From October to November 2012, I was limping. My right ankle was swollen up like a balloon. What happened, you wonder? Had I stepped in a pothole? Played rough sports? Fallen down the stairs? No...
I had decided to re-learn how to walk.
In the past, I walked exclusively on my toes. I had completely flat feet. My ankles were embarassing. My knees collapsed inward. I couldn't even balance on one leg without severely compensating. There had been evidence of arthritis in my sacroiliac joints by the time I was just 20 (though I didn't know until several years later). At work, in my massage therapy practice, I was getting intense pain between my toes by the end of the day, and aching fatigue in the hips.
I was only 28, but I had had enough. Most people make it until at least 30 before they start to feel like they're falling apart. But my 2.5 years (at that time) practicing massage therapy in a physical therapy clinic gave me all too clear an insight into what was in store if I didn't start learning how to use my body better.
I went to see an orthopedist, but when I told him I wanted to change the way I walked, he said that wouldn't be necessary. "If it's not broke, don't fix it," they say. Who is it that sets our standard for what's "not broken" these days? Clearly I had to take matters into my own hands... Or better yet, my own feet.
Less than a year and a half later, I've put all my knowledge to the test. I synthesized everything I learned from studying anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology. I incorporated the hands-on experience I've had with thousands of clients, analyzing the patterns and figuring out how bodies really work. And I put it into practice and learned, through direct experience, by changing how I use my body in every aspect of daily life.
It wasn't easy, going about it alone. It's shocking the limitations that the body can develop, without your knowledge, when used incorrectly for decades! Getting off my toes and using my whole foot for locomotion took some time, and presented some challenges.
I sprained all the ligaments in my right ankle because the ankle wouldn't bend and my hip wouldn't support it, so every step was a miniature roll of the ankle! On top of that, I began to get tendinitis in the tops of both feet from muscles that had previously been completely underused that weren't ready. It took a few weeks and a brace to give all of this time to calm down after the initial upset. (Had I known ahead of time, I would have especially worked on strengthening my hips more first, to prevent the ankle from suffering as much abuse.)
I knew this was just a transitional stage, so even though it was a bit scary, I didn't let it deter me. After the sprain resolved, I started by going barefoot at work and wearing my Vibram FiveFingers outside. I did physical therapy, with limited results. I worked on postural reeducation. I tried to use my core, but the harder I tried, the more I stressed my back by overworking the wrong muscles that were actually pulling my pelvis out of alignment, instead of supporting it. I reminded myself that, if I wanted to teach other people to accomplish this, I needed to achieve it myself -- and the more challenges I encountered, the more I could relate and the better I could help others later. Staying positive!