Going to sell in Oakville always gets me into trouble; I inevitably have to check out the stores on the main street. In one shoe shop window there was a display of MBT (Maasai Barefoot Technology) sandals that completely drew me in. I'd been thinking about getting a pair of these Swiss shoes for some time (a colleague of mine swears by them), because I'm so undisciplined about going to the gym; walking is really the only form of exercise I thoroughly enjoy. These MBTs promise that I'll burn three times as many calories while walking, will reduce wear on my knees, work unused leg, stomach, and buttock muscles, improve my posture and help reduce back pain (something book reps are always worried about - do you know what a full set of fall catalogues weighs? Now lug about 20 sets of them into a group presentation). They are certainly the only pair of shoes I've ever bought that comes with an instructional DVD. The basic idea is that you walk on an inner pivot that mimics walking in sand. The one thing I've had to get used to is walking with my head up straight and looking into the distance instead of at the ground (for the maximum benefit). This reminds me of my favourite bit of advice in Mireille Guiliano's bestselling lifestyle book, French Women Don't Get Fat. I'm paraphrasing, but in her section on posture, she tells you to pretend that you are in a crowded Paris train station looking for your lover in the fog. It's a great diet book - you can eat bread.
So trying to look Parisian-chic-with-a-touch-of-stately-Maasai-warrior in my baggy workout clothes, I went this morning for a one hour powerwalk. The shoes are immensely comfortable on the soles and are very quick to get used to. I got back feeling quite smug and fit, took a shower and settled on the couch with a book. And then it hit. When I got up, my butt was sooooo sore! But obviously the shoes work and it's an exercise regime I can certainly commit to. I'm determined to walk regularly in them all summer and try to lose ten pounds. Stay tuned.
If you are interested in the Maasai (yes, I really can turn any topic into a book recommendation -it's the old bookseller in me) you can turn to a recent biography of Denys Finch Hatton (the adventurer played by Robert Redford in the movie Out of Africa). Too Close to the Sun by Sara Wheeler traces his experiences in East Africa during the early part of the twentieth century, describes how the First World War was fought there, details Finch Hatton's affairs with the writer Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen and the aviatrix Beryl Markham, and looks at how the area and its inhabitants' way of life (including the Maasai) were destroyed by the encroaching Europeans.