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    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Inspired by "Born to Be Barefoot" by Christopher McDougall

    Born to Be Barefoot
    Article by McDougall
    Download PDF here
    Reading Christopher McDougall's recent article titled "Born to Be Barefoot" was a great pleasure.  His article succinctly confirms and validates for me the worthiness of the pursuit of personal understanding through self-experimentation and hints from the stories and traditions of our most ancient ancestors.

    Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run" has moved a lot of us to reexamine what it means to be human, what it means to locomote with two feet over the world.  He has reminded us that we are not broken by default and that some of our most basic primal capacities are awesome before the admixture of anything, that we embody some pretty impressive ancient technology worthy of remembering and rediscovering.

    Testing the Original
    Vibram FiveFingers
    January 2006
    Since 2004, I have been committed to rediscovering for myself the joy of running, the joy of primal movement, the joy of tuning into my own body's sophisticated and time-tested tools for survival and play.  That led me to the bare foot, but my investigation did not stop there.

    I started becoming fascinated by the footwear of our ancient ancestors, footwear that has played a role in our species' ability to get to every nook and cranny of this planet on our own two feet.   I looked for modern versions of these most fundamental designs and in late 2005 hit pay dirt when I was among the first to recognize the original Vibram FiveFingers as the perfect shoe for human beings, the first modern shoe that achieved full expression of the most amazing footwear design ever...the foot itself. (see my blog article "Paradigm Shifting Trojan Horses - Vibram Five Fingers")

    Tarahumara Huarache Sandals
    Made by Manuel Luna in 2006
    One thing the footwear of our ancient hunter-gathering ancestors share is an elegance of design, a functional simplicity based on an underlying assumption that the foot is just fine as it is and at best requires protection from the extremes of hot, sharp and cold.  Sandals and moccasins have played a role in our success from the very beginning. Go hither and thither on this planet and do some investigating...you'll find fine examples of minimalist footwear everywhere.

    It is no mistake that the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico happen to be among the greatest long distance mountain runners on the planet.  They have remained true to a tradition of running and sandal making that goes back into our distant past.  Simple sandals have proven themselves through the natural selection of human experience and use. The simplest, most elegant solutions that work tend to rise to the top: sandals like the Tarahumara huarache and the traditional Japanese waraji and the San people of South Africa's giraffe-hide sandal.

    Traditional Japanese Waraji
    Part of a long footwear tradition

    Regaining an acquaintance with our own bodies is a first good step in getting a chance to taste what it means to be fully human.  Learning how to move well in your own bare feet directly connects you to an aspect of the human condition that is as old as time and older.  Every able bodied 21st century primate of the genus Homo can relive the magic and majesty of our species' bipedal mastery of movement in their own default equipment. It is a human birthright available to all, and when practiced well, brings health and happiness by virtue of being what our bodies and minds have evolved to crave.  We know it when we feel it and humans have been practicing this amazing art for some time now.

    Sandals of the Bushmen
    Among our oldest ancestors
    In the end, is barefoot and minimalism for everyone?  Is it the new cure all?  Will it make me faster, better, stronger?  It has yet to be determined, after all, we as a cohort of humans in modern urban societies are the among the first who have ever been so differently-abled as to literally need therapy and coaching to reconnect to our own bodies' basic primal abilities.  With insights from evolutionary biology and the cultures of our most ancient ancestors, we can pick up on a powerful riff of movement that when played through the instrument of our own bodies is instantaneously recognized by many as being the most perfect solution.

    Using health and happiness as a motivator, you will find much to gain in reconnection to the earth and your body.  10 years ago, barefoot and minimalism was barely on the palette of footwear choices available to mainstream America. Now that it is actively being rediscovered, I feel like new-old aspects of movement culture can once again flourish. Running is not just about times, distances and speed.  Running is about human exuberance and joy, about allowing the human animal to express and come alive, about mastering functional movements by moving well in one's original hardware.  All you need is your own two feet and a patch of earth, the rest is up to you.

    Walt Whitman
    In my own personal investigation of running and living, I have gained much inspiration from the American Transcendentalists like Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman.  In particular, I have been amazed to rediscover a similarly inspired anarchistic philosopher named  J. William Lloyd who in 1890 wrote the first treatise on running as an exercise where he suggests that health and pleasure should be our primary motivation for movement, not competition.  I plan on sharing much more about him and his insights in the future.  For the time being, here is a great tidbit he wrote in a paper on coed running clubs and games in the 1890s:

    "I would advise that each runner leave shoes and stockings at home, but of course this should be optional with the individual; next to bare feet are sandals, next to sandals moccasins, next to moccasins, soft, low shoes."

    Deep insights into the human condition are timeless.  Gaining access to some profound insights may be a bare foot away.  Enjoy with gusto.

    BFT

    PS.  And of course you can always take it one step further and run with the animal that has hung out with us from time immemorial, the loyal, loving dog ;-).  I do.

    With Hiko and Edgar in front of the BTR store in Seattle

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    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    Barefooting Joshua Tree National Park

    My 1966 VW Beetle at camp in Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park

    Spent the long Thanksgiving weekend scrambling the gorgeous boulders of Indian Cove in Joshua Tree...barefoot naturally.

    Indian Cove Campground from on High
    (if you have good eyes, you can see the Volkswagen on close-up photo)

    The beauty and primordial elegance of a landscape of boulders is almost too much to bare. One wants to run and jump and play among such wonders. The eye cannot take in enough. The feet beckon to explore and climb and see. And that is what I did.

    The Beetle from Afar

    Most people assume that the desert is totally unsafe for barefooting. Filled with hot rocks, plants with sharp points, poisonous animals...it must be far too dangerous to barefoot, right?

    Wrong!

    Barefoot Boulder Play

    With your eyes open and your senses keen, one can make one's way through the maze of Joshua Tree unscathed and pain free. I must admit, 10 years ago, before I had been barefooting as much as I do now, I did do a day hike barefoot in Joshua Tree and found it to be difficult at the end of the day.

    Many of the rocks, although appearing smooth, can sometimes be quite rough and sharp. But my feet were fine this time.

    Bliss of Barefooting

    I spent several days just climbing among the boulders, finding my own routes up to the top, playing a giant rock puzzle game with endless possibilities.

    Cholla...best not to step on...

    All in all, I would say that Joshua Tree is a barefooter's hiking, climbing, scrambling paradise and look forward to a barefoot hiking group camp out in the future.

    BFT

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    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Half Dome Yosemite - Barefoot

    Half Dome, Yosemite, CA (wikipedia here)

    Had a great time this weekend traveling to Yosemite with some friends and climbing Half Dome...barefoot of course.

    Had no idea what the hike would be like with nearly 5000 feet of elevation gain in about 8 miles, so I brought my FiveFingers along just in case. Didn't need them...the path was barefoot friendly.

    One thing that was really an eye-opener is how many people attempt the climb so late in the season. There were 100s of folk climbing up! A permit is not required (except to enter the park). Next time I go, I want to run up.

    On the way down, I stripped to just my running shorts and backpack. Nothing like the freedom of being able to move through nature with just the bare essentials.

    One of the highlights of the trip was meeting up with fellow barefoot runner Noah Elhardt, 21, who is studying at UC Davis. We just happened to run into each other. How's that for a coincidence? Two barefoot climbers...should get people to start thinking that this is not so uncommon or impossible after all. I hope so.

    I would strongly recommending climbing Half Dome. You won't soon forget the climb nor the views.

    The following morning we had brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel. It doesn't get better than that!

    Big thank you to Lily Lee for the invitation!

    BFT

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    Monday, February 18, 2008

    OC 100 Kilometer (62 mile) Race - Barefoot


    Yes, I know that I was going to run with the newest Vibram FiveFingers called KSO's, but the course was so smooth and I wanted to demonstrate that training with FFs (which I did) did not cause me to loose my capacity to run barefoot. The mechanics are nearly identical, with the FFs giving a sense of security and some gentle cushioning that does not cause the foot to loose the feel of the terrain.

    So, my goal was to run it under 10 hours and 30 minutes in order to qualify for the Spartathlon. All was on pace until around mile 45. I could tell that my legs did not have it in them to keep going at the necessary pace, so I slowed down and enjoyed chatting with fellow runner Dmitri Chechuy.

    In order to keep it as close to the conditions of the Spartathlon as possible, I never ran on the dirt trail that ran parallel to the course. I stayed on the asphalt which is what I will have to do in Greece...for 153 miles!

    Ended up finishing in 11 hours and 52 minutes. Those last miles were very tough with worn out legs and sensitive feet, but I knew I could do it injury free, so I continued. Plus, like many endurance runners, we like to do it because we can.

    A Big!!! thank you to the legendary Barefoot KenBob for crewing me during the race and taking video and film footage. Thanks!

    BFT

    Photos courtesy KenBob Saxton and RunningBarefoot.org

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    Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    Mt. Whitney Summitted Barefoot #3



    Photo by Patrick Fitz




    Last month while climbing Gorgonio, highest peak in SoCal, I suggested to Larry that he should try climbing Mt. Whitney barefoot. He had read of my previous successes, and as a 10 year barefooting veteran, I knew he was up to it.

    Well, that's exactly what we did.

    Larry and his family got a camp space in Lone Pine Campground (camp 38, same one as on July 4, 2005), got some permits and gave me a call. I was still a little sore after Friday night's all-night run, but could not think of turning down a chance to climb Whitney again.

    I drove up from LA on Monday evening, had a bite to eat, went to bed, got up at 4am, started hiking by around 5:20am, got down by 2pm and was back on the road to LA by around 4pm and home by around 7pm. That is a LONG day.

    I went up barefoot and came down wearing my Vibram FiveFinger Sprints. Larry came down wearing his BFT Huaraches. I got up and down in about 9 hours. It was a fantastic day.

    Looking forward to climbing again. I am even thinking about attempting a dual summit climb, i.e., climbing to the summit twice in one day. Dreaming.

    BFT

    PS.
    First Summit Report here
    Second Report here
    Great map here
    Great Video of the Trail here
    Whitney Portal Forum Link here

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    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Pony Cart Adventures

    Photo by Brian Fink

    Took my pony cart for some extreme climbing on Sunday. Decided to strap 5 gallons of water (44 pounds) to the cart and pull her up La Tuna Canyon.

    I am working hard to figure out the perfect way to pull a cart. Why? Because I want to do next year's Solo Badwater Ultramarathon self-supported, like Marshall Ulrich (see here). That means I would carry all my own water and food from the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Badwater in Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level, all the way to the summit of Mt. Whitney, highest peak in the contiguous USA at 14,496 feet. Total mileage over 140 miles.

    I really enjoy pulling the cart. I have created a special harness that has suspenders over my shoulders and a girdle that hugs my hips. When this is fitted just right, it feels good, and pulling is easy for me. Keeping the arms free is key. Also, going up hill is made easier with a walking cane.

    This cart opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities for running off-road in the desert.

    BFT

    Pony Cart Transport Vehicle

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    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Forefoot vs. Heel Striking



    This clever animation created by the Newton Running Shoe Co. is pretty cool albeit necessarily oversimplistic.

    I think that I agree with it as a barefoot runner, but personally believe that each runner has to figure it out on their own. Self-discovery through trial and error.

    The Way of Running.

    BFT

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    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Hansen Dam Barefoot Training ala Methode Naturelle



    Note: I am an extreme and total novice when it comes to MN. Please read the comments to this blog for emails exchanged between me and Erwan Le Corre about MN.

    Please visit Erwan's website at methode-naturelle.com

    Decided to take my video camera along for my Saturday afternoon run.

    In this short video you will see a me running on all kinds of different terrain. I think that it is good to mix it up. Hansen Dam is the perfect training playground to develop your body and mind.

    This video shows the beginnings of my interpretation and application of Georges Hebert's Methode Naturelle.

    I hope to become a instructor/promoter of his ideas.

    BFT

    PS. Music comes from album PHARAOH OVERLORD The Battle Of The Axehammer (Live) I found at www.aquariusrecords.org

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    Sunday, February 18, 2007

    Verdugo Mountains Training Run - A Little Bit of Everything

    Today's run had a little bit of everything:

    Got in about 12 miles wearing huaraches, 8 miles barefoot and 5 with FiveFingers. The weather was perfect, hot but not too hot with winds blowing storm clouds in at the horizon.

    Barefoot Freedom (at Experimental Forest)

    Barefoot Freedom 2

    Huaraches, Rock and Agave

    FiveFingers Rail Walking (video below)

    There are SO MANY great trails around here. I am looking forward to introducing more (but not TOO MANY) to this wonderful mountain playground we have in our backyards, with full-size cats to boot. These mountains deserve an ultramarathon. Winter 2008, let's make the first Verdugo Mountains 50 Miler.

    Proposed Course: Start at Village Christian School go to Brand Library and on the way go down and up all the side trails.

    BFT




    Although it does not look like a big deal, that rail is razor thin at the top.
    I just could not resist that background and my new joy of balancing.
    Music by Deep Purple

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    Monday, January 22, 2007

    20 Years Ago BFT had HAIR

    I had hair! Photo by Graham Haber 1987

    Yep, 20 years ago, I had hair...and barefeet.

    Some things change, others don't.

    BFT

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    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Barefoot Rocks



    Just wanted to make it perfectly clear that even though I am wearing Tarahumara huarache sandals these days, I am still able to barefoot in extreme situations. It is all about being light on your feet and focused.

    As a matter of fact, until you are able to barefoot on hardcore trails, you will not have mastered the technique required to run in low profile, minimal shoes or sandals off-road, in my humble opinion.

    BFT

    PS. There is some sound at the very end of the video...for effect.

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    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    Christmas Rickshaw Ride



    I got the ladies a rickshaw (pony cart) for Christmas.

    I have been taking them on jaunts around the neighborhood. I am going to get strong pulling this thing around.

    The cart is really nicely made. The handles are oak with leather. I bought it used from Mutiny Farms owner Bob LaBounty, the little farm with peacocks down the street. I am going to revarnish it and use it around the neighborhood...barefoot of course.

    BFT

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    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Mother Road 100 Completed 27:38:47

    78 Miles Barefoot, 22 Miles Vibram FiveFingers


    At the Start (Thanks Robin)

    Running Route 66

    The Mother Road

    The Finish Line

    Much more to come as I have time.

    Looking forward to adding photos as friends that I met on the course send them.

    Send to: ted@barefootted.com

    BFT

    My goal for this race was very simple: to finish. I had no pre-set time or strategy. I wanted to feel 100 miles of road. This year I have successfully accomplished my goal of tasting both a tough trail 100 mile run and a 100 mile road race. I know what to expect in the future.

    Highlights:

    1. Hillbillies Bed & Breakfast in Arcadia, OK

    2. Drinking my complimentary Choc Beer at 6 am thinking that it was non-alcoholic.

    3. Running 78 miles on Route 66 barefoot, the last 22 with my barefoot shoes called FiveFingers.

    4. Getting lost...nearly impossible, but possible, with Jon Hulsey. He had a map!

    5. Seeing the Carl's Jr. sign at the race finish.

    6. The smiling faces and friendly folks found all along the Route.

    7. It being so cold at night the water in my Camelbak tube was slushing up.

    8. Lots of animals die along Route 66: skunks, armadillos, birds, raccoons, possums, snakes...

    9. Meeting up with Louise Mason. Her MOJO helped me tremendously.

    10. Running with Tom Christell and having his wife tell me to put on my shoes.

    11. Getting a ride back to the airport by the Canadians John, John and Vincent, whom I met briefly at the Round Barn the morning of the race. Thanks.

    12. Crossing the finish line with Fred Davis.

    13. One can live off Hammer Gels and HEED if one chooses to do so.

    14. Big thank you to Cynthia for making some KILLER pecan bars and date bars from scratch for the pre-race POWER. I fed on them all day Friday as I made my way to Arcadia. Thems were GOOD.


    My email to the race director:

    Howdy Thomas

    Thank you for your crazy vision of putting on the Mother Road 100.

    That was one unforgettable 24+ hour dose of Oklahoma that I will never forget.

    I want to say thank you to all who made this possible. It is truly hard to believe how well everything went for a first time mega-event. Congratulations.

    I have some incredible stories. As you know, I ran barefoot. I ran 78 miles barefoot and was feeling great out of the Bristow check-point.

    Then we started going along those old sections of Route 66. I must admit, they were by far the biggest challenge for a barefoot runner, but still doable.

    Just as I was coming up to the turn where Red and Sharon's BBQ is located I ran into Jon Hulsey who was looking at course maps. I figured this guy knows the way. By the way, out of Bristow, I passed at least 20 runners. I was feeling REAL good and running kept me warm.

    Well Jon and I made a terrible mistake. Instead of going up 181st, Jon thought that we had yet another parallel section of old road, so we went left. There were no arrows pointing one way or the other, so I accepted his logic.

    Remember I told you how I hated the old road, well this road made the old road sections that we ran on seem like butter. I was in agony, but figured it wouldn't last long as I cursed the texture of what I thought was the old route. On and on and on we went, up and down hills (20/20 tells me that would have been unusual for the Route). Each step draining me. Well, what seemed like miles later, the road finally became a field! We had gone terribly wrong. It was very depressing. My goal of running 100 miles totally barefoot was crushed. Now we had other problems. We were lost, we were cold and we had to go back on the same road. I had to put my back-up shoes on and accept my fate.

    Finally, we got back to the intersection of 48 and 181. The police car with the Doc had been looking for us, but Jon was not able to explain where we had gone wrong. We were messed up. I was shivering uncontrollably and luckily got into an official's car and blasted the heater.

    From that intersection, we were driven to Taturs by a race official. At Taturs, the Doc took care of my foot and Jon and I regained our composure. It took some persuading, but I was convinced that it was still doable. After sucking down a couple Hammer Gels, we were off again. Much worse for the wear, but not defeated, and I wanted my name on that shirt!!!

    Thankfully, the motor started running again, and I was able to make it home. A Carl's Jr. sign never looked so good.

    BFT

    PS. I just finished doing some Google Earth measuring. It turns out that the road Jon and I took dead ended after 1.8 miles (so 3.6 miles out and back), plus, we tried to take another road out and had to turn back, so that added yet another 0.2+ miles. Finally, the road we were on was MUCH more difficult than the highway. At times it was turning into a sandy, rocky, hilly nightmare. My wife said that my favorite dog, Hercules, was whimpering for no reason around the same time I was suffering. I do not exaggerate when I say that that was the toughest stretch of running I have EVER done as far as pain goes.

    Photo by Melissa (Warwick Aid Station- Mile 30)

    NOTE: A huge thank you to SOLAR COMMUNICATIONS INTERNATIONAL, INC. for helping make this adventure possible.

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    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Running the Central California Coastline

    Standing on Point Sal; Photo by Luis Escobar

    A big thank you to El Coyote, Luis Escobar, for inviting us up to visit this weekend. What an awesome trip.

    It all started on Thursday when Christopher McDougall, El Oso, flew into Burbank airport. He has been on a whirlwind trip interviewing runners for an upcoming book. On Wednesday, he was in Seattle having dinner with Scott Jurek. Thursday, Barefoot Ted in Los Angeles. Friday, Luis Escobar in Santa Maria. We represented the tail end of a trip that had been going on for weeks.

    My goal was to give El Oso a quick and dirty glimpse of my home turf. I introduced him to my family, showed him around our urban chitty-chitty-bang-bang compound and then gave him the gestault version of my running territory.

    What I hoped to get him to see was that even in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world, one could find incredible niches where all the healing power of nature and trails could be found. He definitely got a good taste.

    Point Sal from another vantage point; Photo by Ronald Williams

    On Friday, we got up early and headed north to meet with Luis in Santa Maria. We spent the day with the Righetti High School Cross Country Team. They competted in the Santa Barbara County championships. Boys came in second place. I was very pleased to meet all of them. Apparently I have become a mini-celebrity for their team. Luis has been letting them do some barefoot training.


    Friday night we dined on flatbread pizza and local wines at a restaurant in Los Alamos called American Flatbread. All I can say is that there is at least one reason I can think of for having more money and that would be to be able to eat food and drink wine like that more often.

    Saturday morning up at 5:30am. We were off to Point Sal to do some cow trail running along the coast. California's central coast is gorgeous and pristine. Our 12 mile loop started a bit rough on rocky pavement in the dark. I had forgotten to bring my FiveFingers, so I was committed to whatever the trail would hand me. Thankfully, the road turned into a trail of sand, the softest, lushest sand one could hope for. It was like running on cool clotted cream.


    Down to the rocky coast we headed all the way to Point Sal itself, and then along sheer cliffs to get a closer look at the massive rock called Lion Rock filled with seals and pelicans.

    Coming back the trail got tougher, both in steepness and texture. We were running along the crest of mountains. The rocks were small broken cubit chunks. They did not want to be friends with my feet, but I persisted and got through unscathed.

    Sugar, the wonder trail-running dog

    Thanks to Luis and his friends, Jeff and Jeff, for a great time and to Sugar, Luis' Jack Russell Terrier.

    BFT

    Photos by Luis Escobar of Reflections Photography Studio in Santa Maria, CA unless marked otherwise

    PS. Further research on Point Sal and environs leg me to the website of eco-hooligan (self-described) of Bill Denneen who runs a hostel near Point Sal. Very interesting character I hope to run into in the future.

    Some photos from his site and his friend's site below:

    Bill at the Winter Soltice Dunes Hike
    Photo by Robert Bernstein



    We Need to Go Back to Our Roots

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    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Methode Naturelle : Georges Hebert 1875-1957



    Update! Erwan's updated version of Methode Naturelle which brings MN into the 21st century is called MOVNAT:

    MOVNAT is an outdoor functional training method designed to develop, maintain or restore the full range of natural human movement capacities such as walking, running, jumping, climbing, moving on all fours, balancing, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming and defending.

    Through practice, fundamental physical qualities such as speed, strength, endurance, coordination and flexibility are developed. Training also necessitates and promotes the growth of essential mental and moral qualities like self-control, courage, will, focus, alertness, and respectfulness, solidarity, cooperation, and reciprocal altruism.

    Lastly, just as MOVNAT promotes the return of the body’s natural physical capacities, it also encourages respect and concern for nature. We train to be able to move naturally, we train in nature, and we train to connect ourselves with the natural world and to care for it.

    "One's got to be strong to be useful, not only to oneself, but to others" GH


    "Any person", whoever he is, if he really wants to live his life to the full of his abilities, has towards himself some physical duties to fulfill, just as he has, in another point of view, some moral duties to perform and some social obligations to respect. These duties constitute
    physical morality. They can be embodied in a double formula: to develop oneself and to preserve oneself in order to be able to help others.

    Appearing in France in 1905 and elaborated by Georges Herbert (1875-1957), the Natural Method is more than a simple concept of training for the body, it is a genuine physical and moral education method, based upon reliable experience and on over a century of history. Here is the definition given by the inventor himself:

    A methodical, progressive/graduated and continuous action, from childhood to adulthood, aiming to ensure integral physical development; to increase organic resistances; to highlight the aptitudes in all kind of indispensable exercises, both natural and utilitarian; to develop the energy and all the other qualities of action; finally to subordinate all physical and manly gain to an idea of a prevailing moral: altruism!

    Training by The Natural Method privileges movement in all its forms. The exercises are classified into 10 families which are:

    Walking
    Running
    Jumping
    Climbing
    Quadrupedal movement ( moving on all 4 limbs)
    Balancing
    Lifting
    Throwing
    Defense
    Swimming

    All these exercises flow from one to another during a session of 40 to 60 minutes and enable complete and utilitarian physical development. Moving about, flexibility, freedom of individual action, continuity, alternation of effort and graduation of the intensity of work are the main teaching principles of the method. The sessions take place preferably outdoors in purpose-built spaces or not, but can also be held inside for reasons of convenience.

    The Natural Method is intended for people of any condition regardless of age, sex or starting level of fitness. It has a practical and immediate application in everyday life, as well as in emergencies or danger, giving the ability to assist others in whatever form.

    The motto of the method,
    to be strong to be useful, is in fact the condensed formula of the following sentence:

    "One's got to be strong to be useful, not only to oneself, but to others".

    Learn more about Georges Hebert here.

    BFT

    Erwan in Corsica

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    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Barefooting the Grand Canyon


    A big thank you to Jay Anderson, ultrarunner and RD of the Orange Curtain 100k and 50k races, and Tracy Bahr, a true ultrarunning champion, for allowing me to join in on a Grand Canyon adventure weekend.

    If you ask the question, "Can one run down the Grand Canyon barefoot?", the answer would be yes. If you ask the question, "Should one run down the Grand Canyon barefoot?", the answer should be, "Hell no!"


    Due to car troubles, we started 6 hours later than we had expected at around 11:30. Even though we didn't know it yet, it meant that we would not have time to do a rim to rim to rim run. Thanks to a nice couple from Tucson for giving us a lift to the trailhead. We crammed 6 people into a compact car. Nothing was going to stop us.

    Running down the Bright Angel trail, barefoot, was certainly one of the most difficult things I have done barefoot. Going up the South Kaibab trail barefoot was fine. As I have said a thousand times, going up is always easier than going down on rocky terrain when barefoot.


    Why was it so difficult? Well, it was not just that the trail was quite rocky and steep, two things that already made it difficult, but it was also filled with hikers, so I did not have the whole trail to select from when trying to find sweet spots to place my foot. Sometimes we would have to run off to the side of the trail to make room for hikers. That was hard.

    I nearly made it to the bottom barefoot, but we came upon a mule train. At that point, I decided I had better put on my FiveFingers in order to help navigate around the mules, plus the trail was REALLY getting to me.


    Less than a quarter mile after putting on my shoes, we reached a barefooters paradise: a river sand trail paralleling the river for another 1/4 mile until we got to a bridge to cross the river.

    While running down the trail, all I could do was breath and focus. I had no time for anything else. Literally every step had to be thought out and executed consciously. There were a lot of opportunities for disaster. Is this zen?


    When we finally got to Phantom Ranch, it was becoming clear to us that we would not have time to continue our journey to the North Rim, so we decided to return to the South Rim via the South Kaibab trail.

    Coming down Bright Angel, I had not been drinking enough. I started up the South Kaibab feeling pretty damn good; however, I was sweating a lot, and since I was only wearing a singlet, the sweat was just pouring off me and not having time to cool me. When I sweat this much, I can get in trouble fast, especially if I have not been managing my electrolyte intake.


    Sure enough, after feeling really good at the beginning of the uphill, I started feeling crampy. I was not peeing. So, I started drinking, but it was nearly too late. Lesson: manage your electrolytes and wear clothing that traps moisture and holds it so that it evaporates on the skin.

    6 hours and 20 minutes later we were back at the top of the South Rim. It was cold and dark, and we were damn lucky to have made it in time for one of the last shuttles. In the van-shuttle bringing us to our hotel, we were comparing stories with other hikers. One guy said that he had seen a guy running down the trail barefoot. None of his companions believed him. I enjoyed egging him on a little. We had a good laugh when it was revealed that he had not been hallucinating.


    As with most adventures, the location is just one part of the enjoyment, the other major part is being able to commune with other runners. Sharing and comparing life stories with travel companions is one of the most interesting things you can do. Each person represents a fascinating tale waiting to be told. When stories begin to intermingle, well, that just borders on miraculous.

    BFT

    PS. For the complete set of photos, click here.

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