Episode 30: Back-to-School Biomechanics
Description: A Course of Action
Back-to-school time is here! A kid needs a decent breakfast to start the school day, but what about movement nutrients? School can bring movement-hindering shoes and desks, long, sedentary days and repetitive loads to a developing body. Whatever your method of schooling, Katy offers some tips to help both you and your wee charges get more of what their body needs. And, if you’re all grown up and done with school and don’t have kids, this episode probably still applies.
DANI: It’s the Katy Says podcast, where movement geek, Dani Hemmat joins biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA for discussions on body mechanics, movement nutrition, natural movement, and how movement can be the solution to modern ailments we all experience.
KATY: How long do you think it’ll take? How many episodes before everyone can like recite that opening verbatim?
DANI: Well, we’ll change it just as soon as they get it down pat.
KATY: That’s right – it’s like, ever, ever elusive opening. Um, okay! Well, speaking of memorization, it’s the back to school episode. Huh?
DANI: Woo hoo!
KATY: I was thinking, I’m actually one of those people who loved going back to school.
DANI: Me, too!
KATY: I loved it. Did you? Yeah, I could get that. But, um, as we were talking about doing this episode it started making me think about all these back to school memories, and what – do you have like a most cherished or something that sticks out in your mind as the most amazing back to school memory? Or something that you think of when you think of back to school?
DANI: Oh, yeah – and it’s probably on the level of almost everybody, but it was all about the smells for me. It was the smell –
DANI: - of the pencil box, the new lunch box, the library after it had been closed up all summer. You know, that book smell. And the smell of the desks, they’d all been, like, disinfected and squeaky clean, but they kind of had that weird, wet wood smell to them, and I just – yeah! It was all about the smells. How about you?
KATY: It’s mostly – it mostly is waiting for the bus in the morning. I just – we had to get up really early, and it was really rural, and it would be chilly, because we didn’t start until September because we were a farm community. And I would pretend – my sister and I would pretend to smoke pretzel sticks out while we were waiting for the bus, because that was – that was the height of glamor, back to school, and –
DANI: So in the cool air your breath would show and you’d be –
KATY: Yes, right? It was very realistic.
DANI: Hittin’ the pretzel sticks too young.
KATY: It was – fortunately, I went on to not – I was never a smoker, nor really a pretzel eater, so. It just goes to show you that sometimes by getting it out of your system early on it might save you later.
DANI: Yeah, especially with foodstuffs and not tobacco stuff. So, way to go.
DANI: Good job.
KATY: I still pretend smoke. I like blowing – I like seeing my breath.
KATY: I love that, it’s fun.
DANI: Yeah, I like that about fall. Like, because you’re outside –
KATY: Yeah, I think that’s what it is.
DANI: - and it’s not really winter, but you’ve got that, that uh, mist or whatever it is that comes out of your mouth and that’s one of the neat things about fall, I think.
KATY: Pretend you’re a dragon. Stuff like that, sure. But, anyway, back to school. We get a lot of questions about back to school, so we put them all together, right? Back to school biomechanics – and it’s kind of also like back to work biomechanics, maybe, right?
DANI: Yeah, totally. I mean, some of us are just giant kids that just have to go to an office and sit at giant desks and do pretend adult stuff, and it’s all the same biology, you know.
KATY: Yeah. So, what about shoes, backpacks, desks, and balancing this kind of back to school – like, there’s less movement time overall, right? So how can we deal with that? Even if you don’t have kids, you can apply probably the bulk of this stuff to you at your office, yeah?
DANI: Right. Or, even if you homeschool your kids or you’re in kind of a different, you know – not a typical learning situation, but you’ve got a little more variability, there’s still stuff that you can – can do – to make things better, to kind of facilitate more rewards in your daily movement requirements.
KATY: Yeah, so – I know just from interacting with readers and listeners on Facebook that parents – and even people with a traditional office job – kind of feel like they’re up against a hopeless situation. You know, it’s like, I can’t – there’s just no way, I have to go to work, my kids have to go to school, we have to have to – and so I think we can offer some empowering things to do, whether you’re in the traditional school system, if you’ve got a more flexible schooling environment or if you’re just at work. So what should we start with?
DANI: You are the solution girl! You’re good at providing solutions.
KATY: I have ideas, I have ideas. Solutions are all about the person doing them. But yes, what do you want to start with?
DANI: Well, let’s do – let’s do shoes, because that’s probably, like, one of the biggest things that we hear from readers and listeners to the podcast, is that shoes is a big head scratcher. And this weekend, you wrote a blog post, I noticed, that I wish was not just in your blog, but I wish it was in every publication that a parent could read across the nation. Because it was about choosing shoes. That’s tough – say that five times fast. Choosing shoes, choosing shoes. But it was great! It was back to school shopping for kids’ shoes, and you could apply that to your big, grownup feet shoes, you know, back to school shopping. But it was great. You gave a step by step thing, and I’m not going to read the whole article – you’re welcome – but if you wanted to give a few highlights from that, what would they be?
KATY: Um, okay, bullet points are:
- Minimal footwear for all kids and for adults. Adults take more transitioning than kids do.
It’s best – this is a tip – it’s best to shop for shoes - meaning, your feet are at a good size to be fitted for new shoes – at the end of the day, or after – after the bout of whatever it is that you’re doing. So – it’s soccer time right now. So for example, everyone’s like, I’ve got to get soccer shoes. And they go out and they fit their kids for soccer shoes, but the best time to fit your kids – and yourself – for shoes, especially for sport-specific shoes is after you’ve done the sport. So if you’re a runner, you don’t go shoe shopping in the morning. You go take your run so that your feet are at the size – because your feet are malleable. They’re going to change shape based on the activity and the fluid content that’s in there. So you want to do it after the thing that you’ve just done, when your foot is at its maximum size or shape for whatever that activity was. So if you’re buying shoes for kids, don’t do it, like, early in the morning, before they’ve had a chance to be on their feet quite a bit or use it. You want to go out, and go hiking, go running, go playing. Let them be out for a little bit and towards the end of the day: 3, 4, 5 is a really good time to fit your kids.
KATY: Kids’ feet grow fast.
KATY: This is something that we don’t really think of as a – yeah, if you’re a parent, you know. When we just have a shoe size that we are, but your kids, their feet are growing constantly, and so the recommendation is that the shoe for a child is always at least a half of an inch longer than their foot at rest, because again – once you start moving, your foot does not maintain the static shape. It’s stretching, it’s reaching as your weight passes over it, it’s widening and lengthening. So if you fit a shoe to a static foot, which is, interestingly enough – back to school shoe shopping is also a memory of going to Payless Shoe Source and putting your foot on the thing with the sliding dial, did you have that?
DANI: I know the word for that!
KATY: What is it?
DANI: It’s a Brannock device. That is what it is.
KATY: Is that the name of the – the – guy, I’m assuming, who created it?
DANI: I think so, but that’s the weird metal thing where they shove the other metal thing and then metal – everything was just so metal.
KATY: It was – but – I remember as a kid, going, he’s like, we have to measure your right foot and your left foot and I was like, “why? You only sell shoes in pairs.” Like – and it was just, and I guess it was just to get the larger one, right?
KATY: To make sure that the pair fit the larger shoe, but anyway. Brannock device. Thank you.
KATY: Okay, where was I? All these interesting words –
DANI: So the foot has to be – it has to be in movement. You have to know what the foot’s going to be doing while you’re walking or moving or running.
KATY: Right. So – well, your foot is going to get bigger and smaller as you’re moving, so you want the shoe to fit the bigger, right?
KATY: But a shoe that’s too big is just as problematic as a shoe that’s too small – so what are you – so I think the natural response is like, great, well, if my kid’s foot is growing constantly through the year, then I’ll get a shoe that’s like one size too big, and then that way they can kind of grow into it over the year. Because it gets expensive, right? If you have –
DANI: Oh my gosh, yeah.
KATY: 2-3 pairs of shoes a year.
DANI: In fact, I’ve been trying to get them to smoke pretzel sticks just to stunt their growth, because it’s just – I can’t keep these kids in shoes.
KATY: You know, we really need to do a parenting episode and you can give us all of your secrets.
DANI: Oh, yeah, because I’m a wizard.
KATY: So, what do you do? You have to buy multiple pairs of shoes per year, and that gets expensive, and so in the blog post I kind of showed how I do it, right? Like, how do you delegate or dispense your shoe budget for the year, and a big secret if you want minimal shoes for kids and you don’t want to spend a lot of cash, is swim shoes.
KATY: What’s the other word for swim shoes? Like, water shoes, pool shoes?
KATY: They are – do you have another word?
DANI: I think it’s just pool shoes is what I’ve –
KATY: Pool shoes. They’re usually at – around here I see them in drugstores, you know, like in the –
DANI: Yeah, like, hanging on one of those twirly racks.
DANI: Yeah. And they’re not expensive.
DANI: I’ve never seen them for more than, like, $15.
KATY: Yeah, they’re super cheap, and the cool thing about them is they’re flat. They’re flexible, and they’re inexpensive, so – and they’re usually rubber-bottomed, so even if you live in a wet place – I live in a wet place, in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not super freezing, especially in the fall, right? So I recommend that you get one of those for fall, this early part, because there might be rain on the ground but if you pair them with wool socks you’ve got something that’s warm, water-resistant, flat, flexible and it gets you through til when you’re going to need, like, your – your big guns.
KATY: Depending on where you live, right? If you live in Southern California, you’re like, what is she talking about? The socks, and boots.
KATY: Boots? But if you live in, like, where you live, you guys are going to get some snow, yeah?
DANI: Yeah, gotta get some boots.
KATY: So the best time is closer to when your foot is at the size that you’re going to be using them, so if you’re going to be wearing winter boots then try to buy them as close to winter as possible so that they’re going to match your shoe shape, then. Don’t get excited and buy your winter boots in October, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
DANI: Okay. That’s good.
KATY: Put it off a little bit. So – and then you can buy another pair of inexpensive swim shoes in the early spring or late winter when the snow is over, but you still need a little bit of wet, and um, moccasins or other minimal shoes to kind of – it has, like, how to pace it out a little bit, I guess.
DANI: It was very helpful, very good, and especially the part about tracing the foot and how to trace it, because then you don’t have to deal with the Brannock device. You’ve got – you’ve got your own measurement with your toes spread wide, so I liked that a lot.
KATY: That’s good for adults, too.
DANI: Yeah, absolutely.
KATY: And if you’re a homeschooler, a fun lesson, right? I included that actually in a blog post, a whole link to a homeschool lesson on feet and shoes, so check that out.
DANI: And – talking about homeschooling – that’s a good time for lots of barefoot time, right? And –
KATY: If you’re inside, sure is.
DANI: Foot muscle training time.
KATY: Yeah, and um – you know, when - we could probably do a winter show, like how to move in the winter. But that was – there were a lot of blizzards. Like East Coast, eastern Canada got hit pretty hard with winters last year where they’re like, yeah, okay, walk 3-5 miles a day is just not possible, like, it’s freezing, we will die, Katy Says. It was like, okay, well, what do you – what are ways to create movement indoors and obstacle courses, obstacle courses, obstacle courses are amazing. They’re fun to set up, they are fun for kids and adults to do. And then you can do one just for feet, though. They’re meant to be barefoot and train your feet with all sorts of wobbly, cool balancing. I threw up some pictures, and that’s a good way to strengthen the muscles in your feet, because minimal shoes, again, if you listen – I think back to our episode maybe on the Vibram lawsuit? This was like an early episode that we did –
KATY: -- where when you get, like, on the minimal footwear bandwagon there’s a tendency sometimes to think that just putting the shoe on the foot will give you more movement, but you actually have to be moving, right?
KATY: You have to be doing more movements and so – like, it’s not a magical foot massage device, like, you actually have to be up and you have to be walking over varied terrain, and if that varied terrain is buried under snow or the outside is not accessible to you, then create a varied terrain inside.
DANI: Which – and you don’t even have to buy extra stuff, I mean, you can use pillows and couch cushions, and stuff like that, and go to the dollar store and get a bunch of pebbles, and it’s just – yeah. I like how you do it on the cheap, I appreciate that about you.
KATY: Oh my god, I am so cheap.
DANI: No, say frugal, you do it on the cheap, but you’re not cheap, you’re frugal.
KATY: Oh. I’m thrifty.
DANI: A thrifty Scot.
KATY: But I don’t think it’s much as thrifty isn’t my motivation. Money saving isn’t my motivation so much as reusing things that already exist is my motivation, so, like, go now before it’s all covered under snow. Go get pebbles. Go find a cool balancing log, bring them in to dry them out now so that when it’s time to set up your winter stuff, you have all that stuff ready to go. Just get a big box. Start putting it in there and then create your kind of foot training kit in your back pocket so the first snow day when you’re like, what am I going to do? It’s like, I already have this plan. I’ve been planning on this since September. It’s fun. I enjoy it, it’s creative.
DANI: It’s good thinkin. It’s good thinkin. And you just brought up an interesting point, where you said minimal shoes – you know, you have to move in them. You can’t just put them on, so if I’ve got kids, how about walking to school?
KATY: Walking to school. Cherished – being walked to school – cherished memories. Just, you know, um, walking to school is one of those things that has just kind of gone away –
KATY: -- just because of the way society is now. But escort – like, walking by yourself. I remember when I was in, like, preschool, walking certain distances myself. You know, even like a block – but that just doesn’t happen anymore, ok?
DANI: Can I add that in to my cherished memories? Because I always had to walk to school, and it was just like that time of decompression on the way home –
DANI: And the time to get excited on the way there, like, what am I going to learn today? And um, I don’t think that would have happened if I were sitting on my rear.
KATY: No, and I remember – I don’t think I thought about it then, like I think about it now. But I remember a sense of independence, and who knows how alone I was? So my son who is 4 just asked the other day if he could walk this quarter mile home by himself. He’s like, can I walk this by myself? And he asked because his 6 year old cousin does it. His mom – we live close enough, and she’ll like, ride her bike to a certain point and then she can watch him walk a certain point and then I’m at the other end and can watch, but the kid doesn’t really know that as much, and so I was like, yeah! Absolutely! And then you know, you drive home and he seemed so big all of the other times until he’s walking down this huge road and I’m like, oh my god, he’s like an ant! He’s so tiny, like a baby, crawling down this thing! And he did the whole thing! And I – there’s just a – it’s being autonomous, right? It’s this whole experience of, “I got this,” and it’s – it was a safe, you know, I felt that there was just no risks or minimal risks, I think for him. Any risk that he can handle, and um – but that’s not an option for a lot of people, so – and also people live too far from where they go to school.
KATY: where it’s like, okay, I’d like to have 2 extra hours to walk the three miles – you know, my kids back and forth, but I don’t, so our friend, Debbie, from Positively Aligned, has a really great solution for this, and when I went to visit her in Texas, I did this with her and it was genius, but I’ll let you tell it, because it’s just – I just like to hear it.
DANI: Well, I mean, it’s – it is pretty smart. She would – she was quite a ways away from her school, and um, wouldn’t – it was like 4 miles, I think, to school. So she would drive the car out to a certain point and then they would all get out with their backpacks and walk the rest of the way, so I think it ended up being 2 miles each way for the kids, so 4 miles total, and she would get an extra little bit in, but they beat traffic because they would have to leave earlier to get the walk in, and then they weren’t stuck in their car with everybody else at the same time who was going to school, they were out walking.
KATY: Yeah. It was great. She – so for her, or anyone else going, how can I get more movement? She would drive – I don’t remember exactly what the distance was, but it doesn’t matter – even if it’s – I have little kids, it’s like, great, then do a mile, or do a half mile. Whatever. She would park and walk in and they would play like shadow chasing games –
KATY: which were great –
DANI: You know, and sometimes she’d have to carry their backpacks –
DANI: -- and that was just like the tradeoff that she made.
KATY: But that’s a benefit. That’s awesome, right?
DANI: Right, right.
KATY: Like, she got to use this time to train, and it’s like going to the gym with your kids. Here, carry all my stuff. But then she would walk back and then she would walk in to pick them up and then walk out – so she got twice as much walking as they did, half of it being fast, adult-paced, and then she got to be with them those extra hours. They got to walk, but I love that you pulled out this decompression idea. It wasn’t like, quick! Get in the car! Drive home! It was this whole, relaxing 20 or 40 minutes, however long it is for you of talking but not where people are clamoring for your attention, like, where it can be – it was just more like, we’re just out and running around, and I don’t know. It was beautiful. It felt really good. It was just a great way to break up a day.
DANI: Right, and – well, minds always wander when you walk. That’s just part of the nature when you’re walking, is just your mind goes places and you don’t always have the opportunity in school, so it’s a really good time to let that happen for little kids and adults, just to have –
DANI: -- because not everybody needs to be talking at once. Or focused on the same thing.
KATY: Yeah, and I think also back to the homeschool – I like to give our alternative schoolers ideas, right? Because you’re constantly figuring out, like, cool lessons. And a good movement lesson would be for maybe older kids – or younger kids, I guess, depending on where they are – would be maybe to keep a walking journal, or to track distance.
KATY: Even if they’re in traditional schools, to be like, okay.
DANI: Have you heard about the 100 Mile Club®?
DANI: Okay, this is really cool – this is just started, and actually the person that does our show notes that really do exist out there somewhere –
KATY: Stop telling lies!
DANI: Our transcriptionist – she turned me on to this. It’s called the 100 Mile Club® and it’s for schools, but you can adapt it to like, non-traditional situations, or even just your own family, and it’s for kids to walk 100 miles during the school year. You know, so you break it down, you log it and everything, and so it gives them something – you know, if you’re not just turned on by the idea of just walking, because some kids like to work towards something, and they can even walk towards a medal or a sticker or a certificate or whatever. But yeah, it’s called the 100 Mile Club®, I think you can look it up by that, and it’s for schools to try to get everybody going. Groups.
DANI: It’s kind of a cool idea.
KATY: A good idea for teachers out there, maybe, who are trying – we get a lot of requests from teachers, going, how do I adjust my curriculum? So, anyway, by doing that! That’s great.
KATY: All right, what else? Shoes, walking…
DANI: Desks, I mean, my goodness. I don’t think there’s one kid in the world that likes sitting in a school desk all day long, and sometimes I just wonder – can’t we just kind of like, demand or petition that we just do something different? But it has to – it has to – there’s all sorts of ways we could approach this.
KATY: Well, that’s – I mean, going up – like, changing a paradigm is huge, so, like you have this – we are these little people with this idea and there’s institutions that have a different idea. So that’s challenging. And I think – I definitely think, it’s kind of like all activism in general, that there is benefit to organizing some sort of intervention against larger institutions that have a particular idea when you’re trying to initiate change. But before we do that, again thinking about the parent who feels overwhelmed, feeling like, Hey! Petition your school district! You know what? Just lay down in front of the desks at your school district – that seems big and overwhelming. So like the first thing you can do, so that you can feel empowered, is to simply change your home environment. So if – if people are shaped by what they do all day, then make sure that your house doesn’t – so setting up where are your kids doing homework? So if you’re like, I don’t like this desk thing, but you have desks for your kids at home, then start with eliminating that. Create standing or floor sitting desk workstations. Um, init – oh, gosh, we came up with a bunch of ideas, right?
DANI: Oh, yeah, so some people have just, like, created a dynamic workspace for their kids when they get home.
DANI: and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You don’t have to go all out on this, I mean – you’ve got a floor sitting option and then sitting next to a coffee table and then standing up at the kitchen, you know, food bar or whatever it is.
DANI: You don’t have to sit in one spot to do your homework.
KATY: They don’t. Although the problem, I think, for a lot of people comes with – they have one home computer and the kids have to be on the home computer. So if that’s the case, consider – I just posted, um, really on everything: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, a picture of my new office space. So I – Don’t Just Sit There the paperback version, has just been released, and I’m trying – because people still want visuals -
DANI: You called it your dynamic workstation. I love that.
KATY: It’s a dynamic office!
DANI: It’s not just standing – it’s dynamic, woo!
KATY: It’s dynamic! I have a low table, like find a low table. Put your computer on the low table, and then the reflex tends to be, well, there’s no way am i – the adults want to sit down there. I’m like, it’s good for you, too, this isn’t about kids; it’s about humans. But then, also, it’s not just the work time: what about the relaxation time, like, you still have the couch, you still have the EZ chairs and like, everyone’s just kind of –
DANI: Dining table?
KATY: - sitting. Everything! Like, the whole house – consider again that furniture-free home to whatever extent you can. There’s been again on our social media pages so many good ideas where the family couldn’t quite ditch the couch, so they cut the feet off of it, dropping it 4 inches. That’s huge!
DANI: Yeah, that was brilliant. That was great.
KATY: Brilliant. Have floor picnics, you know. Eat on the floor sometimes in the dining room. Have family challenges, where if you watch TV together as a family you do it on the floor with kind of fun movement challenges during commercial time. Also –gosh, what else?
DANI: Well, we did something cool this weekend, we took an outdoor picnic table and we moved into this gigantic house and we don’t have nearly enough stuff for it, it’s like, it’s ridiculous. It’s like we’re squatting. But –
KATY: That’s awesome! So it’s perfect is what you mean.
DANI: Well, no – yeah, it’s perfect!
KATY: What you’re saying is it’s perfect as it is.
DANI: It is perfect as it is, and we had an outdoor ping pong table, and we were looking at this huge spot where, like, a formal dining room table would go in this sort of a house, and we’re like, why – why would we buy another table? Let’s just move the ping-pong table in where that’s supposed to go. So it totally looks like we’re college students, but we’ve just been – I mean, no one can stay away from the ping-pong table.
DANI: This – it’s right there to play it, so there’s all sorts of little added things.
KATY: You know, I’m not such a good – again, winter. I feel like we need to do a trigger warning for all of the people on the east coast who are just like, stop saying it’s the end of summer! And have all of the –
DANI: Well, we’ll do a winter show.
KATY: Well, I meant the heavy winters that we just don’t have. You know – consider swapping out your furniture for something fun, family movement time instead of like, all right, we’re going to sit down at this table for an hour. Be together in some other movement way. Put your food off to the side and go get a snack when you get it, and then come and chat and play around the obstacle course or the ping-pong table or whatever else you can think of that would be fun. It’s just, uh, dynamic home. Dynamic because it’s ever changing, dynamic because it doesn’t constrict your movement in any way. So I think that’s kind of a cool thing, and then screen time, right? All the stuff that we’ve talked about before – there’s all these screen-free weeks, but can you do screen free days, or tech free days with your family? Not just with your kids, but with the whole family. You know, consider having it switch off at a certain time, where it’s like, ok, do your homework but the Internet switches off for everyone at 7. Just – just think outside the box, I guess. There are lots of solutions out there.
DANI: And it’s something that definitely – as a parent, you can’t just say, let’s – you guys do this. You all have to do it together. I mean, it’s just – it has to be a joint effort or no effort at all. So –
KATY: See? Parenting show, right there.
KATY: We’re all going to smoke our –
DANI: Smoke our pretzel sticks.
KATY: -- pretzel cigarettes outside.
DANI: Stunt the childrens’ growth so they stay little and we don’t have to keep buying them shoes, so.
KATY: But do it as a family. Do it as a family.
DANI: But the first few days a week, like, I think Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, there’s no screen for us. We just play games, we read together, you know. And – you can just set little traditions or schedules, and those, too, can be dynamic. It can always be changing.
KATY: I just got, um, Memory? You know that Memory game? I have little, smaller kids – so we’re not at the fun – the fun, super games yet. But someone sent us – my friend Galina – a Memory game where when you matched it it was all yoga poses. So we had it every time you flipped the two cards over, everyone did the two poses that were on there.
KATY: And then you flip them back down, and you kept flipping around to find your match, and it was awesome.
DANI: Is it a game on the market, or something Galina came up with?
KATY: It was on an Etsy – well, we can put it in the show notes.
KATY: It’s an Etsy – she – this woman, I think she’s Bulgarian, because Galina’s Bulgarian – and she had, she’s an artist. And they’re beautiful, they’re gorgeous, and they’re all on a cardboard cards, so it’s a nice, quaint, beautiful movement game. Right there.
DANI: We’ll put those in the show notes.
KATY: I just decided Twister. Twister. I totally forgot about Twister.
DANI: Twister’s good. Twister’s awesome.
KATY: Oh, yeah. Twister.
DANI: Honestly, you don’t even need to buy the Twister game. Really. You just – throw a bunch of stuff on the –
KATY: What do you mean?
DANI: Well, just throw a bunch of stuff on the floor.
KATY: What do you mean you don’t have to buy it?
DANI: Construction paper. You don’t need the whole game, just – it can be anything. You can just take a deck of cards and do it – just throw them down there. So, really. That’s what we should rename this podcast: The Frugal Awesome Parenting Movement Game Playing Whatever You Want it To Be.
KATY: Well, since this show is now about movement games, since we have this huge section – we stayed at a lake house for kind of our family end of summer hurrah, and they had a um, it wasn’t quite full, full, like – it was like a human-sized game of Jenga. Instead of the little, tiny pieces you hold in their hands, there were huge 2x4s –
KATY: -- that were of the appropriate ratios, and again – I have a picture of it that I put on my Instagram, and like, you squat, right? You’re picking one up at the bottom –
KATY: It’s not on a table anymore, you’re doing like some sort of weird, inverted squat to get the one out of the bottom, and then you’re reaching and the little kids are way over their head. They had stools climbing up to get them on there and – super fun, right? A human-sized Jenga for more movement. It’s the exact same skillset but – and you also have to sprint if it falls over, because it’s a huge pile of wood.
KATY: That’s right!
DANI: That’s brilliant.
KATY: There you go!
DANI: Those are fun.
KATY: Lots of fun stuff.
DANI: Make those. Yeah – those are easy to make, too.
KATY: Winter show. There it is right there: indoor games.
DANI: I know. It’s so full already, this winter show. I can’t wait. Another school thing that has to be dealt with: we have to get away from games and back to school for a second: backpacks. When you and I were growing up, we just didn’t have the kind of – we just didn’t haul stuff to and fro like kids today do. So I think, honestly, I carried – I don’t even think I had a backpack. I think I just carried whatever my lunch in my hand, or in my arms, and if I had to bring a book home, which was rare, it was in my arms. So a lot of stuff got dropped and – and scuffed up and all that. But – you see them walking to school today and these little guys, they’re loaded down with stuff. And I guess as a parent, you know, I would kind of wonder what – what’s the best thing?
KATY: Well, I have a different take on this than I think a lot of people do. So it’s a complex – it’s a complex issue, because yes, they’re carrying more stuff than we are. But I’m not sure that’s necessarily – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Right? Giving kids more loads to carry is not problematic. It’s kind of what we’re after, right? Having them work more, be stronger. The question is, is piling a bunch of stuff into a backpack the way that we want to do it? So I don’t think – variables are tricky when you’re trying to flush out what the argument actually is. I don’t think that the problem is the weight. Weight is fine. Kids in other places do way more physical work and have the capacity to carry and be much stronger than our kids are currently. But what we have with the backpack is a repetitive load carried in a single way. Again, I don’t think that the weight is too much as much as you’re asking a child who you also ask to be sedentary the bulk of the time to then carry this large burden on their spine, you know. So what is the solution there? The solution there is carrying the load in different ways. I, for a long time, have wanted to create a backpack that was similar - and sorry, fellas, if this analogy doesn’t make sense. But you know, like, you can buy those bras that are like 5 bras in one? It’s like, it’s over the shoulder and it crisscrosses in back!
KATY: And it’s strapless. So I have long time wanted to create some sort of carrying device that had straps that went in different ways, where you can carry it in different ways. You can, of course, carry a backpack however you want, but you know, we’re talking about – I don’t know, are little kids, are 5 and 6 year olds coming home with 30 pound backpacks? Or when does that phenomenon start? I actually don’t know.
DANI: Pretty early. Pretty early. It’s pretty crazy nowadays. But – but so you’re saying – that’s good. I’m glad that we are talking about this. You’re saying that just the variable is a big part of it. So I always believed, like, my backpack in high school: I was a one-strapper.
DANI: For those of you that don’t know what that is, I was way too cool to put my backpack on the way that it was designed, and so I carried it on one shoulder. Pretty much always the same shoulder.
KATY: Which one? Are you a lefty or a righty?
DANI: It was – oh, it was on my left shoulder, which is my jacked up shoulder.
KATY: Sure. Right.
DANI: And then as an – when I got older, I was like, you know, it makes sense, I’ll wear this with the two-strapper. So now I’m a two-strapper, but my son the other day – we were going off to nature school and he had his backpack, you know, on one thing, and I’m like, you could put your backpack on both straps. And he’s like, “Mom. That’s not cool.”
KATY: You’re like, who are you talking to?
DANI: What’s wrong with you? But – but I guess, you know. Here I was worried that he’s going to get all jacked up, but if he varied it, it wouldn’t be such a big issue is what you’re saying?
KATY: I’m saying that – I’m saying that you know, we have an aversion to work and weight and movement. And so it’s easy to see, like, look at all this weight they’re asking the kids to carry, and I’m like, yeah, kids are strong. They should be asked to carry a lot more stuff a lot more often. However - is a backpack - this consolidated load placed on the spine, like, I would find that to be the problem more so than asking them to carry the weight.
KATY: And so – my kids go to outdoor school, too. They have backpacks, and it’s a little more challenging with tiny – with smaller kids, but keep in mind that they’re also laboring kids, so they are constantly asked to carry and move and hang and swing, and so their bodies wouldn’t collapse under the weight of a backpack the same way someone who did not that much other strength exercise throughout their life would collapse in a backpack. The effect of a backpack is not in a vacuum; it depends on who’s wearing it and what they do all the other time.
KATY: So for older kids, like your son, varying up how you carry your backpack – and I wrote the pumpkin blog – there’s a pumpkin loads – It’s the Great Loads Lesson, Charlie Brown was one of my annual – the annual lessons I do on pumpkins. I always seem to do a blog once a year with a pumpkin. And so – you know, what’s the difference between carrying 10 pounds of pumpkins all stuffed in a backpack vs. carrying one on your head and a couple on your arms? That weight and how it’s distributed changes the net effect of something, and so – I remember it being cool to not have a backpack, but to have like 3 books in one arm? Right? Do you ever remember walking home just carrying your books with like, papers sticking out?
DANI: Yeah, maybe 7th grade or something, yeah.
KATY: But again, I wasn’t cool, so maybe it’s just what I did.
DANI: And here’s a question for your coolness: were you a one or two-strapper?
KATY: Ooh, two. Two. Because my glasses went over my right and left ear, so my straps had to go over my right – I had to balance the whole thing out, you know? And my – and my permed hair was equally poofy – I was all about symmetry. I was all about – I needed to be a symmetrically a nerd.
DANI: And you said you weren’t cool! What are you talking about?
KATY: My mom said I was adorable.
DANI: My mom thinks I’m cool!
KATY: Messenger bags. I did get into me – like, I still prefer, like I don’t do any – I like an over the shoulder strap. So over the shoulder strap – do it one way and then the other way, put your backpack on the front. There were a couple kids who did that. You know, carry their backpack on the front like a big pregnancy belly? That’s pretty hip. You should ask your son if that’s hip. You should just start wearing your backpack on the front of your body and see what he says.
DANI: Yeah, I just might do that for fun, just to shake things up a little bit.
KATY: And then put your butt pack on the back, and your – oh, my gosh.
DANI: That’s already qualified as totally uncool in my household, so.
KATY: I know. Okay, but – but all of that being said, if you are going – there’s my little kid is carrying all this crazy stuff – lighten their load a little bit with – like, I – we were buying stuff for outdoor school, and it’s like a huge, massive lunchbox, and I was like, what’s this huge, heavy – in outdoor school, because they are hiking, you know, they’re not just wearing the backpack around in between classes – these little kids are hiking a couple miles with what’s on their back. So I do things like, they don’t have lunchboxes. Those are heavy. They have a knit sack – a mesh sack – that I put their food in, because why have the extra weight of a backpack? Look for, you know, water bottles. Look when you’re purchasing items for back to school or what they carry with them on a regular basis, pick things that are lighter.
DANI: Oh, yeah.
KATY: Eliminate the need for – you know, do you need a pencil box? I mean, understanding that we all need a pencil box, do you really need a heavy pencil box in your bag, or could you just, you know, throw a couple pencils in your backpack? Like, there are – there is extra weight being placed in there, and extra bulk that may or may not be necessary, so backpackers will understand that you pare down your weight and don’t take non-essential items. So. Just – I don’t know. I guess other things to think about if um, if the load really is too heavy for the strength of your child right now. Pare it down.
KATY: As much as you can, like, they still have to bring – can you photograph, or can you buy a duplicate set of textbooks? Some schools do that, right? Like, send their kids home with duplicates? Can you buy, you know, find used online duplicate textbooks so they’re not moving it back and forth?
DANI: Yeah, I guess I like the way that you’ve just changed my thinking about it. It’s not so much the weight, but just what they’re used to. If they’re sitting in a chair all day and then carrying the same load, it’s just too repetitive, so –
KATY: Yeah, and it’s – you know, we think, my kids are carrying too much weight! And then the next question is: how do I exercise my kids more? It’s like, we know where –
KATY: We are living in the space between two paradigms right now. So you’re getting a little bit of this information, but you’re still within the culture that really goes out of its way to avoid movement, and so there’s this – we live outside of a Venn diagram. We live in this space and it’s slowly overlapping, but it takes a while to start hearing, you know, the questions you’re asking. How, like this is too much work for my child and it’s like, well, too much work is relative. Is there – as your children get stronger and understand variability then it won’t be.
KATY: So. Anyway. That’s just, uh, again, it’s part of that broader understanding of ergonomics vs. movement, and movement vs. exercise, but I think we got a shout-out in there for working more.
DANI: Yeah, absolutely. And – and teachers said something that – you know, it’s easy to feel like you’re up against this whole system, and how will I get the school district to put up money and hope for standing desks and all this stuff. But really, there’s some pretty cool stuff going on out there.
DANI: At – on a grassroots level, that’s not – that these people aren’t going up against these huge, big Goliaths. They’re just trying something in their classroom.
DANI: That’s working. So let’s talk about that a little bit.
KATY: Well, that’s – that’s where change comes from. It comes from super passionate people doing the work. I mean, it’s just work. All this trying to create new curriculum – it’s work. It’s really challenging. I don’t think that there’s a teacher out there who – I mean, I shouldn’t say that. There are many teachers out there who are like, I totally get that sitting in the chairs is not good for the students but it’s the way that the system is set up –
KATY: - and I’m just one person, and in order to change it I would have to have a year paid by someone else where I didn’t have to teach but could just write curriculum. I’ve been working on my curriculum for so long; but there are these people out there who are so passionate about it that they are, in their spare time, creating ideas and curriculum out there to change, I think, the paradigm. And so I would like to point people to a couple of those sources, um, one of them that I’m really excited about it – have you ever met Alex Kane?
DANI: No, I read his blog.
KATY: So Alex Kane, he is um, he’s married to one of our graduates who is a teacher of the movement technique that we use and he was also an American Ninja contestant.
DANI: Oh, I didn’t know that!
KATY: You didn’t? Oh, my gosh.
DANI: Well, that explains a lot!
KATY: Yes, he’s – he’s physically amazing.
KATY: The only thing kind of being more amazing than his physical capacity is his warmth, and his passion for his community and his family, and for movement. And so he has a website – Monkey Bar Math™. He’s a teacher, and I wrote a blog post about him a couple years ago because he created a chair-free classroom and – but he didn’t just go, hey kids, we’re having a chair-free classroom. The first day of school he was like, Hey, there’s no furniture in here, what are we going to do? And then, you know, it just opens discussions with kids and how do you want to set up the space? And the curriculum was creating a learning space. And so his website, Monkey Bar Math™, is really insightful about what are the subjects that we can start teaching via movement? And so – anyway, go check that out, and then you have some favorites?
DANI: Well, there was that cool thing that um, Brooke over at Liberated Body did a podcast about, and we’ll put that in the show notes, but it was this gal named Patricia Pyrka in Germany, and she had wanted to get more movement and less, you know, just desk time in at her kids’ school, and her kids’ school had a thing that they had, like, they called it Experiment Week, where the kids could just do something for a week. And so she went to the teacher ahead of time and said hey, I’d like to help with this experiment, let’s bring the kids in on it. And they got rid – you know, they pushed all the furniture out into the hall or off to the sides or something, and then with the children, designed a dynamic classroom with, you know, pillows and mats and some standing tables. Things like that. And they did it for a week, and it was just a really good way to see it in practice where it didn’t cost the district or the administration anything. They could just see how it went. So that was a very cool story about that.
KATY: And I think – you know, I just – that triggered something in me. I think that a lot of the resistance to doing new things in larger institutions is the cost, right? It’s like, well –
KATY: -- we can’t afford it. Totally -
DANI: There’s never money.
KATY: There’s never money. I totally get that. Um, and I think, though, a lot of that comes from the idea that you don’t want your kid to go to be schooled in a place that has mismatching – you know, if you said, no problem! You know, all the parents will come together and donate pieces of various heights, and that when you go to that school, there could be the response of like, well, this is sloppy.
KATY: This is mish-mosh and different heights, and I have been conditioned to uniformity and brand new-ness, and I – I am inferring from this way of everything looking organized that then what happens here is good, and that things that are not clean and disorganized based on my internal um, judgment system, can’t – good things can’t happen here. And that – just for any of you that have ever looked at anything that I’ve put out as far as like, the videos that I’m doing or whatnot. One of the reasons I film, you know, what I do with, you know, my kids in the background – you know – that – that you always want to make sure that you’re evaluating things by the outcome, not necessarily by the appearance of how it looks. And that could be, you know, this idea of what is good, or what is bad based on how it looks might be this huge cultural cast kind of on what is keeping things being the same way over and over again.
KATY: So just – it’s internal judgment system that is a culturally conditioned – so, anyway. That’s just one thing. Like, I just think of that as – I think that every tea – every person would have this piece of furniture that’s sitting in their garage or whatever, they’d be like, sure I will go down to my kindergarten or 1st or 2nd grader. As a parent I feel super motivated to get 15 or 20 different pieces of furniture of various heights and stools and pillows and we can get it all donated – but that – the resistance would be –
KATY: The sloppiness of it.
DANI: Yeah, sure. Yeah, shabby or just not uniform. That’s true.
KATY: Whatever. Non-uniform.
DANI: That’s why I like how you film videos with your laundry on the floor in the background, because you just keep it real, Katy.
KATY: It’s my contribution. It’s my contribution.
DANI: We appreciate it, too.
KATY: Thanks. I will continue to not fold my laundry in honor of you!
DANI: Thank you! Thank you very much. I might jump on that bandwagon, too. Yeah – there’s just so many different things that you can do. You know, just talking with your teacher, and not putting the onus on them to get it all done, but just saying, hey, what if we tried this? Because I know a lot of times kids just have a little pad they can sit on and they can wiggle and it helps them – you know, just things they do for other sensory issues, but you know, if it helps those kids sit still, it kind of makes you think outside the box of hey, what if there was all sorts of different ways we could move throughout the day? Without losing my lessons.
KATY: Right – and, you know, again, who is to say that learning happens with stillness? I mean, I think that –
KATY: - there’s a lot of information saying otherwise. So, anyway. That’s – that’s a lot. Like, we have given a lot of information in this podcast.
DANI: And just a few more resources and ideas besides the great, you know, park & walk plans. If you check out Richard Louv’s site, I think it’s Nature Network? He has great ideas because he has, like you said, you can balance out – if you can’t do anything about the inside-the-desk, inside-the-classroom time, then you work on everything else. And there’s great ideas for getting kids and yourself outside on that site. There’s things like the Walking Classroom that you can apply for your school, um, so kids learn lessons while going on these many mile walks wearing MP3 players, listening to school. And that’s a new thing – that’s a nonprofit that’s pretty cool. And then check out Monkey Bar Math™ – some – oh, what was one good tip from somebody was: she has her kid walk to buy extra screen time. Like, that’s just the tradeoff. If you want the screen time, then you’ve got to walk this amount of time.
KATY: I like that!
DANI: Yeah. Another parent, when they do like, read-alouds or run spelling words, they sit on the floor with a yoga block and a half dome, and they’re just wiggling all the time, because nobody’s going to sit there like a lump. There’s so many things that you can do if you just step to the right a little bit and think about it, look at it a little differently.
KATY: All right. That’s great.
DANI: And – and it’s school. School is good. It’s fun, fun for learnin’. I like this time of year.
KATY: Fall, back to school, pumpkins, squash. Me, too. All right.
DANI: Well, I got a couple of mentions to talk about before we wrap it up. I know our last show we mentioned we’d talk more about skin, and we will. But later. There’s just a lot to talk about. Also, just a shout-out thanks to everyone in Colorado: you would not believe the amount of people that have reached out to me since I moved to Boulder that listen to the podcast and have offered to go walking with me, have coffee, go hiking, work with them, all that. You all know who you are, so thank you for the warm welcome.
KATY: That’s exciting! I love that!
DANI: It’s pretty cool. It’s a pretty cool place. Also, our podcast has been nominated for a thing called the gratitude award. And it’s a really fitting award for us because it’s not about how many listeners we have, it’s how much – how many lives that this podcast has changed. And I know it’s changed mine – you know, your work has changed mine. So we would love it if you feel that Katy Says has positively contributed to your life, if you would go on Stitchr or iTunes, and you have to leave a written review. You can’t just 5-star it. You have to let people know how it’s helped you, and if you would do that before September 26th, we are in the running to win that award. And I’m grateful for all you doing that – and for listening.
KATY: Yeah, I’m thankful for you guys listening. Thank you. It’s really wonderful.
DANI: It is really wonderful. We have such awesome listeners. And you can keep on learning and connecting with Katy on Facebook at Nutritious Movement, and follow her on Twitter at Nutritious Movement, although it’s not spelled exactly like that.
KATY: It’s Nutritious Mvmnt. Mvmnt.
DANI: There’s no vowels in the second part. Nutritious Movement – you’ll get there. You just type in Katy. And she also has a highly entertaining, in my opinion, Instagram account at Nutritious Movement. If you’re pressed for time and just want to flip through the awesomeness that is Katy’s laundry while her kids are moving –
KATY: You think it’s entertaining? Why is it entertaining?
DANI: I don’t know! I don’t know, it just is. It is. There’s a kid on a garbage can – what’s not fun about that?
KATY: There’s nothing – there’s nothing. Once again, keeping it real. Oh, well, thanks guys, for listening. For more information, books, online classes, etcetera, you can find me at KatySays.com and you can learn more about Dani Hemmat, movement warrior, Colorado Homecoming Queen it sounds like, and two-strapper –
KATY: Double your backpack strapping fun at MoveYourBodyBetter.com.
DANI: Good bye.
We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful – but it is not intended to replace medical advice and shouldn’t be used as such.
Yoga Movement Game Cards:
Katy Says Back-to-School Shoe Shopping Blog
Katy Says Pumpkin Loads Blog
Liberated Body’s Podcast/Movement Friendly Classrooms
Monkey Bar Math™ - Alex Kane
Richard Louv’s Nature Network
spelling: Patricia Pyrka