The World According to Scylla

They say man learns from experience, but a wise man learns from the experience of others.

In the interests of spreading the wealth, I am going to share the paltry things that life has taught me to be true.

Some of you may disagree with some of my conclusions. Feel free to do so, and I will explain why you are wrong.

The list is somewhat small concerning things I have learned as indisputable facts that are not common knowledge, and I will focus on these.

We will start simply, with things I have learned from long distance running.

Long distance running is a good way to learn things about yourself and your body in general because it is an extreme situation. The very nature of testing things implies that you have to take them to extremes. Out there on the bleeding edge is where you tend to figure things out. What you come back with is kind of interesting.

For example, it took me several years of running and two marathons before I actually learned how to walk properly. I now understand that almost nobody knows how to walk.

Though it was a difficult thing to figure out, and required a lot of sweat trouble and pain, I learned what is indisputably the correct way to walk. I will explain it and share it with you so that you can benefit for free.

And yes, you will benefit. I learned because I had to. As much as I was running I was hurting myself by placing one foot in front of the other the wrong way. I was hurting myself by doing this wrong before I started running long distances, just not enough to need to change.

So without further ado, here it is:

Almost everybody walks heel to toe. The shoes we wear are generally designed to support this with their built up and cushioned heels. The jarring motion of walking on your heels hurts your legs and back as it vibrates up your spinal cord. You get lower back pain and headaches, shin splints, and all kinds of trouble.

After running thousands of training miles, sometime towards the end of my second marathon, the great pain in my legs, back, neck and head, became such that I suddenly shifted.

I started landing on the outer edge of the front half of my foot, but lightly. As my weight continued to press down on that foot, the weight rolled to the inside, and I learned that the huge ball of the heel creates incredible moment arm with the achilles tendon, acting like a shock absorber.

The heel is like the elbow of a dog’s back leg. It’s supposed to absorb and spread out shock from the front of the foot, not be a landing pad.

This realization was one of those sudden enlightening experiences. “So this is how you’re supposed to be doing it!” I thought.

It was like the first time I rowed a rowboat, I was facing the wrong way, and was surprised how hard it was. Than somebody told me to turn around, and I went “A-ha! Now I understand.”

So try it this way: Stand up erect and straight. Put your right foot in front of you, and feel the ground with the edge of the outer pad behind your big toe. Roll your foot towards the big toe until the weight is distributed across the width of your foot, Now let your heel rotate down transferring weight to your foot. Now repeat with the other foot.

Try it. Go back and forth until you get the hang of it. Show it to somebody else and watch them. See how they move?

I have seen people move like this, elite athletes, martial artists, some of my Dad’s spooky Recon Marine friends. You wouldn’t guess that the walk is coming from the feet to see it. It’s a competant whole body thing from appearances. It’s almost effortless, quiet and low impact. It’s kind of how a cat walks. It’s how we were meant to walk. Before hard bottomed shoes, it’s how we did walk.

Don’t beleive me? Go find some woods and walk barefoot. Almost from the first step you will be forced to walk like this. Just slamming your foot down willy-nilly on sticks, rocks and crap hurts.

Callouses won’t make a difference. The arch of your foot is unprotected from protusions. Physiologically we were meant to walk this way. Watch and see how a two or a three year old walks barefoot in the grass. They walk this way. They learn to walk lazily when they get used to shoes.

Try it for a couple of days. Get the hang of it, and feel the difference. Feel it in your legs your back your neck. Feel how your center of balance has changed. Realize that all of a sudden, you are doing it right. Go buy some light, flexible, flat-bottomed shoes, like moccasins.

Of course, after I figured this out on my own, I learned that there are lots of sources that say the exact same thing.

But few people do it. Once you’ve got it down, it seems obvious.

The other thing I’ll talk about tonight is breathing. Almost nobody breathes right. Books on yoga and meditation will tell you how to breathe. Most people will only do this when they meditate or do yoga, but this is pretty much how you are supposed to breathe.

Most people put effort into the inhalation phase and relax on the exhalation.

In reality we are supposed to do the opposite. Force air out, then relax and let air come in. This is something else I learned while running.

If your effort is on the inhale, and you simply relax to exhale, then your lungs will always be half full of stale air, and you’ll have to breathe hard to get the oxygen you need.

Most of the time we are not in great physical effort, so you don’t notice this.

Running long distances, the effort on the inhale, and the defficiency of oxygen it produces becomes pretty damn noticeable.

I found accidently while running at speed as I was panting along, that I still felt out of breath even while inhaling. If I forcibly exhaled then the next breathe left me without distress. I started consciously doing this on every breathe as I ran, and within a minute or two I found that I was getting all the oxygen I needed and breathing with slower and with much less effort.

After a while I started naturally doing this all the time.

Try it. Breathe normarlly for a minute and time yourself and see how many breaths you take.

Now breathe for a couple of minutes the way I’ve described. Push out with effort, and make no effort on the inhale, just let your lungs fill naturally to whatever level they want, than slowly push it all out, and relax again. After you’ve done this for a minute or two time yourself and see how many breaths you take in a minute. Chances are, you’ll be taking about half of what you had to by making the effort on the inhale.

Now go do something physical and see how much your performance and endurance has suddenly increased.

Try it in good faith. Follow through on the experiment. For me it was like “Shit! I’ve been breathing wrong for thirty years! Why didn’t somebody tell me how to do this?”
Few people walk this way, and few people breathe this way. If you do, if you make the effort to get used to it, it will make a tremendous difference in the way you feel and your abilities.
Those two things are pretty much the sum total of what I’ve learned physiologically from running.

There’s a couple of mental things I’ve learned, and I’ll probably mention them tomorrow.

That’s enough for now. But I will assert strongly that the way I’ve described walking and breathing, are the correct way to do it.

Anyone care to disagree?

It is impossible to inhale passively. Most people exhale passively because is conserves the most energy. Forceful exhalation causes the airways to collapse, trapping air in the alveoli, causing CO2 retention, and it consumes more O2 than is gained. The muscles used to exhale are inefficient and are different than the muscles used to inspire. But if you say it works for you, more power to you.

I like your theory on walking. Makes total sense to me.

Have you tried? Totally relax your lungs. They’re still about 25-30% full. Push that air out, and you can get down to about 10% or so. Hold it for a second, and now just relax. Your lungs will fill to about the 2/3 point.

I think you have me wrong. I’m not talking about forcing every last bit of air out of your lungs, here. That’s a lot of work for little gain. Monitor the way you breathe and you’ll probably find that you naturallly stop exhaling with a whole lot of air still in your lungs.

I’m not the only one who says this. This kind of breathing is taught in yoga, and for free divers (breathhold diving.) It works. Try it when you exercise the next time, and tell me then whether you still think it’s bogus. A quarter says you’re going to be surprised.

I think running is a vast left wing conspiracy. I’m surprised you’ve been taken in by it.

I thought that was common knowledge for runners?


And we’re supposed to take your word for things?


Meant by whom? Which is more efficient from the point of view of physics: striding (not running) along with impact on your heel, rolling toward the front, or landing on the ball, and softening with the heel?


Anthropological support, please. Evidence from a few shoe-less tribes will do.


Wonderful. I just breathe and can hold for about 4+ minutes. Why? Big lungs, nerve, and practice inducing a slowed bodily state during my college years. :stuck_out_tongue:


Meant by evolution. I have no idea which is more efficient. I know that the latter is less abusive on the limbs.

We did not evolve with rugs and sneakers and hazardless soft grass. We had to cover mixed terrain with impediments. Try crossing terrain like this barefoot, and you will have to walk as I described.

I can do better than that. This site has a nice little active illustration of what I describe in the top left.

There are quite a few famous barefoot runners. You can look around for film of Kalahari Bushmen walking and running to illustrate what I describe on your own. Anything more than a .gif file will take me to long to load on my dial up and you can’t really see what I’m talking about without motion.

I don’t think I really need a cite since I can prove what I say through replicable experiment.

Go try running and walking in a wilderness environment, barefoot, heel toe. It is so painful, difficult and injury prone that it’s almost impossible.

You simply can’t do it that way.

No, in reality we are “supposed” to put the effort into inhaling. When you’re breathing without consciously thinking about breathing, your body automatically puts the effort into inhaling, and relaxes to exhale. If any method could be said to be the one that we are “meant” to use, I would say that it’s the one that the body does naturally.

However, when you’re in a situation where the body needs extra oxygen (such as when running), then it makes sense to forcibly exhale, since doing so results in drawing more “fresh” air into the lungs with every breath.

Scylla, you`re right on both accounts. I DO walk this way (most of the time), and when I concentrate on breathing during excersize, I do what you suggest. They both help.

Dude, have you like, tried hallucinogens? They’ll body check ya all the way to “Planet You”, man. It’s right next to Planet Yoop.


I’ve noticed that I reverse where the effort goes when I am doing something intensive (riding a mountain bike up a hill),

But you make it sound like this is what we are supposed to do when we’re relaxed too. How do you know? Maybe if we were all vampires, yes, but where’s the rulebook on human bodily processes?

If we’re meant to breath by evolution the ‘proper’ way, why is it a child will breath right, but we as adults don’t? Maybe evolution is trying to rid the world of adults…


Humans are adaptive creatures. In soft terrain, I doubt it would be as abusive.


So what?


Or not. Still waiting for anthropological support.


That’s hardly better, since it proves nothing about how people walked “before shoes.”

Why will a child eat right, but as an adult turn into an obese hunk of flesh? Learned behaviour, same as anything else.

Some people get away with breathing improperly, the rest become asthmatic.

Scylla is quite correct with both his assertions, and I’m not sure why cites are being called for when they’re easy enough to test for yourself (and I’ll repeat, for yourself).

I’m not understanding thew walking bit.

Can’t do it!

I can land on the pad behind the big toe, but the outer pad is behind the little toe. If I roll from the outer pad inward then toward the heel, I have to land on the outer pad, right?

spooje, feeling stupid and awkward…

CITE ! :slight_smile:

Joking… will try out your “walking method”…

Based on your statement 1, I must be wise enough to let you do all the running – to the extreme – as exemplified by your statement #2. Why should I put myself through such pain when I can watch you go through it, and look at the result of all your pain. I am glad that you’ll live a long life and shall leave a great legacy on this planet, unlike Motzart who died at 35 and probably never learnt how to breath or walk like you did.

I recall the running nut, James Fixx, who wrote a book called “The Complete Book of Running”, and then dropped dead at 52 while running – to the extreme. As a “wise man” I have learnt from Jim Fixx experience and others that a so-called “healthy” regimen may reduce the risk of premature death (which it did not do for James), but it may also increase the chance of a more drawn out illness later on. So, go ahead Scylla, be my guest, continue concentrating on your hedonistic physiological fitness in “planet you”.

Meanwhile, we watch the resulting state of your mental fitness, learning from your experiences through your display of 9400 posts to this forum since January 2000.

Ooooh. Can’t wait to hear it.

Are you landing on the pad near the pinkie toe or on the pad near the big toe?
Are you breathing through your nose or mouth?

Scylla, nice to hear from ya.

Your verbal description of the walking method sounded weird. So I just went out in the backyard and discovered that your method is already how I walk barefoot. How about that. I have a long day of construction ahead of me so we’ll be paying attention how I do in work boots.

Your breathing methods, however, shound fishy. Under big loads I forcibly exhale and inhale. This minimizes tidal volume and maximizes gas exchange. Your mileage clearly has varied. As for passive breathing, since it is semi-autonomic, that will be under control of the cerebellum (I think) and that portion of the brain is not available for re-training.

But I’m always open for self-experimentation. Just don’t ask me to inhale through my nose and out through my mouth at the same time! :wink:

The walking method doesn’t really work too well under normal walking conditions. Unless maybe you’re putting foot in front of foot, and almost walking a line, otherwise your center of balance is right over your heels, and you’ll be dragging your feet to try and walk the way Scylla suggested. However, that’s probably the best way to run, just look at how people generally sprint.
The breathing thing makes sense when you’re running and such, but I don’t think it’s necessarily something you can apply to every day use. I mean, it’s not as though I can control how my body makes me breathe. But…, for running, exercise, any sort of situation where I’m lacking air, that’s probably the best way to get as much oxygen into the system as possible.


Don’t need it. Not necessary. Ain’t getting it. If you want and anthropologist, go find one. I am not finding your request reasonable, so it’s going to be a long wait.

Yeah, sorry about that. I meant you have to start with the pad behind the little toe, and roll towards the big toe.

wake up call:

I feel like I know you.


If you walk the way I describe you’ll shift your center of balance once you get the hang of it.