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#Portland, #Oregon: Civil Disturbance Fitness 101

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a medically induced coma for the past 50 some-odd days you have probably seen Portland, Oregon turning into a warzone occupied by a hostile military force. News media around the world is showing clips of barricades being built and fires being set in their nightly news. A fast-paced, nonstop chaotic action against the state. And it’s not really like that.

Originally published by Defend PDX.

What doesn’t make the nightly news is how brutal protesting alone is. Now, I’m not talking about getting hit with rubber bullets- that a different kind of brutal. I’m talking about the kind of brutal that being chased by armed soldiers for several city blocks, trying to juke snatch vans into the wee hours of the morning, and marching for hours kind of brutal. The fear and magnitude of physical exertion have a synergistic effect.

But if you take away the time standing around waiting and the politics of the situation and look as it how your calf and glute muscles see it; you realize this is an endurance sport. Your heels and toes don’t know jack shit about police brutality or Marx or BLM.  They just know when it’s time to run we gotta go fast and far. And the perspective of our physical bodies is one we should listen to but don’t do so often. Through this lens, we can examine the tools that endurance athletes (marathon runners, distance cyclists, triathletes, and so on) use to maximize their performance and recovery to make ourselves more potent in the streets.

We can start by sorting out the best things to do before the cops chase you. Going 0-100 immediately will make you burn out faster and affect how you perform as the protest goes on. Whether you’re at home or in Chapman Square, warming up will make sure you’re limber and ready when it gets to be time to go. A brisk walk (a great opportunity to do some scouting with friends), or some light bodyweight workouts or yoga will get the blood flowing. This is also a good time to pack in some calories you will be needing for later. This is the best part to hit up riot ribs or the snack van. Fill yourself up (but not too much) with carbs. You could consume some of the gels or cubes marketed towards cyclists- but those are better for later. Eat whole foods while you can, and hydrate well. Not just with water but ideally something with electrolytes. Watered down Gatorade is a personal favorite.

Also very important is good shoes. Not only do you need something you can kick a tear gas canister in, but it needs to be easily runnable.  If your toes are being pinched of your heel is getting blistered you will not be as effective. Same if your boots are heavy and stiff. Pick footwear that works for your role. If you’re a front liner, combat boots (well broken in) are great; if you do more scouting work then a pair of running shoes will probably suit you best. Most important is to make sure you can stand comfortably for 6+ hours. Gel inserts are also very helpful, as are taking time to sit down and rest your feet.

So, later on, when the teargas begins to pour like champagne at a bougie dinner party. You’ve got your gas mask and body armor on and you’re ready to go as a line of hostile invading forces starts pulling out their batons. This is usually the part where its time to move fast and for a long time. Hold the line wherever possible obviously, but sometimes it’s the best practice to leave for a moment. In that liminal space between the calm and escalation, visualize yourself getting away safely. It’s corny and cheesy but it’s corny and cheesy for a reason. Imagine yourself turning a corner to safety or juking approaching soldiers and getting away. But don’t spend too much time, or you won’t be able to manifest it.

As you’re running, try to keep your fuel tank full. This is the part where the aforementioned carb gels for cyclists come into play. Yes, they are kinda gross, but if it works for 100-mile bike rides it will work for a 10 block sprint.  They are also super coinventing to eat while on the move. Your body is gonna start burning glucose and if it has enough to burn it’s easier to keep going. Keep a water bottle handy and re-hydrate when you get to slow down.

Pay as much attention as you can to your cadence and how your feet hit the ground. Running with a ball of your feet strike is considered the natural way to run because that’s how humans naturally ran barefoot. Every time your foot hits the ground a force of about  2.5 times your body weight is transmitted through your body and into the pavement. Landing on the forefoot allows the foot and ankle to act like springs to absorb the impact of hitting the ground to keep your feet from tiring out. It would be prudent to practice this before you really need it because you don’t want to be thinking too much about your feet when there’s a fed on your tail. Keeping a good and consistent cadence is also good if you’ve already made a distance between yourself and the threat and want to keep doing that. Giant bounding leaps will wear you out faster than a smaller stride. Try to keep your breathing under control too.

Hopefully, the chase is over and the cops retreat after all that running. Running sucks, but it sucks more when you have to wear full military-grade riot gear and carry firearms. Go back to the Justice Center, and hold space for a while. Then you got to rest because as the chant goes: We Do This Every night. For endurance athletes, this is the most important part of the sport; as it determines how soon you can go back for more. And like I said, our muscles are stupid compared to us.

Treat any injuries of course, and get to taking care of your body, especially if you weren’t running 10-12 miles a day regularly before this started.  RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is a good rule of thumb, particularly if you’ve hurt yourself by overstraining or pulling a muscle. Wrap your feet and/or legs in some athletic bandages (K-tape also feels great, but is more expensive), throw some frozen peas on those puppies, and kick back with your feet up. While you’re kicking back eat well again. Protein, carbs, fats; and make sure to get plenty of magnesium and potassium and so on.

Hot or cold baths and showers will also help your body recover. I prefer a cold shower at first to help cool down and reduce inflammation before turning the temperature up enough to soothe any achy parts. Epsom salt soak or compresses are also highly recommended. Once you’ve cleaned off the tear gas and had a soothing shower or bath comes massage. This can be done with partners or using self-massage tools like foam rollers or those massage sticks or even a tennis ball (or if you are lucky enough, there are comrades who are trained Licensed Massage Therapists who are offering up their skills). Take some time while you’re getting massaged to take calming breaths, and pay extra attention to the most tired parts of your body.

And just like it’s important to not go from 0-100, it’s not good to go to 100-0. On your off days go for a walk around your neighborhood, do some pushups, take a quick bike ride to the corner store. Don’t strain yourself, but if you keep moving it will keep your momentum and help you condition yourself to be able to hit the streets more often.

The most important step in being able to stay together and stay tight every night is to get good sleep. If you only do one thing suggested here it should be sleep. That’s when your body heals. Even if you can’t sleep just laying down and resting beats forcing yourself to stay awake and active. Sleep deprivation is not only bad for your physical body, but its even worse for your mind. You are less effective In a fatigue fugue state than when you are well rested.

In short, take care of your body and it will take care of you No matter what your body looks like, it’s yours and should be loved and cherished because it is a part of you. It’s gonna be the body that leads you through the revolution.

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