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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The top 4 reasons you should be barefoot running

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While barefoot running has faded somewhat from the mass media attention it was receiving a few years ago there are still some very valid reasons why you should be running barefoot.

By barefoot running we mean running without shoes or in minimal footwear. By minimal footwear we mean shoes with the following attributes. Low heel to toe differential or heel drop, wide toe box and less cushioning and flexible materials. There are many different minimal footwear options available today.

Transitioning to barefoot running takes time. If you try to rush the process, you may suffer injuries in the calves or achilles. Be sure not to rush the process, it may take months or even years. Once your transition is complete your running will benefit.

The four top reasons you should be barefoot running are;

  1. Reduced injuries

Once you have transitioned to barefoot running you will likely run lighter, with a forefoot landing over a bent knee. This will ensure that you suffer less lower limb related injuries related to running. While barefoot running is not a panacea to injury free running it will go a long way to helping you run consistently more without injuries. Cushioned shoes won’t stop you getting injured, most likely they are the cause.

     2. Stronger feet

Running in an inflexible, cushioned shoe will inhibit the natural movement of your foot. The shoe does the work which the foot is designed to do, this will weaken your feet over time. Running barefoot or in flatter, more flexible footwear will build strength in your feet and lower limbs.  With strong feet comes a strong platform to run successfully and run injury free.

    3 Better awareness

” The more minimal you are the more aware you are” Chris McDougall

With more awareness comes better ground feel. While running you will become more aware of your posture,  foot landing, surroundings and effort. More awareness of your foot landing means you will be aware of every step and how and what you land on. This is a key reason why accomplished barefoot runners can run injury free as their awareness for where their foot lands is greater. Simply put running barefoot allows for more sensory feedback which increases awareness.

    4. Get faster

Forefoot running is faster than heel striking, pretty simple. Landing on your heel with a straight leg gives a braking effect, landing on your forefoot with a bent leg is faster and a more efficient way to run. If you want to get faster barefoot running can help you achieve this.

Transitioning to barefoot running is important, be patient and don’t rush the process however slow it may be. Once you successfully transition you will be free of heavy, inflexible running shoes and your running will become transformed.

If you wear traditional cushioned running shoes and have suffered injuries, it’s time to rethink your running footwear. Taking them off or replacing them with minimal shoes could be the answer.

 

 

 

 

My week in running

My running week was mostly casual and relaxed with five runs completed for 41km overall all completed in my hometown. Started the week on Tuesday with a solid interval session, decided to break my intervals into two sets of 6 x 2 min with 1 min recovery, this gave me five minutes of easy running between the first and the second set which worked out fine and allowed me to push through to the end of the second set harder.

Most of the week saw me complete aerobic runs over a variety of runs with an undulating terrain. Didn’t have a specific hill session so added some hills to my aerobic runs for some variety. On Saturday morning I abandoned my aerobic run after 4km after being in a wild lightning storm, probably wasn’t in too much danger but for a short aerobic run I didn’t feel the risk was worth the reward.

I’m not normally a big fan of tempo runs during race training blocks as I feel I get more value from other training. However I decided to run a tempo on Sunday and went through a 2km warm up, 3km at 4:10min/km, 2km easy and 4km at 4:10 min/km. This run felt good and I enjoyed the tempo run for some variety. It might be something I revisit during my next marathon training block on semi regular occasions.

Mixed my footwear up for all these runs with Gladsoles trail sandals, Carson footwear Iguana racers and Salming Race 3 all being used during the week. Really enjoy the difference nuances of running with different footwear throughout the week.

There were a couple of performances on the international stage which really caught my eye over the weekend too. Both inspiring performances, one to win the world championship and another a rising star of Australian running.

Patrick Lange at the Ironman World championships in Hawaii, to run 2:39:59 for the marathon and run from 11th off the bike to not only win the world championship but break the course record was an outstanding achievement. Most of us don’t know what running a 2:40 marathon which is averaging 3:47 min/km or 6:06 min/mi feels like, it’s quick by any standards but at the end of an ironman is even more impressive.

Celia Sullohern won the Melbourne marathon in Australia on Sunday and ran 2:29. this is impressive running for a 24 year old. Into the top 10 all time Australian womens marathon times and putting her hand up for a Commonwealth Games birth on the Gold Coast early next year.

Hope you had a happy week of running.

 

Here are some places I ran this week.

How to run a 1 second parkrun PB

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U a recovery week following my recent marathon I decided this week g get my running routine back to some normality and decided this weeks training end to test myself at parkrun on Saturday (today) and back to a longer run Sunday. I also decided to visit my neighbouring town  about 20 minutes drive away, Wauchope for their park run as I have only been there once and enjoy the course. The course is a nice two lap course, with one lap shorter than the other along the river which is relatively flat apart from one hill which you run once on each lap.

My previous effort there was a 17:37, which at the time I was surprised and happy to be able to run on this course. My goal for this visit was to run hard and test my fitness, run consistent from start to finish and see what happens. All my fastest parkrun times have come when my splits are consistent. I am a firm believer in this strategy for races of every distance.

Whenever I race, I break my race into thirds. Beginning, middle and end. In the beginning I try to be patient, in the middle I try to be disciplined and in the end I try to give my best effort. I use this strategy to keep my running consistent, however even though you want the splits to be the same the effort levels will change through the race.

Today, I was able to beat my previous time on this course by one second and run 17:36. My kilometre splits  were 3:31, 3:35, 3:31, 3:40 & 3:28 for an average pace of 3:33 min/km for the 5km.Happy to keep my pacing relatively consistent today. The fourth kilometre is a tough one on this course with two hairpin turns and the hill to contend with I lost a little bit of time here. Running felt good today though, I was patient enough to be able to control my running in the first kilometre, use some disciplined pacing in the middle of the race and gave my best effort and pushed hard near the end.

Overall a good  way to start my running this weekend. Looking forward to getting back out to this parkrun again soon. It’s been an enjoyable run both times I’ve run here.

 

Running without racing.

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Last Sunday’s marathon was the culmination of training towards a goal race and despite the challenges that unfolded during the race I am happy with my overall effort. This race was the culmination of 14 weeks training which is my normal plan for a marathon or longer race.

Last Sunday’s marathon was also likely the culmination of my racing year, with not many races left before the end of the year and certainly very few close to home. This means it’s time to switch gears with my training and enjoy my running with less focussed training towards trying to peak for a race. At times not having a race to train for has been a time when my running has suffered. I have struggled with the lack of focus and specificity and too much ice cream and skipped runs.

These days I have running without racing plans which keep me running regularly and enjoying my running without the pressure and challenge of a race in the not too distance future. This plan starts with continuing to run a similar amount of times per week and using variety in my running to keep focussed.

During October I plan to continue with my three key workouts each week, these are hill repeats, intervals and the long run however each will have far less focus. Hills will likely be similar, intervals shorter with more recovery and the long run shorter and not building time each week. Continuing to focus on these runs will keep my fitness ready for when my next race preparation starts. In addition to these will see some varying terrain and locations to keep my running interesting. to add variety I like using a weighted vest for some short runs, or efforts during runs. Skipping an aerobic run for a weighted vest hike is another option for easy days.

Adding variety can also be done by changing up footwear. As the weather gets warmer I like to use my favourite running location, the beach for some barefoot intervals and aerobic runs. GladSoles Sandals will still be my go to footwear for most of my runs though. And I will use my Carson footwear trail shoes for when I want some variety. These are the best shoes I’ve run in without socks, which is great for the beach and when the weather is hot.

The main focus while I’m running without racing is enjoy my running, add variety that isn’t achieved when training for a race and relax without the pressure of training hard.

Summer in Australia it’s certainly the best time to be outdoors enjoying the place we live. It’s a great time for relaxed running and enjoying the surrounds. I’m looking forward to running without the need for racing for the next few months, and enjoying my running.

 

Beach to Brother Marathon 2017 – Race report

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Beach to Brother Marathon was planned as one of my goal races for this year. My training for this race was good for this race, and I felt ready when I lined up on the start line. I had made a decision almost 12 months ago to run this race in my Gladsoles Trail sandals, when I was feeling unmotivated to run last year I changed back to running in sandals and found an enjoyment to running that I was struggling to find. Since then I’d estimate 80% of my running is in sandals and I felt confident running this race with them.

A week before the race it was evident that Sunday was going to be a hot day, the weather report had predicted 32C/89F and this was going to be unseasonably hot for September in this area. I was concerned by this as all my training for this race had been done in early morning and cool conditions, it had been 6 months since I had done a hot run.

Race morning arrived and the weather was already warm, race began at 7am from Town Beach, Port Macquarie, my goal was to run the first section of coastline to Lighthouse beach conservatively as this is quite hilly. After five minutes of running I found myself in the lead of the race,  this a section of terrain I train regularly and I ran this section at my own pace, walked two of the steeper hill sections. I hadn’t planned to be in the lead of the race but I felt very comfortable with how I was running so I continued to run my own race.

The next section of the race is a beach section from Lighthouse Beach to Lake Cathie to the south, once I started running this beach it was hot. There was a light wind behind but the exposed sunlight made it very hot. I decided to run within myself here and conserve as much energy as possible. There is a soft sand section as you detour off the beach which was tough going before getting back onto the beach. Coffee rock just before Lake Cathie was also a challenging section as the tide was rising. On this beach I was overtaken by the eventual race winner and arrived at half way at Lake Cathie in second place and feeling good.

From Lake Cathie to Bonny Hills along the beach the tide had risen and the soft sand and exposed rocks to run over made for tougher then expected conditions. The heat was really on now making running difficult, I was doing my best to keep hydrated and keep conserving energy. At Bonny Hills surf club I exited the beach, fatigue and pain in my legs had started to set in now. I was told at the aid station the leader had 3 min 50 sec on me now, I wasn’t confident of catching at this stage.

This section includes quite a technical trail around Grants Headland and a nice fire trail before the aid station with 10km to go. Once off Grants Headland I was aware that heat stress was starting to be a factor and my legs were beginning to cramp. On this firetrail I was passed by another runner a local runner Luke and we ran to the aid station at North Haven together. There was a large crowd there waiting for the 10km start and I got some good support from some friends there.

Section from North Have to the base of North Brother mountain is mainly pathways and flat. This section normally would be a comfortable part of the course but my legs were starting to cramp badly along here. I made the decision to walk to stretch my legs and then continue running. This was successful for a while however after 3km of this strategy almost every step my legs cramped when running, walking was difficult. I made the decision to walk till I felt I could run. During this period I was passed by another three runners including friends Cliff and later John. I seriously consider dropping out with 5km to go but couldn’t do it, i needed to finish this one. All in all I walked about 3 km before the base of the mountain and only then i decided to run some of the down hill sections before the hill actually begins.

By the time I hit the North Brother mountain track I was starting to feel better, my walking was quite strong as I began the climb. I passed a number of people in the other distance events on the climb and caught back up with John who had dropped me earlier and we finished together. 2.5km to the top of the mountain was very tough, after 40km of tough coastline the hill at times felt impossible to walk. After 4 hour and 40 min I got to the top of the mountain and  finished this tough event.

Overall I am disappointed that I didn’t have the race I wanted and things go to plan but marathon running isn’t easy and I’m happy I came through and got to the end. The maximum temperature for the day was 39C/102F, hotter than anyone expected and way too hot to run a marathon on this course. The Gladsoles sandals were excellent throughout the race, great on the hard sand and trails. The only issue I faced by running in sandals was after wet feet go through soft sand the sand can build up on the sole of the sandal and this took some time to run off.

I underestimated some of the terrain for this race, in particular the amount of soft sand running and how exiting beaches on soft sand repeatedly saps your legs. The terrain I am familiar with and the most of I expected, I had expected the hill to be a brutal finish to the race and it lived up to expectation.

Beach to Brother Marathon is great event which is sure to grow in coming years. It’s well a organised event and the camaraderie  and support on course is excellent. It’s a tough course, on some of the most spectacular coastline in Australia. Already looking forward to next years race – Might do the half marathon though.

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Is six days without running during a marathon taper a bad thing?

 

 

Time will soon tell if six days without running in the week leading up to a race is a bad thing or not, but so far it doesn’t feel like it play a major role in the marathon I am running on Sunday. The week has been pretty relaxed so far and haven’t really had the race in the front of my thoughts just yet. Have been focussed on trying to get some good sleep and resting my foot, albeit with the normal demands of work, study and family life.

The good news is I haven’t eaten ice cream every night this week as I put my feet up and haven’t put on any weight. Resting has meant I will be very fresh for the race on Sunday but possibly slightly under done. Six days off running hasn’t sapped my confidence, still feel I’ve done the long training beforehand to put me in a good position as the race unfolds.

Six days off running has let my troublesome foot heal, there is now no pain in the foot. This is important for confidence as much as anything. I never really felt like the foot was going to stop me running or hinder the race in any way but decided to play it safe and minimise the risk of going into long race with pain. Marathons a tough enough without having other problems to hinder your race.

Overall I don’t think six days off running will have any effect on my race, it won’t be an excuse if the distance and terrain win the day. Looking forward to having a small run tomorrow morning and testing the foot and sharpening myself up before Sunday.

Weather forecast is for hot weather here on Sunday with a maximum of 33C/90F. This could cause problems for everyone as the race is scheduled just after the end of winter and certainly all of my running for this race has been in cooler weather. Heat also brings the snakes into play on the trails as they love to come out when the heat comes out. No point in worrying about the uncontrollables though.

Looking forward to the challenge on Sunday.

Photos are all from on the course of the Beach to Brother Marathon

Marathon training week 13

Just two weeks till marathon race day now and the training is almost complete. Week 12 went almost to plan with a hiccup on Thursday when I missed my interval  because I woke with a bad headache and chose not to run. Due to this I added aerobic run on Friday and used Thursday as a rest day. Other than that the key sessions went well, hills on Tuesday felt horrible during my run with my legs feeling heavy and I was unable to get myself feeling good on the uphill sections. Once I got home and looked at the hill segment data I was surprised that the my two hill repeats were my 3rd and 4th fastest of the 37 times I’ve run this hill. This was encouraging that i was still able to run quite well when not feeling fantastic.

Saturday i ran my marathon specific 3 x 1 hour efforts with 20 min rest between each effort. I started very early and ran my the first section on the road hitting my goal pace of 4:15 min/km for this hour. Second hour I ran over some undulating trail and beach sections which is part of the marathon I am running. Felt good throughout this hour and was able to hit a strong 4:45 min/km for this set. Third hour saw the tide rising and the sand becoming softer so I decided to run the first half on the road before hitting the beach and trails for the second half, I was able to hit my goal pace on the road but the soft sand made it tough going on the beach and on some hilly trail sections I wasn’t able to hold the pace I was hoping for. Overall this run went almost to plan and I feel confident going into the marathon that I have the endurance needed.

Week 13, and I’ll begin a taper on Friday giving me 10 days to refresh before the marathon.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Hill repeats

Wednesday –  Aerobic 40 min

Thursday – Intervals (15 x 2 min 1 min recovery)

Friday – Aerobic 30 min

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Aerobic 60 min

Looking forward to getting through this week and then putting my feet up in the following week.

Hope you enjoy your running this week.

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August running recap

My August running stats are fairly unimpressive for someone heavily into a marathon training period and building endurance. Overall I managed 178km in August with an also unimpressive 2169 m of elevation ran.  On face value a failed month of training that didn’t see me run enough kilometres to gain the value that I was hoping.

While not the monthly mileage I had planned the month had it’s challenges at the start of the month and I was able to come through and post some really valuable runs. Overall I missed 12 days of running at the end of July and beginning of August through having a flu. This meant I was only able to run on 13 days of August. One of the worst colds and flu’s I have had in my life and I was just unable to shake it off for quite some time. The first week of August saw no running at all followed by 37km in week 2 with most of this on the Sunday 13th August where I ran through a 19km long run on the beach. This was basically the start of my training in August, from here I new I needed to up the distance on my weekly long run each week more than I would normally to get enough running into the legs before a marathon.

I was able to run 29km and 36km long runs for the remaining two weeks of August and this morning ran 39km albeit on the first day of September so kind of exempt from this August recap. Each of the last three weeks i have been able to put out interval and hill repeats sessions as planned and continue to build my speed and strength.

When you have a good base of training from a number of years of running, fitness come backs fairly quick. The 12 days off running with the flu followed by a week of running while still having the flu have not affected my fitness too much and I have been able to come out the other side and be relatively comfortable with my overall fitness.

It’s now just over three weeks till my race and I feeling pretty good about my fitness and my endurance.  August hasn’t provided me with a perfect preparation but it has ended much better than it started and I am beginning to feel some confidence going into September and the last couple of weeks of training.

Marathon training week 11

After a solid weeks training I am feeling good about my progress towards this marathon, now with only four weeks to go. My keys runs were all executed as planned this week, Tuesday hills was a strong day where I added an extra repeat on the 1.9km  hill section, intervals went to plan with 8 x 4 min efforts that met my goal pace. My long run earlier today went as planned 3 hours in duration an 36km completed over an undulating course. I tested my fitness with a 5km park run yesterday and managed a 17:51 over the course. This represents 1 min 30 sec quicker than a fortnight earlier. Overall I completed 73km this week and happy with my progress.

All my runs were in my Gladsoles trail sandals this week. With winter ending very soon it was even time to run without socks during parkrun. I’m fully committed to running this marathon in these sandals and very confident that they are the best footwear choice.

This week sees a similar training volume. I aim to increase my long run 3 hour 30 min, this will be my last standard long run before the marathon with my 3 x 14km effort at goal pace in the following week rounding out my long training. Intervals will again be 4 min efforts with 60 sec recovery, this 4:1 effort to rest ratio is tough in the latter efforts but really good at building speed during a fatigued state. Hills will again be run on Tuesday and over the usual hill area I run.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Hill repeats

Wednesday – Aerobic 40 min

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Long run (3 hour 30 min)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Intervals (10 x 4 min 60 sec recovery)

Some tough runs planned during this week, but this is the stage of the training program that I need to be running my best and making sure I can handle what the marathon throws at me in four weeks time. Looking forward to the challenge of pushing hard over the next couple of weeks.

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Fighting through the hurt at parkrun