Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dear Vibrams

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Vibram company for helping to:
  • Strengthen my foot muscles
  • Reduce my potential foot injuries
In case you haven't heard, Vibram USA just settled a Class Action Lawsuit against them for $3.75 million stating that they made false and unsubstantiated claims about their footwear.  Specifically, the two claims that I'm writing to thank them for.

I'm not going to dive into the discussion of how crazy and absurd a litigious society we've become.  This is nothing new, nor the most egregious, wackadoodle example out there (remember that case where McDonalds was sued for putting toys in their happy meals).   However, it's a fine time to illustrate my favorite theme here lately:  take ownership of your own health.  Apparently this is a bit of a stretch for a lot of people out there.

I want to make this much clear ... I understand the lawsuit.  Don't make false claims.  I get that.  But I'm left scratching my head on this one.  If you wear Vibrams or even go barefoot, how can you NOT strengthen your foot muscles?  Especially if you're coming from what passes for shoes in this day and age.  And if you strengthen your foot muscles, won't you be less likely to get a foot injury?  Hmmm, not really rocket scientology in my mind.

Anyway, I'm just wanting to give Vibrams some love when they may be feeling a little perturbed.  I've owned at least 3 pairs and so has my mother.  She uses them to walk on the beach while I use mine every chance I get, which is a lot more now that I live in a warmer climate.  I sprint in them (the best!) and as you can see from my pic in the last post, I Farmers Walk in them as well.  Interestingly, just yesterday I had a mother stop me in order to show her little daughter the Vibrams I was wearing.  I'm pretty sure most people are familiar with them by now, but the little girl was fascinated.

If you recall my tale of transitioning to barefoot running (and walking) you'll remember that I caused a stress fracture in my 4th metatarsal on three separate occasions.  This was before Vibrams had started up and I was using those old school Puma's you can see in the link.  If I had Vibrams back then would've I prevented the stress fractures?  Probably not.  I just did too much too soon.  Successful transitioning to walking and running midfoot for people that have worn regular shoes since childhood is a slow and deliberate process.  If you persevere though, there are many benefits to be had.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you what those benefits might be, otherwise I could get sued. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go actually DO something to improve my health and fitness.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

DIY Farmers Walk

Since moving to Oregon I've wanted to build some Farmers Walk implements for use here at the house (I don't go to a gym).  As the weather has been getting nicer, and after much deliberation, I finally got motivated and have done the deed.  I had several criteria that I considered while addressing my build:
My brother

  • Cost effective 
  • Weather proof
  • Safe and sturdy
  • Adjustable weight

Cost effective:  Most people build Farmers Walk implements to hold weight plates ... usually 45 lb size ones.  I don't own 45 lb weight plates, nor do I plan to.  Weight plates generally cost a dollar a pound and that can add up quickly for a heavy load situation.  Since this is the only thing I will need heavy weight for, I looked for other options.  I finally settled on plain old bricks.  They were 49 cents apiece and weigh 6 lbs each.  In addition to being cheap, they lend themselves to easily making the weight adjustable. 

Weather proof:  Since there is no room in the garage, these will be sitting outside all year.  The eight foot long 2x6 I purchased is pressure treated, I got lids for the buckets, and most of the hardware is galvanized.  The exception are the four 2 ft. threaded rods, which are zinc, and I will end up brushing or spraying some sort of coating on those to make the whole thing weather proof.

Safe and sturdy:  I made the handles tall so that I don't have squat down too far to pick the up the load from the ground. The handle height is also adjustable ... a nice feature.  The buckets are 'notched' and bolted into the 2x6's to make them sturdy.  The threaded rods holding the handles look 'skinny' in comparison to the whole unit, but they are more than adequate for the task, especially considering that the vast majority of the force they take will be vertical and not shear.  

Adjustable weightBricks are easy to add or subtract for the load.  If somehow I ever need even more weight, I could add sand or dry quickrete to each bucket as there is plenty of space 'around' the bricks.

The parts

Once I decided on the final design and purchased the items, the assembly was fairly straightforward.  The hardest part was drilling the holes through the handles.  Our neighbor has a small, portable drill press that I used for this situation.  I went with 1 1/2 in. diameter pipe (1 ft in length), which is pretty thick and a great way to work that grip strength!  Another nice thing about the design is that if I want handles of a different diameter I can cheaply purchase more pipe and cut the same size holes in them for an easy swap out.

1:  I came up with a bunch of ideas for how to build Farmers Walk implements.  I was literally loitering around hardware stores looking at everything on their shelves as pieces to a puzzle.  The concept I came up with is by no means the 'best' way to do it.  It was merely the one that met MY criteria the best.  If anyone is considering making some of these and needs someone to bounce some ideas off of, I'd be more than happy to help. 

2:  As I've said before, safety is a top priority for me while exercising.  I generally don't lift heavy weights because there are safer methods to achieve strength and conditioning that are just as effective and efficient. With that said, the Farmers Walk is heavy weight.  There is no way around that.  BUT, I'm not going to be doing this exercise for weight (or time or distance), if that makes sense.  I'm doing it for the effect, with as light of a weight I can get away with to achieve that effect (without it taking forever).  No need to go all macho taco.  I simply see a benefit to adding a loaded carry back into my routine.  Perhaps I'll post more on how I go about the details of this as I figure things out.  Actually, I can already tell you that, like my regular training, it's just going to be by feel.  I suspect some days will be heavier with less distance and some days the opposite.  Anyway, weird as I am, I look at this kind of stuff as fun
notched with holes to attach to the 2x6
3: Each bucket can hold 9 bricks with the lid on and 11 with it off  (and the bricks still being secure from the bucket lip).  At 11 bricks a bucket the total for one whole side is approximately 160 lbs (bricks vary slightly and the 2x6 and handles add some weight). 

4: While living in Aspen, there was a time when I carried a big rock around as a way of doing a loaded carry.  The great thing about that situation was that I left the rock on a ledge where I could pick it up and set it down at chest height.  It's probably still in that very same spot on that ledge to this day.  I wonder if I'll get as many strange looks carrying my Farmers implements around the neighborhood here as I got carrying that rock up and down the sidewalk?

Finished product 
Yep, grip strength was the limiting factor

Good height and did not rub against the legs
Rock in Aspen