Today I enter into the public eye as a blogger. I don't know where this will lead to and I'm not sure why I am starting this adventure. I hope some good will come of it! Some things I hope to share on here as I get going: Barefoot running, growbox gardening, spiritual enlightenments, emotional freedom techniques, personal history, observations and thoughts, and anything else that suits my fancy!
Today I feel like explaining how and why I became a barefoot runner!
B A R E F O O T - R U N N I N G
Preview: In August, 2004 I had been struggling with a foot condition called plantar faciitis for about one year prior to that. I tried all kinds of things to get better, but only got worse. My running hobby was quickly being reduced to negligible running distances followed by days of excruciating pain. I started searching the internet for ways to deal with this and came across the concept of running barefoot.
Discovery and Education: Crazy! I thought, but also fascinating. I looked into it some more, read about it on a website found at http://www.runningbarefoot.org. There I learned about Ken Bob Saxton who had already run several marathons completely barefoot! Hmm... Maybe not so crazy after all. Not only Ken, but others mentioned on his website were also running barefoot. Impressive! Performance proves a point well. I discovered Ken Bob's discussion group created on Yahoo Groups dedicated to barefoot running, and joined it and got lots of helpful insights from others, both experienced and beginners. http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/RunningBarefoot/
The Experiment: So I ventured out with some barefoot walks up and down my block. Not bad, no exacerbating of my foot pains, so I started doing some very light runs without shoes. Surprisingly, still no exacerbation! So I started increasing my performance, overcoming the social feeling of being stared at a lot, and gradually started increasing my distances. This was in August, 2004.
Barefoot Technique: Running barefoot is not so easy as kicking off the shoes and going running. It requires a very different form for running, using the balls of the feet and a different leg movement and different body pose than what I had been used to doing with shoes on. The easiest way I can think of demonstrating the proper form is to suggest that you try running in place, barefoot, without rising up on your toes with your ankle power and keep your knees bent a little bit. This means lifting your knee, ankle and foot as one unit - not "springing" up into the air with a toe-push lift-off. You will find that by running in place, you have to land on the balls of your feet - you physically cannot land on your heels! This is the same as running barefoot, except you need to lean forwards with your body to gain forward momentum. Knees stay bent, forefoot landing, only stepping beneath the center of your body, taking quick steps (180 per minute).
Development and Improvement: I continued to run into the winter, suffering from a few blisters, some cramped calf muscles at first, some more blisters, and gradually got better and better. I continued to run barefoot throughout the winter, despite the cold weather. I discovered something very interesting during this period. By running in the cold, my body seemed to compensate by warming itself up the rest of the time. I was able to exist very comfortably without a coat while outside and in our house with our thermostat set only about 60 to 65 degrees F (15-18C). Its as if my feet were my body's thermostat, and directed the rest of my body to warm up.
Set-Back and Injury: Into the Spring, I was still running barefoot, but my distances were still very limited. Sore soles of my feet plagued me a lot. I decided to try ramping up my distances, to train my body to move up to the next level. This is when I discovered that my running form was still not very good. I developed a stress fracture in my left foot. 10 weeks out for recovery, and slowly getting back into it again. I thought about why this had happened, and decided that I was still inclined to run in my old fashion, and had been forcing my feet to come down on the balls while extending my feet too far out in front of my body.
Learning All Over: So, after healing, I started out almost from scratch again. I focused intently on not reaching out in front with my legs, just lifting my feet up and putting them down directly beneath my body. I focused on keeping my knees bent all the time, which automatically brought me up onto the balls of my feet. I focused on keeping my foot cadence quick and light. I started to repeat "AM-ster-dam, AM-ster-dam" while running to keep myself at the proper 180 per minute pace. All of these things combined worked a miracle. My running immediately started to feel a lot better. I also noticed that the skin on my feet was not taking nearly the beating it had been previously. Much less wear and tear. My running became dramatically more comfortable, my distances started improving, and I was having a lot more fun.
Current: Currently, I am working on my form (still and always), typically going about 4 to 6 miles per run, sometimes more. The significant thing is that I am able to now run on consecutive days! Before I had to rest and recuperate for 2 or 3 days between runs. By improving my form, I can now run every day, depending on my time constraints. I tested this out about one month ago, when I ran 6 miles on Monday, had to skip Tuesday, 6 miles on Wednesday, 9 miles on Thursday, and 12 miles on Friday! I still get some soreness on the soles of my feet if I run on really rough surfaces, like chip seal (ouch!!) but that is where I get to test the qualify of my running form. I don't get blisters any more, or blood blisters either. Now I am concentrating on getting my body in better conditioning, losing some flab, and still working on improving my form. Old running habits are hard to break!
Well, time to go out for a run! Maybe I'll see you out there somewhere. I'm the guy with no shoes on and a big smile on his face!