Thursday, November 6, 2014

The most technologically advanced shoe ever made.

Greetings, fellow humans!

There is a shoe available which is far beyond any technology we normally associate with sports equipment. It is equipped with thousands of microscopic sensors designed to make the sole adapt instantly to changing terrain and traction environments. An extremely powerful, yet portable data processor constantly monitors the information coming from each shoe making minute adjustments with every step to ensure a smooth and efficient gait whether walking, hiking, or even running.

While not suitable for use in every sport, these shoes are extremely lightweight and supremely comfortable and breathable, with a truly custom fit for every athlete. Unbeknownst to the general public, many top athletes and training facilities have used these shoes for some or all of their training with overwhelmingly positive results.

With proper training and frequent use, these shoes can help build maximum core strength, coordination, efficiency, and balance in athletes and normal people of all ages.

These shoes, sadly, are not for sale... The good news is, you already have a pair! We are referring to the natural human foot. 

Over one billion people are currently using the most popular shoe on earth: None. While the unshod populations of the earth do have many struggles in life, their feet are remarkably healthy. 

Those of us who have spent most of our lives in shoes, however, are in need of a serious "software update" to take advantage of our feet. Once we learn how to feel our feet, we can then move on to building the necessary strength and flexibility to take full advantage of our truly amazing and capable feet. I have seen bunions, hammer toes, plantar fascia issues, knee pain, and even back pain improve tremendously through carefully training and regaining a natural human gait. If you have any interest in getting back in touch with your feet, consider the "sobriety test" as a careful first step into an exciting new journey.

Finding Your Natural Human Gait Step 1 

The “Sobriety Test” Exercise: 

Teaching Your Brain to See with Your Feet 

Expect this to be a joyful, but possibly very slow process. Different people learn at different speeds. Approach this as if you are gardening. You cannot force a plant to bloom. As such, do not force your feet or brain to adapt too quickly. Let this be a short time you take every morning to experience the sensation you brain has been hungry for since childhood.
1.     Start completely barefoot on a flat, hard, smooth surface such as a wood or stone floor.
2.     Stand for a moment and gently shift your weight from foot to foot without lifting either foot off the ground.
3.   While looking forward (not down) with a soft gaze, begin lifting each foot very slightly, then gently placing it onto the ground before you slowly lift the other foot.
4.     With a soft, relaxed ankle, place one foot just barely in front of the other foot, then WAIT for the front foot to “invite” your weight onto it. This will involve some gentle contraction of the Gluteal and hamstring muscles in the back leg.
5.     As you shift your weight to the forward foot, gently lift the back foot without “pushing off”. 
6.     Repeat at a slow, gentle pace. If you are “thumping”, slow down.
7.     Try the same movement walking backwards. Notice the sensations in your feet.

After some time, you may wish to experiment with some different textures: rough surfaced concrete, dirt, etc… eventually even gravel. Do not rush this. With patience you can avoid possible injury as you slowly regain a very gentle and joyful gait. In time the muscles, tendons, and bones of the feet will become stronger as your brain-foot connection becomes “smarter”.

If you would like additional resources, click here.

OK, Now go outside and play!
                                       Much Love, Mo the human                

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Where is "Me"?

Greetings, fellow humans!

Years ago in Boulder, CO I was a busy massage therapist working on a wide variety of clients, many of whom were competitive athletes. One particular client was experiencing some chronic pain in her iliotibial band. (This is a common issue for competitive runners and cyclists.) She was training for one of her numerous triathlons and getting massages to relax and to address her various pains. As I worked on the area just above the lateral aspect of her knee, I asked her, “Is the pain here?”
“No,” She said, “It’s a little closer to me.”
I paused for a moment. “I’m already touching your leg,” I said, “Tell me... Where is Me?”
We spent a few minutes exploring this idea. As I touched other places on her body, we worked closer to her head, finally touching her head, yet I still could not touch “Me”. Together we figured out that “Me” was a tiny little spot in the very center of her head, somewhere between the ears. This highly successful professional with all the outward appearances of athleticism was somehow almost completely separated from her body! With some time and a little renewed focus, we worked to expand “Me” to fill her physical body. According to her, the transformation was huge, allowing more pleasure in her athletic endeavors, and better results at the finish line. I would venture to say, perhaps she gained more pleasure from life in general.
Over the years, this example has illustrated what I see as a common mistake in our society: Many of us view our own body as somehow not “us”. We seem to view our physical self as external, like some brain transportation device, or perhaps at times even view it as an enemy. We may struggle against our own physiology in an attempt to “get fit” as if waging battle against some unwilling foe. I often hear people refer to “My stupid shoulder”, "My bad knee", “My lousy back”, etc… We have taken the false dichotomy of mind and body to an extreme. Many of us even look in the mirror with disdain on a daily basis as we badmouth this one miraculous body that must last a lifetime.
There is much debate on what happens when we die. However, I think most of us can agree, So long as our heart is beating and air is filling our lungs, we only have one place to live. Why not live in all of it?
So here’s my question for you…
Where is “Me”?
Close your eyes and take a moment to feel your answer this question. The answer may surprise you.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pop goes the veggies!

Greetings, fellow humans!
It's summertime, and everything is hot. If you have a garden, your cucumbers might be coming along just in time for some serious deliciousness...
If you want to whip up some fresh and truly amazing paleo-esque refreshment, "pop" on over to my brother's blog for a couple of amazing popsicle recipes:

OK... Now go outside and pick some veggies from your garden!

                                                                                                                  Much love, -Mo the human

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Run like an animal, not a machine.

Greetings, fellow humans!

First of all, let me say... I know next to nothing about competing in races of any distance.

I have worked on thousands of runners in my massage therapy career, many of whom have been quite accomplished competitors. However, I personally have little to no interest in competition. I'm not saying you should not compete, so much as I'm saying my approach to running is kinda the opposite of a competitor's mindset. Competitors seem to view their runs in miles and times, pacing, training schedules, etc. I do none of that. I'm not saying competitors don't enjoy their runs, but based on what I hear from the competitors I know, it seems like there's a lot of suffering going on there. (and quite a few injuries as well.)

 I consider running to be "PLAY" and not "EXERCISE". Not that no exercise comes from running, but I think if you goals are to"get in shape", running is an inefficient way to do so.

I run for 2 reasons:

1: Sheer JOY! (see 1 minute video below, or TAP/CLICK HERE if on a mobile device)

2: Quick transportation. (Walking is not as fast as running, even for a slow runner like me.)

About four and half years ago, I couldn't even consider running. Luckily, I was opened to a whole new approach that truly changed my life.

Thanks to a re-learning of this basic human skill, I can run again in a joyful and pain-free manner!

 If you want to go "further down the rabbit hole" on techniques for regaining a gentle, non-impact gait, watch the video below (or TAP/CLICK HERE if on a mobile device). Even if you are a competitive runner, I think this approach can lead to a more efficient and pleasure-filled run. The first 12 minutes is where I describe how and why the important first step in learning to run is learning to walk with a natural gait. The rest consists of a lengthy Q&A/discussion of ideas.

If you want to read more on some of my favorite resources, bunions, plantar fasciitis, and my favorite shoe options go here.

                                                     OK... Now go outside and play!      Much love, Mo the human.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My flying dream comes to life!

Greetings, fellow humans!

Recently I was fortunate enough to partake in an "Asheville influencer" day at Navitat Canopy Tours which is about 20 minutes away from Asheville. If you have never done a zip line tour, or even if you have... I heartily encourage you to check them out. This is a really safe and easy way to get an unforgettable adventure.

Since I was a little kid, I have dreamed of being able to fly. On May 20th, 2014 it happened in my waking life. Below is a "selfie" video I took on the tour:

Western North Carolina is a beautiful and lush place. I love hiking and biking here. It was also a nice treat to fly above it.

OK, now go outside and play!                        Much love, Mo the human

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Every car is a "convertible"

Greetings, fellow humans!

Do you love your car? Bluetooth, cruise control, automatic transmission, power windows, AC, keyless entry... My first car had none of these. Heck, it didn't even have a radio. And I LOVED that rusty old Datsun station wagon! It was the thrill of mobility. It was the wind in my hair, the pure joy of fast movement and the simple visceral pleasure of driving! Sure, it was about as pretty as a stretched out Ford Pinto and smelled a little funky (ok, sometimes a lot funky), but it was loads of fun.

I had a wonderful decade in Boulder, CO where I rarely used a car... I commuted mostly by bicycle. I would enjoy almost every ride (even in wet or cold weather) as I rode through the masses encased in their steel and glass capsules. Since moving back to North Carolina, I find that am part of the encased masses myself.

These days, I sometimes see someone in a roofless jeep or an open corvertible and have a little envy. The other day, I saw someone in a convertible on a beautiful sunny day with the roof and windows up. "What are they doing"? I briefly thought. -Then it occurred to me... "What am I doing"?

I promptly turned off my radio and rolled down all of my windows. (Something quite easily accomplished with the modern convenience of power windows.) Sure, there is no rag top, or even a sunroof in my car, but my work commute changed immediately:

There it was... The pure, simple joy of driving. 

Thank you, random human encased in a closed-up convertible!

OK, now go outside and play!    -Much love, Mo the human.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Agave Nectar: Not so good after all?

Greetings, fellow humans! Please forgive me for the long hiatus from blogging.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a little bit of agave nectar will kill you... What I am saying is that if you avoid high fructose corn syrup you should be even more concerned about agave nectar.

If you're on any kind of "health kick" whether it be an attempt to lose body fat, fight diabetes, or just to feel great and live a long, happy life... You are probably trying to cut back on sugar consumption. Most folks who are paying any attention to what they eat are aware that sugar isn't good for you. You may even be aware of things like glycemic index and glycemic load.

In plain english, the higher a glycemic index, the quicker a particular food will raise your blood glucose aka "blood sugar" levels. In general, raising blood glucose levels quickly isn't really good for you. When this happens, your body must produce loads of insulin and quickly store the excess sugar as body fat. (The exception to this is for post-workout nutrition, which is a subject for another day.) This is just one of the many reasons modern wheat is so bad for human health, but for today, we'll stick to sweeteners.

Many look to agave nectar as a "healthy alternative". At first glance, this seems to be a great idea. Agave nectar is "low glycemic" which means it causes less of a blood sugar spike than other sweeteners like sugar, maple syrup, and honey. Thus, agave is touted as a great alternative sweetener for diabetics and anyone trying to avoid excess sugar. Alas, it seems agave is no better than High Fructose Corn Syrup and quite possibly even worse. How can this be?

This is because the sugar in agave nectar ranges from 57 percent to as much as 90 percent fructose!

Look Here for a list of the glycemic index of common sweeteners.

Look here for a more detailed look from way back in 2010. Or look here for Dr. Andrew Weil's take in 2012. However, we still see the stuff being sold as "health food".

Alas, sweet agave nectar… How we wanted to love you. You are still the dishonest darling of so many health-minded folks. Some vegans still love you as an alternative to honey. Sadly, it seems, like so many food stories we've been told… Your sweet promise turned out to be a lie.

In fact, this lie has been uncovered for quite some time.

 From now on I think I'll call you "High Fructose Cactus Syrup".

OK…  Now go outside and play!

                                        Much love, Mo the human.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Give in to spring fever! (if only a little)

It happens every year...


 It's as if the virile, playful, wild animal within us is awakening from hibernation.

Color seeps from the tips of every grey branch on every grey tree. We see more skin as the people around us peel off their cozy winter layers. The smell of various blossoms explodes in the morning air. Depending on where we live, a gentle chorus of songbirds says good morning or perhaps a raging cacophony of birds fights for our ears. Warm sun bathes our skin. A gentle breeze carries with it more than just pollen, it carries a childish hope of things to come...

As responsible adults, we are dutifully working to accomplish all the tasks in our busy, scheduled lives. However, everything in nature is determined to undermine our narrowly defined "success".

In the brief moments where we walk from our house to the car, from our car to work, or into a store... Spring is teasing us. All of the beauty is begging us, perhaps even daring us to blow off work and go play.

I say do it. Give in to spring fever. Perhaps you cannot fully let go, but take in a few little bites of freedom.

Eat your lunch outside. Go barefoot, as you drive to work with the windows down. Take a few extra minutes to sit in the sun. Stop off and play outside on your way home from work. Go for a quick run in the woods, if only for 10 minutes. If you are lucky enough to be commuting by bicycle, take a scenic route, and enjoy a new path. If you have kids, go outside and play with them. Wade in a creek. Take your dog for a hike.

The animal within will thank you.

We don't have to completely destroy our busy schedule. However, by just allowing a little playtime, we can go on doing all the "to do's" and feel a little happier in the process. Who knows, we might even have some fun!

OK, now go outside and play! 

                                                             -Much love, Mo the human.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Your most invisible ally

Sorry fellow humans, but I've been spending lots of time lately doing everything but blogging...

However, I invite you to enjoy a wonderful post from a fellow human that I have learned much from. If you don't yet know of Frank Forencich, now you do. Here's the link:
Your most invisible ally

OK... now go outside and play!

Much love, Mo the human.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What if "CARDIO" doesn't exist?

Greetings, fellow humans!

I'm now ready to put "cardio" in the same bin with "heart healthy whole grains" "artery clogging saturated fat" and "a good supportive shoe".

Don't get me wrong, fellow humans... I love to move!

(August 2014 update... I am now available as a personal trainer at Synchronicity Wellness Hooray!)

Vigorous physical movement is vital to my physical and mental health. Hiking, biking, trail running, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu... Numerous things that I have LOVED throughout the years could easily be considered "cardio" by most people.

If you love exercise bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, etc... Have fun! I'm not suggesting anyone stop doing any of that stuff. However, I now have pretty good reason to believe the term "cardiovascular fitness" is a cultural misunderstanding of biology.

Please allow me to give a "plain English" explanation:

About 10 or more years ago, my wife and I were a walking stereotype of Boulder, CO:

  • We were young(ish), slightly tan, and relatively fit.
  • She was a full time yoga teacher, and I was a full time massage therapist.
  • We had the typical medium-sized athletic dog that we would take for hikes on the steep trails near town a few times a week. 
  • We rode our cruiser bikes downtown to have sushi with our insanely beautiful friends. 

Essentially, you could have pulled us off a "GREETINGS FROM BOULDER!" postcard.

One day, we ran into my friend "Bob" (not his real name) who we hadn't seen in a few years. He invited us to join him and a group to hike three "14ers" in one day. (To those who don't live in the Rockies, this means we would be hiking up and down three 14,000+ foot tall mountains in one day.) This is the kind of thing Boulderites do for fun, I swear!

A few days later, we meet up early in the morning at Bob's place. That's when my wife and I realized we had accidentally found ourselves surrounded by another Boulder stereotype: the Uber-Athletes! You know,  The folks who train with heart rate monitors, have clothing and footwear sponsors, test out fancy new fabrics and gadgets for companies, model for fitness photo shoots... Yeah, like that. During the early-morning-coffee-in-the-kitchen conversation, we discovered a key factor we hadn't considered... Bob is now a competitive marathon runner. Actually, to our surprise, so is everyone else going on this hike except for the two of us!
But wait, it get's better...
"We've got a race coming up," one of these uber-athletes casually mentions, "and we'd kinda like to use today as a training day. So.... hopefully, you two don't mind if we keep a pretty good pace?" She says with  smile.

My sweet wife and I looked at each other with thinly veiled dread and agreed that we'd try to keep up with these kind and friendly folks... And then we got to the trail:

These "cardio kings" (and queens) couldn't keep up with us! "Oh, that's right," We thought, "These people are pros! They're pacing themselves. We know nothing about pacing. We better slow down, or they're going to just blow past us at some point."

So, we slowed down to the pace of the pros... And our dog started going nuts. He wanted to go normal pace... He wanted to GO!
"OK then", we figured, "We'll go our normal speed, and they'll pass us when they pass us."
They never passed us.

We sat at the top of the first 14 thousand-and-some-odd-hundred-foot-tall mountain and ate our lunch, then packed away lunch, waiting for these super-fit freaks (actually, very nice people) to catch up.
Finally they did catch up... IN PAIN.
Not only were they as confused as we were, but they appeared to be hurting themselves trying to catch us! The rest of the day went just like this. These folks could NOT keep up with us! 

For about a decade, my wife and I racked our brains and could not figure this out! I'm guessing the marathoners are still baffled by that "mystery hike" day.

Then I read the book "Body By Science" by Doug McGuff, MD and John Little...

This book changed my perception of exercise immensely. Among other things, it explains where the myth of "Cardiovascular Fitness" came from! Apparently, it was invented by a doctor who worked for the US Air Force. It went kinda like this... Allow me to grossly oversimplify:

We are all familiar with the "Cardiac Stress Test", right? You know, a person is running on a treadmill while hooked up to wires that measure heart rate, breathing into a snorkel to measure their breathing.
Our good doctor would have a soldier doing such a thing.

  • Day 1: Heart rate and breathing go WAY up.
  • Train the same soldier on the same treadmill for an hour a day
  • Day 30: Same soldier, same speed, same treadmill: Heart rate and breathing are now much slower.

"Cardiovascular Fitness" is born! We all now accept that the heart and lungs are now more efficient at transporting oxygen to the body.
Hence, we dutifully "break a sweat" every day, getting our heart rate up for at least 30-45 minutes... Right? With me so far? OK.

So, what most of us DON'T realize is that this good doctor took his research a bit farther. He'd take the person who (after "cardio conditioning") did very well on the treadmill, and put them on a stationary bike. Guess what?- The heart rate and breathing went through the roof! He could put this supposedly "fit" individual on a stair-stepper/ elliptical machine/ nordic track... Heck even if he let this test subject run outside and his heart rate would go up!

Wait a minute... If the heart and lungs are more efficient, why are they only good at the treadmill?

It took years (and more sophisticated technology) to figure it out. However, we now know that the majority of change that happened from running on a treadmill was NOT in the heart and lungs. It was in the muscles!

By running at a specific speed, on this specific machine, he trained specific fibers of specific muscles to efficiently perform the very specific task of running on a treadmill... Thus reducing the amount of work his heart and lungs had to do... While performing that specific task.

So... Going back to the "mystery hike": By hiking on the steep, rocky trails around town a few times per week, my wife and I had unintentionally, and unknowingly conditioned our muscles to efficiently walk up and down steep rocky trails... Thus creating the illusion of superior "cardiovascular fitness" while performing that specific task! AND... I have very little doubt: If she and I had joined that group of runners on a run that day (instead of a hike) we would have had the worst day EVER... And they would have appeared to have amazingly superior "cardiovascular fitness"! While indeed we just had different types of "myovascular fitness"!

This starts to go into the explanation of the physiological advantages of strength training, HIT, crossfit, and cross-training, but we'll talk about that another day.
If you'd like to spend an hour learning a LOT about HIT, watch this talk by Dr. McGuff.

OK... Now go outside and play!

Much love, Mo the human.