Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Is that an Eland in your pocket...

You had to pick Eland.

By far one of the things I miss most about Africa is the occasional Eland steak. It is the tastiest of all the antelope clan.

(Steve is quoted in green)

I'll stipulate that you can get meat to supplement a goodly amount of protein by such hunting, but it's nowhere near as efficient as driving a couple eland into a stake pit, or Bambi, Thumper, and Flower over the edge of a cliff and gorging until the meat turns. Not particulary good stewardship of the game that way, but costs a lot less energy than running all day and less risky than going after the mastadon with stone-tipped spears, vis a vis the hunter attrition rate.

So when was the last time you tried to drive an eland out on the savanna into a pit full of spikes?

How many calories did you expend digging the pit (remembering that the only tools you have are a digging stick and an old piece of hide)? How many days did you wait for a convenient eland to come along? How long did you take and with how many men to drive it into your pit?

You could maximize your chances by putting your pit near a water hole I suppose, but you would have to contend with lions, hyenas and wild dogs while waiting for your eland to come along, and when you finally get one (assuming that you do) the same animals are going to dispute your kill.

You could try to drive your eland over a cliff, but the problem with that is the shortage of convenient cliffs on the Serengeti.

You are also way off on your time-line. Persistence hunting developed around 2,000,000 years ago. We do not see evidence of drive hunting until something like 300,000 years ago if memory serves. Neanderthals were masters of the drive hunt, it seems to have worked out alright for them as long as there were mammoth and other very large animals to hunt that way.

But one day there weren't.

It's that pesky climate change problem. You can't hunt the sort of large animal that a drive hunt needs unless they are around. Neanderthal man seemed to prefer very large prey and was well adapted to acquiring it. Humans, especially before the development of missile weapons, seem to have liked getting smaller prey, which just happened to be quite a bit more plentiful.

Interestingly, my Maasai friends told me that eland was there favorite game for persistence hunting back in the day when they did that sort of thing, because of it's size. an eland buck weighs between 880 -2000 lbs and stands up to 72" at the shoulder. It's an easy animal to overheat compared to a Thomson's Gazelle at 40 lbs and around 26" at the shoulder.

Yes, people can run long distances at a slow pace. Given how much easier it is to take game in other ways, this notion of evolution doesn't seem anything more than a tenuous theory. Why spend twenty years learning to walk on water if there's a boat tied up right there?

How much easier under what circumstances? You get to have a 5' long hardwood stick with one end abraded to a point, a club of about 2.5' and a percussion flaked hand ax. Being as you have been using the long stick for digging roots the point may not be all that sharp.

So the answer is that there is no boat, and you don't need to walk on water, you just need to learn to swim.

As to this being a "tenuous theory" a significant part of the anthropological community takes it seriously, so it can't be all that "tenuous".

But do feel free to give me a viable alternate explanation for the running adaptations in genus Homo.

Why did we develop a nuchal ligament, or an Achilles tendon? Why the arched foot, strong plantar fascia, copious sweat glands and hairlessness? Why do only we, of all land mammals have the ability to choose different breathing cadences at a full run? Why did we develop the unique ability to run all day long? No other animal that you can name does this.

So feel free to give me a better theory as to how we evolved these traits and why.

And it's obvious than humans learned how to kill effectively along the way. Thumbs, tools, the big brain.

You have the order wrong. It would be opposable thumbs (not just thumbs) big brain, then tools. In order to get that big brain we needed a good reliable source of fat and protein, so I think a more accurate view would be first we grow the big brain, then we invent the tools. So how did we get the protein?

As for how many calories you burn running, the Institure of My Chart is Better Than Your Chart seems once again to be the highest authority.

Well then let's go to the real world. I am somewhat of a fanatic about keeping track of the amount of calories I take in and burn, as well as the type of calories. As a diabetic (who maintains proper blood sugar levels solely with diet and exercise) I keep track of these things as if my life depended on it because, well, it does. I have had some very good help in calculating these things from my doctor and the diabetes clinic here, so while you may want to dispute general numbers, the figures I have for myself are empirically accurate.

So, me, 180 lb male at 6'2"

Walking 2 miles an hour, I burn 226 calories in 60 minutes, thats 113 calories a mile
Walking 3 miles an hour, I burn 356 calories in 60 minutes, thats 118.6 calories a mile
jogging at 4 miles an hour I burn 572 calories in 60 minutes, that's 143 calories a mile
running 5 miles an hour I burn 691 calories in 60 minutes, that's 138.2 calories a mile
running at 10 miles an hour I burn 1468 calories in 60 minutes, that's 146.8 calories a mile
(note: the drop in calorie consumption from jogging to running is caused by running being a more efficient stride. Those big Achilles tendons store and release a lot of kinetic energy when you are running on the balls of your feet at the proper cadence)

In order for me to drop one pound in weight I must burn about 3500 more calories than I take in.

So on a six hour hunt, if I averaged 5 miles an hour I would burn 4146 calories. Figure I will replace about half that from eating on the run. Using parched corn as a standard, you get about 450 calories per 100 grams and figuring consuming 100 grams an hour (rough figure but close enough) for a replacement of 2700 calories over 6 hours. That gives me a calorie deficit of 1446 calories.

Three pounds of cooked venison will give me 1611 calories, but also 32.4 grams of fat, 308.1 grams of protein 550.8 mg of sodium and 3417 mg of potassium. The protein number is most important as it is about six times the minimum requirement for someone my size.

So there are some hard numbers from the real world for you to work with. If you want to dispute them you will need to take it up with the doctors, dietitians, and physiologists at the diabetes clinic.
And something is obviously wrong in your numbers:

Yeah I wrote hour when I meant mile. don't be too hard on the paper though, as you quoted it as well. Serves me right for posting so late. An old guy needs his rest.
Yep, we'd all probably be better off if we started young and ran barefoot enough to develop our feet, climbed trees to keep our muscles toned, and ate like the great apes, grazing. And washed our hands more, didn't smoke, drink to excess, or have unprotected sex. But if you are going to take up running later in life for fitness, then it needs to not cause more problems than it cures.

Yep, and highly padded, over-engineered running shoes have been proved to cause more problems than they prevent. If you think not, then feel free to produce even one peer reviewed scientific paper demonstrating that modern running shoes do anything to prevent the sort of injuries we see so often in running today.

Tumo is tricky and not that easy to master; sell that to a culture that wants a pill to instantly cure everything from cancer to limp dick. Shoes abound, most people own and wear them -- how many pairs do you have? -- and I don't see folks giving them up. Sure, people will slip neoprene socks or their Vibram Five Fingers on and go on about how natural that is, but it's not. Bare is not covered, sock, shoe, or dotic boots ...

I'm not sure why you are going on about this, I did say that it was a gimmick in my last post.

You will also note that this whole discussion started by my reviewing my favorite running shoes and that I have never said that one MUST run without shoes. I have merely said that running without shoes is good for your feet and will make you a better runner and will likely help you prevent injuries. Coach Vince Lananna, late of Stanford University, now up in your neck of the woods, seems to agree with me, being that he insists that his runners spend part of each training day working barefoot. Being that the Stanford track team did quite well under his direction, there may be something to this.

Going barefoot strengthens the foot. This is not hypothetical, you can do the testing to demonstrate this in several areas. A strong foot is less prone to injury.

We're tropical creatures. We do well when it's eighty degrees and sunny. We can sweat; climb; loam or humus under the trees works for us. We don't do well at thirty-below in just our hide, and that includes our feet. That you or I might stand a bit of snow on bare skin for a few minutes is not the same as spending the days and nights in such weather. Hard to keep the tumo going while you are tired or asleep. And you have to burn a lot of fuel to do it.

I never said it was, and I'm not sure why you're getting off topic here.

I wonder if you are making the distinction between "tropical" in the sense of latitude and "tropical" in the sense of rain forest. We seem to have evolved on the Savannas, which are not anything like a rain forest. I have been in both for pretty extended periods and can tell you first hand that the ground we evolved to walk and run on is pretty hard, nothing like what one finds in a rain forest.

We were not evolved to run on concrete poured to city code. If we see any kind of large-scale movement in this direction, and I'd be surprised if we did -- we are going to see a bunch of injuries. Wait and see. You heard it here first.

We were however evolved to be able to run on a verity of surfaces, including rock and hard pan. People run marathons barefoot without injury all the time, people (including me) trail run barefoot without injury all the time.



But don't take my word for it.

Alan Webb said "Human Beings are designed to run barefoot". Being as he used barefoot training to cure his flat feet and go on the be the best miler in the country, he might have some insight into the subject. He's training in Portland these days so you can even look him up and ask him about it if you like. This is from Men's Health;

Webb had been hobbled by foot injuries early in his career, but after he started barefoot exercises, his injuries disappeared, and his shoe size shrank, from a 12 to a 9. "My foot muscles became so strong, they pulled my arches up," says Webb. "Wearing too much shoe prevents you from tapping into the natural gait you have when landing on the ground."
Then there is this from Gerard Hartmann Ph.D. who is physical therapist to some pretty impressive runners, including Haile Gebrselassie;

Also from Men's Health

One of the more vocal -- and surprising -- members of this group is Gerard Hartmann, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist who works with the world's greatest marathoners and also consults for Nike. According to Hartmann, the vast majority of running-related foot injuries are a result of too much foam-injected pampering. Running shoes have become so supercushioned and motion-controlling, they allow our foot muscles to atrophy and our tendons to shorten and stiffen. Without strength and flexibility, injuries are inevitable.

"The deconditioned musculature of the foot is the greatest issue leading to injury," Hartmann explains. "If I give you a collar to wear around your neck, in 4 to 6 weeks, we'll find 40 to 60 percent atrophy of musculature. That's why this emphasis on cushioning and motion control makes no sense.

And then ther is Dr. Paul W. Brand

Barbara Platte interviewed Dr. Brand in 1976. Here is the account from the San Francisco Chronicle

What every kid seems to know instinctively -- that going barefoot is good for you -- has been confirmed by an orthopedist and rehabilitation specialist who has studied foot problems in various parts of the world.
"A high proportion of the world's population walks barefoot most of the time, and the average person who walks barefoot has much healthier feet than the average person who wears shoes, says Dr. Paul W. Brand, chief of the rehabilitation branch of the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, Carville, La. and professor of surgery a Louisiana State University Medical School.
Dr. Brand conducted an orthopedic clinic in India for 18 years and has also treated orthopedic problems in Ethiopia and the United Kingdom. On the basis of these experiences he suggests that maybe we in America should walk barefoot for at least part of each day.
Common foot problems in the United States include corns, bunions, hammer toes, athlete's foot and ingrown toenail - but none of these is a problem in countries in which most people go barefoot.
"Every one is a product of footwear. They are caused either by poorly designed or poorly fitted shoes, or in such conditions as athlete's foot, by the simple fact of wearing shoes that prevent free access of air between the toes," he says.
Shoe-wearers also receive mechanical stress from walking on the same part of the foot with each step, while the rough, uneven thrust of the ground is transmitted to a different part of the barefoot walker's foot with each step.
In shoes, Dr. Brand says, sensitivity, mobility, and intrinsic muscle strength of the feet are lost.
" The barefoot walker receives a continuous stream of information about the ground and about his own relationship to it, while a shod foot sleeps inside an unchanging environment. Sensations that are not used or listened to become decayed and atrophy. There is a sense of aliveness and joy which I experience walking barefoot that I never get in shoes," he says.
Such direct contact with the ground has a great deal to do with preventing fractures of the ankle from "turning the foot over" by stepping on a rock or edge of the pavement. In India Dr. Brand saw no ankle fractures except in those who wore shoes.
The reason for this, he says, is that a barefoot person has instant information about the situation relayed by the touch-sensitive nerves in the skin of the sole and gets the information in time to avoid putting his weight on the unstable foot.
The person wearing shoes may not get this information in time to remove his weight from the leg to prevent a fracture.
In the Olympic Games, Indian and Pakistani teams have won several gold medals in field hockey while playing barefoot, and have had an impressive injury-free record. They have now turned to shoes in international competition but only in self-defense against players who wear boots with cleats and studs, Dr. Brand notes.
Going barefoot seems to have an additional advantage in preventing arthritis of the hip. For persons of comparable age, this is seen more frequently in Westerners and Indians who wear shoes than in the barefoot population.
I could go on, but you get the idea.

I have to say that I think your shoe-barefoot argument was dealt a neat crotch kick with the San hunter and his running shoes in the video you used. Here's a guy who grew up running, chasing Bambi. Skinny, slight, should be in shape. Why would he wear shoes?
I will concede your point if you can tell me what kind of shoe he was wearing. Was it a $200 dollar Nike or a $2 dollar Chinese shoe of the sort that missionaries hand out by the thousands in Africa?

If they were the former then you have a point. If they were the latter then they would offer no more support than the traditional Giraffe hide moccasins that were the traditional footwear of the San people. Please do remember that I have never said that people MUST go barefoot. My posts from the beginning have been about barefoot/minimalist methods to improve running (and walking). Again let me remind you that this thread started with me making a review of a pair of shoes I prefer for running.

Even the barefoot running gurus who hold up the Tarahumara as examples allow that running at a steady speed on flat, hard surfaces, is apt to make one prone to injuries.

Which barefoot gurus are you referring to and what are the quotes?

(And I find it really amusing that one has to train to run "naturally," and coincidentally most of these gurus offer how-to courses in the right way to do it -- for a price.)
Why should you find that amusing? How many years have you spent learning to move naturally with Guru Plinck? Isn't that one of the ways you know your movement is good, the feeling of natural effortlessness that comes when your structure, position and breath are in harmony?

You might want to be a little cautious with your casting dispersions on these folks. I remember when you were saying the same sort of thing about Silat.

There are three running gurus I know of and have respect for, let's take a look at them

Danny Dreyer
Hmmm the guy's run over 40 ultra marathons, perhaps he knows a thing or two.

Dr.Nicholas Romanov
He seems to have trained a good number of world class runners.

Coach Ken Mierke
He also seems to have some pretty impressive fans

We aren't talking martial arts here, people don't succeed in this field unless they produce people who actually win competitions against other people roughly as good as themselves.

Why should it be unreasonable for someone to learn a more natural, effective, efficient method of doing something, especially if they have spent their lives with their feet in casts? Every other sport/athletic endeavor requires coaching to help people unlearn bad habits and create good ones.

Given what I know about plantar fasciitis -- from personal experience -- barefoot running or even walking is apt to make that worse if you have it, and more likely to develop if you don't, especially if you are heavier than the typical long-distance runner -- loading up the arch is part of the cause. Heel-strike running is harder on the knees, but either can cause injuries in the hips or back -- without those glutes we wouldn't be standing upright, and even with them, we don't do it very well -- eight or nine people out of ten will suffer back injuries sooner or later. I stretch my feet, tendons, muscles regular as part of my training routine, and every morning as a matter of course, I use a wooden foot roller on my arches. The first thing a podiatrist will tell you if you get fasciitis is to put on shoes the moment you step out of bed, and to use arch supports until it goes away. Muscles and connective tissue have their limits; they can wear out or fail no matter how careful you are.
Dr. Irene Davis, who has some pretty impeccable credentials, has been using barefoot exercising as part of her plantar fasciitis treatment quite successfully. She has said "I think perhaps the widespread plantar fasciitis in this country is partly due to the fact that we really don't allow the muscles in our feet to do what they are designed to do."

It should be noted that traditional podiatrists have an abysmally bad track record (no pun intended) in the treatment of PF.

Distance running favors a certain body type, we all know what it looks like, and if you don't have it and a goodly amount of slow-twitch muscle, you are making do.
Yep, it's called the human body type. There is a difference between distance running and distance racing. At 180 I am not likely to become a world class distance racer, but that does not stop me from having enjoyed distance running for a good portion of my life. I should add that I have never had any serious injure from running, no PF not bad knees or hips. I think the worst I have ever had is sore calf muscles. I've had a lot worse from martial arts to tell you the truth.

The plural of anecdote is not evidence -- science hasn't weighed in on the bare-is-better issue yet. Most of what you see when you go looking are websites by guys who are selling books, videos, or courses touting the barefoot movement as the next thing. Or interviews of these folks by gullible media-types -- if that's not redundant.
Anecdote goes both ways. And it is not I who is claiming that you MUST train barefoot. There is hard evidence that barefoot training has some strong benefits and there is also some good evidence that shoes that do not over support the feet are healthier than the over padded ones. If you haven't found it then you may just need to dig a little deeper.

When the identical twin studies with two hundred pound marathoners start coming in showing that barefoot running is far safer and injury-free across the board than running in shoes, then maybe you'll have something; so far, the evidence isn't there. (Can't do double-blind, the runners will almost certainly know whether or not they are wearing shoes.)
The evidence is there, you just don't seem to be willing to consider it. I've given some useful links in my posts, and not to any site that is selling something.

Show me the hard science studies ...
Well, there was "Endurance running and the evolution of Homo" which I believe was a peer reviewed paper. but for some reason you don't seem willing to consider the hypothesis or offer a more viable alternative.

Like I asked earlier, if we did not evolve to endurance run then what are all the running adaptations for?


Janet said...

I know you like to say you're older than dirt, but I will admit to a chuckle of disbelief at "if memory serves" in reference to 300,000 years ago;-)

Seriously though, it's an interesting subject on which I'm reserving judgment until my own experiment progresses further. What has proven most challenging for me so far has not been the lack of padding (using the Kwon's you advocate or my little unpadded Merrells or bare feet in the park), but the development of my calf muscles without straining them in my enthusiasm.

Dan Gambiera said...

A note on our sweat glands.
Humans are the only animal with both apocrine and sebaceous sweat glands. We are very well supplied with both. We have no fur and very little body hair compared compared to any of our close relatives. These traits are extremely useful for an organism which spends a lot of time running and needs to cool itself off.

sabiwabi said...

You are really starting to sway me towards barefoot running. Does one need to build up to this or can they just start it on any old run. I do have a 5k this Sunday. I'm sure I'd be drawing some fantastic attention to myself with my headscarf and bare feet. And my husband would definitely put me in an institution if he saw me do it. LOL. me luvs to stir up trouble...

Mushtaq Ali said...

Sabi Honom,

You absolutely must work up to barefoot running. If you over do it trying to go long distance without strengthening your feet and legs, or before your form is good you run the risk of hurting yourself.

Your form will be good only for as long as your muscles can hold that form. Until you have re adapted, there will be fatigue fairly quickly.

Start small, on grass or other more forgiving surfaces (schools after hours are a good place to practice as there is less chance of dangerous materials. The beach is also good) Use a shoe with no support as a transition. Don't attempt something like concrete until your feet are strong and your form is very good. Run around the house barefoot as much as you can.

I will be posting some resources for barefooting soon.

Mo'in said...

Dear Mushtaq,

Thank you for this continuing thread of discussion on barefoot running!

All good wishes,


jasonencke said...

Hi Janet,

I have been having an issue with my calves as well. I'm definitely enjoying running with the Kwon's that Mustaq posted about but man do my calves need to get stronger.

jasonencke said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Mushtaq,

All these posts on running have been very inspirational for me. One of the reasons I have been trying to run more often (other than for enjoyment) is that I am also diabetic. It is very inspiring for me to read that you control your blood sugar with diet and exercise alone. I take medication to help control my blood sugar but would like to control it with diet and exercise alone. I have found calorie restriction and exercise to be very helful in controlling blood sugar levels but there is a lot of confusing information on what to eat or not to eat. Would you mind sharing any tips or resources on what you do to maintain your blood sugar? Jazakallahu Khair.

sabiwabi said...

Yeah Mushtaq, I figured it would take awhile to build up to it. Also, since I just started to move from concrete to trail running I've learned a few things rather quickly.

My ankles were totally unprepared for the tribulation! LOL.