Tag Archives: tips

Tip #14: Don’t waste food

Food is arguably one of the most frivolously wasted resources on earth, especially here in the United States. According to the USDA, in 2010 31% of food sold in retail went uneaten. And that’s just the food that actually made it to retail, not losses of food on the farm. In store, about 10% of food went uneaten, and the remaining 20% is food that we consumers disposed of at home. That’s 90 billion pounds of food that we as consumers threw away in one year, in one country. The USDA also says that the majority of this food was meat, poultry, fish.

Considering the amount of resources that it takes to raise cows, chickens, or pools of fish, it’s especially egregious that these are the foods we waste the most in America. And a lot of the time, wasting food in the home just comes down to bad planning. And thank your lucky stars that you have the internet, because now you can google solutions to all your life’s problems.

Here’s a few of the best ways to avoid wasting such a wonderful, delicious resource:

  1.  Under buy, don’t over buy: This is probably number one for me. Unless it’s some insane sale food item that you can freeze and eat forever (like Lucky’s chicken for .$88/lb last week) don’t buy the entire deal they try to sell you. Most of the time, if a store says “10 for $10” you don’t actually have to buy 10 lbs of potatoes in order to save money. And even if you did, you might only eat 5 before they bruise and soften, and then you didn’t really save any money at all. Buying a lot more for less money is still spending money.
  2. Properly store your food: as a college student, this is the easiest rule to break. It’s so easy to forget to put the milk in the fridge, or the ribs in the freezer. Or improperly store your fresh fruits and vegetables in lesser known ways, such as:
    1. always store your fruits and vegetables separately: it not only is more orderly, but vegetables will actually age much slower when they aren’t exposed to the ethylene that fruits give off when aging (which causes them to age faster)
    2. wash and trim your vegetables before putting them in the fridge: take the rubber band off of them as well.
    3. store your leafy greens in ziploc’s with paper towels: this is a trick I learned from my grandmother, things like lettuce will stay for sometimes a week longer before wilting, I think because it helps keep the moisture in the food.
    4. don’t put banana’s in the fridge: I didn’t know that people did this, but it dries them out very fast.
  3. Buy a food processor or blender: Food processors and blenders are probably the way I save the most food from it’s garbage destiny. Fresh vegetables and fruits that look wilted, deteriorated, bruised, etc. have no physical appearance when you tear them up in a blender and put them in a smoothie. Or rip up the sad celery, the browned cauliflower, the weird broccoli in a food processor and put it in a hash, a stir fry or a soup. A lot of the reason that we throw these foods away is because they look weird, and we’re used to our food being pristine, our apples being robust and smooth, our bananas being a perfect golden yellow. If you tear them to shreds with a blade, you and your roommates will be none the wiser.

You’d be surprised how much of a difference these 3 practices alone make. These bullet points, like all of the Baby Steps we give on this site, are really just part of a larger consciousness that we hope to instill in our readers. Reduction of food waste is just a small portion of a potentially huge impact a single person can have on the environment around them. Even just being aware of how much food is being wasted currently is already a step in the right direction.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Running in The Barefoot Style

Ultra-runner Micah True running in a pair of sandals.
Luis Escobar/Reflections Photography

Whether you are already a runner or want to become one, “barefoot” or minimalist running is a great and healthy way to run. Agree or disagree with that statement all you want, but if you want to know how to go about running in the “barefoot” style, this is a guide for you. (And don’t worry if you want to keep your feet covered. While it is called “barefoot running” you do not actually need to run shoeless to use this technique.)

Step One: A Rule to Remember

The most important thing anyone can ever tell you about running, regardless of your running style, is what the recently deceased eccentric ultra-runner, Caballo Blanco (a.k.a Micah True), told writer Christopher McDougall when he was writing his 2006 book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless… When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

In reality, you just need to remember “Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast”, in that order, to be a successful runner.

Step Two: Take Your Shoes Off and Become Aware

Take your shoes off. (Calm down, you can put them back on in a minute!) Go to a track. An indoor track might be kinder on your newly shoeless feet. Put in some headphones and listen to an audio book or a podcast of the BBC News, you don’t need music getting you all wound up and ready to run at full speed.

Pay attention ONLY to what you are listening to, not to what your body is doing, and run a slow lap (or part of one) around the track. A good rule of thumb for running slowly is to run at such a pace that you can manage to breath using only your nose. If you are new to running you may have to breath through your mouth, but that is okay.

Now, without stopping, run another lap (or part of one) while paying attention to what your body is doing. Don’t try to change what your body is doing, just become aware of it.

You should also notice that instead of your feet landing out in front of you they are landing below you. Also, you are not on your heels, but either on the balls of your feet or on your midfoot, with your feet flat like a pancake, with the weight being distributed evenly between your heels and the balls of your feet.

Either of these is great. It is also what you should try to do when you have your shoes on. Avoid landing on your toes (in front of the balls of your feet) as this can stress the foot in a manner which it is not meant to be stressed.

Step Three: Finding Perfect Form

Go stand in front of a mirror. Stand up straight! Face the mirror, with your feet hips width apart, your arms at your sides. Imagine there is a string attached to the back of your neck and it is pulling you straight up. Bring your shoulders down, back, and slightly together, so that they are straight and not hunched over.

Now that you are standing up straight bend slightly at the knees. Your hips will naturally bend a little bit as well. Remain standing up straight from the waist up.

Now turn to the side and look in the mirror. Your hips and your feet should be lined up vertically. In other words, your feet are directly below your hips when you are standing with your knees and hips slightly bent.

To maintain proper form, this is how you should look when you land on your feet. Landing with your legs extended out in front of you with your knees locked torques your hips in a manner that can damage them and puts unnecessary force on your knees that can severely harm them as well. Landing with your knees bent and your feet and hips lined up, or “stacked” on top of each, other allows your muscles to do their job of absorbing the impact forces of running.

Step Four: Put It All Together

Now that you know the various components, try them out. Go for another lap around the track focusing on maintaining good form.

Go through a mental check list:

-Land on your midfoot or the balls of your feet

-Land with your knees bent and your hips stacked above your feet

-Keep your back straight

-Keep your shoulders pulled back, down, and relaxed

The key here is to be aware.

To move forward you don’t even really want to push forward. You just lift your feet, one at a time, back behind you and then let them fall. Running is not pushing forward, but leaning your entire body (not just the top half) ever so slightly forward and taking next step is what keeps you from falling over completely. The leaning should be as though you were walking up a hill. Be sure to take shorter strides to insure that you are keeping your feet and hips stacked.

Your arms should be at your sides, bent to roughly 90 degree angles at the elbows, with your hands in front of you. Swing them forward and backward. Do not twist from your hips to the right or left as you swing your arms, keep your torso pointed straight ahead at all times.

All of this should be done in a relaxed manner without any muscles being tensed up. As I said, it is as though you were falling forward and catching yourself with each step. And as Caballo Blanco said, it should be easy.

Step Five: Increase Your “Barefoot” Mileage 

If you are switching from “traditional” running shoes with fancy arch supports and thick heels you want to transition slowly to barefoot or minimalist shoes. Switching over too quickly could result in injury or just unnecessary pain.

You want to follow the same “10% rule” that you use when increasing your mileage. In other words, the fist week of running “barefoot”, the actual “barefoot” part should only account for 10% of your running. From then on out, increase the amount you run “barefoot” by 10% each week until you feel comfortable doing all of your running barefoot. You should also avoid running “barefoot” two days in a row during this transition phase.

For those of you who are new to running go for a short run, no more than a mile, maybe two miles if you are already physically active and just haven’t done running as a standalone sport before. You could do this maybe two or three times the first week. From then on out you will want to increase your mileage each week by 10% of the previous week’s mileage. So if you run 10 miles one week, you would run 11 miles the next week. And in reality, you might find the 10% can be the 20% or 30% rule until you get up to 10 miles per week. The key to running safely is to listen to your body and do what you are physically comfortable with.

Step Six: Find Some Good Minimalist Footwear (If you don’t want to be barefoot.)

You will want to go to your local running store that specializes in “barefoot” footwear and try on a few pairs of minimalist shoes. If you live here, in Columbia, Missouri, Starting Block is a great place to go.

Before you go to a store read a few reviews on minimalist shoes so you know what you are talking about and what is available. You could easily walk into a store that does not have a wide variety of minimalist shoes and find yourself unnecessarily limited in choices. The website for the most comprehensive set of minimalist footwear reviews is birthdayshoes.com.

You will likely jump on the bandwagon and go with a pair of FiveFingers from the minimalist shoe market leader, Vibram, who also makes soles for many of the other minimalist shoe brands. But be sure to try on other minimalist shoes. They do not necessarily need to be thin soled, they can be cushioned if you want. The main idea is to get a pair of shoes that has a small “heel to toe drop”. Meaning that the difference in height between your heel and your toes is as small as possible in those shoes.

Once you have read up on the topic go try on a few pairs. If you go to a store, such as Starting Block, that specializes in “barefoot” running and even gives lessons on how to run in this style, it is a good idea to buy your first pair of minimalist shoes from that store and even take a class. Buying the shoes on the internet may be cheaper, but when starting out the advice of a good intentioned shoe store with well informed employees can be quite valuable and worth the extra money. It can also help you discover the local running community.

Step Seven: Go Running!

Now that you know how to run with proper “barefoot” form, get out there and do it!

If you are just starting running for general health reasons, or for weight loss, a good rule of thumb is to go for longer runs at a slower pace. Go for runs like these at a pace that allows you to breath easily through your nose, especially when starting out. Though as stated earlier, breath through your mouth if you need to.

Once running in this manner becomes easy and routine to the point that you can do it without concentrating, you can focus on making it light. That is to say be sure you do not to hammer into the ground, but land softly as though you were nearly weightless. As the quote from the Tao Te Ching says on the opening page of McDougall’s Born To Run, “The best runner leaves no tracks”.

Once you have achieved lightness aim to be smooth as though you are gliding along in a continuous motion like a train rolling down a railroad. For a good example look at some YouTube videos of Kenyan runners or an Olympic Champion like Haile Gebrselassie.

Once you have succeeded at these things and you are running a few times a week you can increase your speed. One of your runs each week can even be dedicated to running a few sprints of shorter distances at high speed.

If you just remember to maintain proper form, listen to your body, and enjoy yourself, you will do just fine!

Happy Running!

Those wanting to read more guides to barefoot running are highly encouraged to check out this one by Vibram.

Those wanting to know more about running in general should check out McDougall’s book, a review of which can be found here.

Guide to Winter Biking

The winter months are best loved for their holidays and the return of the pumpkin spice latte, but for bicyclists, they might sadly signal that it’s time to put the bike away. Dropping temperatures, black ice, snow-packed roads – biking during winter is impossible, right? Not so fast! (No but seriously, slowing down is a big winter biking strategy.) With a few adjustments to your bike, your wardrobe and your riding technique, biking is still possible  come rain, sleet or snow. To help get you and your two-wheeler ready for frosty rides, Footprint has put together this handy winter biking reference with help from Sarah Ashman, store manager of Walt’s Bike Shop.

FIRST THING’S FIRST
“Snow brings a whole new layer of obstacles on the road for cylists and motorists,” Ashman says. Make sure your bike is up to the challenge. Even before considering cute fuzzy hats to keep your head warm under that helmet or stressing about how to navigate icy pavement without injuring (or just embarrassing) yourself, the first thing on any bicyclist’s winter agenda is a bike check-up. A bike’s brakes and gears can lose affectiveness in inclement weather, and icy temperatures demand a well-lubricated bike chain. Ashman also suggests lowering the pressure of both rear and front tires for increased stability in snow, though to exactly what pressure depends on your individual tires.

Get your gears and brakes checked and make sure your chain is well-lubricated before winter riding. Photos: Tina Casagrand and Kristin Torres

At the end of this guide we’ve included information on a number of places to get your bike in top shape if you need help getting set up. And now, the tips:

STICK OUT LIKE A SORE THUMB
In the winter months, less sun means less visibility. Mornings will be darker and night will seem to come sooner, meaning you’ll have a harder time sticking out to other vehicles than you did in the summer. While most bikes come with reflectors, they aren’t enough to maintain visibility during a dark morning or a snowfall. Get equipped with lights for both the rear and head of the bike to help stay visible in your own lane and to oncoming traffic. And though it might cramp your style, reflective clothing like a vest or jacket can offer an added sense of security and maybe even a bit of warmth. Speaking of which…

KEEP WARM, BUT NOT TOO WARM
A sweaty ride might seem unthinkable during the winter months, but overdressing in warm clothes is common and can lead to an unpleasant ride. Combine wet clothes and cold weather and once you’re off the bike you’re even colder than before. While we know most bicyclists will wear to ride what they plan to wear for class or work and won’t be running out to buy a Lycra bodysuit anytime soon, a few considerations can keep you dry and reduce the chance that you’ll have to pull over and strip off a layer. And since many cyclists in Columbia are only biking short distances, especially students, less modification is needed.

– The extremities
This includes your head, feet and hands — especially the fingers. Wear a knit cap or insulated headband under a helmet to protect the ears from chill. As for the hands, Ashman suggests wearing a glove that will provide warmth while still allowing you to easily reach for brakes and gears. And if you find your feet lose heat easily and you don’t want to spring for a pair of insulated boots, Ashman offers this tip: wear plastic sandwich bags over your socks and in your shoes for a cheap wind barrier while riding. If you take care of them and are hygenic, you can re-use them multiple times.

– The core
The chest is especially important to keep warm in the winter months, and riding in wind increases its vulnerability. Ashman says if you make just one change to your commuting clothes, it should be to avoid cotton directly on the skin. “Cotton, when it gets wet, will stay wet while you’re in class,” Ashman says. Consider wearing a moisture-wicking layer like a tank top made of synthetic fibers under a shirt. She also advises wearing a windproof jacket.

BIKING SAFELY

– Embrace the helmet
There’s no getting around it–sometimes, helmets just don’t look cool. Bulky and often bulbous, they’re the bane of the cycling aesthetic. Still, riding in winter can be more dangerous than in any other season, making a helmet pretty imperative, even for short distances.

A helmet is doubly important in the winter when riding on slick and icy surfaces. Photos: Tina Casagrand and Kristin Torres

– Know thy brake
Braking suddenly can lead to skidding or even flipping over the front wheel without special precautions. Ashman says to help avoid accidents, don’t brake heavily on the front wheel and instead utilize your rear brake.

Braking on wet or icy surfaces won’t be as on point as when biking on dry surfaces, meaning it’ll take a longer time and distance for your bike to come to a stop. Though unexpected obstacles like a suddenly stopped car or a rogue squirrel won’t give you much time to react, visualize distance in your head to estimate how much room you have before knocking into something.

And lastly,

– Traction is your friend
The good news is you have control over the traction of your wheels. The bad news is you don’t have much control over anything else. Over the course of the winter months, you’ll encounter freshly fallen fluff, rain puddles and tightly packed snow. Your best defense is a pair of thick tires with deep ridges, though the rarely-seen studded tire is best suited for the elements. So what about that road bike with the thin, smooth wheels? Ashman says winter biking is still possible, especially considering most Columbia cyclists are biking relatively short distances, but even more emphasis is added on safe riding technique. This means cautious braking and making slow, controlled turns. And if you’re really worried about your grip-less tires, maybe zip ties can come to the rescue?

After a snowfall, the best scenario would be to ride on gritty snow, as it provides for more traction. Snow that hasn’t been plowed or that has been driven over a lot will create bumpy ridges that will take away some of that steering ability. In this case, it helps to keep your body weight equalized on your seat to keep the tires pressed into the ground — don’t lean or bounce side to side, especially when pedaling out of the saddle. Though biking ordinance calls for riding as far to the right as possible and at a safe distance, narrow paths created on the road when snow is plowed onto either side of the street make staying in the shoulder nearly impossible. Ashman says that a cyclist comfortable in their skills and abilities should take the road in this case, but only when sure surrounding motorists are very aware of your presence.

It boils down to this: make sure your bike is up to the challenge of gritty winter weather, dress accordingly and take it slow and steady out there.

To get your bike tuned in time for winter, check out these local resources:
Klunk Cycles and Repair 12 N. 2nd Street
Walt’s Bike Shop 1217 Rogers St. #A
MU’s Bike Resource Center
PedNet 501 Fay St. During certain times of the year, PedNet offers classes for those wanting to learn how to pedal safely and confidently around Columbia.