Barefoot Running, Physical Health And Creative Freedom

image: dancoachcreative

How free do you feel in your creativity?

By considering this question, you’ll find you automatically ask another – What does creative freedom actually mean to me?

It’s one I’ve been considering closely myself in recent weeks. Here are some of the thoughts I’ve come up with.

For the last five years or so, I’ve consciously engaged in some kind of fairly rigorous physical activity.

In January 2007 I began salsa dancing, and within a short time was dancing at least twice a week.

Before too much longer I was helping out at extra classes, dancing another one or two nights a week, and eventually teaching salsa myself.

There are many reasons I enjoyed salsa, and a core one was the physical fitness it helped me develop. I would dance for four or five hours straight and feel like I could go on all night.

This gave me a feeling of strength, agility, stamina, and freedom, which was not simply about physical strength, agility, stamina and freedom, but naturally seeped into other parts of me and my life also.

In autumn 2010 I started taking yoga classes. A month in I decided I wanted to practise yoga each day for 1000 days consecutively. I just finished day 670’s practice before I began to write this.

Yoga gives me a feeling of strength, agility, stamina and freedom. Though it’s very different to salsa, these positive feelings are similar, and again influence other parts of me.

A few weeks ago I was given a book called Born To Run as a birthday present. It’s about barefoot running, a Mexican tribe called the Tarahumara who run 100 miles a day plus, with apparent ease and effortlessness (and in sandals made from old tyres), and the evolution of running in us humans.

As a result of the book, I’m (re)discovering running myself, as close to barefoot as possible. It’s early days, but already I’m enjoying seeing glimpses of those feelings of strength, agility, stamina and freedom that I knew running cross country events as a boy.

So what does all this have to do with being more creative?

You’ll notice a common theme here. In the physical acitivites I’ve talked about, they’ve each given me greater freedom.

Feeling stronger, more agile, and more fit physically gives me greater freedom in two ways.

First, when I feel more fit physically, it spills through into other parts of me.

Greater physical strength and agility I believe gives me greater mental strength and agility, and greater creative strength and agility.

Without needing to go into any biologically proven studies, it’s common sense that if I feel good in body, I’m going to feel better in mind and soul too. Our health is holistic, and improving one aspect will have a positive knock on effect for others.

The second aspect – especially with barefoot running – is the greater freedom I feel by being out in nature, in the woods, beside rivers, through meadows.

Again, it’s not necessary to go into any scientific research here, the simple act of being out in the countryside, immersed in all its sights and scents and sounds makes me feel good.

More than that, it’s an essential requirement to my health.

So here again, by having that greater freedom in a physical sense, it helps me feel greater freedom mentally, and creatively.

My motivation isn’t all towards this greater freedom though.

We often find motivation comes from the “away” approach, rather than “towards”. In other words, we’re motivated by moving away from things we don’t want in our lives, as much as towards things we do want in our lives.

In this case I am moving away from what I know would not be at all healthy for me physically, mentally, or creatively – spending my free time slumped on a sofa watching tv, eating junk food, and becoming increasingly unhealthy, defeated and numb.

So knowing very strongly what I don’t want drives me towards staying fit and healthy.

Another point I touched on before is how interwoven the elements of our lives are.

When we try to put our creativity in a neat little compartment, it’s unrealistic. We can’t say that on Thursdays between 8pm and 9.15pm we are going to do all our creative work, have all our best ideas and create furiously. Then put it back in a box again until the next Thursday.

Creativity is far too fluid, and organic and important an element in our lives to treat it like this!

Don’t think of your creativity as a single limb, or organ of your body. Think of it as the blood that fills it, and that flows through every part.

So again, by nurturing my physical and mental health with yoga, walking and running – and by staying connected with the beautiful natural world around me – I can’t help but also nurture my creative health, and give myself greater creative freedom, ever evolving through the work that excites me most.

Another important point that runs through salsa, walking, yoga and barefoot running is they all require very minimal equipment.

They need virtually no set up, and you can be doing any of them within a matter of minutes. It’s no coincidence that this is common to the creative forms I engage in most too – photography and writing.

To stay fit with walking, running and yoga, and to stay creative with photography and writing, my entire set up is essentially running shoes, a yoga mat, a camera, and a computer to write with and store stuff.

By keeping this equipment and set up minimal it virtually eliminates any excuses I might otherwise make about not having the time, space or materials I need to begin.

This is very important! And it keeps everything flowing along.

So, what about you? How are your physical and mental health, and creative freedom intertwined?

How are you nurturing them?

Come and join the conversation to let us know.


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