COVID response

Dear Friends – 

I hope this finds you all well and safe.  COVID-19 has overtaken the world, precipitating big changes in lifestyle for all of us.  Hopefully, we will weather this storm smoothly and relatively quickly.

The hands-on aspect of my work is paused, for the moment, which does create a few difficulties. 😉  Fortunately, there is much I can do over the internet.  Many of the skills and ideas that you’ve had me work with you on don’t require my actual physical presence, and work beautifully over video chat.

I am adding the following services that I can offer remotely. Please review them and feel free to suggest other ideas that you would like, or that you know that I can do and think would benefit others. A lot of these areas will overlap.

Here is my current list of my ideas. I will be adding more based on feedback and requests from my clients:

Ergonomic consultations

• I can help you improve your (new) home office set-up so that it fits you, and eases the strain on your body.   (I have product recommendations that can help with this as well)

Movement and Mobility:

 • gait analysis

 • walking, and running design: make your walk smoother and easier – or run faster than you’ve ever thought possible!

 • posture and ease while working, seated, or standing

 • coaching you through your workout to help you achieve and maintain the best form.

 • music practice

Targeting specific “problem” areas:

 • let me help you design and implement easy, effective programs and routines that will change those problem areas (pain, weakness, lack of mobility or strength) into assets for you.

 • Rehab exercises – designing, implementing, and adapting personalized routines to keep the rehab going.

For any of these or other issues, I’ll be doing sessions of either 30 minutes ($80) or an hour in length ($140).  We can use the tech available to me to record the sessions so that you can review them whenever you need afterward. Contact me to schedule – I’m rather flexible at the moment. 🙂

Sitting Disorder, part 2

Here I was, all prepared to put together a post on how to use chairs more effectively when I discovered, to my delight (and chagrin), that I had ALREADY done a series of vids on chairs.

Not wanting to repeat myself, I’m going to link to the relevant one HERE and move on to other questions from you all.

I’ve heard one that is in this ball park from a few clients recently, so here we go:

Am I “too far gone”?

In other words, I’ve heard people say they’re too old, too beat up, had too many car accidents, etc.

Here are a couple of preliminary thoughts.

1.  There are certain limitations that are difficult to overcome. Examples are surgeries to repair things (ligament repairs, pins, plates, joint replacements, other metallic objects and other issues) and broken bones, if they’ve healed poorly or been broken badly enough that they lost their original structure.

The thing to remember in this situation is that it’s not over, just that this new limitation will need to be what you balance the rest of the structure around.  Now, back up and read the last sentence again, ’cause it’s really important.  Expanding on that idea, you can get a lot of freedom in the body if you balance it to it’s “new” limitations.  But if you try to make it how it was before, you will end up frustrated and/or causing other problems.

2. You’re never too old, beat up, etc. to make at least some improvement. You have to decide if it’s what you want to do or not.  Nothing will trump your decision.  I’ve worked with clients from newborn to 88 years old.  The clients insistence that they can do it and change things is the single most important ingredient in the recipe.

3. Any rehab project will require four things:

a.  a super-skilled bodyworker (such as yours truly)

b.  being committed to the goal

c.  a consistent program of good diet and exercise

d.  time

Let’s unpack those one at a time:

a. a super-skilled bodyworker. You’ll need someone who understands the idea that the body is a fluid system and that its alignment and mechanics can be changed with the right touch and exercises.  While there are systems that work better than others, it’s better to focus on the quality of the practitioner.  Listen for unusual words that their clients use to describe them like “genius”, “magician” and “i’m not sure what they did, but look at me!”

b. nothing, and I mean nothing, will help if you’re not committed to getting where you want to be.  Despite all the marketing hoo-haa out there, the number one ingredient in any self-improvement project looks at you in the mirror every morning. As the man said, nothing succeeds like persistence.

c.  You must have good nutrition and a conditioning program that you can do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. You cannot out-train a bad diet (I know because I tried for years) and you MUST have good base strength and flexibility to keep the momentum going.  The bottom line is this: the body is a use-it-or-loose-it system.  If you stop using it, it stops working how you want it to.

This is not to say that you have to look like a swimsuit model or the dudes on the cover of men’s fitness mags.  A good routine will give you strength, endurance and flexibility that will last your whole life, not take hours and hours every week (or like some routines I’ve seen and tried, hours every day).  I’m a huge fan of functional strength and flexibility, and bodyweight exercises.  They don’t take long, pay huge benefits and keep your workout times to a minimum.

d.  Time. Sorry to be the bearer of potentially bad news, but despite the overload of marketing BS promising you everything tomorrow (jeez, don’t get me started…), things took a period of time to get how they are now, so they will take consistent applied effort over time to change them.  There are no substitutes for this rule that I’ve found in over 20 years.  There are no hard and fast charts for how long a particular problem with take, but don’t expect to sort out the back pain you’ve had for 5 years in a week or two; it’s happened, but it’s a VERY rare occurrence.

Lest you despair, let me finish with a little inspiration. When I was first getting started as a bodyworker (back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, as far as my children are concerned), I had the extreme good fortune to have a client referred to me that helped me really understand these ideas.

This person came to me after being in a severe car accident, one which resulted in her car being totaled and her being in the hospital for quite some time with a closed-head brain injury.  Her injuries were compounded by the fact that she had Polio as a child – in the days when the surgeons went wild, resulting in her having lost track of how many surgeries she had had.  The surgeons had moved muscle attachments in multiple places in the quest for having my client be better able to use what muscle she had left at her command.  Most bizarrely, they had fused her ankles, but at different angles – one was fused at 90 degrees, the other at about 45 degrees of plantar flexion (toes toward being pointed).

Needless to say, the accumulation of stresses from the surgeries were a problem, but compound those over time and then add a near-catastrophic car accident.  When I saw her for the first time, I heard her say that one of her main goals was to be able to walk more than 50 feet without pain.  Yes, you read that right – she couldn’t walk across a parking lot without being in agony.

So we worked, using all of the above ideas.  I saw her twice a week for about 8 months.  She started noticing improvements in how she felt and moved within a month or so.  By the 6 month mark, she was hiking with a pack on.  By 8 months, she could bicycle, cross-country ski and hike for miles.

Keep in mind that the doctors and PTs had given up.  They gave her the best pain killers and muscle relaxants around and said, “Get used to it.”  She hobbled in to her first session with me.  She refused to give up and worked consistently at healing.  I was deeply honored to be part of that process.

If she recovered from that, you can do it, too.

You’re never a lost cause.

Sitting Disorder?

Thanks to everyone who has written in with their questions lately – I do apologize for not posting more often recently.  I moved my family across the country during the summer – not a small undertaking, it turns out.

Now that we’re back into the routine of school (or, at least, getting used to the idea), I’ll be putting out more regular posts about our favorite subject: “how to make my body as comfortable a place to live as possible.”

Following on from the back-to-school idea, I’ve had a few folks write in wanting more information about chairs and sitting.  Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to look at my post on chairs, so let’s assume you have and use this post as a specific example of the concepts.

First, let’s take a real world example of a chair and then let’s problem solve how to sit on it in a way that would work.  Then, in the next post, let’s expand on the idea of sitting so that you’ll understand how to make the concept of chairs work for you.

Let’s have a look at this picture of the chair that a subscriber sent in.

First, let me commend you, Jito, for having plenty of water on hand.  This is one of the most important things you can do for your body – drink plenty of water.  And by plenty, I don’t mean the old “8 glasses a day” non-sense.  I mean drink the amount that works for YOUR body.

I know I’m getting off track here, but here’s the formula, then we’ll get back to it: Vol/day (oz) = Body wgt (lbs.)/2. Or in metric Vol/day (cl.) = body wgt. (kg)/3.  It’s a target, not a commandment.

Photo-0224This particular chair suffers from what most chairs do – a fundamental design flaw.  you can see clearly from the picture that the back of the chair is lower than the front.

This suggests a backward tilt to your pelvis, which destabilizes your spine and prevents the pelvis from supporting the movement of the lower body, placing undue strain on the muscles of the low back.

That was a mouthfull, wasn’t it?  Let’s unpack that just a bit and emphasize that the key point here is that when you’re sitting for any length of time, you want to make sure that your pelvis can support your upper body, so that your spinal muscles don’t have to do that job.

And, as if that wasn’t enough – there’s another problem.

Here’s the picture again – with a few additions for clarity.

chair problems

The ‘issue’ that this chair has above other chairs is that when you sit in it, because of it’s design, will tilt backward slightly when you sit in it.

This will exacerbate the main “chair issue” and add to the stress and strain you feel when sitting in short order.

“Well, gee thanks, Chris,” you say.  “What’s the solution to the problem?”

There are two easy solutions to the problem – although they don’t address the underlying issue.  More on that in a minute.

The first easy solution is to get a small pillow or a folded towel and place it at the back of the chair so that when you sit, it’s just underneath your sit-bones (pelvis) and not your thighs.  That will help quite a bit.  For this chair, you’ll want to make it extra thick, because of the tendency of the chair to loose height in back.

The other easy solution is to get another chair.

Not to be flip about it, but there are better chairs out there that could be had for less than $50.  And, if you’re spending a lot of time in the chair, you owe it to yourself to get a chair that you can spend a lot of time in without doing yourself in.

Solving the actual problem requires some technique on your part.  Don’t worry it’s not that difficult – it’s more like breaking a habit: when you notice you’re doing it, do the thing that works better.  We’ll talk about that more in the next post.

Keep those questions coming!

Does Good Ergonomics Equal Good Posture? pt. 2

Over the last twenty years, I’ve seen all manner of things come on the market for improving ergonomics and correcting posture.  All of them suffer from the same problems as I outlined in my last post.

Let’s review the formula for having a happy, low stress (work) life:

Individually adjusted ergonomics + good biomechanics + neutralizing accumulated tension = low stress levels and a happy body.

I put my formula together in this sequence for a reason; if you follow it in the way it was designed, it works best.  Sequence determines result.

Let’s take the first part of this equation today: your ergonomics.  Then we’ll tackle the biomechanics issue and the neutralizing of tension in the next two (or three) posts.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind – the equipment is a far smaller part of the package than manufacturers would have you believe; adjust just about anything properly and it’ll be far better than spending more money on something that’s “better”.

Individually adjusted ergonomics.

Why is this important?  Like I mentioned in the last post, you are not a statistic; things need to be adjusted to you specifically.

What this means is that you’ll have to pay some attention to how your body is and how it sets up with relation to “the norm”.  How will this pay off? If your ergonomics fit you, the amount of effort you have to use for positioning your body in space (all of your office tasks) goes way down.  Low effort = low stress.

For most of my clients, the payoff is that they cease to have pain altogether.  For the rest, the relief is so dramatic that they wouldn’t have it any other way.  And, let’s keep in mind, that although it takes me some time to explain it here, it is actually quite easy once you get the idea – and you can apply it.

Coming back to the office to get more specific: chairs, tables and computer gear.

Chairs

If you’ve had a chance to see my post on chairs, you’ll see that there is a fundamental flaw with most chairs in relation to how we use them.  How we address that flaw is rather simple, but requires that we pay attention to the particular dimensions of our own body.

Take me, for example.  My wife describes me as having a physique like a tree trunk.  Big wide shoulders and then from the ribs to the floor, I’m about the same width.  My friends in France used to refer to me as the armoire.  I am, however, not that tall, coming in at just under 6 feet and, in addition, I have a torso that is proportionally longer than my legs.  This means that most chairs are about the right height and that, for the most part, I just need to pay attention to the neutralizing the negative space on the chair (and really, if you haven’t seen my post on chairs at this point, you need to CLICK HERE).

Most ergonomic recommendations talk about having your feet flat on the floor and putting something in your low back to “support” it.  That’s too general for me and doesn’t deal with the fundamental chair problem (that the back of the seat of the chair is lower than the front) – just tries to shore up the symptom.

I recommend that you make sure that the chair is a height that allows you to have your pelvis just slightly higher than your knees AND, more importantly, make the back of the seat of the chair slightly higher than the front.

If you can’t adjust the height of the chair for you, it’s not the end of the world – it’s more important to have the chair seats rearward tilt filled in by a towel or pillow or wedge of some sort.  This allows for free movement of the pelvis with the spine, which is crucial in supporting the back, shoulders, arms, etc.

Tables or Desks

Desks are, frankly, the least of my concerns, for a couple of reasons.
1)    I want something that’s going to hold all my stuff that I need to work with and
2)    the computer gear that I work with allows for a lot more leeway in the other features that others may find necessary.

The real key here is to adjust your chair to you and THEN to integrate and adjust the height of your desk to that specific orientation.  Your chair is what you’re using to support your body, not your desk.

DO NOT make the mistake of adjusting yourself and your chair to the height of your desk.

Think about what you’re going to be using your desk for – writing by hand or merely as a stand for your gear, or a combination of the two.

If the table is to be used for doing paperwork, how much and how often?  If ‘yes’ and ‘often’ are the answers, you’ll need to have your table height dialed in pretty well.  The sticky part is that, for the most part, the makers of chairs and tables never talk to each other and the height of tables and desks is rarely adjustable.

Contrary to popular opinion, if you’re doing any lengthy amount of paperwork, you’ll want a desk that you can:

1)    snug yourself under without having your thighs touching AND
2)    be able to rest your elbows on without bending your spine forward (flexion) AND
3)    be able to maintain a good base in your chair with your feet at the same time (don’t worry, this isn’t as bad as it sounds).

If your desk is basically a platform for your gear and some miscellaneous paperwork, then you might even want to think about getting a lap desk to hold your keyboard and mouse.  More on this idea when we start talking about your biomechanics.

You will likely have to adjust the height of your desk. Depending on what you need, there are LOTS of height adjustable desks, in all price ranges.  Most of us have a desk that we’re stuck with already, though.  Fortunately, if you do a little research on the net, you can find all manner of goodies for blocking up the height of the desk (because, let’s face it, most desks are made for Lilliputians).  Search for bed or desk risers.

A final note about desks: just say no to keyboard trays. They anchor you to the height of the desk, and are so rarely at the right height, keep your arms at funny angles and/or get in the way so much that I usually bring a screwdriver and just take them off the desk altogether.  Even more importantly: the farther away your arms are from your body, the greater the strain on your arms, shoulders and wrists.

Gear

Here are a few thoughts about what will make your body happy.  Keep in mind that the option to vary your positioning is far more important than pretty much any other consideration.

If you have a keyboard that’s mobile (wireless or wired), you can adjust your position much more easily and make your body far more happy.  If you have wide shoulders (like myself) you may want to think about a wider keyboard or a split- or v-shaped keyboard.  If you find your shoulders up around your ears during the day, this is likely a large part of the problem – your shoulders are trying to narrow to accommodate your keyboard and the only place to do to do that is up.

On to the ubiquitous mouse.  The shape and size of your mouse is less important, I’ve found, than how you use it.  We’ll get to this more in the explanations on mechanics.  Wired or wireless doesn’t really matter – mostly as I have an extender on my wired keyboard and mouse which allows me to be practically any distance from my computer that I like AND, most importantly, I can keep my upper arms in close alignment to my torso and my hands close to my lap (hint, hint).

Same goes for your computer.  I’m a big fan of two things: laptops and big monitors.  There is a lot out there about putting the monitor at the right eye level, etc.  This somewhat misses the point, as what is really the issue is your head and neck being in alignment with your torso and your shoulders being able to rest on your ribs.   When you have a laptop and a separate keyboard and mouse that’s not really an issue, as you can move it wherever you need – in other words, you can adjust it to YOU, not the other way around.

In addition, with a big(ger) monitor, you actually solve two problems at the same time:

1)    text and graphics are big (you can see them clearly), so your head has less tendency to come forward off the mid-line and hang out in space while you squint at the 8 point type that someone has put on their site (gads…) AND

2)    the size of it allows you far more leeway in your positioning relative to the monitor.

As a quick review then, start with your chair and adjust it to you.  Then deal with the height of your desk.  Finally, get a few pieces of gear that allow for maximum flexibility in your positioning, because variation is one of the things that make life nice and keeps your body happy.

In the next post, I’ll talk about (and show you!) how you use your body with this positioning (and even without it) to get the maximum work done with the least stress possible.

Does Good Ergonomics equal Good Posture?

No.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not that simple.

I’ve had a number of people come in for sessions lately with arm and wrist issues, mostly related to their work (computers, offices, food service, bodyworkers).  They all have questions about the tons of stuff out on the ‘net about how to do the best ergonomic set-up, what the best/newest/coolest gadget is that you simply must have and how it will transform your life.

As I’ve said to them, all of these things miss a fundamental point: if you don’t use your body well, you’re stuffed right from the beginning. You will simply trade one inefficient use pattern for another.  To put it another way: you’ll be moving the stress around your body, instead of dispensing with it altogether.

This is the reason that you start using a new gizmo, feel better…and then some number of days, weeks or months later you have a new problem.

I know that this doesn’t seem fair, and those of you who know me will understand that I find the “buy this and your life is all smiles and happiness” idea somewhat disingenuous.

I’m going to give you some bad news now  (don’t worry, I’ll give you some good news at the end):

You can’t buy some neat-o widget and expect it to fix you by itself. It doesn’t work that way, for three reasons:

  1. People are individuals. We all have our special quirks and habit patterns, accumulated over a lifetime.  Given that, a one-size-fits-all approach hasn’t worked, doesn’t work and won’t ever work, full stop.
  2. People are lazy. I’m a prime example.  We like to try and get the maximum benefit from the minimal amount of effort – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, what most people do is take that idea too far and sort of mentally (and physically) slump or lean on whatever they’re using to help their posture and expect the thing to do it for them.
  3. Shifting the unaltered movement pattern that’s causing your current difficulties with a cool widget won’t eliminate the tension you’re experiencing, although it will reduce it somewhat, to be sure.  But, the rest of the tension from the pattern will shift to another area of your body – and the cycle will start again.

In order to address the whole picture in a way that will actually solve the underlying issues instead of just pushing them from one spot to the other, I’m going to do a multi-part series on using yourself in combination with good ergonomics.  I’ll focus in on the office, since it seems to be on a lot of people’s minds (and wrists) – but I’ll make sure to draw examples from other areas so that you can see how the ideas apply globally.

But first, let’s take a minute to examine the formula I’ll be referring to during these posts.  Like my fitness formula, theLow Stress Body Formula is a tripod – a very stable and interdependent structure.   You must have all three pieces, or it falls apart.

Here’s the formula:

Individually adjusted ergonomics + good biomechanics + neutralizing accumulated tension = low stress levels and a happy body.

To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite satirists: there’s a lot to unpack in that statement.  Let’s take it step by step.

Individually adjusted ergonomics.

This means that you take the widget out of the box and then you make it fit YOU.  98% of the folks that I’ve worked with have this part of the formula on backward.  Here’s why: widgets – ALL widgets – are made to a statistical model of a human.  Here’s what you have to ask yourself: are you a statistic?  Of course, the answer is no, so why would you use it without making it fit you?  Just like adjusting the height of a bicycle seat, you’ve got to make it fit you before you use it.

We’ll talk more about how to fit things to you as we go along, but for now just remember that you are the center of your universe, as it were.  Stuff needs to fit you, not the other way around.

Good Biomechanics.

At its base, this means that:

  • you’re doing your best to maintain an alignment in your body so that it is exposed to the least amount of gravity’s pull;
  • that you’ve set up a base that is shaped to your movements;
  • that you’re letting the big muscles do the majority of the moving;
  • that your breathing is easy and natural (also a big statement);
  • and that the majority of the force traveling through your body travels along the bone lines (instead of bouncing around in your body like a pinball, causing varying amounts of havoc).

Neutralizing accumulated tension.

Stress happens.  It’s inescapable.  Doesn’t matter how well you use your body, what kind of goodies you have in your work/life/sports.  What does matter is what you do AFTER you do these activities.  NOT before.  You can do plenty to keep stress from accumulating or stay flexible – but unless you do something to decompress after you do your thing, you will experience the inevitable encroachment of tension, stress and pain (far faster than it normally happens, anyway).

OK, now, here’s the good news: none of these things are difficult.

Consistent application of the ideas I’m going to be presenting will give you GREAT results – and quickly.

And, most importantly, I’ll do my best to reduce it down to the simple and practical while we’re doing it, so that you can use it right away.

Finally, if you haven’t already, go read my post about chairs so that we can all start off on the same footing for the next post.

Chairs – an intro

I get asked about chairs all the time: which is best, what works for me, why do I feel terrible at the end of the day, and why most of them are too uncomfortable for words.

Have you wondered why your chair seems to get harder toward the end of the day? If you’re sitting in a chair for more than an hour at a time, even if you have it perfectly fit to you, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Let’s think about that idea for a moment. Here’s another way to say it: unless you’re a serious athlete, you don’t do any kind of exercise for more than an hour at a time. Why would you ask your body to do anything else for more than that?

Sure, you say, but sitting isn’t stressful – I don’t get tired doing it.

No, you don’t get tired, but let’s make the distinction between leaving your work feeling tired versus feeling refreshed. You have a choice, even if you don’t know it; which would you prefer?

You see, your muscles and connective tissues have been stressed into holding a particular position while you’ve been sitting. Anytime you ask your body to hold a particular position, it has to do just that – hold. Holding something requires effort, even if it doesn’t overtax your respiratory system.

At the heart of this is the idea is that your bodies are designed for movement, not stillness. Your body is in constant motion, all the time. When it’s asked to hold a position for long periods of time or do the same motion(s) over and over again, it has to hold itself a certain way, which requires focused, localized effort and effort will tax the system.

Your body also does real well if it gets an occasional break from whatever it’s been doing, so that it can let go of any accumulated stress; Hence the need for getting up and moving around for 5 minutes or so every hour (or less, if you like).Most of you have countdown timers on your phones – mine’ll even let you choose the ringtone that signals you that it’s time! – set them for 40-50 minutes, then when they go off, GET UP! Walk down the hall, get a cup of water…whatever.

To be fair to the chair, in general they work quite well for sitting – just sitting. If you want to actually do something in them besides just sit (perhaps with a small glass of the Duluc’s sublime Très Vielle Reserve de Famille Cognac), then they need to be re-tasked to fit the work that you’re doing.

I’ve put together a three-part video about the main problem with chairs and some simple solutions to that problem.  Part one is attached to this page.  You can find the rest of the chair videos – and indeed ALL of my videos by CLICKING HERE and signing up.

Play with those ideas – follow up questions are encouraged! – and we’ll talk about working at your desk soon.

Shoes – part 2

“So why,” you ask, “are shoes so important then, Chris?”

Because the shape, density, size, last, lacing system and materials of the shoe will ‘suggest’ a way of moving that you will, even if subtly, adapt to over time.  This is very important because if it serves you, then that’s great.  If it doesn’t, then you’ll be adding even more stress to your system – and do we really need more stress?

I’m sure I will hear the wails of dismay when you read this blog.  Stay with me – the news is not all bad.  In fact, in the next blog, I’ll have a video for you on something quick and easy to do to change your existing shoes for the better and some thoughts about how you can manage the poor biomechanics of some companies’ designs.

OK, let’s look at the dominant “problems” that people have, then, next time, we’ll look at why that’s important in looking for shoes.  Keep in mind that this is only a sample and as such, is only dealing in fairly large generalities.  Really – send me some pics and I’ll talk about specificities until you can stand it anymore.

Inversion – commonly called ‘pronation’ by shoe store salespeople who haven’t a clue; this is what happens when the inside of the ankle moves inward to the midline and down toward the floor.  Along with this, the arch of the foot flattens and the knees have a tendency to roll inward slightly and you’ll see far more weight moving down the inside of the person’s legs and feet than the outside.

Eversion – this is far less common, but is the tendency of the individual to walk on the outsides of their feet.  You’ll see the ankles move away from the midline of the body and the majority of the weight of the body rest on the outsides of the feet.  You’ll also see a marked tendency for the legs to be turned out and for the person to land on the outside of the heel.  People who have “bow legs” often have this pattern.  More often than not, I see this only on one side of a person.

Heel walking – Often, you’ll hear these folks coming before you see them.  They sound like they weigh far more than they actually do.  Their heel touches the ground way out in front of their body (looking at them from the side), and the shock from the impact travels up their leg, bounces off their hip, with part of it reflecting up into the spine and part of it traveling back down into the ground, producing a “THUD” with each step.  High heels produce the same effect, but only because you can’t do anything else (unless you’re like a certain few very strong and well-coordinated Pilates instructors I know in Portland, OR),

The ball-twist
– this can happen in many different patterns, and is marked by coming off the ball of the foot with a twist, so that from the back you’ll see their heel wobble back and forth right before their foot leaves the ground.  The path of action through the foot isn’t straight, so in order to get across to the other foot, when the person pushes off their foot, they have to twist through the ball of their foot to correct the path of action and get across to the other foot.

How to do it properly.  We’ll talk about walking in other posts, but here let’s focus on how it relates to shoes.  The path of action that you have through your foot when walking and the way your body lines up in gravity can be supported or hindered by your shoes.

Let’s take a look, for a moment at the bone structure of the foot:

I’ve taken the liberty of drawing a line through it so you can see the obvious – your foot bones line up in a  path that allows for straight-forward movement.  Let me say that slightly differently – your feet are straight!  I find it by degrees both amusing and horrifying that most shoe companies seem to have missed this detail when they build their shoes.  Most shoes are built with a fairly large angle deviation between the front and back of the shoe.

OK, having said that, let’s take a look at one of the most important and easily observable things about shoes – something that’s called the last.  The last of a shoe is it’s base, the foundation of it.  It is the prime part of the shoe in terms of what it will suggest in terms of the path of action your foot will take.  Why are we focusing on this?  Two reasons:

1) I’ve found it to be one of the easiest things to identify for people
2) I’ve found that good selection of last makes the most difference with the least amount of learning.

The easiest way to see what the last is like is to look at the bottom of the shoe.  Here’s what to look for: does the middle of the back of the shoe line up with the front of the shoe?  I’ve found that with a little education, folks can see this very easily.

I’ve taken the liberty of going to a local shoe outlet and taking photos of the bottoms of a bunch of different shoes – some athletic, some dress – so that you can get the idea and start applying it in your own shopping.

Let’s start with some athletic shoes.

About every third kid I see these days has a pair of All-Stars on – I had a pair when I was a kid.  Notice, though, the change in angle.  I’ve got it as about 12-13 degrees.

By way of contrast, here’s another, more of a running shoe.  I’ve got this as less than 5 degrees (which seems to be the point at which it starts to make a difference).

And, just to make sure that you know (’cause you’ve probably been smart and are figuring out who makes what shoes), not all shoes by the same manufacturer have the same last:

This one’s 8-9 degrees – a little high for my liking, but still in a somewhat acceptable range.

OK, now let’s take a look at a few dressier shoes – stuff you might consider for work.  Ever wonder why you come home from the office feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck?  It just might be your shoes.

These, as you can see from the manufacturer’s mark, are a fairly well-regarded brand.  Great stuff, but the deviation in the last (12-13 degrees by my count) puts quite a strain on your foot with every step.  Where does that strain go?  Up.

Here’s another well-regarded shoe.  They look nice, would look great with the right suit, but don’t plan on walking around in them much.

Fortunately, the news does get better, and it certainly gets a whole lot worse.  Look at these first, then we’ll look at some good examples:

If I were being generous (which I actually think I was, looking at my arrows), these would have a 17 degree deviation.  Visualize, for a moment, what your foot has to do within the confines of this shoe in order to make this work – and what kind of torque that puts on your knee and hip.

OK – here’s some better news:

These are pretty much spot-on my 5-degree rule – and they looked good, too.

These were also right on that 5-degree mark (and a darn fine shoe, as well).

So, let’s focus for another moment on why this angle deviation is important, and then next time we’ll talk about what you can do with your athletic shoes to make them work even better.

The angle change is important because it causes your foot to turn inward in mid-stride, causing a cascade-effect of deviation and compensation upwards in the body.  It may be small, but my law of small insults tells me that anything, even if small, when given enough time and repetition will produce some big problems.

That little small twist causes a ripple effect all the way up your body, as your body works toward maintaining balance while moving.  The idea of compensation for changes in environment is nothing new to your body, but the repetition of exactly the same thing over and over can be catastrophic over time.  We’ve all heard of Repetitive Motion Injury or Repetitive Stress Injury – this is precisely what’s happening to your body over time with shoes.

Now it’s up to you – pay some attention to it now or you’ll have to pay far, far more attention to it later.  In the next post, I’ll talk about how you can modify what you’ve got so it works better for you.

Shoes – helpful or not?

I get a lot of questions from folks about what type of shoes they have, what they should use, what their fitness guru/doctor/shoe salesman/dog told them that they should use.  The truth is that there is a lot of information out there – too much, most of the time.

Here’s the thing to remember: most of the stuff you will hear is just advertising noise, which is not a bad thing, it’s just not in your best interests to listen.  Callous attitude?  Not at all, just what I call ‘enlightened self-interest’.

Of course everyone is going to say that their shoe is the best. What kind of marketing message would it be if they said, “Look, we know that you haven’t a clue about what shoe to buy.  We make a good shoe, but it’s built to a statistical model of a human being and has a certain set of assumptions that have gone into the design and therefore won’t fit anyone precisely.  BUT, we’re a big company with a lot of overhead, employees and stockholders that need us to turn a profit, so regardless of what YOU may actually need, BUY OUR SHOES!”

Anyone in half of their right mind wouldn’t buy jack-diddly from someone who said that, right?

Even more so, beware of the shoe company that says, “Our shoes are good for EVERYONE.” That basically says that all people are the same – which, if you look up from this post for a moment and watch the people walking down the sidewalk for more than 30 seconds, you’ll see is utter hogwash.  People are built differently, walk differently and, because life is inherently stressful, have developed different strategies for handling their ouchies, which lead to all sorts of interesting patterns.

So, looking more at that subject of ‘enlightened self-interest’, we want to learn some basic concepts and ideas about what’s going on in our bodies and what to look for in a shoe that will help us with our particular set of issues.

Over the next few entries here, I’ll do my very best to educate you about some of the dominant issues I see with people’s locomotion and how that relates to shoes.  You can also send me in some pictures of you standing (front and back, please, without shoes on) and I’ll use you as an example and talk to what I see happening with you specifically.

In the meantime, here’s one of the most important things to remember about shoes: you are not just your feet.  There is a marked tendency toward specialization in all fields, body care as well.  The problem is that is that the bio-mechanics of the body cannot be adequately isolated into compartments.  Said another way – you cannot treat just one part of the body by itself: if you do, you’re just asking for more trouble down the road.

By all means, buy good shoes that match you as well as possible – but don’t just stop there.  Exercise regularly, stretch often, eat well, get enough sleep, drink plenty of good water, etc. (you know this stuff already, I’m just reminding you).

First things first

A guy walks into a doctor’s office and says to the doctor, “Doc, it really hurts when I move my arm like this (he demonstrates).”


The doctor says, “OK,…. don’t do that anymore.”


We’ve all heard that joke, right?  Why does it seem sometimes that you’re trapped inside a body that won’t quite cooperate with what you’d like it to do?  Haven’t you ever wondered why your body didn’t come with an operations manual?


Wouldn’t it be nice if we heard this instead?

“Oh, right.  I see what’s going on – how about you stretch this other part over here out a bit first and then when you move your arm, let it move more like this…”, and viola!…it started to feel better.  I know that the first time someone did that for me, I was hooked.


What I noticed right away when I started doing bodywork (almost 20 years ago now) was that, largely because of my training, I was doing the same thing to everyone and expecting different results.  I think there were a number of reasons why I did that, but when I learned to see the body clearly and made the shift to a “let’s solve this problem together” approach with my clients, my results skyrocketed.


I’ve been called everything from crazy to mad scientist to genius and magician (as well as a few more colorful, but less printable, things).  I have created an approach to bodywork over the years that brings powerful results very quickly, all while feeling extremely gentle and “natural”.


Fortunately, I’ve had (and continue to have) the great privilege to study with some truly masterful people, and I’ve learned (and continue to!) a great deal about how the body works and how it can best interact with gravity and the world around it.


Many times over the years, I’ve been asked to explain what I see in, and how I think about, bodies and how I get the results I get.  On this site, I’d like to provide everyone with the “body working” lessons they never had – your Operations Manual.  Thanks to the marvels of modern communications, I’ll be able to respond to your requests by VIDEO as well as the written word – it’ll make things so much easier to explain.


So what’s fair game?  What can you ask about? Almost anything body-related is on the menu:
–    If it interacts with your body (car seats, shoes, clothes, chairs, etc.), I’d love to help you problem solve how to make it fit you.
–    If you interact with it (computers, musical instruments, sports equipment, etc.), I can show you how to use it so that you feel better at the end of using it than when you started.
–    How you can best do things with your body.  Walking, running, lifting, carrying, cycling, rowing, martial arts…  if you can think of it I’ve probably helped people do it better, faster and more easily.
–    Human geometry and the ideas behind how to re-design or re-task objects so that they fit you.  I’ve always thought it’s better to teach people the principles that lead to better results, rather than just give specific examples.
–    And, anything else you might think of or have wondered about.


I’ll be “seeding the waters” and priming your imaginations with little video clips that are designed to make your work life a little more comfortable, physically, anyway.  Please send in your questions to questions@bodygeometry.net


This first video is about the chair and why most of them are too uncomfortable for words.  Have you wondered why your chair seems to get harder toward the end of the day?   If you’re sitting in a chair for more than an hour at a time, even if you have it perfectly fit to you, you’re not doing yourself any favors.


Let’s think about that idea for a moment.  Here’s another way to say it: unless you’re a serious athlete, you don’t do any kind of exercise for more than an hour at a time.  Why would you ask your body to do anything else for more than that?


Sure, you say, but sitting isn’t stressful – I don’t get tired doing it. No, you don’t get tired, but let’s make the distinction between leaving  your work feeling tired versus feeling  refreshed.  You have a choice, even if you don’t know it; which would you prefer?


You see, your muscles and connective tissues have been stressed into holding a particular position while you’ve been sitting.  Anytime you ask your body to hold a particular position, it has to do just that – hold.  Holding something requires effort, even if it doesn’t overtax your respiratory system.


At the heart of this is the idea is that your bodies are designed for movement, not stillness.  Your body is in constant motion, all the time.  When it’s asked to hold a position for long periods of time or do the same motion(s) over and over again, it has to hold itself a certain way, which requires focused, localized effort and effort will tax the system.
Your body also does real well if it gets an occasional break from whatever it’s been doing, so that it can let go of any accumulated stress; Hence the need for getting up and moving around for 5 minutes or so every hour (or less, if you like).


Most of you have countdown timers on your phones – mine’ll even let you choose the ringtone that signals you that it’s time!  Set them for 40-50 minutes, then when they go off, GET UP! Walk down the hall, get a cup of water…whatever.


So, enjoy the video and I’ll look forward to hearing from you –follow up questions are allowed. questions@bodygeometry.net