Thursday, February 4, 2010

Barefoot Running in the 19th century

Barefoot Ted, who featured prominently in Born to Run, and who has a great blog with resources on barefoot running, dug up a terrific article on running from The Journal of Hygiene and Herald of Health, 1895.  He reproduces it in its entirety at his web site.  I'll just pull some relevant passages here.

On the benefits of running for building core muscles: 
I lately conversed with an athlete, an ex-champion in the Caledonian games, and he told me of the physical condition of some famous runners he had once examined. “The muscles on their abdomens were so hard that when I tapped them with my finger it was like tapping a board,” he said.
Observe the flabby sac which retains the bowels of the average sedentary man and think what this difference must mean in absence of abdominal obesity, constipation, prolapsed bowels, piles and hernia, to say nothing of a host of other pelvic weaknesses. 
Can any of you "average sedentary men" out there relate to the "flabby sac"?  Hey, I resemble that remark!

On the joy of running:
Never race for prizes, or run against time, or compete for anything. Avoid over-strain. Don’t make work of your sport. 
The runs I recommend are through the dewy meadows of morning, over the hills of afternoon, or through the aisles of forest temples—runs with an easy breath, a light foot, and a gay heart.
I do enjoy races, and I like tracking time and improving my pace, but I do often think I "make work" of it too much.  Less work, more "light foot" and "gay heart"!

On barefoot running: 
Wear knee-breeches, woolen stockings, and low running-shoes, or, better still, wear no stocking and no shoes whenever the weather will permit.
There is wonderful comfort in a bare foot, as everyone knows. Contact with the earth is healthful. And in summer, after a rain, or in the dewy morning, how refreshing a running foot-bath through wet grass! Even in winter a short run, barefooted, through the loose snow may be made perfectly safe for those who have taken the right training, producing a warmth and glow in the feet which will last for hours.
Barefoot runners know that glow!  

The whole article can be found at Barefoot Ted's site or at Google books.

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