Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shoe Update

So it's actually been about two weeks since I made a post, because of scheduling issues, but I wanted to make sure I had time to really sit down and flesh out this update about my shoes.  So here it is, in all it's questionable glory.

As far as the barefoot shoe thing is concerned, I figure there are three types of shoes I wanted to have before I'd consider myself well-equipped.  Strange that I need three different types of shoes to work on a barefoot lifestyle change, isn't it?  Anyway, the three types I wanted are -
VIBRAMS - I want these for when I do things like going hiking in places where I can't be sure what kind of terrain I'll encounter, or where there might be (sadly, quite likely) a broken beer bottle in amongst the pine straw or something.  Or when I might go stepping into a creek that (again, quite likely) has rusty metal in it.  Believe it or not, my friends and I went swimming in a creek about a year ago and came across an overturned lawnmower.  This was both shocking, and not terribly surprising considering we found it while swimming under a bridge with cars driving by overhead.  Anyway, I think it'd be a good idea to have these for a little extra preparedness when I either don't know or can't see where I'll be walking.  I don't have these yet, but I plan on acquiring a set within the next few months. 
HUARACHES - These sandals I'm expecting to wear when I go to the beach or some place where I might be going between the indoors and outdoors a lot.  They're quite comfortable to leave on, but they're also very easy to slip on and off and very lightweight for carrying while I'm not wearing them. 
The type I'm referring to can be purchased in high-quality form from several places, like Luna Sandals or Invisible Shoe.  However, being the person that I am, I decided to make my own, as they're fairly simple.  I found some tutorials here and here.  I bought a farmer's bundle of leather from Hobby Lobby for 6 dollars, a sheet of PVC sheeting from Lowe's for 12 dollars, some contact cement for, I don't remember how much exactly but it was pretty cheap, and some elastic for, like, 3 bucks, also at Hobby Lobby.  And while 20 dollars is about as much as the shoes cost from Invisible Shoe, and theirs are probably a bit better quality, I have enough material left to make two or three more sets of mine.  This is what mine turned out looking like:

I put the smooth side of the leather down against the PVC so that the contact cement could soak into the relatively porous leather and have a flat surface for the most contact area with the PVC.  The unfinished side of the leather went up against the sole of my foot, for traction and whatnot. They're actually pretty comfortable, and so light I forget I'm wearing them.  I'll tell you what though; they were a lifesaver when we went to the water park and everyone's bare feet were cooking on the white, hot cement. I don't know if my skin will be able to handle that kind of heat after I toughen it up, but for now I was happy.

You can see the writing from the PVC sheeting on the bottom.  The PVC isn't all that necessary, but I figured it'd help the leather last a little bit longer, as it's added waterproofing and will prevent general wear and tear from degrading the leather as fast.  I will say that it's super slick, though, so I won't go running around in the mud and rain in them if I can help it.  Not that that's sandal weather anyway...

MOCCASINS -  These are for places where it's really only socially acceptable to wear normal shoes.  They're close-toed, and on cursory inspection or from the corner of the eye appear to be normal shoes.  However, looking more closely will reveal that they do look a bit strange for shoes.  That's nothing compared to the comfort level, though.

 The laces are actually a bit longer than I need them to be, and so they flop about a bit and stick out from under my jeans when I wear these with pants.  Not a huge issue for me, though.  As you can see, they look a bit shapeless compared to normal shoes, but that's a necessary side-effect of having the wide toe-box that allows your toes to splay properly, and the thin leather that they're made of for comfort.

Here you can see that the leather is perforated, which makes them extremely light, comfortable, and airy.  They felt great to run in.  Unfortunately, being shoes and all, I have to wear socks with them or my feet start sweating something fierce.  So they're not as airy as I'd like them to be, but that's more the fault of the socks and my recalcitrant feet than anything else.

 Here's a side view of the shoes, where you can see both how soft the leather is, and how flat the sole is.  I mean, there's no heel-to-toe drop at all.  There's no other padding or material inside the leather; that's all the sole you have.  I got the thinnest, "street" sole, at 2 mil.  They have a 5 mil "trail" sole, but as I said I plan on using my eventual Vibrams for that kind of terrain, so for these I wanted a thinner sole for better ground feel and lighter weight, as I'll be using them in more urban environments.
This is a close-up of the sole material, which as you can see has some light cross-hatching, and also some alternating Vibram logo stamps.  Despite the relatively light texturing, these actually have quite a bit of traction.  Again, not something I'd go running through mud-slicks in if I can help it (though the "trail" sole may have some thicker texturing; I'm not sure) but up and down the street it was plenty for me to maneuver safely.

Overall, I'm happy with them, and the "Elves" that make the shoes at Soft Star were extremely helpful and friendly when I called, asking me questions about my needs and my likes so that they could provide me with the best shoe options.  Also, it was clear they weren't just trying to sell me the most expensive model.  I will say, of course, that if you want to buy a pair, it's best to do your research and know something about barefooting and what your needs might be, to be better able to answer their questions.  I'd say "tell them I sent you" but I won't get a discount or finder's fee or anything, and neither will you.  Either way, if you're looking into barefooting, I'd definitely recommend getting a set. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Food Addiction

So, it's taken me a while to get around to this, partially because I don't really want to talk about it.  But, then... all the more reason for me to do so, yeah?  So here we go.
Believe it or not (and some people who don't deal with this don't seem to think that it's an issue, but there's science behind it) food addiction is a thing.  Check out this article about it if you don't believe me.  But the long and short of it is, for some people, certain foods can mimic the same effects within the brain as cocaine or heroine.  This generally applies more to foods that are high in sugar, salt, or fat.  I think you can all see where that would lead.
The problem, though, is that you don't need cocaine to live, though you may feel like it.  But if you stop eating, you will die.  And this stuff, this garbage food that has this effect on people and (while I'm not huge on conspiracy theories or seeing a bunch of faceless, money-grubbing demons behind every big corporation) it's certainly possible that companies are exploiting the things that make their foods more addictive.  I'm not gonna get into the whole food market thing, because I can't really do anything about what the food industry, or the FDA, does.  All I can affect is me.  And I'm a food addict.
So the thing, then, is to no longer "reward" myself for doing well by going completely off the reservation and pigging out on a bacon double cheeseburger with large chili-cheese fries and a wading pool-sized bucket of coke.  Does it serve the crackhead's best interest to celebrate a week sober with an 8-ball and a party?
The answer, my friends, is no, and if you said yes then put down the lighter and call your sponsor now.
What I need to do is not eat all this garbage that I have grown, over 30 years, to love and enjoy.  I need to retrain my brain, my palate, and my behaviors.  That involves making a transition from the delicious, convenient, cheap food I've depended on for years, to food that costs more, takes more time and energy to prepare, and that doesn't taste as good.  But it's for my health.  It's worth tacking another 30 years onto my life to do.
And of course I realize that once I've done it for long enough, a huge salad of mushrooms, peppers, and other vegetables of unknown provenance that I can't even properly pronounce, will taste as delicious as yesterday's greasy burger, and I'll feel good about it.  I won't have to wait until I'm alone at the house to eat, or try to hide a bunch of disposable dishes covered in ketchup and mayonnaise, because it won't be there.  I'll be proud of having made that transition from what is modern and cheap, to what is good for me.  And that's a huge part of the Primal Shift.
Even as I write this, I'm tempted to type "so tomorrow, i start eating right."  But that's the old me.  The addict.  The obese, neolithic slug with no willpower that would find any excuse to go back to what was cheap, tasty, and comfortable.  He'd take the easy way out.
But the new me, the descendent of Grok, the world's finest Apex Predator, is not going to do that.  I am making this change now, and I am not going to revert.  I'm honest enough to know that I may backslide, but I will not give in and say "well, I might as well get a large milkshake as well...".  No longer is it in for a penny, in for a pound. 
I will make this change, this Primal Shift, and I will stick with it.  When lay dying, at 100+ years old, a shredded old man in my bed, I will be able to honestly say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  Booyah."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Smell of De Feet!

Sorry, I couldn't help that old chestnut... thinking up titles for these posts is the most difficult part of writing them.  Anyway, on to the news!
So, the "Elves" at Soft Star emailed me... my moccasins are on the way!  I'm extremely excited, and as I said, you'll get a review as soon as I'm able to field-test them.  However, in my impatience (I was expecting it to take another week for the mocs to be done) I started looking into other minimalist shoes. 
There's the Vibram FiveFingers, of course, but those are too pricey for me to be able to justify them right now.  That led me to my other primary choice, the huaraches made by Luna Sandals.  And while there are many reasons I am drawn to the idea of minimalist sandals (comfort in hot weather, etc) I have to admit that there's so little material there, I looked at them and thought "100 dollars?  What?  There's almost nothing there!  And they don't look that complicated, so I doubt the expense is in the labor... I bet I could even ma-"
So I started making my own pair.  I found a few tutorials online and, as I'm not entirely ignorant of handcrafts, I went and bought the recommended materials from a video I found.  I'm using PVC sheeting (the kind that gets put in under a newly-installed shower) as the sole material, with a leather insole (purchased at a hardware store and a hobby store, respectively).  I'm using elastic strapping as the laces because, well, why not?
Anyway, I'm currently gluing the PVC and leather together, and afterwards I plan on putting the rest together and field-testing them as well, perhaps on the same day as the RunAmocs (though also likely not, now that I think about it... I can't properly field-test two items for endurance, etc, on the same day).
Well, that's pretty much all I have for now... sorry it's not more, but I spent a good long time today, after getting off of the night shift, at the doctor seeing about some joint issues, before coming home.  I still have plans on write about my eating, my other exercise plans besides walking barefoot, and a whole slew of other things, just as soon as I manage to have both time and energy at once.  I appreciate your forgiveness, Avid Reader, and look forward to regaling you soon with further tales of my exploits.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Once More, to the Summit! (I Paraphrase, Of Course)

So today is Thursday, which appears to be lining itself up as my regular hiking day, as it's one of my two days off and I generally need to sleep Wednesday or I'm busy paying bills or something.  And since I promised her I'd give her more warning next time in case she wanted to come along, I invited my sister and her two children (a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl) to explore some different trails at Arabia Mountain park.  This is us before we started up the mountain.  I'm not posting pics of the kids because, well, they're kids.  You don't need to see them anyway.

My sister is at least as into health and fitness as I am, though she follows a more mainstream method, doing boot camp three-ish days a week.  She also has clearly been more successful than I am, but part of that is due to my having focused more on strength development than weight loss.  Until now, anyway.
I actually didn't find out until later, but I got T to meet me for hiking immediately after she'd just finished a stadium workout.  She didn't even have to change for the trip.
Also, I was attempting to use a new app to track how far I hiked, elevation gained, etc, but for some reason mine didn't work.  However, when I mentioned it to T before we started, she liked the idea and downloaded it, and her's worked (meaning it was probably user error on my part.... curses.  There goes my sense of superiority...) so I had her send me the information when we were done.  We totaled out at 1.3 miles in 81 minutes, with 2712 steps taken and 398 total feet gained in elevation.
Now, those numbers aren't exactly record-breaking, I know, but we were taking it a little slower for a variety of reasons.  I was barefoot for the whole way up, so my feet do seem to be getting stronger and more well-adapted to being bare (although I still have to watch where I put my feet, in a public park that has smatterings of shattered glass, etc).  Also, T had just gotten done with her workout, and, you know... kids.

I did make it to the summit before having to put my shoes back on, though!  Once there, we took a break for about 15 minutes to let the kids rest in some shade, and we all took a breather to drink some water and eat an apple apiece.  Once we started back down, the rock had warmed up to the point that I needed to put shoes on.  But I was really hoping to avoid stereotypical shoes on this trip, so I brought along these!

They're house shoes my mom bought me a year or two ago, with rubber soles and faux sheepskin lining.  They're very comfortable, and have minimal padding inside (since I've mashed it flat with use) and I'm pretty sure the sole is relatively thin rubber with minimal heel-to-toe drop, so while they're not the RunAmocs I just ordered, they were a better choice than tennis shoes.
Oh, I may have forgotten to mention, I just ordered my SoftStar DASH RunAmoc - LITEs!  I'm REALLY excited about it, and I guarantee that as soon as I get my hot little hands on them and have a chance to field test them, you will get a review.

It'll take a few weeks for them to get here, unfortunately, so while I'm waiting I plan on writing next on my struggles with switching to a Primal diet.  Meat is awesome, but I'm fairly certain I have a food addiction and I work at a convenience store for God's sake... temptation, I have aplenty.
Anyway, until next time, Stay Native!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In The Footsteps Of My Ancestors


So, part of the this lifestyle change that I am effecting (hereafter referred to as the Primal Shift, or perhaps "throwbacking" if I'm feelin' froggy) is transitioning to being barefoot.  I'm sure that some people are probably like "that sounds both painful and icky" or some derivative thereof, but let me splain... no, there is too much.  Let me sum up. (Anyone?  Anyone?)
So, there are oodles and oodles of places you can go to find out the how and why of barefooting (my favorite sources being Mark's Daily Apple and Barefoot Ted.  So I won't bore you with my regurgitating of their work when it's likely I'd get it wrong and frankly, they deserve the attention (they're awesome... go on... you know you wanna look...).  But suffice it to say that it's good for you, and it's natural.  Also, as I may or may not have mentioned before, I'm something of an anachronism and frankly I like the idea of getting back to the tribal-warrior state of being that I feel I missed the bus on.  I mean, sure... air conditioning and refrigerators and such are all awesome, but something feels as though it's lacking... but that's a post for the future.
So as far as this whole transition process goes, the idea is to go barefoot as much as possible, even on long hikes or when running, but much like walking into Mordor, barefooting is not something one simply does.  Of course, if you were, say, just learning how to walk at ALL, then sure, why not... you're a baby and you probably hurt yourself dozens of times a day, but then, you likely can't read this and if so then I have a business proposition for you.
Anyway, I have in the past thought about doing this but I'm a relatively impulsive person, so I just went out and bought some of these and then promptly lost my (then 80$) investment.  This time, I've decided to be a bit more intelligent.  And the whole goal of this process is barefooting.  So I'm going to actually work on being able to walk around barefoot before I start throwing money at things.
Now, I AM going to buy a pair of these relatively soon because I want to get to the point that I can wear them to work (being as close to barefoot as possible) but since I need to wear shoes that look good to work, I probably can't wear any FiveFingers (although I need to check on that... their materials would probably be better for certain things, like in case I spill something on my foot or whatever).
Anyway, I'm walking barefoot as much as I can but I find that A) a lot of places don't let you in if you're actually barefoot, and B) my feet aren't hoss enough yet to be able to handle all the trials and tribulations of Earth's bare face.  So the shoes (which are actually designed for running in) will look good enough that when I begin wearing them to work they'll be aesthetically appropriate, as well as being well-designed for the minimalist lifestyle I'm transitioning too.  They're gonna be my training wheels.
For example, on the hike I went on, I had to switch to my tennis shoes after a while which, while comfy enough, aren't helping me make my transition any.  The RunAmocs will be better for offering my feet some protection while still allowing me to condition my feet more.  I might be able to even handle the heat of that baking rock outcropping.
In addition, I heard somewhere (though not the two previously mentioned websites, I should mention) that walking on gravel is the best way to condition your feet quickly.  Now, any common sense will tell you that that's going to be uncomfortable at best and likely not an enjoyable experience, at least at first.  But I am reminded of my six weeks in basic training back in '02, when I had to transition to marching all day in combat boots.  It sucks, but you get past it.
So, we have a hilly, gravel driveway (approximately 680 barefoot paces from the house, down the gully, and up to the paved road, I've just discovered) and I decided to hoof it today, to start breaking my feet in.
I can't tell you how appropriate that phrase felt.  At first it just was a little uncomfortable, but by the end my poor feet felt as if they owed the mob money and had finally run out of places to run, thereby eliciting a knee-capping, flensing, and burial-at-sea-ing.  It hurt, iswhatimgettinat.
It was SUCH a relief to walk back inside on our bare, polished concrete floors.  I do have to say though that the gravel exhibited in stark relief the different type of walk one uses barefoot.  I was looking carefully where I was going to place my next step; my stride was shorter, and lighter, as I was landing on the midfoot and rolling my weight to the ball of my feet, rather than just clomping my heel down and moving on.  Also, I found Deiche to be a handy crutch on those occasions when my arch discovered where Mount Everest has been hiding.  Gamers, imagine walking the length of a football field, barefoot, and the turf's been covered with D4's.
Anyway, strange as it sounds, my feet actually feel REALLY GOOD right now, about two hours later, and I'm looking forward to doing this again, possibly tomorrow.  According to whatever source I read, my feet would be "conditioned" in a few weeks, and while that may be true to some degree, I've also seen a video where a man said it took him a full year before he could wear his FiveFingers all day without complaint.  I am hoping this will speed up the process, though, and if not... at least you guys will have learned from my mistakes!  I'll keep you updated on how this goes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Where Few Have Dared to Tread

So today, as the first day I'm actually attempting to make Primal changes to my life, I decided to add some "move slowly" activity to my life.
Now, I normally do plenty of that anyway... at my job, I spend 9+ hours on my feet, walking/lifting/carrying/standing (mostly standing/walking).  However, I wanted to get out and get some fresh air, and some sun, so I went to Arabia Mountain park, near my house.
I took my hammer, Deich, with me, because that's what Urban Primalist recommends.  You'd think that only 10 lbs wouldn't be a huge deal, but while it was certainly manageable, it DID make a noticeable difference in my trek.  In addition to this, I made some of the hike barefoot.
Minimalist/barefoot walking and running has become more popular lately, and I have to say that after attempting it, I can see what people are on about.  It definitely does make a difference in the way one walks.  Heavy shoes, with an intentional elevation difference between the ball of the foot and the heel, cause people to strike with the heel first when walking, and that seems to me to add impact to the leg that travels up to the knee and hip, it confines and deadens the foot, atrophying the foot muscles that are supposed to be balancing and supporting, and it removes a bunch of feedback from the ground around you.
I have to say, it was like having a whole new sense with which to absorb the world around me.  The path was relatively clear, being either bare earth or dead pine straw (that background image on my blog is from the trail I took for part of the trip) and I found myself taking shorter strides, paying more attention to where I was going to place my feet, and intentionally stepping with the balls of my feet first.  It's amazing how springy your own steps feel when you realize that it's supposed to work this way.
I could only do about a quarter mile of my 2.25 mile hike barefoot.  Partly because my body's not used to walking like that yet and it's going to take some time for me to develop the foot and leg musculature that I should've had in my adolescence.  Another reason, though, was that a good portion of my hike is over a large, flat, rock outcropping.  South Georgia is warm in the Summer and the rock was very hot to the touch.  I didn't want to develop heat blisters on my feet before I even managed to work the muscles at all.
I took some pictures of the trail, and thought I'd share them with you so you can see how I try, in my limited way, to get back to nature.

This is the wooded part of the trail, where I really felt like I was a hero on an adventure.  Shut up, I'm entitled to a little escapism.

 This is one of the stone cairns they have spaced along the outcropping in a meandering trail, so that you can see where you're supposed to go.  I of course wandered off the path.  The goal is to get to the lake, but I wanted to move around some more and see different perspectives of the place.  You can see the cairns in the background leading off toward the lake.

This is a small structure near where the path leaves the woods and you have to start following the cairns.  It reminded me of a weird, post-apocalyptic setting where some people have reverted to a paleolithic state, scribbling pictures and ideas on walls.  I preferred it to thinking about people coming out to getting drunk and high while vandalizing the nature reserve, though to do that I had to ignore the broken beer bottles and marijuana paraphernalia that littered this little place.

I think maybe the outcrop was a quarry at some point because their are clear, arrow-straight cuts along lots of the rock you see scattered about.  These pieces (which I feel could go toward making some very expensive, high-end tables and counter tops) were in a largish pit who's walls were as straight and smooth as the debris you see here.

This picture in particular makes me feel as though I'm in a scene from the Road Warrior.  The front of the sign was so sun-faded it was nearly impossible to read the warning to not vandalize and to report criminal activity to Parks and Recreation.

I plan on making at least one hike a week to try to get out of the house, but I'm hoping to find some different trails in other areas of the park for a change of scenery.  I'll let you know what I find.

The First Steps

I've decided to blog, partially to be involved in an online dialogue with others of like mind, partially to help keep myself accountable, and partially to chronicle for posterity, all in regards to this lifestyle change I have undertaken to effect.
The change, as is indicated by the title of this blog, is to follow a Primal lifestyle.  While I am a Christian (albeit to various degrees of faithfulness... nobody's perfect...), I still find plenty of logic in the idea that Mankind as we know it was not designed by either creation or evolution to wear two pounds of rubber and leather on each foot and spend 40+ hours a week staring at an incandescent screen and drinking liquid sugar.
Therefor, using plenty of input and education from Mark's Daily Apple, with a healthy dose of fitness and exercise advice, motivation, and support from Urban Primalist and Fitocracy, I have chosen to follow the advice of my ancestors and genes, and do with my body what God and nature intended.
I won't go too heavily into what information I'm garnering from the aforementioned websites, as much of that is copyrighted and frankly you'd do better to get the information from them than me anyway, as it would be a simple thing for me to inadvertently misrepresent something.  What I will do is convey my actions, thoughts, and experiences along my Hero's Journey, through the crucible of conscious effort to change diet, exercise, and lifestyle, and out the other end to become what I was meant to be.
There are various motivations along this path.  I am a fantasy geek, gamer nerd, and probably something of an anachronism.  I find plenty of motivation in becoming an Apex Predator, able to face any and all comers with grit in my gut and steel in my eye.  I like the noble, stoic endurance of the Dwarves of Middle Earth, and the thought that my forefathers look down upon me with grim determination and dour, barely perceptible approval of my determination to excel.  And I like me the ladies, and I hear that "six packs" are something that they seem to enjoy, so I think maybe I'll get me one of those.
I don't mind if you follow me on this journey... but I'd rather you come alongside me.