Outdoor Exercise and Barefoot Running: Risk and The Daring Adventure of Life

After finishing a 6 mile barefoot run today in windy weather, while stubbing my toe once and enduring the pain of multiple tiny but sharp rocks on my path, I realize I love doing this kind of thing outdoors even if the weather and conditions aren’t always ideal.  I also did 12 pull-ups just prior and another 10 right after the run.  I do these on a play structure at a nearby park when no little kids are around, otherwise parents might think I'm a perv.  One time I ran there and a bunch of kids were around but not on the structure and so I asked their mom if she didn't mind if I did a quick few pull-ups; she thought I was talking about diapers.  I think she reached for her diaper bag as I left--perhaps she was packing some heat between the Huggies or Pampers, but I wasn't hanging around to find out.  Moms and gang-bangers--jeeze, dangerous world out there.   Anyway, it's all good 'cause God invented Bud Light.  And I’m having one right now as I write this.

Oftentimes I’ll hit the gym and do pull-ups and then get on the treadmill and run.  I find the gym a bit sterilizing, and although I can get into a “zone” and focus on running a challenging pace for an hour or more, this is no substitute for the bliss of the outdoors.  Many of us find the comforts of the gym essential for the benefits of exercise, and rationalize the controlled environment the gym offers at least gets them to exercise in the first place, which all in all is a good thing.  But running and exercising outdoors adds a whole new element; the nuances of friction from air and wind, the change in terrain and temperature, the tackling of uphill and downhill segments all contribute to toughen the individual on multiple levels.  Even gym-style exercises outdoors take on a new meaning if nothing more than revealing the awesomeness of the natural world and engulfing us with its intense beauty.  It’s a phenomenal mind-clearing experience.  The aggravating elements of wind and uneven terrain and barking dogs chasing at your heels only add to the adventure, shaking us from complacency and forcing us to marvel at the challenges that God and mother nature throw down before us.   Running barefoot only adds to the madness; it’s apparently insane concept is really not so insane when you realize our ancestors traversed vast distances before the invention of shoes.  It’s a risk/reward thing; playing it safe, avoiding risk and remaining in a bubble for a sense of security are fallacies.  As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Let this be a lesson, a bold lesson from a courageous woman who was audacious in her goals despite losing her senses of sight and sound. 

©Randall S. Fong, M.D.