Saturday, July 8, 2017

Simple Foot Exercises

I had mentioned in my last blog post about tips on switching to minimalist shoes, that I would be making a video on some feet strengthening exercises. Here it is!

What exercises have you found helpful? Please leave a comment below, and share this video if you found it helpful.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tips for Running in Vibrams

Yesterday was 4th of July. The day when hundreds of San Diegans flock to the beaches, lakes or parks with a carload of food, drinks and games to endure a long sweaty day with friends and family. And the cherry on top, an hour long firework display.

Me? Oh, no. I do not like crowds, long waits, traffic if I don't have to. And with 4 children under 7 years old, my husband and I have decided that we are okay with forfeiting the normal holiday bustle for now.

But anyways, I took the opportunity to do an outdoor workout while my husband was at home with the kids during nap. I've done about 2 easy post-partum runs, with my normal Asics tennis shoes. It's been going well, so I decided my body was ready for some  minimalist footwear integration. So I grabbed my Vibrams and headed to the lake...where I quickly had a SMH moment when I saw the traffic, crowded parking, and blaring music.... LOL.

 As I slipped on my old purple Vibrams, I realized it had been just over 5 years since I started running in them. I remembered the changes I had felt in my feet and body, and how I had learned that you really need to be prepared in order to avoid injury. So I decided I would write out a few things that I've learned along the way, just in case YOU are thinking about taking the toe shoe plunge. :)

1. Practice a mid/toe strike stride BEFORE you switch over.

 Most people strike the ground with their heel much heavier than they ought to. Your foot is (ideally) the first point of contact with the ground, and therefore is designed to absorb the shock and your weight. Your foot was designed to absorb shock and transfer weight through the middle of foot via the plantar fascia, to the toe, not the heel of the foot.

This is important even with "normal" running shoes. Many repetitive injuries can be avoided just by improving your stride. But it is IMPERATIVE that you run differently with minimalist shoes. Traditional running shoes have much more material, and this helps with some of the shock absorption, even if you are running incorrectly. Minimal shoes offer very little shock absorption, so it's really on your feet to do the job, and if you don't, you can end up with stress fractures, tendinitis, and other repetitive injuries (not fun! I know!).

So how does one "run correctly"? I am no expert in this area...but there are several different schools of thought. I'm not one for reinventing the wheel, so I will let you do the Googling. But essentially, in order to strike the ground with more of your mid foot, you need to have a shorter stride. Pay particular attention how it feels to push the ground away with your toes. You may need to run much slower to play around with this.

2. Consider your weight

As I mentioned above, switching over to minimalist shoes increases the chance of injury if not handled carefully. If you are just beginning  your weight loss journey, or are still significantly overweight, hold off on switching over. I actually don't think running is ideal for people who have a significant amount of weight to lose. But if you are at the point of running, focus more on losing the weight and improving your foot work before trying these shoes. Slow and steady wins the race, you won't be doing yourself any favors if you injure your feet/legs because they were not ready.

3. Strengthen your feet

Because your weight will be more evenly transferred to each of your toes, the little muscles will be used more. Your runs will be more enjoyable if you aren't constantly stopping because your feet get tired. Do foot exercises in between your minimal shoe runs. Also, increasing the soft tissue in your feet will assist in shock absorption. I will be posting a video soon what I do for strengthening my feet. ***UPDATE*** HERE is that video :)

4. Take stretching seriously

This tip naturally follows the above tip, because, anytime you are contracting your muscles, there is the chance they will lose elasticity and range of motion.  Can you say PLANTAR FASCIITIS??? A healthy muscle is strong, yet has the ability to release. If you do not take the time to stretch not only after your runs and other workouts, but also other days of the week, you may very well get plantar fasciitis. I have had this more than once (and have overcome it)- it sucks, and is preventable. I have my own method of stretching and dealing with plantar fasciitis, I will also be posting this soon.

5. Don't use minimal shoes exclusively

Keep running with your normal shoes also. As with any workout program, you want to keep things varied. Your body will appreciate a break from the extra work that minimal shoes require, and you will be using your body slightly different with normal shoes, which will assist in your overall strength and fitness. You may also find that some minimal shoes are not really suited for say, trail running or hiking. Or for running in the rain. Take those opportunities to wear your traditional shoes.

6. Take care of your shoes

Like I mentioned above, my shoes have lasted me 5 years. There is some degradation of the glue, but hey, it's not that bad! Keep your shoes in room temp places (NOT IN YOUR BURNING HOT CAR). Air them out. Don't put them in the dryer.

7. Pay attention to (and address) your body

This is an all across rule to health and fitness. Have you been having painful heels? Does your back hurt the day after a run? Are you experiencing plantar fasciitis? In my experience, most people don't respect their bodies. And they pay for it. Don't make this mistake- you are better off stopping and addressing an issue than ignoring it so you can do that 5k you paid for. It may be the difference between being able to run when you're 60 or sitting it out.
Hopefully you are not neglecting the other areas of fitness such as strength, flexibility, good nutrition, and stress management. Treating your body with respect in these areas can help avoid injuries across the board, and you're more likely to have success with trying out minimalist shoes.

Well, that's all I've got! What about you?
Have you made the switch? What changes have you noticed?
Please leave a comment and share if you found this post helpful!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Easy Lunch: Iron Smoothie

It's Monday again, which means it Monday Food Prep day for me. Since I devote myself to prepping food for the other days of the week, I pick really fast and easy lunches to reduce my overall workload for the day. Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to do this. I also love smoothies because they are great for gradually adjusting kids' taste buds to new flavors without the visual and textural shock. I ultimately have the goal of seeing my kids shriek with excitement at the announcement that wilted spinach is for dinner...but let's start small, people, okay? ;)

So today, I decided I would make an "iron-focused" smoothie. What that means it that I choose foods that complement iron absorption. 

I'm not one for recipes and measuring. I almost never repeat the same recipe exactly how one is supposed to. I just throw in whatever I feel like. I would encourage you to experiment too! If you want to try more kefir to cocoa ratio, go for it! You may explore that your kids really like the flavor of spinach and can add more as you go!

So here's what I did today, and my kids LOVED it!

-Mango flavored smoothie (I got it at Sprouts) Protein, added vitamin D, Calcium
- Frozen Spinach: Iron, Fiber
- Cocoa powder: Iron, flavor AND it doesn't hurt to tell your kids there is healthy chocolate in there
- Peanut Butter: Iron, protein
- Banana: I mostly added this for flavor...banana has a great flavor next to chocolate.

So technically, Calcium and Iron are not friends; meaning, one inhibits the absorption of the other a little. Iron rich foods (like spinach) have something called oxalic acid in it, and it binds to Calcium. But before you say "What's the point then???" remember that your/kids' bodies will absorb some, and the goal of healthy food training is not simply for our bodies' health, but for overall health; to experience a wide array of textures, flavors, and smells, all while enjoying social interaction with others.

But back to the smoothie: here are a couple of things I've learned along the way:
 - If you have a toddler, a child who doesn't handle utensils well, or just a straight up messy child and want to minimize the mess, add a little flaxseed meal to the smoothie if it is runny. This adds Omega-3's, and absorbs much of the liquid. 

- blend on "liquefy" setting; the spinach can be rather fibrous, making it difficult for small kids to handle...and it freaks them out a bit...

- if you want to increase iron absorption even more, add a fruit that has vitamin C, such as strawberries 

Let me know if you try this recipe, or what changes you made to it! And please subscribe and share if you found this helpful! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Alabaster Jars- worshipping with the abstract

"I think this story-writing business is the foolishest yet, " scoffed Marilla. "You'll get a pack of nonsense into your heads and waste time that should be put on your lessons. Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse."- Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables

This passage was written in 1908, yet it reveals the timeless challenge belonging to writers and artists of proving that the work they do is worth the time and energy invested into it. 

The latest fiction book I am reading is Anne of Green Gables. I grew up watching the movie during long car trips to Zion or The Redwoods, on which my dad would take my two sisters and I on. Between stopping for routine geological lectures about the sedimentary rocks, my dad would put in the movie into a small VHS player to keep us from fighting with each other. I must have watched that film at least 10 times, but had never read the book.

I picked the book up only a few days ago, but I've already reached the half way point This is to the credit of its author, L.M. Montgomery. Her writing is full of lively dialogue, her characters are full of personality and history, and her imagery indulges the senses. There is a real pleasure as a writer to fully be immersed in somebody else's book. 

When I came across this passage where Marilla expresses her scorn for storywriting,  I smiled at Montgomery's satire.  Anne has just revealed her newly created outlet for her insatiable imagination- a story club. Marilla, who is the embodiment of practical Edwardian values, shows not an ounce of frivolity, and quickly dismisses Anne's ventures as a "waste of time." No doubt Montgomery must have felt the same scrutiny in her era as Anne did. 

Although written over 100 years ago, I feel Anne and I are kindred spirits. And my hunch is that most artists feel the same criticism. We have at least all heard the familiar story artist or musician, who to the dismay of his parents, has not gotten a "real job". Have you ever experienced the same shame when people ask what your dreams are? 

Maybe it's in our American blood, but the artist story highlights our culture's desire for hard work and  productivity. When we come across a new thing, we poke at it, saying "but...what does it... DO?" The nature of art is nailing the abstract, the unspoken problems and social changes of our society. We often don't have statistics of lives saved, or mouths fed, or buildings built. It is difficult to measure the way a person's heart and soul are affected. 

And that is the question the world ask us- What is it that you really do? Or rather, How can we justify you spending your efforts making things that are simply pretty to look at? Are your paintings, films, or music worth investing in? Are you simply just taking up space in our lives?  If it is present in the world, it is unfortunately even more present in the Christian world. In fairness, the world has embraced the arts comparatively well. In certain pockets, the world has welcomed the eccentric artists with open arms, and, unfortunately, the mainstream church has pushed it away. The church wants to do things for the Lord, and artists often find themselves labeled rather...unspiritual. 

Just as there is a hierarchy of careers in the world, there also is an elevation of certain positions in the church. It is relatively easy to find a place in church community if you are an intercessor, children's church teacher, or pastor. If the church is musically inclined, musicians and song writers get by just by the skin of their teeth by joining the worship team. Meanwhile, the writers, dancers, painters and other artists often fill these positions out of duty, leaving something to be desired in their souls.  These former callings are crucial to a healthy church community and are due honor, but as people called to create things, we often feel marginalized and insecure about our position in the Kingdom. 

I remember hearing a message by Kris Vallotton one time. He said that one night, the Lord asked him "Do you know why I made flowers?"
And Kris responded, "No...but I bet you're going to tell me."
The Lord said, "Because I think they are pretty."

Why would God make things simply because they are "pretty"? If He does it, we know it must be of some purpose. So what purpose do pretty things serve?

Remember the story of the woman and Jesus with the alabaster jar?

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

The disciples were astonished at the "waste" of this expensive perfume. Judas was so offended by this display of waste that it propelled him into betraying Jesus. But Jesus said, "She has done a beautiful thing to me." Why was it beautiful? She was taking something extremely expensive and lavishing Jesus with it to show her love towards him. Just from looking, we can't measure what was happening in Jesus' heart. But he sees that the woman had put herself in a position of ridicule and scorn by doing such a "foolish" thing, all so she could express her love towards him. Jesus recognized this sacrifice and called it beautiful.   

The alabaster jar of an artist's life is his time and energy, or perhaps other people's invested money. As believers, we all recognize our sojourner status and our purchased lives. We desire to spend our time wisely, not where moth and rust destroy. Because we love God, we inspect our time investments to see if they measure up to eternal value. Canvases, books, and film reels will be burnt up, so are they eternally valuable? 

It goes back to the question above, Why would God make things because they are simply pretty? Is it valuable if it doesn't do anything? We know there is really know such thing as happenstance with God. In my experience, the purpose that beautiful things serve is the liaison between body, soul and spirit. The jar of perfume was physical, but the story above shows how its worth tapped into Jesus' heart. The flower is physical, but it awakens the spirit. Think about the most beautiful landscape you have ever seen. How did it make you feel? What about when you drive through a beautifully landscaped neighborhood? How have certain fictional characters influenced your experience of life? Perhaps they put you in "what if" situations you never had considered, and you confronted fears or hopes you never knew still existed. Maybe it is a piece of art or a song lyric that somehow says something to you that no preacher could have ever delivered. 

God wants to use your creations to speak! You are uniquely made, and nobody can translate what God wants to say to the world like you can. Your creations are vessels for communicating God's love to the world. As a believer, you have the mind of Christ. And as we hang out with God more, we become more and more like Him and His voice will be more clearly heard. In fact, people will be drawn to your work because they subconsciously are experiencing God. 

 So in the eyes of the practical Marillas of the world, we may be viewed as stewarding our time poorly. These differences of opinion will always exist, but don't let it stop you from flowing in what you have. Sometimes people need to be gently informed of this perspective. As we cultivate respect for ourselves and  our fellow creators, let's also give due honor to the practical positions in the Kingdom. We are all parts of one Body, and cannot thrive without each other.   

What about you? What have been your experiences as an artist?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review- 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs

Alright, I am finally sitting down to write a review on this book. I received it in October of last year, and to be honest, I wasn't motivated to read it.

Perhaps it was the morning sickness. Perhaps I was a little bit in a funk due to life circumstances (another story for another time). Perhaps the book wasn't the cup of tea I was expecting. Perhaps a little of all.

But, here we are. 6 months later, I am now a mom of 4, and we are in a completely new season in so many ways. I think passing through that tunnel gave me a new fervor to pursue my own writing- starting with writing on somebody else's writing! ;)

So- my summary of this book is that it is a satisfactory reference/guidance book on several key scriptures that you could call "staple scriptures".

Lady Liz (it sounded cool, okay?) lays her book out with 31 chapters, a verse to go with each one. She very meticulously breaks down the verse and writes her own commentary on it. Now, this is where the book kind of bored me a bit. I LOVE  Lady Liz's laid-back, honest and fun writing style. But there was a little bit of a jerkiness to the stop and go of breaking down the verses. Informative, but it was a little difficult to settle into the book. I did, however, appreciate that the chapters were short and sweet.

At the end of each chapter, she gives a tip on how to memorize scripture, such as writing it, or walking around and saying it. I thought this was clever, and from a practical standpoint, a great instructive for people genuinely wanting to memorize theses scriptures.

The cover of the book was well done, and eye catching. A vase of pretty roses sits in the backdrop, with pretty white cursive as the title. The headers of each chapter are beautifully done also, with a black /white watercolor of roses at the top of the page.

I didn't notice any repetitive editing mistakes, however, there were some pretty bad blunders in some chapters regarding the page header- the one the says the chapter name. I hope the editing team or whatever caught this before the final draft was published.

There is a very handy study guide with questions at the end of the book. All in all, I would give this book a 7 on scale of 1-10. It wasn't mind blowing, but I would say it's a great little tool in the spiritual toolbox.

What about you? Did you read this book?
What things do you want to know about a book before buying it?