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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Yes, you can go running without technology

Its taken me two runs to confirm what I already knew. You can run without technology dictating your running and you will most likely enjoy your running more. With the decision made to let go of the reins on technology and run only with feel I set my watch with one data field set on time during my runs over the last two days.  I am wearing the watch simply to track how long I run for and afterwards to track my distance run over my 30 day run streak period.  While the jury is still out on whether it is better to divorce from technology completely, there are certainly signs to suggest it could be beneficial.

Whilst not focussed on pace, you’ll automatically focus your run on feel and effort. Focussing on feel and effort allows you to not be a slave to the watch and the pace you are trying to stick to. If you feel good you will likely run faster, if you feel a bit off it’s likely you’ll slow down. However you’ll understand how you feel from the effort you put into each step of the run.

If you are not tracking pace, you’ll look at your watch a whole lot less. This is allows you to focus on running and being outside. Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and the reasons why you enjoy running in the first place. I’m guessing you didn’t start running so you could look at your watch, be easier to do this at the pub with a cold beer.

Looking at pace may in fact slow your progress towards your goals. You may be capable of running much faster then what you think and sticking to your goal pace may be limiting you. Run with feel and put in your best effort and who knows how fast you can go.

Take a break from technology, you don’t have to completely stop looking at pace but choose some runs to simply enjoy running and teach yourself to run with feel.

Stop looking at your watch and you may see some beautiful scenery out there.

My divorce with pace – Day 4

Earlier this week I committed to a month of running where I divorced myself from pace. Or at least committed to not monitoring pace during my runs. My watch has been set to a single data only of time to measure to monitor the length of my runs only.

Being overly reliant on technology is an easy trap to make for the modern runner and a trap that I have fallen into at times. My goal for this month of running is to enjoy my running and divorce myself from needing technology to measure my pace on any runs.

When I started running there weren’t GPS watches, I measured my runs simply on feel and perceived effort. I was still able to train and race as well as I do today without technology. My goal is to get back to this level of feel before I start training for another race so that I am ready to train without the burden of technology. Technology will be used to analyse my effort post run.

I guess you could call this the next step in my minimalist running transition. The transition to minimal footwear has enlightened my running and I believe a minimalist approach to technology will do the same.

During these four days of running all my runs have been easy aerobic runs. I have resisted looking at pace or any other metrics during these runs. I have also resisted pushing the pace on these runs and ensured the pace was easy.

What have I noticed in four runs?

  1. I’ve looked at my watch a whole lot less

2.  There is scenery around me everywhere

3. The mind works better with less distractions

So far the divorce from pace has been a positive experience. Looking beyond the next month where the pace will remain aerobic, I aim to continue this approach to when I resume with my three keys weekly runs being the long run, intervals and hill repeats during my next race preparations.

Just some of the scenery I was able to take in during my last four runs.

 

This is now a run streak

When I woke up this morning and went for my morning run I hadn’t planned it being the beginning of anything. I’m in Sydney for a few days and i just woke up and went for a run. Later in the day it came to me to start a run streak, there were two good reasons;

  1. I’ve never tried one before
  2. Why not?

I’ve given myself a short term goal of 30 days – 17th October to 17th November and a long term goal of 100 days 17th October to January 25th. We will start with plan A of 30 days and see how it goes till November 17th.

A couple of self administered rules;

  1. Minimum run is 5km
  2. All runs are outside ( no treadmills)

One other thing I’m going to concentrate on for at least the first 30 days is to keep all the runs aerobic. 30 days without hard training, all my runs will be easy aerobic efforts designed to be relaxed running and enjoy what it is about running that I love. The aim is to reconnect with running and enjoy my running, nature and the outdoors. It’s not that I need a jolt of motivation, just that I want to try something slightly different.

I would like to have less reliance on technology during this time. I am not currently training for a race, there is no need to monitor my pace and complete any specific training aimed to peak for a race. Therefore there is no need to look at my pace for any of the runs and just enjoy 30 days of relaxed running. For these 30 days I will wear my watch, however set it to not show me pace or distance through the runs. The only data to measure is time and later distance as I log my miles for the streak period. I have a belief that most runners including myself are over reliant on technology and this has taken away some of the simple joys of running.

The reason i’ve chosen to avoid treadmills during this time is to harden my resolve in times of poor weather. It’s time to get tougher, no hiding from the weather.

I’m looking forward to noticing what I learn from a 30 day run streak and whether i can continue further than this. Something often gets in the way to stop us running even when the best intentions are there. I’m also looking forward to how I react to a different, more relaxed form of training during this time.

Have you ever attempted a run streak?

If so, how did you go?

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Does running hills make you a better runner?

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If you’ve been reading my posts recently you’ll understand that I regularly like to have a hill repeat session in my running program. It is one of my three key running sessions which I plan to do each week.

The reasons I regularly run hills are simple.

  1. Increased muscle strength
  2. Muscle elasticity
  3. Enjoyment

 

Increased muscle strength 

It is no secret, running hills regularly will increase strength in your leg muscles. If you consistently incorporate hill running into your running your leg strength will improve. This will have positive benefits to your running economy and power and allow you to run better as you fatigue.

Muscle Elasticity

Running uphill makes your calves contract quicker than running on flat ground, this in turn allows for more muscle fibres to grow and elasticity in your calves to increase. Increased muscle elasticity means greater power and efficiency when running.

Enjoyment

Running hills is challenging but enjoyable. Running hills adds variety to your running schedule and variety keeps running enjoyable.

Being a long distance runner currently training for a marathon distance race I find long hill training to be more beneficial. Long hill repeats would be classified as uphill efforts longer than 90 sec with a recovery downhill. These are done at an aerobic effort, designed to be challenging but not an all out effort.

These are a few simple reasons why running hills will make you a better runner. You will be stronger and develop power and running economy that will make running longer easier.

Have you done a hill work out lately?

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Building miles and endurance

One of the most interesting albeit difficult parts of running long distances is building miles towards a goal longer race. I am currently training for a 45km race in April held almost entirely on the beach. A challenge in itself I the added bonus of the run being on sand and training on the sand in preparation for this event. But thats not the purpose of this post.

Building miles towards your long goal race is interesting as the physiology that the body goes through to develop endurance changes over time as you push the body longer. This morning I went out on my long run managing 27km in total, this was my goal for the session. I did this run over a flat course with a 1km on at 4:15 min/km followed by 1km off at 5 min/km averaging 4:40 min/km for the run. What i find interesting is that the body had had enough by the end of this run and wanted me to stop. If I am going to run a 45km race in April I better be able to run more than 27km, today I couldn’t have done 45km. Over the next two months i will build my weekly long run by a couple of kilometres each week and by April 17th my body will peak for the 45km effort (thats the plan anyway).

I am not someone that pushes my long runs past about 20km when I am not training for an event, I normally don’t have the time and don’t want to get an unnecessary injury. So when i set myself a long goal race I see my body change to be able to cope with the extra miles I push it and I am amazed that every time as I push the extra miles my body responds and is able to cope. The human body is a adaptive animal and can be trained to do whatever you want it to do.

Next week i will push my long run to 30km and make sure keep it preparing for the races i have ahead. I am running a half marathon on March 13th, I’ve given myself this race as a lead up to my longer race in April but also to throw out a marker and treat where my running is at the moment. looking forward to pushing myself over the next few months and really trying to get everything I can out of myself.

Hope you are running well and on track for your goals for the year.

2014…..

Last night we celebrated the approval of another new year coming. Looking briefly back at the year 2014 though and for me it was a year of disappointment with my running effort but a year that I changed a lot in my running life to try and make the next year and years better.

My year started with my goal of running a sub 3 marathon, I had a couple of marathons on my radar and a plan to achieve that illusive goal. Before the year had really started though I injured my calf muscle again and needed to get this right before I achieved any running goal. I went to a couple of Physiotherapists and spent time not running and trying to rehab my calf. On two occasions I thought my calf was right only to return to light running and injure the calf.

I had a holiday to Seoul, Korea with my family booked in May/June and entered a 10km road race while I was there. On the first Sunday of June I did the cnewsmarathon.com 10km event in Seoul, underprepared I ran 41:30 min and finished just inside the top 30 in oppressive heat on a pretty good course on the side of the Han River. This was to be my only race of 2014.

When I returned to Australia I knew it was time to fix this calf once and for all. I consulted a friend of mine who developed a strength and conditioning program for me. I decided to give up on 2014 and follow this program. I did the strength program three time a week in my local gym and spent the rest of my time cross training. Swimming, pool running, skipping and bike riding. All these things combined with the effects of the strength and conditioning program have made my body stronger.

Also included in the program I followed were pose method running drills, I do these twice a week to improve my running form. All these things have made me stronger and better equipped for running. Overall I spent three months away from running concentrating on getting my body ready to run and then slowly reintroduced running.

Since returning to running I have not had problems with the calf. I try to ice both my legs after any longer runs, I use the foam roller as often as I can to iron out the kinks. I am now starting to run longer distances and have felt ready to look at new goals for the new year.

I recently took the opportunity to enter my first race of 2015, I entered the Six Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains of Australia in March 14th 2015. 45km of tough trails through this iconic area of Australia. It’s a race that has been around a long time on the Australian ultra calendar and one that still holds a lot mystique to many runners. It’s a race I feel may push the boundaries of whether I can prepare for a hard race and not get injured but it’s a race I needed to do to challenge my rehab also. I have spent six months getting my body ready, I now need to challenge and test the rehab and my own discipline and commitment.

Although 2014 was not a year I will remember for my running performances. It is the year I changed my approach, embraced a strength and weights program and I start 2015 a much stronger runner then I started the previous year.

Last week my long run was 24km with a solid elevation gain. This was my longest run of 2014.I saved my best for last. Looking forward to more challenges in 2015.

Centennial Park ultra marathon 50km

In September this year I completed my first ultra marathon at Centennial Park Sydney. I made the decision to compete in this race in April, I find I need a goal race to train for during winter and chose this race after reading some great comments regarding this race and the organisation of it.

During my training for this race my partner gave birth to our first child together and my second, our baby boy came into our lives on June 13th and I didn’t estimate prior the impact this would have on my training for this race as I built up my endurance to run 50km. The sleep deprivation and time spent with our newborn plus a few niggling injuries along the way hindered some our my planned runs and I arrived at the start line somewhat underdone but confident, apprehensive and nervous about my first 50km. I had my nutrition plan nailed in training, my new Garmin 910 XT arrived in time any niggling injuries or illnesses were gone and I felt ready.

The race itself couldn’t be a better organised or more enjoyable race atmosphere, the CP Ultra team were amazing making every runner feel like they were special to the event and I’d like to thank all the volunteers for helping me get to the end. The run itself was very challenging, 14 laps of Centennial Park was hard on the body and the mind. I gave myself a goal time of 4 hours due to my experience over the marathon distance and my estimated race speed. As I ticked off the early laps I was marginally ahead of schedule but running conservatively, by half way I was still ahead of schedule and running well. Things were on track, I was enjoying my running and the camaraderie between runners was outstanding.

After 35km my legs were hurting and my mind was wavering due to the monotony of a lap race, something I’d not experienced before. I was still on target for a sub 4 hour finish and still confident. It wasn’t until about 40km when things started to go pear shaped, my legs were in a world of hurt and my pace had slowed. I was still on target for my goal time but it was fading fast. The last 10km was some of the toughest kilometres I’ve run, I walked a few times and struggled to the finish in 4 hours 23 min slightly disappointed at the time but really happy to be an Ultra marathon finisher.

In hindsight, I underestimated the mental demands of a 14 lap 50km event, I was slightly under prepared physically but more under prepared mentally. Every time I ticked off a lap it got harder, with 4 laps to go I was dreading the next lap, I’m not sure you can train for this, I think it comes with experiencing these type of races. I am still really proud of the achievement and the event itself couldn’t be better.

Thanks again to all the volunteers, this was one of the most enjoyable races I’ve ever been to. I’ve already pencilled this in on my calendar for next year and I’ll try again for a sub four hour finish.

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