Tag Archives: health

Barefoot Running

This post has been several years in the writing.

It all started with this New York Times article about barefoot running that was published in 2011.  I’d heard about barefoot running from some friends and seen the funky looking “toe shoes” around my local running trail.  You know the ones:

As a life-long runner, I was curious.  Even though I had never sustained an injury from my running, could learning to run ‘barefoot style’ help me?  I started reading more and more about the subject, and I learned one main thing: people definitely had opinions about whether this barefoot running was a fad or backed up by scientific fact.

I continued to do more research, and in the Spring of 2012 I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers in the model pictured above.  I took the advice of nearly every reviewer of the ‘shoe’ and broke them in slowly for about a month.  I started by wearing them only about five minutes a day around the house, then I worked up to wearing them outside while walking to pick up my boys from school, and then I wore them on a 15 minute walk in my rather hilly neighborhood.  Everything felt okay, so I decided I was ready to take them for a run.

One mile.  I wanted to start out slowly (again, what The Collective Voice recommended), so I chose to run just one mile.  And I felt great while doing it.

The next day, however, my calves felt like they were both in giant knots.  I did some myofascial massage with my foam roller, and I headed out for one more mile.  I felt like my legs loosened up a bit, but I was working so hard to adjust my gait to land on my forefront (rather than being the heavy heel striker I’ve always been) that my hips got really tight.

I repeated this test a few more times, but I never got comfortable with barefoot running.

But I’m no quitter!  Another six months went by, the popularity of ‘toe shoes’ continued to rise, and I decided I’d give them another try.  I repeated the break-in process, this time taking six weeks of daily walking in the shoes to try and focus on gait adjustment.

Finally, I took my shoes on a weekend trip giddy that they took up so little room in my suitcase.  I ran 3 miles the first day, took a day off, and ran 4 miles the following day.

I could barely walk for a week.

At that point, I realized that I either needed some form coaching (like the video feedback mentioned in the article that started it all) or I should go back to my old shoes.  Not one to admit defeat easily, it took my logical and reasonable husband to point out that I had never missed so many days of running due to injury in the 13 years we’d been together as I had since trying to become a barefoot runner.

So logic won.  I’ve been back in my Asics for 18 months and have had zero problems.

But what about you?  Have you tried barefoot running?  If so, I’d love to hear your experiences as you transitioned your body and your gait into this ‘new’ style of running.

Good health and great happiness to you.



Why do we Warm Up?


As you know, soccer is a big deal in our house.  A few seasons ago, my husband stepped up to be the assistant coach of The Monkey’s U8 team.  As a left-brained fellow, he has read books about soccer techniques, watched You Tube videos of drills, and done some investigation into coaching strategies.  He and the head coach do a great job running a fun but focused practice.  Their hard work has paid off in an undefeated season so far.

A few weeks ago, a fellow U8 soccer coach and friend posted a New York Times article to Facebook about the importance of incorporating a warm up routine into team practice in an effort to reduce injury– specifically injury to the ACL.  I read the article and then shared it with both the head coach and my husband.  (And, because I’m a “safety first” kind of gal, I sent it on to The Bear’s soccer coach, too.)  In discussions with all these soccer coaches, we all came to the same conclusion: it’s easy to overlook a warm up routine with kids because they seem so flexible and indestructible.

Although the study noted in the article focuses on older kids, I think there is still value in incorporating a thorough warm up routine for younger kids, too.  First of all, exercises like grapevines or side shuffles engage muscles while in lateral movement, and that helps not only the muscles but the neuro-muscular connection as well.  For kids still working on gross motor development, this  type of movement may be challenging.  All the more reason to work on it in a low-pressure, warm up scenario!

I also think there is value in getting kids used to warming up before exercise.  While they may not need to go through a specific routine, it can be a good way to help kids focus and come together as a team, especially before a game.  Also, a warm up routine gets kids in the habit of doing these exercises so that when it does become important– especially in fast-growing bodies of adolescents– they already expect to do them.

While I’m excited to see quality research focused on kids and exercise, it’s a shame that it has to be about such a serious injury as ACL rupture.  Hopefully, if we can encourage our kids’ coaches to incorporate a warm up routine into the team culture, we can work together to reduce these incidents.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Hellish High Heels

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People always tell me: “You’re so lucky!  You get to wear workout clothes ALL DAY LONG!”  And while I admit that not having to buy office attire, pay for the dry cleaning, and keep up on top of fashion trends is quite appealing, I do sometimes wish I had more occasion to wear “real clothes.”

Then again, I’ve been collecting a few stories from the last few years about the problems wearing high heels causes women.  Now, before you go dismissing this as junk science and a waste of research resources, the New York Times begs to differ.  In this report, they outline the dangers of high heels as documented by Australian scientists, the first group to study the injury risk and biomechanical modifications from wearing high heels.  For those of you interested in the results but don’t want to read through the study, you’re in luck: the results show that women who wear high heels have shortened calf muscles and they put more direct strain on the calf muscles because of the gait they adopt to accommodate wearing the high heels.  This increases the wearer’s injury risk.

If that doesn’t seem significant enough to get you to rethink your footwear, check out this video of a 3-D scan of a foot in a high heel.  What you’ll see there is a deformed foot that orthopedic surgeons agree is at a significant risk for injury.  These potential injuries may be as simple (but painful!) as a bunion or as serious as bones that have slipped into an anatomically disadvantageous position.  The problems that can arise from these injuries will affect your ability to walk, run, jump, and just get through your day.

I’m not here to be the fashion police.  I’m not here to wish you ill will if you choose to wear high heels regularly.  But I do hope you’ll take a look at these studies and scans and be informed.  Your feet– they’re the key to good understanding in life!

Good health and great happiness to you!


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2014 Goals

I use goal-setting regularly for both personal and professional development.  I’ve described goal setting strategies before, so today I wanted to publicly state my top 5 goals for 2014.

1. Surf less, sew more.  When the kids go to bed, I get 30 minutes of internet time.  No more checking email endlessly, thinking of ‘one more thing’ to do, or wondering how it got to be 10pm so soon.  Instead, my work time during the day needs to be more efficient, and my ‘time off’ in the evenings is mine for creative development and chatting with my husband.  Sewing projects, here I come!

2. Run a marathon.  It’s been nearly 10 years since I ran a marathon.  (I did run two ultras a few years ago.)  I’ve been training towards a marathon in early March.   I’ll decide in the next few weeks whether that is a go or not.  I’ve also applied to run the NYC Marathon in November.  Wish me luck that I get in via the lottery!

3. Three Kids Weekly photo project.  I want to take at least one photo a week that has all three of my kids in it.  I’ll write a short (like 1-2 sentences short) blurb about the image and catalog the collection.  This seems doable to me in a way that putting together an annual photo book has proven not to be……

4. Find answers.  I have some very small health issues that have annoyed me for several years.  I’m ready to dig a little deeper to see if there is anything I can do to treat my body more nicely and resolve some of the annoyances these issues create.

5. Bring Balance to more people.  2013 was a year of great growth for Balance Personal Fitness Training, and I’m excited to grow Balance Virtual Bootcamp this year.  I’m also searching for a place to hold Aqua Kriya Yoga classes in the winter months.  Walking the fitness journey with others gives me a great sense of satisfaction.


What about you?  What are your plans for health and happiness in the new year?

An Active Winter Break

My kids are all out of school for the next two weeks.

(I would say that today is Day 3 of a 17 day break, but who’s counting?!)

While plenty of you are reveling in the opportunity to go skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing, or some other Norman Rockwell wintry activity, those things aren’t available to us here in Austin.

I do have some fun things planned for keeping the kiddos active:

  • Hiking.  Lots of hiking.  We are fortunate here in Austin to have some pretty fantastic urban trails.  My kids love hiking as a way of feeling like you’re a million miles away without having to go to all the effort of packing.  I love hiking because it’s something all three of my kids– ages 2, 7, and 10– can do at the same time.
  • Biking.  The boys are now able to ride for longer distances, and The Stowaway is happy to ride.  I’m thinking of trying to bike to three playgrounds we don’t go to very often over the course of Winter Break.
  • Backyard ball games.  When I feel like any of us (myself included) are getting just a little bit too whiny, I will take it upon myself to break away from what I’m doing and instigate a ball game.  This has an almost 100% success rate in making small people happy again.
  • Christmas Carol Dance Party.  It’s a family tradition.  Mock if you must, but there’s nothing like grooving along to John Denver and the Muppets “A Christmas Together.”
  • After-dinner walks.  We like to walk around the ‘hood and check out the Christmas lights.  It’s a great way to fill that last hour before bed when some people tend to get a bit crabby.
  • While we’re in Dallas to visit family, we’re going to visit the new Children’s Adventure Garden at the Dallas Arboretum.  We’ve watched it being built with great anticipation.
  • While we’re in California visiting friends, I’d like to do a little kayaking, a little tidepooling, and a little biking.  I have some outdoorsy friends, and I need to use their expertise to my advantage.  My kids need some experiences that I wouldn’t be able to give them on my own. (That’s the whole point of travel, right!?)

What are your favorite ways of keeping the screen time zombies at bay during long school breaks?  I’d love to know!

Good health and great happiness to you.

Hamster Dance

There’s been a lot of chatter here on OnBalance and in my community about a new study for kids and exercise, linking their aerobic health to their success on standardized tests.  There’s another study that was done recently in Europe that indicates that our “Hour a Day” recommendation for physical activity may not be enough, especially for boys.  This study also breaks childhood into two age groups, giving us insight into the needs of our younger children (ages 2-6) who are often overlooked in school-aged studies.   I suggest you read the excellent post from the Cooper Institute about these findings.

But if you’re looking for a fun way to get some movement into your day, check out this video from my kids’ PE coach.  The Hamster Dance is the coach’s interpretation of a book character; I love that it was inspired by Beverly Cleary’s Ralph and the Motorcycle (cross-curricular learning!).  Here’s the coach’s story:

“My favorite book as a boy was Ralph and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. Ralph is a mouse who lives in a rundown hotel. A young boy about 9 years old, named Keith, comes to stay in the hotel. The two becomes friends. Keith has a toy motorcycle and Ralph learns to ride it by making motorcycle sounds with his mouth. Keith even made Ralph a helmet out of a ping pong ball so that he would always be safe when he rode.”

“I loved the book so much I wanted my own mouse for my birthday. My mother, by mistake, bought a hamster instead. By the time I figured this out, it was too late and the pet store would not take the hamster back. I was so sad I cried and cried because I wanted a mouse — not a hamster. To make me feel better, Mom bought me a small toy motorcycle, much like the one in the book.”

“Well, the hamster hated that motorcycle, because I would grab him out of the cage and plop him on the seat and drive him around real fast. My pet cat would stop and stare at us hoping I would leave the hamster alone for just a second so he could gobble him up. The hamster couldn’t stand it anymore. He started exercising so he would get strong enough to break out of that cage. I would see the Hamster doing sit-ups, push-ups, and stretches everyday so he could bust out.”

“Which he did. And, he even took my motorcycle.
Boys and girls this activity is about that brave hamster.”

Furthermore, the movements are so kid-like.  But what it’s so awesome is that if you get down on the floor with your kid to do it, I guarantee you’ll be winded at the end.

With no further ado, I present to you the Hamster Dance.

Move your Body, Move your Mind

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As a parent of young children, I’m very interested in their education.  I want to make sure they are challenged at school, learning the appropriate difficulty-level in each subject.  I am also concerned, however, about their “special areas” classes (music, art, and PE) and how these classes fit into the overall school curriculum.

Fortunately, my boys’ elementary school works hard to integrate the special areas classes into the overall learning picture.  My kids go to these classes on a three-day rotation throughout the school year.  While I certainly wish they went to these classes more often– even every-other-day would be a big improvement–I’m grateful that they haven’t been eliminated completely as they have in other school districts.

There are evidenced-based studies that demonstrate that children who are aerobically-fit have twice the chance of passing standardized tests in reading and math than their aerobically-unfit peers.  TWICE the chance!  In this era of public education and the almighty standardized test, one would think that the results of this study could grab the attention of policymakers.  Rather than eliminating or greatly reducing our kids’ access to recess and gym class, we could be feeding two birds with one crust by paying more attention to the children’s physical fitness.

I know that I’m not the only one who advocates for more movement during the school day.  I urge you, my fellow parents, to read the study linked above and share it with the administrators at your child’s school.

If you would like more support in your endeavor to change the way recess and PE are viewed at your school, the Coordinated Approach To Child Health— CATCH– is an evidenced-based, coordinated school health program designed to promote physical activity, healthy food choices, and the prevention of tobacco use in children.  The CATCH website is filled with information about how to bring their program to your school. 

As parents, we owe it to our children to create environments in which they can succeed.

Good health & great happiness to you!

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