barefoot running

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Break a Leg Toe!

Filed in General, Health, Life, MemoirsTags: , , , ,

In show business, people wish each other 'break a leg' meaning that they wish success for the person they're talking to. Perhaps, I've unwittingly taken this good luck wish to a whole new level.

A week ago while walking with a few of our kids, I was walking rather lazily and stubbed one of my small toes on a tree root sticking out of the ground. It hurt but I didn't think much of it. After all, who among us has never stubbed their toe? I continued the walk and an hour or so later returned home.

I did what any experienced person would do with an injury. I iced my toes two or three times, ten minutes each time. This flushes the blood out of the injured area carrying debris with it and allows new healthy blood to enter in its place.

Before going to bed that night, I was aware of swelling in my foot and hoped that it would go away after a night's rest.

It didn't, at least, not completely. When I woke up, my toe and foot were still mildly swollen. Since my wife had to visit our family doctor to examine an arm injury, I decided to go with her.

xray of broken toe

The red circles on these two xrays indicate the position of the break just above the head of the fourth phalange (toe bone).

Our doctor looked at my toe and promptly reported that one of the phalanges (i.e., toe bones) was probably cracked. An xray would be needed to confirm it. We went upstairs to another medical clinic and took the xrays. When we returned and showed our doctor, he was noticeably stunned. The phalange was not cracked. It was broken!

I was lucky though. The bone broke and then reconnected itself. I won't need a surgery or a screw to connect the pieces. I'll just need rest and time.

So now I have to keep my walking to a bare minimum for the next four weeks and I have a new walking stick to help keep the weight off my right foot when I'm walking. And I'm not allowed to wear shoes. I can wear my Birkenstock sandals but not closed shoes. I'm not sure how I'm going to work around this when filming my current TVB series but we'll see. For a further four weeks, I'll be able to walk but will have to take care nonetheless.

But I believe that the broken toe has a purpose. My wife and I originally planned to go to Finland or Africa for the last two weeks of December, but that's not going to be possible now. I believe that something important is going to happen in those two weeks that would not be possible if we had left Hong Kong. We'll just have to wait and see.

In the future, I'll try not to be so literal when people bid me 'break a leg'. Oh. Wait a minute. I've already done that. I broke my right thema femur back in 1977 while trying to rescue one of our cats (I think it was Jacob) off the roof of our house.

1977. In the Gympie Memorial Hospital with a broken leg.

Just for you, I've scanned a newspaper photograph taken while I was in the Gympie Memorial Hospital recovering from a broken thema. Cute, don't you think?

For a 750x550 version, click here.

I was in hospital for 11 weeks and enjoyed most of my time there; watching horror movies on TV at night, playing with the nurses including one great male nurse, drawing, painting and more.

I developed a serious crush for the nurse on the right. She was wonderful. A few years after leaving the hospital, I accidentally came upon her again at her home while walking house to house for a Scouts Bob-a-Job fund raiser. That was a happy day and also the last time I saw her. I pray she is well.

In any case, for the time being, just call me Dr House. Believe it or not, Dr House and I have many similarities. We are both injured on the right side and walk with canes with very similar gaits. We both share the name Greg/Gregory. We've both studied medicine, and of course, we're both good looking ;-)

Bob-a-Job. A Scout fund raiser where scouts go from door to door asking to perform any chores available in return for any remuneration the other party was willing to pay. Historically 'bob' was slang for an English shilling. (here is another good read about Bob-a-Job.)

In my days as a scout, the chores I performed included cleaning shoes, mowing lawns, and painting houses, walls, etc.

In some countries, Bob-a-Job is now known as Job Week, and in some countries, it has been cancelled completely because of fears of abuse; people unfairly paying little for difficult chores. The world as we know it continues to degenerate.

A running update

Filed in LifeTags:

One of my friends asked me how I was getting on with my barefoot running. I had to tell him about the cramps on my last run and how it turned out that they weren't cramps at all. The pain was actually an injury which you could say was caused by not wearing shoes. Does that mean that I'll go back to wearing shoes? No and here's why.

The injury was in the calves of my feet. I say "injury" and "calves" because both calves were injured but the left calf is the one with the serious injury while the right calf has already recovered. The injury was in fact a type of tearing; tearing at the point where the tendons from the base of the ankle connect to the muscle. The calves will need four to six weeks for full recovery. In the meantime, I have to stretch them regularly every day.

What caused the injury? Without shoes, there are no heels to lift my ankles off the ground. Without the heels, the angle between my shins and my feet becomes smaller. On flat ground, this doesn't pose much of a problem but the territory around my home is hilly and that poses a very serious problem. When running up a slope, the angle between the shin and the foot becomes extremely small. This in turn stretches the calf muscle to a length it's not used to. With the repeated bouncing of running, the calf muscle's tendon will eventually begin to tear away from the muscle.

There is one section of my short run where the road begins to slope upward rather steeply. It's a very short stretch but seemingly enough to cause the damage that I've experienced. If I had stretched diligently before each run and nightly before sleeping, the injury would not have occurred because the muscle would have been long enough to accept the full stretch.

Ankle angle flat

The angle at the ankle without shoes on flat ground.

Ankle angle shoe

With shoes, the heel is raised and the angle at the ankle is larger. The calf muscle is slightly shorter.

Ankle angle uphill

When facing uphill, the angle at the ankle is much smaller. If actually running, the leg would be leaning forward at the end of the stride, further reducing the ankle angle and further stretching the calf muscle.

So what now? Well I'll rest for another three or four weeks, stretching every day and then begin the running again. If you never get back on the bicycle after falling off, you'll never learn to ride. My calf injuries are just a learning step in the process of becoming a barefoot runner. I'll be back on the road again soon, although I may have to face the prospect of blisters again.

I promised an article about coffee. I'll deliver it soon. I promise.

No more blisters but…

Filed in GeneralTags:

I have been running pretty consistently now for almost four weeks. I'm running at least four times a week. The distance is not far. I've measured it in the car and my normal run is just under two miles. This is suitable for my purposes because I need to give my body time to adapt. It has been a long time since I last ran regularly and my muscles and ligaments will need time to develop again.

The blisters which my first run rewarded me with (four on my left foot and three on my right) stayed with me for almost two weeks. I had to puncture a couple of them because they would not flatten out on their own and even the simple act of wearing shoes would keep them alive. All of the blisters did eventually flatten and dry up. Even so, I left the skin there to dry and scrape off naturally during my daily runs. I conjectured that the dry skin might serve to protect the underlying new skin during my runs, and allow the new skin to develop appropriately before it was exposed to the harsh surfaces of the road and sidewalks.

It must have worked because I don't have any more blisters. Running is now very comfortable except for one thing. My calf muscles are still having problems adapting. Running barefoot is different to running with shoes. With shoes, people land heel first. Without shoes, you land with the ball of your foot. This means that the calf muscles and ankles become shock absorbers (as they were designed to be). My right calf muscle is especially troublesome but I think I might have a solution: stretching!

I've been lazy. Even though I'm running, I haven't been stretching enough before and after my runs. My calf muscles need a special stretching exercise, one which involves standing a couple of inches from a wall and flexing the knee while leaning forward until the knee touches the wall.

Better late than never. I've begun these stretching exercises and will be doing them at least twice a day until my calves feel better and I can run without pain.

Everything else seems to be fine. My heart is having no problems but I'm not pushing for speed yet anyway. Breathing is also easy except when I'm coming back up the slight inclines in the road. My legs and feet and great. So if I can overcome the difficulty with my calf muscles, I should be able to increase the length of my runs sometime within the next month.

I'm not sure where I'll be running though. Running up and down hills is not good for the body but there's almost no flat road around my home. That's something to think about.

The "you're not wearing shoes!" comments keep coming. People simply do not understand that my feet are actually more comfortable without shoes than with.

More next time.

No more blisters but…

Filed in GeneralTags:

你們能否猜到我們「香港有寶證」今天在哪兒拍節目嗎?可惜這個有意義的展覽到今天為止。明天已經沒有了
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奇妙電視77台

Bare feet in Hong Kong

Filed in GeneralTags:

I grew up in the country, on the outskirts of a small town in Queensland Australia. It's only natural that I grew up running around the farm and countryside without shoes.

Skip forward 30 years and here I am in Hong Kong, still living in a 'country' area and still preferring to not wear shoes when possible; and getting lots of strange looks and questions when people notice. City people simply don't understand, and they usually have misconceptions about barefoot walking and running.

I've been taking my dogs for walks without wearing shoes for the last 4 years. Now that I think of it, my barefoot walking/running didn't really begin until my wife and I moved to this area of Hong Kong and began raising dogs 4 years ago. Rain or shine, I would always walk my dogs without wearing shoes, even at night while walking a track through a small bush area on the edge of our village. So you could say that I've been conditioning my feet for the last 4 years.

A couple of weeks ago, I went for my first run. I haven't run for several years so I'm basically beginning again from scratch. I chose a road near home which slopes down to a recreation area next to the ocean. I ran down and back again, taking it easy with the clear understanding that my feet weren't ready for a full-on run.

That night, I had four blisters on one foot and three on the other. Rather than puncture them, I let them be hoping that they'd go away on their own. Unfortunately, one of the blisters was just behind the first and second toes and it was irritated every time I wore my Birkenstock sandals (incredible shoes to wear, even for a barefooter). In the end, I had to puncture it with a needle and release as much fluid as possible.

A week later with the blisters still present but drier, I went for another run, this time a little shorter than the first run. Since most of the blisters were on my toes, I focussed on trying to keep my toes off the road while running. It seemed to work because at the end of the run, my feet were ok with very little damage. In fact, I suspect that the skin of the drying blisters helped to protect my feet. It's also one of the reasons that I decided to run before the blisters had completely healed. That night, I did have to release fluid from a couple of the blisters.

For the last three days, I've run every day. Running a short steady 20 minute run was a good decision. It's long enough to help condition my muscles, joints and feet but short enough to not cause damage or discourage me from running again. For years, I ran too hard and I always dreaded the next run a little because I knew it was going to be hard. Hopefully, that won't happen this time.

I plan to run this short run for the next three weeks and then extend it a little. With some persistence and patience, I'll be able to run longer distances comfortably and enjoyably before year end.

Today, the weather turned wet and cold again with a constant drizzle. The first few minutes of my run were very chilling but I warmed up and was fine for the rest of the run. My most recent runs have been very reminiscent of my life and runs in Katoomba, Blue Mountains (if that link doesn't work; Katoomba City Council). It's been fun.

I'm cynical by nature and one of the establishments I distrust are the sport shoe manufacturers. They've been selling us bad advice and shoes for a long time. Barefoot running is so much safer and better than running with shoes. Unfortunately, people without a barefoot childhood will find it extremely difficult to adjust to barefoot walking and running.

If you're interested in learning more about barefoot running, one of my favourite sites on the subject is Running Barefoot. From personal experience, I can testify that most if not all of the information about barefoot running on the site is true.

More next time including the advantages of walking and running barefoot.