Will Work (and Walk) for Shoes!

The weekend of March 10-11, I went to Oregon to attend a movement retreat with Katy Bowman, who has started putting on weekend retreats that center around movement, how we move while getting life done, and a long distance walk. This one took place at the SoftStar shoe factory, in Philomath, OR, close to Corvallis. It was weekend I’ll never forget, filled with new friends, taking part in making my own moccasins, and walking probably three times farther than I thought I’d be able to since my injury last Fall.

Intimate Spinal Release

The fi
rst day of the retreat, held at the SoftStar shoe factory, consisted of movement  – lots of it! There were classes with Katy in the loft of the SoftStar factory (which made for an intimate setting with 35 people!). 

We also worked on our shoes – cutting parts and designing the buttons, turning – with the help of the elves. They did the sewing and harder parts!

Ozzy turns his shoe
Margot shows off her vamp

We  walked a long (at least a mile) walk to lunch to The Gathering Farm as a group. I learned a new word – cordwainer (and you though a shoe maker was a cobbler), and I learned much with Katy – she is brilliant with her words and teaching!


How to walk 15 miles when it’s been a long time… I wasn’t sure I would be able to walk even the first 5 miles of this hike because last September (when Katy had her first retreat) I couldn’t walk across the room without pain. I had developed a pinched nerve that sent pain down my leg and in my hip.  Gradually, though, I started getting my walking back. Still, downhill was a challenge and could bring on pain, especially when I was fatigued. Enter hiking poles along with the downhill pelvic list . With two bail out points, and three legs, each at 5-6 miles, I had options. I decided to hike it all in my SoftStar Run Amok Dash shoes, since we’d be on trail or logging road the whole time. Irene, who designed the hike, did a fantastic job keeping us in the woods as much as possible. It was all on trail or logging road.

The hike started before dawn. The group met, we got logistics covered, and took off. The first part was up, uP, UP to a saddle, about 5.5 miles long. We enjoyed a sunrise through the trees and the dawn chorus of birds. We took regrouping breaks at junctions, and the conversations flowed within each group (it always amazes me what the trail does to free up thoughts). I also enjoyed moments alone where I could listen to the birdsong , and practice identifying plants along the way.  I loved getting to know the other people, and really enjoyed joining a couple other hikers in a silent hike for a mile or so as we headed into the lunch pick up and first extraction point.

Debbie and Margot were there with our lunches and snacks – a welcome sight! I even saw a familiar face from the ultrarunning community – so fun to catch up! I felt great so far – no hip or leg pain and good spirits. My host, Jenn, had driven to the saddle to meet us and hike the middle five miles. She wasn’t sure she could hike more than that due to an avulsion fracture in her foot eight months prior. We picked up our lunches, and hike up, uP, UP to a view point – Dimple Hill – overlooking Corvallis. The sun was out and we all warmed ourselves after being in the cool forest all morning. One person dropped their lunch on the rocks, breaking the glass jar, and scattering the lunch. The response of our little community was amazing – people added a small portion of their lunch to make a huge lunch for him. All this while another person told us the ORIGINAL story of Stone Soup. So fitting! We got a group photo (the one to the left is mine) for Katy’s follow up – thank you anonymous couple who rode their mountain bikes up there with their toddler in tow! – and headed back down.

More good conversations ensued, and eventually we were back at the saddle, where we dropped off our lunch containers. I decided to drive Jenn’s car back to the start (she was feeling great and wanted to hike the last part) and join Margot (who had to drive lunch stuff back down), Jenn’s husband and Michael (Katy’s husband) and kids for more hiking.  Ironically, the only time I had hip and leg pain was when driving that car – confirmed my decision to sell my 27 year old car and get one with an automatic shift!

Back at the start/finish, we took a leisure hike up, uP, UP, stopping to look at plants, pee breaks, and snack breaks. We  met the front ‘go-getter’ group coming down, and finally, met the others. A series of back-and-forth animal calls between Michael and (I am assuming) Katy confirmed they were the people we heard coming down the trail. We all headed back together – more conversations, enjoying nature, and finally the finish. I found out later I covered about 15 miles over the course of the day. That blew me away, since I could barely walk across the room just a few months earlier!

After spending the night at the house of one of my favorite couples Margot and Wally, I headed to Portland to spend the day with my god dog Pixie and my friend Madi. I packed my Brompton, though I’d barely ridden since my illness in September. It was just too painful with the hills. But Portland, for the most part is flat! And Madi is know for family biking and not bent on getting the miles/distance done in a given period of time, much like long distance walking at Katy’s retreat.

Over the course of the day we did coffee outside on Mt. Tabor (the only climbing), got the kids from school, explored a restoration area, and rode to dinner. This was peppered with plenty of rest and snack breaks. I never felt tired or unable to keep up – it was so fun! And ironically, we covered 15 miles over the course of the day. I always tell my clients you should balance your biking with walking…..

The amazing thing to me, besides the body’s ability to heal, was how walking with community made it go so much easier. I am sure I would have stopped at 5.5 miles had I been on my own. I also would not have taken breaks, and therefor not paced myself very well. The trail has a way of opening up conversations that most likely would not have occurred under ‘normal’ circumstances. Is it the walking and moving and not looking face to face, but side by side? This is how our species moved for millennia, nomadic and working together to keep the community alive. This is how we were able to cover long distances, resting when we needed, conversing, and, at the same time, noting our surroundings. It was an amazing experience I won’t forget, and one I would love to return to time and time again.

I am beyond grateful to Katy, Debbie and Margot,  and to the staff at SoftStar shoes for such an amazing weekend!! And to Madi and Pixie for a good recovery day! The biggest lesson I learned is you can move and listen to your body, and walk your own walk, or ride your own ride. And doing this with people that get that, too, drives home the mantra (a saying by Ram Dass) ‘We are all just walking each other home.’ 

January Movement Challenge!

The holidays are upon us and most are in full swing for gift giving and family gatherings. Others of us are spending more quiet time, going inward as the daylight hours recede into darkness. I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year – the traffic and rain can get to me. But the chance to slow down and get quiet gives me time to re-energize my soul.

Not to look too far ahead (revel in the present moment!) but coming out of that slow down takes energy! As well, the relative quiet of January leads to the post-holiday doldrums. We need a way to transition, and some do very well while others might need some encouragement.

Enter: the January Movement Challenge. For those who sign up for it (found in my latest newsletter), you get a move each day. And each week focuses on a different area of the body. You’ll get an email each morning with a description and any modifications because bodies are different!

I don’t know about you, but it makes me kinda look forward to the holidays being done. And they’ve barely started! Happy however-you-spend-them!

July Social Media Break – Two Retreats and a Whole Lotta Peace

Fallen trees, tall trees

The teacher asked me how my retreat was going. I said I was in a really good spot at the moment. In fact, I my first thought that morning, while looking out at the forest land surrounding the main lodge, was “Wow! I really do lead a charmed life!”

I was nearing the end of a month long break from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – the three main portals of social media for me. By the end of the month I was ready to extend into August. Stress levels decreased, I felt more whole, less fragmented, and, while I’d like to say more patient, I’ll just say more spacious. In any case, here is how my month went.

July 2-7, I assisted Kathy Griest at a week long Chi Running retreat in Scotts Valley California, at a new place, 1440 Multiversity. Although the construction was not complete for some areas (thanks to the historic rains last winter), it was complete enough for us to have a great experience. The food was amazing and the lodging made me feel spoiled. Our small group of three students and two instructors quickly bonded, and provided an example of true happiness for the class next door, which was ABOUT finding happiness. Not sure if they did find it, but it was noted how much fun we were having next door.

Kathy was one of Danny Dreyer’s first students (and the short haired female model in the Chi Running video, if you happen to watch it) and one of the most intuitive instructors I’ve ever worked with. I think I benefitted as much, if not more than, the students! An added bonus were the giant redwoods and trails to play on. And these stairs! Michael and I discovered them the last night. They were hidden by some of the construction going on.

We went through the curriculum of a full day of Chi Running workshop, stretched out over five days, taking lessons out on said trails and a local high school track. I also taught a little bit of Restorative Exercise – the psoas release quickly became a favorite. There were supplemental classes, as well, including one where I rekindled my love for qigong. All in all it was a great experience and I hope I get to go back. Meanwhile, they have a great lineup of courses for the coming months. Check them out! And if you do go, be sure to visit the restroom in the dining hall – here’s a selfie I took.

Back home, I finished up a class series on Dynamic Aging, based on the book by Katy Bowman. Bringing nonjudgmental awareness into how you move, and learning how to hold yourself a little differently, is a great way to explore your body and its nuances. You not only move more, you move better. We all had a great time; I plan to put another one up in the fall, so stay tuned.

July 21-24, I attended a three day silent retreat at Cloud Mountain with Keri Pederson. I hadn’t been sitting lately, and I had not attended a retreat since 2014. The accommodations, a bit more spartan than at 1440, were enough. Each person does a ‘yogi job’ during the retreat (I cleaned the bathrooms for the meditation hall). This is a way to not only reduce costs, but also supports others (your fellow yogis) in their practice. It was held in Noble Silence, with no phone, internet, or reading material.  It was, for me, a fulfilling retreat that left me with a deep peace I rarely experience these days.

I *was* concerned about my mind and if I’d get too distracted or fall asleep during the sitting period (we sat about 9 hours a day, at 30-45 minute periods, broken up by walking meditation, meals or sleep). Right before I went, I heard an interview with Matthieu Ricard, a monk who has been dubbed ‘the happiest man in the world’ (much to his chagrin). Krista Tippett (interviewer) mentioned he has logged over 40,000 hours of meditation, to which he quickly added ‘yes, but most probably spent in distraction!’ I loved that! It was a permission of sorts to be okay when my mind wandered off. I am happy to report I did not fall asleep, and the third morning, in the early morning sit, I had such a feeling of love and compassion (a huge burst of oxytocin!) come over me, I thought I was glowing. Or floating.

All this could have happened without the social media break, but it’s my belief that the break greatly contributed to the fullness of the month. Because I’d like to explore that more, I’ll be limiting my time on social media. I’ll probably miss some things, but one thing I noticed: the world managed to turn without me. And despite the times of dissatisfaction or maybe despair, in all, I really do lead a charmed life. Knowing that could all change in a moment adds to the poignancy of it.

Better Body Biking

aligning your parts for a better ride…

Bike love loop at VP
Cyclofemme Seattle 2016 by Madi Carlson – check out her book Urban Cycling!

I love riding my bicycle. It gets me around – errands, camping, commuting, etc. But it does come at a cost to my body if I don’t balance it with other activities like walking. And if I don’t pay attention to my alignment, I feel it even more – neck, shoulders, hips, calves, to name a few spots. Modern inventions (chairs, cars, skis, etc), don’t involve using all the muscles walking does (and some not at all!) Muscles that aren’t being used (we’re talking micro to macro movements) frequently and for long durations, tend to get stiff, and some get ‘casted’ into shapes that can have a detrimental effect to other parts of the body (tight hip flexors, anyone?).  As I’ve been practicing whole body movement more, I’ve been pondering what I can do while on the bike to get movement to as many parts as I can. Improving my alignment allows that to happen. It isn’t that hard to do, as you’ll see. Continue reading “Better Body Biking”

Movement Isn’t Always Exercise

When I work with clients, I encourage them to look at ways they might bring more movement throughout their day. My favorite sessions are those done in THEIR home or office, where we can take a restorative exercise right into real life. We all need to move more, but for many that can be a challenge. You’re already swamped with a full day of work and maybe taking care of the family. So what to do? Continue reading “Movement Isn’t Always Exercise”