food when it enters the system.” – Who do you bring to the table?
Like our perspectives on food and nourishment? Want to hear more? Register for our upcoming workshop, Nutrition Wisdom…
by Joelle Collard
So many of us begin the New Year inspired and keen for some kind of change in ourselves and in our lives. This is such a natural state of mind to arrive at given the reflective and almost final nature of the Christmas period. We’re left feeling a sense of wrapping up, where the slate gets wiped and we have the opportunity to start afresh. This opens the door for us to think about what we’d like to do differently in the coming year, what we’d like to become, and most of all, what would make us happier.
“This year, I’ll lose 10kg”
“This year I will wipe out all my debt”
“This year, I promise to drink less wine.”
The New Year begins and for the first couple of weeks we go great guns, sticking with all we have to the promises we’ve made to ourselves (and sometimes to others.) But, as so many of us have experienced, oftentimes Australia Day comes along, or maybe we even make it to Easter, until we invariably fall back into our past behaviours. We stumble along through the year until the next New Year comes around, and we re-promise the same promises all over again. We feel guilty and ashamed at our lack of discipline and willpower, vowing to do better this time.
But here’s the truth… Meeting resolutions is not so much about resolve, as it is about resonance.
No amount of writing down your goals, citing affirmations, planning and re-planning your meals week to week or buying new gym clothes will guarantee your success if your resolutions don’t reverberate from deep inside you. If they don’t stem from intrinsic values. From your truth.
Most of the resolutions we come up with year on year come from a place of “not-enough”, of wanting to be and have something we feel we’re missing. Our idea of what’s missing is mostly derived from some perceived societal expectation and definition of what it means to be better, successful, an admirable human. We take on board these definitions, and our resolutions and goals are born from external pressures and motivations. Of wanting to be seen differently in the world outside of us.
As long as we’re defining ourselves and our happiness by the world’s idea of what that means, we will never be enough. We’ll always be searching for more because we never pay attention to what it is we truly, deeply need for our happiness, and thus we’re always left wanting.
You know that feeling. Familiar lacking.
So how do we turn inward? How do we tune inward?
First and foremost, we need to create the space to step back from the noise around us and the chatter that creates inside of us. We need quiet if we are to connect to ourselves genuinely. If you can build the following three things into your week, you’ll soon be clearer on what it is you actually want and need for yourself, and how to arrive at goals that actually serve you.
Spending time to intentionally breathe and be mindful allows you to quiet the noise that goes on in your mind as you pick up on all the radio chatter of the world. Getting underneath that chatter is key to gaining clarity on your true wants and needs without the added murkiness and dilution that things like media, societal expectations, roles and judgements can bring.
- Sit or lie comfortably somewhere quiet, where you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Silence your phone. Bring both hands to your lower abdomen. Take a deep breath all the way into your belly until you feel your hands rise. Pause with that breath for a few moments before slowly exhaling, feeling your belly fall again. Repeat. Repeat.
- Any time you find your mind drifting, simply come back to your breath and your belly.
In your mind, ask yourself “what do I truly want and need this year?” Listen to the first answers that come up for you.
- Continue in this way for ten minutes. Journal anything you heard.
Someone once said to me, holding up my journal, “You’ll find yourself on these pages, you only have to write the words”.
Nothing could be truer. I have learned more about myself in the scrawled pages of my journal in the past six months than in the 28 years prior. This learning has then allowed me to come up with intentions for my life week to week, and for the year ahead. Each of these intents are centred around giving me true nourishment in life.
Get yourself a nice notebook to journal in. Not a crappy exercise book you throw around. Spend at least 10 minutes each day writing. Anything. Consider:
- What did I observe today?
- What did I notice about myself today?
- Right now, looking at my life I see/am/feel…
3. Spending time with yourself, in nature.
Nature has a gnarly way of bringing us home to ourselves. Life and our own busy-ness un-grounds us, taking us away from our centre and hindering us from seeing what we truly want and need. Spending regular chunks of time in nature helps us to re-ground and come back to who we really are, away from all the busy-ness and to-do lists.
- A 2 hour hike through the bush, unplugged (phone off, no music), quiet. Take your journal and stop to write whenever you receive an insight.
- Sit by the water (beach, river, lake) for an hour. Pay attention to your surroundings, noticing the behaviour of the animals, insects and birds. Take your journal and write whenever you receive an insight.
- Go to an oval, take your shoes off and wander through the grass for a while. Notice the feeling of the earth under your feet. Picture each step being firmly grounded and anchored to its centre. Take your journal and write whenever you receive an insight.
Knowing yourself is a continual practice. We’re always evolving and changing, responding and reacting to the world around us. It pays to sit still often and find what animates you, what resonates so deeply it’s impossible to not pursue with every ounce of your being. That’s the way to succeed in your endeavours.
February is here already. Take a look at where you’re at with your resolutions, honestly. It’s time to tune in. Time to reassess and realign those resolutions with what you truly want. Then maybe this year, you’ll actually get there.
It’s easy to feel heavy over the Christmas season. So many of us have the desire to just “feel lighter”, feel we need to eat lighter. But what if feeling better was less about eating lighter, and more about eating light?
Through every single thing in our world runs light energy of varying frequencies. From your cells to the blades of grass in your yard, the furniture in your house to the food on your plate. All of it is vibrating energy, each with a different frequency.
Those feelings you get of being clear, conscious and vibrant often come when we’ve managed to eat foods which help to raise or meet our vibrational frequency. Consider the fact that dead and processed matter has a lower (and slower) frequency, while live, unprocessed, real, whole food tends to being higher frequency. Thus, eating more living, fresh produce helps us to raise the frequency (or vibration) of the energy we’re made up of and helps us to feel light and vibrant (note: the word “vibrant” is simply the adjective form of “vibration”… A coincidence? Hmm…)
Give it a shot. Try incorporating more live, raw foods into your diet and see how light you feel. Start with this one:
Vanilla Chia Mango Pudding with Coconut Yoghurt
• 3 tbs of chia speeds
• 1 cup of cold liquid (we used organic oat milk, but you can use water or any other non dairy milk substitute)
• Dash of organic vanilla extract
• 1 tsp of organic honey
• 2 organic mango cheeks, flesh removed from skin.
• Coconut yoghurt to serve (we used CoYo brand)
• 2 tbs toasted coconut flakes, almond flakes or macadamia crumbles (or any combination of the above). Optional.
• Stir the chia seed, liquid, vanilla and honey together in a bowl. Give it a quick whisk every few minutes to keep the chia from clumping.
• Leave in the fridge for 20-30min to chill (optional.)
• Divide your chilled chia into two glasses or bowls.
• Divide the mango flesh between the glasses, and add coconut yoghurt to each (we used about 2 generous, dollopy tablespoons on each serve, but it’s up to you!)
• Add a sprinkling of coconut flakes and serve.
One rock at a time.
It sounds so simple.
The truth often is, yet our minds are busy planning all the moves and ways to control a situation, creating unnecessary complications and clutter. Rather than just focusing on what’s in the present we distract ourselves from (or even deny) the very reality that we are in- most often to our detriment.
You know how it goes: “I’m not that tired, I just need another coffee” or “my shoulder is a bit sore, but if I just push through it will be ok”. This kind of opposition to what is, is simply us shifting our focus away from the present. We sell ourselves the illusion that it’s ok, that we can overcome what’s really happening instead of accepting the reality of the situation and what it’s telling us. Perhaps you really are tired and need to rest, perhaps another coffee is just perpetuating the issue. Or perhaps your shoulder really does need a break and that’s ok.
The principle of one rock at a time is about focusing and accepting where you’re at and what’s going on right in the moment. No planning ahead, no trying to outsmart your body, self and life. Just being with what is now. It’s hard. It takes focus. It takes pause. It takes trust.
So just for today we suggest you make this your awareness in those moments you set off to juggle your busy life.
• Be aware when you’re rushing. Stop. Take a moment to pause and bring your attention back to just what you’re doing and where you are right now. Be still. Pay attention to right now.
• Take a moment to inhale deeply and exhale slowly at least three times. Check in with your body- what are you feeling physically? What do you truly need today in terms of food, movement, rest? Take note and create the space to honour those needs today.
• Pause. Breathe. Check in with your heart, your self. What do you need today to nourish you? Not what you need to tick off your list, but what does your soul need today? Make note and create space in your day to honour and fulfil those needs.
As this one passes your lips you feel the balance it delivers to your body and mind. Packed with live food enzymes, bioflavonoids and high vibrating foods that touch the untouchable. A super nourishing start to the day.
Strawberry, spinach & cashew smoothie
• 250ml almond & coconut milk blend
• 1 scoop of brown rice protein
• 1 tsp of hemp protein
• 4 ripe strawberries
• 1/2 cup spinach
• 1/3 cup of raw cashews
3 easy tips for adding more of this seasons produce to your summer food choices
1. Summer salads – Try adding some thinly sliced stone fruit to green salads for that additional summer theme and nutrient burst.
2. Infusions – Drop a few berries, lime and mint into some filtered water for a colourful and refreshing way to stay hydrated.
3. Mango mania – Slice off some mango cheeks and char grill on the BBQ. Add some mint, thinly sliced red onion and roasted macadamia crumbles for a summer evening dinner addition.
Question : How are you?
E. All of the above
Notice how often when you ask this question, or are asked this of yourself, the answer is something similar to one or all of the above. This has become the way of things, the drone of a busy society. The rhythm we have all become accustomed and conditioned to.
Yet deep down we know and likely crave a more connected, slower-paced existence. One that lets joy and peace flow like beer at Octoberfest on a daily basis. An existence that allows us to feel at home, safe, loved, loving and fully present in all our relationships.
Like a heavy bag being carried on your shoulder, you know it’s uncomfortable but you endure, the end is likely in sight in the form of a Friday knock off from work or that long awaited family holiday. The bag of busy, of fast and tired is a reminder of the push and the drive to get things done to deliver us that brief moment of relief- of “ahhh”, when that heavy load has finally been placed back on the ground. It’s the same feeling 3 days into a week long holiday when all the mind chatter and jitteriness begins to drift away. You know the feeling… It’s just plain good!
This brings some respite and maybe just enough of a breather in order to face up to the next 6 months of life, but more than that, consider that perhaps these contrasts are actually showing you another way to be in your every day life. What is all the busy and worry calling you to look at in your life?
Slow down, we’re told, but never really taught.
All the stubs of the little toe, the spelling mistakes on an email, a missed appointment, a mind wandering – these are all signs life throws us to look at but without guidance and some teachings of what these “lessons” are teaching we simply see them as a nuisance or put it down to a “shit happens” passing of the buck. It’s time to pay attention.
We’re taught that slowing down is seen as less, like we may miss out, lose touch or even be seen as giving up. The truth is slowing down allows us to see the limits and illusions of our self created perceptions. It allows us to see and be where we’re at, and move forward from that place, rather than speedily skimming over the details. Sounds heavy, I know, but getting to intimately know the art of slow is a deepening human experience.
The Art of Slow is a practice of Self involvement, Self interest and Self preservation. A practice of compassion for yourself, your body and your mind.
We’re not just going to tell you what to do. “Just slow down!” – where’s the empowering growth in that? You and I know that doesn’t work. It’s just talk. True change takes a more honest look at the way we live our lives and more importantly why we have chosen to live our lives in such a way.
We will be asking some tough questions as to why you need busy, why you want frantic. These tough questions are what makes this workshop so valuable to your health and life journey.
We will be sharing with you practical ways to build the Art of Slow into your life to gently allow you to experience what slow really has to offer. We’ll look at areas of movement, food, breath, lifestyle and Self.
There’s no magical motivational slogan, there’s no secret daily formula. Just you looking at you – that’s where the rewards are to be found.
Are you willing to see?
By Ross Blake
When you’re outside or experiencing multiple sensory inputs, the rate at which your nervous system is taking in and processing information grows exponentially. For example you might be processing 30,000 bits per second performing a balancing exercise in the gym, but when you add in nature and all it’s forces (like moving water, wind and uneven surfaces) this processing might increase to something more like 300,000 bits per second.
This creates an experience that can awaken deeper senses- some survival-based, some pleasure-based. If the experience is too challenging, we see a dominance of survival senses which can actually collapse the CNS – it’s too much too soon. But when balanced with pleasure in the movement experience – dropping into the moment and losing any expectations or judgement of the activity, we allow CNS expansion, recharge and reinvigoration of the entire system.
To extend this idea, to really expand the nervous system is to not only feel a balance of challenge and pleasure in movement, but to feel beyond your fingertips. To tap into & take in all the interconnected pathways in the world around you that exist to support the aliveness of your body. That is true switching on of your central nervous system.
Ever noticed how handstands work better at the beach?
Wondered why when life is good, movement feels better?
Have you felt the benefit of touch or a hand that hovers 1-3cm over a muscle without touching it to help switch it on?
These are all examples of your CNS sensing and taking in the support present in your environment to help it expand and flourish.
To do this with more awareness, gently reach out, calmly breathe and absorb the support that is there for you. You can think of this like grounding into the Earth, or perhaps visualise arcing ropes like Spiderman’s webs connecting you to the nearest tree or rock meters away, helping you move and balance. In this video, Joellle is grounding to the Earth via a barefoot connection with the branch, while sensing the energy of the moving ocean, pulling its energy in. This helps create a sense of calm, stillness, balance, vitality.
You are deeper & far more eloquent than simply your five senses. Breathe, remain still & feel beyond your skin – you can cultivate your innate (and sixth) sense of body in time & space.
By Joelle Collard & Ross Blake
With a crunch that any potato chip company R&D would envy, the sweet, fresh, earthy carrot is often overlooked as nothing more than a colourful addition to the dinner plate. In the midst of more modern popularised high fat, low carbohydrate diets, the carrot has even been placed in the “too dense carbohydrate” pile, and thrown into the occasional foods category – not to be indulged in too often.
However, the humble carrot has some interesting properties that make it a worthwhile addition to the eat often category. Let’s take a look…
Antifungal – the carrot has an antifungal affect on the gut due to a substance it contains called falcarindiol. Raw carrot can be used to help treat conditions like candida (internal, systemic or externally presenting – e.g. tinea). The carrot was initially grown as a medicinal substance rather than a food.
Antibacterial – “Endotoxin, produced by bacteria, mainly in the intestine, disrupts energy production, and promotes maladaptive inflammation.” ~ Ray Peat, PhD. In addition to anti fungal talents, carrots also contain antibacterial properties. These help to balance out gut flora, thus reducing the production of endotoxin (gut bug poo and byproducts) and promoting liver (and overall system) clarity and health.
Promoting hormonal balance and detoxification - the indigestible fibre in carrots helps to protect the intestine, preventing reabsorption of estrogen through the intestinal barrier (and thus, reducing toxic burden on the system.) This process helps promote progesterone and thyroid hormone, reducing cortisol and estrogen.
“Preventing excessive sympathetic nervous activity and maintaining the intestine’s energy production can be achieved by optimizing hormones and nutrition. Something as simple as a grated carrot with salt and vinegar can produce major changes in bowel health, reducing endotoxin absorption, and restoring constructive hormonal functions.” ~ Ray Peat, PhD
- 1 grated carrot, 2 tsp coconut oil, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, pinch good quality sea salt. Eat daily, mid-pm for best gut balance, detoxification and immunological benefits.
- As is – 1 raw carrot, taken daily.
- Roasted carrots with goat’s cheese, toasted almonds, currants and flat-leaf parsley.
Feeling heavy is not a matter of physical weight. It’s weight of mind, life, emotion- a blockage and stockpile of stale energy. And so the key to feeling lighter takes into account the basic principle that energy follows energy- where our attention goes, energy flows. We need to attend to the blockages, the stifles, to get the energy flowing.
Energy blockages can be seen and felt when:
1. Physical objects clutter your space and stop the free flow of energy in one or many of your external environments, such as your home.
2. Your physical body’s vibrational frequency is impeded or muffled. This can happen in many ways, but we’ll look today toward nutrition and movement.
3. You’re being called to attend to a matter of Self via moods and emotions.
Let’s look at some things you can do in these three layers- your environment, your body, your emotions- to help get things flowing again.
1. External Environment
Clear out- The first step is to look at the literal, obvious things blocking your energy. This may be as simple as taking a look around your space. Are the entry points and hallways clear? Are the blinds open and allowing light and air to flow through? Is the house tidy, or crammed and cluttered? Take a little time to clear out doorways, hallways and floor space. Open the doors and windows and allow the air to flow through, even if only for five minutes. Check in and see how you feel.
Get some green- try adding a plant or two to each room to help clear out and move through the energy in the room.
Cupboard clean out- Next, let’s open the cupboards. Are they crammed full of clothes for next season and those jeans from five years ago you’re determined you’ll fit back into sometime soon? Pull all your clothes out into the floor. Anything you wouldn’t pack in a bag for a two week trip (right now) to 1. Hawaii, and 2. Tasmania needs to go. This will ensure only your favourite, most worn items get to stay. If you wouldn’t pack it, pass it on.
Simplify. If you didn’t wear it last season, you aren’t going to wear it this year either. And surely there’s someone else in the world who will actually wear it!
As for those jeans you’ve sworn to get back into. Ditch them. Clothes carry old, stale energy and memories from a different phase of our lives. Attachment to them only tethers us to the past, pulling our attention back there. Besides, buying new jeans is much more satisfying than staring longingly into your cupboard. Go and get some today, in whatever size you need right now.
2. Physical body
Energy can pool up in certain areas and systems of the body. Common areas of energy blockages include the hips, shoulders, gut, liver and throat. You’ll feel it as a tightness, heat or simply a sense that something isn’t quite in harmony in that area of your body.
Move- It’s important to note that we aren’t trying to fight the energy, we need to welcome and massage it back into flow in the body.
One of the most amazing ways to do this is yoga, where a combination of connection to the breath, grounding to Earth and sequenced movements expertly help to free up stuck energy.
You can also try dynamic movement and mobility sequences, barefoot movement, outdoor natural and mindful, flow-based movement to get things rolling again. [If you need some tips, check out our reBalance program.]
Nourish- Consider the quality of food you’re eating. Some foods (namely processed, often GMO, non-organic, irritants) can leave us feeling dirty, slowing down the flow of energy in the body and often causing energy to pool in specific organ systems. Choose organic, clean, fresh foods, as close to their natural state as possible to help keep that flow moving at an appropriate pace. The less hands, machines, kilometres and processes that have touched your food to get it to you, the better.
Hydrate- when you think about the word “flow”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Water. Grab a big glass of water. Drink it. Wait a moment. Now, how do you feel?
Sunlight- Get some. Surely you can feel the difference in mood and “heaviness” when you’ve had some time in the sun… So do it!
3. Self and soul
On a deeper level, any mood is simply the language of soul, an expression of what’s really going on for you underneath the surface. It’s a communication from the often unseeable depths of something you need to know and need to attend to- it’s worth listening.
The ultimate key to lightening up is to tap into those depths and acknowledge what’s actually weighing you down. Beyond the surface layer things, people and situations you may feel are hindering you, consider what’s really underneath the mood you’re experiencing. Ask yourself, “what’s really going on for me here?” Name the thing that comes to mind right before you say “I have no idea”, say it aloud, picture it, breathe it in, and then… Exhale. Make a choice to watch it drift away with your breath. Take another three deep breaths, and let go of a big sigh with each exhalation, just to move those last fragments of energy. Journal what you came up with, noting any thoughts that arise about what you need to do to help move you forward. Now check in with yourself- do you feel lighter? More open?
Ultimately, life is all about energy. Your body, your soul, your world, the world are all about energy. Feelings of lightness, vitality, health and happiness (in every one of those domains) happen when we can keep it flowing through and between them. Paying attention to the moments that make you feel dull, stifled, stuck, will help you to discover what you need to do to keep that flow, and maintain that lightness and vitality.
Before we begin… A disclaimer
Going barefoot is not the magic bullet. Newsflash – there isn’t one. But it may be a piece of the puzzle for you. And if some of this article does resonate with you, then take your transition to barefoot gradually. You wouldn’t take your arm out of a cast it had been in for twenty years and expect to go twenty rounds on the punching bag without injuring yourself, would you? Apply the same logic to your poor feet. Go slow and let the structures adapt gradually over time. And note that this article is NOT about how to transition to barefoot running. There are lots of great resources on how to do that out there (Google is your friend), but this is not one of them.
Now for the juicy bits…
Barefoot. If you’re plugged into the health and fitness realm you’ve probably noticed the term is popping up all around the place at the moment. And if you’ve worn shoes your entire life and the thought of going outside without them on sounds a bit daft, then you’ve probably asked – what’s all the fuss about? Let’s take a look.
The Importance of the foot
As a quick google will reveal, the foot and ankle comprise 26 bones, 33 joints and over a 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. The foot is the start of a myofascial line which runs from your toes to the top of your head – yes, that means your foot has a direct line of influence to your noggin. Every step we take, our foot initiates (unless it isn’t allowed to initiate – more on that shortly) a cascade of muscular actions that flows up our leg and throughout the body. Consider the fact we take an average of 10,000 steps a day, and that in running, forces through the foot can exceed three times bodyweight and you may begin to get a sense of how important this structure is. Given this complexity and interconnectedness then it really should not come as a surprise that the health of the feet has an impact on every link in the movement chain of which it is a part – which is to say most of them.
Almost everyone understands that a tight, inactive and immobile shoulder will lead to poor movement patterns and pain both down the arm and through the back and neck (and beyond). That is just dysfunction in one joint. But we immobilize the feet without a second thought (33 joints remember), wrapping them up in shoes with as much padding as we can, wearing insoles and orthotics to stop the joints moving, and doing our best to stop our feet from ever actually touching the ground. Is it any wonder we have sore ankles, knees and back and need to seek guidance and treatment from health and fitness professionals to get things working again!? Perhaps if we applied the same logic to our feet that we accept so readily for our shoulder, letting them do what they have evolved to do over 150 thousand-odd years, then some of these problems may not manifest in the first place.
The benefits of barefoot
For the foot to be healthy it needs to be able do what any part of us needs to be able to do – move through a full range of motion, to have strong and relaxed musculature and to be proprioceptively switched on (so we know where our foot is in space and we can alter muscular action quickly in response to stimuli).
Full range of motion includes pronation (where the foot rolls inwards towards the midline of the body and the arch of the foot flattens against the floor, and which so many of us wear orthotics to prevent) and supination (rolling outwards) as well as toes that move (including those pesky little toes.)
So if your foot experiences none of these – you clunk around like a baby elephant on flat arches and squeal when they touch anything harder than your comfy explorer socks – then I suspect you may guess my prescription: take off your shoes.
Strong and alive feet will allow you to walk on more awkward surfaces and step on rocks without pain, not because the skin is calloused and thick (although this does help), but because they are able to react and adjust to different surfaces quickly, rather than just thudding onto them. And strong and alive feet will help give all the links up the chain their best chance to be able to react and move like they are meant to. Which means healthier and more resilient knees, ankles and back.
Here are a few things to try to get your feet switched on and stronger. Note that your feet will be sensitive when you first start off, so be gentle.
1. Take your shoes off more.
This is kinda obvious, but think about how many times in a day you could be barefoot and you’re not. Do you wake up and put your shoes on to walk around the house? Do you put your shoes on to go to the letterbox. Why? Take them off. Socks too.
2. Walk barefoot in the grass.
If you haven’t done this for a while you’ll be amazed at how grounding it is and how nice it feels, and the sensations of the grass are great for firing up the nerve endings and bringing your feet back to life. Find some longish, green grass that hasn’t been mown for a while and walk around in it. Leave your MP3 player in the car (also your smartphone, GPS, water bottle, tablet and your to do lists – you can do it). Stop, close your eyes, scrunch your toes up and dig them into the earth and take three deep breaths and see how good it feels. And then realise you can do this whenever you want.
3. Walk barefoot at the beach.
Much like number 2, but at the beach. While you’re there also take the opportunity to walk on the rocks at the rockpools and feel the sensations of the different rocks. Get your feet wet, even if the water is cold. Especially if the water is cold.
Balancing starts to challenge and develop the musculature of the feet in ways that walking will not, and once you get into it you’ll realise how much fun it is. One of my favourite ways to practice my barefoot balancing is simply on the rocks and sleepers in my back yard. I’ve got an obstacle course I’ve figured out that gets me from the backdoor to the compost bin without touching the ground (getting the chores done while barefoot balancing is winning.) Another easy place to start balancing is on the log barriers at your local park or oval. And remember, you don’t have to be high in the air and at risk of falling to your death for it to count as balancing.
5. Combine #3 & 4: Balance AT the beach
Why not get creative and combine a couple at once?! Balancing on wet rock surfaces, washed up wood and tricky-shaped shells at the beach is a great way to get your feet connected back with the earth, and to have them experience some different sensations you don’t get every day.
6. Appreciate your feet
Seriously. Pay them some attention, some love. For most of us, our feet carry us around for 70+ years and through a bunch of tough times – that’s a whole lotta work. Massage and rub your feet, or better yet, have someone else do it for you. Things like reflexology, shiatsu and just general touch will improve the connection of your foot to your body (and you to your foot.) There are even prescriptions where touching, massaging and appreciating the foot can not only get things firing but can also heal injury and ailment in that area. Energy follows energy. Give it a crack.