Do it Barefoot! See if minimalist running can benefit you.
Get your yoga on! Find the perfect yoga for your lifestyle.
Other Stories Barefoot Running Training Tips Page 5
Running and Yoga Go Hand in Hand Page 6
Yoga Quick Tips Page 11
Cover Stories Do it Barefoot! See if minimalist running can benefit you. Page 4
Get your Yoga On! Find the perfect yoga for your lifestyle. Page 8
From the Editor
a few of our contributers
Iâ€™m so excited to get this monthâ€™s issue to all of my readers. For as long as I can remember, I have always been involved in athletics. Not until this past year though, have I really found a great combination of exercises that have put my body and mind in tune with eachother. In this issue of Sculpt Magazine, I am sharing with you some information on the two exercises that I take most joy in; yoga and barefoot (or minimalist) running. I hope they are as successful for all of you as they have been for me. Enjoy your winter, find a yoga gym nearby that you can try out, and start working on your barefoot training! See you in February!
Jessica Mullis Editor-in-Chief
All of us here at Sculpt Magazine, as well as our many readers are very thankful to have the help that we do. Thanks to all of our contributors with this January issue. It could not be such a success without you!
Is It For You? By Ann Chandler
It’s November in Vancouver, the temperature is just below zero, and a mixture of snow and sleet blankets the pavement and settles on trees. A group of runners is completing a 10K run on the University of British Columbia’s picturesque campus. One slender figure in the group appears to be skipping lightly across the frozen pavement, with a shorter stride and more upright posture than the others. That’s because she’s not wearing shoes. With every step she takes on the asphalt, Katie Kift of Port Moody, B.C., feels the slush, the cold and the bumpy surface, and to her, it’s an elixir. Kift is not alone. She started the first Canadian chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society, and this growing U.S.-based organization now has a second chapter in Toronto. Barefoot running has passionate followers who believe that not wearing shoes for running puts the body into a more natural, safer posture.
“That’s because she’s not wearing shoes.”
Kift, 38, decided to take up running a few years ago when a diagnostic X-ray showing early degenerative changes in her spine prompted her to take action. After being fitted with the proper running shoes, she was enjoying running and had worked up to a 5K when she developed a stress fracture in one heel. Disappointed, Kift consulted the Internet for information on stress fractures, and discovered barefoot running. She be-
Training Tips By Kate Siber “Barefoot” Ted McDonald played a lively and central role in Christopher McDougall’s breakout book, Born to Run, with a simple but revolutionary message: “Some of the best technology you’ll ever own when it comes to footwear is the one you’ve already been given by your ancestors,” he says. The barefoot-running guru still runs shoeless, coaches barefoot newbies in Seattle, and owns Luna Sandals, a barefoot-sandal company. He has also become a leading spokesman for the wonders of barefoot running, particularly for those with injuries stemming from footwear. But there’s also the pure pleasure of running as we were designed. “There’s this feeling of lightness and connectedness to our own bodies,” says McDonald. 1. TRANSITION SLOWLY McDonald coined a term for an affliction that hits many novice barefoot runners: the overexuberance factor. “So many people are so completely blown away at how comfortable and amazing it feels to start moving this way that they overexuberate,” says McDonald. It takes time to transition to barefoot running, and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. Often it can take more than a year. Instead, McDonald encourages new barefoot runners to shoot for a different goal—honing body awareness—rather than building mileage or speed. Gather advice from others who have made the transition at online forums like Minimalist Runner, a Google group that McDonald founded. 2. BE SILENT The first rule of tuning in to the body is simple: Be silent. When McDonald coaches newbie runners, he asks them to cup their ears while they walk in their shoes. Then they remove their shoes and do the same thing. When walking barefoot, humans intuitively move their weight into their forefoot to decrease the impact on their heels. All of a sudden, the sound of movement ceases. “My joke is there’s a hall in heaven of people who raise their hand when the question is, ‘Who didn’t hear when it was coming?’” says McDonald. “All great hunting animals are extraordinarily quiet when they move, and the reason is they’re extraordinarily efficient. We are definitely one of those.” Running quietly translates to running gently—a must for barefoot runners. 3. QUICKEN YOUR CADENCE Barefoot runners have an unmistakably different stride than road or trail runners. It’s not only lighter and quieter but the strides are shorter and faster. “There’s all these people who have numbers and digits and times and ways to quicken your cadence, but I believe it comes perfectly naturally by just simply tuning into yourself.” McDonald says that transitioning to about 180 steps per minute softens impact on rough, hard, or rocky surfaces. “Being able to tolerate and move over those surfaces, you begin to recognize and remember that feeling of lightness and then carry it over even when you’re wearing shoes,” says McDonald. 4. FINE-TUNE YOUR BALANCE Picture this: You’re standing on a balance beam with a basket on your head. Your knees are bent and springy, your head is stacked on your shoulders, and your core is engaged. This is perfect balance, a miraculous piece of human software we all have. “Balance isn’t something you have to think about, it’s something you tune into,” says McDonald. “I want people to learn to preserve that feeling of balance, like they’re walking on a balance beam, when they’re running.” That razor-reactive sensation not only helps runners stay upright on challenging terrain, but it also keeps the body light and agile. 5. TUNE IN TO YOUR BODY McDonald’s biggest piece of advice is seemingly simple: Cultivate an awareness of your body. But it’s easier said than done. Put away the headphones and consider running alone to block out distractions, says McDonald. “Trying to reconnect to your own body and particularly your foot, which is a very complex thing, is not something where you just buy something and you’re done,” he says. “It’s not like that at all. It’s a rethinking about what it means to be human.” In other words, barefoot running is a change in mindset as much as a change in stride. “Ultimately, once you can no longer maintain any of these three things that I consider to be the hazard lights on the dashboard of this ancient technology—anytime you are no longer able to move gently, no longer able to have as quick a cadence, no longer able to maintain that balance—it’s time to pull over,” says McDonald. “It’s not in your head, it’s how you feel.”
gan training on an indoor track. When she found out running in bare feet was against the rules, she took to the trails near her home—and she hasn’t looked back. But what about the pain, or possible injury? Seasoned barefooters say you build thicker skin on your soles. But there’s also the option of “minimalist” shoes, which are flexible and lightweight, with thin soles and less heel height than traditional running shoes. One of the first was the Vibram FiveFingers, introduced in Italy and the U.S. in 2006, but there are many more on the market now.
thinks the trend may be slower to catch on in Canada, “it’s not going to go away.” Vanessa Rodriguez of Toronto began running at age 24 to help her cope with stress, but recently switched to barefoot. “I generally run on trails,” says the 29-yearold online editor and nutritionist. “I like the feeling of being barefoot. It’s not just exercise: It’s a mind-body experience.”
“I feel more natural;
Obviously, barefoot runners anywhere east of B.C.’s southwestern coastal area face colder temperatures and more snow when running in the Canadian winter. Though Rodriguez knows runners who will brave temperatures as low as –15°C, she dons minimalist shoes when the temperature dips below zero, adding socks for warmth and prevention of blisters. These are one of the most common barefoot running injuries, especially during the beginning stages, according to Australia’s Dr. Craig Richards and American Thomas Hollowell, authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Barefoot Running.
my running is not as
“When running barefoot, the foot and ankle play an increased role in impact absorption,” says Michael Ryan, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison whose research focuses on sports medicine and orthopedics (and who is a minimalist convert himself). “It’s what they’re designed to do. Shoes shelter the foot from stress, and there is a disproportionate load in the knee and hip areas.”
much of an effort.”
Ryan advises caution when switching to minimalist shoes or going barefoot; the muscles, tendons and bones of the foot need time to adapt to the changes in impact, as does the rest of the body. Ryan, who runs up to 22 kilometres in minimalist shoes on weekends, and eight kilometres twice during the week, says that his body has adapted. “I feel more natural; my running is not as much of an effort,” he says. Although Ryan
Running and Yoga go Hand in Hand Cross-training and outdoor exercise can do wonders for your body and mind. “Expanding your exercise horizons beyond yoga is a good idea,” says Walt Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of health and exercise science at Georgia State University. “It’s good to challenge the body in new ways.” Most traditional yoga styles, he notes, don’t raise the heart rate high or long enough to develop true heart-saving cardiorespiratory fitness. Nor do they develop the kind of strength you can build through rock climbing, bicycling, swimming, or running up hills.
Most barefoot runners will agree that running unshod changes almost everything about their running form. Stride is shortened, number of steps per minute increases, posture is more upright, and the foot meets the ground in the forefoot area rather than the heel. What about arch support? The muscles of the arch are strengthened and support the foot better. Benno Nigg, an expert in the biomechanics of running at the University of Calgary’s Human Performance Lab and the author of Biomechanics of Sport Shoes, agrees with findings that regardless of advances in shoes, injury rates have not changed appreciably over the years. The best shoe for runners is the one that is most comfortable. Nigg says barefoot running isn’t new (think Zola Budd in the 1980s), and he believes the recent trend toward these less bulky shoes will certainly last.
What about a more serious injury? “I’ve been lucky,” says Rodriguez. “I’ve never stubbed a toe or stepped on anything sharp.” She says it becomes second nature to scan for danger on the ground ahead. Kift says if she steps on something, her foot is off it in a second, and the object doesn’t break the skin.
If you’re anxious to hit the trails sans shoes, be sure to transition gradually. Always do a pre-run warm-up, and carry a first-aid kit and steer clear of any rock salt during winter months. In such conditions, wearing at least minimalist shoes is a good idea. Be ready for sore foot muscles that haven’t previously been used, and see a physiotherapist for some specific stretches and exercises to prepare your body.
We’re talking about cross-training here, adding another complementary activity while you keep right on practicing. In fact, the best part about taking your workouts outdoors, besides the sheer fun of it, might be the way they’ll take your yoga to another, higher level: Improved endurance from running or hiking helps you get through tough classes with ease. The strength built from biking or swimming or rock climbing lets you hold poses longer, go deeper, and try that “too-advanced-for-me’’ posture you’ve been avoiding.
of the first mile, I’m into this groove.” That state often sparks flashes of insight that can have real value in her day-to-day life. “Solutions come to problems you’ve been struggling with,” says Nakoneshny, who has been practicing yoga for 4 years. “I can recall one instance when I had been trying to come up with a way to approach a prospective donor for a charity I was consulting for. During a run, I had a moment of clarity, and a strategy emerged that resulted in a seven-figure gift for the charity.”
Take the example of Nicole Nakoneshny, a 34-year-old fundraising consultant who lives in Toronto. You can often find her on the popular biking and running path that runs along Lake Ontario near her home. As her feet bounce along the pavement, her mind soars. “Because running is such a repetitive activity, I find it quite meditative,” she says. “By the end
“The breath is a remarkable tool for calming,” she says. “Just doing the ujjayi breathing from your diaphragm will help you get into that semi-meditative state.’’ Gently constrict the throat, creating a little resistance to the air flow and producing a soothing sound when you inhale and exhale. Some compare it to the “ocean’’ sound you hear in a seashell; others call
it “Darth Vader breath.’’ Either way, says Nakoneshny, “just take some real deep breaths and start moving.” How yoga helps her running: “In a sense, my running is sort of an extension of the yoga class. Through the deep breathing and quieting of the mind we all learn in class, I can get into that moving meditation when I run.” How running helps her yoga: “Endurance is never an issue for me in my yoga classes, so if we have to hold some particularly difficult pose for a long time it’s not a problem, and I’m certain that’s due in large part to my running. From a strength point of view, running has given me strong legs, which is enormously helpful for some of the standing poses.”
A Beginners Guide:
Major Styles of Yoga By Kate Hanley
Skimming the yellow pages or the class schedule at your gym for a good yoga class can be a real exercise in confusion. How can you tell the difference between Anusara and Ashtanga? Or hot yoga and hatha? Below is a cheat sheet to the many different styles of yoga being taught today. May it help you find your way to a class you love.
15,000,000 Total Number of Americans who practice Yoga
Ashtanga Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but it was popularized and brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois (pronounced “pahtah-bee joyce”) in the 1970s. It’s a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to vinyasa yoga, as each style links every movement to a breath. The difference is that ashtanga always performs the exact same poses in the exact same order. This is a hot, sweaty, physically demanding practice
Iyengar Iyengar yoga was developed and popularized by B.K.S. Iyengar (pronounced “eyeyen-gar”). Iyengar is a very meticulous style of yoga, with utmost attention paid to finding the proper alignment in a pose. In order to help each student find the proper alignment, an Iyengar studio will stock a wide array of props – blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, bolsters, and a rope wall are all common. There isn’t a lot of jumping around in Iyengar classes, so you won’t get your heart rate up, but you’ll be amazed to discover how physically and mentally challenging it is to stay put. Iyengar teachers must undergo a comprehensive training – if you have an injury or chronic condition, Iyengar is probably your best choice to insure you get the knowledgeable instruction you need.
Developed by American yogi John Friend in 1997, anusara yoga is a relative newcomer to the yoga world. Based on the belief that we are all filled with an intrinsic goodness, anusara seeks to use the physical practice of yoga to help students open their hearts, experience grace, and let their inner goodness shine through. Classes, which are specifically sequenced by the teacher to explore one of Friend’s Universal Principles of Alignment, are rigorous for the body and the mind.
Bikram Approximately 30 years ago, Bikram Choudhury developed this school of yoga where classes are held in artificially heated rooms. In a Bikram class, you will sweat like you’ve never sweated before as you work your way through a series of 26 poses (like ashtanga, a Bikram class always follows the same sequence, although a Bikram sequence is different from an ashtanga sequence). Bikram is somewhat controversial, as Choudhury has trademarked his sequence and has prosecuted studios who call themselves Bikram but don’t teach the poses exactly the way he says they should. It is also wildly popular, making it one of the easiest types of classes to find.
Hot Yoga Basically the same thing as Bikram. Generally, the only difference between Bikram and hot yoga is that the hot yoga studio deviates from Bikram’s sequence in some small way, and so they must call themselves by another name. The room will be heated, and you will sweat buckets.
Vinyasa Vinyasa (pronounced “vin-yah-sah”) is the Sanskrit word for “flow”, and vinyasa classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. Vinyasa teachers choreograph their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose, and often play music to keep things lively. The intensity of the practice is similar to Ashtanga, but no two vinyasa classes are the same. If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, vinyasa may be just your ticket.
• The time most suitable for Yoga is in the morning before breakfast when the mind is calm and fresh and the movements can be done with ease and vitality. • The most important things you’ll need to get started - as they say - are a big heart and a small ego. • A person must seek a place of quietude, which is well ventilated, free from dust, insects, unpleasant smell, draught, and moisture. There should be no distraction whatsoever. • Always remember that you should begin with the easy postures and then proceed to the difficult ones. One must follow the graded steps of Yoga.
“If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, vinyasa may be just your ticket.”
Hatha yoga is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class in the West is hatha yoga. When a class is marketed as hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures. You probably won’t work up a sweat in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.
Restorative yoga is a delicious way to way to relax and soothe frayed nerves. Restorative classes use bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop students in passive poses so that the body can experience the benefits of a pose without having to exert any effort. A good restorative class is more rejuvenating than a nap. Studios and gyms often offer them on Friday nights, when just about everyone could use a little profound rest.