Minimalist Shoes: Why and how to transition

minimalist

minimalist

I’ve finally bought a pair of minimalist shoes. I looked into it a few years ago when they first came out on the market because a friend who had knee problems swore her knees stopped bothering her when she transitioned over to a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, but they were expensive. Now, for about the same cost as a normal pair of shoes, I have my own pair, although I picked minimalist shoes that don’t separate my toes instead.

It seems that I had the right idea to transition with a relatively normal pair of minimalist shoes instead of switching directly to toe shoes. Minimalist shoes don’t support your foot and take some getting used to. The most common injuries are toe stress fractures while transitioning.[1]

I assume that sticking with more traditional minimalist shoes decreases the odds of toe injury. According to a salesperson at REI, the toes are more protected when kept together. They also said I should transition to minimalist shoes slowly to give my feet a chance to properly build up the muscles that haven’t been used due to the structural support of traditional shoes. My research confirms this[2], and goes further to show that your running style changes with minimalist shoes, so it makes sense to build them into your workouts instead of switching into them for a long-distance run right away.[3][4]

Overarching benefits to wearing minimalist shoes are readily apparent. A recent survey found that while 46.7% of runners that wear traditional shoes reported injuries, only about 13.7% of runners that wore minimalist shoes reported injuries. The type of injuries was also different.[5] On the whole, I suspect that such shoes diminish the odds of running injury because you can feel the ground with every step, which makes you more aware of your foot positioning and posture.  Such shoes also strengthen your foot muscles by removing artificial support structures, thus making your feet work to naturally balance you in motion. For the same reason I choose to do yoga barefoot.

As for how to run, a guy featured in the Oregonian summarized his takeaway from a class on how to run in minimalist shoes. “Stand up straight while leaning forward slightly, and to land with our feet directly underneath our hips on every step.” [6] He also tried (and described) several different models of minimalist shoes if you’re interested in reading about his experience. He also recommends wearing such shoes, and I’m looking forward to breaking in my new pair.

Gluten Free

gluten free

gluten free

The gluten-free diet is a hot, controversial topic these days. It works great for me, but I rarely substitute toward highly processed gluten-free alternatives that are increasingly prevalent in stores and restaurants. By eating gluten free I commit to a healthier lifestyle because it removes highly caloric, high in sodium foods, and most junk foods like bread, soy sauce and burgers from my radar when I’m deciding what to eat.

Recently Yahoo news and Live Science published “Most People Shouldn’t Eat Gluten-Free”, an article featuring two nutritionists who declared that if you don’t have celiac disease you’re not likely to benefit from a gluten-free diet. The dietician was also quoted as saying: “There’s nothing magical about eliminating gluten that results in weight loss,” Mangieri said. Any of us that eliminates or removes cookies and candies from our diets, and replaces them with fruits and vegetables is going to feel better.”[1]

I take issue with the title of the article publicizing a blanket statement that non-celiacs are not likely to benefit from this diet. Also, last I checked, many candies do not contain gluten, so I have no idea why that nutritionist even mentions them in the article. But However, she does have a point that foods that contain gluten are often highly processed and also contain excess sugar or sodium content. Also, most products made specifically “gluten-free” are just as processed and should be avoided. Just because a particular candy bar is gluten free does not mean it is healthy!

A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry just three months prior to this Yahoo article found that a gluten-free diet may lead to decreased risk factors for obesity.[2] The same study states that a gluten-free diet has already been proven to be beneficial for decreasing risk factors in numerous other diseases. And these studies did not limit other food intake for patients! Although such research does not yet prove that avoiding gluten does improve outcomes of people predisposed or suffering from such diseases[3], I could not find any studies that say that avoiding gluten is harmful to people.

Until I decided against eating gluten, cookies and breadbaskets were much more tempting. Gluten free also made me eat more foods that have a low glycemic load and thus reduced my hunger afterward. From taking a couple of “breaks” in avoiding gluten and continuing most other healthy habits, I have found that I feel a lot more energized and upbeat when avoiding gluten. Every body is different, but I have been happy to give up bread and cookies as a way to moderate portions without sacrificing satiety.

The Real Skinny: Book review

If you want to identify exactly when and why your bad health habits creep up, and how you can work through them, then The Real Skinny is written for you.  It’s not just a weight-loss solution, but also offers a strategy to work through your deeply rooted personal issues to develop sustainable healthy habits.

the real skinny

As promised on its cover, The Real Skinny directly addresses 101 unhealthy habits, and provides immediate strategies or solutions to develop healthy habits in their place. It addresses many of the dietary and fitness problems I faced a few years ago.

The book starts out addressing many of the excuses that I used give for being overweight. For example, it discusses blaming your metabolism and genetics for excess weight. Fat habit #2 is: I have such a slow metabolism. I hardly eat anything but just can’t lose weight. The book explains how people who have excess fat actually have a faster metabolism because their body needs more energy to sustain itself. This is something I didn’t figure out until I watched The Weight of the Nation documentary series last year.

Amongst the myriad of tips and tricks, the book also addresses important issues that people with much more serious health problems, such as depression or diabetes, must work through. In addition to helping identify and avoid unhealthy habits, the book provides a meal plan for weight loss, and lots of yummy-looking recipes in the back.

This book would have been a great place for me to start developing healthy habits years ago. Three years ago, I blindly began scrutinizing my lifestyle with minimal knowledge and many misconceptions about what was healthy. The Real Skinny provides a solid strategy and knowledge base that anyone can use to begin developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

What’s this move? Confusion about exercise names

push ups

push upsWhen trying new workouts, exercise nomenclature gets confusing. A trainer could ask you to do narrow grip, close grip, military, chaturanga or tricep pushups and you would probably execute a similar movement for each. Learning a bunch of new exercise names for the same exercises can be frustrating, especially because you’re probably trying to adjust your body to a new type of workout as well.

However, this is why you should keep going! Executing new movements helps your body build flexibility and muscle by focusing on different areas of your physique. Forcing yourself to slow down and pay attention to what is going on in the class can also help you to improve your form.

An example is the variety of names for similar movements in resistance training, which a recent study found significantly varied between certified instructors. In this single discipline each trainer’s vocabulary was different for a set of certain exercises. The study proposed that standards could be developed to better define movements.[1] Until then, we’ll all have to do our best to keep up and know that there’s a learning curve for our body and our brain whenever we try a new discipline or go to a different trainer’s class.

I find it illuminating to know that many teachers are just as frustrated by the lack of standardized names for everything as us students are. The diversity of terms has developed throughout time like different dialects., many people devote themselves to select disciplines of exercise and do not try other workouts. There has been isolation within disciplines even; for example many yogis choose to commit their practice to one type of yoga, whether it’s ashtanga, bikram or kundalini yoga. As a result, when instructors introduce new movements to their classes, they aren’t necessarily aware of a prior name for any particular exercise.

Letting a trainer know that you’re new to a discipline and don’t know the terms for Pilates exercises, for example, should also help remind them to break down movements into simpler, easy to follow instructions. That way you can focus on the physical aspect of the workout and forget the frustration of interpreting new terminology on the fly throughout an hour-long class!

Guest Post: Positivity

christina ross

christina ross

Christina has an incredibly positive and uplifting personality. I could feel her positive energy while shopping in Sur Le Table one day, and sure enough she soon began helping a fellow shopper pick out a juicer. They began talking about her business, PattisseRaw, and her blog, love-fed. At that point I joined in on the conversation and we all exchanged information; I was excited to meet someone who was also living and sharing her healthy lifestyle, but more importantly someone who was incredibly positive.

I recently asked Christina to jot down some notes on what she does daily to stay so positive, and here is the list she made. I am incredibly proud that she references some of the methods I’ve already featured on Fresh Grit!

  • Practice gratitude: Whether I take one minute to acknowledge some of the things that I am grateful for or fifteen minutes it always feels good. It’s an instant pick me up especially when I catch my mind wandering off into the trap of not having enough or not being good enough.
  • Get outside: This is my daily vitamin, Rain or shine I must go outside! I love waking up and first thing going right outside when it’s calm and peaceful before the day gets busy! I’m always in instant appreciation for a bright new day, fresh air provided by the trees, and the beautiful birds that sings songs to me upon waking. Being outside, quiet with nature is a powerfully moving experience. I feel centered, inspired and infinite perhaps because in nature there are no walls, growth is abundant, and anything is possible!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast: I love starting each day with a juice, this helps me set the tone for my day, choosing to treat my mind and body with nutrients that encourage positive growth.
  • Exercise: At the very least I walk daily. Sometimes, I only make room for 15 minutes.  No matter how long or short I have to move to stay positive. I find moving my body helps me release energy that I am holding on to. I also find the moving my body helps fight fatigue, which can sometimes cause irritability, and mood swings. When your feeling blue it may be hard to do so but get to moving, chances are whatever feelings or emotions were weighing you down will have passed right through.
  • Breathe: Much like moving the body, breathing helps me to focus my mind on my breath therefor taking my mind off of distracting thought patterns that tend to interfere with my clarity or positive attitude. Break free from constant mind chatter by taking a few deep breaths and you will notice an instant reset.
  • Be aware of thoughts: By paying attention to my thoughts I am able to correct the ones that are not in alignment with my beliefs. For instance, if a negative thought passes through my mind instead of getting tangled up in it and possibly depressed by it, I can choose to acknowledge the thought as passing by, but I certainly do not need to feed it. If I don’t feed the negative thought it will starve and then I can replace the thought with something positive.
  • Refill my creative heart: When feeling a little less creative or in need of new inspiration I take these feelings as a sign to do something new. Check out an art show, look through cookbooks that I may not have ever considered before, take a different street when I walk. I use boredom or lack of new ideas as a gentle reminder to try something new, to go out and explore. This always helps me refill my creative well!
  • Create something: make time for creativity! Sometimes my creative time is also my mediation time. Just as you might make time for exercise, seeing friends, or eating, make time for creating. We all have great ideas and our ideas deserve some attention too. I find that I always feel fulfilled when I create whether it be a new recipe, painting or planting a new plant in my garden. Creativity is a birth-gift, why not share yours with the world?!
  • Doing kind things for others: Whether it’s buying a tape roll at the post office for the next customer to use or leaving a dessert in someone’s fridge I feel a great sense of joy when I do something for others. A great way to take my mind off of myself is wishing the best for those around me.
  • Walk with a smile and live out loud: I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to meet someone new all because I was smiling, wearing a bright outfit or simply because I said hello! I love walking around my neighborhood and taking a moment to say hi to people, if not with my words then with my smile. It’s amazing how a reciprocated smile can hug me straight in the heart.