Aha! Self Discovery Moment
Someone wrote on the Running Barefoot discussion board something about how hard it is to run downhill without getting foot problems. I replied with this:
Running downhill requires much less 'lean' than running on flat surfaces or uphill. Think less of leaning forward and more of placing your feet beneath your body with even quicker steps. If you "run in place" on a downhill slope, you will automatically move forward. If you wanted to stay in one place, you'd almost have to think about running 'backwards'. If you are extending your feet out in front of you thinking you need to 'brake', then you ARE creating extra friction on your soles. Keep those feet beneath you. Slow down by taking shorter steps and quicker sequences.
Calf cramping may be due to using a greater range of motion in those muscles and tendons. This can be compounded if you are still pushing off. For myself, I found that when I allowed myself to reach my foot too far forward with each stride, I tended to push off with the trailing foot to give me more 'air time' so I could have time to get my foot 'up there'. This led to the old running sequence of pushing off, leaping forward, and harsh slapping or pounding the ground with my forward foot. I still fight that tendency!
Now, I think about simply picking up my foot by lifting my heel towards my butt and putting my foot down directly beneath my body. Quicker sequence. Smaller steps. Forward progress is achieved by leaning from the ankles.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I just realized something else I'm doing wrong!
(ALERT! Self discovery moment here!)
If I am afraid of stepping on gravel, sticks or glass I tend to carefully watch the surface where I will put each foot. Its like I am 'aiming' for clear spots. But in order to 'aim' I need to see where my foot is going to land. Its best to run with my head up instead of crooning forward from my neck or my waist, so in order to watch my foot actually landing I have to reach my foot a little forward so its in my field of vision. Then I'm no longer running with good form - my feet are no longer being placed directly under my body, and I suffer for it.
My best runs have been when I've abandoned my fear of stepping on things, stopped looking directly at my feet and kept my feet directly under my body. I am then concentrating on *lifting* my feet instead of *placing* my feet. I still generally watch where I am going, but my visual focus is not on that spot 18 inches or even 12 inches in front of my foot. Its more like 10 to 20 feet out (3 - 5 meters). In fact, I cannot even see my feet landing when they are properly directly beneath my body!
Whew! Who knew that running would be so much mental as it is physical?
HINT: To help me get over the fear of stepping on things and the fear of pain while running, I use a technique called "EFT" - Emotional Freedom Technique. Learn about it for free here: www.emofree.com
Truly break-through information and help!!