Paleo nostalgia: minimalist running

vibram five fingers, running in CulemborgI bought minimalist running shoes. Throughout human history, running barefoot was the natural way to run. Athletes ran barefoot until the 1970s. But then something interesting happened. The conventional running shoe was invented, heel cushioning, stiff sole and arch support would increase performance and reduce pressure on your feet. A claim that is unsupported depending on which source you ask. In 2009, Barefoot running was on the rise. Largely due to the Vibram Five Finger shoes, which offer protection but no real support, and you are supposed to run almost exactly like you would when you run barefoot. My friend Marc bought some Vibram five fingers and enjoyed them. I had just bought new expensive conventional running shoes. I decided to wait. I ran several half marathons on those conventional shoes, without injury. Until last month, they were up for replacement so I could decide again. This time I bought Vibram Five finger shoes. I was told to start slow on my five fingers, so I did. The first week after purchase I didn’t run. I just walked around the house with them one hour a day. The week after, I made a small run (3km). But at home I discovered I had a lot of blisters. I left them alone until the next weekend and ran 6 km with them. No problems. Today I ran 8km and enjoyed the run.

Image from buildlean

Besides running I have been wearing them during table-tennis as well. With both, the shoes felt very light and I felt flexible. When running, with conventional shoes and a vehicle is approaching towards me, it would be troublesome to jump on the sidewalk and continue running but with my minimalist shoes, I feel I have better balance. Putting the minimalist shoe beside the conventional shoe, the size and weight difference is staggering. I’m still getting used to my new minimalist shoes and running without socks but the vibram five finger shoes seem like a really good purchase.


20130826-104007.jpgI forced myself to run in 2008 to get in shape for a fun run. I didn’t like it at all. However, soon I enlisted in a half marathon and the habit of training and running a few kilometers stuck to me. Runs that stand out are the Marathon in Seoul [1], Shanghai [1] [2], and small runs on holiday in Hong Kong and San Francisco. After arrival in a different country, running can be a great way to get over a jet lag and to explore the area around your hotel. Back home, I’ve made it a habit to run a few kilometers every weekend. I don’t necessarily join big events but run because I like it. Especially early Sunday mornings; as there aren’t that many people out yet and I found a perfect round from my house straight to a river dike (I am in the Netherlands after all). Looking over the Lek river in either sunny, stormy or rainy weather is always serene experience. When I finished my Sunday jogging session today I noticed that I’ve already logged a moderate 800km on dailymile. I haven’t logged all my runs on this site, but try to do so to keep track of my progress. It’s fun to see those numbers accumulate over time.

logged 800km with dailymile. They provide some nice captions as well.

Logged 800km, or calories equal to 300 donuts with dailymile.

Celebrating summer

Due to Suna’s business trip in the UK, I’ve decided to have some time off with friends. So we organized a ‘back to basic’ evening where we would camp outside. It was fun setting up the camp, go for a swim and build a fire to prepare food on. We chatted away into the evening and I was so tired I slept very deeply. The next morning I woke up by the sound of birds and a ship that was passing by. Even though of all the trouble, I was very relaxed from the camping experience!

We took it easy in the morning and headed back, actually just in time because a huge thunderstorm broke loose as soon as we came home. We enjoyed this summer storm with a coffee at the shack in the backyard. When my friends left I went to see a football match in Amsterdam with my family; the first half was quite boring so I nearly fell asleep but the second half was very exciting!

The Week We Ordered a Cow

A new habit. Instead of going to the supermarket, Suna and I decided we wanted to buy fresh meat from the farmer. We had three reasons for this:

  • Horse meat scandal: Over the last year, European supermarkets sold horse meat to customers intending to buy beef. It seems like supermakets have no idea, or do not care about where their food comes from. The farmer we located has his cows graze 10km from our house.
  • Price: This one is a bit hard to calculate but I tried. I took the price of 1kg of ground beef from the supermarket compared that to the stack we had. Turns out, the price of our meat is about 20% less of the supermarket’s. It’s a hard calculation but i’m pretty sure it’s cheaper generally. We had to portion the meat ourselves and purchase a freezer to store it in.
  • Changing eating habits: After half a decade of restaurant food, the last year was full of making dishes in our kitchen. Now that we are cooking every day, we found that there are a few dishes we can make well. We found that we tend to vary our vegetables but not our meats. Our farmer source delivered various parts, from soup bone to round steak. It forces us to cook a diverse meal every day.

I put the story above on Facebook and got mixed replies. Some responded with repulsion, others got curious and wanted to try ordering for themselves. It seemed to me that my friends who grew up on a farm were least appalled by the idea of sourcing your own meat. Perhaps some don’t realize that eating meat means killing an animal. It’s a sad thing but it’s true. Yesterday Suna and me watched cows graze while we took a walk, we agreed that at least our cow was able to walk freely outside.

Planting Trees

As the Dutch winter is dragging on, we’re happy that spring is luring around the corner. A few weeks ago, we bought some seeds and started a small project in our own back yard to grow some vegetables. However, my parents asked for help for a bigger project today. They were about to plant 80 trees! Even though we had a small crane, we worked from sunrise to sunset. At first we dug holes, put the trees in, then we put a gate around it so the sheep will leave them alone until they are grown. It was fun seeing Suna plant her first tree. Also rewarding to see the result of the work at the end of the day. But for Suna and me, we will now focus on our own small vegetable project for the moment.

Korean Intermediate 3

Korean teacher explainingYesterday I went to Amstelveen in the early morning to take the Korean Intermediate 2 exam. For the past few months, I have been studying Korean sentences in the train but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough. At this level, the exam includes speaking, listening, writing and reading. Enough to say that I got a bit nervous and studied a lot in the past week. But good news, already one day after the exam I was told that I passed, so I’m very happy to join the next level: Korean Intermediate level 3! Looking back, I have been studying Korean for three years now, starting in Shanghai. Although, during that time studied both Chinese and Korean, which became to confusing to me. However, during the Korean classes in Shanghai, I was only non-Chinese in the class and learning Korean from a Chinese/Korean workbook. But now in Holland, I can finally learn from an English explained Korean book in Amstelveen. Every day I try to spend some time learning the language. After three years, I now am able to grasp some context from conversations and form very simple sentences in dialogue. An advantage of moving countries is that due to my fellow Dutch students that have similar culture, I get lot’s of good Korean movie-house recommendations. These days I try to watch more movies from Korea; it’s a fun way to learn the language. However, it wouldn’t be possible without a weekly rhythm. Going to class every week really helps. So for me, these Korean language institutes make this all possible. It seems that Korean government has some sort of program to promote their language and culture. In China they are free to attend, in Holland it’s just 150 euro’s for a semester. Teachers are usually in the country due to working or studying abroad. However, seeing the amount of effort they put in the lessons is amazing. I’m really grateful for the effort of the teachers. In a way, South Korea is pushing soft-power in both culture and language to a lot of countries this way. It would be interesting to think if/how Dutch people could setup a program to promote language and culture. For example… would a volunteer based Dutch language institute in Shanghai be able to persevere?

Carnaval Weekend

20130210-223022.jpgThis weekend was not only about lunar new year in Korea but also about carnival in the south of the Netherlands. We started friday in Breda with friends and today we drove down to Neerkant to celebrate with my family. It was great meeting up with them again and also celebrate this typical event with Suna. We watched the parade and then headed to the bar pretty much after that. Afterwards we ate typical food (erwtensoup and bacon) and shared memories.