How a naked stranger changed my life forever...
To be fair, he WAS wearing a bathrobe at the time...
Since I met this man, almost everything I THOUGHT I knew about running, walking, shoes, nutrition, sleep, and exercise has been turned upside-down... I have fully re-examined how I view almost all aspects of human health.
I LOVE my job. Since finishing school in 1999, I have massaged almost 1000 people every year.
For over 7 years, I was working in a very fancy, and quite large spa overlooking the idyllic mountain town of Asheville, NC. Since time is limited to get to know a new guest at the spa, I would often ask a question:
"What do you do to make yourself happy, healthy, and sane?"
The answers I get to this simple question continue to offer valuable insight into how I may best serve each person in the small chunk of quiet, peaceful time we have before I send them back into the world. One beautiful fall morning, almost 6 years ago, my guest at the spa was a 57 year old man who appeared to be quite healthy.
"I run about 10 miles a day," he said with a casual smile.
Immediately, I recalled the story I was taught in massage school: The story that explained how our hips weren't quite adapted to running, how the shin and hip muscles weren't meant to be shock absorbers, how I was SO much needed by runners, How they needed me to help heal them from the damage they continued subjecting themselves to...
"So... Where does it hurt?" I asked.
To my surprise, he gazed out at the Blue Ridge Mountains and said, "Nowhere. I just want to relax."
I almost fell over...
Having worked on thousands of injured runners, I had never encountered one without SOME sort of chronic or acute running injury: runner's hip, plantar fasciitis, the list goes on and on...
Until this moment... With a 57 year old man... Who runs 10 miles a day...
And this guy just wanted to RELAX?!!
In awe of this superhuman, I asked,"What's your secret? How are you NOT HURTING?"
I continued,"We're not built for running. The impact just destroys our joints."
"Well... You're halfway right," He said, "The impact does destroy our joints, but you are perfectly designed for running. If you run correctly, there's no real impact. You just don't do it right."
At the time of this conversation, I was wearing New Balance nursing shoes and SuperFeet orthotic insoles. Despite all this modern technology, I was suffering from chronic knee and foot pain due to working all day on the hard stone floors of the spa. (or so I thought)
"I don't run at all," I groaned. "By the time I'm done with work, I'm lucky if I can mow my lawn. My knees and feet are killing me. Running is out of the question."
"Then take off your shoes and stop pounding your heels into the ground," He insisted. "Write this book down, you really need to read it."
The book he mentioned, "Born to Run" by Chris McDougall is a great story, but potentially dangerous: It presents a great case for barefoot running with no guidance on how habitually shod humans may regain their natural gait. (I now offer coaching on these techniques as well as other natural human movements.)
Six months (and a few other books, and lots of trial and error) later, I was joyfully working all day on the same stone floors with NO padding, NO arch support, and NO knee or foot Pain!
Luckily, I had not attempted to become a "serious runner" because I now think that overdoing any form of exercise has it's own set of dangers, even if your form is excellent.
I no longer viewed myself as a damaged, aging man. On the contrary... I felt like a happy, healthy, and sane person who was re-discovering the joys of youthful exuberance! Of equal importance was a newfound desire to question most (if not all) of what I had been taught about human health. I continue to constantly re-evaluate what it means to live a fully human life. Through this newfound curiosity, I have found a large and growing community known as the Ancestral Health movement. (aka "Paleo", "clean eating", "real food", etc...)
Most of this blog is devoted to that deliciously playful journey of discoveries. Come with me if you will, as we look behind the veil of conventional wisdom and so-called "Proven Facts" that don't seem to be solving most people's health issues.
I really love biology, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and many other scientific disciplines that go into the continuing search for fully integrated health. However, I will do my best not to bore or overwhelm you with "science-ey" jargon, and speak to all of these subjects in plain English.
Together, we can explore the "happy little kid, first day of summer vacation, wild animal joy" living within all of us who are human.
OK.... now go outside and play!
Much love and respect- Mo the human