Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Yes, it's ok to be bare foot in the gym

You may have noticed that this winter after I started the kettlebell-focused program that I was spending all my time in the gym barefoot. It's not because I'm a dirty hippie (though, in Boulder, that's a good default guess). It's because having that solid contact with the ground helps you with the stability and tension you need to have good movement with the kettlebells.

If you're not going to wear your Xero shoes, then barefoot is much better than a running shoe (too squishy) or a weightlifting shoe (the raised heel works against you here).  The most common mistake I see in any powerful kettlebell movement is the wiggly knee. Most of the time that's easy to fix by having you grab the ground with your toes. That turns on your arch and gives you a strong base to work from. It's much easier for your foot to work and actually be active if you don't constrain it inside a shoe.

Having your feet in shoes is just like having your arm in a cast. Your body stops working as hard and relies on the structure around it to do the work for it. And just like coming back from a broken arm, you won't immediately have the strength to do what you need to (or even the neurological connections for your brain to tell your foot what to do!) So ease into it. Maybe just do swings bare foot and then add in more exercises.

I hate wearing shoes, I wish it was socially acceptable for me to be bare foot at work. Even though I have an casual office job, it's not dirty-hippie casual. But any time I get the chance, I let my feet work. Having the solid connection with the ground also tells your brain to let the rest of your body do more.

You don't need to be bare foot in the gym, and I know it feels icky to some folks. I'll never force you to take your shoes off - but if you do wear shoes in the gym, please make sure they're clean (in the winter, bring a change!) because there will be bare foot folks around you and they don't want to step in piles of dirt and snow.

Today's Workout

with a barbell:

clean 5-3-2-5x1
5 heavy swings between sets

then, with a kettlebell:

snatch 5x(2+2) heavy
double front squat 3x5 light
press 3x(5+5) light 
dead stop double clean 5x5 medium