Focus on the process, not the outcome.

Every runner with an ounce of competitiveness in their blood needs a goal. It is necessary in order to challenge personal improvement and accomplishing goals is part of what makes running great.

Achieving goals is the prize at the end of a training block and represent the reward for the effort, discipline and commitment. Achieving your goals can be your motivation to get out the door and run, the dream of personal best times or race distances completed. 

Goals are an outcome and every outcome requires a process of multiple steps to be repeated over and over to reach the goal. This process allows a runner to get themselves on the start line in the physical and mental shape to perform towards their expected goal.

Focusing purely on the outcome above the process is not a sustainable way to train. A focus on the process of completing your training plan day in day out over time is a more pragmatic approach. It allows the runner to focus each day on what is required, build consistency and manage their daily efforts and commitment. These are the simple and deliberate efforts you can control and if you take joy in the process the outcome will likely take care of itself.

Running is a simple pursuit where regular effort over time almost always produces results. There are usually no short cuts and no way to fast track improvement. Therefore you need to love the process of running and training in a way that promotes improvement. By utilising a smart training plan that builds miles over weeks and has you consistently doing runs that will build your aerobic fitness you’ll reach success and achieve your goals. 

Here, we recommend a simple philosophy of three key runs repeated to achieve success. This process is simple and certainly not using any ground breaking training methods. It’s also not flashy nor always exciting, but it’s a philosophy that repeated over time will produce results.

Goals this way!

A focus on the process will help you enjoy running for its pureness and simplicity. If you love the process you’ll love the sheer joy of running. Running is rarely about the atmosphere at events and the joy of the finish line, personal best performance or the medal around your neck. 

Running is about the dark, cold mornings when you need to get your session done. It’s the commitment of putting in runs, sometimes when you don’t want to. When you understand and focus on the process, you do it whether you want to or not. Because you understand that each goal is achieved by repeatedly getting out of your comfort zone and getting the training done. These are the moments that make you a resilient runner that is prepared to give their best when the race gets hard. 

Runners that understand the process are patient and committed to long term improvement. They are ready to put in the work and understand the value of the training. 

If you focus on the process the outcomes will take care of themselves. You will enjoy your running, you’ll become a better runner and you’ll likely achieve the goals you set for yourself.

How to improve your running on low mileage

To succeed as a long distance runner developing endurance will give you the greatest gains. The easiest way to develop endurance is to increase your aerobic mileage, in simple terms the more you run the better you’ll become as a runner.

What do you do if you can’t increase your mileage? We all have challenges that compete with us for time to be out the door running. Whether that be your career, family, other interests or sleep. So what do you do if you can only commit to low mileage and want to improve as a runner.

As Hal Higdon’s recent tweet suggests, ‘endurance is a skill that responds to intelligent training.’ Certainly increasing the volume you are running is the most proven way to increase endurance there are other ways.

A low mileage running focus requires that each and every run has a purpose. If time is your enemy to higher mileage then making the most of all of your time is vital. Each run must compliment the other runs and also assist you in achieving your goals.

In these pages we normally recommend a training strategy that encompasses training that builds strength, speed and endurance. On a low mileage philosophy endurance takes a higher priority. Whilst strength and speed is important, it is endurance which is going to get you to the finish line.

When using a low mileage training plan utilise time instead of counting miles or kilometres. The time you spend running is valuable, counting kilometres can often lead to runners overtraining on specific runs and trying to push runs faster to increase kilometres. Incidental increases in mileage aren’t nearly as important as running each run with a purpose.

Spend your time building endurance. In the very least this means running a regular aerobic long run. This does not have to be super long but needs to be sufficiently longer in time then your other runs. Again there isn’t any additional benefit to running these runs harder in the attempt to cover more distance. The benefit will come from regularly training the aerobic system.

Hills are the best running session to build strength. However they can also be beneficial in building endurance in addition to strength. By running your long runs and other aerobic runs over undulating terrain you will build both the aerobic system and build strength. When you are utilising a low mileage training plan making the most of each run is vital.

With limited time you may have to prioritise when you aim to build strength and speed. While you may not use regular shorter hill repeat sessions as often, they should still be in your plan. This is also true for interval sessions designed to build speed. You may run these on alternative weeks.

Planning your weeks is important if time is against you. Make sure you can schedule your time you can run and plan your runs in advance around when you are able to run. Having a plan of when you can commit your time helps with motivation and keeps you accountable to your training plan. If you can only run four days a week plan out which run fits best into the four days. When you have the most time plan your long run, when you have your least time plan your harder hill repeat or intervals so you can get the most out of the time you have.

Another aspect of training that shouldn’t be ignored is recovery. Even with low mileage recovery is important. Easy runs should still form part of your training plan as they allow the body to recover quicker from your harder training. Easy runs also ensure your hard sessions don’t follow each other and you have adequate time to recovery from hard sessions and long runs

For recreational runners that still want to get the best out of themselves there is still a way to succeed on low mileage. You will need to be patient and consistent with your efforts. However, if you are motivated to succeed, plan your training and commit to the process running on low mileage can be a successful strategy.

Skinners Sockshoes – Review

Skinners are a revolutionary minimal sockshoe. They are described by Skinners as a ‘The ultimate pocket footwear designed for all your adventures, travel and sports. Minimal. High-tech. Anti-Odour. Durable. Awesome.” Backing up this claim Skinners won a Red Dot design award in 2017 and their crowd funding campaign through Kickstarter raised over US $650 000 with an initial goal of just US $10 000. It was an impressive beginning for this fledgling brand.

Skinners list the uses as fitness, yoga, camping, hiking, running, office, roller blading or simply anywhere. They are designed as a minimal all-purpose footwear alternative. This review is aimed at Skinners purely from a running perspective.

Since they became popular in the minimal scene I have been very interested to use and try Skinners. They are an intriguing product and can’t be described as a shoe and offer more protection than simply a sock. 

Prior to trying this product I had reservations on a couple of points. 

  1. Longevity – How could these ‘socks’ withstand constant running on hard surfaces and the ‘sole’ remain intact?
  2. Structure – As a sock becomes worn they stretch, would Skinners stretch and lose structure and comfort?

I wanted to make sure I gave them a good test, running over many different surfaces and test them out as a pure running footwear alternative.

To look at Skinners are simply a sock with a rubbery granular coating over the sole of the sock. The sole is thicker than I had expected. On first wearing they are exactly like a sock and the sole coating offers no rigid structure at all. For this reason the running experience in Skinners is quite different.

Without any rigid structure under the foot the foot can feel everything under foot. The running experience with Skinners is very similar to completely barefoot running, however the protection offered, however minimal does provide enough protection. Running in Skinners is very successfully over almost all terrain.

I tested Skinners over road, trails both hard packed dirt and rocky single trail and also on the beach and both soft and hard sand. Over all surfaces the Skinners were acceptable, over rocky trails they didn’t quite give enough protection for the runner who isn’t already running regularly completely barefoot on rough terrain.

One of my favourite quotes regarding barefoot running is from ‘Born to Run’ author Chris McDougall who says ‘The more minimal you are the more aware you are.” Skinners certainly fit into this category and give you the awareness of everything under foot. Most of the time this is a good thing as it gives you feel of the ground and a very natural barefoot running feel.

  • Longevity

After running in Skinners regularly over the past 6 weeks the longevity is certainly adequate. I have run so far just over 100km in them and given them a thorough test. As I expected in a short period of time the rubbery granular sole started to come off the sole directly on the foot impact points. This doesn’t pose any problem as it is natural wear of the sole and happens to all running footwear. The rubber sole of a shoe takes longer to wear, however is much more rigid. The sole coming away doesn’t deteriorate further with more running and for the 100km I’ve run has maintained similar wear to even after 2-3 runs.

Only very recently has the sole started to crack in one position directly under the ball of my foot, but only on one of the Skinners. From my experience I believe the Skinners will continue to wear with more miles run in them but overall the longevity expected is similar to most traditional running shoes.

However, if you are buying Skinners as your primary running footwear and want 1000km+ from them you may be disappointed. Overall I believe Skinners will offer fairly good longevity and value for money.

Skinners wearing after approx 100km of running
  • Structure

My other reservation was whether Skinners would lose structure and stretch like socks tend to do after a longer period of time. I was very impressed that they have not altered in structure at all in the time of run with them.

One of the few negatives I have found is after a few runs they can become smelly and require washing. They can easily be machine washed, which I have done 3-4 times following the care instructions. This has also not contributed to them losing any structure and this reservation was completely unfounded.

Skinners are quite a thick sock which may be another reason why they hold their structure so well. However, running in Skinners late in the Australian summer the feet quickly become quite hot. They are much better suited to mild or cool weather, which certainly make sense as a barefoot running alternative. Stay barefoot in summer and wear the sock shoes in winter perhaps.

Who should use Skinners?

From a pure running point of view Skinners are not for every runner. If you have not transitioned to run in minimal shoes or barefoot they are probably not for you. Yet.

If you have run for a period of time without injuries barefoot or in minimal shoes these are for you. They are perfect for the runner who believes in running barefoot but wants the protection from the elements of having something between you and the ground. They give a very natural barefoot experience and are excellent for this type of runner.

If you have run in minimal shoes and transitioned to zero drop running then these could be a great footwear to add to your arsenal. They may not be your go to primary running footwear but they are a great asset to have to add variety to your footwear options.

If you run in traditional shoes and haven’t transitioned to any barefoot or minimal style footwear Skinners could be your ticket to initiate change. They will give you a perfect introduction to barefoot running and may kick start your barefoot running journey.

Overall

Skinners are a pure barefoot running footwear option that gives the runner enough protection from harsh surfaces without inhibiting the feet’s movement. They are a very good minimal running option for most surfaces. Skinners are a product very much suited to a colder climate and for a barefoot runners winter footwear, they are however quite hot in a warm climate.

I’m satisfied that Skinners will give longevity equal to most traditional running shoes that have a much larger price tag.  After regular use and repeated machines washes Skinners keep their structure and don’t stretch out of shape.

Skinners are a viable running option for anyone experienced or considering barefoot running. Whilst they won’t be my primary running footwear for training or racing they will certainly find a place in my footwear rotation for the foreseeable future.

Port Macquarie Half Marathon 2019 – Race Report

Upon entering the Port Macquarie Half Marathon in January this year I knew that training for this race was going to be limited. With some changes to my family dynamic over the last few months training at my preferred early mornings has been problematic. I planned to do as much training as I could and give my best on race day.

Port Macquarie Half Marathon is in my hometown and this was my fourth attempt at the race. It has grown in popularity and professionalism over the past few years and is now a must do destination race on the NSW Mid North Coast.

With my training limited through the start of this year I hadn’t been able to do a real half marathon preparation with a longest training run of 13km for the year. The time I had to train I concentrated on building aerobic fitness and strength by regularly running over hilly terrain near my home.

Last year one this course I ran a personal best half marathon of 79:40. This year I tempered my expectations and decided to aim for around an 85 minute half marathon or 4:02 min/km average pace. With a three lap course my plan was to start somewhat conservatively and try and roll through the field over the back half of the race.

After some wild thunderstorms on Saturday evening, Sunday race day arrived to an overcast but humid morning. Arriving at the start I felt good about my chances of running to my goal time. I positioned myself close to the front of the start line and when under way was conscious of my pacing early. I had planned to start the race with a pace between 4:05-4:10 for the first few kilometres and went through the first km in 3:54. I immediately slowed down and run to my plan, the next few kilometres were 4:09 and 4:06 and felt easy and I was happy to speed up slightly and went through the first of three 7km laps averaging 4:05 min/km. Feeling good and happy with how this lap had progressed.

Lap 2 was much of the same, I concentrated closely on keeping my pace even and not racing. During this lap I started to overtake a number of people that had gone out quite hard and felt good pushing myself through the field. This motivated me to keep my pace consistent and try and run through more of the field but mindful not to over pace my race at this stage, still a long way to go. By the end of the second lap I had started to fatigue but was still happy with my ability to run the 4:05 min/km average pace I was running.

Lap 3 I was still running through the field but less so than the second lap. Still I was happy whenever I overtook a runner. At this time in the half marathon fatigue is starting to build and to maintain my pace I had to give my best effort. There were times between 16-18km where I felt my pace was slowing as I felt fatigued but was happy to see my pace hadn’t slowed and when I dug deep I was able to keep this pace. This was apparent until the last 2km where my pace slowed to around 4:20 min/km, by this time I was satisfied with my race and wasn’t in a position to lose or gain a place on course. I felt pleased to come across the line in 1:25:40 for 14th place overall. Just outside my pre-race goal but happy with how the race unfolded for me.

Out of the four times I’ve run this event this is my slowest time, in fact I was six minutes slower than the same day a year ago. Yet I felt a lot of satisfaction from this race. Most runners know that for the most part you get the results you train for, when you put in the work the results come. Knowing that I hadn’t put in the work and adjusting my expectations accordingly gave this race a different perspective in my mind. I believe I gave my best effort and ran this race to the best my fitness would allow.

Another aspect I am happy with is my ability to run to my plan. Had I started and attempted to run an 80 min half marathon the third and possibly second lap would have been quite different. I’m pleased I was able to pace my race as planned and not react to having many runners in front of me early in the race. I walk away from this race feeling good about the races I have planned for later in the year when I can commit to a better training block.

For now it’s back to putting in more training hours and getting my fitness back to a place that allows me to run my best times. As always that’s a journey and not a destination and my fitness will build over the next few months.

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Eliud Kipchoge in London. Whats next?

 

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How do you follow up a 2:01:39 marathon? What should we expect from Eliud Kipchoge in his first race since the astonishing world record run in Berlin in September 2018 when he lines up in the London Marathon on April 28th 2019. In Berlin Kipchoge climbed the marathoners Mt Everest and then some, it’ll be interesting to see what his next race shows.

There are a few possibilities in how the race unfolds for him, we will presume he has trained well and in similar shape to that at Berlin. Its a safe presumption as Kipchoge has been in brilliant marathon form over the past 4-5 years. Undefeated and rarely challenged for victory his efforts have been so supreme.

Kipchoge has won in London three times in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Missing the race in 2017 to take part in the Nike Breaking 2 project. In the 2016 race he set the current course record of 2:03:05 which on that day fell agonisingly 8 seconds short of the then world record held by Dennis Kimetto. Victory this year would make Kipchoge the races first four time winner, something that seems inevitable even with a deep world class field entered. Media will likely centre around a duel with Britain’s Mo Farah or former world record holder Wilson Kipsang but neither appear to be a match. Farah’s personal best of 2:05:11 is far from competitive with Kipchoge and Kipsang was 5 minutes behind in Berlin and hasn’t been able to reproduce his best running since breaking the world record in 2016.

If Kipchoge is to be challenged in London it’ll likely be the clock and his search for further marathon immortality which poses the greatest challenge. How close then the great man come to the 2 hour mark, and can this be done in London. Comparing his Berlin world record with his 2016 London course record indicates it’s possible.

In London’s 2016 course record 2:03:05 Kipchoge broke the 30km world record in 1:27:13 or 2:54 min/km. In Berlin’s 2:01:39 he bettered this mark to 1:26:45 going through 28 sec faster. In Berlin he was able to run the remaining 12.2km astonishingly 58 sec faster than London 2016. These last 12.2km were run completely solo, he didn’t have a pacemaker that could stay with him to this point. If Kipchoge is to better his own world record he will almost certainly have to run from 25-30km to the finish solo again. He will need to lower his 30km world record again to go faster and quite simply there isn’t a human on the planet that can that far with him.

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If Kipchoge is improve on his world record he has a blueprint from Berlin. The consistency and accuracy of his pacing was metronomic and simply a masterclass, if he can reproduce pacing of this quality he will give himself a chance at bettering his 2:01:39. Losing another 100 sec to go under 2 hours though may be a bridge too far even for a man this great.

Kipchoge joked after Berlin that he hadn’t yet run a 2:02 marathon and this may be his next goal. If he achieved this in London it’d still be an amazing run. To date only Dennis Kimetto has ever run a 2:02 marathon.

While money is an obvious and a deserving reward for a runner of this quality I get the feeling Kipchoge wants more than the financial riches that go with being the greatest marathoner in history. At 34 years old Kipchoge realistically has 3-4 years at the very top of his sport and although his place in history is assured he may just want more. What ever the result in London, Kipchoge’s first appearance since Berlin promises to be intriguing and the must watch marathon of the year.

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Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 3

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If you’ve gotten this far into your barefoot running transition then you have begun the process of building barefoot running mileage. Building this amount of running slowly allows your body to adapt to the different muscles used in barefoot running and build strength in the feet and ankles.

In this the third article in the series we look at the running specifics to focus on when the transition. One of the most common mistakes runners make is to focus on ensuring a forefoot landing when running. This is a common mistake that often increases the chances of injury as the muscles are pushed to far as they develop the strength needed to run successfully barefoot. The mechanics of running barefoot running will naturally promote a forefoot landing and without over compensation of landing on the toes.

So what should you focus on when you begin running barefoot.

1. Faster cadence
Running with a faster cadence will naturally keep you lighter on your feet and allow you to more naturally move your foot landing from the heel to your forefoot naturally and without focus and effort.
Most articles use 180 strides per minute as a basis of this technique but it can be faster or slightly slower depending on the runner. Using a metronome to keep this cadence is an easy way to measure your cadence, download a free metronome app to your smart phone. Once you develop this cadence turn the metronome on and off periodically and you will learn this rhythm and adapt your running to it.

2. Short natural stride
If you increase your cadence you will likely run with a shorter stride length. At first this stride may seem shorter than you’d think effective however this will help the foot land under the body’s centre of mass and promote a compact, efficient running technique.
A shorter natural stride is the best way to ensure you don’t over stride. Over striding will ensure you land on your heel, this won’t be a successful transition to barefoot running. Over striding will however be more difficult if you are running with a faster cadence.

3. Pulling the foot off the ground
For many runners this is initially a difficult concept too understand but while running you should be concentrating on pulling the trailing leg off the ground. Rather than pushing your foot into the ground.
This assists with keeping your body in a slight forward lean and the foot landing under the body’s centre of mass. In simple terms, a human doesn’t need to focus on the forward leg landing, gravity will ensure this happens.
If you focus on pulling the foot off the ground you will reduce the time the foot is on the ground and improve your cadence. This will help you become a more efficient runner and use your energy the best way to propel you forward. There may be a shift in mid set required that will take some time and concerted practise in order to adjust.

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In summary, the best way to develop your barefoot running technique is to run with a fast cadence, a short natural stride and while running concentrate just on pulling your foot off the ground. Putting these three simple pieces together will help you develop a running technique that allows you to best run barefoot or in minimal footwear.

You should practise this over short concentrated efforts. To begin try some 100 metre strides, using a metronome and focus on the foot hitting the ground in unison with the metronome and concentrate on pulling the foot off the ground. In your general aerobic runs practise these techniques for periods of the run and then let the body do it naturally for a period of time. It will take some time for this to be your natural running technique before it becomes second nature.

As always if you have any questions regarding attempting a transition to barefoot or minimal footwear running please reach out at therunninger@gmail.com. Happy running

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How to start your running season when you haven’t trained enough

For most of us running is a secondary pastime in our lives and although important is usually below family and working in the pecking order that time and energy is devoted to. At times these factors or potentially other interests take up time that you’d like to devote to improving your running performance.

This can be especially magnified when you have chosen to prepare for a marathon or other goal races through the season. As most seasoned runners know preparing for the seasons races motivated and having a planned outline of your training runs is beneficial and usually vital to prepare in the best way.

But what do you do if you can’t complete the runs as planned and often miss runs due to life getting in the way. Usually the best way to improve your running is to run more, but if you can’t run there are still ways to get to the start line ready to race.

1.  Focus on the key workouts

Your key workouts each week are those runs that build strength, endurance and speed. When you have limitations on your time first complete the runs that build aerobic endurance, being your medium to long aerobic runs. Secondly strength is important to get your through the later stages of a marathon, run hill repeats or make sure your aerobic runs are over a undulating terrain. Intervals build speed, focus on these as the third piece of the puzzle.

Focussing your training time around your key workouts will give you the best chance at success on race day if training time becomes the enemy.

If time is limited then focus on building endurance, strength and speed in that order. Make sure you give your time for recovery by not running hard sessions on consecutive days.

2.  Adjust your expectations

There is more to running marathons then setting personal best times. Sometimes the best runs are those that you reach your potential at this current time.

Most marathoners know that in order to get the best result you need to put in the work and race well on the day. If you haven’t put in the work for whatever reason, adjusting your expectations and giving your best effort for the current fitness shape you are in will certainly make the race more enjoyable. Marathons are hard enough when you are well prepared, when you aren’t well prepared the last 10-15km of the marathon can be a very lonely and painful place.

Maybe this next race isn’t the time to aim for your personal best and you can learn more about race pacing when you get through a race running well not in peak fitness. Next time you choose to run a race you may be better positioned to complete the training and run a personal best.

3. Stay motivated

It is easy to let a poor training block affect your motivation. This can magnify the problem if you miss more runs through not wanting to get out the door. Stay motivated by looking at the big picture, the season is long and when you get the opportunity to train make the most of it.

Focus on the runs you enjoy and why you want to go running in the first place. Adjusting your racing expectations can also be transferred to training expectations as well. Adjust the sessions that you plan, you may not be able to hit the splits in training that you are used to but it doesn’t really matter.

When you lack motivation try and stay committed and focussed and the running will take care of itself. No runner have ever regretted going for a run, so get out and go running and it’ll likely spark your motivation.

 

Running is a simple sport and like life itself the more you put into it the more you get out of it. However there are still ways to gain a lot out of it when things don’t go to plan in training.

 

 

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Barefoot Running: Foot strike is just the beginning Part 2

 

In the second article in this series we delve into the specific actions and tasks to help make the transition to barefoot running simple and safe. Be clear this will require patience and commitment, but will be worth the effort.

Once you’ve accepted a mindset that will allow you to commit to changing to barefoot running the transition can be started with a number of simple steps. If you’ve spent most of your life in over-protective shoes you will have weakened the feet and they need to be strengthened before barefoot running is simple and easy. You have also likely had your feet changed from their natural state by being crushed over time by the shoes.

You’ll be most successful transitioning to barefoot running if you also transition to a barefoot lifestyle. Now that you’ve changed your mindset this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Before you begin your transition take a photo of your bare feet, through your barefoot transition feet will change their appearance and this photo will give you a reminder of where you’ve been and are now going.

It’s now time to release your reliance on shoes, in particular heavy, over-protective shoes that hinder the foot from moving in its natural state. Spend time barefoot, when you are at home take off your shoes and walk around both inside and more importantly outside without shoes. By walking around outside you will start to awaken the proprioceptive sensors within the body.

The time taken to transition to barefoot running will vary between individuals. If you have run for a long time in a heavy trainer or used orthotics it will take more time. If you’ve run without injury for long periods in a lighter racing style shoe than the transition will be shorter. In the infancy of the transition these types of runners should be equally careful and patient.

From the start of your transition you can include some simple strength exercises. Start with a 5-10 minutes of simple exercises designed to strengthen the calves and Achilles tendons. Both double and single leg calf raises are great exercises to start doing regularly at the beginning of your transition. These can be done multiple times every day, as they will help strengthen the areas you are about to stress more when you begin running.

The next step is to start running either barefoot or in minimal footwear.

If you choose to run completely barefoot be mindful that your skin will need some time to begin to toughen. It is advisable to choose a soft surface such as a grass sporting field.

By minimal footwear we mean a shoe or sandal with a zero heel to toe differential, wide toe box area and minimal cushioning. Almost all running footwear that fits these requirements will be flexible and give the foot the ability to move naturally.

As each individual is different, so will be the transition to running barefoot. To begin with start with a few minutes of running at a time and be mindful of any pain in the feet, calves and achilles. While a little pain is to be expected if you are still experiencing pain the following day you’ve run too far too soon.

The two most common strategies to incorporate barefoot running into your training are;

  1. Run in conventional shoes and take off the shoes near the end of the run.

Eg. 30 minute run with last 5 minutes barefoot

 

  1. Go barefoot and walk/run

Eg. 30 minute exercise with both walk and run periods. Start with 5 minute increments of 4 min walk, 1 min run.

As you progress slowly increase the time you are spending running in either strategy until running barefoot becomes the major part of the exercise. Be prepared for this to take a number of months before you are conditioned to running barefoot for a 30 min period comfortably.

When running barefoot focus on having a quick leg turnover and being light on your feet. This will most likely result in you adopting a forefoot landing. Foot strike is a result of running with a barefoot process. We will focus more on the specifics of barefoot running technique in the third and final article in this series.

If you have any questions regarding your transition to barefoot running in the past or want further advise for your future transition reach out to us at therunninger@gmail.com

 

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Reviewing and planning your new running year

As a new year dawns upon us it’s an opportune time to review the year that was and look ahead to new running goals for the new year.

When reviewing a running year it can be as brief or involved as you like but should focus on a few simple measurements;

  • Did you achieve the goals you set yourself?

If so, what worked well in training and racing that you should continue to do?

If not, what stopped you from achieving your goals?

  • Did you lower your personal bests for any distances you ran?
  • What aspects of your running did you enjoy and not enjoy?

The answers to these questions will give you the framework for your running plans for the New Year.

When setting running goals it is advantageous to look further than just race goals. Races will come and go and milestone performances can be achieved along the way. However, hopefully your running journey has no start or end point. Avoid simply setting goals around races, use each race as a yardstick for your overall running journey and a measurement of your improvement.

After you’ve reviewed your running you will certainly find things that worked well. These may include;

  • Set new personal bests in a number of distances
  • Stayed injury free for the entire year
  • Was able to reach a mileage goal for x amount of months or the entire year

Each of your milestones achieved will point to processes along the way that you committed to that worked well and these you should continue to commit to.

On the flip side you may have not achieved some running goals. If you didn’t improve any of your running results and feel you committed and were disciplined in your training then it may be a time to pivot and adjust your training. First ask yourself if you really committed to the training and were disciplined in your processes, you’ll know if you weren’t. The New Year goal could be simply committing to your training further and being disciplined to achieve.

If you had trouble committing to your training is there other aspects in life that made this difficult. If this is the case an adjustment in your expectations may be necessary. Potentially it’s time to reach out to a coach that can give you a structured approach that can fit the best possible training into the schedule you have available.

When looking at running goals for the new year they should fall into a few categories;

  • Race Goals

You don’t have to have the whole year mapped out but think at least quarter year at a time of races you want to run and goals for these.

Races give you a reason to train and test yourself. Races should challenge you with a time conscious goal of preparing yourself for the race. Your race result is the measurement of success over a period of training.

  • Training Goals

These can be varied and again it may be valuable for a coach to help structure these with you.

Mileage is important and having regular mileage goals are beneficial to keep you on track. It is not necessarily a matter of always increasing mileage but hitting achievable mileage goals and being able to maintain these with some consistency is very valuable.

Varied training that works different muscles and energy systems is also important. Goal could be to commit to weekly hill, interval and long run that builds strength, speed and endurance. These are the most valuable training runs in a runner’s toolbox.

  • Running satisfaction goals

Is your training, racing and running goals keeping you happy, motivated and enjoying your running. If you aren’t motivated to get out the door and run then something isn’t working. Remember it’s supposed to be fun, make sure you get exactly what you need personally from your running.

Whatever you hope to achieve running in the new year best of luck achieving these goals. Above all else enjoy your running.

Barefoot Running: Foot Strike is just the beginning – Part 1

If you’ve read much from the mainstream media on barefoot running you’d be excused for thinking that it just relates to changing your foot strike. Most media on barefoot running centres around taking off your shoes and changing from heel striking to forefoot striking when running. In doing so you’ll eliminate injuries and run off into the sunset leaving your shoes behind.

Whilst changing foot strike is one aspect to barefoot running there are a number of components. Changing from running in heavy cushioned shoes to minimal shoes or barefoot takes patience, commitment and most likely a change in mindset.

It’s quite reasonable to understand that humans lived for thousands of years without cushioned footwear and running injuries didn’t occur. While most runners also most likely know a runner that is currently injured or recently injured. It’s also quite reasonable to believe that the human foot was designed through evolution to walk or run without the aid of shoes. Then why is it so difficult to understand the benefits of barefoot running?

Mindset Change

To make a successful transition to barefoot or minimal shoe running the mindset may be the biggest change required. If you’ve got to adulthood and have worn over protective shoes all your life you have many years of mindset to change.

In barefoot running terms a fundamental change in the belief system is required. The runner must change their belief that the cushioning and support of traditional running shoes is helping to a mindset that says the human foot is fine without the cushioning and support.  The mindset shift to believing the modern running shoe does more harm than good by not allowing the foot to move in it’s natural form and weakening the muscles associated. Once this mindset shift occurs there is a transition period that will take time.

Foot Strength

If you have worn over-protective shoes fall your life then you will have weakened feet, ankles and muscles associated with barefoot running. It takes time and patience to build these muscles, however as these muscles strengthen you will become more resistant to injury.

Making this transition patiently is important, starting with becoming barefoot more often in everyday life and regularly walking barefoot will reawaken these muscles and build strength. From here it is simply a matter of beginning with small amounts of barefoot running and increasing this amount over time.

While you are transitioning utilise simple barefoot strength and conditioning tasks such as squats and jumping. As you gain strength in your feet and ankles you will develop better balance which helps when you stay stronger when running long distances.

A good drill to test this is to try and balance on one foot for a period of 30-60 sec. Once you can do this close your eyes and continue. As your strength increases this should become easier. Try the other leg and measure whether there is a difference between left and right. Another reason for increased balance is a heightened proprioception.

Proprioception

Proprioception is sometimes referred to as the humans ‘sixth sense’ and is the bodies ability to subconsciously perform movements and balance. Proprioception uses receptors in our skin, muscles and joints to give information to the brain as we subconsciously interact with it. Many of these receptors are in our feet.

By wearing over-protective, thick shoes we close these receptors over time which means less information is sent to the brain. By transitioning to barefoot movement and running we reawaken these sensors which gives almost immediate improvements in balance and basic subconscious movements.

Barefoot running is far more than taking off your shoes and changing to a forefoot landing foot strike. There are multiple parts in the transition and multiple benefits by making this change.

In part 2 of this series we will focus on specific tasks and techniques that will help you easily and safely transition to barefoot running and not lose mileage or fitness in the process. In the meantime start by spending time barefoot at home and begin to feel the difference.

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