Lose Your Age on the Trail author Dami Roelse drops by to talk long distance walking and how to prepare for it. Katy reminds listeners that long distance is a relative term—three miles might be your version of long distance right now, and that’s okay. Walkers seasoned and brand new will find lots of tips for moving well. Plus, Katy answers a listener question on backbends, and whether they’re likely found in nature. Plus, Mike Dally from Earth Runners drops by to talk about how he started his minimal shoe company, and what drives him over the long haul.
00:02:27 - Listener question from the mailbag – Jump to section
00:11:03 - Meet Dami Roelse – Jump to section
00:25:07 - Dami's First Tip – Jump to section
00:28:18 - Katy's First Tip - Jump to section
00:29:44 - Dami's Second Tip - Jump to section
00:31:44 - Katy's Second Tip - Jump to section
00:34:35 - Dami's Third Tip - Jump to section
00:37:12 - Katy's Third Tip - Jump to section
00:42:40 - Meet Michael Dally of Earth Runners - Jump to section
01:01:29 - Katy's upcoming live events - Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
The Dynamic Collective
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Hello! I am Katy Bowman, and this is the Move Your DNA podcast. I am a biomechanist and the author of Move Your DNA and seven other books on movement. On this show, we talk about how movement works on the cellular level, how to move more and how to move more of yourself and how movement works in the world, also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome here. Are you ready to get moving?
KATY: There’s a phrase I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: "In it for the long haul." It means to commit, to stay with something, what it takes to see it through. We can think about commitment in all kinds of ways. There are long-term relationships of all kinds. There's writing a book. Right? That also requires staying in it for the long haul. And how do you do it? How do you stay in for the long haul? Do you just keep showing up and time passes, and the next thing you know, you’ve been in it… whatever it is … for the long haul? But maybe it’s probably more purposeful than that. If things that work over the long haul then it's more than just your presence over time. So you doing an active thing over and over again to be in it for the long haul.
Take, for instance, long-distance walking. And I imagine that most of you knew that I was going to get around to mentioning long distance walking eventually! So I do a lot of lot of long distance walking. I just got done doing an urban 20-miler last week as research for an upcoming project. And PS it is totally different 20 urban miles, than 20 hiking miles in a rural setting. And I think long distance walking is actually vitally important, both in my life and for the human species as a group. So I am excited to interview a guest - no not me - who has a lot to say about long distance walking. And we’ll hear some of her tips, and I’ll have a few of my own to share as well, obviously.
Hey Katy. One movement I try I struggle to incorporate in my regular life is backbending. Do you consider backbending a natural and essential movement for humans? Do you have some suggestions for "Stack your life" moves that can help me get more of it? I use a dynamic workstation at my 9-5, and I aim to walk more always, and I'm slowly transitioning to furniture free, and I'd love your thoughts. Thank you. And it's signed, Zoe.
So if you were here, Zoe, my first question would be what do you mean by backbending. And if you mean having your feet on the ground with your hands also on the ground behind you with your body arched up in between, I would say no, I would not put that in the category of natural movement as I use the term. Which are motions found in nature at a certain consistency, volume, and distribution. So, any motions say, or some human bodies can do isn't part of that definition. Meaning I'm delineating between motions the body can do because of their natural hard and software motions versus motions you'd actually find ancestrally. Not an outlier, per se. And note, this isn't a judgement on a move being good or bad or anything. I just wouldn't categorize it as a movement found in nature. Although as I was thinking about your question, a fun side-note for me. I don't know how it is for you listeners. Maybe also if you're a cultural or physical anthropologist if a backbend has become a human movement in a particular culture, it could end up being that every culture has its own set of motions required for the success of that culture. And a backbend could be in that group. But again, I'm just using the term natural movement differently. Now if you didn't mean backbend but just extension of the spine... So if everyone stands up and if you shift your hips back over your heels. All right? So you're gonna start with a vertical leg where your pelvis is stacked over the back of your foot and not over your toes. So you're gonna start to lean back, but you're not going to let the pelvis thrust forward, right? So there's a tendency when we lean back for the hips to go forward too. So I want you to keep your pelvis where it is. Keep your hips where they started. And start to lean back. I'm gonna move away from the mic. And you're gonna start extending your spine. So you will, this is where it gets a little bit challenging. You're not going to let the rib cage thrust. Your rib cage is going to rotate backwards. It's gonna sit backwards a little bit but I need you to know the difference between your rib cage tipping backwards through spinal extension or your rib cage just sliding forward at the bottom, which is - it wouldn't really be that you articulated each vertebra, it would be that you've really articulated one a great amount and the others not so much. So you are gonna still drop your ribs even as you start to lean back and into this extension or slight backbend, is probably how I would use to quantify it differently than backbend being a full arch. So this whole body's final extension motion. That's with your feet planted and you've leaned as far back as you can go. Maybe even let your head go back. You're not gonna let it drop back. You're gonna control it. But you've got that extension. This whole body's final extension motion is made up of each vertebrae extending a little bit. And I do think that this motion, vertebral extension, is natural in the sense that many movements done day to day in nature would call on vertebral extension. Although maybe it wouldn't be the entire spine done at once the way we practice it as an exercise. So, if I'm thinking stack your life principles, I would say that picking up heavy things is where I use it a lot. And I'm thinking of moving rocks. We just build a rock wall from river rocks around our house. And we just got done training with the folks at MovNat. And took a sort of deadlift move. I think lots of people would do a deadlift in a gym. They'll hip hinge, and they'll move forward, bending over at the hip, usually with a weighted bar and then stand back up. So we took that hip hinge to lifting and moving heavy planting pots and squash. We had some really big heavy squash. Just to think about if you're going out to the pumpkin patch, there would be a stack your life motion. So a good lifting technique uses spinal extension pretty naturally. Because keep in mind that spinal extension being a natural movement doesn't say anything about the degrees of extension that are natural. So just because extension is natural doesn't imply that full end range would be called upon that frequently or even at all. So that's always my call to people studying and teaching movement. If we could communicate in terms of numbers or amounts, things would be less conflated, I think. So anyway, imagine if you were bending over to pick up something off the ground and you kind of centered your body to it, right? So there's not an element of twist yet. When you would go to pick it up, you would usually have an amount of extension in your spine. The amount of extension you have in your spine really will depend on what you are lifting and where you had to move it. But for me, that's where I will often call on the musculature of my back. And if you go back to that standing backbend and leaning back, you're not doing a ton of - it's not really weighted. That backbend is really more a range of motion. You're able to get the range of motion, but the work's more on the front of your body. You'll usually feel it in your abdomen. Maybe the fronts of your thighs. When you're bent over though, say you're at 90 degrees with your torso to the floor ... and sorry if my voice is moving around. I'm actually doing this. I'm such a mover as I teach which makes teaching via podcast very challenging... I'm all the way down here by the floor. When you're at 90 degrees now your spine is not only going for that extension motion but that extension motion, those extensors are carrying the weight of your spine. Where they're not doing it through that same backbend. So now you have a question of what ... it's not even the motion that's particularly nourishing. It's the load. Right? So I can have a backbending motion that is the same as me standing, versus me, carrying a 40-pound pot. And those moves are different. And so it's challenging I think to only think in terms of range of motion and mobility. I think it's easier to think in terms of load because then you can figure out oh, a backbend is a completely different load than me being able to pick up something 40 lbs and not only carry it with my legs and my arms but to have my spine be able to extend and carry that load. So carrying heavy stuff, Zoe, carrying heavy stuff would be the forward answer. And if you wade through that 3000 or 5000 word answer, well done.
Ok, that was a great question. Hopefully there's a little bit of clarity there. Ok, we're gonna get to our interview now, but I just wanted to throw a shout out to our sponsors, the Dynamic Collective. Later on in this episode, we're gonna meet Mike Dally of Earth Runners and find out what drives him over the long haul. Earth Runners is a member of our Dynamic Collective of companies that support this podcast. Thank you Dynamic Collective! These companies are Soft Star shoes, MyMayu, and Unshoes. These are all minimal shoe companies, as well as Earth Runners, and then Venn Design which makes beautiful minimal home furnishings. I interviewed Tyler from Venn in the last episode. I know their products very well. And you may, too. And this season, we’ve been getting to know the people behind the products. I really love this kind of side interview series. I feel like I am friends with all of the people who are making things I depend on. There are also so many fascinating journeys out there that I hope as people are listening and just thinking about their life and their work, that they can just see. Like I feel like when I was trying to figure out what I would do that I just had a very narrow model of what was possible. So I just like seeing all the possibilities out there.
DAMI: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk to your listeners.
KATY: Yes I'm very excited. So just a little bit of background. When you write books it's like, it's hard enough to write it and then it's maybe even more challenging to edit it after an editor has gone through it. But then you have to get other people to read it before it's even out so that you've got blurbs and other people who are in your same industry just kind of summing up maybe key points who the book is for and so I was asked to do a blurb for your book. And it was right along the same time as I was finishing up Dynamic Aging. Or maybe I was in the...
DAMI: Yes it was out already.
KATY: Ok, so publicity of doing Dynamic Aging, so I'm not sure if you reached out on Twitter or what other of these amazing social media connectors, but I was very excited to have this book because Dynamic Aging has all these correctives and lifestyle adjustments to get you moving more. And then it's like Dami had written really like part two.
KATY: Which is the way I looked at it. Now that you're inspired, everyone but certainly goldeners, right? There's not that many books written for people over 50 explicitly. And so I want to - before we get into that - I want to talk about how walking and hiking became a thing for you.
DAMI: Oh yes. Well, I mean I've walked all my life. I grew up in Holland and without a car. So that wasn't anything new, but it became a thing, as you said, bigger thing, when my life fell apart in my late 50s. And my husband had a progressive illness and I lost him quite soon after that. And so when your life falls apart what better thing to do, at least in my book, is to go for a walk and clear your head and figure out, "now what do I do with my life? How do I go about this?" Because I felt very off balance. As many older women that I talk to now, they experience that when you lose a life partner you're like somebody ripped half of your body off and you're literally not walking in balance. So a walk is good was one of the better things I could do. And that got me started on what incredibly beneficial walking and I went to the Himalayas. I didn't just like walk around the block.
DAMI: And I hiked in the high mountains. I wanted to truly - I wanted to get lost.
DAMI: I didn't want to come back. And I found what I was made of. I found what it did for me. And so I'm actually working on a memoir about that trip right now. Hopefully that will come out next year. But I really saw the benefits of it, and I thought, I just started using it in my daily life to deal with depression, deal with unhappiness. And I became a hiker and a backpacker. And I started doing the long trail which is not something necessarily that you promote but what I have found, you know, reading your books is like, it's a perfect marriage of these two. Because a lot of people say well I can't walk that far. Go read Katy first and do what she says and then you'll become somebody who can walk too and use it for other purposes.
KATY: Yeah. I think that the end goal - the point is to kind of reclaim this. There's a lot of terms for it - rewilding or being able to engage in nature with not much more than your physical self, right? In the way that humans have for a long period of time. And so definitely long distance walking is a category of natural movement that we cover, and I'm just so pleased. I have a question. I can see now how walking trekking wilderness engagement became your thing, your salve, almost, right?
KATY: Where you were.
DAMI: Yes it was.
KATY: How did you make that leap to then want to help others do it?
DAMI: Well I was... no, I don't think I was quite retired. I was teaching local women about - a small class about backpacking for women. Because as you do it, you talk to others, and you realized a lot of them don't have the gear, they don't know how to go about it. So I said I'll do a six-week class. And I put material together and then I thought, I need to have a little book. You know if this is - if we're gonna do this, rather than all of these handouts. So I just decided one November to just start writing a little handbook that we could use. And I wrote the handbook. I realized that doing classes as I was here locally was a lot of hard work and then I started thinking a lot more about reaching a larger audience with it. And I thought maybe I can do online seminars. And that was all new stuff for me. So I started thinking bigger, and that's how the book grew. And as I was writing it and talked to my publisher, she said: "oh you know, we need to spice it up." And "I want to hear your stories." I had stories in there already to encourage people. But then we added all my journal entries and really made it a book that people can just pick up, enter anywhere. That's what a lot of my readers say: "I can just have it laying there, open it up and I read something that's like Oh I hadn't thought about that." Or so it's very accessible at all points of the book. That's what happened.
KATY: It is very accessible. And I think there's a lot of people timid around nature. Anytime I do a post on me being out in nature the bulk of the response is just how scary so many people find some element - whether it's bugs or weather or just some danger. They just perceive so much danger out there. So I have suggested - if you're feeling too timid, at least start reading the journals and stories of people who have overcome that fear and who have - it's not just simply overcoming fear. You've adapted. You've increased your ability to know what nature is doing and so it is less fearful when you have knowledge. And experiential knowledge all the better.
KATY: So books are so funny. There's how to books. And then there's memoirs. And I would say that Walking Gone Wild is definitely a how-to book, but it had been spiced up. So well done for your editor. Just because you are sharing your experience which grounds the book into a real person did this.
KATY: And a real person transitioned from not doing it to being able to do it which is way different than a person who has always done it. Writing a book, I find value in someone who has changed - who has changed through the process. Their work has emerged because of their personal journey. I appreciate that perspective quite a bit.
DAMI: Right. I had something to say about that. About people and their fear of going out and all the different things they imagine. The truth is, I am always fearful. Or I'm not a fearful person. But when you prepare for a big trip or to go out into the wild, there's an anxiety. It's like each time you have to make a transition from this sort of safe, you know, seemingly safe - these days it isn't - home environment to where you're unprotected and vulnerable. But soon, and this is what I'm so passionate about, come with me. Feel it. As soon as you're walking and breathing and you're out there, that fear just drops. Once you have one day under your belt, it's like, "Oh. I belong here." And that was, I think, the greatest discovery that I had that I feel actually protected by trees and the natural world. This is my world. And we've lost that in our society. People are just - they've been cut off from that. And that is so sad.
KATY: So your work focuses mainly on women over the age of 50. Why did you choose that group?
DAMI: Because I think we're underserved and I know the group.
DAMI: I'm 71.
DAMI: And when I look for hiking and guiding books, there isn't one for women specifically. And also, there are certain things that happen in women's bodies after menopause. And those are the things that I address in the book. And when a woman says - when I did a presentation a couple weeks ago - she says, "Oh thank you. I'm 50. I had no idea that you could do this. I thought I was just on a downhill."
DAMI: And I'm going no we're not on a downhill.
KATY: You're not on a downhill. You are not!
DAMI: No! And for women especially. That's why, you know, men can learn from this too, but men operate differently. But women have these sort of boosts that they get. That testosterone thing that happens after you've been done - after you're done with menopause. There's an energy that kind of cuts lose which makes some of these what they call the badass women who want to go out and find out what they're worth - what their bodies can do. And I think it speaks to women like that.
KATY: Yeah. Well, I definitely feel - I feel like your book is valuable for anyone who just, like you said, that idea that I belong here in the natural world. I think that your book is a tool for any human being interested in dipping a toe at first, right. It's very step wise.
DAMI: Yes. That's what I did. What I do is not for everyone. And I always say that. This is not for everyone. Because of what you have done in your life, your body, you know not everybody can do what I do. If you've been an athlete all your life? Go for it. You can probably do this. But if you've never even walked, let's set a different goal here at this point. But that doesn't mean that it can't benefit, as you say in your books. It makes you a healthier person who can enjoy life as we age. We are going to age. But how we age, that's our choice.
KATY: It says: How to lose your age on the trail. So what does that mean to you?
DAMI: Well, it's actually literal, but it's also a metaphor. Because you find you build this confidence when you walk, when you hike, day hikes, regularly. If you don't have to think twice about going out for a 5 to 8-mile hike, you are a confident person at 65. And that makes you someone who fits in a younger category. You know? You're not always wondering about will it be dangerous or can I do it. No, I'm gonna go do this. So in your mind you lose a sense of age. I have that story in my book where I meet this woman who happens to be my same age, and they go, "well she looks pretty - she must be quite old doing this" and then when I find out how old she is I'm going, "Do I look like that? I don't feel like that." I feel like I'm 35 right now.
DAMI: So that's how you lose your age. But literally, I mean the research and I've put that in my book shows that it slows down aging if you move and walk daily. And I am a lot more stiff when I'm at home.
DAMI: When I'm on the trail for a couple of weeks, and I'm just walking and crouching and bending and doing all that stuff all day, I am not stiff in the mornings or at night. Now I try to not sit that much. But we end up sitting. We sit in chairs. And I am a lot more stiff now than when I'm on the trail. So that should tell you. And the other thing that I found out, I don't know that, I don't think it's in my book is by hiking and backpacking and carrying so much, my bone density which was at osteopenia and a lot of women are concerned about it, their bone density. Mine has increased in the last four years by 3.75%.
KATY: Yeah. Huge! Take heed everyone. Listen. Listen to what Dami is saying. Ok, so I feel like every now who is listening is nodding and going ok, yes, all right. So we want to give - we're each gonna give 3 action items. These are actions that anyone listening can take now in whatever form to help support this, I'm gonna call it long distance nature walking. But again, remember it's scaleable. So if you have never done 5 miles, long distance walking is five miles right now to you. Or 3. So you just have to scale the words. We're not talking about a 500 mile or 1000 mile through hike. It's just look at where you're moving right now and then just add some to it, and that's the marker that we're suggesting.
DAMI: Well, the first thing is make sure your body's in working order. And you know, if you have never walked and I put it in my book, check with your physician. Do not just start in and then hurt yourself. You can develop strains, sprains, cracks in your bones from doing too much at once. Your enthusiasm may be there but maybe your body can't. Maybe you have underlying things that you don't even know about, and then you put the stress on it. And as we're older we need to be responsible about that. Young too. But younger people can often do more. They can take on those challenges. But at our age, we need to really make sure am I in good enough shape to go do this. And your doctor will tell you, "yeah you can walk five miles, or you can do more than that." So then you have that. Also as you say, can you do all these different moves? You're not just upright. You're going to be stepping up and crouching at times and so start doing exercises and get your body aligned. If your body isn't aligned, walking is not going to be pleasant. Now we all have things that aren't working very well anymore in our late 50s, and it just gets worse. So you find ways of adapting to deal with things. I have a leg that is not completely straight because of an ACL that I had replaced 20 years ago. And it's showing up as you age because you're not walking completely balanced. So, I have to find ways to make that work. I have to be aware of that and not overdo it. But as a friend of mine says, well it hurts if I don't walk, so I might as well walk and then it hurts also. I know what to do about it. So that's the first important thing. Get your body in working order, whatever that takes.
KATY: That is a great tip. Yes, it's a delicate balance between getting all your parts strong enough to walk before you start walking because sometimes some of the parts are only strengthened through walking. So just everyone out there listening, you're gonna have to kind of self-experiment a little bit. I don't want everyone to feel like they have to stay in at home practicing their corrective exercises to adjust all of their parts before they take a step. Because the steps are where you identify the pieces.
KATY: And you might be perfectly great at 8 miles, but once you start going to 12 miles it's something that wasn't bothering you at 8 miles starts to and then you have to revisit those foundational moves, exercises, the stuff that you find a lot more in my work. So just keep in mind it's not one and then the other. It's a relationship that you will keep visiting. Even me. It takes me to do 30 or 40 miles before I realize a part that is different than its kind of symmetrical part. Like one hip or one side of my SI joint or whatever. And it's only through engaging in volume that I identify it and then know what to do or how to adjust the rest of my time. So it's just, again, it's that relationship.
KATY: It's the feet. It is the feet. So if you're trying to figure out how to get your body in working order, I suggest starting with the feet and the ankles. That's why I've written two books on it. Because I think you can go a long way in your alignment, your whole body gait, just by dealing with your feet and the ankles which keeps it from being overwhelming. And pay attention to red flags that come up. Don't ignore red flags. You don't just sit down because of them. But you want to note them, and in your training time, I know you recommend lots of training, that you have training specific to whatever flag has come up for you.
DAMI: Ok, so the next tip is training, and you already said it. You know, for some people it may be training one mile a day. For others, it's five miles a day or every other day. And if you want to go on the long hikes you've got to really put a program together. But if you want to become a walker and be comfortable, you have to do it. And adding to that, so it's not just walking that will straighten everything out, like you said. You do your foot exercises. You do your pilates or whatever you do to strengthen all the parts of your body that are involved in movement to be able to take the load and to get the endurance. And then the third part is your aerobic training. I became a rower in my late 50s. And I thank, I am thankful when I'm climbing at 13,000 feet, six miles up, I thank my rowing training where we do these long steady workouts at a low rating for my heart that my heart can take it. So for altitude, there's very specific training that you can do. So you have to become comfortable with training. And then the other part is strength training. I don't know if you talk much about that in your book. But you know after 50 ... it starts after 30 anyway ... but after 50 you have to really adopt - it's like a new religion - I have to do my strength training two or three times a week, or you lose muscle. There's no way around it.
DAMI: Yep. And as I say to people, walk to your store, get your groceries. But get a backpack. Put them in there. If you can't carry a week's worth, go more frequently and carry smaller loads until you can do it. If you want to do it that way.
KATY: Yeah. So this second tip is start carrying more stuff in your daily life. And it fits into the training. I can see a lot of people saying "I don't have time to do all this training." And I was like, just walk to the store. Load up your groceries and walk back. Because if you can't do that comfortably, then that's the point at which you train. Because putting a bunch of gear on your back and then trying to go longer and farther is only going to be that skill that you can't do right now heightened. The magnitude is greatly increased. So you can train throughout your life and remember that this trekking, these long walks that we're talking about, isn't really only walking. It's bending, carrying, stooping, stepping high, stepping low, uphill, downhill, there's a lot of variance to it. And so when you train, you want to make sure that you can do it with weight also on your body. So just look for that more complex terrain as you're walking home from the store or wherever else you're going to carry your, I don't know if you're going out to get pumpkins for the holiday right now that you can think about walking there and carrying them back. And then learning great technique for carrying. Alignment isn't only about how you're walking and standing. There are ways to wear your backpack. There are ways to carry and lift loads in your arms and with your legs that are more advantageous in other ways. So you want to just invest in a little education that gives you more sustainability and also regeneration of your form as you're starting to add the volume of movement.
DAMI: I agree. So you know, I always say I don't do my strength training in the summer. But that's not true. In the summer I am outside, I'm gardening. I'm doing all kinds of things that involve weight. And I keep that in my life. Because I don't particularly like the gym or to go to certain reps or anything. I want it to be a natural part of my life. So I totally agree with you.
DAMI: The third one is to gather your gear. If you want to become a walker, it starts with your footwear, your clothing, and I always say to people, if you really want to become a walker, have the gear that doesn't stop you from going outside when it's raining or when it's too hot or when it's too cold. That it's right there by the front door. You know you have the shoes for it, or you have traction devices. I mean I go hiking in the snow. I have gear for that. I don't want to be stopped by weather. And then if you're thinking about, of course, going for day hikes or longer hikes, you need to gather stuff for that. And one of the important things is that if you're going outside of cellphone range that you have some kind of personal locator, you have a medical kit, you have the real basics to start taking care of yourself in case you fall, you trip, something happens. I always carry all that with me, and I have had to help many other people, and I had the right thing in my backpack. And people don't think about taking - "Oh I'm just going for a little hike up in the hills here or down the beach" I just carry my backpack, and there's a little weight in it, and so I'm always carrying a little weight on my back when I do that.
KATY: Yeah. For those of you if it's sounding expensive just to be able to go outside and move, just keep in mind, used gear. Fortunately, I live in a very outdoorsy area. So this might be more challenging to find in more urban areas, although maybe not.
DAMI: No I don't think so anymore.
KATY: Look for gear swaps. Look at garage sales. We pick up all of our outdoor gear second hand for very little money. But again, it helps when you've got communities of people. So reach out to your local hiking groups and ask. They usually hold gear swaps. If you have kids, nature organizations. Feel free to reach out. Our library lets out, leases out, safety gear for Backcountry. So you don't have to buy guides and compasses. They rent it out. In the same way that you can check out a book, you can check out gear. So before you feel an obstacle or a barrier, like you can't afford it, there's a lot of people out there who recognize that this is a barrier who have taken steps to keep it from being such a big barrier. So make sure you look into that as well.
There's a lot of practices, and there's the practice of movements and how to stand and how to move in an optimal way and the optimal gear. But sometimes we get so used to being super comfortable to have everything that we could possibly want at your fingertips, the more equipment or gear that that takes or the less variance of the situation in which you feel comfortable, that becomes sort of a cast. Right? If you have this huge load that you can't be comfortable without seven varieties of a particular food, or whatever, then that preference for having everything that you want at all times really becomes a limitation on where you can go and for how long. And so one of the things that I've practiced on a 20-mile walk, for example, is I'll take water. I mean I won't take a huge camel bag, but I'll take the amount of water that I feel comfortable with. I'm not saturated in water. And I'll take a couple snacks, but I won't pack three meals if I'm going to be out for eight hours. I can be ok without eating every two hours. It took me a long time to be comfortable. And the way that you become more comfortable is - they'll talk about it in nature education - is finding your edge. And what Wilderness does or Nature Immersion or even going to a park without bringing a cooler behind you is that you learn how to be ok without having everything that you need and want when you want it. And so that's a personal growth.
DAMI: Yeah. You're talking about changing mindsets. And I am so into that.
KATY: Right. Yeah. And so I think that when you do through hikes or long hikes or backpack packing or even camping...
KATY: ... you learn how to be comfortable with less. And so are you practicing discomfort or are you learning how to be more comfortable. It's kind of maybe a semantic argument at that point, but it is essential to say, you really want to look at what you require to be comfortable physically. And if that stuff is just a huge pile of stuff behind you, it means that you can't go very far from that space. And so most of us have a range that we could play with through experiencing and growing in the face of not having those things which then actually, it's like minimalism or is it maximalism? Because now you've minimized the stuff, but you've maximized the potential experiences. So that's my third tip for going out for long periods of time.
DAMI: Yeah. And hang with people who do it. Because if you hang out with people who are afraid and especially in my age group of getting hurt and they just limit their exposure, then they will never find out that they can actually do it just fine. So...
KATY: Learn from your peers.
DAMI: And choose your peers wisely.
KATY: Right. Well, this has been wonderful. I really hope your book does well. I hope that people go out and get this book, read it themselves, share with their friends and family that they'd like to be outside again. I feel like it's all ages, all people could benefit from this book.
DAMI: Very much.
KATY: Let me tell you the title again. It's Walking Gone Wild: How to lose your age on the trail. You can find more about Dami at, I'm gonna give you her website. Transformation-Travel.com. You can also buy her book there, or you can connect with her on Facebook, and her facebook page is pretty popular. It's @WalkingWomen50plus no spaces. And it's just people interacting, right? Are they working through your book or are they just discovering hiking or?
DAMI: Well there's two. There's WalkingWomen50plus as you spelled it out. That's the page. And you can sign up for a closed group. And that's where people are interacting. So on WalkingWomen50plus I share articles. I share just tips about walking, but in the group people are teaming up together to find local hiking groups or to create them. They share hikes that they do. They share achievements that they've made or they talk about complaints that they have at a certain age and how they can help each other. So there are - there's a page and a group. WalkingWomen50plus.
KATY: And you're going to be presenting at REI in the Bay area on February. Can you tell me about that?
DAMI: Actually yes. And the last week of February I'm going to be in Santa Rosa, in Corte Madera, and in Berkley. Three presentations that I have lined up right now. So people in the bay area they can come listen to me. I'm working on some other ones for Portland probably late November, but I don't have exact dates yet, but they would be announced on my Facebook page. So if you're interested in finding out about that, that's also a possibility.
KATY: Well, Dami thank you so much for coming on. It was lovely talking to you.
DAMI: Well I very much enjoyed it and happy walking to all of you.
So today's maker spotlight is on Earth Runners. They're a minimal sandal company founded by Michael Dally.
Michael Dally has always enjoyed the flow state achieved in creating functional gadgetry to assist in his quest for growth and betterment. And I can already tell from reading this bio - this is going to be a cool interview! This disposition has led him down the paths of health, fitness, and engineering resulting in the founding of Earth Runners in 2012.
Michael, welcome to Move Your DNA!
MICHAEL: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.
KATY: Ok, so what happened in 2012 and the years leading up to it. How did you get to develop Earth Runners?
MICHAEL: As I grew up I was a kid in sports. I was kind of in a jock family of sorts. And I was also the kid in the garage always very attracted to project - it just didn't exist. Then college came around. It was like, what are you going to do? It seemed like an engineering agree would kind of back my pursuit of wanting to create things in the world and studied Mechanical Engineer at San Diego State. And was competing with what felt like against calculator brains. And I was more like the creative. So it was very challenging. And I made it through. I feel like it kind of - that sedentary kind of lifestyle took a toll on my body and when I graduated I was so over the concept of actually being an engineer and just wanted to get back to my creative pursuits. So I took a year off. I told myself I wasn't going to do anything for at least a year. And towards the end of college, I kind of got more and more into alternative, kind of progressive health. And so I continued to study that after college. And then a sequence of events after that led to Earth Runners. Read the book Born to Run which a lot of people have heard about. And then also the book Earthing. Basically discussing our lost connection with the earth as a human species. And then so I had this idea of earthing back in my mind which made a lot of sense to me. And this kind of movement of minimal footwear and people taking it as far as minimalist running sandals. And so one day I was with a buddy of mine, and we taped on a pair of flip-flop sandals using athletic tape. Just your typical ankle tape job that you would get if you had a busted ankle and just fell in love with the experience of running barefoot-esque through the forest in very little footwear - breeze between the toes. And just felt very primal to me. And I feel like I have a pretty strong primal streak in my personal DNA, so it was just like instant love at first experience. So I kind of studied the marketplace of existing minimal footwear sandals on the market and kind of found a niche of crossing the concept of a minimalist adventure sandal with a conductive conduit through the sandal itself allowing for connection between the human body and the skin of the earth. So that kind of was the set-up. And then started playing around with different earthing adventure sandal designs. And a lady friend of mine who I had kind of just been collaborating with via email a little bit back and forth, I presented the idea to her. And she kind of classified herself as an electrosensitive type of person, so she really saw the demand. And I feel like she saw it before I saw it. And she created the support system. She was kind of like a life coach of sorts, and she just gave me that encouragement because pretty much everyone else in my life was just like, "Yeah I don't know about that. Sounds pretty far-fetched."
KATY: You're just taping sandals onto your shoes and changing careers.
MICHAEL: Yeah. "You just graduated with an engineering degree and have so many options, and you're gonna do this?" And I was like, "yep."
KATY: You know this is funny because I have come across and hung out with and talked with probably about four mechanical engineers in the last 30 days. All of them who had both just a natural affinity for mechanical engineering. Like that is a natural strength or intelligence for them. They see the way things go together. They kind of feel and think in terms of forces. But, they also were creatives at the same time who had these other outlets. And all of them left mechanical engineering as a field because they found the way that they could express their mechanical intelligence really encroaching on this other equally valid part of them. And almost all of them basically just took mechanical engineering into - the same thing for me. I left physics and mathematics because I was like, there's no grounding in the real world, the touching world, the moving world, the physical world. It was all this very theoretical and lines, and on paper and on computers and with symbols and nothing that met my equal part of me that was my bio ... my biology, living systems, and life and nature. So just for anyone out there who thinks that you go to college to study a thing and then go get a job based on that thing - like you studied engineering and thus you have to be an engineer - I think that maybe we just need to talk about that. Sometimes we study a thing and the way you're going to apply it you don't know yet. And that there's lots of options available. So anyway, that's what I picked up on for you there.
MICHAEL: The definitely was very much the case. And I feel fortunate to have basically been educated in that foundation because there's a few things I learned here and there and probably more than I even give credibility to. But it was also the main thing - I feel like I took away from college - it was the confidence to take on projects that seemed way more daunting than I thought I could ever conquer. At the beginning, I was like, "Yeah I'll give this a try. We'll see what happens." And I was just surprised. Every year, I guess I'm still in it.
KATY: Still making Earth Runners. So what has surprised you about - so I guess from the engineering perspective, I had no idea that this would happen when you went to make footwear. Or I guess from the other side, the flip side, like marketing or entrepreneurship. Like actually starting a company. What's been the most surprising thing about developing Earth Runners.
MICHAEL: That's a good question. I would say surprising...the way I'm going to interpret that is challenging. What's been the most challenging. The most unanticipated facet of the whole thing.
MICHAEL: Which has just been scaling up and creating a team. I work very well independently. I'm easily distracted, so it's just nice to have my space of focus on what I'm doing. But it's been forced upon me that I have to work with a team, collaborate with people to grow this. It's one thing to train people whichI'm pretty good at - finding people and connecting with people. All things I'm pretty good at. But when it comes to managing people, it's just like, I was always just the person who never really took praise very well. This is what you're supposed to do. I'm gonna go do it.
MICHAEL: And I don't really want thing... I don't want feedback that doesn't feel authentic. So for me to, I don't know, just like me being that person and being a manager. A manager is just ... it's positive reinforcement. And always telling people what to do and what not to do. I never liked being told what to do, so it's been a little challenging for me to grow into that role. But I think it's the best kind of situation for me. Because it's kind of making me focus on my weaknesses, I would say.
KATY: Yeah. Personal development through a shoe company.
MICHAEL: Yeah, spiritual development.
KATY: Exactly. Ok, this other word keeps popping out at me. Functional gadgetry. So I have this idea of technology, and I think technology as a term has kind of been co-opted to mean electronics. But the way that I understand a technology is really taking something that didn't exist before. Or taking elements and making something new that didn't exist before. What is a functional gadget? Are you saying that your shoes are a functional gadget?
MICHAEL: Yeah. I mean it kind of was the best phrase that kind of sat in that sentence. And the other kind of funny note about the birthplace of Earth Runners was that it started in my parent's garage in the Silicon Valley. And the Silicon Valley is surrounded by mountains that are beautiful. So it was like this very progressive, grindy, innovative place with a lot of access to nature. So it was just kind of the manifestation of its surroundings. And yes, I would say it is a gadget. I feel like you talk about it in your books of just the footwear in general's technology. Even if you go to the most basic of footwear like a minimalist sandal, it's still a technology.
MICHAEL: And a gadget. Like you said, you had some association with electronics with it. And we do have an electronic component to our sandals. So that kind of brings it more into the realm of gadgetry. And that was kind of describing not only the sandals but all my project.
MICHAEL: And it's like I'm trying to create something that's functional that I can use and not just art that's un-useful.
KATY: I can just hear a bunch of artists out there saying "What? Art's not useful." But these are terms. We are in a critical place right now as a species. Or at least as a culture - like a group of a species who are behaving in a particular way. So I just looked it up right now. So technology comes from the Greek word that is in Greek that I can't read. But it means science craft. So it's the art, skill, or cunning of hand. So I'm thinking, I just did a big interview with a technology company that I think everyone would agree is a technology. And talking about what decisions our family has made in light of this tremendous amount of technology. And I was like, well you're gonna have to define technology for me because I think of it as anything created that didn't really exist without human's fashioning it to make it this thing. So we've kind of segmented technology to mean electronics. So we wouldn't put shoes in a technology although they are still the same. So I think there's going to be a time where in order for these conversations to progress, we're going to have to find what constitutes a technology and I think I've probably talked about it before probably in other podcasts which is we might have to start defining things by the wake that they leave behind them. Right? BEcause there's a big difference between a mass-produced shoe and something that someone has just kind of made out of fewer parts in their own home. You know what I mean? That's just my - that's my own interests kind of going off on a tangent right now. So let's go back to Earth Runners. You have some new products in the pipeline? You have some new functional gadgetry that maybe you want to talk about? Like maybe a new performance sandal? And I was excited to see you might be doing stuff for kids. So what can you tell us now about that?
MICHAEL: You know what's funny is I feel like we've been connected for three to four years now. And about two years back you had been wearing our sandals for a while, and I'm always kind of prodding people, "you can tell me what you like about it, but I want you to really tell me what you don't like about it."
KATY: It's more helpful. Right.
MICHAEL: It's way more helpful. And I was like, what could be better? And you were, very simply, "better traction." And I was like, "I feel you."
KATY: On the footbed. That was on the actual part that the foot's on, yeah?
MICHAEL: Well there's two components to that. There's the foot traction on the sandal bedding, and there's the sandal tread on the earth, and I've been working on both. WE've had the canvas top which we call our Earth Grip top in circulation now for about 18 months, and that really helps with foot traction on the sandal, wet and dry.
MICHAEL: Which is great. But then there's also the traction of the sole onto the earth in loose gravel and wet rock applications which are probably some of the most difficult. And I've honestly experimented I would say with hundreds of different treads. It's slightly sad because there's quite a bit of waste in that scenario, but I feel like that's kind of what it takes to come up with new combinations of existing materials. Kind of like what you were describing with technology. And we've landed on something I'm really really excited about. This really grippy outsole. It's got like a profile and a frequency of tread pattern that really grips into the earth. And those two applications I was describing and the actual compound itself is very sticky but also holds up very well over time. And I've been testing them for the past six to ten months, and we're gonna get more people testing them very soon. It's one thing to find the materials and put them in these unique combinations. But then it's another task to develop the system to streamline it for manufacturing. And that's been the second - people even say that that's more than 50% of the development process. And that's what we're in right now is kind of ironing out that process. But yeah, really excited about that. Making the sandals kind of more adventure ready. Able to connect with the earth on more terrains. And like you also mentioned, the kids' sandals. We recently had a poll with our audience, and it was like, "What do we not offer that you would prefer us to offer?" Like what do you want us to create? And it was crazy the feedback we got. I think it was...let's say we had like 100 different feedback points. At least 20-30% of them were children's sandals. That's a huge percentage.
MICHAEL: So that's in the works. We're excited about it. We've been making those - we've made those in the past, but it just wasn't very streamlined because we were making them all custom and it took forever. And we couldn't really charge enough to make them - like a viable business situation for us. So now we're just making standard children's options and pretty excited about it.
KATY: Yeah. That is so challenging. There's a general idea that minimalist footwear should cost less than non-minimalist footwear. The idea being that a shoe is solely, that you're only charging based on the mass of a shoe. And not really paying the same amount of people to fashion them no matter what shape it is, etc. But children's shoes is a big deal because, like I feel like the investment in foot development, it's better to invest when they're younger than when they're older. When they're really setting ranges of motion and bone shape is really based on use. Yet kids need shoes ... they grow so quickly. Shoes get expensive. Shoes are way more expensive for kids because you're having to buy much greater volume. So I appreciate you coming on just kind of sharing some of the work that goes into making something that I forget non-makers might forget. You know, the idea that you're testing. You're sampling. You're seeing what fails. And you're going through many failures before what you end up bringing to market is brought. Anything else you want to let us know?
MICHAEL: Not really. I mean, I just appreciate the opportunity to get on here and talk about our story. I mean I feel like it's something that's just been such a huge part of my personal story and it just keeps growing and getting out to more people. So I think it'll be interested for people to hear little tidbits of the backstory of me kind of utilizing my skills to leverage what I feel like is some of the most accessible technology out there to kind of assist in a healthy and happy lifestyle.
KATY: Yeah. Footwear is ubiquitous at least across our culture. I like talking to people who make shoes because almost everyone out there has an entire closet full of them and may have never thought about. But at least these listeners they're thinking about their shoes. Maybe even more than they should. All right. Well, Michael Dally is the founder of Earth Runners. You can find out more about Earth Runners at EarthRunners.com. And then also follow them on Instagram. I like your Instagram account. And is that just @earthrunners?
MICHAEL: It is. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
KATY: Thanks, Michael.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
You just heard me talk about tending to your feet, knees, and hips. And just FYI, Jill Miller and I are leading a movement retreat on just that this February at 1440Multiversity which is in the Bay area, California. Learn how to get these parts better supporting your body and your larger movement feats. But that is not all. I would also like to announce two more retreats. If you are keen to Move Your DNA with me in person, check out nutritiousmovement.com. Go to the Calendar. Go to Katy's live events. We have listed two new opportunities for you to do just that in 2019. I will be at the 1440Multiversity again in California in April, and I'm going to be at Kripalu all you East Coasters who are always asking me to come to the East Coast. I am coming this next upcoming June, to teach Move Your DNA, Alignment and Natural Movement on and off the mat. Same course, one east coast, and one west coast location. Now, this is a class that I've geared to mat movers and mat-based movement teachers. Specifically how to increase your movement diversity as well as your total volume of movement by considering and practicing a broader definition of alignment. Just like I was explaining earlier about is backbending a natural movement. I want to give clarity over all these definitions. I have so many people coming up and saying I have a mat based practice. I own a mat based studio. But I get now that I've been missing this diversity. I've read Move Your DNA. I want to be doing all these things. I don't know how to fit it in my class format. This is the class for you. I want you to walk away with a toolbox that helps you start to bridge the gaps of movement within the context that you already feel comfortable teaching. Like if you already have the equipment. If you already have the studio space, working with what you have and what you can do, I will show you how to diversify movement in that context. Whether it's for your personal practice or if it's for those that you are teaching. Check the link in the show notes for details. Or just go to the website and you can find it.
That is it for Move Your DNA this time. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening. Until next time - Take a hike!
VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.