Jan 16

Barefoot running and the ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’

mirrorI know a runner who cannot face running in organised events anymore. He would love to but cannot get anywhere near the times he was running a few years ago. Nobody else cares but he is weighed down by the things he achieved in the past.
One of the biggest problems we face when we begin something new is that we come to it with a whole host of expectations and back history. Experience is useful but if we are not careful it can also be the thing that stops us making progress. It can become a barrier and to some extent we all suffer from it. We need to let go of that previous version of ourselves and accept where we are at today.

It is what a Gestalt therpist would term ‘The Parodixical theory of Change’. The paradox is that the best way to change is to first accept and be comfortable with where we are at the moment. It isn’t always an easy thing to do. We are much more comfortable shutting out eyes to our current selves and creating a shiny image of the person we want to be.

So…we can end up putting things off until we are either the same weight as we used to be, we are at the same mileage that we used to run or we can manage the same sort of speeds we used to achieve. It is easier to spot in other people than in ourselves.
As runners, most of us are prey to that ‘miles a week’ dialogue. It is one of the ways that runners classify other runners. Are we a 20 miles a week runner or a 40 mile a weeker? Those of us coming to barefoot running from a lifetime of running can find it hard to shake. The thought of dropping down to almost zero can be hard to accept.
Even more pervasive is speed. Again, runners class other runners by their pace. Are they a 40 or 60 minute 10K runner or a 3 or 4 hour marathon runner?
It has been hard. I was typically a 20 mile a week runner and could just about get under the 40 minute mark for a 10k. Going back to zero took some time to accept.
The fact is, I was always running on borrowed time. I was always going to break down eventually…and I did.
One of the biggest things that I have done whilst barefoot running is let go of my vision of the runner I was. I have accepted who I am now and what I am capable of at the moment. I look at myself in the mirror and accept where I am up to. I am grateful and count my blessings because there was a time where I was not sure if I would ever run again.
I look at myself and feel no shame about where I am up to. I embrace it. To be honest, I feel a sense of relief at not having to live up to that runner I used to be. I have let go and accepted that this is a different phase of my life.
I am in no rush. I have the rest of my life stretched out in front of me and want to be a lifelong runner. I am building from the ground up and rather than feel shame, I feel pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I kept searching and experimenting until I found I way that worked for me.
We have nothing to prove to anyone. We need to accept where we are, embrace it and smile. Forget what we can’t do and celebrate the things we can achieve.
Give it a go. Look at yourself in the mirror, let go of the past and celebrate the things that you can do today. It doesn’t stop you dreaming and thinking big but you will be doing it from solid ground.

Embrace it and step into the person you are rather than cling onto that mirage from the past. Do it often and make it a habit. It is one of the most empowering things that you can do.

Jan 12

Transition to minimal shoes. Finding a way that works for you

7856933398_d8f3523225_mOn Barefoot beginner, I am advocating a period where we learn to run barefoot ( I think most people can get to about the 5k point in 12 weeks) before we even think about running in minimal shoes.
It may feel drastic but there is a good reason. As runners, we often know what we should be doing but then slip back into our old routines. Running barefoot doesn’t allow us to do that. It forces us to adapt and I believe that for many people it can be used an important step in the transition from conventional to minimal running shoes.
I believe that the whole concept of the transition into minimalist shoes is misunderstood. Or perhaps I should say that I believe that it is there is certainly more than one option and different things will suit different mindsets. We need to find a way that works just for us.
The transition from shoes to running barefoot is simple to understand. Just take of your shoes and run barefoot. Stop when your soles have had enough. Take the next day off and then go again. Your soles should prevent you from doing too much and you will gradually ease your way into becoming a barefoot runner. Simple.
It is when we start to throw different kinds of footwear into the mix that the problems arise.
However, running shoes are a reality. Most runners have no long term desire to be a barefooter. They are looking to find a safe way to transition from their built up conventional running shoes to something much more minimal. It is at this point, that I part company with much that is regarded as conventional wisdom out there and my concerns and approach comes from years of running and gaining some insight into the mindset of a fair proportion of runners. Certainly the ones like me.
Before I begin to explain my opinion on transition from conventional to minimal shoes let me just say that I know that there are people who have transitioned successfully using a variety of approaches. If you have found a way that works for you then more power to your elbow. I would love to hear your story. Success inspires success.
That being said, whilst I consider barefoot running to be inherently safe, I consider the minimalist road to be a dangerous one.
It is simply so much fun that it takes a runner of rare discipline to back off the miles and take the time to relearn their technique. It can be done but I am just not suited to that kind of diligence. It is an honest admission that I think needs to be declared. I am not alone.
Recently I heard ultra-running coach, Ady Benn, discussing runners who visit physiotherapists. They often receive a rehab programme, pretty much ignore it and go back to doing what they were doing before. It is though they think that just visiting the physiotherapist will do the trick by itself. It struck a chord with me and I know that I will not be the only one.
I believe that the same sort of thing happens with transition. We know what we should do but we just go back to doing what we were doing before. Just in minimal shoes – a dangerous road.
For that reason, I needed to find a way to transition that was simple and didn’t need much thinking about. I wanted to find a way that I could just get on and do without needing someone analysing whether I was doing it correctly or not.
I ran barefoot because it meant that I couldn’t just go back to what I was doing before. It was impossible. My soles wouldn’t let me. I had to change and rebuild my technique from the ground up. I had to build a whole new set of routines to slip into.
I have heard respected coaches saying that the transition from conventional to minimal running shoes should not be done without coaching on running technique. I agree with that wholeheartedly.
However, if you are switching from built up shoes to running barefoot, I don’t believe that it is necessary in most cases. I also think that it is possible for a barefoot runner with well embedded technique to then transition safely to minimalist shoes without too trouble.
Therefore my approach is to go from built up shoes to barefoot for a period and then into minimalist shoes.
How much barefoot is needed in the middle phase? My answer is that you need to be honest with yourself. This is grown up, life-long running. It is not meant to be a quick-fix flash in the pan.
Take your time and enjoy the barefoot phase.  I regard about 12 weeks as a minimum and in my view, you will get a lot of benefit from barefooting way beyond that.
When we eventually start to go from barefoot running to minimal shoes, we need a simple system to keep us safe.
My golden rule at this point is ‘Don’t run further in minimal shoes than you can manage barefoot’.
The shoes will protect your soles but it was never about that. Blisters were never the issue. Blisters might slow you down for a couple of days but it is damage to the structure of your feet and lower leg that is the killer. It is worth saying again.
‘Don’t run further in minimal shoes than you can manage barefoot’.
Let your soles continue to guide how far you can manage…and don’t cheat. Your transition will be slower but will happen just at a pace that will suit you.
If 40 seconds is your barefoot limit, 40 seconds is your minimalist limit too. If 3 miles is your barefoot limit then 3 miles is your minimalist limit too. Just not on the same day!
There is certainly more than one way to transition from built up conventional running shoes to minimal shoes and we need to find a way that works for us. I know an excellent runner who runs successfully in minimal footwear. She has flirted with barefooting but has the mindset needed to do the drills and implement the techniques given her by a very experienced and knowledgeable coach over a significant period of time. It has worked well for her.
However, I find that kind of thing difficult and I am not alone. I needed something much easier to understand and implement. Running barefoot meant that I couldn’t just slip into my old routines. It has meant that I have had to change.
I am advocating a transition that goes from conventional shoes to a period barefoot running and then the slow transition to minimal shoes. That is what Barefoot Beginner is all about. At some point you may feel the need for some coaching and there are some excellent people out there who can help. But the best thing you can do right now is to simply take off your shoes and run.

Jan 05

Barefoot365 – A Challenge that sort of just happened.

Barefoot 365The year 2014 had seen my life become increasingly hectic. I was close to burning out and needed a way to cope. I started a barefoot runstreak that just sort of happened. It evolved gently into a personal challenge to run barefoot every day for a year.  It then morphed to see if I could keep the runstreak going and run 1000 barefoot miles during 2015.

I had wanted to see how long I could run barefoot into the British winter and the runstreak  grew out of running each day to help my feet become accustomed to the gradually lower temperatures.

As for burning myself out, it is something I don’t like to admit. In addition to my full-time job as the headteacher of a primary school, I had been market trading at the weekends and set up a craft brewery. I had begun to train adults in safeguarding and also started a 5 year doctorate programme. There were a lot of firsts and my headspace was becoming increasingly taken up.

I was feeling run down and at a very low ebb. In short, I was exhausted.  I have always found that running helps me deal with the ups and downs of life and I needed a way to run consistently.

I had been running pretty consistently. Some in miminimal footwear but increasingly barefoot as it allowed me to run without problem. Each time, I broke down, I could track the problem back to a run in footwear of some sort.

I needed early nights and simplicity and that’s what I ended up doing. Running at least a barefoot mile every day seemed simple and easy to understand. So easy, in fact, that I didn’t realise that I was doing it until a couple of months in. It just sort of evolved.

In Oct 14, I just started to run 10 minutes at the start of each day. By the second day, it felt like something different was beginning but I didn’t think about it too much. I just did what felt right for me at the time.

I was feeling burnt out, run down and unfit. I had a tight hip and groin that was keeping me awake at night. I had spent an entire day the previous week putting a huge wardrobe together and was now struggling to even bend down and put my left sock on in the morning. I felt like an old man.

I had some experience of running a mile a day. In the summer of 2013, I had run over 100 consecutive barefoot days  and had surprised myself by running a respectable 1:40 something half marathon without really running very far at all in preparation.

By day 4 of daily running, my mood was improving and I was feeling more in control of life. I was a bit wheezy ( I have been an asthmatic since childhood but it had taken a turn for the worse recently) but I was able to bend down more comfortably and my groin and hip were less tight.

I was still not planning anything but felt that I was running to beat of my own drum and was happy to go wherever it took me.

New year’s Eve on Dec 31st 2014 marked 10 weeks of continuous barefooting and Barefoot365 had slowly evolved. I began to wonder if I could run barefoot every day for a year throughout the seasons in the UK. I have been a runner for over 30 years but have never been able to run consistently without injury. 1000 barefoot miles in 2015 became a personal challenge. It would mean running an average of about 20 miles a week across the year. That would be a first for me.

I plan to write regularly about how I am finding things as well as keep a daily barefooting blog. It would be great to see how many days I can run in 2015 and if I can manage 365 that would make me smile. If I can’t, then so be it. I am not about to let it spoil my year.

One thing is for sure. I will have found out a thing or two along the way. I would love it you would join me. We have a facebook group called Barefoot Mile a Day. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.

I have also set up a Barefoot 365 facebook page. Have a look and like the page to keep up with things.

 

Jan 01

Training Blog December 14

Mon 1st Dec 14

December started with a blister on the outside sole of my right foot. I ran almost 7 miles barefoot yesterday and before setting off thought that I might get some distress from my sales but it was better then  thought. It was only later that I felt a big blood blister. It was like I had stepped on something and was painful to step on so I drained it a couple of times and then covered in spray plaster because I knew that I would be running this morning. I did a mile and was absolutely fine running on it this morning. It will be interesting to see how it is over the next few days.

Tue 2nd Dec 14

Day 41 – a mile barefoot in the dark. No real problem but I am not going to go far until this blister has settled down. The nice thing is that I feel under no pressure. I want to be a lifelong runner and I am not going to hurt myself for the sake of a schedule.

Wed 3rd Dec 14

What is it with the council? First they resurface the smoothest road in Bolton with broken bits of tarmac and then they go and send the gritters out at the first sight of frost. I have been waiting for this day. I have been seeing if I can run barefoot each day as it has become colder. It is around zero this morning and the cold isn’t a problem but the rock salt is. I ended up on the pavement and heading for a traffic free road with no grit this morning. I am enjoying the flexibility of my runstreak. Life is busy at the moment and I have a large assignment to get in. That means that I am burning the midnight oil. What is good , is that I can drop off some of the other things that I do for a little while in the knowledge that I can pick them up in a week or so. Other than my training blog, I have dropped off my usual barefoot and beer related writing and will come back to it and  I am just keeping the runstreak going with a mile a day for a little while. It keeps my sanity and things ticking over. I can see the light at the other end.

Thur 4th Dec 14

Day 43. I slept in this morning to catch up with a bit of sleep which I felt was more important than a longer run so just a mile. It was down at about zero again. Yesterday was more like -1C and the cold is not a problem as long as it is pretty dry. I have some real aching in my right hip and my groin is tensing up. I have not had that for a long time and it was one of the things that characterised my early minimalist running in trail gloves. I have exercises to do so had better get on with them.

Fri 5th Dec 14

A barefoot mile and it was cold and wet underfoot. I counted on the rain having washed away the rock salt and ran more on the roads than over the past day or two. My breath fogged up my vision in the beam of my headtorch. I got to thinking about how great my little torch has been. It has been with me on runs day after day and it never complains. It just gets on with the job and has even been through the washing machine and come out fine. It is a little Petzl Tikka. I am still burning the midnight oil and should be able to let up in a day or two. At least my soles have had a bit of a rest.

Sat 6th Dec 14

A barefoot mile this morning. It was cold and icy and the roads were slippy. Good fun really. First run in the daylight this week and that brought about the usual stares from folk walking their dogs. As far as I recall, none of the dogs were wearing footwear but no-one was staring at them. The injustice of it all.

Sun 7th Dec 14

Very wet and cold this morning. An early barefoot mile before setting off to do Great Harwood Chritmas market. Keeping warm and dry will be the order of the day, I think. Then off for an outdoor Carol Service with Em later. Shold be fun. My feet felt robust and I was pushing along even over the stony bits this morning. My hip feels much better. When I look at my mileage, I had taken a big step jump and it looks like my hip is the thing that goes off first. This week of barefoot miles seems to have recharged my batteries and kept things ticking over. My first EdD assignment is ready for handing in and I can get back to a bit of normality. Maybe!

Mon 8th Dec 14

There was a terrific hail shower just before I set off this morning which on top of very wet ground made it a mazy run of icy puddles this morning. I kept the barefoot mile going. My soles were burning pretty much straight away and then it eased off. Tricky going downhill and on a steep slope I switched to the pavement for more traction. It is certainly the coldest that my feet have been for some time. They are now warming up and that is OK. Not the pain I expected. At least not yet.

Tues 9th Dec 14

Dodging frozen puddles this morning which is better than the freezing slush of yeterday. kept the streak going but this was the first morning that getting out there was a struggle. Late night drive back from Robinwood last night. Day 48. Tommorow will make 7 weeks of continual barefooting.

Wed 10th Dec 14

The weather has taken a real turn for the worse and I didn’t run as planned this morning up in Northumberland. I ended up running when I got home. I just came in and got my stuff on and went. I really enjoyed it. I felt quick and robust even through the cold. A barefoot mile My feet were in icy puddles for quite a lot of the way but it wasn’t a problem. They gave me no issues warming back up afterwards. City vs Roma on TV tonight.

Thur 11th Dec 14

I was up late after a busy few days away with schoolchildren on Outwards Bounds. It was cold up there. This morning was cold again and my feet handled it well. I was running through cold puddles and it was fine. No ice around so can’t be too bad. My legs feel softer than a couple of weeks ago. the barefoot mile a day has kept me going during a busy and difficult perios where running may have stopped in the past but I also needto now break out of the routine and go further. Not easy to do barefoot in this weather. I may try an out and back couple of miles tomorrow although most likely Saturday in the light.

Fri 12th Dec 14

What is it with common sense? I got to thinking as my feet were slowly going numb during my barefoot mile this morning. Common sense is what is says. It is a generalisation. The thing is that we are individuals and we should challenge the things dictated by bloody common sense. Running every day barefoot throughout the winter flies in the face of common sense so why am I doing it. For fun, enjoyment and to see if I can. Knowing what the commion sense is can be quite useful but then ignore it if you choose. Don’t put anyone else in danger, that would be selfish but live life and don’t sit in that safe zone dictated by common sense all the time. It was cold this morning and there were some deep puddles to splash through. I was 100yds into the unlit section before I realised that I hadn’t put my headtorch on. I was feeling my way with my feet.

Sat 13th Dec 14

The coldest morning by far or so it felt. Icy inderfoot rather than wet in most places. Car said -1C but it felt colder. I ram 3.5 miles barefoot and my left foot was numb quickest. My right foot didn’t really get there. After 2 miles, the feeling went away and I felt fine and the cold was no longer an issue. Cold induced vasodilation in action. I think my body had worked out what I was doing. Again, I am not really bothered why it works as long as it does. It would be interesting to look at all the common sense assumptions to do with running and then investigate a way to test yourself against them to find a way of running that works for you. It is also interesting to think about running in a seasonal sense like strawberries. Sure, you can have strawberries all year round but is that really a good thing. Depends on your point of view, I suppose. Now that I am only running barefoot, my long runs seem lmited in the colder months. Maybe that is a good thing for someone looking for a way to make running a lifelong pursuit. This has been my only run of the week in the daylight.

Sun 14th Dec 14

A mile barefoot with a headache this morning. I am defintely under the weather and am up early ready to go to Ramsbottom farmers’ market. My breathing is laboured again and my inhaler is only just taking the edge of it. Visit to the doctors this week. My feet were not bothered by the cold this morning but they felt tender after yesterday morning’s run. I am turning into a completely unshod runner. I haven’t run in shoes for quite a long time now. Whilst running, I was thinking about James Cracknell in the desert. That has to be one of the most remarkable things that I have seen. Highest placed Brit ever in the Marathon de Sable.

Mon 15th Dec 14

5 fantastic barefoot miles this morning. I set off at 6am with the thought of doing about 2.5 miles but my soles immediately felt robust and I was running well. I had in in there so I made hay whilst the sun was shining (or not seeing as I hardly ever run in the daylight). Not as cold today and the rain has washed the rocksalt away. I have beenr eading Ruby Wax’s book on mindfulness and it is fascinating. I took a couple of points on my run to stop for a few seconds and feel what was going on around me. It is all too easy to get carried away with life. She also makes the point about us being comfortable with the pain of misery. It feels comfortable because it is what we are used to and getting out of it means change. We would rather put up with it than change. She makes a good point. I was stuck for years in a cycle of injury and rehab that I deep down knew wouldn’t help but made me feel comfortable. I was in a comfy rut. It would be nice to run a workshop for runners where we look at the givens of running and then test ourselves against them. Day 54 of this little run streak.

Tues 16th Dec 14

Day 55 and something weird happened on my barefoot mile this morning. I turned right instead of left for a change and this route has steep hills. I was running pretty quickly uphill and my soles felt incredibly robust. I was expecting to feel the barefoot burn but instead could feel my soles protesting as the skin bunched and shifted on them but no pain at all. Just sensation where I could feel the skin moving around. I kept waiting for the pain to arrive but it never did. I could still feel enough to be cautious and back of the pace slightly but it wasn’t pain that did it. Both brilliant and something to beware of, I think.

Wed 17th Dec14

8 weeks of daily barefooting and my soles felt no discomfort for the second day running. It feels significant and a change. 5 miles this morning. I went out thinking that the weather was awful and that my soles were tired and that I would do a mile but my soles felt fine. Again, I could feel the pulling and shifting of the skin but just as a sensation. I ended up keeping going and ran my usual 5 mile route. Giving myself that hour to run in the morning works well for me. It gives me space to run upto 6 without worrying or rushing. My stomach felt sore though. Lots of bugs going around at the moment and it was there all along. My stride felt heavy and I had trouble running light. My feet wouldn’t lift too high off the ground. When I came around the final bend onto a flat smooth section though, I speeded up and an image of Dr Mark Cuzzella came into my mind. Not as fast but my form felt similar. Maybe not to a passer by but at least in my head. Nice to get 2, 5 milers in so early in the week.

Thur 18th Dec 14

A barefoot mile with headtorch and no problem. Soles still feel robust even though I had the beginnings of a blister behind the big toe on my right foot yesterday. It has gome away and things are fine. I was challenged on my thinking yesterday about spending money. Not so much challenged but I had one of the pints I made expanded. I think that I have a mindset problem with coahing in a lot of ways where some people don’t. I find that it can be useful as long as I believe in the person doing the coaching. Mostly I don’t. That cynical ‘spend your money here and I will sort you out’ sort of thing that is all over the place. It would be interesting to go and see Tony Riddle. Perhaps I am just not willing to invest the time in drills when I think that i can do it myself by barefooting regularly. Interesting problem.

Fri 19th Dec 14

A barefoot mile and it has turned a bit colder again which meant my soles felt it. No real problem though. Just pitter-pattered along. The hills were easy and I felt good on them. The hills just come and go. I have noticed that since beginning to barefoot. I think it is the short strides being like a low gear. I enjoy the hills, it breaks things up. Downhil is more challenging than uphill because my feet want to slide and the friction is increased. Lifting going downhill takes practice and feels weird. Danny Dreyer had something in his book about keeping your trailing foot on the floor longer than normal when going down hill. it would then be about removing alltension from that leg to stop pushing off. Practice.

Sat 20th Dec 14

6.3 miles in the daylight on the trails this morning. I wonder which is worse – gravel or treed debris. At least gravel is consistent and not full of spikey thorns. I chose a route with the trails in the second half to let my feet get going and that seemed to work. Also worth remembering that if you have the choice of running rough trail up or downhill choose the uphill every time. Much easier.

I was really pleased to find that i had no trouble on the trails this morning and that opens up quite a few routes. Now that it is evening, I can feel my soles. They have definitely been out for a run but I wouldn’t describe then as sore. They are more in need of a break.

Bumped into an old running friend. he was walking alongside the Jumbles resevoir at quite a pace. He no longer runs because of his knees and we had a good chat about barefooting. It is runners like him that strike a chord with me. There may just be another way for them. Day 59 of this little barefoot runstreak.

Sun 21st Dec 14

A barefoot mile this morning to keep the runsteak going and make 20 barefoot miles for the week. My soles don’t feel pain in the same way as the did at the start and that needs thinking about. Yesterday, i ran 6 and a bit miles on the trails. At the end, I felt like I could easily have done a few more miles (say upto 10) but in the evening my soles felt a bit battered. nothing too bad that made me think I wouldn’t run today but tired. I didn’t feel this at the time. This must be because my soles are getting used to running but it also means that the way I listen to them has to change. It is no longer just pain that is going to keep me safe but also sensations and being sensible(ish).

The amazing Ron Hill completed his 50year runstreak yesterday. Just day 60 for me. Found the #runeveryday hashtag from Ron Hill’s T-shirt.

Mon 22nd Dec 14

Ran barefoot for 3 miles around Egerton with no real problem. Just keeping the miles going. Day 61

Tues 23rd Dec 14

Very wet today and running quickly. Feel feel pretty good with some tender spots on the outside of my midfoot on both sides. Be good to get a 10k in over Christmas

Wed 24th Dec 14

Glorious day and it would have been good to get out for a decent run today but ran out of time. My feet told me pretty quickly that I needed a short run today in any case. I did a barefoot mile and remembered why I run early morning when no one is about. I don’t like the fuss. I have avoided runs because of it. I ended up running quicker than I have for ages uphill. Good fun. Arms swinging on the uphills and flying. I am definitely getting fitter. A barefoot mile was my lot on day 63. 9 weeks of barefooting. New Years Eve will take me to 10 weeks.

Thursday Dec 25th 14

Just a barefoot mile this morning. My breathing was very laboured and I have been sneezing a bit this morning. Time to go back and get a preventer inhaler I think. Not had one for years but this is getting beyond a joke. Maybe it was something to do with the big chocolate Santa I ate before I set off though.

Fri 26th Dec 14

3 barefoot miles this morning was all my stomach could handle. Severe case of runners’ trots or IBS or one of the other terms for it. Whatever we call it, we don’t discuss it often enough. It can be debilitating and I once had to walk the second half a half marathon because of it. The number of times, I have been running home from work and had to stop. I have planned my entire race mornings around bowel movements. It can be quite difficult. Be good to discuss openly in the forum at some point.

My feet felt a bit tender this morning and 3 miles was probably enough in any case.

 Sat 27th Dec 14

A barefoot mile this morning in the first snow and ice of the year. It snowed a lot yesterday and then it froze overnight. My feet were very cold straight away and I headed for the car tracks on the road. They were very slippy. It turned out not to be the cold that was a problem but the sharpness of the ice. It made me turn back because the most i could do was hobble on it. I found a section of road that was easy to run on and did my mile there. My feet warmed up and it was pleasant to be out. A couple of people stopped me including a delivery van driver to ask but were all very happy and positive. ‘So…you are not crazy then’ said on guy. Not too sure about that. I am in the bloody minded phase. I am doing a mile no matter what. Not advocating it for anyone.

Also seem to have something stuck in my foot. I felt it go in and the irony was that i was in the hose wearing socks at the time. I jumped and felt a pain in my left arch. Tracy had a go at removing with tweezers last night but to no avail. Still sore.

Sun 28th Dec 14

4.83 miles barefoot this morning in the ice. No snow any more but the roads had a thin lacer of ice on them. My left foot in particular was very cold initially and my soles were protesting almost straight away. I set off thinking that maybe I would do a mile but ended up getting into the swing of things. The sun was shining and I got into a rhythm. After about 1.5 miles my feet felt fine. I am sure that they are a little numb because my left calf started to feel sore towards the end. I have not had that for a long time and I figure that my form must be affected by numb feet. I could have gone further but I think that would have been for the wrong reasons. 5 miles or so is fine for now. So easy to get caught up and run for the wrong reason and not for myself. Good to have an early night last night and be up early as usual.I like the routine.

Mon 29th Dec 14

Well below zero this morning for this barefoot mile and my soles were tender almost straight away. I think it is a combination of the cold and the rocksalt. Looks like the grtiiter had been up during the night. lots of fresh and melted rocksalt everywhere. It wasn’t there yesterday. Must be getting ready for Monday morning and getting folk to work. My right groin was tight which I think is to do with running on ice yesterday. You grip with your toes evern when you try not to.  had a long soak yesterday and that may have softened my feet up also. This thing stuck in my right foot is not working its way out yet. It is in there, no doubt. Tender to touch.

Tues 30th Dec 14

A barefoot mile to keep things going. About -2C and my left foot again went cold much quicker than my right. I prefer to get up early and run when there is no one about.

Wed 31st Dec 14

First piece of glass of the year and it waited until the last day of the year. Running past The Cross Guns Inn and I felt a sharp stab in my right heel. I carried on a step or two but it was pretty clear that something was wrong. I brushed a stone off and that didn’t help. My feet were pretty dirty and i couldn’t see anything. I brushed my fingers and felt something tiny and managed to get hold of a sliver of glass. About 5mm long. I pulled it out. Plenty of blood initially but I carried on running and it was fine for the next 4 miles home. I passed a group of cyclists near home. Mountain biking forty somethings on shiny bikes and lots of expensice gear. One shouted at me,’You’ve got no shoes mate’. I shouted back that he seemed to be sitting on top of a big piece of metal. Wonder if he had noticed? I wonder how much his getup and bike cost. Expensive to sit in a garage for weeks on end. Barefeet cost nothing and I am put every day in mine. It was all very good natured but I am not a fan of this sort of thing. I prefer to enjoy my run without having to justify myself and respond all the time. My barefoot running is not attention seeking behaviour. I just wanna run.

I spent a while wondering how many miles I can run in 2015. I have never done 1000miles in a year because of injury. 20 miles a week would do it. I found myself plotting and planing and scheming. I am still not immune to this sort of thinking. It is so seductive and dangerous but also helps get me out of the front door. The balance is so hard to find.

5 miles to complete 10 weeks of barefoot running every day.

Dec 16

Why you can’t spend your barefoot way to success

I have spent a small fortune on trying to cure my running injuries over the years. A couple of decades in, I realised that it just doesn’t work.

The Barefoot Beginner approach is different because it asks you to let go of your consumer values and go back to basics.

The big problem is that in modern life, whenever we have a problem, we look for a way to spend our way out of it. I did it for many years.

…and there was no shortage of people willing to sell me the solution!

Whatever problem we have, someone will be out there ready to take our money and sort it out for us.

Where there is no problem then someone will happily create one for us. They convince us that we are doing things wrong and then sell us the solution.

It is so common that we don’t see it anymore. In modern life, whenever we have a problem, all we need to do is throw money at it and it will go away.

Barefooting is not like that. Money is not going to help. It is a great leveler and you cannot spend your way to success. We are are so used to buying shortcuts that we think that looking for the cheat is the best way to do things. It isn’t. We can’t just hand our problems to other people.  We need to change our mindset and realise that this one is down to us.

Success will come with honesty, experimentation, diligence and patience. You are going to build a lasting solution that works for you from the ground up. Sure, you can buy some advice and coaching but check with yourself what you want to get out of it. Don’t attempt to hand the responsibility for your success over to someone else. Grab hold and take charge of it. Spend your money wisely.The cost isn’t anywhere near as important as the time. It is all about you and your willingness to be in the driving seat.

It has taken me decades to wake up to the fact that I have always been looking for someone else to sort my running injuries out for me. I couldn’t see that the problem lay with me.

I did the classic consumer thing. In my late teens, I was running well but was suckered in by the shiny ads for running shoes in the magazines. I bought into the dream they were selling me. I felt that if I wanted to be a ‘proper’ runner then I needed a ‘proper’ pair of running shoes. Up until that point, I had been running and competing for years in cheap flat shoes. I didn’t have a problem but the magazines convinced me that I did. I saved long and hard for my first pair.They were Reebok Royales and within a month, I was injured for the first time ever.

Crazy as it seems, I didn’t connect the shin splints to the new ‘proper’ shoes. I mean, the shoes were ‘proper’ so how could the problem be with them? The running magazines were so full of tales of injury that it was seen as normal and they had plenty of solutions to sell me.

My first injury related purchase were called ‘Runners Wedge’. They sat in the back of my shoes and raised my heel a little. I then developed a problem with my arches and after paying out for physio and advice, bought some arch supports. I then had half length and full length inserts and then eventually went for gait analysis. This led to motion control shoes. Then it was motion control with inserts that cost more than the shoes themselves. I had neoprene calf supports and eventually after 20 something years of tinkering, coaching and physio, I ended up running wearing a calf support whilst having wedges underneath my orthotics in the most expensive shoes I could afford… and I was still breaking down with injury after less than a mile. My calves felt like they must have been made up of mostly scar tissue.

In the end, I just threw them all away and started again but it took a while for my head to get out of that consumer mindset. It is as prevalent in barefoot/minimalist running as everywhere else. I know lots of barefooters who have more shoes now than ever before…and they are not cheap.

We can fall into the trap of thinking that a pair of Vibram Fivefingers or Vivobarefoot will sort the problem out for us. They won’t. It doesn’t matter if they cost well over £100, they do not have the answer. It took me a little while longer to realise that before I ended up putting them to one side as well.

It is all about you. If you are willing to be patient and catch yourself when you are trying to buy a shortcut then you will make progress.

The parallel is the diet industry. Billions are spent trying to take a shortcut to the new thinner you. It is so enticing. If you are overweight then just throw money at it and everything will be sorted out for you. We know that It just doesn’t work like that. Throw out the orthotics in the same way that you throw out the diet products and that stuff in the fridge pretending to be yoghurt.

Look back at your running career. What injury related products have you invested in? Did they creep up on you? Where are you at now? List them and count the cost. Not just the money but the time. For me it has run into decades. How about you?

 

Dec 14

In a world of barefoot generalisations, we are all exceptions to the rule!

I must admit that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about the way scientific studies are interpreted. I have no problem with the studies but it when the interpretation leads to us being be told how we should run, I get hot under the collar.

The thing with generalisations is that they are just that. One way or another they average things out. They are useful as a starting point but they should not become rules to live by. In a world of generalisations, we are all an exception to the rule.

I believe that we can find a way that works just for us. We should celebrate our individuality, not be slaves to what works for the masses.

My latest article for Barefoot Running Magazine tells you how to build your understanding of what works from the ground up. Click the image (or here) for a handy pdf of the article.

BFrunning mag

 

You can download the whole issue here. It is worth a look. Excellent as always.

 

Dec 01

Training Blog November 2014

Sat 1st Nov 14

4.2 miles barefoot this morning. I was up early and waiting for the light because I wanted to go off piste a little and run somewhere new. If I am going to run exclusively barefoot then I am going to develop a whole new set of routes to run that keep my interest up. I have decades worth of old familiar routes and then a pretty much all on rough man made trail. I can run them but it isn’t fun. There are still beautiful places to run but I need to dip in and out of those old routes and just run short section of man made trail for now.

I had a hot spot on the upper outside of my left ankle. Not muscle and so I don’t worry too much. The sections that I chose along field paths were very slippy this morning and that needs to be a consideration too. I ended up walking them more than the rough sections.

Sun 2nd Nov 14

A mile barefoot this morning to keep the streak going. Day 11 was one ot get rhough. We were out very late last night and full of curry and beer with all the parents from my son’s football team.

I was very wheezy and didn’t roll my arches before I set off. I could feel the difference in my calves as soon as I set off. Glad that I went out though. I must be more committed to the little runstreak than I thought.

Mon 3rd Nov 14

4.2 miles barefoot this morning. it was very dark setting off and the ground was damp. that always makes my soles burn more than usual and i found myself weaving around looking for puddles. I ended up thinking about repescting temperatures and weather in general. Hot tarmac can burn and the cold needs full respect and lots of experince before you tackle it. Felt good and ended up feeling like i was running quickly and on the edge of sustainable. A good way to start the week. it would be good to keep this barefoot mile a day going and keep logging my thoughts to form the basis of a year of barefoot running journal.

Spent last night putting together a HACCP plan ready fpr inspection for our food producers grade.

Day12

Tues 4th Nov 14

Day 13 of this little barefoot runstreak and I suffered this morning. Yesterday I scrubbed the skin off the end of the 4th toe of my left foot. I knew when I was running that I was pushing through some general discomfort from my soles but had no idea about the tip of my toe until well after I got back. I was also marvelling yesterday at how on very dark stretches my feet were finding their way and moulding round some quite sharp stones. One of them caused a nice bruise on the underside of my left foot. I decided on just a barefoot mile this morning and my soles were burning from the off. I concentrated on lifting my feet and kept my toes upturned. Yesterday I ran well and quick on the last 2 miles. I was enjoying the feeling of being on the edge and had to keep stopping myself getting tense and pushing off ever so slightly. It is almost not there. it is just a lack of emphasis on the lift and I ended up creating friction and scrubbing my toe. Live and learn. Tomorrow is another day.

Wed 5th Nov 14

My soles were protesting pretty soon into my run this morning. They have been telling me to take it easy for 3 days now. I ignored them on the first day and ended up with the skin scrubbed off one toe and a bruise on my left foot. I used spray plaster on the tip of my damaged toe last night to offera little protection this morning. i will continue to do so for a little while until it heals. My legs are feeling good and I fell better for the run but I will respect my soles and back off. Just a mile barefoot this morning. My runstreak is now 2 weeks old.

Thursday 6th Nov 14

A barefoot mile this morning. First headtorch run of the year. It was cold and dry underfoot having been at around zero ovrnight. The barefoot burn was there but not as much as yesterday. Running in the dark was fun but I caught a stone in the middle of my heel. Ouch! I then caught another in exactly the same spot on the way back. I am limiting my distance because of teh scrubbed skin on the end of my toe. Not becauswe of the toe, I have 2 layers of spray plaster on it but because I know that i protecting it when running and so my form is altered and i don’t want to pick up anything else. My legs feel realxed and good and I was concentrating on lifting. Using the spikey roller on my arches is enjoyable. There are some real hotspots in there and getting at them feels good. Day 15 of little runstreak.

Friday 7th Nov 14

Tip of my toe feeling much better so will be back out tomorrow as usual. Just a barefoot mile this morning to give it one more day to recover. Spray plaster worls well for me. It was 2C yesterday morning and although wetter, it feels about that today. The puddles were cold and my breath kept fogging my vision in the beam of my headtorch. I had not been n the trails for a while and think i had been avoiding them so i went along a very rough manmade trail this morning in the dark. i didn’t really get much beyond a walk and wouldn’t choose to do it but it shows that I can do it if i need to get to the other side for some good running. I need to put some into my barefoot routes to break them up a bit.

Sat 8th Nov 14

A barefoot mile. My soles and toe are feeling better but I was really pushed for time because I had been looking a headtorch reviews and thinking about cold induced vasodilation. It was cold underfoot this morning and that contributes to the burn a long wiht the damp conditions. Good to keep the streak going and being at day 17. I am really struggling to breath at the moment. i seem to be allergic to something in the air. My throat is very itchy and my breathing wheezy. i am atking antihistamines and inhaler and they help but I also have a nagging cough that i can’t shake off. Still running though and enjoying it.

Good to go through an exercise in finding out the reasons why I run. I will be posting it soon so everyone can have a go.

Sun 9th Nov 14

I really struggled with my barefoot mile this morning. My breathing was laboured and I nearly had to stop going uphill. I have been struggling with my breath for a while. i have gone from someone who never needs to take their inhaler from one year to the next to needing it just to get through the day. the back of my throat is itchy. Either i am having an allergic reaction to something in the air and then this is making my wheeze or I am wheezing, taking my inhaler an it is making the back of my throat itchy. Whatever, I need a checkup. Just got notification through that is time so I had better get in there this week. Day 18.

Mon 10th Nov 14

Checked peak flow reading after run yesterday. Down to 380. That is very low. 320 and I am in trouble. My normal reading is about 650. I was 510 this morning and 600 after inhaler. 2.8 barefoot in the dark this morning. Still wheezy but I am OK to run if I use inhaler. I think it is linked to the dust thrown up by the heating. Feet felt fine this morning. I could feel the tip of my toe but it is pretty well healed now. My left calf had a bit of a tight spot. Just a little but nothing to stop me running. I did not use the flat roller this morning, just the spiky one and I think that may have been the difference. Good to be out. Not too cold. Day 19

Tues 11th Nov 14

Day 20 was a barefoot mile in the wet before dawn. It was very dark and I ended up fiddling about with torch and putting it over my cap. Time for wooly hats if I am going to run with headtorch. I enjoy the splashiness of the wet much more than the damp. It is much more pleasant to run on. Toe tip was protesting early on so ended up curling my toes upwards. Lots of tension in my shoulders which i needed o keep dropping. I seemed to be in a hurry this morning. kept slowing myself down and relaxing and then when I came to, I was bombing along with tense shoulders again.

 Wed 12th Nov 14

3 miles barefoot this morning. I felt fine other than my legs feeling heavy during the day. it is a curious feeling that I recognise from my last run streak. it is like my legs are pulling me downwards into the ground. Not sore. Just heavy. 3 weeks so far.

Thursday 13th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. The ground was dry for the first time in ages and it felt wonderful and cool and smooth until I hit the damp roughr section half a mile in. Then the tip of the same toe began to protest. I was pushing along at this point and may have been gripping bu then i gues that is what toes are supposed to do. I concentrated on a different kind of focus which was lifting and form and tried to let the speed come. I do revert back to forcing myself along though. Chose that word carefully. I am not pushing off my I am developing traction top sort of pull myself through. Day 22

Fri 14th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. It just rained really hard for the 10 mins that I was out. I got soaked. My feet protested almost straight away and although I could have gone much further, I think that I needed to listen to them and stop. It will be interesting to see if this is a phase and I come out of it or whether my feet cannot cope with the mile a day. Day 23. I ended up engaging my core this morning and thinking abut Jae’s advice and Chirunning etc. I do feel better when I extend my spine but find that my natural as state is not as extended and I pull myself along.

Sat 15th Nov 14

Funny, broken nights sleep. I ended up getting up for a couple of hours and going back to bed at 5am. That interupted my plans for an early run because it was an early start anyway for football and normal Saturday morning stuff. Just a mile barefoot. I could feel tenderness straight away. I went onto a steep muddy slope at one point but it was much too slippy barefoot. I might need to get my barefoot mile in and then go out for a run later in the day shod. I will see how that goes.

Sunday 16th Nov 14

2.3 miles barefoot in inky blackness this morning. On a market today but wanted to get a run in that was longer than a mile so I was out very early. Day 25 was Ok. My soles are sensitive at the moment. I kept looking for puddles to run through. I would love a dry day to go at.

Monday 17th Nov 14

A mile this morning. I struggled to get up this morning. I rolled out of bed because i wanted to get my run in. If I hadn’t been running this morning, I would have stayed in bed for a while. I knew that if I went through the day then getting the run in this evening would have been difficult. All my little calf niggles have come running in the evening recently. My soles feel like they are wearing out. they don’t feel robust. the barefoot burn came on pretty quick this morning. I enjoy dropping into a relaxed pitter-patter of a rhythm that I feel I can sustain but I consistently find myslef pushing hard. I must have gone up the steep hill this morning with no problem because I can remeber nothing about it. I am wondering how robust my soles would feel with aftwer a few days off.

Tues 18th Nov 14

4.86 barefoot miles this morning. I stretched arches with roller and headed out into the damp darkness thinking that I would struggle to do a mile. The damp is the worst for me but after a mile I carried on fine. I am struggling to judge whether my soles have had enough or whether I am just going over a rough piece of road. I ran just short of 5 miles and felt great by the end. I could have gone further but time was a constraint. I think that time is a big factor in barefooting. you need to give yourself space to take your time. Rushing doesn’t work.

Wed 19th Nov 14

4 weeks of barefooting  and a barefoot mile this morning. I forgot to take my inhaler and so my breathing was very wheezy at the end. No problem with headtorch and I was jumping on and off kerbs with no concern as to what was under my feet.

Thursday 20th Nov 14

5 miles barefoot this morning. That is my second 5 miler of the week which is a turnaround on how I was feeling last week. i find myself plotting and planning and scheming on how to get to 20 miles a week barefoot and then I stop myself. I am feeling good today but it might be different next week. Who knows? I want to be a lifelong runner, I need to learn how to ride the waves and keep things ticking over gently in the dips between them.

I got to thinking about snow. My plan is to try and keep the barefoot mileing up as long as possible but if i can’t so be it. the snow won’t last forever and I am already looking forward to the spring.

I think that adding some gradients into your running is useful. It makes you think about friction in particular both going up and going down. Chris McDougal also trained by running fast uphills, I seem to remember.

Friday 21st Nov 14

A barefoot mile that started with the burn and carried on that way. I waore my headtorch and ended up experimneting. Jason Robillard uses a hand held torch or so I believe. I assume that is all to do with posture because you do tilt your head. I think that i would be doing that anyway to look at the ground but I wouldn’t mind giving a handheld a try. It would certainly help in the cold when my breath fogs up my vision in the beam.

My 3rd toes on left footwas catching again and I will need to watch that as it gets colder and my feet look their feeling. I have been using the spiky roller before running. it gets the blood flowing and I think it helps. my feet felt sensitive when i got up but the roller got rid of that although I couldn’t have gone far this morning. Day 30

Sat 22nd Nov 14

Just short of 3.5 miles barefoot this morning. The ground was wet and nice to run on. A few steep hills that were OK. Much easier barefoot. A good running week so far. I think that is a full calendar month of barefooting every day.

Sun 23rd Nov 14

1.4 miles barefoot in the daylight today. That is a novelty and I enjoyed it. My feet felt cold and tender afterwards but I have not got a single issue anywhere in my legs or feet at the moment. I spent around 10 hrs in the car yetserday but any stiffnedd or wrinkles where ironed out this morning. I don’t care why barefooting works. It just does for me and that is that. I could not run like this in shoes.

Mon 24th Nov 14

1 mile barefoot in zero degrees C. The first morning with ice on the windscreen. The baredfoot burn was there straight away and I grinned when it almost made me stop. It took me back to when I first started walking the dogs round the block barefoot and I got stuck and couldn’t go back wards or forwards because my feet were protesting so much.

Tuesday 25th Nov 14

5 miles barefoot this morning aqnd I knew from getting up that it would be OK. My feet feel fine. It was cold and I am not sure if there was some rocksalt on the busiest road. I ended up running pretty quick for me in places. Day 34 and i have just realised that I will need to be running when I am on the residential; with the children in a couple of weeks. Should be fun in the Pennines with my headtorch.

Wed 26th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. I could tell that my feet needed a bit of a break today but they held up better then I thought they would. It helped that it was wet. I seem intent on getting out of bed and continuing this run streak. I felt bouncy and alive yesterday which is one of the things that I get most out of being a runner. I also felt in better shape generally than I have for a while.

Thur 27th Nov 14

Day 36 was a barefoot mile. I could have gone further but my soles still feel a little tender from Tuesday morning and I decided to respect that and back off a little and wait until tomorrow until I go further. I got to thinking about friction and how we reduce it. I am not pushing off but I do pull myself through using the friction of the sole against the floor. it would be handy if we could do without friction but just like calories we need some and that is where the problem lies. I am grabbing the floor and pulling myself forward and then I lift. No sign of getting fed up with the runstreak. This morning run is becoming a habit. The spiky roller felt good this morning.

Fri 28th Nov 14

5 barefoot miles this morning. …and what did I learn? I learnt that I can switch the feedback off from my soles and do too much. I have been too preoccupied with my soles and have forgotten that they keep me from doing too much and hurting the underlying structure of my feet and lower legs. Towards the end of the run I got an ache in the inner heel of my right foot that I have not had before. It then worked slightly round towards my arch. I also have had a pain in my right knee cap. I found this yesterday when i went to sit down at a dining table with the children at school. I put my weight on my right leg as I bent down low and nearly fell over. It is top centre of my knee cap and I do not feel it all when running or walking. it just comes on when I bend my knee significantly. I don’t remember banging it on anything. It is sore and I will need to keep an eye on how much it is affecting my running technique. I had 2 big sneezing fits last night and my whole back of throat is itchy and sore too.

Sat 29th Nov 14

Running when I get up has meant that I have a good routine to follow and it is working for me at the moment. It is all about giving myself time and space to run and not beating myself up if I oversleep and run less than planned. My feet felt good after the 5 miler yesterday but as sonn as I set off, I could feel a couple of hot spots on my soles and expected to struggle. I got to my half way point and the barefoot burn just hadn’t arrived and I ran no problem today. Day 38. My knee is still sore and I don’t have an explanation at the moment. I may be keeping my right leg a little more straight than my left and I will need to watch that.

Sun 30th Nov 14

6.85 miles on bridleways and quiet roads. I slipped and went down hard on a muddy section. It was one of those that could break a wrist. I proceeded cautiously. I am in the middle of an EdD weekend and the run gave me space to consider things. I am learning more about the narrative approach that I can see myself using to learn about barefooting. I moved off the white lines in the middle of the road because they were slick andIi was worried about going down again. A big message is about time. Time to be patient but allowing time to run without the need to hurry. Runners tend to be people in a hurry.  Day 39 rounded off a week with over 20 miles of barefoot running. i have not run in footwear for a long time.

Nov 17

Digging deep – Why do you run?

This post is for those who want to dig deep and find out the underlying reasons why they run. Are we running for our own reasons or because we have a vague sense that we should?

If we understand why we run then we are much more likely to turn it into a life long habit.

It is where I went through the process in the post ‘Creating your own barefoot path and breaking the Ad man’s heart’

I took my time and went through each of the steps.

Step 1 & 2 – I listed all the possible reasons that I could think of that I run. Then I put it aside for a day and came back and added a thing or two. They were:

  • My clothes fit better
  • It keeps my weight in check
  • I am emotionally more level when running consistently
  • I can handle the rest of my life better when running consistently
  • I enjoy the tired feeling in my legs during the day (After an early morning run)
  • I enjoy the long run and the space that it gives me to think.
  • I like the hard, strong feeling that develops in my leg muscles. They feel strong.
  • I want to pass on my love of running to my children
  • I want my heart and lungs to be in good shape
  • I want to be fit enough to do other physical activities at the drop of a hat.
  • I want to remain active into old age
  • It gives me something to blog and write about.
  • I really don’t want to be bald and fat. It is such a cliche.
  • I like the bounce in my step when I am running well. I feel like I can spring into action if needed.
  • I can walk up a mountain no problem.
  • It opens up a world of other things to do such as playing football with my kids.

You can see it was a stream of thoughts and there are some repetitions. That is OK. Just get the ideas out of your head.

Step 3 - I stared at the list for a little while and let my mind wander. I then noted where in the list my eye was drawn and put a circle around the 3 that I thought meant most to me. They were:

 

  1. It keeps my weight in check
  2. I enjoy the long run and the space that it gives me to think.
  3. I like the hard, strong feeling that develops in my leg muscles. They feel strong.

It is easy to leave it at that but the value comes when we dig a little deeper and ask oursleves why this reason is important to us.I did this for each of the reason that I had chosen.

 

  1. Keeping my weight in check is important to me. I want to look good in my clothes and feel good about myself. I lost all my hair suddenly when I was 19 years old and old, bald and fat is not somewhere I want to go. I need to have some credibility as a writer about running and I feel that many people judge by appearance.
  2. The ideas dealing with space to think and dealing with modern life. I feel like I need some space to deal with my busy life. It is the quality time that helps to sort things out and burns off adrenaline.
  3. I like to feel that I can spring into action if needed. I like to bounce down the corridor. I like the thought that I could head out and walk up a mountain if I needed to.

Step 4: Here is where I went even deeper and asked myself the question.’…but really…why is that important to me?’ I took each in turn and when the butterflies in my stomach arrived, I knew that I was getting towards the truth. It is all to easy to shy away from things. Being honest with yourself will bring a much greater reward.

 

  1. I also judge myself by appearance. I don’t want my wife to be sleeping next to an bald, fat guy who snores like a pneumatic drill and can’t bend down to do up his laces. The feeling of fitting my clothes well and looking at least half decent in the mirror gives me a spring in my step. I want to take my kids swimming and feel OK walking out there in half decent shape. No one else cares but the truth is that I do. I am sucked in by the running magazines and operate in a world where we are bombarded by images of an idealized perfection. My idea of a running coach is of a lean, mean army corps type and I feel that if I am going to offer advice on running then I need to be the same. Nonsense but it is at the root of some of this.
  2. I like to be busy and keep a lot of plates spinning. I am much more able to do that when I am running than when I am in a period when I am not. The space it gives me is important because I believe that we are involved far to much in the process of things and often forget why we do things in the first place. Running is quality time where my brain ticks these things over and I plot and plan and scheme. Sometimes deep questions about where my life is gong next and sometimes mundane practical things but without that space I get caught up in the hurly burly of doing stuff and never stop to think about it. I don’t want to waste my life on things that don’t matter. Life is too short for that. I have sometimes been overwhelmed by my job but I am able to cope with everything it throws at me when I am running consistently. Whether it is to do with the space for strategic thinking or simply that it burns off the adrenaline caused by stressful situations, I am not sure but it certainly true. In short, I enjoy my job more during periods of running because I cope with it much better.
  3. I do really bounce down the corridors and jump up and touch the ceiling when I am feeling fit and strong. The honest answer is that it feels good and I love that feeling when I am walking somewhere and I break into a trot or run just for the fun of it. I want to be a dad who joins in with his kids and not one that is on the sidelines. I enjoy mountain walking. I enjoy it so much more when I am in a period of my life when I am running. Being fit and strong opens up so many more areas of life and I want that to remain as I am getting older. As I get older, i want to remain someone who participates in life not someone who gradually becomes a spectator and watches everyone else enjoying themselves.

That is what came out of the process described in the post ‘Creating your own barefoot path and breaking the Ad man’s heart’. I got serious butterlfies when I start to delve into my feelings about my appearance which i guess means that there is something in there. I think there are a few more layers to go there but it enough for now. It is a start.

My reasons are just for me. I am not advocating any of them for anyone else. I would love you to go through the process though and tell us what you find. My belief is that we are much more likely to be lifelong runners if we at least have some understanding of why we are doing it. Let’s break the ad man’s heart!

I have started a topic on the subject in the forum. Join in and contribute. It might just help.

Nov 17

Find you barefoot mojo and break the ad man’s heart

On Barefoot Beginner, I aim to be different. The aim is to start you on the journey and give you some of the tools that will help you towards being a lifelong runner. I am not going to give you a generic training schedule and I am definitely not going to tell you why you should run. There is already too much of that going on. We all have our own reasons for running but very few people stop and dig down to see what those reasons might be.

I am going to give you a technique for doing just that. Go with it. Trust me, it will be worth it. You will begin to follow your own path rather than blindly following the well trodden route (often to the cash register) taken by countless runners before you.

(You can see an example of how I went through the process in – Your personal barefoot mojo  – Why do you run?

You may ask why it is important to know. Can’t you just get on with it and run? Of course you can but a few minutes here might make a big difference in the long term.

The thing is that we often get swept along and fit in with the value systems of other people. Wouldn’t it be better to be running for own reasons and not for someone else’s?

Often people begin because they have a vague sense that they should run. We don’t often stop and ask where  that comes from? We are bombarded by all that modern society throws at us. That includes images of what the perfect mum should be like…or the perfect dad…or husband …or wife etc etc etc. Advertisers are smart and they hit us on an emotional level. They paint a picture of the life they think we desire and we fall for it. They gently herd us towards the dream in droves. Running is no exception and has become part of this idealised lifestyle.

How do we break away from that and stop running to beat of an ad mans drum? We all like to think that we are immune and that there is no way that we would fall for that. But..they are smart and their methods are highly developed. They sell different dreams to different people. They have something for everyone.

They are very good at selling to people like me. The would be mavericks who don’t want to follow the crowd. They create a dream where I can drop out and turn my back on the modern consumer world and… there are now loads of products out there that I can buy that will make me feel that I am doing just that. Pick up a running or lifestyle magazine and rather than the products have a look at the lifestyle that they are trying to sell you.

Running magazines sell us multiple dreams. One is the idea of the ‘serious’ runner. The (always attractive) runner who is clearly successful in all aspects of their life. The one who races to win. The one who eats certain things, does this type of hill or interval training, wears a certain type of base layer. We get swept along with whatever is popular at the time.

Be aware that I am doing the same thing to you now. I am selling the dream of following your own path. Of being a free spirit that can break free from the herd. Barefoot running is full of that sort of thing. Don’t fall for it either. You can’t buy ‘barefoot’ but that hasn’t stopped a multitude of people trying to sell it to us!

The time has come to STOP and do something that most runners never do. Dig deep and explore where our motivation for running comes from. We should run for ourselves and not because we have a vague sense that it what we should be doing to be successful, happy people. We should run in ways that make sense to us on a level that goes beyond a vision imposed on us by someone else.
It takes a healthy dose of courage to do this though. It does make us examine our own value system and that can be uncomfortable. We feel stripped back to the bone. It can be exhilarating and liberating but also a bit scary. Often, when we think we are there, we can still look deeper and with more honesty.

When we find our own reasons, we are much more likely to run in a sustainable way that we can make into lifelong habit. We are much more likely to overcome obstacles than if we are running to someone else’s agenda. To paraphrase Steve Jobs ‘You get one life, don’t waste it by living some else’s.’

Here we go.

The Barefoot Beginner way to find your Mojo.

Step 1- List all the possible answers to the question. ‘Why do I run?’ or ‘Why do I want to begin running?’

You can do this in various ways. You can simply write a list going down a page or just write your thoughts spread out across a piece of paper. You can draw diagrams, mind maps. The idea is that you dump all your thoughts on paper. It does not need to be neat and tidy. Put it one side until the next day and forget about it.

Step 2 – Return to your list. In the downtime, your brain will have been working away in the background and you may feel the need to add a thing or two. The time has come to be honest. Look at the page. Where is your eye drawn to? What is it that matters most to you? Remember, this is you, not other people. You need not share this with anyone. What matters most to you? Put a circle around the 3 things that pull you towards them.
When I did this, I had a physical reaction. My heart began speed up and I felt a mixture of anxiety and excitement. It felt important. Don’t shy away from things because they feel different or strange. This is about you. You can’t get the answer wrong but you can cheat yourself and take the easy route and go for something bland and generic. Honesty is the key.

Step 3 - Order the reasons you have circled 1,2 and 3. It is now time to dig a little deeper. Take reason number 1 and read it carefully back to yourself.
Now ask yourself the question:’OK – so this is my reason for running but why is this important to me?’
This might come easily or you might need to let it sit for a while. Dump your ideas on paper and when you are ready, write a sentence that sums up why this reason is so important to you.

Step 4 - We are going to do this one last time. Trust me. Do it again. Read your sentence back to yourself. Take a moment to clarify exactly what you mean.
Now ask yourself the question:’Why is this so important to me?’

Dump your ideas on paper again and write a sentence that sums it all up.

Now do the same for the other reasons that you circled. Don’t skimp or take shortcuts. Be honest and delve deep.

What emerges at the end of this process is your value system. It belongs to you and nobody else. You should not feel embarrassed because it isn’t what you think it should be. You should never feel the need to make excuses for running the way you want to for your own reasons. They are valid and important even if they do not fit in with an ad man’s dream.

You may have found your Mojo but if you are feeling a serious sense of anti-climax then that is OK too. In modern society, our true feelings are often buried under many layers. We have learned how to conform to society and are conditioned to go with the collective flow. Keep going and asking ‘….but why is that important to me?’ until the butterflies in your stomach begin to wake up. Seek them out, they hold the truth.

Finally, it may be that your true reasons for running are in line with the common thinking and that you are indeed an ad man’s dream. Smile about it. That is OK too as long as you have your eyes open to it and are not simply being swept along.

I have started a thread on the forum where I have gone through the process myself. Have a look and then join in. Tell us why you run. Celebrate it and shout from the rooftops and break free from the ad man and his manufactured dreams.

Oct 25

The first 40 seconds

40--2157369-Stopwatch Loop RealtimeI am often asked about my decision to begin barefoot running and how I did it. The truth is that it all started with a run of 40 seconds. Honestly!

After that, my soles were yelling at me to stop. I was carrying a pair of shoes and I slipped them on and made my way home.

It was a very humble beginning but for the rest of the day, I could feel the tingle in my feet. I was excited and couldn’t wait to go again. I had become a barefoot runner and my life had changed for the better.

That feeling is there for everyone. I am nothing special. I am not an urban caveman or bio mechanical genius. I am just a simple runner trying to find a way to run in a sustainable way that will last well into old age. I believe that I have found it.

It is my belief that most people can begin to run barefoot without problems as long as they start small and build gradually. Everyone is different but I believe that it is realistic for most people to go from 0 to 5k in around 12 weeks if they are willing to ditch the shoes for that period and start at the beginning.

I am suggesting that you do just that.

There are many variables that will make this individual to just you. Don’t try and ram yourself into a hole that doesn’t fit. Generalisations are useful to test ourselves against but we should not be slaves to them. You are an individual and need to experiment and find your own way. On Barefoot Beginner, I plan to help you do just that.
There are many things that will make your first run unique to you however, for this first run, we are only going to look at just 3 of them:

  • The surface you choose for your first run
  • The length of your first run
  • The speed that you choose to run

 

What surface?

There is a lot of debate over the best surface to start on. The common guidance is to start on a surface that flat, consistent and debris free. This might be a good quality tarmac road or path. The principle of a smooth, firm surface is that it gives you good feedback through your soles and helps you to develop an efficient technique.

That makes sense to me but I know many stories of people starting out on grass, sand and woodland trails. I even know of people who started out on rough man-made trails. Use what you you have at hand and don’t worry about it.

Don’t be that runner who never begins because they are always searching for the perfect surface. Put that excuse to one side.

How far?

I am also often asked how far the first barefoot run should be. This will also be individual to you. I had no idea how long my first was going to be when I set off. I turned out to be 40 seconds. The truth is that it doesn’t matter as long as you are honest with yourself about it and accept it for what it is. A beginning.


The Barefoot Beginner philopsophy is that the soles of your feet will prevent you from doing to much, too soon and hurting yourself. They will be your guide and savior.
How will you know when your soles have reached their limit for the day? It is a fair question and one that you will learn to answer for yourself. My soles were burning more quickly than I expected and I felt like I couldn’t go any further and so stopped. You will need to be honest with yourself. It is perfectly possible to switch off the feedback from your feet, plough on and get blisters.

During my first 12 weeks of barefoot running, I respected the messages coming from my soles, gradually ran further and didn’t have one blister. If you do get blisters, it is not the end of the world. It is all part of the learning process. Don’t be hard on yourself, just adjust your thresholds and work out how to read the feedback from your soles.
Carry a shoe in each hand and set off. When your soles are singing and you have had enough, stop. Slip your shoes on and make your way home.

How fast?

This will also be individual to you. I only mention it so that you are aware and think about it. Most people will tell you to forget about speed for now. The principle is that you first concentrate your running technique then add distance and finally the speed will come.
The Barefoot Beginner approach does the first two by default. We are improving our form by running barefoot and then are gradually increasing our distance. The speed you run is up to you. Do what feels comfortable and natural. I started out by pitter-pattering along quite slowly.

My cadence was higher than previously but my overall speed was slower. Take it easy and enjoy it. There is no rush. You have the rest of your life to be a runner. It doesn’t matter if you slow down a bit in order to become a runner for the long term.

There are plenty of other variables to think about such as your cadence, how you land, how you lift off, your arm swing etc. However for now, we are not going to worry about any of them. We are going to relax about the whole thing and get going.

Stop reading and start running

The time has come. Stop reading, take off your shoes and run. It doesn’t really matter what the surface is like or how far or fast you go. You will learn more from 40 seconds of barefoot running than any number of hours of reading can teach you.
When you get back, write down how you feel. How far did you get? How do your feet feel? What about the rest of you? Are you smiling? Are you looking forward to going again?
Dump it all on paper and then put it to one side. Better still, tell us all about it. We have a thread on our forum for you to tell us about your first barefoot run. It doesn’t matter if it was a humble beginning. In fact, the more humble the better.
After your first run, don’t run the following day and then go again. Dump your ideas on paper again. How did they compare with your first run? What similarities and differences can you see?
You are a barefoot runner and your running life will never quite feel the same again.

Tell us about your first run at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/forums/topic/what-was-you-first-barefoot-run-like/ – You can read some excellent examples from members of the Barefoot Beginner community.

The time has come. Today is the day. Give it a go!

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