Is barefoot running a fad or running in cushioned shoes?

Yesterday I went running and i was not barefoot, it was my weekly interval session and I decided to wear Carson Footwear zero drop shoes for this run. I ran in these shoes for two reasons, they are awesome and I hadn’t run in them for a while. Normally when I run in sandals, I don’t see too many more people out running barefoot or in sandals. Yesterday I saw two people, I felt like I was the odd one out wearing shoes.

Of the two guys I saw running barefoot, one was a guy I know who has recently started running in some cool homemade sandals. The other guy I didn’t know but I noticed he had some very minimal shoes on and then when I passed him running the other way later in my run he was carrying them and running barefoot.

This got me thinking, is barefoot running the fad or is running in cushioned shoes the fad and is this fad coming to an end? When “Born to Run’ came out in 2009 and a lot of people attempted to transition to barefoot there was a lot of media about the new fad of barefoot running. But people have been running barefoot for thousands of years and only wearing cushioned running shoes for 40-50 years. So isn’t the fad that we decided to run in shoes 50 years ago?

When the barefoot running ‘fad’ started post 2009 there was very little information on transitioning and many people got injured and went back to wearing their cushioned running shoes. Nowadays there is a lot of information about foot health and transitioning advice. The best resource I know is The Foot Collective, this is a comprehensive guide on foot health and barefoot education that your should have a look at.

A few years ago when I started running in sandals it was unheard of to see another like minded runner. yesterday there was two, and if you count me in zero drop, wide toe box and minimal cushioned shoes there was three. Barefoot running isn’t the fad, and fads don’t last forever.

If you run in highly cushioned shoes they will impact your foots natural movement. They weaken your feet and contribute to injuries. If you want to stop neglecting your feet, change to a minimal footwear that allow your feet to move naturally. If you do decide to ditch the fad of cushioned running shoes take your time to build foot strength. Transitioning to barefoot is a marathon not a sprint, take the time to do it right to give you the best chance at a successful transition.

Make the choice, ditch the fad of cushioned running shoes and change your running forever. If you have any questions on barefoot running or transitioning let me know.

Free the feet in 2018.

 

If running in sandals seems like a good idea (which it is) Gladsoles . Use the coupon ‘therunninger’ and these awesome guys will happily give you a discount.

Three runs per week in 2018

With the year coming to an end most runners start planning the runs and races they are targeting in the new year. With this comes also how to fit training for these races around the other commitments of life. How will you train for these races and still go to work, see the family? For me a return I am targeting a return to triathlon with a Ironman 70.3 race scheduled locally in May. On top of this I’ve committed to a marathon three weeks before.

When the new year hits I’ll have 15 weeks till the Canberra marathon, with this being a goal to run another sub three hour marathon. Also in the back of my mind is that I need to train to get my cycling and swim fitness back, six years after my last triathlon.

In order to do this I’ll be aiming my running at just three runs per week, complimented by two cycling and two swim sessions per week. It’s important each session has a purpose, if I’m only running three times per week and still hope to run a fast marathon then each run must count. I’ve documented in these pages before my belief of the three key runs. Usually complimented by aerobic running to recover and have the body ready for next key run. this time around my running will be complimented by cycling and swimming and zero aerobic recovery runs.

The Three key sessions

The three key sessions which I’ll aim for each week are, the long run, intervals and hill repeats.

The long run

The long run has been the staple of running training since competitive running began. Every training guide ever written for running will include the long run. This is because it is a tried and tested method of increasing endurance for your overall running improvement. The weekly long run is vital to build the endurance needed to run a marathon.

Intervals

Interval running is about increasing speed. If you want to run fast on race day you need to run fast in training and teaching the body to able to run fast when fatigue starts to set in. Intervals are the best way to teach the body to run fast.

Hill repeats

Third building block in the three key sessions is hill repeats, which is aimed at improving strength in the legs and overall strength endurance. For my two marathon events this year both featured a weekly hill repeat session. Strength is an important attribute at the back end of a marathon when everything hurts and you still need to try and run fast.

These three sessions are distinctly aimed at improving endurance, speed and strength. Complimented by cycling and swimming I am confident I can get to the start line of the Canberra marathon ready to run my best.

What are your goals for 2018? And how will you approach them?

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Three tips to keep your easy running easy

A common mistake runners make, myself included, is running easy days too hard. Easy days are designed for you to recover and absorb the harder training that you have done and develop your aerobic fitness. When you run your easy runs to hard it hinders this process and your body doesn’t recover for the next harder session.

Here are three tips to keep your easy running easy.

1. Relax your technology game.

Easiest way to keep your running easy is to stop looking at pace during your run and focus on keeping the run relaxed. When you divorce concentrating on pace you will run on feel, this will help you recognise when running feels harder then it should be. The alternative is concentrating on pace and trying to stay at a set pace which may or may not be easy enough for you to recover. Perceived effort is a more helpful measure then pace.

Another reason is not every run needs to look impressive on social media sites like Strava. The pressure to post a run on social media that impresses friends and follows is an empty goal, when easy runs are easy running will improve and race day will look better on Strava.

2. Enjoy the easy runs

Easy runs should be the most enjoyable runs of the week. When you push a hard interval or hill session they are satisfying, but most would agree during the run they are hard. Easy runs shouldn’t feel like this, they should be easy, relaxed and enjoyable.

Take these runs to run socially, chatting with friends during a run is a sure way to forget pace and enjoy the run. If you prefer to run alone then put the headphones in and listen to music or a podcast. Enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the run.

3. Use heart rate as a guide

Measuring heart rate is a way to measure your effort. By concentrating on keeping your easy runs at a low heart rate you will get all the benefits of easy runs and aerobic training. The easiest measurement is the MAF method (Maximum aerobic function) of 180 minus your age. By keeping your heart rate at or below your MAF heart rate you will keep your easy runs easy and develop your aerobic function.

Keeping your easy runs easy is vital way to ensure you recover from the harder training runs and develop your aerobic fitness. Keep it easy and enjoy your running.

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Running year in review -2017

My major running goal in 2017 was to run a sub three-hour marathon. It’s been a goal for a number of years and this year I set this as a specific goal for the Seoul marathon and was able to achieve this goal. This year I only managed to race two major races, the Seoul Marathon and Beach to Brother trail marathon in September. I look back at 2017 as a successful year of running for two major reasons, I achieved my sub 3 goal and stayed injury free the entire year.

Seoul Marathon

Seoul marathon in March was my first major goal race. I trained specifically for this race and was very motivated to achieve my sub 3 hour goal. This kept me training through the Australian summer and this paid dividends when I travelled to the colder climate in Seoul. My race went perfectly on the day and I finished in 2:57 for a nine minute personal best over the marathon. Hitting my sub 3 hour goal was the highlight of my running year and an achievement that I’m really proud of. I trained hard for this race, stayed injury free through the preparation and gave myself the best chance to achieve the goal.

Beach to Brother Marathon

Beach to Brother marathon was held in September in my home town of Port Macquarie. The race produced an unseasonably hot day in the mid 30 celsius and this really took apart many of the competitors on the day, myself included. The weather and course provided a tough challenge and I finished this race in 6th place in 4:42. My pre race goal was to break four hours for this race, but the conditions made this goal unreachable. I’m not satisfied with this result for beach to brother and will be back next year for another crack at this race. It’s a great course in a beautiful location.

Total Mileage

This year I have run just over 2100km with 27000m of elevation gain. I have completed approx. 60% of this running mileage in Gladsoles sandals including the Beach to Brother marathon and remained injury free throughout the year. This has been the first year that I have ever remained completely injury free and also the first year that I have solely run in minimal footwear. Running in sandals has been the common denominator in this years progression to minimal only footwear. Late in 2016 I made the decision that these would be my number one footwear choice and I would rotate between some other minimal shoes to add variety. Running in sandals has helped strengthen my feet so it’s safe to say that 2018 will feature more sandal running. Staying injury free has allowed me to run all 12 months of 2017, I haven’t had a total break from running for longer than a week this year. This has kept my aerobic training consistent and the given me the ability to keep running and stay fit and healthy throughout the year.

Whats next?

I’ll post later about my specific goals for 2018 but I’ve already committed to Canberra Marathon in April. On top of this I’ve decided to give a return to triathlon a crack and compete in an Ironman 70.3 three weeks after this marathon. This means from the start of the new year I will start a program to train for both of these races. It will be somewhat difficult to train for a triathlon and still get to the start line of a marathon in my best condition, but this is the challenge I’ve decided on.

Another goal for 2018 is to race more. This has been a good running year for me, staying injury free and fit throughout the year. I could have taken advantage of this by racing more.

While the year still has a few weeks left I’m ready for 2018 and to start fresh with some new running goals.

Stupid or not?

 

Is it stupid or not to do an Ironman 70.3 three weeks after your goal marathon? This is the question I have been entertaining in my head in recent weeks as I have been motivated to give triathlon some focus again. It’s been six years since I last competed in an Ironman 70.3 triathlon and maybe it’s time to go back for another crack.

I’ve already committed to running the Canberra Marathon on April 15th as my goal race for the first half the year. Ironman Australia in my home town of Port Macquarie is three weeks later on May 6th where there is a full Ironman and a 70.3 event run concurrently. If I’m going to do a triathlon in 2018 there will likely only be one and it will be this one. So with that said is it stupid? Maybe.

The first problem that enters my head is that I will need to put quite a bit of focus into the bike and swim and will this negatively effect my running? After all the marathon is my number one goal race. My initial thoughts are that the bike and swim may not have too much impact, cycling is going to build my aerobic base, which will only help running and likewise the swim. If I continue to focus on my three key running sessions each week  of long run, intervals and hill repeat then I can use the bike as recovery from running somewhat. Problem solved.

The second problem is the time it takes to train properly for triathlon. The reason I stopped triathlon was because of the time it takes to train. There is no doubt that I will need to limit my training focus somewhat. If I train six days a week once a day I can have 3 x run sessions, 2 x cycling and 1 x swim. If I can fit in a second swim on one of the days then this could be enough. Problem solved.

The third problem is whether it is stupid to do the Ironman 70.3 so soon after a marathon. Ideally I wouldn’t do it and feel that it could deplete my body by competing in both these races as I will want to do my best in both. Between the two races there will need to be emphasis on recovery, running a marathon is tough and recovery is usually underrated. Recovery will need to be prioritised, if it is then maybe it’s not the stupidest idea ever. Problem solved.

With all three of my problem solved I just need to decide whether to commit to both races and enter. Give me a week to decide.

If you feel like trying to convince me if this is stupid or not, leave a comment.

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Between a race and a hard place

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When you are between races and don’t necessarily have to get out and train for a race motivation can be difficult to find to get out the door. This is my situation currently with my next gal race not till April my motivation has been lacking in the last week.

When my I completed my 30 day run streak recently I took the easy option and stayed in bed rather than run a few times. getting up and getting the job done would have been a smarter decision but I didn’t take this option. Now with the end of year madness starting I am busy at my job, which impacts family time and running time.  What I don’t want to do is lose the fitness base I have developed when my training starts again.

Finding some stepping stones in training to keep me running and motivated to continue running before its necessary to knuckle down to specific training is important  in the short term.

Training for my next goal race will start at the beginning of January giving a 14 week program leading up to the Canberra Marathon in April. In the time between now and January I will aim to keep developing my aerobic base, incorporate a weekly interval session to develop my speed and run a longer run each week. I also aim to run another goal race pace long run, my last was a half marathon distance so aiming for an increase of 2-3 kilometres added to this run, there will also be another scheduled for the beginning of January again to test my fitness. This will be a valuable guide to where my fitness is and whether it has decreased since the run streak ended.

This next six week period is a busy time of life so creating this training stepping stone is aimed at making sure I am ready physically and mentally to jump into specific marathon training once the new year starts.

With hard work comes greatness, however staying motivated to start the hard work in the first place can prove a hurdle needed to overcome.

Four discoveries from a 30 day run streak

This morning I completed my 30 day run streak and during this time I made some discoveries about my running. Here they are…..

  1. Aerobic training is beneficial

At the start of the run streak I decided that all my running in these 30 days would be aerobic and I would forget about pace. On the whole I was able to manage this only running twice outside my aerobic capacity. This was a parkrun effort and last weeks goal race pace half marathon run.

Running purely aerobically for the majority of the 30 days has seen me develop my aerobic capacity. Running aerobically often is easy on the body and recovery is simple, when you run within your limits there is no soreness the next day and you are able to run more. Following this when I did increase the intensity and complete a tougher workout, my half marathon felt very comfortable. Building the aerobic engine is very beneficial for running performance.

The take away from this discovery is that during my next focussed training block I will have more aerobic training to compliment the focussed harder workouts.

   2. Technology is unnecessary (almost)

Another goal of this run streak was to divorce pace and use perceived effort to measure my run rather achieve a pace for the run. This has been a successful discovery where I am now unconcerned by the pace my watch is saying and rather the feeling my body gives me from the effort I output.

During each of the runs I have only looked at the time for the run on the watch and not pace. This has taught me to focus on my feeling and breathing to stay aerobic and run consistent pace through effort. During the harder half marathon effort the same applied and I was impressed by the consistent pace I was able to achieve.

The future of my running will feature less reliance on technology, I am committed to continuing to monitor my running by feel and use the data to analyse post run.

3. Running everyday is good for you

While I am normally an advocate for rest days, life balance and letting the body recover from runs I found the task of running everyday good for me. All my runs are completed in the early mornings and the simple task of committing to getting up each morning and going through the process to get out the door and run was mostly pretty easy.

During the 30 day streak I had wet weather on 5-6 of my runs, only one of these days did I consider not running through the rain, however this doubt lasted about 15 minutes before I decided to get the job done.

I enjoyed the day to day commitment of getting out the door to complete my run. Committing to a run streak is a way to challenge you to overcome a small challenge everyday and start the day ready to tackle something bigger if it arises.

4. Minimal footwear is better

This may have not been a discovery but more a reinforcement. Every run I did with the exception of one run were completed in zero drop footwear. these specifically were Gladsoles sandals both the trail 8mm and new 6mm and Carson Footwear Iguana Racers.

If you are fully transitioned to barefoot running then minimal footwear is better for your running. After 4-5 days of the run streak I had a slight pain in my right calf that was evident for a few runs, this went away by itself and I was able to run without pain for the  all the other runs. Minimal footwear keeps you aware, your feet stronger and running with better technique. To run injury free for long periods of time these are important. Without trying to jinx myself to an injury I believe the benefits of transitioning to minimal shoes will help me run longer into my life.

Don’t be scared to make a change to your footwear if you are on a path of consistent injuries. It will take time but it will be worth it.

Overall the run streak has been an enjoyable experience and most likely will continue beyond 30 days. My routine of running every morning is a habit I would like to continue.

Photos from a 30 day run streak

 

New workout – Goal race pace long run

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I’ve been recently thinking about it and this morning completed a new workout that I plan to add to my usual schedule. Once a month I aim to complete a goal race pace long run to complement my other training.

During a race preparation training cycle I will complete my three key workouts which are intervals for speed, hills for strength, and a long run for endurance. These three key workouts are complemented by aerobic runs aiming to let the body recover and rest days.

The goal pace long run I have designed into my schedule to give a fitness test of where I am currently and also build confidence. Whilst regular, weekly long runs are completed slower at an aerobic pace to build endurance this run will have a different purpose. The goal pace long run will reach a maximum distance of close to 3/4 of the race distance. With my next goal race being the Canberra marathon I will build this run to around 32km run at goal pace. My normal long run will continue to build to about three hours.

This morning I began putting this run in my schedule with a half marathon. With my goal in Canberra to beat my marathon personal best of 2:57, I aimed this for my goal pace to be slightly better than this at 2:55 marathon pace of 4:09 min/km.  You can see from my Strava file below that I went a bit quicker than this at 4:03 min/km. I was slightly ahead of my goal pace with 5km to go and decided to pick up the pace and finish strongly.

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During my current run streak I am running at the moment, (currently at day 25) I have kept all of my runs aerobic and forgotten about pace except for a parkrun last weekend. Whilst forgetting about pace I have built my aerobic fitness and today’s run was aimed to test my progress during this run streak. I felt strong this morning and was comfortable at this pace throughout the run. Whilst any marathoner knows that the pace they hold through halfway should feel comfortable, it was good for the confidence to be able to run this pace without any focussed training over the last month.

Recently I have made a decision to not focus on pace during my runs, this was still a factor during this run and will be moving forward. I kept my watch only on the time setting of my run this morning and only looked at pace as it told me each kilometre split. This gave me the ability to focus on effort throughout the run, trying to remain consistent and evenly pace the run. This is a learned skill that every runner should concentrate on, being able to run a goal pace is great, but being able to recognise the effort it takes to run your goal pace and consistently run the pace is much more valuable.

Post Christmas, in fact 8th January marks 14 weeks to my next marathon and the time my focussed training will begin. During this time my training will focus on my three key runs every week , aerobic recovery, rest and every month a race pace long run. I believe this run adds value to my training and gives a platform to improve on my marathon result. In early December I’ll build on to todays run and extend the distance by a few kilometres and give myself a marker of progress from November to December.

Do you have a run in your schedule to test your fitness?

 

 

How to choose your next marathon?

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Hands up if you searched the internet today for marathons you are planning to run? Research shows that 95% of runners searched the internet for marathons today. I made that statistic up by the way.

When planning your next marathon or race there are a number of considerations to take into account. These will vary depending on the type of marathon experience you are looking for. Do you want to go on a holiday and run a marathon while you are there? Are you looking at running for new personal best?

Here is four simple considerations that you may think about the next time you search for marathons or races.

Location

Choosing the location of your next marathon is an important consideration. You could choose your marathon to allow a holiday in a new city or choose the city based on the marathon you want to run. Either way location and the logistics of reaching the marathon destination is an obvious consideration.

If you decide on a marathon as part of a holiday obviously you will need to plan your holiday around the time the marathon takes place, which may or may not be the best weather to visit a particular place. Many marathons are held in cooler months as more suitable times for running, this may not be the best time to visit some cities.

If you decide on the marathon location for other reasons then you’ll need to decide on travel arrangements and how long the travel to the race will be. Logistics of arriving at the race location is a consideration. Racing close to home gives the benefit of easier travel, but there is a mystic about racing a marathon in a far away exotic destination.

Another factor in choosing your marathon location is whether you want to race in a large city or smaller country venue. Both have their positives, do you go for the excitement of a big city race with many runners to create an atmosphere or a more interment country race with fewer runners but easier logistical challenges on race day.

Choosing the location of your marathon is exciting part of the process. This has certainly been a consideration I have used for both reasons to see a new destination and also to be able to complete a race on an already planned holiday.

Cost

Everyone has a budget and although running is less expensive than a lot of sports the financial costs certainly add up when you factor in all the requirements of running and travelling to a marathon.

When you look at the simple costs of entry, accomodation and travel to a marathon costs are another important consideration. Cost of entry will vary depending on the race and entry requirements, certainly the larger city marathons with entry criteria which make it challenging to get into the field let alone run are more expensive to enter than a small rural marathon.

The other factors depend on the location of the marathon you choose but include travel (planes, train or automobile), accomodation, food and also leave requirements from employers. This can start to add up and become and expensive way to put yourself through a 26.2 mile torture test.

Course

The course you choose can shape your race, marathons are not created equally and depending on your goals for the race may help you decide which events to run (or not to run). If you want to run a personal best time then choosing a hilly run in a hot climate may not be ideal.

With so many marathons to choose from these days be sure of your goals and what you want to experience in your marathon. If you choose a big city marathon you are likely to see plenty of the sites of the city. for the first half of my marathon in Seoul earlier this year it felt like a guided tour of the city with 20 000 friends.

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Seoul Marathon 2017 medal

 

If you are looking to set a new personal best or aiming for a goal time look for a flat course in a cool climate. This will greatly increase your chances of reaching your goals. Alternatively if you are looking for a fun atmosphere then the course is likely less of a considerations.

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Choose your course wisely

 

Size

Choosing a marathon based on the size is important so you know what you are getting yourself in for. Marathons in big cities are great, thousands of people running together makes for a certain energy that is fantastic. They also come with the challenges of getting to the start, lining up at the port-loos prior to the race, challenges of positioning in the start area and potential crowding, especially if you are chasing a time.

Smaller marathons allow for much easier logistics on race day, and an overall less stressful race experience. But not the same level of energy and atmosphere that you get when you run a big city race. If you like the solitude of running alone or just want to avoid the crowds smaller marathons are a great option.

 

The easy choice to make is deciding to run a marathon, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a marathon is an amazing feeling and one every runner should know. Deciding which marathon to run is a harder choice, decide on the type of experience you want and the choice will be much easier.

How did you decide on which marathons to run?

 

Things to do when transitioning to barefoot running

 

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In a recent post I listed the reasons why you should be barefoot running, however how do you transition? The main barefoot running transition question people as is how long will is take? This is different for everyone and may take as little as a couple of months or much longer. In order to give yourself the best chance of transitioning successfully and without injury the following tips may help.

If you take the time to transition correctly and build the strength and mobility needed to barefoot run long term you will reap the benefits down the track.

Be Patient

If you are an accomplished runner and have decided to transition to a flatter more minimal shoe or to barefoot running then it is difficult to stomach that you may only be able to run for very short periods for the first weeks or months. Patience is essential to avoid injury. For the first few weeks you should be combining walking and running either barefoot or in minimal shoes and running for no longer then 10 minutes working up to 30 minutes at a timely the end of the first month.  This will require patience and humility if you are used to running for much further.

Be ‘barefoot’ in everyday life

Increasing the time you walk barefoot will assist in building strength in your lower limbs and feet that are essential for barefoot running. Look to purchase some minimal shoes for work or casual life and try and be barefoot when at home. This will increase your mobility of the muscles that need to be retrained in order for injury free barefoot running.

Concentrate on your form

While you are transitioning to barefoot running concentrate on your form. Concentrate on landing on the balls of your feet, stay upright, don’t over stride and stay light on your feet. This will make sure you use the muscles associated with barefoot running and give them the best chance to gain mobility and strength.

You may choose to continue to run some mileage in your ‘old’ cushioned running shoes, especially if you are a seasoned runner. This is perfectly fine however make sure you concentrate on your form even in your cushioned shoes and retrain the body to run on your forefeet.

Listen to your feet

When you start running barefoot or in minimal shoes it is essential you look for the signs that you are overdoing it. It is normal to experience a small amount of pain in the calves, achilles and feet however too much and you may need to reduce the mileage and take longer to transition. This is a key sign of taking the time necessary to transition successfully and avoiding injury. Be prepared to have a long term view if the pain is experienced.

 

Use these simple tips and ask for advice if things don’t go to plan. Every runners barefoot transition is different and will therefore the process for each runner may be different.

If you have successfully transitioned to barefoot running  how did you do it?

What obstacles did you need to overcome, and how did you do it?

 

 

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The road is a long one, be patient

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