Walking the Talk – Podcast Episode #98

Katy Bowman and Ben Pobjoy on how moving your body can also move your community.

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0:02:10 Reader Question #1 – Movement and your voice? – Jump to section

0:06:40 Meet Today’s guest – Ben Pobjoy– Jump to section

0:09:11 How Ben started moving – Jump to section

0:12:28  Walking to work and stacking his life– Jump to section

0:15:10 Walking and making a difference with sandwiches– Jump to section

0:19:15 Put your body where your beliefs are – Jump to section

0:21:30 Democratic Exercise – Jump to section

00:39:58 Reader Question #2 – Hips, Knees, feet, and more  – Jump to section



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Democratic Exercise on Instagram

Democratic Exercise website (coming soon)

Sarah Witten – Vocal Coach mentioned during first reader question

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It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I am Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement. This show is about how movement works on the cellular level, how to change your position as you move, and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world, also known as movement ecology. All bodies are welcome.  Are you ready to get moving?




KATY:  Why hello!  Doing a quick check in with this series of interviews on non-exercise movement I’ve been doing. That is, movement that’s not done for the sake of physical fitness but movement serving some other purpose.  So far we’ve talked about using our bodies to explore, perhaps an innate desire to go great distances, the abundance of wild food and the movement it takes to get it, movement in nature for the purpose of tracking both knowledge and food, movement in nature as a means to education, movement and birth, aka, the original getting our personal party started, and today we add a discussion on movement as a potential antidote to polarized politics.  So, you might remember Ben Pobjoy from a previous episode. He began integrating movement into his life in 2015 after hearing me on the Joe Rogan experience, which is Joe Rogan’s podcast. Ben started by walking to work and back and these days he walks, are you ready?  About 100 kilometers a week. That’s 62 miles, folks. He introduced a social element to his walking. He started handing out sandwiches to hungry people in need he encounters on the streets of his city.  And now he’s created a new walking program for others to join. There’s lots more going on with him, and I’m excited to hear more about it, which we will do in a few minutes, but first, I must reach into the Move Your DNA mailbag. This question is from Anita:


Have you ever delved into the topic of movement and using your voice?  (I’m not going to take this one personal Anita, don’t worry.) I’ve seen a video of a voice expert a while ago. Unfortunately, I can’t find it again. And she discussed raspy voices … so voices like yours  (winky happy face – yeah you take your winky happy face!) and the dangers of a vocal fry often including (I think) a raspy voice. So, I would love to get your take on it. Is it really dangerous?


So first of all, I’m just joking. I take no offense.  This is my voice so I know this is not the question. The question is … I guess there’s two questions. Have I ever delved into the topic of movement and using your voice. And I think Dani and I did a show that included something about this.  Or maybe we were just talking about my raspy voice and a therapist emailed her. And I think Dani actually did some work with her. (note: Sarah Witten is the vocal coach mentioned here) And I probably should too. So I am definitely a verbal processor. And I would not be surprised if this is verbal, vocal, fry out, burn out, whatever you want to call it. So is it dangerous? I don’t know. There’s therapists who do this specifically. So there’s this one therapist that’s contacted me. I’ll look for her contact information of maybe if there’s a field of what she does and put it in the show notes so that, Anita, if you’re interested you can pursue and then, of course, I should pursue. And then there’s also been some people recommended to me who work in the field of yoga who have different things for the throat as far as – so you know how we all have our things that like, “Yeah, I know I should do that.”  That I want to do it but I’m still not doing it because I haven’t changed parts of my life to make that happen, this is one for me. Clearly my voice is not working for me any longer but I have to change so many things to be able to address it and I haven’t mustered yet. So thanks for the check-in. And trust me, when I get to it, you’ll know. Probably because I’ll just do a podcast with nothing but static. But also have I ever delved into the topic of movement and using your voice … so it’s interesting, so I’m working a project, it’s not a book, but we all know what it is and in listing all of the natural movement, it’s a very large list. And vocalization is on that list as far as natural human movement. And there’s a lot of therapies, exercises, non-exercise practices – meaning they’re not done to fix the throat but vocalizations that have been woven into ceremony or cultural practice. So obviously it’s been on human minds for a long time.  And so I don’t know anything about it. There’s so many things to know about but I would wager that I could be using my whole body to project in a different way. Or at least diversify. I pretty much am talking and explaining at a particular volume when I’m teaching and then podcasting is very similar. And then of course, because I process everything with words, I’m just doing this all the time. So silence is, you know, I’m gonna do a social media break coming up this summer. And I wonder if I should also do a talking fast. I don’t often talk and lose my voice. I hate to even say that out loud but that’s been something that I don’t regularly experience. Maybe once in my whole life, given the crazy amount that I speak. I mean this used to be called Katy Says! Right? So obviously it’s like Katy used to say but now her voice is fried. So anyway, I don’t know if that’s a helpful answer but it helped me out so thanks a lot!

So remember, the podcast questions are made possible by our Dynamic Collective which sponsors this portion of the show. There’s another one coming up.  These companies include 4 minimal footwear companies: Earthrunner, UnShoes – which are both sandals, MyMayu outdoor boots for kids, and SoftStar. And one minimal furniture company, Venn Design. I’ve personally used all of these companies for years. They do good work. For more information on them, go to the show notes. Click Listen. Click podcast transcripts.  They are linked at the top of the show notes.  So… let’s get to it.

Ben Pobjoy is my guest today.  Ben Pobjoy is an avid walker – passionate about converting his physical movement into social movement. He’s fed thousands of in-need people on his walks and has used ultramarathons to fundraise tens of thousands of dollars for community causes; from Toronto all the way to Tokyo.  If you’ve read my book Movement Matters, Ben’s name and story will be familiar to you.  He wrote the forward. Ben Pobjoy, welcome to Move Your DNA.


BEN: Thank you so much for having me.


KATY:  As many listening know, I work on clarifying definitions around movement. One, for better science. And two for better application. If exercise/sports/athletics are the only entry points into movement this makes it very challenging for all humans to see how movement fits into life from both a biological and a practical standpoint. So I personally recognize the “exercise as movement” phenomenon. Personally, after having my first child and still having this full workload. And I was like, “Oh, I’m going to have to choose between mothering time, my creative production, work time, and exercise time.”  And I found that I didn’t want to. Because I had a strong desire for challenging movement. Like hours of it a day. That desire had not gone away but now I was in this new scenario where I now had kind of an equally strong desire to be with this tiny human and also to still do which just defined me for a long period of time. And I couldn’t reconcile it and it made no sense to me why I was having to choose. Which sent me back to researching cross-cultural data and trying to understand why I had to make a choice. Which led, ultimately to the content you can now read in Move Your DNA and Movement Matters.  So, in short, that exercise is one type of movement – a new type of human beings was my takeaway.  There was more to the science of movement story than a daily bout of exercise. So I had the pleasure of hanging out with you, Ben, at the book release party for Movement Matters and you shared the story of how you had a different but yet similar jolt of recognition about how you had perceived movement as a youth. So could we start by you sharing some of those insights?


BEN: Absolutely. So, first and foremost I was born in the 80s and was definitely a TV child. So a lot of my views of exercise were really corny athletics on TV or kind of like the spandex, aerobics fitness fad, so…


KATY: Let’s get physical!


BEN: Let’s get physical. So I always found it kind of off-putting. And I have quite cultural parents who always took us to museums and galleries. So definitely being more into being a book nerd as a kid and that kind of, you know, led to being in my teens and being into music and getting into punk. And what I found in that community, there was always kind of this antagonism between the punks and the jocks. Which to me is part of a larger kind of divisiveness between brain and brawn. And I think, in a lot of ways it relates to the division of labor. Right? Specifically to capital itself. That the more you have the less you tend to physically do and the more you kind of like minimize people who work physically. So I’ve always thought about it in these two silos of like brain and brawn and they always seem to be at opposing ends of the spectrum. And then I realized the third pillar missing is balance and connecting the two. So I kind of arrived to that in my own way after being, I guess, a bit of a hater for a while.


KATY: You started to add more movement as you wrote in Movement Matters, about how you started to introduce more movement into your life simply by walking to and from work. So why did you start there?


BEN:  I started with walking because a few years ago I was radically out of shape. And I found that one thing that I kind of come into my own is, is essential learning physical literacy and learning about my body and learning about what it can and can’t do and even moving beyond what I think it cannot do. And at the time I was so radically out of shape that I just arrived at walking because it was the easiest, lightest thing on my body. And I found I could actually integrate it in my life in a way that was seamless and function, versus group exercise classes which were embarrassing for me as well as a detour from a busy life. So, I found that the sweet spot for me was utilizing movement in a way that had function to enhance or enrich my life verse this perception that it was detracting from it or an inconvenience or something I had to schedule.


KATY: When you say embarrassment, were you embarrassed because of your physicality that you didn’t feel you were capable or that you were someone who was going to go to an exercise class?


BEN: Yeah. I think a bit of both. I think that when you are out of shape and you are heavy and you don’t fit conventional standards of beauty, you feel exposure and vulnerability walking into any gym. Especially if your skills aren’t at the level as other people at the gym where there’s technical equipment. Where you might not have the know how-how to use. There’s no camouflage. So I don’t find that those environments are fundamentally inviting to people who want to learn because they’re technical.  They’re literally surrounded by mirrors. It’s just, for me personally, it wasn’t an inviting place at the time.


KATY: So what kind of difference did it make to your life – to just start your commute on foot every day?


BEN: What I liked about it was I started in the winter and I started bundled up so I felt like it gave me this regular looking camouflage that I was “working out” without looking like I was working out. I remember at one point I gave running a go. I got kidded out in all this really weird gear. You know, all gear, no idea, went running. And one of my clients was like, “Oh my gosh, dude. I saw this guy running and he looked exactly like you.”  And it was me. And it was so mortifying.


KATY: Did you tell him it was you?


BEN: Hell no.  Even to this day I’ve never gone back and told him. So for me, I just liked that it was casual as opposed to this big application. And it was seamless.


KATY: So exercise at this point still feels like a suit that doesn’t fit or a label that doesn’t fit. It seems like even once you were moving you were still not the fit/exercise/jock guy.


BEN:   Exactly. And even to this day, I don’t like the word “exercise.”  It speaks to programs to me.


KATY: Right.


BEN: There’s a conceptual cast around what it is and what it isn’t. And to me, I principally don’t like the word “exercise”. I like the word “movement.” And because I think it’s just tied to however you want to express that whether it’s dance, whether it’s walking with, you know, various loads. Walking your groceries home. IT can be whatever you want it to be.


KATY: Yeah.


BEN: As opposed to some projected notion of what exercise is or has to be.


KATY: So before long, you’ve been commuting back and forth, and now you are “stacking your life.” You’re saving up your errands so that you can do them on foot on one big outing on the weekend, for instance. So why did it make sense for you to do that?


BEN: I just found that I enjoyed being outside. As someone who spends his days in front of computers or clutching smartphones on calls and reviewing emails, just being outside and being present, I found was an unbelievably amazing benefit of just being outside walking. Not only just inhaling fresh air but being kind of a first-hand witness to the world as opposed to receiving broadcasts of it through social media feeds. I just felt so much more present out in the world and saw so much magic out there; really funny things that you don’t notice blazing by in a taxi cab or inside in a gym. So it was just very humanistic to me in its appeal.


KATY: So I just naturally, I was gonna ask, so you start to make sandwiches to take along with you on our walks to hand them to people directly in need and what did you see that convinced you to start doing that?


BEN:  Well there is a lot that I saw but equally a lot that I felt. So obviously I made a bit of a new year’s resolution to get fit and it became a big initiative in my life that I started to prioritize every day. And so I was aware very early on that a lot of my time is being put into me and my improvement. And while that’s great on a personal level, what I found was I was doing that often outdoors on walks whether it was before work or after work, I live downtown. I work in an area where there’s a big mental health building.  And you know, I just started to pass the same people on the streets and you know, it kind of – there was this reckoning moment where I realized I was focusing so much on my improvement walking by so many other people that I just couldn’t reconcile it. And so I thought one thing I can do is kind of integrate my – or reform my physical movement to have more social movement and try and do a bit of good in the community.


KATY:  So there’s changes in yourself. I guess physical changes in yourself that are easy to measure because you can look at photos that you took of yourself before and during and I guess there’s no after. But along your journey. So you can see how your external body has changed and you can probably even measure the difference in your mental and emotional life but how do you assess the impact of your efforts towards social change. How do you track that movement?

BEN:  That’s a… it’s a really tough one to answer because…


KATY: And maybe it’s not even important to track it. Maybe that’s the answer. But how do you think about it, I guess. Or quantify it. Or feel about it?


BEN: Yeah, I guess the way I thought about is that as the weight came off my body – you know I ended up losing 100 pounds going from someone who was completely out of shape to someone who has a pretty decent level of fitness now.  As that weight came off, I would walk more and I would see more. So when you see more and you’re receptive to what you’re seeing and it leaves an imprint on you, you inherently want to do more so even though, I think looking in, people can see how I’ve kind of retooled my physical movement to do social work, to me it’s just like, its still never feels enough. Because of, quite honestly, a lot of the suffering that I see out there. So that’s why I’m constantly challenging myself to re-imagine how I can make a bigger impact and do more. So that’s why, kind of, the journey of how I’ve used movement to unlock social movement has kind of grown larger and deeper.  Effectively trying to change more.


KATY: In my mind I’m just thinking of … an athlete will look at, I guess, the landscape of physical feats to hurdle or to achieve and so I guess if we’re gonna make an analogy, you’re using your physical body and always trying to I guess expand not the capacity of your body. That happens lockstep or almost incidentally to  … I guess the sport that you are doing is social change. And that you are hurdling and you are sometimes going longer distances that you actually see that as the event. The event is effectiveness the suffering or the problem that you see. That’s just my sidenote of like I’m thinking the words that you are using are very similar to how an athlete, especially somebody who is constantly physically trying to challenge themselves. It’s just your challenge is others. I guess impacting others.


BEN:  Yeah. Yeah.  I think in athletic terms, people talk about personal best and trying to – is it run further, achieve a faster pace, swim more lengths, or what not.  So for me, my personal best is simply how can I be a better person.


KATY: Yeah.


BEN:  And I don’t think  – there’s no finish line to cross over that because there’s always new challenges.  And I think one quote that I kind of take a lot of inspiration from is I saw Gloria Steinem speak last year at the women’s march and she had this quote. She said: Thank you for understanding that sometimes we have to put our bodies where our beliefs are. And obviously this is directed to women who are there but it really resonated with me to say, you know what? Sometimes you have to put your body – like don’t put your money where your mouth is. Put your body where your movement can provide action to address changes out there.


KATY: Well it is called activism. It’s a big physical word. So again thinking about this idea that you’re in search of your personal best and that there’s your body executing that for you, have you seen, if we’re just talking purely biomechanical and the diversity of movements, have you seen the diversity of your movements change as you challenge your personal best?


BEN: Yeah. I think my ability to go far, I think is pretty remarkable and what I’ve been able to achieve. So my feet have gone through a journey on their own from being these supple cherub feet that never really been worked out. Then I got into walking where, you know, they were so raw. And they went through this phase of them becoming so calloused they probably looked like cavemen feet. And now they’ve kind of evolved to be regular looking feet with this, I don’t know, they’re like superhero feet now.  Look normal but still, I’m out there tracking more than ever. So, I have seen these weird almost evolutionary changes in my body. And even just how it feels to move. I remember when I’d go before where walking for an hour felt a long time. And now I regularly go and just do continuous marathons which can take 6 hours. And just through focusing on breathing I can get lost and hours sail by. So yeah it’s been fascinating to just experience how different movement can feel.


KATY:  Ok, so I want to talk about your new endeavor.  This spring you are starting a new initiative that, again, is gonna combine walking, or movement, and social change. So tell me about Democratic Exercise and how it works.


BEN: So it’s kind of been a few years in the making when I kind of entered into this world of trying to use physical movement for social movement, I was doing it alone and you know, at first I was handing out sandwiches to people on the street. And obviously, it’s quite a tactical approach where it’s just me out there giving someone one meal and providing just one meal that reduces a tiny bit of suffering. It isn’t really changing anything systemic.  So then I kind of segued into doing these DIY organized ultra marathons for causes where I’d raise a lot of money. And they were great but they were always this kind of prevents where a big pulse – a lot of people would rally behind them. We’d raise tens of thousands of dollars that would go to a cause. But it was a bit of a pulse. So I was like, “How can I create something that is more holistic?” And just seeing politics in the US and politics in the UK with Brexit, I saw more and more divisiveness. And then online I’m seeing virtue signaling, I’m seeing echo chambers. And I just realized there’s this strange kind of reality right now that we’ve never been more connected yet we’re so less inner connected in terms of how we interact. So I came up with this idea, essentially, of having this walking program of putting strangers together over a cup of coffee to walk and talk a mile in each other’s shoes. Just to have the 30 minutes of exercise where one walker answers a question on the first mile as the other listens and on the second mile that inverts. Simply to power human exchanges from people – no pun intended – from different walks of life to create these heartfelt exchanges. Because I believe knowledge exchange isn’t only at the basis of a strong democracy but is fundamental to having empathy for one another in a way that’s a first-hand account.


KATY:  At this point, it seems like there’s a lot, I’m not if it’s communication or pseudo-communication happening right now. The bulk of it is happening on the internet.  And there is, if we’re gonna talk about the shapes that were in when we’re communicating, the bulk of my human to human connection – let’s say outside of maybe dealing with my immediate family, the people at work – is happening with me hunched over, standing still and so many of these topics are how shall we say hormone secretion inducing. You know, they are polarizing topics often times, and so I am really a firm believer in stress and conflict, these are natural to human states but they’re happening in a sedentary context, which I think is changing the outcome of these perfectly natural states of, again, conflict and stress. So I remember my brother, a long time ago, was like, “How do I have this… my wife and I we always get in this same argument” or “my coworker and I we always get in the same argument and I don’t know what to do.” And all I could suggest was “here’s what I suggest.  When you start getting into that topic that doesn’t seem to ever reconcile, try lying on the floor when you talk about it. Put your legs up the wall. Radically change your own physical shape so that the per… your perspective is literally being changed and see what happens.” And what happened is when he went to go do this “ridiculous thing” it broke the energy or the repetitiousness of this same phenomenon – it was enough to change the pattern of the fact that they would just get adopt their same stances or whatever. So I really like the idea that you’re adding movement because one movement metabolizes all the things that come up and two it’s also beneficial for …it’s beneficial to you for this period of time in addition to the communication you’re also addressing maybe other things that are on your personal mission statement of getting more movement. Can you give me a couple examples of questions? How does it work? How do you get the questions? What are the questions? What are some of the machinations of it?


BEN:  So luckily I work for a really cool company that has always been super supportive of all the initiatives and we moved into a really awesome new office last year that’s kind of street level in Toronto, right in the hub of the community. And it’s actually an old church that was retrofitted to later being a community center. It kind of languished for a bit and then we took over it. So it’s always kind of had this role in the community and we’ve always kind of thought about how we could kind of like celebrate that. So I’ve just been generating this idea to take advantage of our new physical footprint. And so the idea is essentially, it’s, if you were to dumb it down, it’s essentially a walk in coffee club where you show up, you’re given a free coffee and on the java jacket there’s gonna be questions, you know, and these questions are kinda – they’re just intended to span conversation. So they’re not yes/no questions. They’re questions that can be about just highly personal things. So could be, you know, “What is your greatest fear.”  Or, “What was your first heartbreak?” To questions that kind of connect back to maybe more political subjects. Like, “Does your individual vote make a difference?” In Canada right now we’re going through the legalization of recreational cannabis. So we might ask, “Is that a good or a bad thing?” It’s just meant to let people share a point of view and compare and contrast and have a discussion. So the two individuals as well as a map that has a unique little trail on it that’s color-coded to show mile one and mile two. And it’s just essentially a conversation where one person answers their question as the other listens and vice-versa. And then it’s up to them basically to determine the extent at which they want to get into a discussion.


KATY: I was sharing it with my husband and he had just such a nice summation and he said, “Even if you’re unable to, I guess, metaphorically walk a mile in someone else’s shoes at least you could walk alongside them for a mile and perhaps come out a bit different as you do.”  I really love that. I was reading some of your breakdown on the purpose of the program and what needs the program is meeting and you had listed some I guess bullets or points that the UN, the United Nations, the universal declaration of human rights, I don’t know if requires or lists as being so. And what are some of those and how are you meeting… how is this program meeting those?


BEN: Totally. So I guess like you know I always kind of thing like about like any project I do; Why am I doing this? What’s my right?  What’s the greater purpose? And so, I’d be very fortunate to be able to walk all the way around the world. I think I’ve knocked off four continents, major cities, some areas that are super sketchy. I’ve been made acutely aware through my experiences that I have a level of freedom in my movement that is unparalleled. I’m a white, probably upper-class person that can drop in and out of areas. And so I just had this realization of “I can move through the world in a way that so few others can.” That’s obviously unfortunate. So how can I use my movement as a means to open the door open for others to move. And so I was just kind of trying to conceptually frame it in my mind and that led to the declaration of human rights where it kind of like argues for people’s right to life, liberty, security, and then I read freedom of movement. And that really resonated with me. Obviously, it speaks to the fact that citizens within a country shouldn’t have their movement suppressed moving from a to b. But it also connected to my belief in how free movement, which is movement that can be freely done or movement that has no cost outside of exercise and gym memberships, can promote some of these virtues. Especially later in the UN declaration of human rights, it speaks to freedom of thought and expression in a peaceful assembly. So I just feel that a walking program where people are free to go where they want and free to speak as they choose really helps strengthen some of the core principles of a democracy. And quite often a lot of us aren’t exercising that muscle of democracy. And we should.


KATY: So when you think back to your self at the start of 2015, walking in the cold in your uniform of “I’m just someone here walking,” and then your self today as we talk, what range of movement do you see in your own life.  How has moving more changed you and the way that you are in the world?


BEN: It’s a big question and it’s a tough one to unpack. I think it’s definitely made me more present when I walk. Everything from obeying traffic lights to not texting while I walk so I don’t trip over a curb. So it definitely added a level of presence in my life that was unforeseen. And I find that really calm and meditative.  And I think because I’ve been able to walk not just in my community but around the world, I’ve been able to see a lot in a way I wouldn’t have had I been in a taxi cab. And it has increased my empathy tenfold, one hundred fold, I think. The more you’re out in the world you realize that the world is a radically different place but there’s also a ton of patterns. So just seeing how in cities poverty disproportionately affects women and children. And it’s made me confront my privilege as well as what I think people of privilege should do to challenge their privilege and how to unlock it for others so all boats in the harbor will rise. And I happen to try to do that just through movement.


KATY: Yeah. The difference between  – I guess there’s reading about things and understanding them theoretically and then embodying them – walking the walk literally. It changes – even if you have that understanding before theoretically, cognitively, there is a difference in understanding it, I guess, with your own physicality. You’re own body parts.  Favorite moment on a walk? Or location for a walk? Maybe favorite societal awareness that came about so maybe it’s not just the beauty of the place but a transformative moment?


BEN: Oh man!  So many. I mean I was in Istanbul right when the Syrian refugee crisis started to happen. And just seeing hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, I think, was like a big wake up call that no matter how busy you are, most of us can do something. So in that instance, I just did something small – just giving out water.  But being confronted with a witness a humanitarian crisis, which I’ve seen tens of thousands of time through television. But to experience in person was incredibly powerful. And that spanned to, you know, I walked through the redwoods when I was out in the San Francisco area with you. And that was just amazing in terms of you know in one area you can be so significant and make a difference and then you walk in the redwoods and you just realize we’re so insignificant. We’re so small within the grandeur of nature. So just been tons of moments like that, I’ve seen countless people propose, do marriage proposals. Just a lot of beautiful, small, moments that are so small and nuanced but I think just helped me have a positive because I get to see so many little magical moments.  And a lot of the time I find people are like, “Why don’t you just go biking. Why don’t you just go running?” And for me it’s like not about blasting through space and time, it’s about enjoying space and time. And walking has a slow pace that allows me to see slow small nuanced things.


KATY: Just that small bit that you talked about, I wanted to share. I just remembered right now the first time I ever tuned in to suffering.  And I was 6 years old, walking on the streets of San Francisco and saw for the first time a visual that I won’t share but that is when I recognized that the world was not as I had perceived it. And I remember it just right now. Just because you talked about walking the streets of San Francisco. So thank you for that.  That could be a question. When was the first moment that you recognized that there was suffering? To go back to what you just said. So why don’t you just cycling or running? And I think it goes back to you see your movement as more than taking care of your physical fitness. Yes?


BEN: Yeah. It’s funny because I don’t even think about physical fitness and that component.  It’s funny. I love going and walking around the world because I find the world so inspiring for both the positive and the negative reasons. So I think, without sounding corny, it’s soul fulfilling. Just to be out in the world and be present and to witness it first hand versus clips on the news or people’s photographs on social media, so, for me I think it’s about being out in the world and walking through it lets me be a participant in the world as both an observer and as someone who can enact small forms of change.


KATY: Right before you started, though, right before you decided to, you know, “I could do that walk. I can do that first thing.”  Maybe it was still soulful but it was your soul. Or was it ever about your physicality. Was that the inkling that got it started or was physicality never even in the equation?  


BEN: I think my pursuit of – it’s kind of funny. When I first started walking there was definitely this – the impetus was to get in “better shape”. But I kind of arrived at that years ago. People were “Why are you still walking?”  They’re like, “You’re fit now.” Kind of like the program, the credits have run, the movie’s over. And I’m like, my belief is health is never something you can just contain. You have to walk towards it every day. And secondly, I’ve had a kind of revolution myself where walking to me isn’t about fitness or exercise. It’s about being present in the world and being a participant and being inspired by it.


KATY: So it’s nonexercise. It’s not even falling in the category of exercise. It’s to serve many other purposes besides physicality which is a hallmark definition. That’s what makes something exercise or not exercise is really the intention behind it. Where can people find you or more about Democratic Exercise?


BEN:  I’m on Instagram @benpobjoy.  I typically use it just to share photos from my walk, so if you are curious where I walk and the funny things that I get to see, that is a place to find me personally. And then on Facebook and Instagram, we’re launching Democratic Exercise all one word, and Democratic Exercise.com is gonna be our URL where people will be able to find information about the program. I live in Toronto so we’re launching the program there but the aspiration is to create a module that other communities will be able to download and freely organize programs in their own communities to kind of borrow from an open source model.


KATY: That’s wonderful. Anything else you want to let everyone know?


BEN: Get out there. The world is beautiful. It can be inspiring and depressing but every day you will see something magical and it will make you smile and inspire you to walk the next day and be out present in the world.


KATY: Thank you. I really appreciate you and what you are doing and I really thank you for all the contributions that you have made to me and my work. So thank you once again for contributing by coming and being my guest here today.


BEN: Always a pleasure. And vice versa you. Thank you for …not many people know that you are the catalyst- hearing you on a podcast that inspired you. So if I can now be on your podcast and inspire that in someone else it really shows how movement has these reverberations that can improve all of us.


KATY: Yes. Community. Right? It’s just stacking back with some community. So I appreciate you doing that in real time. Real human to human connection. Thank you so much.


BEN; Thank you, Katy.


KATY: Ben Pobjoy is an avid walker who is passionate about converting his physical movement into social movement. His latest endeavor is called Democratic Exercise. It’s a free, non-partisan, community-oriented walking program that pairs strangers with to-go coffee cups who walk a mile together, answering the unique and personal question they will find affixed to their cup. You can find out more at democraticexercise.com. And we’ll put a link in our show notes to that website, and to the Instagram account @democraticexercise.  

Time to answer one more question. This is from Charles. Charles asks:

I’m having real problems with my left hip. It is very painful and has gradually gotten worse over the last few years. Now, because of the odd way I’m walking my left knee has started hurting, too. I visited an orthopedist about my hip 1 to 2 years ago now and he said all that could be done was a hip replacement. He said the femoral head is too big for the socket and had worn down cartilage, and now is arthritic. I’m only 51! What can I do to move better pain-free or at least with less pain?


Charles, ok, I’ve never met you before. I don’t know what other types of movement that you’ve done so it’s challenging to answer this question for you but in general, anytime anyone expresses an issue with the knee or the hip, I always recommend checking your foot mobility and footwear. Because as you step through life you’ve got all this mobility in your foot. And one of the reasons you have so much mobility in your foot is when you step on a surface your foot has the ability to change drastic shape. So that your knees and hips can kind of move in the direction that they were going. So if you have very stiff feet but if you have really mobile feet but very stiff shoes, when you repeatedly step on that then that kind of complex deformation doesn’t happen at the foot. It gets kind of passed up to the knee or to the hip. That’s one scenario. Of course there could be a hundred if not a thousand other factors. That all being said, I always say start with your feet. And start checking out the way you load that particular hip. So clearly you’ve loaded that hip in a particular way – you load your whole body in a particular way and that includes that hip. The way that you loaded it eventually changed the state of that hip.  And then you started changing that load away from that hip to the other side and now that knee is dealing with maybe carrying more weight. And it’s not just weight. It’s the angles and the acceleration that are new to that knee. So I would recommend starting with your feet. And you can find a bunch of stuff on my website. Whole Body Barefoot is also a great resource to go, “Ok, so here’s some ways I can introduce motion to my foot and my ankle” as well as practice some motions where, as you’re moving let’s say doing some calf raises, as you do calf raises can you keep your weight even between both feet? Do your ankles fall out?  Does your rib cage slide to one side? Are you able to use your musculature to in a way that maintains symmetry. So a lot of my books are just helping you put your body on a grid. Say, I want to move in this particular way and see what you’re able to stabilize and what you’re not able to stabilize and then you scale the exercise to be able to recruit more of you too when you are walking around from point a to point b. Now the other side of that is you use your hip in a particular way over and over again. So kind of the idea of corrective exercise. That’s just a name for it but the idea is maybe try to diversify the movement of that hip a little bit.  So it’s not like you’re trying to change the state of the tissue. That’s not your primary concern. You’re going to diversify. You’re gonna do some different exercises of both of your hips. Of both of your knees. Of both of your ankles. And you’re gonna start playing around with, “When I add maybe”, you think about nutrients. “If I introduce some other movement food does that change kind of the resting state of how my hip feels.” What’s expressing the experience that you’re having of your hip. So you’ve got looking at your feet. Looking at your shoes. Doing some exercises, not with the intention of making your hip better – to fix the problem, but rather, what happens to the issue when you add a little bit more nutrition to the movement of the hips. And that is to use it in different ways. That’s through exercise. Now the next part of that would be through non-exercise ways which would be, look at, or try to quantify what you walk on most of the time.  Is it mostly city streets? Is it the same path? Is it the same shape over and over again? Because I’ve worked with people who have had various pains or more serious injuries in certain areas and they found that when they diversified what they were walking over that the natural byproduct of changing your terrain would be to not create that same load in the hip over and over again. So someone who couldn’t walk comfortably down their normal urban route could take to a park or a natural landscape and find that they could walk just fine the same distance. But because of the lumps and the bumps it never placed the same load on the hip. So you can play with that too and see if that changes it. But again, I would maybe deal with the first two first and then maybe hop into the third as you feel comfortable.

So thanks to the Dynamic Collective, sponsoring these listener questions. Today we’re going to talk about Venn Design for a second. And I was just looking again at Venn Design’s website because I’ve had, I have one design ball which is just – they make really beautiful covers for regular exercise balls but I’ve been wanting some of their cushions because I’ve had our cushions for about 5 years which means my floor cushions have kind of grown up with two children that are now five and almost 7. So that is just a nice way of saying they’re totally thrashed and probably full of food bits. So anyway I’ve been looking at their website and I just found a lovely little section on Venn Design.co – movement matters.  “Regular varied motion is a necessary component and balanced life. Have you ever thought about movement like food?” Yes Venn Design, I have. “Changing up your postural habits throughout the day is made easy with our Venn Design chairs and buckwheat sitting cushions.” So anyway I just thought it was funny to get the shot out of both Movement Matters and Nutritious Movement. I like that the metaphor of movement as nutrition is spreading. So anyway, thanks to Venn Design, Unshoes, Earth Runners, MyMayu, and Softstar shoes. If you’d like more information about the Dynamic Collective, find them linked in our show notes at nutritiousmovement.com, and if you have a question that you’d like me to answer, send it to podcast@nutritiousmovement.com. I love hearing from you.


And I would love to see you in person sometime soon. I have a big tour coming this spring. Really the last week of May and the first few of June. I am heading to British Columbia, Canada. At the end May, I’ll be in Victoria and Vancouver. A few days after that I will be flying across the ocean to Europe – events in Scotland, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. You can find the details at nutritiousmovement.com, just look under my live events tab, and I’ll put a link in the show notes, too.


Thanks, all. For more information visit nutritiousmovement.com and sign up for my newsletter. Come say hi on social media. I post movement tips almost daily on Instagram/nutritiousmovement. If you enjoy listening to Move Your DNA, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Your review helps other listeners find their way to us. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, Thanks for listening—we appreciate your support!




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.


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