The Peaceful Runner would like to welcome Erskien Lenier for an interview. Erskien has to be one of the busiest and most diverse runners on the planet. Erskien is a barefoot runner, an ultra marathon runner, a raw fruitarian, a teacher of the Pose Method, a coach and he still manages to maintain a full-time job. Erskien runs more than 130 miles (209 kms) per week. This includes his commute to and from work each day. Please join us as we interview Erskien Lenier to learn more about how he does it all.
Q. Good morning Erskien and thank you for your time. Let's jump right in and start with barefoot running. Many people are just now hearing about barefoot running or minimalist running, but you are running ultra marathon distances barefoot. How and why did you decide to run barefoot and what do you wear on your feet while running if anything?
A. Realizing that the $130 padded motion control shoes I was attempting to run in, hid from me all the flaws in my foot, ankle, leg and hip health that I needed to be in touch with -- to "self correct." Kind of like how few ponder how much of their brain power they are actually using or have ever tapped, I wondered about that and why my feet had so many bones, joints, and complexity, yet all they were allowed to do is get slipped into what felt like "a foot cast" and never encouraged to explore what their possibilities were without filters.
I loved running but I hated the chronic pain I came home with after 17+ mile runs or after even a couple of days of short fast runs in shoes. In my quest to find out how other Ultra Runners got past "The Wall of Foot Pain", I began to meet more and more that reported they discovered that if they ran away from their shoes, the soles of their feet taught them how to run naturally and pain free. Most were successfully running distances of 26.2 miles and beyond and happy while and after doing it! I knew that if I learned what they learned and added in what I'd learned from decades of Ultra Distance Bicycle Road Racing and Training, I could push that envelope to at least double what most were comfortable with...and I did.
Q. Experts suggest that runners transition slowly to barefoot running to avoid injuries. How long did it take you to transition to barefoot running and do you have any tips to share with our readers that would help them safely make the transition?
A. The first rule of Barefoot Running is to learn to become a "Student of Your Steps." Pay attention to where and how you put your feet back down. If one is used to running in shoes, chances are they've developed bad form or running mechanics (movements). Padded shoes eliminate much needed feedback from the pressure sensitive neural networks in the soles of the feet intended to give us feedback on whether our soles are meeting the ground in a manner that is shock eliminating or shock compounding.
Padded shoes lead to compounding by inviting the runner to hyperextend the knee and using the hip flexors and quadriceps (front upper thigh muscles) to throw the whole foot and leg out in front of you like a pole vaulter planting his or her pole. This act takes all of one's forward momentum and stuffs it into the pavement destroying all the runner's forward momentum -- like a pole vaulter stuck at the top over the bar. To keep from being stuck there, the runner has to now "leap" forward to regain momentum. This up and down, speed up and slow down process, requires huge amounts of energy and destroys the shin muscles, feet (landing on the heels instead of the front of the foot), the knees, ankles, hips and back. This pattern is the number one cause of new runners quitting.
To transition properly to Barefoot or Natural Running, I suggest first to study others' success patterns. Go to www.PoseTech.com and order a copy of their DVD
on the mechanics of running. Also, go to YouTube.com and search for videos about "Pose Method" and Barefoot Running. Notice where the runners feet land in relation to their hips. Look at the bend in the knees on landing, through loading and liftoff. Notice what they do with their arms and hands in relation to what's happening with the same side or opposite side hip movement in the act of running.
Once you feel that you've got a good internal visual image of what real running is supposed to look like, it's time to practice. Practice what you've seen while running in place with no forward motion. Next add a slight lean forward at the ankle level only -- not the waist! What happens? Movement forward! That's Natural Running! Everything from here forwards will be about maintaining and perfecting what you just did over many miles as your weakest links in your biomechanical chain become strong.
Try to find a smooth sidewalk or pavement to practice forward motion on. Hopefully you can do this from your front door. Go out with your shoes in hand (or in a hydration pack) and go as far as you desire to or until your feet tell you being exposed is no longer fun. Slip your shoes on and come back home. Do not go out barefoot again until your soles, feet, ankles, calves and everything attached to them has absorbed the last stress cycle. On each new run, practice your form. Speed and distance will come all by themselves. There is no specific mileage to become foot and form healthy. Everyone will be different. Listen to your feet and let them set the pace.
Q. The main benefit of barefoot running that is being promoted in the media is reduced injuries and correction of form. What is the main benefit that you have experienced since switching to barefoot running?
A. Those already mentioned plus the confidence that my body is not defective or missing what it needs to go anyplace no matter how far under my own efforts and bring me home again. I love running 20 miles away to the distant mountain tops and looking back to realize I did that on just my feet! And that I will cover that terrain again going home and be fine when I get there!
Q. Some barefoot promoters suggest that the bare foot provides instant feedback to our bodies and enhances our body awareness allowing us to correct our running form naturally. Would you agree with this statement?
A. Yes and the body NEVER LIES! It always tells you the un-sugar coated truth! Straight Up! So if one truly learns to humble themselves and listen to it, the spirit that animates it (which is the real you), will show you your "Limitlessness!"
Q. You describe yourself as someone who follows a raw vegan diet or a raw fruitarian diet. Is there a difference in these two diets and does your diet provide all the nutrition and fuel you need to complete an ultra marathon or do you need to use supplements?
A. Been there and done that regarding Veganism. I found that it was not sustainable or optimal. When I say sustainable, I mean one would have to resort to cooking (killing) food to get enough carbs to live anything more than a contemplative lifestyle (shuffling from chair to chair in my view). Humans can't get enough calories from just greens and veggies in their raw form to have any kind of real energy to do real work.
Without technology, humans had to consume a lot of easy to assimilate calories to climb, lift, run, harvest fruit fast, and bring them back to where their clans were camping. Humans also don't have the digesting capability to break down the more complex forms of cellulose -- only the softer types like in water-rich, sweet fruit. The harder cellulose damages the delicate villi or hair like structures of the intestinal tract. Over time, scarring it and reducing nutrient absorption and toxin removal leading to sub optimal and declining health.
To successfully live raw, humans like all primates thrive on large quantities of fruit. We are frugivores not herbivores, omnivores or carnivores. BTW: All frugivores and herbivores will resort to eating sub optimal food choices when faced with no fruit and starvation marching towards them. That's a survival strategy and not a trivial decision.
The problem with mankind is that when we were normally frugivorous, our brains grew large and fast. When we forgot or gave up on pursuing fruit as our mainstay due to reduced brain function (not enough of the neuro support hormones native to fruit to support whole brain higher functionality), we turned the murder and consumption of other Earthlings into a cult-like religion never to be questioned (the Blind leading the Blind). Now that more and more of us are beginning to undo the damage done from growing neural networks that only had the functionality allowed on a flesh fed diet, new possibilities are emerging for a global restoration of humanities true potential and optimization.
In regard to supplementation: Like the topic of transitioning to barefoot running or in the case of sections of trail where there are lots of jagged, broken rocks, cactus or thorns, there is a place for minimalist sole covering however limited. There is only one supplement that I have found to fit the same role as minimalist shoes to nutrition and that's Juice Plus+.
I transitioned without Juice Plus+ and found myself frequently creating huge salads of mixed greens and many different veggies. The challenge for me is I am not much for a lot of food preparation and I found salads with no vinegar or oils to convince my tongue into eating the amounts I knew I needed to eat to get the amounts of nutrients I'd burned for the day. After 4-6 bites, I just ran out of stream so to speak (which was further confirmation to me that we are truly Frugivores as I always love eating sweet, ripe, water rich raw fruit in quantity). So I got creative and found sources for fresh, raw salsas to sprinkle on my salads, but even that got old over time.
A few months ago I began to encounter other Ultra Runners, who supported their high level lifestyles with Juice Plus+. Some were in transition to living Fruitarian and some just wanting more fruits, greens and veggies in their diet. Some like myself, only liked eating raw veggies and greens occasionally.
I also got to know Bear Grylls, the movie star Survivalist from the show: Man vs. Wild. Both myself and my son have learned a lot of survival in the wild insights from Bear Grylls, who lives Vegan - Fruitarian when not out being filmed for his next show and he has been consuming Juice Plus+ since he was a kid and still does when he's out doing survival shoots. Bear suggested I join him in Juice Plus+ and I decided give it a test drive.
I have received a ton of feedback from my audience, friends and family on Facebook and locally that they think living Frugivorously could be inconvenient or expensive (neither is true). You save tons of time on food preparation and cleanup and you eliminate buying so much stuff that doesn't satiate you so you can be running more and driving less.
Juice Plus+ can fill in the gap sometimes for lack of quality in produce bought, harvested or not available wherever one is or goes. It does not contain the needed calories, soft fiber volume or "Living Water" of whole fruits, greens and veggies, but it does bridge gaps to keep the body able to pull from fat reserves and connect the dots to the next raw fruit meal or salad of some content.
The other element few in the Fruitarian - Vegan - Athletic arenas speak about is the Vegan equivalent to earning a living that gets us out of the traditional "sell your life for money" routine which I equate to the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet of dead, junk foods).
Juice Plus+ has a Virtual Franchise system kind of like an "affiliate program" that pays for referrals. If consumers of Juice Plus+ like how they feel and function while consuming Juice Plus+, they can over time produce a growing network of like affiliates that the parent company, NSA, will pay a growing residual income that can supplement or replace a traditional job setting one free to pursue one's real passions. In my case, to teach and run more!
If anyone would like to learn more about Juice Plus+ as both a nutritional support and/or a tool for financial viability or freedom explore this: www.landsurfingpro.com
Q. You mentioned in one of your Blog posts that not everyone in your household follows the same diet as you. Some of our readers may be thinking about making the switch but are wondering how to manage having a diet that is different from others in their homes. What do you suggest and how do you manage this difference at dinner time?
A. As I told my wife, we don't have to think the same way to love the same way. I let my example be the inspiration for my wife and teen kids and when questions come up, I offer insights. The addiction to chemically impoverished foods is powerful and it does take time for the addict to recognize a higher truth and begin their own natural detox and sometimes make slight and obscure moves towards proper fueling.
I have seen my wife and children make very noticeable steps towards eating more fruit and less animal products. The day is coming when they will make their own decision to abandon their broken foods habit. Just "Be the Light!" "Be the change one wants to see in their houses" to adapt Gandhi's quote.
Q. As a fruitarian, can you still dine out? How do most restaurants respond to your diet's requirements?
A. I do eat salads occasionally. I mostly eat "Mono Meals" of just one fruit for most if not all of the day and I supplement those meals with stalks of romaine, bunches of spinach, celery, tomatoes and every once in a while, avocados, carrots and such. When we go out for dining, which is not that often, I look for places that are either vegan or are willing to modify their salads to something more wholesome (no dairy, flesh, oils, grains and will add some fruit to it). My mother-in-law always fixes me a huge mixed veggie and greens salad or a fruit bowl when we go over to eat at their house. They have also increased their raw fruit consumption and learned not to eat flesh or other processed stuff with fruit too.
Q. You teach others the Pose Method of running, which is a particular form of running biomechanics developed by Dr. Nicholas Romanov. Can you tell us why you chose this particular method of running and how can we find out more about it?
A. The Pose Method is just a name for what all children naturally do when they become coordinated enough to run. Go find a school ground for preschoolers or kindergartners up to about 1st grade and watch them run. Romanov just packaged it to make it teachable to people stuck in an intellectual rut when it comes to undoing the habits they have ingrained themselves in.
Q. You run such a great distance every week, yet you remain injury free. Many others are doing much shorter distances, but continue to suffer from injuries. What would you suggest to these runners to help them run injury free as you have?
A. Take feedback from all parts of your feet and legs. A chain always breaks at its weakest link. Unlike a chain the body can rebuild that weak link to become stronger and stronger. After exposing the day's weakest link, respect the time the body needs to rebuild and modify that link. If you do so in the span of six months to a year, you will look back and laugh at how far you have gone!
Q. You are planning a barefoot Run across America in the near future. Can you tell us more about this great adventure, e.g. who is participating, how long the run will take, where the starting and finishing points are, and when it might happen?
A. I was planning this run for this past spring but funding evaporated. Like I mentioned above about "The weakest link" that is now my weakest link so I am working on "bomb proofing" that area with emphasis on strategies that I can teach to others so they can become financially free to get off the "chasing a buck" treadmill and on with doing what they have a passion for.
My hope is that 2012 will see my having overcome this challenge. I plan to start in Huntington Beach, Califormia and finish on the East Coast -- not exactly sure of the exact landing location on the other side just yet. I have so many friends and family that want me to come through their area or end where they live!
Q. Other than the Run across America (which is quite a challenging goal), do you have any other goals, races or aspirations planned for the near future?
A. I want to teach the Frugivorous Lifestyle and Natural Running. That is my passion.
Thank you Erskien for this interview. We look forward to hearing more from you on your website and we wish you all the best in the pursuit of your goals and passions.
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