Let me start by wishing all our Vets a happy Veterans Day from SOFLETE HQ.
And now let me roll up my sleeves, because I'm not wasting this Veterans Day by stroking my brothers and sisters virtual egos. This Veterans Day we want to remind the veteran community that our service doesn't end when we take off our uniforms.
The military offers us all a unique opportunity to develop leadership skills and experience a profession that is fulfilling and at time requires a high degree of commitment. I know that when people say "Thank you for your service", that is what they are talking about... the long hours, the deployments, the sacrifices. We need to be careful not to allow those sacrifices to define who we are, and ignore that a life well lived is full of sacrifice.
The attributes of service that we cultivated in the military should drive us to continue to serve out of uniform. Treat dinner with your wife like a Key Leader Engagement. Take care of your equipment by staying in shape, to better serve others. Treat your presentations at work with the same care that you prepared that CONOP for the CENTCOM commander when you wanted to get mission approval. Take time to mentor kids (yours and others) like you would a partner force whose performance your life depended on. Let us all carry our rucksacks with us and keep earning a real "Thank You" every day.
A lot of people say they "signed a check payable to the people of the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life". If you're reading this post, that check is still out there.
We’ve been doing a series for the tip of the weeks on the foot. When we look at our feet, there isn't really anything to think about, as we have grown up we are wearing some kind of shoe or sock to help aid in support and protection for our feet.
What we are not realizing is that this is causing us more problems then you really think!
The one thing we start to see is the loss of dexterity in the toes. Dexterity is simply the skill in performing a task. We see this used in the hands all the time, because we are able to move them and understand the range of motion they can create, the sense of feeling and motor control. The same thing goes for our feet. When we don’t use it we lose it; we hear that all the time in random conversations about things. Well, it goes the same for our toes.
Toe dexterity is a MUST. Why is this? It is simple: they need to be able to play around with the range of motion. The toes need to aid in support and protection not just for the foot, but for the rest of your body.
Our feet are the foundation to our body and it starts with the toes.
Why We Need To Fix Our Toe Flexibility
I recently did a podcast with Nick St. Louie of The Foot Collective and we dived deep into how we can fix our feet and why we need to.
The lack of toe dexterity can cause a number of problems and then lead to even bigger problems.
Lack of Single Leg Balance
Lack of Trunk Stability
The list can go on and there can be many other factors that can contribute to this. But fixing the smallest movement will lead to creating better movement long term.
“Micro Movement dictates Macro Movement” - Joel Jamison
Our feet were meant to cover as much surface area as possible to give us a wider and stronger and more stable platform to walk on. Humans have take that away and have caused problems with keeping our feet in shoes that smash them together, wear heels that put our feet in bad positions, and never letting them play and be free.
Understand that the feet take on all the weight that the body is carrying. As we get older and get heavier, our feet end up staying the same surface area. We end up causing problems up the system which is not ideal. Again, an injury isn't cause by that exact moment you hurt yourself. It’s caused by the 100,000,000 reps you have done in your lifetime, and that one time you hurt yourself was the breaking point.
How To Regain Dexterity In Your Toes
When I was first exposed to learning how to regain control of the dexterity in my toes, it was one of the hardest things to do. I will show you the toe dexterity protocol I have use on myself and other athletes who need help to promote better movement not just for performance but every day life.
Toe Dexterity Foot Protocol:
Big Toe Dorsiflexion, while keeping other toes flat on the ground x 5-8 per/side
Little Toes Dorsiflexion, while keeping the big toes flat on the ground x 5-8 per/side
Alternating Big Toe / Little Dorsiflexion, focus on controlled movement x 5-8 per/side
Towel Squeeze w toes x 5 per/side, use a small towel and short so that you have something to start with
Calf Raises onto Toes x 5-8 per/side, slow and controlled reps
Single Leg Balance x 10-15 secs/side, active arch at all times
Single Leg Calf Raise on to toes x 5-8 per/side, slow and controlled reps
Toe Spreading from big toe to the pinky toe x 5 per/side, as you spread the toes, look to get the toes out as wide as you can to cover as much surface and hold it there for 3-5 secs
In-Line Walking Lunge x 5-8 per/side
Look to do these 3-4 times a week and your feet and toes will thank you. As well, look to walk around barefoot as much as possible to let those toes play and move freely.
Use the Mobility team in the Combat Athlete Bundle and Watch Your Performance Increase!
A year or so after college, one of my friends moved to Japan to teach English. At the time, I always imagined him navigating the crowded subways and frenetic intersections of Tokyo, but when he returned, he told me about a very different kind of place: a quiet village in the mountains with friendly neighbors, great skiing and stunning views. It sounded like the perfect destination, but I was on a beginning teacher’s salary and my dream of visiting this Japanese utopia quickly faded.
Fifteen years later, now teaching in China, I was finally able to make my way to Japan. While plotting out my itinerary this past August, I knew there was one place I had to see for myself: The Japanese Alps.
Five Days in the Japanese Alps - Sashimi and Cocktails
Our journey to The Japanese Alps began one morning with the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nagoya. There are other ways to reach the Alps, but we wanted to take advantage of our Japan Rail pass that offered unlimited travel within the region for five days. In Nagoya, we grabbed some fresh soba noodles in the station and switched trains, bound for Toyama. The dramatic views from my window of mountains, gorges and rushing rivers had me feeling inspired even before reaching our first destination.
Toyama itself is a fairly unremarkable city, precisely the kind of nondescript place I tend to enjoy wherever I travel. With our trip to Japan bookended by heavily touristed Tokyo and Kyoto, it was refreshing to observe life in an ordinary, working town.
Toyama did stand out for one reason though: our meal at Sushiei was hands-down the greatest Japanese dining experience of my life.
Consisting of just one long counter and about fifteen chairs, Sushiei is staffed by three no-nonsense chefs who do just one thing: craft perfect sushi, but doing it with a mastery I had never previously experienced. Our fellow diners quietly savored their sashimi in a state of reverence, only occasionally breaking the silence to ask for another round of impossibly fresh tuna or perfectly roasted unagi.
On our way home we stumbled into a cozy bar, the walls lined with stacks of classic jazz CD’s. While we downed our favorite Japanese cocktails of Shochu and lemon, the bartender offered a stack of Charlie Parker records to choose from.
5 Days in the Japanese Alps - Hiking Hell Valley
The next day we commenced the most highly anticipated leg of the trip: the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route, a voyage through the heart of the Alps lasting several hours.
This route involved seven different kinds of transportation, including a rickety old railroad line, cable cars rising nearly vertically along the mountain’s edge or descending through tunnels underground, and a ropeway starting at an elevation of 2,316 meters with breathtaking views of the valley far below.
The highlights of the trek came halfway through at the Murodo stop, where we hiked through lush, green hillsides interspersed with oddly shaped crater lakes.
As we hiked further into “Hell Valley,” the volcanic scenery gave way to an almost eerie, other-worldly setting, plumes of sulfur rising from barren, ochre colored patches in the sides of the mountains.
The beautiful strangeness of Murodo was matched later in the afternoon by the staggering immensity of the Kurobe dam and reservoir, which we gazed upon from a bridge over the gushing water.
By late afternoon we had reached the end of the Alpine route in Shinano, where were picked up our packs (which had conveniently been forwarded from Toyama for a small fee) and jumped on one last train for Matsumoto.
Trek journeys like this are overwhelming, but also so satisfying. Seeing the immensity of nature and man's achievements in integrating with and harnessing the power of it is truly awe inspiring. The best part of our train ride to Matsumoto was knowing that we were only half way through our trip.
Eric Carlson is currently the Dean of Students at Beijing National Day School and hopes that his photo journals will inspire more people to #DieLiving
Stay Tuned for the second Installment of Eric's trip that will drop November 22.
In Special Forces we tend to go to a variety of schools that teach us how to drive fast and aggressively with confidence, but we don’t always put an emphasis on the kind of driving that we spend a lot of time doing in developing nations: off-road driving. Here at SOFLETE, we are all about that outdoor life and ways to enhance our ability to access more exclusive and remote locations. But, where do you go to get better at back country off-road driving? What kind of vehicle do you choose to unlock the wonders of America’s national park system? How do you pack?
During my recent pre-deployment training I was lucky enough to spend a week training at Overland Experts (OEX) with Tony Cerruto. He and his instructors have a robust and ground up approach to teaching people of all skill levels how to maneuver a vehicle through a variety of obstacles, maintain a reliable mobile platform, how to conduct recovery operations, and how to better set up a vehicle to sustain longer term trips.
We really focused on driving time and kept classroom time to a minimum. Wheel time trumps wrote knowledge, and the OEX guys really break down the basics clearly. In any given day we would spend an hour or two doing classes or practical applications and 6+ hours driving.
We learned how our vehicles work and how to use that in our favor across varying terrain. This is great because it teaches both mechanical knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge. Ever wondered why you have trouble controlling your vehicle on icy roads? Can’t climb that hill in your 4x4? Which tire is best for what terrain?
After years of seat time offroading, I have to confess that I came to the course a little biased. I have been driving off-road at a variety of levels for years and I might not be a pro, but I was intimately familiar with the topic of overlanding, or car camping as we used to call it. Tony and his instructors blew my doors off. They reawakened in me a passion for off-road driving to enhance back country adventures.
I was so impressed, that we are planning several joint efforts with SFLT and OEX. If you want to learn about practical off-road driving in realistic vehicle platforms that will prepare you to safely reach your destination anywhere in the world OEX is a great experience. Be on the lookout for upcoming DieLiving Expeditions… there might even be some extra seats in the Land Cruiser.