Maybe, with his love for beets, Dwight was on to something after all. While, I might not go out and start a beet farm, it turns out that beet juice can provide increased athletic endurance. Apparently it’s the juice’s nitrate content that’s responsible for the benefit. Although the exact mechanism isn’t known, it’s thought that the nitrates help improve energy efficiency in the muscles. Another benefit of beet juice is that it can help lower systolic blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels.
The benefits of drinking beet juice are dose dependent, with the best results obtained by consuming 240 to 500 ml of beet root juice approximately 2 hours before exercising. One study found that consuming beet juice extended time to failure by 14%!
For men, having enough testosterone is about more than being macho or “ripped,” it’s about health and quality of life. Testosterone is a hormone (a cellular messenger) that plays a vital role in bone density, red blood cell production, mental acuity, metabolism, muscle strength/mass, and sex drive. While testosterone levels naturally start to decline after age 30, there are a number of nutrients and actions that promote the highest levels of testosterone possible at any given age. The key is Creation Based Living (eating real food, getting sunshine, exercising, and getting enough rest), but I’ve broken down some of the specifics as they relate to testosterone below:
Magnesium – Most Americans are at least 100 mg deficient of this important nutrient. Magnesium has dose dependent, positive effects on testosterone levels. Good sources of magnesium include: swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, halibut, pumpkin seeds, and mustard greens.
Zinc – Zinc deficiency contributes to low testosterone levels. Zinc is an important co-factor in testosterone production. Testosterone levels increase with zinc supplementation but stabilize after adequate zinc is obtained.
Vitamin D – Supplementation with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) corresponds with increased blood levels of testosterone. In studies, testosterone levels were dose dependent but plateaued at higher levels of vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D produced by the skin during sun exposure may be one of the best ways to boost testosterone levels, as 15 minutes in the sun can result in up to 20,000 IU of water soluble vitamin D.
Vitamins C – Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality, as well as lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is very similar to testosterone but has the opposite effects. Cortisol is released in response to mental and physical stress and directly corresponds to decreased levels of testosterone. Vitamin C may help maintain testosterone levels by protecting against excess cortisol production during extreme stress.
Weight-loss/lean muscle mass – Obesity is linked to low testosterone and can result in a vicious cycle of ongoing weight gain. The best way to break the cycle is by eating a healthy diet and following an exercise routine.
Resistance Training/Heavy lifting – Lifting heaving weights is associated with increased testosterone production. High intensity exercises activate the central nervous and endocrine systems — jump starting the body’s testosterone output. To maximize testosterone levels, perform compound movements like squats, dead lifts, and bench presses, and lift with heavy enough weight that you can only perform 3-8 reps per set.
Sleep – Getting enough sleep is vital for a healthy reproductive system, keeping cortisol levels low, and boosting testosterone. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
Meditation – Lowering mental stress is an essential part of maintaining optimum testosterone levels and overall health. Meditation is a proven technique for reducing anxiety, increasing calmness, and lowering cortisol levels.
In order to further limit cortisol production and excess estrogen, avoid the following:
Xenoestrogens – These are organic and synthetic compounds that imitate estrogen and may disturb the body’s appropriate estrogen/testosterone balance. Xenoestrogens include chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and PCBs.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive caffeine consumption
Excessive mental and physical stress
The take away: what’s good for your manliness is good for your whole body!
Should you use weight lifting straps for exercises like dead lifts, pull-downs, rows, and pull-ups? The answer is yes.
Personally, I wish I would have known about weight lifting straps when I first started lifting.
Weight lifting straps aren’t the wimpy way out and they aren’t cheating. Straps simply help you target the muscles you are trying to target. While grip strength is important, the main point of compound exercises like the dead lift isn’t to develop stronger hands, it’s to build strong leg, core, and back muscles.
Using straps will allow you to max out the muscles you’re trying to target. As you lift heavier weight, your grip strength (forearm muscles) will not be able to outlast the ability of your large muscle groups to perform repetitions with heavy loads. A weakened grip can cause you to drop weights or compromise form — both can lead to injury.
Straps are especially useful if you workout a lot or participate in a number of different sports. For example, I enjoy rock climbing, and if I don’t use straps for weight lifting during the week, my grip strength is shot when I’m ready to climb on the weekend. Use straps to preserve your grip strength when you need it.
There are a couple of ways to develop grip strength without going completely strapless:
Begin your workout without straps, but use the straps as soon as you feel your grip start to weaken.
Target your grip strength with separate exercises, like wrist flexes or roll-ups.
The take away: Use straps for heavy pulling exercises. They’ll help you lift heavier, get stronger, and stay more active.
Our ancestors practiced this ancient exercise on a regular basis, lifting stones and logs for shelter and other survival activities, but now we rarely do it as part of daily life. Yet, while it’s gone by many names and has fallen out of regular use, it remains one of the most important exercises for athletes of all kinds — it’s most commonly known as the deadlift.
The human body is specially designed to pick things up, to lift heavy objects. The ability to lift things well sets us apart from most other creatures. And since we have this special gift, we need to exercise it in order to maintain optimum health.
The largest muscles in the body (the glutes, hamstrings, core, and back) are all activated by this powerful lifting movement. These muscles, in fact, depend on lifting things for health. The ancient deadlift is probably the best overall exercise for strengthening the core, building strength, reinforcing the spine, and improving posture.
The deadlift can be included as part of a variety of fitness routines. Whether you want to strengthen your back and improve general health, burn excess fat, or build muscle mass, lifting heavy things will do the trick. Weight lifting boosts the body’s resting metabolism, which means burning more calories while not even lifting a finger. The deadlift is particularly good at boosting the metabolism because it activates so many major muscle groups at once.
If you want to build strength and muscle mass, deadlifts performed with heavy weight will activate the central nervous system and signal the body to produce growth hormones, increasing the body’s anabolic activity. Deadlifts also help develop a solid foundation of muscle for improved performance of all types of weight lifting exercises and athletic activities. In addition to strengthening the legs, core, and back, deadlifts are effective at improving grip strength, which can have great turnover application for sports like rock climbing.
There are a number of ways you can go about incorporating deadlifts into your fitness routine. If you want to start with something light or minimalistic, pick up a medium-sized rock during your next run. Grasp it with two hands, then pick it up and lower it to the ground in one smooth motion. Try doing three sets of 15 reps. If you want to get more serious about it, the best way to perform a deadlift is with a barbell. If you’re aiming for basic strength and fitness, start with a weight you can perform three sets of 12 reps with. If you’re hoping to add muscle mass, I recommend using a weight you can perform five sets of five with, or try increasing your weight progressively during each set (a pyramid lift).
The deadlift is an extremely taxing exercise, so most people only include this exercise in their fitness routine once a week. Also, it’s crucial that you maintain proper posture:
Keep your feet shoulder width apart, and stand with the middle of your feet under the bar, then reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your arms should be perpendicular with the floor.
Your knees should be bent and your upper body slightly leaning forward. Keep your back straight or slightly arched, then lift the weight, pushing up with your legs.
Shoulders should be slightly back and down.
Do not jerk the weight. Rely on the legs to lift the weight during the initial phase, then allow the momentum to assist your arms and back in lifting the weight the rest of the way.
Lockout in the standing position, then return the weight to the floor by pushing your hips back first and then bending the knees when the bar is at knee level.
Maintain posture and control as you return the bar.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend watching a few videos first and exercising with an experienced partner that can offer helpful pointers. It’s also a good idea to stretch and warm up with a few body weight squats before performing deadlifts.
Most importantly, have fun joining the ranks of ancient fitness practitioners with one of the most effective and practical exercises known to man!
Being fit should be fun!
Many of us might dread exercise instead of viewing it as an opportunity to have a good time, to enjoy taking care of our bodies, and to move for the fun of it. Dancers know that even though a dance class is a great workout, most of all, it is fun! Move to the music, shake your hips, and let your cares go!
Try it: Do whatever it takes to find a form of movement that you love to do. That might mean signing up for that zumba or kickboxing class or joining a softball team. Maybe it means you need to go walking and get some quality time with a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with. It’s essential to find for yourself what puts the fun back in fitness!
Engage your core
Ballerinas and other dancers are ripped. Some don’t give dance credit for being a sport, but no one can argue that it is a great physical activity–ballet, too! Regardless of the pace of a song, dancers are working hard through every move. It’s what the audience can’t see that really matters; all muscles are engaged at all times. This idea transfers to all kinds of fitness–yoga, running, cycling, swimming, plyometrics, and all types of aerobic workouts.
Try it: If you spend 20 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill, take your workout to the next level by flexing your core muscles while you run. Focus on keeping your hips facing forward and controlling your midsection. Suck it in, and engage that core!
Good posture goes a long way
A dancer with good posture will always look better than a dancer who lets her shoulders slouch. Good posture–sitting up straight, keeping your chin up, pulling the shoulders back–is good for more than your spine. Of course, there are physical benefits to sitting up straight including reducing tension headaches and building stronger core muscles, but the psychological implications are there, too. Research appearing in the October 2009 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that students told to sit up straight while completing a self-evaluation scored themselves higher than students left alone to slouch, showing a positive correlation between good posture and self-confidence. Furthermore, good posture silently communicates to others that you are a confident person.
Try it: Pay attention to your body. If you are sitting at a desk, be aware of where you’re looking. Look higher and slightly lift your chin to give your posture a boost. Write it on a sticky note and put it just above eye level to remind yourself! If you’re hanging out with friends, don’t let that coffee shop couch get the best of your sitting stance. Elongate your spine. Your shoulders should be relaxed but not slouching. Your back, neck, and confidence will thank you.
Stretching is essential
Lots of people workout without stretching. Dancers wouldn’t dream of it. In an hour long dance class, stretching and warming up can take up 20-30 minutes! Stretching doesn’t just increase flexibility, it’s also improves circulation, balance, coordination, and even cardiovascular health. Stretching also improves recovery time after activity, and will help prevent injuries during.
Try it: After your workout warm-up and after your cool-down, stretch the muscles you’re exercising, holding each position still (without bouncing) for 15-20 seconds. It’s important to listen to your body and not force it to go further. The best flexibility comes from consistency, not the feeling of muscles ripping! It’s even important to stretch throughout the day when you aren’t active. When you’re at work, take short breaks to bend side-to-side with arms stretched overhead and to bend over to touch your toes. You may find periodic stretching will keep you from fighting productivity lows and the 3 o’clock Zzzs.
Do it “full out”
To dancers, doing a move “full out” means go big or go home. There’s no point in attempting a pirouette if you’re not going to give it your all; you’ll fall over! One of the biggest corrections beginning dancers receive is to let go, and open their arms. If the move is supposed to be big, make it big! Don’t hold back! This idea correlates to many types of fitness–calisthenics, aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, zumba. Hold that pose with confidence; sit into that squat all the way. Push yourself (within reason of course) and make your moves count.
Try it: The next time you workout, focus carefully on your body and its movements. Kinesthetic awareness helps you to feel the proper way to do a push-up or warrior pose. Do those movements c o m p l e t e l y, fully, and all the way, so that when you look at yourself in the mirror, your moves look like they belong on the cover of a fitness magazine!
It seems most people these days do core exercises for one of two reasons: to eliminate excess stomach fat or to obtain the elusive “six-pack” abs look. Unfortunately, the logic behind these two reasons for doing core exercises is somewhat misguided, and here’s why:
Core specific exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and planking don’t promote weight loss around the mid-section. Excess fat is always burned in the reverse order from how it’s gained. If a person stores excess fat around the abdomen first, then that fat will be the last to be burned.
The best ways to burn excess fat are: improving the quality of food consumed (no refined or processed foods), reducing total calories consumed, doing exercises that boost the metabolism like HIIT and strength training, and reducing unhealthy stress on the mind and body.
While having a six-pack might look good by our culture’s standards, it doesn’t necessarily coincide with have a strong overall core. The core muscles consist of far more than just the abdominal muscles, and all of the core muscles should be strengthened in a balanced fashion for optimum fitness.
Although doing endless crunches or sit-ups to lose excess body fat or to get a six-pack isn’t the best fitness plan, there are a number of good reasons to strengthen your core, some of them include:
Improved posture and confidence
Less back ache from sitting and lifting
Improved athletic performance
Improved comfort in the performance of daily house duties
The core is the crucial link between the upper and lower body, upon which all strength and balance hinge. The best exercises for strengthening the core activate as many of the core muscles as possible (located in the abdomen, back, pelvis, sides, and buttocks), not just the abs. I recommend integrating some of the exercises below into your daily workout schedule. It will take some experimentation to figure out what routines work best for you. Also, keep in mind, they should not cause excess pain or discomfort.
Planking engages all of the core muscles in the back and abdomen area. Example routine – Plank for 45 secs, then do 12 oblique raises on each side, repeat two more sets of the same.
Squats and lunges require stabilizing muscles and target the core muscles in the pelvis and buttocks. Beginners – perform with body weight only (try three sets of 15 with 45 secs of rest in between each set). Intermediate and advance – perform with dumbbell, barbell, or kettle ball weight. For advance and intermediate athletes, dead lifts are another very effective exercise that build strength in the core and the entire posterior chain.
Exercise Ball workouts require stabilization, promote improved balance, and activate all of the core muscles. Some good core workouts include:
Leg tuck: Place your hands on the ground in a push-up position, and place the top of your shins on the exercise ball. Use your legs to roll the ball towards your arms, then roll the ball back.
Trunk twist: Place your feet flat on the ground and lean/sit against the ball with your lower back. Clasp your hands together and extend your arms straight up, perpendicular with your body. Then twist your arms from side to side, twisting as far to each side as possible.
Modified plank: Lay over the ball on your stomach with your hands and feet touching the ground on opposites sides and the bottom of your toes touching the ground. Proceed to lift your upper body up off the exercise ball, with you arms straight out in a flying position. Hold elevated position for several seconds, then return to the starting position. (For any of the above exercise ball workouts, start by trying to perform three sets of ten repetitions)
If you want to get a stronger core and washboard abs, don’t give up the sit-ups and crunches completely, just remember that by themselves they won’t fully strengthen the core or promote excess fat loss. Functional fitness requires dynamic movements and full body engagement. Also, if your goal is to burn excess fat, ab-specific exercises aren’t your best bet. Focus on eating healthy, staying active, and exercising smarter, not necessarily harder!
Feeling achy? Tired? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Groggy? Have you ever wondered if toxins are weighing your body down? Every day our skin, the body’s largest organ, is exposed to toxins found in cosmetics, water, and the air. These toxins can build up, especially if one isn’t sweating on a regular basis. Sweating is one of the most effective ways to rid the pores and lymphatic system of pollutants.
A mineral bath detox can be a great way to gently eliminate the build-up of toxins in the skin that can leave a person feeling poorly. A detoxifying bath will open the pores, promote sweating, and help balance the body’s minerals and enzymes – leaving you feeling refreshed and energized! Here are some suggested ingredients to use in your bath, and why they work:
Epsom salt: contains high amounts of magnesium that is absorbed by the skin and helps flush lactic acid, eases headaches, reduces inflammation, and regulates the activity of hundreds of enzymes in the body
Sea salt: helps flush toxins, soothes and heals skin, and balances minerals in the body
Baking soda: is alkaline and helps balance acid in the system, removes chlorine from water, and softens the skin
Ginger: opens the pores and increases blood circulation
1) In a small bowl, mix together:
1/3 C Epsom salts
1/3 C sea salts
1/3 C baking soda
2 Tbsp ginger powder (1/2 cup grated ginger, if using fresh)
Several drops of your favorite essential oil, if desired
2) Pour this into your tub under hot running water.
3) Step in, relax, and enjoy for 15-30 minutes! (Start with 10-20 minutes if this is your first detox bath.)
It’s important to remember to detoxify gently; detoxing too quickly can leave one feeling sick or overly dehydrated. So as you try this detox bath, make sure to care for yourself!
Try this bath in the evening, when you can go to bed right afterwards. It will likely leave you feeling quite tired.
Drink lots of water during and after your bath. This bath will make you sweat, and you need to replenish your body to keep from becoming harmfully dehydrated. Keep a glass of water by your bed at night in case you wake up feeling dehydrated, too!
Get up out of your bath slowly; you may feel a little lightheaded.
If you can, take your bath on an evening when you don’t have to work the next day. Depending on how many toxins your body has been coping with, you may feel a little sick the next day. Don’t worry, as your body recovers and you drink plenty of water, you will be feeling refreshed and energized!
Do not take hot or salt baths if you are dehydrated, sick, hypertensive, pregnant, diabetic, or if you have a history of heart disease. If you are unsure, ask your doctor first.
In the last 30 years, yoga has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds. For many, yoga is a form of spiritual practice and meditation believed to bring spiritual healing, power, and connectedness. Indeed, yoga has its roots in Eastern religion, and its movements were developed to help practitioners connect to the power of various Hindu gods. While it’s somewhat surprising that science-minded Americans and Europeans would throng to this ancient religious practice, yoga’s focus on the body, its health benefits, and its superficial spirituality have combined to make it a particularly attractive way to escape the monotony and spiritual deficits of our technological society. Here’s the dilemma for Christians: as a spiritual practice yoga is rooted in asceticism/masochism and the lies associated with idol worship, but as a physical and mental discipline yoga has many proven health benefits.
So, is yoga something Christians should do?
Since, for followers of Jesus, there is no law but the law of love, the answer to this question is somewhat nuanced. First of all, we have to keep in mind that God created the human body and the way it moves, as well as the things that benefit it. No religion or system of belief has the right to monopolize the realities that affect human health. If a particular stretch or movement is healthy for the human body, then it’s objectively healthy for the body, regardless of the beliefs attached to it (such as the belief that a particular movement has spiritual meaning). We have the freedom to agree or disagree with such beliefs.
The real problem is not yoga’s stretches or exercises, but the beliefs attached to these movements and the false message of spiritual healing and human connectedness apart from Jesus Christ. Healing and spiritual wholeness/connectedness can’t be achieved by our own human efforts or by doing the right poses. Real healing comes from recognizing that all life comes from the One and Only God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ!
That being said, God created us to move, to enjoy his Creation, and to live freely, and I believe the movements embodied in yoga can be part of healthy movements and exercise for believers. In my mind, the problem of doing yoga is similar to the problem addressed by the apostle Paul regarding eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul advised the Corinthians that eating meat sacrificed to idols isn’t a problem for believers who are not held in the power of lies and idol worship, but that doing so could be bad for the consciences of those still entrapped in lies (1 Corinthians 8). In the context of yoga, a believer is free to practice the movements and stretches of yoga if he has a clean conscience. However, believers who participate in yoga in a group setting might be inadvertently contributing to the power of lies in the lives of those who do yoga as a spiritual practice.
Each believer needs to seek the Lord for direction in this matter and follow his conscience. Personally, I find that yoga stretches have been extremely helpful in reducing back, neck, and joint pain (which medical studies support). There are also several yoga routines I do that provide an excellent workout and improve flexibility. For those who have practiced yoga in connection with Eastern spiritual beliefs in the past, it might be too tainted to continue practicing as a believer. For others, however, yoga can be a perfectly healthy and pure activity. It’s also possible to find classes, such as at the YMCA, as well as instructional DVDs, that solely emphasize the physical health benefits of yoga, rather than the spritual beliefs connected to yoga as a religion. In some places it might be more difficult to find yoga classes that aren’t influenced by New Age religion, in which case using an instructional DVD at home might be the best option. At any rate, as believers we have freedom to live by the Spirit–the primary consideration is walking in love towards others.
In August 2010 I decided to change my life. Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. I knew I didn’t like how I looked, how I felt or the example I was setting for my kids. I knew I wanted to lose weight, but the task seemed impossible. Starting off at 218 pounds (E gads! I’ve admitted it!) I wanted to lose 48 pounds and get down to 170 pounds (about where I was when I got married 6 years before and felt better about myself). Weight has always been something I struggled with though, so the battle ahead was daunting.
As a kid I was always chubby and considered myself fat as a teen. (Side note, looking back now I don’t consider myself fat then. Chubby yes… Boy, gaining a bunch more weight certainly gives perspective.) During my teen years I did a lot of dieting and trying to lose weight. I really had no idea what I was doing and just wanted an easy way out. I was never athletic and hated PE with a passion. Some days I’d nearly be sick over the anxiety of PE class. My motto was “I run for fear, not for fun.” I also had asthma and used that excuse to the fullest extent (I also didn’t understand that having asthma didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything.) Right after high school and into college, I hovered around 175-185 if I remember correctly. I met my husband during the summer after high school and dated for three years. We were married in 2004 and after exercising before the wedding I weighed 175.
I maintained that weight until the fall of 2006, when I started a one year Master’s program. This program really was insane. It crammed two years of classes, internship and thesis into a 9 month period. I quickly learned to eat to
survive during that time. I needed to be awake longer, survive on less sleep and eat what was easy and quick. This meant lots of sugar, soda and fast food. I only had time to peel a wrapper and eat it. The funny thing is that now if I want more energy and to think better I’d eat healthy, because eating poorly makes me feel sluggish and icky. I gained 10 pounds during those 9 months. I justified eating this way because of needing to survive the program, and I would stop eating this way when it was done. I didn’t. I kept eating this way. Easy and quick was in fact easy and quick and tasty. Even now from time to time, when I’m feeling tired and need a pick-me-up, I can catch myself thinking at first that I should get something sweet or a soda. I made myself think that I was eating differently after graduation, but my calorie counts still stayed high and the quantities were big.
By the time 2009 rolled around I was 215 pounds. In April 2009 I lost 15 pounds, but after a car accident in December 2009 I gained that weight back plus three pounds. The car accident left me with back problems. I couldn’t do much of anything. No picking up the kids, bending over, moving much…sitting and standing both hurt a lot, so exercise was off the map. My life became more sedentary, but my eating habits stayed the same.
Thankfully, after a lot of prayer and physical therapy, I slowly became better, but I really wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I didn’t want this to be my example to my children, and I hated being in photos. I knew I would probably feel better if I lost weight too (and boy was that an understatement).
One year ago, in August 2010, I didn’t think I’d be able to lose so much weight. In fact I felt it was next to impossible, but I started off striving for one pound, then two, then three… and so on. Now I’m down 42.5 pounds, and weigh 175.5 pounds. The funny thing is that I now wear a size 10, and the last time I weighed this I wore a size 12. Gaining muscle & losing fat makes a difference. Five and a half pounds to go until I reach my first goal weight!
I started off using two months of Nutrisystem. I like Nutrisystem, because it uses real food, tastes good and gave me an outline for how I needed to eat. After that I mimicked the plan’s calorie count, food group balancing and other nutrients. The rest is history. I started off with 1600 calories a day and am now down to about 1500 calories a day (with doctor’s approval of course) — as I’ve lost weight I’ve needed less/day to keep up the same weight loss/week. If you have an iPhone, you have to use the LoseIt app! I wouldn’t have been able to do it with out that app!
I also started running in September 2010. I hated running. Remember, my motto for running was “I run for fear, not for fun.” But on a fateful girls’ night out my friend (who has lost a lot of weight herself) encouraged me to do a 5K and told me about Couch to 5K. I looked up the program and it seemed reasonable. It would give me a good training plan, and I’d lose weight along the way.
On October 30th I did my first 5K after only 5 weeks of training. I thought I was going to die, but I did it! On Thanksgiving, two days after my Papa died, I did my second 5K after finishing 9 weeks of training. God and running got me through my Papa’s illness and death. After finishing the 5K training program my friends encouraged me to move onto a 10K. Why not? This was getting addicting and that was only twice the 5K. Of course there was Bridge to 10K to help, and I loved it as much as the first program! Sometime after my first 5K, a friend coerced me into doing a half-marathon. On Superbowl Sunday of this year I did my first 10K, and in March I did a half-marathon. In May I ran my second 10K.
I’m currently training for my second half-marathon on October 2nd. I have gone from a person who dreads running to someone who gets restless if I go a couple days without running. In April I also had the opportunity to run a 5K with a friend who ran her first 5K. I’m still slower than I’d like to be, but I’ve come a long, long ways from the girl who couldn’t even run a minute. My first mile time was over 18 minutes and my most recent personal record was 10:10. I get so excited to see my progress and how far I’ve come.
During my journey, I’ve also grown deeper relationships with my friends. A group of us would meet every weekend to run, jog or walk at whatever pace we were at and however far we were going. We bonded so much during this time and cheered each other on. It was helpful knowing that there were people waiting to meet, so I couldn’t bail, and who understood what I was going through too. My dear friend and I ran alongside each other in the 10K and half-marathon pushing each other on when the other needed encouragement.
Running has also deepened my relationship with God. It has taught me another side of Him. It has taught me about endurance in Him, trusting Him and caring for the body He’s given me. There have been many, many runs where each step was done in prayer. He taught me that He will provide me strength and sustain me. He taught me that He knows what is ahead and has a plan for me. These lessons learned while running have overflowed into other areas of my life as well. Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I had no idea how many areas of my life would change. I didn’t know I would be happier and focus better. I didn’t know my friendships would deepen. I certainly didn’t know that I would inspire others. I didn’t do this to inspire others. I started off selfishly to change myself. Thankfully God has used my selfish intentions and is using my journey to inspire others. I couldn’t have done any of this without God, my friends, my husband and my kids. I’m proud that I’m setting a good example for my children, especially my daughter. I hope and pray that my kids won’t struggle with weight and food the way I have.
At the end of last August, I started trying a yoga dvd, bought a $50 treadmill and took my first step. Then there was that fateful girls’ night out when a friend told me about Couch to 5K and said she’d run a 5K with me. And I said “Why not?” That seemed like it would be a good goal. I had no idea that moment was really the start of three 5K’s, two 10K’s, a half marathon, training for another half marathon, a blog and motivating others. I’ve lost 42.5 pounds, gained a ton of self confidence, deepened friendships and overhauled my life. Now I am the example I want to be to my kids. In fact recently my kids were talking about how they’re growing and getting bigger, when my daughter piped up, “Mommy, you’re shrinking!” Why yes I am.
During the past few years of my barefoot running career, barefoot running has taken off in popularity. I truly believe in the health benefits of barefoot running, and have experienced several benefits myself. For one, I no longer get painful shin splints. Secondly, my previous knee injury no longer causes me pain. Moreover, my feet and calves are greatly strengthened, and I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet. Nevertheless, many people have experienced negative effects from barefoot running, namely foot injuries. A stress fracture to one of the metatarsal bones is the most common barefoot running injury. Enough injuries have taken place that many podiatrists and orthopedists are discouraging barefoot running altogether. Yet, take a look at the cause of stress fractures as described straight from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeon’s website: “Stress fractures often are the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly.” In other words, barefoot running isn’t the cause of stress fractures, it’s jumping into something your body has never done too quickly! Stress fractures are also more common in women than men, and it’s important to make sure you’re obtaining proper nutrition to support bone health, especially calcium and vitamin D.
Barefoot running is healthier for your feet, joints, and spine, but it’s a technique that must be learned and eased into. Most people never walk or run barefoot except on the beach. Our feet are weak, deformed, and shoe-dependent from wearing shoes all our lives. Feet need to be strengthened slowly. As your feet are strengthened by walking barefoot around the block a few times, then adding progressively longer runs, muscles will develop that support the metatarsals, and your bones will strengthen. Many people are excited about the idea of running barefoot, which is awesome; yet, few are willing to start out completely barefoot. The cool new “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes are oh so enticing and cultural norms of keeping feet shod are difficult to let go of, but starting out with minimalist shoes without learning to properly run in the barefoot style will result in a stress fracture! The importance of running COMPLETELY barefooted before wearing minimalist shoes cannot be overemphasized. Feet have one of the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body. These nerve endings aren’t meant to be covered up and ignored; they’re meant to teach you how to run softly. If you follow my advice, and ease into running barefoot, you’ll avoid a stress fracture and eventually reap the benefits of running the way your were designed to run!
Regarding barefoot sprinting, yes, it is possible to sprint barefooted. In fact, sprinting techniques closely resemble running barefoot at moderate speeds. Proper form involves keeping the body relaxed, slightly lifting the toes while in the air, and striking the ball of the foot first (this does not look like running on your toes. In fact, if you watch sprinters it almost looks like they land flat-footed). Again, it’s important to work up to sprinting in general, let alone sprinting barefooted. Your body is perfectly capable of sprinting without shoes, but you shouldn’t and can’t go from 0 to 20mph overnight! As you progressively add mileage and speed to your barefoot running routine, slowly add short sprints and build from there. Sprints are a more aggressive form of running and you will not land on your heel but primarily on the ball and midsection of the foot. For more information about barefoot running, check out my previous blog.