Are you in control of your own actions? Are you in control of other peoples' actions? These may sound like ridiculous questions to you, but many people try to control others' actions just by focusing on them. Their time would be better served focusing on what they can change, which is themselves. Sometimes, we can't even control our own bodies! Have you ever taken inspiration from a workout video and attempted to do it yourself? If so, have you felt like you were doing the exact same thing, but then someone comes along and tells you that it looks nothing like what the video is doing? Let's all focus on taking control of our own situation.
Let's go back to the very first question I posed, of course we're in control of our own actions, right? In most cases, yes, but there are ways we can continue to control our body in a more holistic manner. For instance, take proprioception. If you don't know what proprioception is, it is the body's ability to tell where it is in the environment around it. There are ways you can enhance your proprioception, and more importantly gain greater bodily control. The answer will shock you! Go barefoot.
I don't necessarily advocate for barefoot training 100% of the time, especially if you wear shoes often (even when you're at home), but I'm definitely saying that working in some time barefoot while you're strength training can be incredibly beneficial to your health. Why? Because shoes, over the period of a person's life, desensitize and immobilize their feet from what they are evolutionarily built to do - absorb shock. If you've ever had plantar fasciitis, you know what I'm talking about. The foot doesn't absorb the shock from the ground, and the shoes you're wearing just conduct it further up the chain into your ankle and calf musculature. That makes for tight calves, and combined with immobility of the inner foot, creates a recipe for pain in the bottom of the foot.
The feet, like our hands, have millions of nerve endings. If we wore mittens on our hands all day, how dexterous would we be? I probably wouldn't be able to type this note! If we don't do it to our hands, why do we do it to our feet? I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Because the feet have millions of nerve endings, they aid us in balance and stabilization. Depending on the type of shoe you wear, stabilization may be built into the shoe. That means that the shoe is doing the work your muscles should be doing, and what do they say about muscles? "Use it, or lose it!" When you are barefoot, you have greater local and global muscle activation. Local muscles meaning those that help stabilize the foot and ankle joint. Global muscles meaning those that provide visible movements of the limbs.
With greater muscular activation and increased sense of bodily control, we gain a greater general body awareness that prevents us from serious accidents, like falls or joint injuries. Those may not seem serious right now, but injuries can worsen over time, if left unattended.
The next time you have an opportunity to, take your shoes off. What have you got to lose? Well, except for maybe a pair of shoes.
Jack is a Tri Fitness Coach, and his credentials include NASM CPT, B.S. in Kinesiology, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. If you’d like help setting and achieving your health and wellness goals, please contact Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.