Friday, August 6, 2010

Frankenstein Shoes & Strange Fruit

Looking at the pile of laundry, list of chores, and list of currently sore, potentially unstable muscles led me to make an executive decision on the way home from work to not go to yoga this afternoon and instead take today as my rest day. I can greet tomorrow morning with a little warm-up walk and personal yoga session, and give my muscles an extra day to recuperate.

Yesterday's run was an easy 3 miles in 32 minutes around the college track. This plan was approved by my unofficial running coach, who said I should definitely take an easy run after the rigors of my 5 miles on Tuesday.

NPR was a font of great radio stories this afternoon. I'd like to talk first about Frankenstein shoes. (Technically, Frankenstein's monster's shoes.) These are the new, rounded-sole toning shoes that have been purchased by a number of my coworkers, and I saw on two girls walking around the track last night. You can read it here, which also has a link for listening to the story. Scroll down a bit so that you can also check out the studies. Or let me lead you directly to that of the American Council on Exercise, the one on the Masai barefoot technology, and the one on walking in negative heeled shoes.

Always, always, always check the sources of claims by a commercial organization. Always check the sources of claims by anyone, really. I read the studies. I analyzed the charts. I sifted through the language. The end result is that the two studies specifically on new shoe technology said that the shoes could be used in a therapeutic fashion to strengthen the legs. It might be considered good training for the enhancement of the lower leg muscles.

All of the studies had small sample groups (12 or 13 individuals) and the study was conducted over a short period of time. In order to conclusively show that these shoes are more effective than ordinary athletic shoes, you'd need to have a larger population of individuals and conduct the study with people exercising in a controlled fashion over a long period of time, so that you can accurately measure actual muscle tone changes.

I'd throw in some barefoot walkers, too, just as an added study.

I agree with the spokesman for the ACE study, in that these shoes cause one's gait to be altered. That alteration forces you to use muscles in a different way to stabilize. This alteration would be caused by any different kind of shoe. Improvements in physique are mostly likely caused by people simply exercising more in order to get the most benefit out of their fancy, expensive shoes. Like my friend (a trainer of personal trainers) said, anything that gets people out exercising is a good thing.

Now on to the other story. It involves something emotional, rather than physical. NPR also presented a very moving story on the August 1930 lynching of two young black men in Marion, Indiana, a photograph of which inspired Abel Meeropol to write the poem and song "Strange Fruit". You can read about it and listen to the full story here. I'll give you the same warning that I was given by All Things Considered: it contains language and images that some people may find disturbing. They certainly disturbed me--I started weeping three times.

Earlier today, I read a story posted on my brother-in-law's blog about what it's like being a nerd of color, so race was definitely in my mind this afternoon. I find it interesting to note that, now that my sister has married interracially, I really am much more aware of matters of race. Growing up white in Salt Lake City, racial issues were definitely something that happened other places. Now that I live in Southern California, I go back to SLC and am shocked that everyone looks the same. We've made some progress in this country since that lynching 80 years ago, but really: fourscore years and we still don't have real equality. I can be upset at that, I can weep at the atrocities that were committed in our country's past, but all I can do myself is work every day to show each individual on this planet the same equal treatment and compassion.

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