Pump & polish

Posted on August 20, 2012

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Last week, The National ran an article on barefoot gym-ing. I read it with interest and then a few hours later, found myself arriving for my Body Pump class, sans trainers. I left home in flip-flops thanks to my pre-class pedi appointment and was clearly having a moment considering my apartment currently resembles a fully-stocked adidas store with trainers stacked in every corner.

When it comes to barefoot running, I have no interest personally.  It does, without doubt, have its many merits though and for some, it’s been a godsend after years of constant injury. I wrote about a great podcast interview not long ago with Barefoot Ted himself of Born to Run fame.

But for me? No thanks.  And besides, even though adidas do their own version of ‘five-fingers’ now, I would consider myself far too vain to wear them. I also love the process of picking shoes out every day … it’s akin, in my eyes, to touching and feeling the contents of a fine wine cellar. You just need to let your eyes do the scanning and the perfect choice will jump out at you …

But on this occasion, I found myself totally enjoying the class with my feet in full contact with the ground. I then hit the stairwell for 200 flights up and down, up and down, all 53 storeys of the twin towers, again, barefoot.

And I decided that it’s probably a very good idea to give our feet a break from trainers sometimes, especially considering, when not wearing them, we’re in flip-flops, cute ballet pumps or sky highs, none of which are remotely beneficial for our feet, form or postures.

I came home and did some further reading.  Turns out that many a gym-goer is advised to train barefoot as it cures flat feet … a condition that can cause a whole host of problems including poor posture, pain in the lower back, knee, hip and foot pain, bunions and shin splints. Certainly, a cheaper option than pricy orthotics.

Training barefoot, on occasion, also helps to strengthen the feet in general, improving stability, agility and co-ordination and by moving each toe independently, you give every part of each muscle the chance to flex and tone. You also work your lower-leg muscles more such as the tibialis anticus, which run down the inner side of the leg and the calf muscles which are linked to the Achilles tendon and help support the plantar fascia … too many big words?  Yeah, I agree …

Being barefoot has the effect of treating your feet holistically and increasing your body awareness in terms of understanding how your body lands. By moving and landing on the sole of the foot, as opposed to the heel, the chances of injury are reduced as less impact is put on the joints. It enhances your natural walking motion, increases range of motion and helps to straighten your spine which assists proper alignment.

In fact, think of some of the barefoot sports … martial arts, gymnastics, yoga and dance for example. What do they have in common? A need to ground the body through the feet to be able to feel, judge, move, balance and perform with precision.

So the next time you find yourself arriving at the gym with no shoes, fear not!  Simply work out without. We are, after all, designed to walk barefoot … the equipment and engineering have already been provided. Just make sure you’re up to date on your pedi’s and have a flash polish to show off … and only then will you be all set!

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