Sahara holding pot of tomato plant

Hello from me and my five tomato plants that were once 25, but are now a humble abode (uh hi can you tell I'm in a pride and prejudice mood? because in no other dimension would the word abode be in here otherwise) of 5 tomato plants.

No, I didn't put 20 tomato plants 6 feet under due to neglect.

I actually had to find neighbors and friends that would happily adopt my tomato plants so that I would have less of a tomato farm and more of a handful of tomato plants.

When did I start planting my tomato plants?

I started to plant them in March 13. During this time, my work-life had been taking my soul bit my bit and this was kind of an outlet to keep my brain afloat. I did try to plant tomatoes last year and lets just say lessons were learned from because that didn't go well and so I took the approach of: fail forward. So this was my second time trying to plant tomatoes from seeds. I am more of a creative person and well, patient person according to my family, so starting up my own lil garden seemed like fun - small steps of progress that led to the goal of actually having something to pick!

During March, there was a lot of long hours, 80+ hour work weeks including weekends, and slowly I didn't have time for any of my hobbies anymore because I was too exhausted to run regularly anymore - this was the first time I've ever experienced being too tired to run - play piano, read, crochet, blog (hi it's been a while since I've posted on here and this is actually the reason why - burnout came in swinging). With planting, at least all I really had to do was water it every morning after I ate my breakfast - just fill up my water pail and water it after I ate and then back to work again.

After a while, I'll explain in a bit how long a while is, I started to see new life in my small little garden. Although I was drowning in work, my little bit of greenery were my floaties helping me to the surface.

Me holding a red pot of tomato plant

How do I start growing tomatoes from seeds?

What you'll need

- A small pot with a drainage hole

- Soil specifically for Seeds. [I personally used Miracle Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix and it worked *chefs kiss* wonders]

- Plastic Wrap / Saran Wrap

- Rubberbands

- Seeds of what you are planning to grow

My advice on pots:

I personally would recommend clay pots with drainage holes to start with.

The catch is that they absorb moisture more than other types of pots, but I will say I've had the most success with clay pots. I have also tried to plant seeds with rocks underneath, due to lack of drainage hole at the bottom, and then soil on top. Although I was able to see some growth to my carrots in there, in the end they didn't survive after a few raining days due to the water not being able to drain out.

With seeds though, you'll want a small pot to start with - unless we're talking about carrots, those you'll want in a larger one as they don't like being repotted - and as the plant grows you would keep upgrading it from larger pot to larger pot.

Another way to grow seeds -> plants:

A friend of mind used an egg carton, Pure Coconut Coir Netted Seed Starting Pellets, heat mat, and a grow light.  This worked amazingly for her. Instead of planting the seeds in a small pot, she used an egg carton and in each little egg spot she put a Seed Starting Pellet. Once she planted her seeds, she then put it under a heat mat and a grow light towering above. 

a lot of tomato plants in a small clay pot

Here’s what my clay pot filled with tomato plants looked like before I repotted!

How to plant seeds in Pot

Step 1: Fill up your pot over half way, very nearly to the rim at the top. If your pot doesn't have a circular rim at the top, leave about an index finger height of space from the top to your soil amount. If that looks to be too much soil, put a bit less so you have the length of two index fingers from the top to your soil. 

Step 2:  In your pot, depending on how large your small pot is, make small holes into your soil with your finger - I would say make each hole at least 4ish inches apart. In each small hole you made, put two seeds. The idea is that if one seed is bad/doesn't grow then you still have hope for the other one to grow!

Side Bar: Personally I put three seeds in each hole and turns out all seeds were good and that's how I ended up with a tomato farm. So, I would say 2 seeds per each hole but also keep in mind the amount of tomato plants you want to have and what you'll do if all the seeds actually end up being good seeds. So say if you only want 3 tomato plants but you plant 2 for each hole (3 holes) and it turns out both seeds you planted per hole were good and started to spout so you now have 6 good plants instead of only 3. 

Questions to ask yourself: Do you have room for the extra three in your balcony/patio/garden when they grow and need a larger pot?

Step 3: After you place the two seeds per hole, put some soil over the holes to level it back to the rest of the pot of soil.

Step 4: Grab your water pail, and lightly water your newly planted seeds in the pot.

Step 5: Cut a piece of your cling film/plastic wrap/saran wrap to be the size of the top of your pot. Lay the plastic over your pot, and secure it in place by placing a rubberband around your pot keeping the plastic securely in place.

TA DA - you have just finished planting your first seed(s)!

How long until I start seeing a sprout/some greenery?

Every morning you'll remove the plastic wrap and pour some water into your pot. Then you'll place the same plastic wrap over it. The plastic wrap helps to keep the moisture in. Without the plastic wrap, the soil may become too dry to nurture the seed that is within it.

On my end I planted my tomato seeds on March 13, and started to see some sprouting on April 9.

At the very first sight of green in your pot, remove the plastic wrap immediately from your pot and do not cover it again. It is ready to continue growing without the added covering!

The first time I tried planting tomatoes - I didn't realize I was supposed to remove the plastic wrap after the first bit of green, and that's how I killed them that first time. Lessons were learned and I'm here to help you not make that same mistake!

Aerial view of my tomato plant leaves
Ariel view of my tomato plant! Look how pretty she is!

When do I need to repot?

You'll need to repot when the plant itself looks to be getting larger than the pot it's in. For example - I ended up planting 25 tomatoes in one single pot. So, it got super crowded, and I had to separate them all in in their own pots.

For tomatoes specifically - they will need a massive pot to continue their true growth in giving you tomatoes. I went to Home Depot, and they had such nice affordable prices for plastic pots - for tomatoes if you are growing in pots, get a massive plastic one and more soil.

How to move a tomato plant from one pot to the next?

Step 1: Lay out some newspaper for the area you will be repotting in - it'll get a bit messy!

Step 2: Pour water on your existing tomato plant in the pot - especially directly on the soil.

Step 3: Pour water on the soil of your new pot.

Step 4: For your existing pot with the tomato plant, tilt the pot on its side, and move your hands to the edges of the pot in an effort to get the tomato plant out. Once your whole plant is out of the pot, you'll see a lot of the roots. Your job here is to take away the excess soil/roots that are away from the main roots of your tomato plant. Once you've cleaned it up a bit, using your hands to take away all excess, that's when you put it in your new pot, adding some additional soil if need be, and water your plant.

Two red tomatoes in a pot, one green
my long awaited tomato children!

When will I see tomato?

I personally saw a tomato in July - so about 5 months after I planted my seeds. As for when I saw a red tomato ready to be picked - that would be at the end of August!

And there we have it, all about tomatoes, and how to potentially grow a tomato farm.

The satisfaction of growing something really is the best feeling - it's indescribable. My motto here was to fail forward - I took my failures of my first attempt at growing tomatoes and applied what I learned to round 2 of growing tomatoes. As my plants began to bloom, I began to too - and found my own way out of the fog I was in for months. 

Have you ever planted tomato seeds before? Have you been planting anything on your end? Let's get chatting!

On left: Sahara with blue hijab with instagram filter with suns and snowflakes, on right with a silver crown

The short answer: tears of joy and frustration.

The long answer: this blog post.

So, I decided to make myself a challenge every month for a tech side project. I'd fill up words, quotes, movie/film titles in a jar, mix them up and select one every month and base a tech side project on it. I thought of this idea a little bit after January started, so I decided to self-select the word Flame to get me started. For flame, the first thing that came to mind was We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. And then I thought of Blender, 3D modeling software that I have a love hate relationship with, and Instagram filters. So, let's talk about my thought process on how I made it to the finish line that is 2 Instagram filters to possibly help you get to the end of yours.

STEP 1: Once you have a gist of an idea, it's time for you to create a Pinterest Moodboard.

Who would we all be without Pinterest to give as all the vibes we're looking for. It's a gift of an app. So I didn't have a concrete idea of what type of Instagram filter I wanted to create - I only knew I wanted to create one with the 3D modeling Software Blender (hey! it's free!) and one that was a ~regular one~.

I'd scroll, pin something, and then just keep scrolling without actually pinning anything really, just to absorb the ~vibe~ of the book We Hunt the Flame through visuals. If you're curious, here is what my board looked like: WHTF vision board for Instagram Filter. Not much, but enough for me to wrap a world together in my mind.

STEP 2: Grab a sketchbook and jot down some ideas and sketches.

Once I visually had the world in my mind, I grabbed my bullet journal (ya girl fell off the official bullet journal train but that's a story for another day) - and I started jotting down some notes. I knew for the main characters - Zafira and Nasir - they were both skilled with archery. So I knew I wanted something with archery in there.

Sketches of Instagram filters - an arrow, a crown

I started to sketch my version of an arrow and then thought of Nasir - the crown prince. And that's where I got my idea of a crown for Nasir. I then took a quick search to Pinterest for crowns, in which I got tiaras. Which was, although I then took a year detour looking at all the tiaras, not what I was looking for. In my first sketches, I had the idea of there being a half circle base at the bottom and two arrows crossed then a half circle layered on top. Later I realized this was a nope idea but that was my initial sketch. If there's one thing I will say: DO NOT GET ATTACHED TO YOUR DRAWINGS.

For the second Instagram Filter idea, I knew I wanted to do a set drawing one, not a 3D object one - where it would be positioned on the face where I positioned it in my art file I created. And this is where I thought of Zafira and Nasir as a unit. For Zafira, there was a line in the book describing a belt with Snowflakes for Hunters in Demenhur. So I decided to make a snowflake out of arrows. Three snowflakes on one side, and three suns to represent Nasir from Sultan's Keep and Sarasin to go under eyes.

STEP 3: [For the crown] this is where you'd open up a 3D Modeling Software, in my case this was Blender.

Blender thankfully is free and there are great tutorials on YouTube. There is one specific one that helped me with the basics from Blender Guru. I didn't finish the tutorial in its entirety, just did a few videos to understand the environment and how I would go about making my crown. To make my crown, that actually took a lot of looking at Blender documentation, and also looking up specific things on YouTube to help me along.

Sahara with silver crown, holding We Hunt the Flame book by Hafsah Faizal

If you'd like a collection of videos I used on my crown making journey, here is a playlist: Blender Crown Help

With 3D modeling for Instagram filters I'd say my advice would be: don't create something so so detailed. That detail might look all perfect in 3D modeling software but when actually seeing it in place in an Instagram filter, it might not look right. When you create one component of the thing you're making, bring it to your Spark AR Environment to test out how it looks and then you can adjust your design if needed.

It's a lot of trial and error, but that satisfaction when it's complete! UNMATCHED

Step 3: [for the sun and snowflakes] Take a photo of your sketch, and open it up either in Photoshop or a free version of photoshop that I use called Sketchbook.

In Sketchbook, insert the photo you took in one layer. Create another layer, and this is where your work will be. You will be tracing your sketches in this new layer with respective colors for it. In my case I had a snowflake and sun, so I used selected a blue pen and started to trace the snowflake from the photo I inserted in.

Sahara showing close up of snowflake and sun filter
gotta love that lighting was not with me when I took these photos. I tried doing the filter justice, the snowflake details!

After tracing over one sun and one snowflake, I saved each of them as an individual photo and opened a new artboard. The trick on how to get them directly positioned under the eye was tricky - it required a lot of trial and error in finding the exact spot to place my sun/snowflakes in my art file to be directly under the eye. For that reason - if you yourself are looking to create a filter that goes under the eye, here is the exact image I placed in below. So, all you have to do is place this image as a layer below your work so you can place it at just the right part.

Step 4: Insert in Spark AR

For 3D objects in Blender: You must export and save as a .obj file. I used this video to learn how to import my 3D object as a .obj file in Spark AR: Import 3D Models (Blender Donut, Animation) Filter effect | Instagram & Facebook | Spark AR Tutorial

For regular art file in Sketch: Save as PNG, I saved mine with a transparent background.

Spark AR is an augmented reality platform for Mac and Windows users to create mobile filter effects. All I needed to do was login with my Facebook and then I was good to go. Oh, and yes, this is also free to download!

Spark AR Templates

When opening Spark AR select one of the templates that is similar to where your thing will be positioned in the filter, and then Spark AR itself walks you through on where to place your asset. For my crown I chose Head Decoration and for my Suns + Snowflakes I chose Face Mask.

And there we have it! The thought process behind my Instagram filters, and how to go about creating your own. At the moment my Instagram filters are living their best life on my computer, but I am hoping to submit them soon!

Sahara, holding peace sign, smiling at camera with the sun and snowflake filter

Have you ever thought of creating an Instagram filter? Let's get chatting!

Sahara smiling in front of green tree - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
would you look at that I match the trees

I've recently started changing some things around in my workout schedule. For a good reason -  I was getting too used to my routine, the ab workouts I was doing didn't feel like I was putting in much effort. That's not to say they haven't been a gift that kept giving, though. I've been doing Chari Hawkins 10 Day Challenge on loop - I started doing them 1 each day, then each video 2 times in a row, and then once I made it to the 10th video I'd take it from the top again but add an extra rep to do the video over. I did that until I got to doing each video 8 times in a row for an ab workout. Then I started to make my way to doing all 10 videos in a row for 1 ab workout.

I got stronger. I could hold a plank for longer, I learned how to do V-ups with better form. But I wasn't being challenged anymore.

I knew what was coming next for each workout. There wasn't an element of a surprise as there used to be in the beginning - and I felt like I wasn't gaining much from the workouts any more because I was moving the same muscles over and over again. And even for those muscles, I no longer felt the twang of them being worked out in crunches anymore. So I started trying to think of something new to sprinkle in that would challenge those same muscles and also wake up the muscles that I haven't been focusing on.

I started thinking should I search for other Olympian 10 minute ab workouts but that also meant I'd end up at the same spot - not being challenged anymore. Technically speaking Chari Hawkins was the second Olympian I followed workouts for, the very first one was Stacey Irvin Jr. And before anyone asks why I look out for Olympians (or Professional Coach/Trainer) specifically when it comes to workouts rather than I guess fitness personalities (is this the right phrasing? probably not but we're rolling with it.) it's because I feel that with Olympians the form they have is obviously top tier as this is their bread and butter since they are a professional athlete™/ this is their field so they know what they're doing. Another reason that ties into them being professional athletes with top coaches is that the workouts they are showing us are probably something they themselves mix and match in their own training or have done in the past.

I did come across a fitness personality (hi I'm still rolling with this term) aka someone who does not have a certification in personal training/no professional background in it and found that an actual coach had pointed out how their workouts could actually harm people in their fitness journey. From incorrect form to just a harmful exercise in general - so long winded train of thought to say I try to stick with professional athletes when it comes to exercising.

Sahara looking away from camera in front of green tree - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
would you look at that - me not knowing at all how to pose for a photo. as per usual.

ANYWAYS, as I was saying before I rambled on, I was trying to figure out what to do to add a bit of something new to challenge and strengthen my body.

So I dusted the metaphorical dust off my Nike Training App, and started scrolling through.

There's a massive selection all for free, we love free things, you can target specific muscle groups you want to focus on, or if you want your workout focus goal to be endurance, strength, mobility, or Yoga.

One thing I like now that I've added the Nike Training app into my routine is that I'm not only doing an ab workout/arm workouts that I have been doing - I'm strengthening each part of my body from legs, arms, abs - no body part left behind! I started to mix and match some of their workouts with Chari Hawkin's videos so I got to do something new but also having that I guess cushion of a base workout.

Sahara smiling in front of green tree - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
*shine bright like a diamond plays in the distance*

And then I decided to take it one step further and start a 6 week training plan called Burn with Kirsty Godso. 

This training plan focuses primarily with body weight which is great because I'm not about to go buy equipment.  So far, my abs are definitely feeling the burn as well as my arms and legs. In each workout I am being challenged, and wondering how long I have left till the time's out rather than just cruising on by. My heart rate definitely goes up, and I feel my body getting stronger too, a different type of strong compared to the 10 day ab challenge I was doing on loop before. And best part is that there's just a general structure to it all for 6 weeks - not me randomly choosing what to do. Also bear crawls are not my friend, just thought you should know that. And burpees, burpees can go and burpee off a cliff a-thank-you-very-much.

Back to focusing on one muscle group - so I only recently started to think of how wrong I was to do just ab work.

I did do some leg strength workouts but not as much as ab workouts for the past year. I still don't have abs visibly - which side bar any video that tells you you'll have abs in a week is just pure lies! okay thank u for your time! - but I do feel I have gotten stronger over the course of the year of doing those ab workouts. But, something I learned in recovery that I think can also apply here is: By only focusing on only one part of your body, you weaken the rest because it isn't given the same care and focus.

Here's how I think of it: Let's say my knee starts to feel a little tingly pain feeling (I am literally praying I am not about to jinx my running self with this imaginary scenario - hi future me editing this to say ya girl really went jinxed herself more on this in a future post) and I decide okay okay time to ice and elevate only my knee, and foam roll and start googling knee strengthening exercises. 

Is that the only thing I need to do? 

You would think but no - what's at the top part of your leg? Your hamstrings, glutes, and hips. You should also be foam rolling your glutes, and working on strengthening your hips too. Your whole body is connected, focusing on one part means you're leaving the rest of you behind. Focus on all of you and you bring all of you to that better version-non-injury self. 

In my scenario of only focusing on abs - well what's the one thing that leads me in my runs? My arms. So, that means I should also be focusing on strengthening my arms too. And what part of my body is the literal main function of running? My legs. I need my arms to drive strong back and forth, I need my core to be strong and tight as I balance from one leg to the other as I run to maintain a pace, and I need my legs to be strong to push my feet off the ground.

Sahara smiling in front of green tree, thumbs up - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
who would I be if I did not have a thumbs up photo

Focus on all of you not just part of you.

I am strong (and that's not be tooting my own horn, okay well I guess I sort of am), but I can be stronger in my running to maintain a fast but fun pace. If there's one thing the Nike trainers on the Nike Run App say it's that when you run fast you should be having the most fun - and it's true, when running my fastest I'm just like LOOK AT ME GO! THE PACE! THE FORM! but that's not to say I don't value my recovery-run-regular-I-just-wanna-go-on-a-run-and-not-think-of-pace type of runs.

Forward lean, arms drive, legs flying - that's my version of happy place.  And this Nike Training App Burn with Kirsty Godso 6 week training plan will no doubt get me to feeling stronger, even if I am a little out of breath after her workouts.

How's everyone's workout life going? Do you also only focus on core work and forget about strengthening the rest of you? Do you use the Nike Training App? Let's get chatting!

sahara end logo

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

So I've seen this book mentioned several times by one of my friends Rameela - or as you most likely already know her as or as her twitter @starshynebrite. (oh also if we're mutuals on any social media we're already friends in my mind hi Rameela if you're reading!). And after seeing her mention it last month on my Twitter timeline, I moved it up in my to-read list and made it my next book to jump into. 

One thing I love the most of books is the lessons I learn from the adventure between pages - and sometimes that lesson isn't really the lesson from the book but rather it's the way the characters carry themselves between the pages - whether it be the curious one who observes rather than speaks, or the one who handles stress by rolling a joke off their tongue being relaxed in the face of the storm. The thing with fictional characters that I think many readers can relate to is that sometimes the characteristics of characters become our own characteristics by the end of the book.

I know there's the saying that readers live a thousand lives, and it is true, really.

There's pre-reading-a-specific-book-us and then there's after-reading-specific-book-us. And personally, those two are completely different people. An example I can give would have to be The Hunger Games. After the series, there was increased interest in archery for young girls . And that's not me just handing a statistic on a silver platter, I was one of those young girls who took up archery because of The Hunger Games. Granted, I am not the best at it. Like if Katniss ever needed back up she should really never call me unless I am the last person on earth and there is no other option. The amount of focus needed to hit the bullseye is a lot - hi I would like to mention I hit a bullseye with a balloon and I'd like the applause - and as effortless as Katniss made it seem in the books and the movies, my arms weren't looking so cute after aiming at the target circle for an hour. But I will say it's also so gratifying to do something that a fictional character I admired did.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
can we all appreciate how great my mustard hijab WORKS with the gold lettering, this photo is *chefs kiss* a diamond in the ashes. ashes being the 50 photos I took for this blog post

So let's get chatting about We Hunt the Flame.

This has to be the first time I actually went out of my way to order the physical book online after reading a library copy and pre-ordering the next book in the series. Hi yes you read right, this is the first time in my existence that I've ever preordered a book. I am team library till the end of my days but I knew this book had to be permanently mine. If you'd like to take a look at the summary before I get started here is the goodreads link for it!

The book itself is set in Arawiya which the author mentions is inspired by Ancient Arabia. What I loved most about this book was that there was no white European/American vibe for the protagonists, or even a side character. In one phrase: this book had flavor that not a lot of books I've read have. In a few more words beyond a phrase: the books I've previously read were bland tasteless bricks of bread compared to this tasty hearty loaf of a book that is We Hunt the Flame.

I don't think you understand how happy I was to not see some white savior entering stage left.

If me comparing books to bread is any indication, I very much welcomed this breath of fresh air. There are two protagonists that the book flips and flops between,  Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is the Hunter disguised as a man because of a misogynistic state that devalues anything a woman does. She feeds her village by going into the forest - The Arz - that no one ever comes back from. Meanwhile, Nasir is the son of the Sultan who lives in Sarasin and is a skilled assassin killing those who defy his father - in short: he's the Prince of Death. Most books that have dual point of views can get confusing if the characters don't have an independent voice to distinguish them, but this book did it well enough that I was able to tell which view I was reading in.

Zafira's very existence as a Huntress rather than a Hunter quite frankly threatens the misogynistic caliphate (state) at its core. And the only way for a misogynistic caliphate to be brought to its knees is for the women of that caliphate to no longer let men take the driving seat on the road of their lives. Throughout the book Zafira's strength in confidence in herself grows. By the time she crosses paths with the second protagonist and the yin to his yang, Nasir and Altair, she's already on her way to becoming more confident than when she left her native misogynistic state Demenhur. 

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

And here's the funny thing: all the men in this book need her.

She's the head of the table and as the book goes on, she knows it.  From Zafira, I'd say one of the many things I've taken from her character is to try and try again even if the odds seem impossible or people don't see things in the same way as you do. You don't need a guidebook to learn how to lead, be your own compass.

Most books that I've read with similar characteristics - fantasy genre, quest, we've-gotta-save-the-world-or-else-we're-all-gonna-die - the lead characters are always white. So it was refreshing for a change to see that it wasn't a white savior out to save the Kingdom. The first protagonist, Zafira, is noted to have pale skin due to the lack of sun in her Caliphate (state)- all snow in Demenhur - while our second protagonist Nasir from Sarasin - sun exists here -  is described as having deep olive skin. Also to note again - the characters live in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Arabia. From the Goodreads QA section, the author mentions that the characters are Arab (not Muslim! just Arab! clear distinction here, Arab does not equal Muslim and vice versa).

The reason I mention how refreshing it is is because how often do we see a lead that's meant to ~save the world~ that is not a white American/European vibe? It's important that the protagonists aren't white people. Or even the side characters. What a person reads is what they ingest, and a topic that I am sure you may have heard of is the lack of diversity in most popular books. We readers are diverse, but are the books we read diverse too? Not really. Which was why when I started this book I was just like wait a minute! there's some flavor in here! I was not expecting that! Because since I was 12 years old the only protagonists I've read from The Hunger Games to Looking for Alaska were white.

In the same way that movies don't really represent Arabs accurately at all, we are also lacking in representation in the books we read.

And I know we are not the only ones lacking in representation. How often do we see Black leads in books? Those very same books where a character needs to ~save the world~? And why are they so hard to find - most books I get in the recommended section on Goodreads are by white authors, and books that are by Black authors I actually hear about from people on Twitter sharing what they're currently reading. 

So yes, first book I've ever ordered and bought since High School. As I was reading, I noticed that I actually could see myself in these characters, from the way they speak with english and some arabic sprinkled in, to the characters themselves which doesn't happen often.  I will mention that the arabic sprinkled in does include context to know what the word/phrases mean for non-arabic speakers!

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
I call this photo: as moody as our second protagonist, Nasir

Let's talk about Nasir, our second protagonist.

Nasir gives off looks hard as a rock but is actually a must be protected at all costs cupcake vibes. Throughout the book he struggles with being an individual from his father, especially since the safety of those he cares for is on a very thin thread if he doesn't do what his father asks of him. Throughout the book we watch as he struggles with trying to think for himself on what he wants to do rather than what his father tells him/orders him to do. 

The way I think of him is that his heart had a steel cage around it, but on the journey away from his father, the cage begins to weaken until it no longer exits and he is forced with the realization that he doesn't know who he is if not for his father's orders. The longer he is away from his father the more he begins to have his own thoughts clouding his mind, not his father's.

From Nasir, I'd say the one of the many things I took away from his character is that your strength lies in your kind heart - don't allow it to harden, let it bloom. 

You've heard of Katniss Everdeen and Peta Mellark from The Hunger Games, now it's time for you to dive in to learn all about Zafira bint Iskandar and Nasir bin Ghameq bin Talib min Sarasin in We Hunt the Flame - oh and the second book in the series We Free the Stars comes out on January 19 - time for you to get reading!

Add We Hunt the Flame to your Goodreads here.

What books are you starting the new year with? Any recommendations? Let's get chatting!

Sahara walking, black bag in right hand, pink scarf, pointing with left hand to the left

If there's one thing I for sure haven't been doing, it's setting month work-related-improving-skill-set-goals. I'm not really sure how I fell of that wagon of doing that - I used to always create side projects to level up on my skillset to make myself marketable for jobs while I was searching. Well, I guess that's the answer to the how I feel off the wagon question. 

I would have to say my tech goals related to improving my skills are in two categories - the things I should be improving on related to what I do in my day to day and the things that I want to explore for the first time within my field. There is a feeling of wonder with the latter option - from Augmented Reality to Machine Learning, there's a lot I want to dip my toes into, it's like the tech field is an ocean and I am only currently just brushing against it from the shore.

When it comes to what I work in day to day - I know I have some things I need to get better at, in all honesty when I think about how many things I need to do I honestly feel imposter syndrome beckoning me like a grim reaper - it's not that I'm without a brain, even though it does sometimes feel that way, it's that there's a lot that I know I have to level up in.

The first step of leveling up though is acknowledging the level I am at now.

This is the hard part. I know a lot, but I sometimes feel I don't know anything at all. I have a Computer Science Degree, and two certifications to my name and still feel like I am without any of them. I don't know everything, and that's okay - I'm not Google. It's the embracing where I am that I have some difficulty with because I don't like that feeling of 'you're at X spot when you should realistically be at Y'. At the end of the day though, the sooner I embrace where I am, the sooner I can take that next stepping stone of getting to where I want to be.

So, this is where this blog post comes in. I wanted to set list of things I wanted to accomplish this November wise - yes it is the middle of November, the 15th to be exact, but that doesn't mean it's too late to make a goal list.

I know a lot, but there's so much I am in the dark of in my field - it's time to bring the light.

Work Related Skillset Improvement List

1. Get to middle of Bootstrap Course

Bootstrap is an Open Source Cascading Style Sheet framework that is focused in responsive Front End Web Development. I know what Bootstrap is, and I've done the section on Bootstrap on FreeCodeCamp, but there's still a lot that I don't know so this is where the course comes in. The issue I have with courses is more-so stemming from the way I learn. I don't want to get stuck in tutorial land, which sometimes feels like the vibe from courses. I was doing a React Course and that's exactly how it felt. 

My learning style is Kinesthetic (learn by doing) and Visual (learn by seeing). So a tutorial is great for me to visually learn, but things won't lock into place in my mind unless I do something on my own with it without the guidance of a tutorial.

2. Complete 1 side project

I want to create side projects related to the course to solidify what I'm learning but also, not related to the course because that's not fun. I want to learn in public, and share projects I'm working on every week with you all like I did in the past - from my Cryptography Project to my Augmented Realty Snowman. I haven't been doing a lot of side projects, but I want to. I miss it. 

3. Finish a few chapters from Eloquent JavaScript

I've seen this book in passing and feel I can learn a lot from it - I do know JavaScript, and have a certification in Data Structures and Algorithms - but that doesn't mean I know everything. There's some gap in my knowledge, and I aim to make this missing puzzle piece.

Fun things I want to do just because I can List

1. Make something in Unity

Unity is something I have downloaded on my computer but haven't nudged myself along to actually take a deep dive in just yet - and I want to change that. If you aren't subscribed to Jennifer Opal's newsletter and are in tech yourself, you should really consider subscribing! I was inspired by her watch project she created in Unity to give it a try, finally.

I just want to make something in it, and I welcome that learning curve.

2. Finish the Blendr tutorial on a Donut

Blendr is a 3D modeling software - this comes into play for Augmented Reality whether that be for games or for Instagram Filters.  The tutorial that I'm doing is from Blendr Guru - making a realistic donut. So this is more of a two prong thing: Once I finish the tutorial, then I will know enough to create my own 3D modeling object for an Instagram filter I've been sketching out.

I've never really made a list relating to my tech journey on things to tick off a list and I actually wouldn't have unless a friend mentioned it to me over on Twitter as a way to keep leveling up my skills. I think the importance of having a list of things to check off is to make sure that you're always increasing your knowledge and aren't just ~floating~ where you are. I'm hoping it helps with setting concrete things for me to accomplish. Yes, it's mid-novemeber, but that doesn't mean I can't get started on ticking these off my list. To be fair, nothing is as satisfying as crossing something off a list.

Anyone else set goals for November? Let's get chatting!

ps. I did take completely different photos for this but didn't like any of them, gotta love that natural lighting is now in very small windows of time with Daylight Savings!

sahara end logo

Sahara at lake, nike white scarf, nike black shirt, blue joggers - smiling at camera.

Towards the end of August, I was chatting with a friend about hiking and asked if they had any recommendations on where to explore. With several months behind us in the work from home life, I can honestly say the only outside I see is my house street - I run miles back and forth on my street. My neighbors are pretty much very in tune to my weekly mileage as they see me every morning around 7AM back and forth on my street from their windows/balconies. So you can say I wanted something new to see that wasn't the outside of my house. My friend mentioned a few trails that linked to the AllTrails app/website, I've never heard of the app before as usually when I wanted to explore nature I'd always just google hiking trails near me and see what came up. Guess who'll never be typing that into a google search engine?

This app is the gift that keeps on giving.

I really wonder how I haven't come across this app sooner. Google really failed me and my google searching when searching for hiking trails near me. When you make your account, in the app the homepage shows Top Trails nearby, Best views nearby, Trails less traveled, Dog friendly trails nearby, Weekend worthy, Best waterfalls, Top moderate trails nearby, and Best lakes nearby.

The best part is that there's also a scrolling toggle for you to choose based on suitability for Dogs, kid friend, stroller friendly, Wheelchair Friendly, Paved and Partially Paved. I really loved to see that because that means that families can choose a trail without worrying about edges, strollers won't be a hassle to roll, and Wheelchair users can equally find a trail that they are able to go through to enjoy hiking in nature.

There's also a section to browse by activity - Hiking, Mountain Biking, Trail Running, Backpacking, Walking, Road Biking, Off Road Driving, Camping, Bird Watching, Horseback riding, Nature Trips, Fishing, snowshoeing, Scenic Driving, Rock Climbing, Paddle Sports, Cross Country Skiing, Skiing, Bike Touring, Via Ferrata. Okay yes I sound like an infomercial but I literally couldn't leave anything out - this has been the only app I've been recommending left and right since I've heard of it - this also made me realize how powerful word of mouth was, my friend told me about this app, and then I in turn have told a handful of friends and then it carries on like a domino effect of people recommending the app which wouldn't have happened if I didn't ask my friend if he had any hiking recommendations. ANYWAYS.

One thing I really want to do is learn how to properly ride a horse, I do know how to ride a horse like I won't just tumble off it - yes I know how to ride a horse but I really would love to take lessons and this app was like a golden buzzer to show me where I could potentially live up my equestrian life. And Bike riding! I've been riding a bike since I was a kid, but haven't been riding it as of late. Yes, yes I know - HOW. I guess that would have to be because the bike lane by me is shared by cars so not a specific lane for Bikers so uh hello fear number 23457. But! With a place designated for bike riding, no chance of a car coming in swinging! Just a path and helmet protected bike rider waiting to ride.

I've also never done trail running before per se, more so just hiking. I think the first time I went on an actual hike was a 6th Grade field trip where I had to bear crawl down a steep decline. After reading Born to Run I have to say I am definitely considering going on potential trail runs - even if I do have a fear of like a misstep and my ankle doing that ankle thing randomly and suddenly falling.

Sahara, on road in between road on yellow part
annnnd let's get our explore on - there weren't cars on the road for like 5 minutes so took this and then a car came a minute after so good timing on my end!

A few other sports that I would love to focus on are basically everything on that list because clearly sports make my world go round.

As I have settled into the normal of Working From Home life, spending time outside has shrunk - time for commute back and forth aka time spent outside went poof. Although I personally run and exercise outside my house I feel like I just needed a change of scenery. Obviously the summer was spent indoors without the usual summer fun, which can kind of feel like we're sort of trapped in our homes until Carona decides to pack up and go - well technically speaking, we are.

One creator that I've really been enjoying on Instagram is HelloMissJordan. If you don't follow her, hi you should probably fix that here is her account linked again. She's a travel, fashion, and lifestyle blogger - as COVID has meant a halt on traveling, that's meant she had to get creative and explore where she currently is. Although she hasn't been hopping on planes, she has been putting out amazing content - all exploring the places around her that she hasn't explored before as her priority previously was outside of the U.K not in it. There's everything from castles, lakes, and viaducts near her that she previously hadn't sought out before.

So rather than the travel bug, I guess you can say I got the explore bug.

I want to see more of where I lived. There are so many places I haven't been and that's mainly because I've never sought them out before. I spend majority of my 9-5 staring at a screen so any time spent away from a screen and in nature, you can sign me right up for that. So this is where the AllTrails app/website comes into action. For my first adventure, instead of living up my equestrian life or Mountain Biking, I decided to do one thing I've always done from time to time - hiking. 

Choosing one place out of all the ones I saw was the tricky part - if I could I would be heading out to a place every day after work and through the weekend but realitically speaking wow that sounds like a lot of driving so guess I'll settle for weekend hiking adventures. I ended up choosing a hiking area that led up to a lake and continued on through the trails. There's just something about walking on a trail through trees that really is a spell for calmness and also excitement. Obviously since it was a trail I've never been on I was curious to see how many twists and turns it took to get to the end goal of the lake - and also how many times my ankle did that twisty thing was actually interesting. And by that I mean I was saying a silent prayer that this hike won't twist my ankle and put me out of running.

On the way going, I did pass a few people making their way back to the start and funnily enough my sister and I were asked how far until back to the start. At that point we were maybe 20 minutes in so hearing that meant we had to buckle up for the long ride that was this trail. We finally managed to get to the lake we saw in the photos and I'm not even joking when I say that water was clearer than my skin ever will be. You could quite literally see the sand underneath - it was clear blue like I've never seen before. And there's reason for that - it's a protected lake. That means no motor boat or swimming is allowed which then meant that there's no pollution entering the water which means hi crystal blue water that is shinning bright like a diamond.

crystal clear lake, trees on the side
no filter! can we talk about how clear this looks!!
We were able to touch the water and it was actually pretty lukewarm - and while we were standing looking at the water some people actually had one of those filter things where they could dunk the bottle/bag inside the lake and then when they take it out, the filter cleans the water for people to drink from it. Basically do I need that in my life? Yes, Yes I do. To be fair one thing I want that when I googled found was a bottle that takes moisture from the air and converts that into drinkable water. Now basically the magical lake filter and magical moisuture-to-drinkable-water-filter are on my wants list.

We always speak of hidden gems when traveling to a new country or town, but do we know of the hidden gems of where we live?

I used to think I knew my area inside and out but based on scrolling through this app there's a lot I didn't know- starting with the amount of waterfalls by me. When I clicked through the app I discovered so many beautiful places that I've never heard of before - all about an hour or 2 drive. Some were as low as even a 30 minute drive. I personally just love being in nature in general - so this hike was really what I needed after spending so long inside. 

The best part is just seeing the shift in trees from vibrant green to warm toned leaves, like an ombre effect on the trees while driving to the hiking area. It often feels like the road goes on forever with trees at either side. If anything, exploring nature definitely increases the quality of air I'm breathing - I once went to a greenhouse and I am 90% convinced the air we breathe is a cheap knock off version of actual oxygen.

If there's one thing I felt like doing when I hiked up to a protected lake a few weeks back it's curling up on a log, and reading a book - it was just such a peaceful hike and exciting too because wow! a new place to explore! after several long months of nothing! While hiking avoiding bumping into people wasn't too difficult, for the most part if I saw someone up ahead I'd move out of the trail path to let them pass and we'd exchange hello's as we passed one another.

Sahara at lake - peace sign
ah yes, me in my natural habitat - peace sign at the ready

There's a lot more to discover near me, so I guess you can say I'll just be here in my corner being the Sherlock Holmes of hidden pockets of peace. Or should I say Enola Holmes?

Now I turn it over to you - hidden gems everywhere, do you really know the place you live? Have you heard of the AllTrails App? Planning to download it? Let's get chatting!


Alltrails website:
AllTrails App Store:
AllTrails Google Play:

AND no - I was not paid to promote this app/website, I literally just wanted to share the app because I love it and it's a great way to explore where you live KK THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME

A few months ago, I participated in a RunChat chat on Twitter - if you don't know RunChat is a twitter account that hosts chats on Sunday's and runners come together and chat about all things running - depending on the week there's specific topic. During this one week I participated in, it was all about books. Of the several screenshots I took from the chat to remember all the books, and the ones I've added to my goodreads want to read list, one book stood out to me - Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

Basically everything I know about running is a lie.

I feel like the runner I was before I read this book vs after I read this book are actually two different people. What I liked about this book is that it was a story of the author learning about the Hidden Tribe of super athletes - the Tarahumara - with a lot of history on running that I haven't read about before. So it was a nice balance of wow-new-running-infomation, everything-I-know-is-a-lie, and how-on-earth-will-this-story-end. So in one phrase I'd say I was having a running existential crisis.

Let's talk sneakers.

Now from the dawn of time we have been shown that if you get sneakers with X amount of support you will fly, never feel any sort of pain, will run faster due to how much support/bounce feedback and all that good stuff. And I am here to tell you that that is all a lie. Sneakers are actually the cause of most of our foot and knee injuries.

A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries. - Chapter 25, Born to Run

So now that we're all on the same page of having a running existential crisis, if you skimmed over that quote because wow that's a chunk of text: Your shoes are most likely causing you to be injured more than your actual running is. The book goes on to explain that the reason for this is because we've shielded our foot from their natural running bare-foot position by providing more and more support- when you try to fix something that doesn't need to be fixed, other things break (hi leg related injuries, how are you doing on this fine autumn afternoon).

The more I read the source for our injuries the more I realized my entire viewpoint of running is shaped by these mega corporations that actually aren't a magical fair god parent for my running. In fact, according to a study done in this book,  there is no evidence that running shoes help at all with injury prevention. 

on running - cloudswift sneaker on track, one foot up one down
my running children at the track, good times good times

The best shoes are actually the worst.

The way my head snapped when I read this line in the book you'd think I needed an ice pack for my neck. Let us all have a nice sit down for this running tea:

Runners wearing top-of-the-line-shoes are 123 percent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap running shoes,... Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40... Wearer's of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g. more cushioning, 'pronation correction') are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).- 171-172, Born to Run

So basically for over twice the price, we get over twice the amount of running related injuries. You can imagine the math I was doing in my head for my sneakers I've had since I began running all those years back. What really stumped me was that as much as the latest Nike sneaker is shown as the best in the market, it is the best in the market but not technically the best for the sport.

The more protective cushion - hi hi hi Nike Zoom I'm looking at you - the worse it actually is for you. But then there's me - flat foot human - thinking about my shoes with extra support. I always need more support due to not having a regular arch in my foot like normal people do. And having that extra support definitely does help me bounce back on the ground like I'm on a puffy lil cloud of running heaven - so how does a shoe that I think helps me be bad for me?

The way I think of it is that the additional cushion being added doesn't allow for our natural foot to move the way that it was supposed to. And by stopping my foot from it's natural running movement -  flat foot and all, my foot would run differently barefoot vs living rent free in cushion-y sneakers-  the cushion surrounding it leads to potential long term injuries. It's a barrier from the actual ground my foot should be adjusting to running on.

So feels great in the moment of running but take the adrenaline out of the equation, give it a few months and you may be saying good morning to shin splints or a knee injury. I'd say that it's fair to say that all our running related injuries stem from our shoes are fixing a problem that doesn't exist which then creates a problem that very much exists in the form of knee injuries or even the dreaded shin splints. The more you support an area, the weaker it naturally becomes on its own without the protective cage of cushion.

Running should be Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast.

This is easier said than done. There are some days when you really feel that run. If you're a runner you'll know the type of runs I'm talking about - the ones where you're doing a mathematical equation to see if there's a way to finish your run by skipping miles in between from the start to end. A run being easy doesn't mean slow, it just means an effort that is easy to give and you're not straining to give it. No huffing and puffing, just chilling in the run with the effort that is easy for you to maintain.

I would say all too often we tend to think of we should be running faster like XYZ person, and it's like uh no. You are your own person, run your run at your easy to maintain pace that the run calls for. That's not to say you shouldn't visualize yourself running faster - I definitely do this, visualizing how much faster future me will be because I am putting in the work to get there - but don't live in the comparison of what your 8 effort is compared to an actual Olympic athlete.

Sahara running on trail, trees around path, mask in hand
the most unphotogenic runner in motion is ready for her closeup

The feeling of a run being light is a feeling I didn't know I was chasing for a long time.

When the run doesn't feel like a run and you can just keep going - not caring about the miles and just being in tune with the run- that's the best feeling, and last week, that was me. I was just running my 4.5 mile run and I was just in one word: chilling. Like I was at a easy to maintain pace on that given day, and I just felt like I was in touch with my inner running self - not caring how far I have to go, or how many loops in front of my house I have until I hear the voice telling me I've completed the mile I was running [hi about 6 loops - 12 straight away's in front of my house makes 1 mile], just feeling like I was running for the sake of running not for the sake of a pace to meet.

And that's when smooth sailing enters the chat.

When the run feels easy, when your feet don't feel like you're dragging them to the end of the run and you feel light - that's when you find your rhythm. You are in tune with the ground you're bouncing off of, you are smooth sailing. And once you find your rhythm, the fourth component of a run - FAST - is in the rearview mirror. And you know what they say about rearview mirrors - things in the mirrors are closer than they appear. Once you have Easy, Light, Smooth down, you will be fast.

So once we get to that feeling of being in tune with our running selves, what about what we're fueling ourselves with?

Now let's talk about about Scott Jurek. If you've been under a rock like I have, he is an American Ultra-marathoner. He is a living legend - named one of the greatest runners of all time - he has finished first in nearly ALL of ultrarunning's elite events. Can you just compute that for a second - he has finished first in nearly all races he's raced in! But it wasn't always like that for him, he didn't use to be the fastest runner in high school, he'd be back at the pack, ringing in at last place. As someone who was a mid-pack runner for most of my high school and middle school running I don't know - it's just felt like this was a perfect reminder of no matter when you finish the race, you are still a runner and high school is not the be all end all of the athlete you were meant to be.

Let's get back to food.

During the book, there's a section where runners are stopping under a tree waiting for water. All the other runners pulled out a granola bar or some fast energy goos to fuel. Scott on the other hand took out some pita bread and hummus. The way my middle eastern head snapped at this specific part, I was like hold on did you say pita bread? Hummus? BREAD?

"I like real food," Scott said. "It's just as portable and you get real calories, not just a fast burn." - 191, Born to Run

He didn't always used to be like that though - he used to eat junk food all day every day - lunch for him was two McChickens and large fries. So what changed? Well he did some research on traditional endurance athletes. 

In his research he found more vegetarians than he thought he would - as a Nordic skier and cross-country runner in high school, his coaches always preached about lean meat to rebuild his muscles after a tough workout. In the beginning he wasn't sure why meatless diets were the key to a lot of history's great runners, but decided to do this lil experiment on himself - go vegetarian and see how it changed him and his running. Rather than packing Snickers or PowerBars during his long runs, he instead packed rice burritos, pita stuffed with hummus, Kalamata olives, and home-baked bread smeared with adzuki beans and quinoa spread.

When he sprained his ankle he also didn't take ibuprofen and instead relied on wolfsbane and large portions of garlic and ginger.

The idea that rice and bread together to make rice burritos, and pita bread being such a staple for him in his running life was a bit mind-blowing to me - those are the two foods that for the most part are a no-go zone for runners. Bread is practically preached as avoid, and rice? I'm pretty sure swapping it for quinoa is a norm for most runners/people aiming to make healthier choices.

While going through this transformation a lot of people told him that he'd be weaker and wouldn't recover all that great in between workouts, get stress fractures or anemia. But the thing is they were all wrong - he actually felt a lot better during his runs because he was eating foods with more high-quality nutrients.

By basing his diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, Scott is deriving maximum nutrition from the lowest possible number of calories, so his body isn't forced to carry or process any useless bulk. And because carbohydrates clear the stomach faster than protein, it's easier to jam a lot of workout time into his day, since he doesn't have to sit around waiting for a meatball sub to settle. Vegetables, grains, and legumes contain all the animo acids necessary to build muscle from scratch. Like a Tarahumara runner, he's ready to go any distance, any time. - 192-193, Born to Run

I wouldn't say I eat processed things - I tend for the most part to snack on fruits, and eat vegetables with every meal. But the one thing I've actually avoided for most of my life was bread. I'd avoid it all costs - Pita Bread? Nope, I wouldn't eat it. It was only recently this year after about 8 years of being strict that I actually don't mind eating bread anymore. And here's Scott being a living legend all while eating a bit of Pita Bread on his runs too.

Sahara, in running rain coat with nike cap smiling head tilted away from camera; side profile
I call this the I-think-I-see-my-neighbors-car-moving-rowards-my-general-direction-act-casual / is that a neighbor walking as I'm taking a selfie

Throughout Born to Run I feel like there was a lot of unlearning from my end.

I did speak on diets in my post Counting Calories (spoiler alert: I do not believe in counting calories or dieting at all for that matter) - and I spoke on supplements/powders on how I'd need to do more research as personally I preferred naturally eating the food to be energized. (Not supplements in the sense that you're deficient in XYZ, supplements in the sense of instead of eating XYZ, I'll have this powder!) And, based on this book from Scott Jurek himself, this was the right decision. I don't have any plans to start taking supplements or energy goos - just to fuel myself with real food.

Would I ever try barefoot running?

And back my sneaker existential crisis - I would say I'd love to get to that stage of my running life to go barefoot running/like barefoot running with those specific shoes. But I also can't go cold turkey. My feet have been in running sneakers since the dawn of time, I can't chuck those to the wind and just run barefoot - hi potential injuries.  I'd have to ease myself slowly into barefoot running - the first step for me is to work on my arch that I don't have as a flat footed person. Yes, I am here to tell you what my foot specialist all those years back didn't tell me but this book did: it is possible for flat footed people to do certain exercises to have a normal arch in their foot.

In the book they mentioned Alan Webb, America's greatest miler. But he wasn't born with the so-called magical genes that made him great from the start. In high school he was a flat footed runner with terrible form, but his coach - what a literal golden human being - saw he had potential and worked with him to rebuild him to the runner that we now know as Alan Webb.

"I had injury problems early on, and it became apparent that my biomechanics could cause injury," Webb told me. "So we did foot-strengthening drills and special walks in bare feet." Bit by bit, Webb watched his feet transform before his eyes. "I was size twelve and flat-footed, and now I'm a nine or ten. As the muscles in my feet got stronger, my arch got higher." Because of the barefoot drills, Webb also cut down on his injuries allowing him to handle the kind of heavy training that would lead to his U.S. record for the mile and the fastest 1,500-meter time in the world for the year 2007.- 175, Born to Run

I actually never knew that it was possible to strengthen your feet with barefoot drills to the point of your foot having an arch and as a result going down a few shoe sizes. That was literally just absolutely mind-blowing to read, and is the first step I will be doing in my ~arch journey~ from flat-foot (literally no arch all) to having an arch. I've been taking a look at specific exercises to do and I'm excited to put it to work to see how what I thought was impossible can actually happen.

Sahara, bright orange long sleeve shirt, looking to side; side profile in image
a ongoing saga: is that a neighbor watching me

Now, let's talk about sneakers on more time and one specific thing that mega corporations aren't truthful about.

Sneakers. Now, we've all know the cycle of running so much in one shoe that the support is dwindling thin, you have holes at the bottom of your shoes, you've run 400+ miles in them, so that obviously means it's time for an upgrade right? That's something I've written about in my own How to Avoid Shin Splints post as well. Wrong. Here's the funny thing: the more cushioned the shoe the less protection it provides for your feet.

In the book it discussed a study that was done that reported that as shoes wore down and their cushioning thinned, runners gained more foot control - as the cushioning of the shoe hardened to literal nothing, runner's feet stabilized and became less wobbly. And as I was reading this, it did make sense when it was written out. For example, you know when you get a new shoe and you have to 'break it in' - well why would you have to break it in if it's perfect as is? You breaking it in wears down the cushion of the shoe therefore making it more comfortable for you when there is less cushion.

At McGill University in Montreal, Steven Robbins, M.D., and Edward Waked, Ph.D., performed a series of tests on gymnasts. They found that the thicker the landing mat, the harder the gymnasts stuck their landings. Instinctively, the gymnasts were searching for stability. When they sensed a soft surface underfoot, they slapped down hard to ensure balance.

Runners do the same thing, Robbins and Waked found: just the way your arms automatically fly up when you slip on ice, your legs and feet instinctively come down hard when they sense something squishy underfoot. When you run on cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.

"We conclude that balance and vertical impact are closely related," the McGill docs wrote. "According to our findings, currently available sports shoes... they are too soft and thick, and should be redesigned if they are to protect humans performing sports."- 173-174, Born to Run

So if you're like me and starting to think maybe we should just toss our cushioned shoes into the wind and go cold turkey into low support/bare foot running - I am here to tell you not to do that. Your foot has been in a protected environment for the entire duration that you've been in this sport, you can't just expect your foot to adapt to the ground that it's never felt before.

My plan personally to make my way to bare foot running includes foot exercises and drills to make the arch in my foot bless my flat footed existence, run in my current Cloudswift sneaker for longer than the designated 400+ miles, and slowly transition into lesser cushioned shoes. At the moment I also have the Cloud X for daily wear, so my plan is to transition from the cushion-y Cloudswift to Cloud X, and then from Cloud X to transition to an even flatter running shoe until finally making my way to Vibram Five-Finger's shoes.

A long process I know, but I can't jump from A to Z unless I want to be out of running for like my entire existence.

Sahara smiling at camera; trees behind
would you look at that! I eventually look directly to the camera to smile, love a good head tilt

I want to leave you with this quote:

Know why people run marathons? he told Dr. Bramble. Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science; space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human - which means it's a superpower all humans possess.- 239, Born to Run

There's a lot I didn't discuss from the book - right after the above section they then discuss why so many people hate and some incredible data to support why, if it's possible for a human being to run down an antelope, long distance greats, and most importantly the Tarahumara tribe who never stopped running like it's their bread and butter that makes life click into place.


"The Tarahumara aren't great runners... they're great athletes, and those two things are very different." Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing- moving straight ahead at a steady speed- and repeat that motion until overuse fritzes out the machinery. Athletes are Tarzans. Tarzan swims and wrestles and jumps and swings on vines. He's strong and explosive. You never know what Tarzan will do next, which is why he never gets hurt.

"Your body needs to be shocked to become resilient," Eric explained. Follow the same daily routine, and your musculoskeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with new challenges- leap over a creek, commando-crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are bursting - and scores of nerves and ancillary muscles are suddenly electrified into action. - 211, Born to Run

If you made it this far: THANK YOU and I hope you enjoyed my novella on the literal novel. Have you learned something new? Are you planning to make any running related changes? Let's chat!

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