Friday, April 15, 2011

Less is More

I could write all day about the technical side of running, but I’m doubtful that anyone would want to read my posts, given all the great material already out there.  That said, I do want to reestablish this blog with some thoughts on some personal challenges and transformations Moira and Leo and I are working on, and believe it or not there is a connection to how and in what shoes I run every day.  Stay with me, here!

Losing Control of Things

Someone I respect observed that with a) Moira’s illness, b) Leo being just brand new, and C) the economy putting Moira’s long-gone job on ice, 2009 and early 2010 was a time where we couldn’t control anything.  We were saddled with burdens that we didn’t ask for and had to endure some really tough days and nights.  Well, it is 2011 now and all of that seems like ancient history.  Maybe that is why I fell off the blogging bandwagon and repurposed my time on family and personal growth. 

What this person suggested to me was that he would not be at all surprised if I started taking things like my career and my goals and ambitions by the horns…if I started taking back control, so to speak.  And he was right.  Moira and I started to reflect on what mattered to us during that terrible spell.  It turns out that the credit card bills and cable TV bills and lowly savings accounts were not worth the accumulated stuff littered around our house and the junk TV down time we wasted every night.  After our cancer ordeal, I found myself less and less attached to things that I thought meant a lot to me.  Collectibles, keepsakes from past adventures and new toys to keep my mind occupied all seem foolish in many cases. 

Housecleaning Our Way to Happiness

In fact, we started gutting the house, room by room (a process we are still working on).  Each room gets emptied out and the only things that go back in are those things we 100% absolutely cherish, need, or are actively using.  It turns out possessions as “precious” as Moira’s wedding dress won’t even make the cut…so it is getting donated.  Each new “minimal” room has left us with a refreshed view of our own environment and our own house, and we will end up having one MOTHER of a garage sale in a few weeks!

We’ve refined this strategy to a decision making process that includes rules like “one new item in = 2 old items out,” and “less is more…just make it the RIGHT less.” In other words, keep just those things around that do the job well, which keep us happy and healthy, and be ruthless with everything else.  Cable is gone (and telling Comcast to suck it was one of the best experiences of Moira’s 33 years, I guarantee). Literally about 80 pieces of clothing I haven’t worn in ages are gone. Extra golf clubs and my expensive bicycle and my kayak and Moira’s sewing machine and lots of other stuff…all gone via eBay, Craigslist, or just given away.  Remember how much I was always talking about my Brooks shoes and how extreme my collection was getting?  You guessed it…they are now nearly all gone.  In fact, I am no longer in the Brooks ID program (though I am still participating in their non-exclusive Fanatics club).

The Running Part

But this is a running blog, too, right?  I must run in something, no doubt.  I have to say that in this case, life philosophy was imitating running philosophy.  A few months earlier, I drank the minimalist/barefoot running kool-aid the minute I finished “Born to Run,” and became an almost cliché example of an injury-plagued runner finding religion in the pages of this excellent book.  After the Chicago Marathon last fall, my right IT band hurt like hell, my left knee was screaming from patellar tendonitis, and my painful right heel was reminding me of my history with plantar fasciitis.

Merrell Trail Gloves...great shoe from a Michigan Co.
I had tried every technology in every type of traditional running shoe Brooks offered, and no amount of stretching or icing or strength training or resting was helping me.  So, in an act of frustration and defiance, I ditched the shoes and spent the fall and winter running barefoot on a treadmill and eventually in some ultra-minimal trainers from Inov-8, Saucony and Merrell (see my Merrell Trail Gloves in the photo, left).  After 6 months of running minimally, with some help from Good Form Running (it is more than shoes…it is TECHNIQUE that keeps you healthy…minimal shoes EMPOWER that technique) I am a fully converted minimalist runner.  In fact, I can’t walk three blocks in my traditional trainers without my arches and knees hurting.  No lie.  I have been trying to transition slowly, and have used some of my more built-up shoes as recently as early February, but today they are retired, donated, or recycled.

This stripping away of technology and going down from 15 pairs of shoes with extreme heel cushioning worked for me, even though it may not be for everyone.  Last weekend I enjoyed a fantastic 14 mile trail run on the rugged Potowatomi trail in new trail shoes that are basically ballet slippers with some tread on the bottom.  Today, running is less complicated for me than it used to be.  I run like a kid again.  I may still have a little wiggle here or there when my legs get tired, but honestly the injuries and serious issues are gone and I am stronger every day I run.

Inov-8 F-Lite 195, very light, very fast
This process informed the stripping down of our everyday life.  It isn’t just stuff, either.  We are careful not to overcommit.  We do not complicate our lives or get too busy that we can’t enjoy quality time with Leo.  We do not overpromise and underdeliver.  We focus on a few solid things and do them well.  We live more simply and respect our pocketbook more than ever, so we can employ our resources to things like trips and adventures with our little family.  A blogger I really respect, Jason Robillard, has paved the way already and has been sharing his similar experiences for some time.

As I learn more and I ramp Average Guy Hits the Road back up this running season, I will share a few more experiences I have had with barefoot and minimalist running, and with our family’s philosophy and plans for improving our quality of life my going without those things that complicate and overburden us.  You can take it for what it is…our own experience.  I promise not to make it all about the gospel of barefoot running, there are already great sites for that, but as always I will relate our trials and tribulations to you as I hit the road.


The Dough Boy said...

You are so not average....

Joe Bauer said...

Got any additional recommendations on resources for learning about minimalist running technique?

Zak said...

I sure do, Joe...look for a new post coming in the next few days, but in the meantime, google "Good Form Running" (an outfit based in Lansing).

Wendy said...

Zak, good for you in regards to your "less is more" ideal. We have done what you and Moira just did, for the past 2 years. No cable, no phone (just cell), no garbage service (we take our own), carpooling and bike riding everywhere, etc. Decluttering our life and home has allowed us to be as close to debt free as we can get at this point (only 2 loan payments: house and student loan). This philosophy resonates throughout out our life as we, too, do not over commit and leave room for life to just happen. Enjoy your "new" life and the adventure! God bless!
Wendy "Bogner" Caccia

Carlisle/Wortman Associates, Inc. said...

Thanks, Wendy! We are not quite there with those few bills, I wish we were! But within a year or two we will be much closer, all things depending on factors like jobs, etc. The other area where we (I) have really scaled back is food. No meat, no dairy. More on that soon. Good to hear from you!