Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Have running shoes, will travel

Exercise is Medicine month is coming to an end. This is the last official post in the series, but I'll be posting about exercise and health on Speed Bump in the future. It is a topic near and dear to my heart and always on my mind. I hope the series was helpful and informative. Thanks for reading!

Merrell's Dash Glove, my new sneaks.







I don't know that I've ever traveled without my running shoes. I certainly can't remember a time and place.

Running has taken me beyond the tourist stops and into residential neighborhoods in Paris, and through all the famous parks of London. I got frustratingly lost running through a city park in Munich at the age of 22 and have worked on improving my sense of direction ever since. I ran at midnight in Egypt to avoid the heat, and ran from wild boars in a forest in Vienna. Running in Istanbul meant darting in and out of busy streets and markets, often with local children cheering and running behind me. I once ran a trail to the top of Mount Sinai and through quiet streets on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Running to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence is my favorite way to take in a sunrise. I've run alongside ancient ruins in Athens and Buddhist temples in Tokyo. I ran in bright sunlight at 10 pm on the longest day of the year in Stockholm, and at sunset along the base of a volcano in Hawaii. I ran with my Dad on my wedding day and with my husband of three days in the hills of Tuscany. There's a lot more of the world I hope to see while laced into my running shoes.

As I'm packing for my next trip, my running shoes are the first thing to go in my suitcase. We're traveling to Spain - a place my running shoes have never tread. We want to travel light and only take a carry on suitcase and, as any runner knows, running shoes take up a lot of space. So in order to meet my packing goals and still have room for some shopping, I decided to get a new pair of minimalist running shoes, aka barefoot running shoes.

The Dash Glove by Merrell is very light (11.6 oz for the pair) and much smaller in overall size than my current shoes, as you can see...




I've been slow to try the barefoot running trend for a couple of reasons. For one, I've been running for decades and never had any foot problems. I figure if it's not broken, don't fix it. And two, I'm not convinced that barefoot running is the more natural way to run in our modern day world with hard surfaces and paved trails at every turn. Sure, it was the natural way to run hundreds of years ago before paved roads and big cities were built. Some new research suggests that running efficiency is not improved by barefoot running. There could be a happy medium between barefoot running and the heaviest running shoes out there as other research suggests wearing heavy running shoes results in more injury. So maybe the lighter, minimalist running shoes are the answer. For the sake of traveling light, I'm going to give them a try.

Have you ever tried barefoot running? The best advice if you want to try it, whether barefoot or in minimalist shoes, is to start slow and pay attention to your form. Try going only a mile or two at first and build gradually. I've spent a couple weeks going 2-3 miles at a time in my new Merrell's. My calves were killing me after the first few runs but that has decreased with each run. I'm definitely not used to them yet and after running for so long with a heel-strike shoe, I'm not sure I will ever be crazy about them. But I'm keeping an open mind.

They are extremely comfortable for walking around in and wearing every day. My plan is to ditch the flip flops and make these my default shoes for summer. I will have no excuse for not being active!

**Take home message from Exercise is Medicine month: Know your numbers! 150, 10,000, and zero. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week, take 10,000 steps a day (invest in a pedometer!), and work to cut the amount of time spent sitting every day to almost nothing.**

Find previous Exercise is Medicine posts here.

P.S. Look for a new series this summer on eating healthy with kids. We've joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer and I'm bound and determined to make it a learning experience and food triumph with the little ones!

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