“The notion that we must work intensely (read: do a lot of exercise) to stay healthy inside our zoo-like environment is not necessarily invalid, but it implies that there is nothing we can do about our captivity or that we’ve agreed to staying in our cage of comforts.”
Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA
When I read this quote about two years ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks. In so many ways I felt that I was trapped in a cage, slowly dying in the captivity of the city and the concrete and my job and my routine. “I didn’t agree to this!” I yelled. I wanted to be wild(er). This quote, and many other ideas put forth by Katy Bowman in her podcast Katy Says, set a lot of changes in motion (*pun*) for me, ultimately leading me on a search for “more” outside my cage… Long story short, I quit my law firm job and now I live in Boulder. But I’ve made other changes too…
In March 2016, I announced a new blog series titled “The Other 23 Hours,” in which I was going to explore all these ideas about non-running movement and “natural movement” and why running — even every day — isn’t enough movement to stave off THE BAD THINGS: disease and immobility and injury and pelvic prolapse and incontinence and back pain and a hunchback. After the announcement, I wrote a single post titled “Why I’ve Stopped Sleeping With Pillows.” Needless to say, it hasn’t gotten much traction, and the whole blog series idea seems daunting for a topic I dabble in but am certainly an expert in. I’ll leave that to the pros. But I did think it would be nice to do a summary of some of the things I’ve changed or added to my life to get in more “nutritious movement,” as Katy calls it.
I started wearing Vibrams seven years ago, after I was fascinated enough to buy them during a trip to Asheville. When I moved to DC, I was an oddity with these funky purple lizard shoe things. I wasn’t married at the time, and I always had to balance my desire to wear Vibrams against my desire to find a man while in line at Starbucks, or walking to work, or whatever. I never wore them on dates, but once a guy I had gone on a few dates with ran into me outside the gym, and I had my Vibrams on. I tried to hide my feet. Newsflash: not possible! I don’t think he said anything about them but I was pretty embarrassed. (Now that I’m married/older/wiser, I’m like WHATEVS!) Whenever people would ask me about them, I would say “I do enough to my body [i.e., sitting in a chair 12+ hrs a day and then running marathons] and this feels like doing something good for it.”
I still have Vibrams but I’ve expanded my collection of zero-drop, wide-toe-box, and minimalist shoes. And I got rid of every single pair of heels I owned. Here is a rundown of what is on my feet when I can’t go barefoot:
- Around the house (and sometimes for errands): zero-drop slippers. I think mine are from Target.
- Non-running athletic shoes: the previously reviewed Vivobarefoot sneakers. I also recently learned about Lems (based on Boulder) and am interested in checking those out. Vibrams are also good for just walking around.
- Hiking shoes: Vibram Fivefingers (rugged version) or trail running shoes
- Running shoes: Altra Superior or Lone Peak trail shoes have been great for me for the past few years. Zero-drop, wide toe box, very comfy.
- Shoes at work: luckily we are fairly casual here, so I am currently wearing Toms. Vans would also work.
- Shoes for formal occasions: cannot go wrong with gladiator sandals, especially hidden under a long dress.
Here is a blog post with Katy’s thoughts on footwear.
Well clearly there was a big change in my work situation. I quit my law firm job, which had me at the office late into most evenings, stressed out, and tied to my desk for too much of the day. Now I work in-house at a company with much more reasonable hours. But I’m still at the office for eight hours a day so…
- I bought a stand up desk (Varidesk) for myself many moons ago before HR departments were handing them out like Halloween candy. I used it off and on but since I’ve started at my new job, I’m using it every. damn. day. I start my morning standing up and try to default to standing throughout the day. I am sure to stand in different positions – rotating my hips, stretching my calves and quads (favorite position is with one foot up on a chair behind me — totally nice gentle stretch), shifting my weight back and forth and side to side, paddling my feet. I track my standing with my Apple Watch and aim for standing at least part of each hour during the workday.
- I take any excuse I can to step away from my desk and get in extra movement. I offer to meet people at their desks or in a conference room vs. handling everything on calls, I continually refill water bottles and take other trips to the break room, and I park at the far end of the parking lot.
- When I am sitting, I try to remember to sit on my butt bones rather than tucking my but under. Still working on this.
- When I work from home, I sit on the floor or stand at a counter. I take calls while walking around the house with my headphones, when possible.
Here is a post from Katy about dynamic workstations.
Home and Furniture
Katy has a very cool house with monkey bars in it. We haven’t gone that far (yet) but I’ve tried to set up my home to sneak in extra nutritious movement vs. plopping on a comfy couch for hours on end.
- As mentioned above and in my previous post, I sleep without a pillow. Doing this allows my body to stretch and move more while I am sleeping. It feels great.
- We are also going to buy a low-to-the-ground platform bed when we finally get around to decorating our bedroom.
- We do have a few couches and chairs in the living room, and stools at one of the bars, but I try to sit on the floor or stand a good bit of the time. Our coffee table is set up so that it is just as easy to sit with my back against the couch and laptop on the table vs. sitting deep in our (admittedly amazing) couch.
- You won’t find any dining chairs at our table. That’s because we trimmed the legs of the dining table to allow us to sit on the floor or cushions while we eat! Ahhh I’m obsessed. We bought the table from a flea market ($300) and rented a power saw from Home Depot ($26). I measured 16ish inches from the top of the table and marked the legs with masking tape. Then I sawed away! I sanded the bottoms and used Gorilla Glue to adhere some felt squares to the bottom of the legs. Voila!
- In the kitchen we also have a high breakfast bar without stools so that we can stand and eat or chat.
Read more from Katy on living furniture-free.
Terrain and the Outdoors
One thing runners and walkers might not think about is the variation in their terrain. Here is a quote from Katy that explains her views on the topic:
There are two general ways terrain can vary: grade (uphill, downhill and how much of either) and surface (rough, slippery, bumpy, rocky, hole-y, etc.). Every unique combination of grade and surface results in a particular physical stimulation. When comparing the endless number of joint contortions and muscle-contraction counterparts that come with wildly varying terrain to the single, repetitive pattern of joint ranges of motion and muscle contractions we actually use, it is clear, quantitatively, that the physical outcomes born of our walking habits should be thought of as repetitive use injuries.
With this in mind, I’ve upped my miles of hiking and trail running to experience all kinds of terrain. But being in the outdoors offers other movement advantages. For instance, being outdoors can benefit your eyes. And did you know that outdoor phenomena such as breezes and the cold affect the movement of your body (e.g., skin getting goosebumps)?
Walking and “Correctives”
I’ve always really liked walking, but among runners, walking can seem like a bad thing. An hour of walking?! I could have run six miles in that time! or My goal for this workout is not to walk. But walking is an excellent way to get more movement into our non-workout hours, so I’ve tried not to discount the benefits of a walk around the block with the dog or while listening to a podcast or while catching up with my family on the East Coast.
Here are Katy’s “13 Ways to Make Your Walk More Nutritious.”
In addition, while Katy is not suggesting that the solution to our sedentarism is to exercise more, she does offer some “correctives,” or movements that can help counteract forces we’ve inflicted from sedentarism. I’ve found that yoga classes and pilates movements provide similar stretches, releases, and strengtheners in a structured setting that works better for me vs. doing them on my own. I’ve taken particular interest in opening my supertight shoulders.
Finding More Movement
Finally, Katy’s whole idea is to find movement in as many moments of life as possible and to stop finding modern shortcuts that hinder movement. Here are some ways I’ve put this work:
- Using a rotary push mower vs. a powered lawn-mower. I also cut the edges by hand vs. using an edger.
- Chopping my own food vs. buying pre-chopped veggies and fruits (Katy talks about being disconnected from the physical labor of our food, so this is a very small effort to not outsource movement.)
- In the same spirit as above: volunteering at the Washington Youth Garden (when I lived in DC), where I plowed and tilled and squatted to my heart’s content. Will be doing some more gardening at home on the range in the spring.
- Wearing clothing that allows and encourages me to move.
- Playing on playgrounds whenever presented with the opportunity.
So, what do you think about all this? Have you listened to Katy Says or read any of Katy’s books? (She’s also been on Joe Rogan’s podcast if that’s your sort of thing.) Or do you feel like you get “enough” movement from running? On a practical level, what would you do if you were a guest in a house with no chairs? Asking for a friend…