In this fast paced, and highly technical modern world, even us mountain folk are often at the beck and call of others. And regardless of whether this comes from our jobs, calendars, phones, or other devices, quite often this happens more than we would like. Think back to the last time you didn’t have any unnatural sights or sounds clouding your mind, or distracting you from some good sleep – and good thoughts. Can you even remember?
As you may have guessed, a lot of these tenets work together, such as being aware of yourself and your thoughts and feelings, mastering your movement, and ensuring you are refueled by getting outside. And, yeah, all the nature you interact with is great, but how natural are you, as a person, as movement, as a body?
Take your feet for instance. How many pairs of shoes do you have? Include everything you put on your feet; ski boots, dress shoes, sandals, flip-flops, climbing shoes, hiking boots, trainers, sneakers, slippers, that old pair, the new pair, etc. Seriously – count them – I’ll wait…
Suddenly you realize, “Holy shit, I’ve got a lot of shoes!” Did you even realize this? Why do you have them and, how removed are you from a natural gait, or pace, by wearing them? It’s okay to like, or love even, your shoes. But looking at them in a new way may help you. Are they putting me out of alignment? Do they fit well? Does my natural step or gait change by wearing them? These are just a few of the things you may want to think of the next time you test drive your footwear – yes, every pair.
As a climber, I have both approach shoes and climbing shoes, but after years of accruing ‘tons of stuff’ taking stock enabled me to realize, a lot of my stuff wasn’t serving me. I now have some sturdy leather dress shoes I can either dress up, or down, but most importantly feel amazing on my feet and give me support all day. Other than that, it’s the aforementioned approach shoes and climbing shoes, a pair of sneakers, sandals, and slippers – that’s it! While I can definitively say I need each of them, more importantly, I can say they have been vetted – and selected – carefully. That being said, I also spend as much time barefoot as I am able, to ensure the shoes are an extension of my foot, and not a crutch my foot relies on in order to do that activity.
Clothes, shoes, light, all of these things are convenient, but how often are you getting the natural version? I am amused every time I sleep outside that I wake at first light, and go to bed when it’s dark (or shortly thereafter), only to return home and immediately get back on the alarm clock train to wakefulness!
Okay, fine – you may be saying – but how does this apply to me? Well, to bring this back to performance, for both fitness and training, try going barefoot. Better still, try training barefoot outside. Remove yourself from the artificial light and heat (or cold) of an indoor gym, and get thyself out in the fresh air and sunlight! Not only will you get some great biohacks through the grounding, and natural Vitamin-D, but you will also prepare yourself for the elements by, literally, going out in them.
If I’m doing a big wall climb, or a long trek, I spend as much time outside, wearing as little as possible, for as long as possible, prior to the trip. Partly to get used to the elements, sun, wind, rain, etc on my skin, but also to see how I react to being hot, cold, and uncomfortable. Just as your hands need to callous up for weight work, so to do your feet. If you intend to run, hike, ruck, ski, or climb, strengthening your ankles, and feet will serve you well – in spades!
My Lesson Learned
Take a moment to consider all the small questions you’ll want to answer for your next adventure; Will I need more water or less? Should I bring more layers for warmth or protection? Is my pack big enough, or light enough to add these items? Or should I simply load the extra weight, with the potential being, I’ll be more tired?
Training outside (and barefoot too should you care to try) will help you answer these questions, as well as prepare your body for the answers. You can dial in your movement and reactions by going as natural as you can, as often as you can. Your next mountain adventure will thank you!
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