Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hope Springs

Delusional eternal. Dear readers, I owe you an apology. I prematurely announced the demise of my barefoot/minimalist running life in this very space last week. No sooner had I done that than I caught wind that one of the leading voices in barefoot running, Jason Robillard would be leading a "bareform" running clinic tomorrow, March 1st in the very city of Portland! More exciting news has not been delivered in the past seven days. I made sure my schedule was open and made my plans to attend. I admit to being more than a little giddy at the prospect of getting real instruction and feedback about my running form. Now, I'm not one that's much for gurus or putting all my eggs in one expert's basket. I think that there's lots to learn from your own experiences and knowing yourself and limits. To me, this just adds to my experiences and may just give me some insight into why I've been struggling with barefoot running. Plus, I'll be around other barefoot running types from the area which will be cool.

I'm well past the point of proclamations or even high hopes by now. All through this experience my goal has been to run with as little pain as possible for as long as possible. Apples to apples barefoot wins this contest. I was putting in more miles consistently at the end of summer than I am now (and in less discomfort). Sure, I got injured and that required some changes but I don't think the baby should have gone out with the bathwater. Right now adjusting to running in shoes is killing me. My hips and my shins are murdered right now. I feel like I'm getting burned in any direction I try to go so I may as well exhaust all my options before I completely flame out. Right?

Stay tuned; I'm sure something will click in one direction or the other soon and this annoyance will all be history. Or, i'll have a completely new opinion by Friday...

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Once again, readers, it is time to hit the restart button on something, blow it up and go back to the beginning.
No surprise to most of you, I'm rebooting my approach to running. To recap: Last year I started running again after a long layoff; I decided to do it barefoot because I read it would help reduce my injury rate and risk. It didn't; by year's end I was pretty seriously injured and had to take a two month break from running.

So, now I'm starting over. With regard to shoes/barefoot/minimal weird footwear options i seem to have come full circle.  I have come to the conclusion that shoes, or lack thereof, do not dictate a risk of injury. Human stupidity and stubbornness DO greatly contribute to an increased risk of injury. I'll explain. I was pretty sure that barefoot running wasn't ideal for me sometime in October (before I got hurt) but I stuck with it because I had bought completely into the idea that it was "better for me." I did all the drills, exercises and visualizations to "get it;" I took it slow, like everyone said to. I never improved as a runner. Sure, I could suffer through a 5k but I couldn't walk normally after, regardless of the pace and care I took during the run. But, I kept pushing on because "barefoot is better; I just need to adapt to it (could insert a long rant here, but will save for later date)..." Stubbornness got me hurt. Had I been more flexible about shoes I would not have gotten hurt as I did. FACT. Several times I thought I should throw on shoes for a given run, but didn't, making it worse. 

My foot has improved mightily since I a.) took a break and rested and b.) gave myself permission to try out running shoes for a while. On the runs I've been doing in my comeback, my feet aren't the weak link; my lost fitness is. I hadn't built a ton of a base miles last year due to the slow build philosophy of barefoot running so I wasn't "cardio fit" yet. It didn't take much time off to lose that fitness. So I huff and puff through a mile and a half, while my legs and feet are all "wait?! that's it? let's go longer!" sure; I have aches and pains after a run, but guess what? they're no more debilitating than the stuff I had after my early barefoot runs. I am fully convinced that if I take a slow build approach this time around I will be able to run and stay healthy, longer.

After all, it's the carpenter, not the hammer that builds the house. Knowing how to manage the tools and materials I have is the key to success at this endeavor. No; I don't think barefoot running is bad and I do still think it's a great approach for a lot of people. I took a lot of good from my experience that will help me be a better runner for sure. it just isn't for me. And, this is all about me, right?

Friday, February 17, 2012

it's over

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!?!

I've tried, kids; really, I have. But it's true. The barefoot running thing is over. For me, anyway. It just doesn't make sense for me to keep pushing an issue that I a.) have no confidence in/for and b.) doesn't seem to provide me a benefit over the alternative. 

I know you care sooo much.

Yeah. I've been forging a comeback; I can even run a mile and a half without passing out. WooHoo! It's truly amazing how quick your fitness drops off when you don't have a huge base to carry you through. I'm smack dab in the middle of the crappy part of coming back. The one where it all hurts and feels like I may die at any moment. It's awesome, though, because I can actually get out there and get at it. Go me.

I know, I know, barefoot buffoonery is why you click this blog when it says "new post" or whatever. I just can't bring it, though. I've tried two barefoot runs in my comeback, both of them less than a half-mile. Horrible. No, my barefoot friends, not horrible in the "oh, you just need to re-condition your feet" way. Also not "horrible" in the gleeful way my workout buddy/sadist friend describes the workouts he designs for us. Horrible as in I almost reinjured my foot and I ain't messin' with that crap any more way. 
you tell 'em Sam.

A while back I posted about the way barefoot running requires a slow build up in order to ward off injury risk from the dreaded TMTS (Too Much Too Soon) and how I wondered if I applied the same approach to running in shoes, flippers, lunchboxes, whatever I would see similar benefits. I'm leaning even more towards "yes" in this philosophy, based on my current experience. I've been running in shoes, short distances and building very slowly. I think my body is adapting to what it needs to do in order to function happily in this arrangement. For me (which is all that matters, really) it is going to be the best approach. I want to run more, longer and, eventually, faster. This is how I plan to get that done:

yep. Totally went there.source 

I'll be building slowly and listening to the feedback my body gives me. This is one of the many positive things I learned from my barefoot running experience and it will serve me well as I build back up. I'll also be paying careful attention to my form and how I run. This, I think, is far more important than whatever I have or don't have on my feet. I've got drills and other things that I'll work on too. One thing that I've done that should help is that I've started boxing as a workout. This requires posture and foot movement that really closely mimics the running form I've been working on the past year, so muscle memory will be more easily maintained I think. I'm feeling confident and ready to move on, which is the biggest part of the equation.

pretty well sums it up.