Sunday, 30 September 2012

Barefoot baby steps

Half way round my run on Saturday morning I decided to bite the bullet and take off my shoes.  I ran a short distance - maybe a mile - completely barefoot on a tarmac road.

Funnily enough there was none of the pain and discomfort I was expecting and, in fact, all the cliches about barefoot running came to mind as I looked for a way to describe it...liberating, free, light...

I made myself stop early as all the evidence is that this is something to transition into slowly.  Plus it was 7am in September in England and the road felt pretty cold underfoot.  Given the winter is only a few months away I might have chosen the wrong end of the year to carry out this experiment.  Even so my shoes felt heavy as I started running again.

I was quite keen to share my experiences but decided to wait and see what the effects of this short trial were.  Sure enough this morning I felt some muscles, or rather parts of muscles, were feeling a little more worked than usual.  The lower part of my calfs and the outside of my left foot felt a bit tender - nothing more - this morning. Since I'd spent yesterday afternoon jumping off sand dunes with my daughter I was prepared to put this soreness down to that and forgot about it for the day.

Later on though I went for another, slightly longer, run.  Again I took my shoes off half way round.  Turns out the sand dunes had nothing to do with the soreness.  I could feel that lower half of my Soleus working again as soon as I started off.  

Its a good ache though; an awakening, rather than a sign of damage.  The main thing to come from this was a feeling of having a bit of fun, forgetting about the clock and just enjoying feeling the ground beneath my feet.  I'll be persevering, but slowly, gently.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Barefoot running technique #2

I  thought I ought to elaborate on my previous post.  In trying to get over my normal tendency to over do it and get hurt I have spent quite a while on trying to improve my running form.

As I said before you don't need to take your shoes off to take advantage of "barefoot" running form.  There are three main points to take on board to improve your form:

1. increase your cadence and shorten your stride (cadence = number of step per minute).

2. Mid foot rather than heel strike - basically the front/middle of your foot should hit the ground before your heel rather than after.

3. Stop over-striding.  If your foot is landing on the ground in front of your hips then you are over-striding.

The good news is that if you take care of point 1 then the other two sort of fall into place.

Cadence should be somewhere close to 180 steps per minute (or 90 per foot).  If you were into hardcore techno in the 90's then you are in luck since your average hardcore mixtape will give you exactly the tempo you need - otherwise download a metronome app and work on speeding up your cadence.

Let your feet land fairly flat so that your heel is the last part to hit the ground and the first part to lift off.  The whole foot starts to acts as a spring, rather than the heel bashing into the ground with every step.

Finally concentrate on ensuring your feet hit the round below your hips.  Don't stretch out.  If, looking ahead of you as you run, you can see your feet and lower legs in your periphery, you are over striding.

Again, if you can achieve point 1 the other two fall into place.  If you find this is all new and unusual then take it steady; try a few hundred yards of this in your next run and take it from there.  Don't over do it.  That's my job!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Barefoot running technique

You don't need to take your shoes off to take advantage of barefoot running techniques.  I've been working on a shorter stride, faster cadence (number of steps) and mid foot (rather than heel) strike for a little while now.

Apart from a few runs on the beach I've not taken the plunge and gone barefoot though.  I'm thinking about giving it a go though, just once a week maybe to see how I get on.

I'll post up my experiences as I go.

In the mean time , in case you are the only person not to have read Born to Run yet (you should, its a great read - even if you have NO interest in running - seriously) here is a link to Prof Daniel Lieberman talking about barefoot.  Its not new, but it is pretty cool so if you haven't seen it yet I reckon you should take a look:

Click here for the vid

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Plan your run, run your plan

When I used to dive, this was the mantra: Plan your dive, dive your plan.  The point is, don't get down to 35 metres and decide to spend another 5 minutes just because you saw a big fish and then run out of air on the way back up.

In running there isn't the same risk factor, since you can always just stop if the worse comes to the worse.

Still, its good to have plan and stick to it.  When a race starts and everyone crowds across the line it can be very easy to go off a bit quick.  There's a considerable temptation to try and keep up with those people that keep streaming past.

The sole good reason for owning a Garmin is the ability to keep an eye on your pace.  That guy just in front of you is as open to temptation as you are.  

Friday, 14 September 2012

I'm a crap runner with no credentials.  My blog will never be read by anyone.  In case you've stumbled across it though looking for information on running here are a few much better ones to help you progress along the road:

The uphill struggle

I'm 40.  I started running at 36.  It wasn't fun.  It wasn't rewarding.  I like to climb rocks and wanted to improve and running was a means to an end.  To get fitter.  To endure 20 -30 minutes of pain.  Because if I could do that while running along the pavement I could cope with that feeling halfway up a rock face.

In 2007 I broke my heel pretty badly in a climbing accident.  Running came after this and partly due to the extremely negative prognosis I was given by medical staff in hospital I wanted to do more than I had beforehand.  Become a better climber.  Run rather than walk with a limp as I had been told to expect.

In the beginning I could just about manage two very painful miles.  Four miles seemed impossible.  Slowly though something began to happen.  I improved.  I ran further.  It still hurt.  

At some point though I started to find I was enjoying myself.  I was somehow becoming "a runner".  Worse still, the more I ran the further I wanted to go.  Six miles, then ten, then thirteen.  

I'm still improving, getting faster, getting fitter, running further.  I no longer think "I can't", instead "I know I can - provided I make the effort".  That's what it comes down to.  there is no limit to how far anyone can run.  It's just down to whether you can be bothered to make the effort to do so.

There is a lot of information out there on how to get into running.  I'll be trying to bring some of that info together here over the next few weeks and months.  

Kind of middle aged, average runner shares his experiences with the world.  Of course probably no-one is reading this but it keeps me off the streets.