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Shape Up!

March 16, 2010

One of my biggest concerns about embarking on the ten day trip to Israel is that I won’t be able to hack it physically. It’s not an unreasonable fear; I have twelve scars from seven orthopedic surgeries, trouble breathing after any sort of cardio exercise, terrible hay fever, and a general difficulty standing for any length of time. I get winded on a flight of stairs.

So in order to survive the trip I haven’t officially been accepted for, I decided to splurge on a $100 pair of magic shoes.

Skechers Shape Ups ™ are “designed to get you fit while you walk, work, shop, and more. Shape Ups have as much a place in your life as your boots, sandals, and dress casuals, and can retrain your muscles, helping you walk with a positive impact. Used properly, Shape Ups change the way you approach your daily activities. Used regularly, Shape Ups will enhance the way you feel and look; muscles get toned, calories are burned and your posture improves.” Wow. Will they make me a mocha latte too?

I am convinced they are going to change my life. Sure they look a little dorky, the shoe equivalent of the rolling backpack I would never let my mother buy no matter how heavy my backpack was, and they can’t exactly substitute for dress shoes, but it’s not as if I have a lot of fancy dress occasions on my calendar, and I figure any shoe that can help improve my posture (wrecked under the weight of the aforementioned backpack)  is worth a shot.

Wearing the Shoes is a bit like standing on a trampoline, modeling moon boots, or walking on water (Jesus must have been a Skechers fan too.) After an hour or so, I thought I could feel it working in my calf, but wasn’t sure if it was actually happening, or if I was acting like a kid who watches mold grow on a piece of bread for science class (Is that bacteria, or just the multigrain?) It also felt like it was happening primarily on my right side, which led to all sorts of concerns about lopsided legs. Do I tilt to one side? Do I naturally put more weight on my right leg as I walk?  Will continued wear of the Shoes cause one calf muscle swell and tone, while the other one wastes into nothingness?

One thing the Shoes have forced me to do is slow down. I rush through life, completely obsessed with arriving at my destination on time, and not a minute later. Rushing is not an option in the Shoes; it results in stumbling and potential fractures, not to mention looking seriously uncool. Now I saunter at a leisurely pace, taking in the world around me, observing it like a proper writer. Of course, this means it takes me twice as long to get anywhere.

Between my haste and my hyperextension, I have a tendency not to bend my knees much when I walk or stand. I move like an automaton and my butt sticks out – but no more! With the Shoes, I have developed hips. I can actually feel them move as I walk. There’s a little sashay in my step, what a novelty!  I am a taller, more confident person! I walk with my head held high, I see everything from new heights.

But something wasn’t quite right when I started trekking across campus this morning. Sure I was swaying like a fifties fashion model, but it felt like I was putting more strain on my right thigh than usual. Am I doing something wrong? This is the first pair of shoes I’ve owned that actually come with an instruction manual. Have I somehow already broken the cardinal rule of the Shoes? Or will my unique and troublesome physiology, my crooked bones, my flat feet and pronated ankles render me immune to their powers?

No, I say, I will not disappoint the Shoes. It may take some time, but I will slowly readjust the method of walking that has served me for twenty-four years. I will stand taller (quite literally as these things have two-inch rubber soles), and I will bend my knees! I will develop stronger calf muscles and tighten my abs and glutes. I will hike across Israel without an inhaler!

Too bad the Shoes can’t do anything for my arms. Guess the magic only stretches so far.

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