Sunday, May 30, 2010

Update on My Experience with Vibram Fivefingers

It has been a little more than six weeks since my last blog post about the Vibram Fivefingers--I had better remedy that!  The first thing is that I have not had any trouble with blisters since the blister I got on the back of each foot the first time I wore them.  Once those healed up my skin was toughened up enough not to get any more.  I do not wear the Injinji socks that can be purchased to help with blisters, although I have heard they can be very helpful.  My personal preference has been to keep this experience as simple as possible.  Special socks did not fit my criteria!  However, if I ever progress to become a runner instead of a walker, the socks will be a real possibility for me.

I have also been careful to go slow in my transition to bare-footing.  I wear the Vibrams twice a week, usually on weekends.  First I mastered covering distance on flat, paved surfaces.  Then I started on some simple mountain trails.  The big challenge with mountain trails where I am living right now is the rocks:  I definitely feel them!  The trick is learning how to manage those small, sharp rocks that really hurt, even with the Vibrams.  This is where building up the ability to wear these shoes is really important for me.  I am taking it slowly because I don't want to get injured, yet I like the experience of the rocky trail in these shoes.

For some walks I skipped the shoes altogether and really walked barefoot on the smooth driveway that surrounds the complex where I live.  That has been a valuable exercise, since what I am trying to do is toughen up the bottom of my feet.

I was not one of those people who grew up going barefoot all summer.  The only time I did not have shoes on my feet was when I was on a beach.  So this transition to a more barefoot life is something new for me!  My favorite hike so far in the Vibrams was a steep mountain climb.  The trail was short, maybe half a mile.  But it was like climbing a flight of stairs going up and down!  In fact, there are some places where both hands and feet are needed to make the climb.  The climb was a real pleasure in the Vibrams.  I felt like I had much more control over my feet than when I have hiked this trail in sneakers.  I had less trouble with slipping on smooth rocks.  However, there were still some slippery moments.  As an aside, I got stung by a bee on the top of the trail, and made my way down pretty quickly after that.  The Vibrams did not hinder my progress at all.  The picture here is from that hike, taken at the top of the trail.

My only trouble was at the end I had a small bruise on the bottom of my left foot.  It was a little tender, but did not cause a problem.  However, on a more recent hike I must have stepped on a rock in that same spot again.  This time I got a pretty serious bruise, which means taking some time off rocky trails in the Vibrams and letting it heal.  One thing I find very helpful after every hike on a rocky trail is to soak in Epsom salts in the evening: to maximize the benefits and relax any muscles that are not used so much ordinarily.  In summary, I really enjoy these shoes.  They are providing a wonderful way to strengthen my feet, ankles and calves.  I am glad I have continued to transition into them slowly.  I think my careful work is going to pay off.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An Extra Run to Relieve the Stress

One of the boys from St. Charles is really beginning to understand and internalize the way running can help him handle stress.  This little guy, whom I will call Jimmy, has lived in more than 12 foster homes in his short life, and is getting ready to move into yet another one.  Needless to say, he is agitated.  Since he has not yet experienced a permanent home that was right for him, he has a lot of anxiety about moving to this next home.  The way he sees it, why should he expect this home to be any different from the others?

Last week, Jimmy asked Sister Maximilian if he could go with her on her second run.  Ordinarily Sister Maximilian runs 8 miles a day.  The first 4 miles are with the more experienced group of kids who run a little faster.  The second 4 miles are with beginners.  Ordinarily, she would not allow a child to run 8 miles in one day. However, given Jimmy's level of stress and the fact that he was asking for the extra time running, she approved.  Jimmy had a great run and one of the nicest evenings he has had in a while. Sister was excited because this showed that he really is starting to understand how running can affect the way he feels.  We don't know if he will ask for an extra run again, but  if he does, Sister will allow him to put in an extra 4 miles every once in a while.  Hopefully, this will be a lesson he takes with him into adulthood to help him cope with the stresses of life.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sister Maximilian & the St. Charles Kids Step into Barefoot Running

It was an historical day last week when Sr. Maximilian and the kids from St. Charles officially started to experiment with barefoot running.  Not to worry:  they are proceeding slowly and carefully and they won't ever be seen running through the streets of Rochester without shoes, lest they get cut by broken glass somewhere along their route.  Except Sister Maximilian, that is.  She might find she likes this barefoot experience so much that she invests in Vibram Fivefingers the way I did.  Time will tell.  When I return to New Hampshire in a few weeks I fully intend to tantalize her with mine.

Here is how it all got started:  Sister has been as intrigued as I am about the barefoot running phenomenon in the running world.  Last week, she decided to try an experiment with the kids.  Our kids run 50 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week.  On this historic day she decided to shorten the run by 5 minutes, and then at the end give the kids an opportunity to run barefoot in the yard.  Kids who didn't want to try barefoot running were welcome to run their final 5 minutes around our driveway:  a track we often use in the winter when the sidewalks are not plowed.

No one chose that option, however.  Everyone wanted to take their shoes off and run in the grass.  The kids absolutely loved it, and Sister Maximilian admitted she enjoyed it too.  Our yard is a large rectangle.  One circle around the yard is roughly 1 tenth of a mile.  We have great turf in that yard because of the irrigation system that keeps it well watered.  As an aside, another group of athletes paid to renovate our yard about 10 years ago: a group of students from St. Anselm's College who walk 100 miles each year in a program called "Road for Hope" to raise money for various charities.

The kids are now running barefoot for 5 minutes twice a week.  Sister Maximilian will assess whether and when they are ready to increase the barefoot time.  In the meantime, those 10 minutes a week sound like a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My School in Southern California

I have to take this opportunity to brag about my school: John Paul the Great Catholic University.  While my other sisters in the Daughters of Mary are working hard with the kids in New Hampshire, I have been in sunny San Diego since 2007 attending this truly phenomenal university.  My major is Entrepreneurial Business, but I eventually hope to pursue a Masters in Biblical Theology as well.  I wanted to share the school's latest commercial, which highlights the fact that we are also a film school.  I only have a year left to spend in San Diego.  Then I will return to New Hampshire to finish my studies from a distance.  I have to say, it will be easier writing in this blog about daily life with the kids when I am no longer 3000 miles away!  Check out this ad:

Q:  So, what is a Roman Catholic sister doing in an Entrepreneurial Business program that also happens to be at a film school?  
A:  I co-founded the Daughters of Mary to be an association that works with children and families.  The association is already growing.  Entrepreneurial Business is teaching me the skills I need to help our sisters launch new programs to help children and families in the future.  To meet the other sisters who co-founded the Daughters of Mary, click here.

Q: The rest of the sisters and the children are at the St. Charles Children's Home in New Hampshire, aren't they?  Why did you choose a school in Southern California?  Wouldn't you rather be closer to home?  
A:  I wanted to find a school where I could not only learn business, but also participate in a Theology program.  John Paul the Great Catholic University was the only Catholic University I found with a strong emphasis in both Theology and Entrepreneurial business.  I will be honest:  when I learned the University was in San Diego, I was not sad.  I am thoroughly enjoying the weather while I am here!

Friday, May 7, 2010

A New Chapter for the Runningnuns Blog

Today is an exciting day for me as a new blogger.  Our Runningnuns blog is now integrated with the Runningnuns website.  You can check out the menu at the top of this blog to learn more about our sisters, how we run with kids, and about our annual road race, the St. Charles Children's Home 5k, which takes place on Labor Day each year.  I look forward to interacting with the running community about our race and about our running program.  I hope everyone enjoys the new look and feel of our blog and website.  Let me know!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Difficulties some Children Face

We all have difficulties to face.  I often find it helps me to look at people who have much worse troubles than I do.  Then my own challenges do not seem hard to face at all.  One of the children from St. Charles taught me that lesson recently.  For the sake of her privacy, I will call her Amy.  Amy has lived at St. Charles for more than 4 years.  She received a brain injury early in life, and as a result has some developmental delays.  Her behaviors are very difficult to manage, to say the least.  But like many difficult children, Amy has a loving side.  What she has wanted, more than anything else in the world, is a family.  Over the years she has watched friends come and go at St. Charles.  No other child living at the Home right now has lived there as long as Amy has.

The good news finally came about a month ago:  The perfect family had been found!  They had adopted kids with disabilities in the past, and had the skill to work with Amy and  her disabilities.  Amy was on the top of the world.  Whenever she would meet anyone, the first thing she would say was, "I have a family!"  The sisters and staff shared her excitement, because this family really was a perfect match for Amy.

Then the family experienced an unexpected and shocking tragedy and the situation obliged them to have to move far away.  They could not continue in the process of adopting Amy.  This was not the family's fault:  no one could have foreseen the events that forced them to change their plans.  Since saying goodbye to that family, Amy now says, "Maybe some day some family will take me."  She still has some hope.

Since coming to St. Charles 21 years ago, I have seen situations like this over and over.  I can say with confidence that some day I will be writing another blog post about Amy, talking about the new family that the state found for her.  I am sure in the end the sisters will be able to look back on this interrupted placement and recognize good that came out of the fact that Amy had to wait longer for a family.  But try to explain that to a child.  Amy's is  a story in progress.  Her story reminded me this week to be deeply grateful for my own family, and for the stability I had as a child. So many children have no idea what it is like to live in a loving family.