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So first, I must apologize for the long break between posts. But I have the best of all possible excuses! January was busy with workshops (exciting!) and then we went to Mexico to have a break from the winter weather. And also:

To eat amazing food:

The Oaxacan quesadillas at Tlamanalli - a restaurant run by six sisters using traditional family recipes in a tiny town just outside Oaxaca city, where you watch them grind the corn for your tortillas before you eat them.

The Oaxacan quesadillas at Tlamanalli – a restaurant run by six sisters using traditional family recipes in a tiny town just outside Oaxaca city, where you watch them grind the corn for your tortillas before you eat them.

There may have been some mezcal….

We went to a very interesting tasting at a non-profit bar (I know, right?!) set up to help educate the world about mezcal. Many of the best producers are farmers who just make enough for themselves, and the agave plants they use can take 8-35 (!!) years to grow, so it's a bit of a specialized area. It's definitely an acquired taste but it was an interesting evening!

We went to a very interesting tasting at a non-profit bar (I know, right?!) set up to help educate the world about mezcal. Many of the best producers are farmers who just make enough for themselves, and the agave plants they use can take 8-35 (!!) years to grow, so it’s a bit of a specialized area. It’s definitely an acquired taste that I haven’t yet acquired, but it was a fun evening!

To check out some really incredible pre-hispanic artifacts:

This guy! Found in Tomb 7 at Monte Alban which was unearthed in 1931, and contained one of the richest troves of any pre-Columbian Mesoamerican burial site.

This guy! Found in Tomb 7 at Monte Alban which was unearthed in 1931, and contained one of the richest troves of any pre-Columbian Mesoamerican burial site.

To explore Monte Alban, where many artifacts were found:

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These temples and residences are built literally on top of a mountain – you are truly on top of the world. Perfect place for a virgin sacrifice!

To play in the surf:

The ocean is the best. Especially when it's 28 degrees in the water.

The ocean is the best. Especially when it’s 28 degrees in the water.

To swim with sea turtles:

I know you can't see them, but the turtles are there. They are all pretending to be rocks, somewhere about 600 meters off shore. Birds actually will sit on them!

I know you can’t see them, but the turtles are there. They are all pretending to be rocks, somewhere about 600 meters off shore. Birds actually will sit on them! We went on an amazing boat trip for about $15 each, and saw 2 whales, a manta ray, and more dolphins and turtles than I can count.

And to spend some quality time together.

Oh, vacations! How I love you!

Oh, vacations! How I love you!

Every time I’m away from Canada during the winter I really wonder what we’re still doing living here…

Long term life plans aside, one of my favourite parts of the trip was the chance to move on natural surfaces.

If you’ve been following Katy’s blog at all recently, you’ll already know that she’s been writing a lot about body casts and “Vitamin Flat and Level” – to quote her, the fact that the “very habitat in which we dwell is preventing full use of our body”. In other words, we’re basically all overdosing on a single movement pattern that is created by the surfaces on which we move. I don’t know about you, but for me that means mostly pavement and hardwood, with occasional forays onto carpet or a manicured lawn. I try really hard to get more surface variation, which means I get more than probably 99% of Toronto’s residents, but that still doesn’t mean a lot in the total volume of my movement. Which in turn means that many of our diseases are sort of like an overuse injury – the overuse of flatness.

For a large part of the trip, staying next to a sandy beach surrounded by rocky headlands gave me a great opportunity to explore surfaces that challenged my body in new and creative ways. I made sure to take lots of pictures of the interesting surfaces we discovered, to help illustrate how a natural environment easily creates the constant movement variation that’s missing from our super civilized lives.

Sand! It feels great (unless you are trying to get from the ocean to your beer at 3 p.m. when it is the approximate temperature of fresh volcanic lava) and is it ever tiring to walk on!  Every time I walk on sand I feel like I'm getting the ultimate foot work out.

Sand! It feels great (unless you are trying to get from the ocean to your cerveza at 3 p.m. when it is the approximate temperature of fresh volcanic lava) and is it ever tiring to walk on! Everytime I walk on sand I feel like I’m getting the ultimate foot workout.

My favorite movement adventures were on this headland, called Punta Cometa.

Here's the Punta in all it's late afternoon glory.

Here’s the Punta in all it’s late afternoon glory.

Getting there was half the fun – we had to climb up a steep path through the forest, which was filled with tiny little lizards.

I'm not gonna lie, I *adore* seeing wild animals. Any animals at all, actually. Chris always finds them for me, it is part of his boyfriendly duties. Look how CUTE this guy is! He's about 2.5 inches long and seriously pretending to be a leaf.

I’m not gonna lie, I *adore* seeing wild animals. Any animals at all, actually. Chris always finds them for me, it is part of his boyfriendly duties. Look how CUTE this guy is! He’s about 2.5 inches long and seriously pretending to be a leaf. Or a stick.

Then, we had to climb down the path towards the point.

Just going up and down steep hills is a major change for our Toronto-fied bodies. They get the ankles moving through a much larger ROM, as well as challenging the glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads, to name but a few of the muscles involved in getting up and down slopes.

Just going up and down steep hills was a major change for our Toronto-fied bodies.

Steep slopes like this require the ankles to move through a much larger range of motion, as well as challenging the glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads, to name but a few of the muscles involved in getting up and down hills (here are some tips on how to walk better on hills). The surface was dusty and a bit slippery, with scattered rocks as well as finely ground red dirt. Staying stable meant that my new Unshoes got a workout too.

Once we left the path to start scrambling on the point, things got really awesome. The point was largely formed of a sandstone-like rock – quite rough, which meant that it was very grippy – we could walk straight up almost a 45 degree angle with no fear of slipping. Somehow the years and the ocean had sculpted the rock into a crazy landscape of curves and crevasses that was perfect for adventuresome exploration.

So crazy and amazing!

So crazy and amazing!

Once we took our shoes off, it was even more fun to walk around because we had the added benefit of direct contact between our foot-skin and the surface. The rocks were a great balance – bumpy and uneven enough to feel like our feet were getting a crazy mobilization session, gritty enough to give us great friction, and smooth enough that even our city slicker feet could handle the challenge.

Look at these amazing rocks!!

Look at these insane rocks!! Like dinosaur bones!

Another thing that the precarious slopes and steep drop-offs required was the occasional use of our hands for extra stability.

It's a bit hard to tell, but this was a ridge with a tiny and somewhat slippery dirt footpath, and a big drop off to either side. I was much happier on all fours here!

It’s a bit hard to tell, but this was a ridge with a tiny and somewhat slippery dirt footpath, and a big drop off to either side. I was much happier on all fours here!

Our hand-skin got some friction and our shoulders and arms encountered new loads. Especially when we scrambled up this little chimney.

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Because neither of us wanted to find ourselves dashed into the raging seas below. Actually, they weren’t raging at all, the ocean was incredibly calm throughout our trip, but no one wants to be involved too closely with waves and rocks at the same time.

Even with almost no swell, the waves against the rocks were pretty exciting.

Even with almost no swell, the waves against the rocks managed to foam the water into milky turquoise froth.

We felt like we were pretty adventurous, but we were nothing compared to the locals who had grown up around the sea. Each night when we went to watch the sunset there’d be someone fishing or collecting shellfish on rocks that we’d avoided in broad daylight. Which gave another great example of how a less modern life creates much greater movement – the work involved in fishing and foraging requires extensive movement over a wide variety of surface. Oh, how I would love to do that every day!

One of my dreams is to host a natural movement retreat. Wouldn’t it be fun to spend a week by the ocean, exploring the many amazing surfaces together? There would be lots of stretching and RE classes, lots of time to discover our individual alignment boundaries, and a million places to explore. Oaxaca would be a great place to do it, but I’m open to suggestions! I’m hoping for 2017…

So since so many of us actually live in in a giant city, what can we do to help our bodies get some of the natural surface love when we aren’t on vacation? (and if you don’t live in a city I’m jealous!) Here are some simple ideas.

1. Get off the beaten path – every time you can climb over a rock or a bench, up a hill, through a playground, or over your coffee table, it’s a new movement nutrient. This can be hard in the winter, but it can also be easier – we went to the park the day after we got back and climbed on the ice chunks that had been bulldozed up from our local outdoor rink. With enough imagination, it was almost like mountaineering!

2. Change your surfaces – what can you step on that isn’t a floor? Rubber balls? A rock mat? Maybe some lego if you’re lucky enough to have children 🙂

3. The awesome Brooke Thomas, of The Liberated Body podcasts, does a 30-day movement challenge 2-3x a year, that includes a super fun movement scavenger hunt. I’ve been doing this since she started it and I’ve really enjoyed all the new ideas and new friends. I’d highly recommend it – I believe the next one is in April, 2015.

4. You can do some REXercise! There are lots of ways to strengthen your feet, hips and ankles in the ‘lab’ – this article has a bunch of suggestions. Some of the best ones for faking a natural surface are #2, #5, and #11.

5. And of course, make your opportunities. Use your leisure time well – parks, beaches, camping, and vacations can all offer lots of amazing places to explore. Hike or walk in natural parks on weekends, and consider trying out indoor rock climbing or building an indoor jungle gym to help increase your movement options.

 

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