Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Barefoot Running

I can't believe this, but I actually ran a whole mile barefoot yesterday.

This was not the way I had planned it.

Before I stepped out for my run, my plan had been to walk 1/4 mile as a warm-up, then run 1/2 mile barefoot, then put my minimalist Vibram Fivefingers shoes on and run the rest of the mile.  But before I began -- forgetting how good it had felt on the other days -- the thought of going out there barefoot made me shudder a little, and I longed for the "comfort" of my expensive running shoes and socks. I turned to my husband just before I set out and said,  "You know, I really don't want to become one of those fully barefoot runners.  I am just doing this as an exercise to strengthen my feet and try to acquire better running form.  I never plan to go more than 1/2 mile of my workouts barefoot each time!"

But -- lo and behold -- it felt so great and so right when I was out there!  And when I got to the corner where I was supposed to -- where I had planned to -- put on my shoes, I just kept going and completed the entire run barefoot.  It's almost as if with this barefoot thing there's another force -- some kind of destiny? -- pulling me along despite my intentions.

I've always been a little unconventional about some things.  I try to tone it down because I do so want to fit in to regular society.  But because I am open to non-conventional thought,  and because I often stumble on out-of-the-mainstream information that makes sense to me, I often find myself following strange paths, much as I try not to.

I really do want to fit in.  I don't want to be strange, and I don't want to do things differently merely to prove some kind of point.

Yet here I have -- once again -- commenced to explore an activity way off the beaten path.  Running barefoot.  And the great fear I've had for many years -- that I am a "character" -- and a destiny that I've tried to fight -- that I am a "character" -- seems to be fulfilling itself before my very eyes.  For I surely must have appeared as such a character, a plus-sized woman dressed in men's running clothes because they don't make cute women's running clothes in her size, carrying a pair of weird looking Vibram Five fingers shoes, accompanied by a little dog with a doggie poop bag swinging from her hand as she waited to encounter a trash can.

As I ran along this way, feeling slightly self-conscious but trying to accept it all and drawing a small amount of attention from time to time, -- (One woman clipping her front hedges saw me coming and called out, "Watch out!  There's clippings on the sidewalk!  There's some thorns in there!") -- I wondered, "How on earth did I ever end up running like a strange character through the town barefoot?"

There are a couple of strands in the tapestry of my life that link barefoot running to my singing.  One strand I've talked to you about, but I'll recap it here:

  1. I came to believe that improving my fitness level  would aid in developing the stamina and endurance I might need to tackle more ambitious works of vocal music.  I also came to believe that fitness would be the best way for me to counter-effect the aging process, so that I could expand the number of years of healthful singing.
  2. I chose running -- an athletic activity I loved as a youth -- and Kung Fu to be the vehicles I hoped would improve my fitness level  eventually.
  3. Despite a conservative approach, my attempt to get back to running resulted in a foot injury.
  4. Trying to cure the foot injury lead to reading information about how our running form may have been altered to accommodate the design of modern running shoes and may be causing injuries.
  5. Decided to incorporate some barefoot running in order to re-form myself as a runner and -- it is to be hoped -- minimize the occasion of injuries which can set-back my goals in this area.

Another strand to the barefoot running still originates from singing and goes something like this:

  1. I was frustrated at one point at my failure to have mastered the skills required to sing more ambitious vocal works.  I also longed for the camaraderie of others with my same passion for singing
  2. My thought that other singers might be able to help me understand what I needed to do to achieve my dream led me to go hunting on the Internet for a place where people might be discussing the issues of singing.  I found a message board community of singers and joined the online discussions
  3. One of the corners of that message board had a place where singers discussed fitness and on that corner of the message board I heard about a blog called The Athletic Performer.
  4. It was on that blog that I saw the recommendation for the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, where I was first exposed to the idea that running without my super-reinforced, scientifically formulated running shoes might benefit the healing of my injury.
Trying to learn to sing brings a person to all kinds of strange places.  I think I am beginning to understand how following a certain passion in life can be the "path" that brings one through the entirety that is called one's life.  And that all the lessons learned from the pursuit of this passion, and the principles that govern the development of skill in this passion will encompass, eventually one's whole life.

The more I read books and blogs by tennis players, golfers, runners, weavers, martial artists, professional organizers, etc.... the more I am learning that the same principals come to the fore and how the discipline one chooses reaches out into all aspects of life.

As it turns out, for me -- for the time being at least -- barefoot running is a way to better singing.  But I would never tell a singer that in order to sing well he/she needed to run barefoot.  I would never even tell a runner that in order to run well he/she needed to run barefoot.  But what I would tell that runner or that singer is that he/she is unique and has a unique path and that each body and person is different and different things are going to work for different people and that part of the fun and adventure of it all is the journey and finding out about one's self in the process.

Perhaps finding this blog and reading about my struggles/trials/reflections/adventures as an avocational singer has now become part of your singing journey? 

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