Barefoot Running

From the Tarahumara of Mexico to Tim Ferris with Kenyan marathon runners in between, barefoot running has really taken off as of late. A shoe that pops into most peoples mind when they think of barefoot running is the Vibram Five Finger range. This is what I recently got for myself.

Five Fingers in Arizona

Toes at the Grand Canyon

Running in these shoes is a lot of fun. I’ve been lucky enough to receive proper coaching on running technique. I was taught not to heel strike (land on the heel of the foot) while running and spent a lot of time drilling proper run technique. I did all this in ‘traditional’ running shoes. In barefoot running shoes, it’s just plain painful to heel strike. This kind of running is the way we evolved to run.

While there’s no scientific evidence to show that traditional, heavily padded, running shoes help prevent injury, there’s a great deal of evidence out there. What tipped the scales for me was an article by Gordon Pirie titled ‘Running Fast and Injury Free‘. It was written long before the recent barefoot running trend swept in. For that reason, it was a deciding factor that the whole barefoot running notion was not just another flash in the pan fashion sensation.

If you don’t want to run in gloves for your feet, there are plenty of other shoes out there that offer barefoot feeling. So if you’re interested in running fast and injury free, give it a go.

P.S. A lot of the shoes available are super minimalist. Some weigh as little as 300g (10.5oz), and can be folded up, making them perfect travel shoes to chuck in your backpack. Some even look semi-formal!

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Taught vs. Learned

I have found that in my life I am taught a whole more stuff than I learn. I don’t just mean classrooms, textbooks and lectures. What I’m referring to here is being taught life lessons (fire burns, don’t pet a cat that doesn’t want to be petted, if the sign says ‘wet paint’ you don’t need to confirm it).

Unfortunately, I tend to think that just because I’ve been taught something, it means that I’ve learned it. Usually I learn things through the medium of screw-ups. There’s a saying ‘If you learn through mistakes, then I’m getting a great education’. However I don’t think I can say I’ve learned from a mistake until I can see it coming and prevent it from happening again. For example, I continue to be surprised that a kettle that’s been sitting over a small fire for the past few minutes is actually very hot.

This is a problem that I believe affects a lot of people. We get taught a lesson and we think we’ve learned it. We go out with unfounded confidence, believing we won’t make the mistakes we just been warned against. And yet we do. However, this is where I think things start to look up. It’s difficult to truly understand that fire is hot until you’ve been burned, possibly several times. But being burned is a great way of learning a lesson.

There is a lot of information available to us these days. So many lessons that can be taught to us. Without going out and experiencing life itself (interesting article on this) you’re only getting half an education. Sure, you’ve read that the Chatuchak Weekend Market is a great place to pick up some souvenirs while in Bangkok, but until you’ve been there and gotten lost in the sprawling maze of stalls, corridors and tents, you can’t know if it really is that great a place to shop for gifts or not.

So to get a great education, you still need to listen to lessons that are being taught to you. They will better prepare you for whatever may lie ahead. However if you never come across a situation whereby you get to see if you can overcome the problem on your own, you can’t know that you’ve learned the lesson, or just been taught it.

Cicadas, Mosquitoes and Heat, Oh My!

Had a rough night last night. Very little sleep. It was darn hot, so I tried sleeping above the covers, but then I was at the mercy of mosquitoes.
Despite my ludicrously hairy body, I was being feasted upon. So I spent most of the night hiding under the covers until I was uncomfortably hot, then lying on top of them until I was frustrated with having to slap myself wherever I thought I was being bitten.
In the end I went and got my silk sleeping bag liner and climbed into that. Around 3 a.m. I managed to drift off. Until dawn came around 5:30 and the cicadas started up.

So rather than just bitch and moan about it, I thought I’d read up on it all, to better understand what frustrates me.

Mosquito facts (source):

* Only the females bite, and they use the blood not as food for themselves, but as protein for their eggs. Mosquitoes actually feed on nectar.
* Of the 3,000 species of mosquito, only three spread most human diseases.
* The itchiness is an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva.
* Rosemary (herb) will deter mosquitoes, as will eating plenty of garlic.

Cicadas facts (source):

* They can be heard up to 1 mile away.
* They have a lifespan of up to 17 years (mostly as larvae).
* They are a powerful symbol of rebirth in ancient Chinese culture.

Tips for sleeping in the heat (source):

* Wear light clothing. This can be better than wearing less clothing.
* Take a cool bath or shower before bed. It won’t lower your core temperature, but it’ll make you feel better.
* Don’t engage in physical activity or exercise too soon to going to bed. This will give your body a chance to lower it’s core temperature.
* Avoid hot and heavy meals near bedtime. Try to eat cool and refreshing foods instead.

So I’m going to sip on a garlic smoothie in a tub full of ice before going to bed tonight!

Let me know what you do to beat the heat and banish the bugs.

Orcas and us

One of the longer living social mammals are orcas. These are a 5-8 meter cetacean, or toothed whale. They are an apex predator, meaning they have no natural enemies and prey on a variety of animals such as fish, birds, seals and even other whale species.

More interestingly, scientists have recently discovered a reason for these whales longevity. Like women, female killer whales go through menopause. Until recently, the reason for such a long post-reproductive lifespan was unknown. Now it seems that scientists believe that older females becomes increasingly interested in helping to rear their ‘grandchildren’. So while the females can no longer reproduce, they still provide a useful role in the social group.

This is something we can all learn from, namely that everyone has something more to offer. While you may find yourself in a position where you are no longer able to perform a certain task as well as you once could, are there other areas you can branch off into?

What more do you have to offer besides the obvious?

Do What You Are Passionate About

Are you doing what you love?

These past six months have been a very formative time for me. Everybody has been advised, in one way or another, to do what they love, to follow their dreams. Hardly anyone seems to listen to that advice. Myself included.

The dreams we had a children fade away. Some are highly impractical. For a part of my childhood, I wanted to be Zorro. But there were other areas of interest I had which I should have paid closer attention to. I really love wildlife.

Me loving some flora (the fauna tends to run away)

I remember hunting for slow worms (a kind of legless lizard which is different from a snake or an intoxicated iguana) underneath corrugated iron sheets. I managed to pounce upon a few and just held them, letting them slither over my hands. One must have been a little smarter than average because after a while of trying desperately to slither away on the endless pink highway of my palms, it decided to seek refuge in the warm, dark recesses of my jacket sleeve. Quick as as a shot, it disappeared up my arm. It’s worth pointing out, for your enjoyment, that I was completely aware that slow worms were as harmless as earth worms. Only less slimy. This did not stop me from freaking out, desperately shaking my arm, presumably in the hope that it would fall off as a way to appease the rampaging reptile. I stripped off my jacket and flung it to the ground. Panting, I waited for the creature to emerge. When it didn’t I gingerly poked at the jacket. It was clean. I only assume I flung it clear with my arm spasms. I was about five or six years old when this happened and ever since I’ve had a fascination with all creatures great and small.

However I never took any practical steps towards turning my love of the wild into a career of any sorts. Only recently have I started taking tentative steps towards becoming a wildlife photographer. It’s a goal which may take a long while to achieve.

With all that in mind, I’m considering taking this blog in a different direction to the one is has been following so far. While staying calm in the face of certain adversities is a strength of mine, it is not something I am highly passionate about. In my free time I do not research ways to stay calm. Rather I read blogs about travel, minimalism, photography and wildlife. These are the topics which I am passionate about. These are the topics that I will write about. Hopefully these are also the topics you will enjoy reading about.

I hope to see you around.

The Monday Comic

A Softer World

From their ‘About’ page:


A Softer World is a comic that was created by Emily Horne and Joey Comeau so that people would recognize them as important artistic geniuses. Sometimes the “comic” is sad or harsh. It should be noted that this is in the tradition of George Simenon’s ‘romans durs’ (or ‘hard novels’) and not in the lesser traditions of comics like Peanuts or anything else not French. Comeau is a French name. (Pronounced kuh-moe, by the way. Joey is very important, please say his name correctly. Emily is also very important but her name is easier to pronounce.)

Enjoy!


Your Guide to Superfoods

It’s a term that’s been around for a while now. Most people have a rough idea of what they are, but many are still unsure as to what classifies as a superfood. Quite simply a superfood is one that is especially nutritious or beneficial to ones health and well-being.
Superfood is also used extensively as a marketing technique, leaving many people to distrust the notion of superfoods. Often this distrust is well placed. There is little evidence linking superfoods to health benefits above that of just maintaining a healthy diet. Many superfoods are not very high in essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids).
There are however foods which stand out as being especially high is certain nutrients that are proven to have a benefit on ones health. Here’s a small list of superfoods and the benefits they offer:

Avocados
Full of good-for-your-heart monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folic acid and potassium, this fruit delivers a lot more than other fruits do. Avocados are also the only fruit to contain beta-sitosterol, which reduces blood levels of cholesterol.

Blueberries
One of the most talked about superfood, this little berry tops the list for antioxidants, which protect against heart disease and some neurological diseases.

Cocoa
Another source of antioxidants, but this time in chocolate. Just remember that chocolate tends to have a high fat content so try to limit yourself to small portions.

Garlic
Wards off vampires. These little cloves are full of cancer fighting agents. They also help to boost your immune system by stimulating white blood cell production.

Olive Oil
Another source of monounsaturated fat, olive oil has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Salmon
One of the best oily fish as a source of omega 3 which helps reduce the risk of cancer and can relieve autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and asthma.

Tea
Black and green teas are both good sources of antioxidants and have been shown to increase bone density, which will ward off the onset of osteoporosis.

Wine
Both red and white are good for your heart and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Just remember that alcohol is a toxin, so should be taken in moderation.

Here’s a quick recipe that’s chock-full of superfoods:

Ingredients

  • 125g (5oz) couscous
  • 25g (1oz) roasted flaked almonds
  • 125g (5oz) broccoli florets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Large pinch ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Put the couscous in a large bowl and pour over 200ml (7 floz) boiling water. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
  2. Trim the broccoli, cut into small florets and cut the stems of the florets into 1/2; cm slices. Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, add the broccoli and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until tender.
  3. Stir the olive oil, cinnamon and coriander into the couscous and fluff up with a fork. Add the broccoli, almonds and seasoning. Mix well and serve warm.

Enjoy!