Meet HenryWritten by Kathy Bogatek Zapanta I am introducing a new topic to my blog, one which I am planning on expanding as I travel. However, an opportunity arose to start now. This topic is called *Electric* People and it is dedicated to people I meet that inspire me and compel me to share their story here. I am drawn to people with positive energy that live and think outside the box - and I was lucky to meet such a person at my local running store in Mississauga. It was a dreary, cold, windy and rainy evening in early March and I was loitering around at a running store waiting for friends to come in from their group runs to hang out after. I saw runner after runner come in looking like they had just run in depressing weather and were happy for it to be over. When in comes Henry - wearing a lightweight technical shirt, shorts, flip-flop sandals and a smile. Yes, flip-flop sandals AND a smile. I was immediately compelled to talk to him and asked a friend to introduce us. We didn't have much time to talk and didn't have a chance to exchange information but I was inspired to at least try to meet with him and see if he would share his story. Being the creeper I am sometimes, not everyone is always willing to share but I was able to pass on my information through the store and Henry contacted me. We made plans to meet and so my husband and I met him after his long run at a cafe on Sunday afternoon. Henry had just run 28km and I was expecting us to talk for a short time so he could rest after but that was not the case. We sat and talked for almost 3 hours after which Henry went to work a 10 hour shift loading and unloading boxes. Yes, you read that right. He was relaxed, jovial and shared his running experiences with us - we also talked about nutrition, minimalist living and had more than a few laughs. So, meet Henry Puzon.He has been a runner for 27 years, 7 of which he has run barefoot or in sandals. He loves running and has always been an enthusiast of knowledge so he came across Chi Running and was instantly intrigued to try it for himself. Thus began his experiments with different minimalist footwear - he laughed that he went to his local market store and picked up a stack of sandals (about $1.50 each) while receiving weird stares from the cashiers. He tried sandals until he found ones he liked, and then stuck with them. He buys about 5 pairs of sandals a year (at a $1.50 a pop his running shoe expenses are at about $7.50 a year) and he now looks back at his previous joy of buying a new pair of running shoes and can't fathom it - not that buying a new pair of shoes isn't fun but he reminisces that he once bought a brand new pair of shoes for a marathon, only to remove them during the race and run in his $1.50 sandals for the rest of the race. When he initially began running in sandals and barefoot, he had some minor heel pain but that went away quickly. He noticed his calves and hamstrings really grew and his resting pulse rate dropped from 54 to 48 and now hovers at a low 42/min. For Henry, running is not just a sport, but part of a lifestyle. When he began to experiment with barefoot running, he was clocking about 100km per week. For two years now, he runs about 10km everyday to and from work and enjoys long runs on his time off during the weekends. When I write long run, I mean LONG - he would run from about 4am until 2pm, which would be about 70km only to get up the next day, and begin his run commute to work - pain free. He would do these long runs a few times a month. Henry said that one thing which really surprised him when he began to be comfortable running barefoot, was that fatigue became almost nonexistent. He no longer had muscle soreness after a long run the next day as his recovery was almost immediate when he made the switch from shoes to barefoot. He is now doing hill repeats everyday for more than an hour, in sandals, to improve his cardio, speed and form. When it's very cold, he will layer with 2-3 pairs of socks but he says his feet warm up quickly and he will remove the layers. His feet get so warm now though that he ran a 10 miler race in Hamilton this past Boxing Day and ran barefoot. Aside from his run commute to work, Henry says that his lifestyle is centered around being active and healthy. He tries to live a minimalist lifestyle from sleeping on the floor to eating "like a poor man." He eats when his body is hungry, sometimes only eating a few tablespoons of food but as often as every half an hour throughout the day. He says he sticks to whole foods and tries to stay away from anything refined or processed as he sees the difference it makes - especially as a runner. For carb loads, he sticks to brown rice otherwise sticking to proteins and natural fats. The three of us -especially Romeo- had a laugh over their love of peanut butter as Henry loves to eat it just with a spoon out of the jar or with a banana. Henry reminisced about always being active as a child but he remembers the day he first started running - it sparked something and it has stayed with him. Since starting barefoot running, he feels even more reconnected with his love affair with running. He says he "depends on running to feel good." When it comes to work, Henry says he has always worked in active environments where, for example, he loads and unloads boxes and he laughs that work is like his "gym." Henry currently has a weekend part time job along with his regular weekday job. There were times, he said, that he would work a 12 hour night shift from 7pm until 7am on a Saturday, lifting and moving boxes all night, after which he would show up at 8:30am right after to run with his running group or do a Sunday road race. Or during the week, he works his regular shift from 7am until 3:30pm, then he would do hill repeats until 5pm, then head to his part time job for 3 to 4 hours of loading and unloading boxes. He calls this his upper body and core training workout. After days like this he would go home, "hit the floor" in a deep sleep and wake up fully recovered and ready to run commute to work. And running is his vacation. He doesn't need to travel to relax, all he has to do is grab his sandals and go. He describes running as something almost romantic - quoting Ann Trason from Born To Run. He says that when he eases into his run, and gets that feeling that he could run forever, then he feels relaxed and at peace with himself and his environment. He says that he loves it when he sees a smooth road and those painted lines. "I take off my sandals and just fly. Feels like I'm floating loaded with endorphins." Meeting Henry has been an inspiring experience. It has re-awakened my love of running yet again. It's people like Henry that always inspire me to continue, learn about my body and feed my mind with knowledge and challenge. I hope his story will awaken something within you as well. I believe everyone has a passion for something, or many things, and it is this that drives us to be better and happier. Thank you Henry for sharing your story! It's been a pleasure - I know you will continue to inspire and intrigue those around you. From Kathy Bogatek Zapanta's blog, ElecticLizard Queen: http://www.electriclizardqueen.com/2012/03/meet-henry.html Thank you for sharing, Kathy and Henry!