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Roger Federer, Kinetic Beauty, and the Religious Experience

Written by Philip Walter on Jul 11 at 5:40 pm.

Roger Federer

photo courtesy of Squeaky Knees

On the heels of the great Roger Federer’s recent and utter silencing of any critics, with major championships number 14 and 15 at Roland Garros and the All England Club, I revisited a 2006 New York Times article by David Foster Wallace, “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” If you’re a tennis fan in general, a Federer fan specifically, the entire article is worth reading. Its 5 pages are full of astute observations, but there is something said in the first several paragraphs I found incredibly interesting on this particular reading. I thought I might comment on it in this blog entry.

Wallace asserts, “high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.” It’s not that courage is the object or purpose of war. Obviously, conquering the enemy is the goal, but the courageous tend to rise to the top. You might say, courage in war is often rewarded with victory. Likewise, in the uppermost tiers of competitive sport, it seems, beauty is often rewarded with victory.

This might seem a strange statement since most sports fans flock around their big-screen televisions with thoughts of beauty far from the fronts of their minds. However, what we’re talking about here is, as Wallace pointed out in his essay, “beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty.” He goes on to say,

“Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”

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BrickhouseBodymindTV Episode 6 – Minimal, Traditional, Handmade Footwear from the Raramuri Indians

Written by Philip Walter on May 27 at 11:35 am.

Barefoot Ted Running Sandals

Photo courtesy of
Barefoot Ted

So, for the past couple weeks, in addition to preparing for and rejoicing in the arrival of my first son, Ian Andrew Walter (YAY!), I have been researching various various forms of natural, barefoot running. There are many purists out there who would like us all to run, walk, and locomote everywhere barefoot. It appears this is not only honoring the elegant, evolutionary design of the human being, but it’s also great for your arches, knees, and calves, and it reduces your risk of ankle injury. Whatever your stand in this debate, I remain unwilling to run through my neighborhood feet completely unshod, given the various shards of sharp things that lie in wait.

This mixture of a fervent respect for nature’s design and a practical approach to training in the modern world lead me to Barefoot Ted and his huarache sandal kits. These sandals’ design were brought to Barefoot Ted’s attention by a few Tarahumara (Raramuri in their native tongue) Indians running Ultra-Marathons in the U.S. The Raramuri are natives of a rural area in northwestern Mexico called Copper Canyon. They are runners by lifestyle, trekking long distances from enclave to enclave in the rugged mountains of the region, all the while wearing this particular brand of sandal.

So I ordered a kit to make my own from Barefoot Ted and recorded the experiment to share with you guys. Please let me know what ya’ll think!

In terms of looks, these things are so cool I can’t stand it … always interesting to see people’s reactions. In the last couple weeks I’ve run 20 km (about 12.5 miles), mostly on pavement. The first 5k yielded significant DOMS in my calves that lasted most of 5 days or so, but the subsequent 5k outings have been much easier with recovery more in the range of 24-36 hours. I am considering grabbing another kit without the leather footpad to use in wet conditions, because the leather tends to get slick on me.

The sandals really are quite comfortable, but the secret to the comfort is in the proper tie. I did create two “hot-spot” rope burns on my left foot during the first two outings, but tweaking the tie job a bit alleviated that problem … plus, just getting my feet used to the new kicks helped as well. It’s kind of like pulling out my Tevas for the first float trip of the summer: they always leave a little mark or two on my ankles, but after a day or so it’s no big deal.

Overall, I am loving the experience and glad for the opportunity to make my own pair of minimal, traditional sandals. Something about the idea that this design has been working for millennia makes me a happy guy.

Reasons for pursuing minimal footwear:

Fun things to do in your minimal footwear:

Tips For Surviving A Cinnamon Roll Attack

Written by Philip Walter on Feb 23 at 10:25 am.

Emily at IKEA

photo courtesy of abbamouse

So, in my day job, I produce videos and provide audio/visual support for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. As I make the rounds from one meeting to another, I come across more free food than you can shake a stick at, which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. For example, this morning I was accosted by a tray full of ooey gooey cinnamon rolls. They were tempting to say the least. Heck, it was because of this very thing that I gained probably 15 pounds when I first started my job at the hospital.

Since then, of course, I have tamed those wildly hungry hippos, and this morning I was able to avoid temptation as well. I did this largely because I have goals set in front of me, and I have a specific plan in place to reach those goals. This is paramount going into a situation like the one I faced this morning. Had I not had those goals in mind and the specific strategies in place to reach those goals, it would have been much easier to cave into temptation.

Most of my goals at the moment revolve around getting my book as perfect as I can get it before its release next month. My physical strategy going into taking pictures next weekend has been a combination of Intermittent Fasting and strength training. I first came across this strategy in Brad Pilon’s fantastic eBook, Eat Stop Eat. If you’re interested in building muscle and burning fat, follow the link below and pick up a copy for yourself. Plus, if you get one in the next 48 hours, he’s got a FREE GIFT for you: his newest book on the truth about protein.

Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat + The Truth About Protein for FREE

All that said, the idea of having goals and strategies in place certainly doesn’t apply just to physical fitness. I have gone to great lengths to include emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual strategies in my new book as well. For a few tips on setting goals across the board, click below to read the rest of this article.

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My Favorite Ab Workout Ever

Written by Philip Walter on Feb 22 at 8:55 pm.

photo courtesy of photo credit: Julio Ignacio / away !

When I woke up this morning, I was good and sore. You know that feeling when it hurts so good? It’s not so bad that you feel like you overdid it, but you know you did some work, you challenged your body in some way. That’s how I felt this morning – particularly in my core musculature. Because of that, I think I’ve hit on the best core workout you can get … and the best part is there’s not a single crunch, sit-up, or other abdominal isolation exercise in the entire workout.

See, your ab muscles are really stabilizers. They aren’t designed to do a lot of work in terms of lifting or crunching or pushing or pulling. No, your abs are stabilizers, which means they are here to keep your spine in proper alignment while other muscles do their jobs. So when you squat down and lift some heavy object, it appears you’re working only working your legs, but your abs are doing a lot of work too, just in keeping your trunk erect and in maintaining a healthy lumbar-pelvic rhythm.

This explains why the workout described below made me so sore in my core – all the exercises (save the bench press) require a good deal or core stabilization, which is what your abs are designed to do. So throw out the endless crunch routine and try the following workout sometime, then let me know if you’re abs aren’t talking to you the next day.

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Which is best – Yoga or Strength Training? What about Yoga and Strength Training?

Written by Philip Walter on Feb 18 at 4:32 pm.

which should come first - yoga or strength training?


So which is it – yoga or resistance training? The two practices seem to indicate different paths to completely different destinations in terms of physique and functional ability. The yogi is the skinny guy or gal who can twist him or herself into a pretzel while calmly and annoyingly chanting AUM! The weight lifter is the meathead who spends too much time in the gym developing big muscles that may look good but are largely inflexible and non-functional.

Thankfully these two opinions are gross and inaccurate generalizations.

I personally think the research shows a combination of yoga posture practice and strength training is the best thing you can do for your body, aside from proper nutrition of course. This is not really a new concept. Health clubs all around the world have regular yoga classes in addition to their free weights and nautilus machines. We learned a few years ago in the book Real Men Do Yoga, that even football players can get a lot out of supplementing their heavy lifting with some rigorous posture practice.

But how well have yoga and strength training really been integrated in popular training regimes? Not too well in my opinion. The two practices remain separate things to do on separate days for separate purposes. Read on to find why recent discoveries indicate this should change.

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