Sep 05

A hello from Andy at Barefoot Running Northern Ireland

We have a new service added to our coaches page for all those of you in Northern Ireland. Andy from Barefoot Running NI introduces himself here.

 

Andy from Barefoot Running NI.

Barefoot Running NISo I’m one of those people who started out barefoot running after reading Born To Run. It’s not something I feel the urge to apologise for, but so many barefooters started for this very reason, that it’s almost become a cliché. But the book is so good and the chapter towards the end with the Daniel Lieberman research is hugely compelling. So it is this book that started my barefoot journey. My first barefoot running experience lasted all of 1 minute 43 seconds according to my running app. I came out the front door, up the drive and on to the footpath. The footpath outside my house is very fine, sharp, stoney, rough old tarmac and the sensations from that overwhelmed me almost immediately. I passed a man walking his dog and tried to act confident and normal but I don’t think either of us were convinced. He gave me a look, part fear, part “you’re the weirdest guy I’ve ever seen, this is going on facebook”. I made it about 30 meters from the house and had to turn back, passing the dog walker yet again…
I soon found a new place to run where it wasn’t so challenging on new feet and took to the coastal paths. Comparatively smooth and barefoot friendly, and somehow running barefoot near the beach is infinitely more acceptable for members of the public when seeing a grown man running unshod. However you still got those looks… the stare/gawping from some members of the public. I don’t know why but for some reason it seems to be age 60 plus women who are most horrified by it. They make a part noise of utter shock, and part utter disgust or horror, as if you’ve already cut your feet and are continuing to run blood through the streets. It’s a great sound if I’m honest.
Anyway I kept at it and slowly worked my way up to half marathon distance, running my first barefoot half in 1:56 (20 mins faster than my shod time!). After the half, I got a lot of people approaching me asking about barefoot running and was I mad. It got me thinking, “I can’t be the only barefoot runner out there”. Surely some other people here in Northern Ireland must have read this book and been as inspired as I was.
I decided I needed to find out. I went home and that night set up a Twitter account in the name of Barefoot Running NI. I started posting barefoot related articles and vids. Started organising one man club runs and advertising them, saying “all welcome”.
I turned up at every race I could and got a club running vest printed up by means of advertising, getting people talking on social media and hopefully finding others. Word began to spread and at one race I was approached by our local mayor, who had heard all about it.
It wasn’t too long before I started hearing back from others. I actively trailed the net, searching forums and contacting other barefooters I found to join me in my quest to start a club.
It wasn’t until I received contact from Simon Hunter that I actually met, face to face,another barefooter. It was great to run as a pair and not be stared at like some you’re loon, parents ushering their kids away from you. It was no longer crazy, it was a thing!
Simon was onboard pretty much instantly and as psyched as I was about a club. He set up our facebook page, got himself BRNI running vest and we hit all the races we could. Soon we started attracting more barefooters and meeting up at the weekends for club runs.
In the past year then we started having more people approach us after each race and when word got out our club was going to attempt to run the Belfast Marathon 2014 completely barefoot, the press got involved.
We had tv spots, radio interviews, lots of newspaper articles.
We then had loads of people asking about barefooting and could we teach them. We wanted to… but we had no idea really where to start. We could tell them what we do but we had very different running styles. It was pretty clear that wasn’t going to work.
So, we found Lee Saxby online and found he was doing courses through Vivobarefoot, teaching interested parties how to become coaches. That was it, the solution, direction and inspiration we needed. We were in!
Now, one week-long trip to London later, three months of hard graft and a whole lot of work and study, we got signed off as certified running form/barefoot running coaches.
Now, two years after our humble beginnings as a one man twitter account, our club is excited to finally be able to offer this service to beginners and elite runners alike. Those wanting to learn to run from scratch, or improve their running form, boost performance or, simply, learn to barefoot, Andy and Simon of Barefoot Running NI can help.
We are very proud and excited to have gotten this far and the feedback we’ve received from our clients and coaches has been phenomenal. We’re there, we’re doing it, and we want to help you!
BAREFOOT RUNNING NI!

Jul 10

Why asking for the right shoes is the wrong question

Ask not which shoes are right but ask which shoes are the least wrong.

OK, that doesn’t scan but I really need a tweak in my mindset. The problem is that we live in a consumer society where whenever we have a problem, we can spend our way of it. If we get injured when we run, just spend, spend, spend until we have the shoes that sort that out for us.

We all like to think we are immune to these consumer pressures but nevertheless I seem to have been on a quest for the perfect footwear. I have been trying to find the silver bullet that will sort out all my problems.

The answer is simple. They don’t exist.

Deep down, I know that but it didn’t stop me trying to find the magic shoe that will make me injury free. I went on the hunt for the thinnest sole, the firmest sole and then the sole that shaped itself to my foot.

None of them really helped.

They altered my form to one degree or another. In fact, they all altered my form.  I know that I am never going to get a shoe that allows me to run the way I do unshod.

That has not stopped me craving them

I crave shoes for many reasons and not always sensible ones. The shoe manufacturers know that. They know that we often buy on an emotional level and if they can tap into that then they are onto a winner.

If I were selling shoes, I would do the same thing. As consumers we understand that …sort of.

I can’t be the only one. I know plenty of barefoot runners who have many more pairs of shoes now than they ever had in their conventional shod running days.

I craved huaraches because…..they were so cool and I had read Born to Run. I wanted original Lunas because of the leather and traditional feel. I couldn’t help myself. I sent to the US for a pair and they felt fast. I love them but they do alter my form a little. I now have a pair of tradional huaraches made from old tyre and leather from the Copper Canyons. They are very cool and they connect me with the Copper Canyons but they still make me run in a different way.

I craved Runamocs because ….they are mocassins and handmade. It was an emotional pull. They kindly sent me a pair to try out and I wear them all the time but not much for running. I have run in them and they are excellent, they are just such an expensive and beautiful mocassin that I couldn’t bring myself to trash them on the muddy trails near home. I wear them out and about and round the house on cold days.

I craved VFF because….they are reassuringly expensive. That must mean that they are excellent musn’t it. Well no, as it turned out. Not for me anyway. They are beautifully made and you can see where the money goes. They have such a huge following of dedicated runners that I had to have some. My form is just not good enough yet to handle big distances in them. They are not the solution to my problem and there is no point thinking that they might be.

The solution lies with me. I ran in Treksport for a while and they altered my form quite alot. Now I have some EL-X which feel like they have been sprayed onto my foot and alter my form much less. I enjoy running in them but I need to be careful not to do too much.

I craved Paleos because….they are shiny and gadget like. When Jorg sent me a pair, I found out that they were much more than that. They have the firmest footbed imaginable. It is stainless steel and they move with the contours of my feet. On rough ground, I have to slow down in them because I feel almost every stone. Maybe that is why they feel like they don’t alter my form much…but they do a little.

So…what is the right question?

How about.

Is my running form good enough to handle these shoe yet? …and…What makes me think that?
I have experimented and found that some footwear alters my form to a lesser degree but have yet to find one that doesn’t cause me a niggle now and again.

From a purely personal point of view, the ones that seem to be the least wrong for me are:

Vivobarefoot Evos – The first minimalist shoes I tried. I like mine slightly small with the insole removed. That way they hug my feet. They are like old friends.

Xeros – I find the 4mm Xeros about as good as they get. I enjoy running in mine and like the way they flex with my soles.

Sockwa – Easy to slip on and off and carry on a run.

Walsh Barefoot – When it get steep and slippy then I reach for these. I find that I hardly get any niggles when running in them. Great on the hills.

Paleobarefoot – Chain mail is cool and they are no gimmick. They are thin, firm and they work very well for me. They are the most flexible and I like the way your feet feel the wet and the cold.

Even so, if I don’t run barefoot regularly, these shoes do not solve my problem. My running form just isn’t good enough and secure enough to handle footwear too much and too often.

So…Stop looking for the shoe that will solve all your problems. Ask which shoe is least wrong and take it from there.

Before you splash the cash, ask yourself if your form is good enough to handle the shoes you are buying and then ask why you think that.

I am not against footwear. I enjoy running with something on my feet. That means that I am prey to the consumer messages out there. So long as I accept that the answer lies with me and not with a shoe designer then I reckon that is OK.
Just do it – Just don’t do it in shoes if you think that they are the thing that makes you run well. It is what is inside the shoe that counts.

ps – I have added a topic to the forum asking how many of us have more shoes now than before we began barefooting and which shoes are the least wrong for you. I would love you to join in and let us know here.  You can login in easily with facebook.

Jul 09

Tales from the Trig 1

I wanted to intriduce you to a place that is very important to me. It is about a mile from home and somewhere that I run to a lot. It is the trig point on Cheetham Close (sometimes known as Turton Heights).

A trig point is a triangulation station that is used when surveyig the region. They first started to appear in 1935 in the UK and are now an endangered species as new methods of surveying are being used, That would be a shame as many of them are old friends and they should receive listed status to protect them.

I have been meaning to do a ‘Tales from the Trig’ series of posts for a while and this is the first.

 

In this post, I introduce you to the West Pennine Moors where I do most of my running and also talk about building a barefoot community. (Sorry for the sound quality. It just shows that it gets windy up there.)

In early September, I will be taking part in a webinar hosted by Stephanie Welch and Sue Regan Kenney. I will be talking about why I wanted to build a barefoot running community. You can find out a bit more about that here.

Most important, I encourage you to get involved with our Barefoot Beginner forum. It has never been easier to login. You can do that with facebook. Click the login button and then click the facebook icon. Simple.

As you will see in the video, I am creating a forum for people who don’t like forums.

 

Jul 03

The joys of barefoot trail running

by Thea Gavin
for Barefoot Beginner

“Adventure may be out there. But without that perfect pair of hiking boots, you’ll have a hard time finding it.” HikingBoots.com

Have you been brainwashed like I once was, under the oppressive regime of foot-fear, advertized into thinking that travel on a trail meant arch support, deep lugs, perhaps Goretex, and most definitely a gusseted tongue?

You could sprain an ankle! Or step in something!

After three dry winters, there are fewer seeps along the trail; this one is still refreshingly wet.Pop(ular culture) Quiz: Which of the following are waiting to penetrate your innocent naked feet: a) rusty nails; b) shards of broken glass; c) hypodermic needles; d) all of the above plus horse poop, if you are on a trail.

Imagine this: a sturdy leather pouch, steel shanked, studded with rubber. How’s that for prophylactic-protection. Ouch. Even thin (4mm minimalist, possibly separated toes) puts a barrier between you and what is really there.

Let’s un-remember that last comparison. Now imagine you are born unable to hear. Then a doctor somehow fixes your little ear bones; your loved ones can’t wait to take you to a concert for a big dose of Beethoven’s 5th.

Dah-dah-dah-daaaaaah.

But all the sensational leaps and fortissimos are an auditory assault. Your brain, with no experience in sorting out this sort of stimuli, signals “pain!” and “chaos!” and your hands fly to your ears to muffle the horrific input.

Although they contain thousands of nerve endings, the bottoms of our feet have been cut off from what-used-to-be-normal sensory input most of our lives (or at least since we were kids). Emerging from this dark cushioned world makes them scream “ouch” to your brain when you first step out on uneven surfaces.

That was me, four years ago. But I did some research, gave my feet-and-brain credit, and time, and they figured it out as I began my barefoot trail journey by walking a smoothish path near my work, always with a back-up pair of sandals in my little pack. My motto: If it ain’t fun, put shoes on . . . and decomposed granite is not fun at first.

These shiny guys like to cross the trails . . . but sometimes get squashed by mountain bike tires. Go, bug, go.But now . . . my running shoe days are over. I step light and soft, ready to shift my weight, reveling in the peace of no-scuff and thud. Dust? Powdery heaven. Gravel? A chance to really relax and realize how capable my feet are. Mud?By far the best (at least in my rarely rainy Southern California climate). Puddles? Pure refreshment and a place to irresponsibly splash myself . . . with no need to worry about blisters from wet socks.

Horse poop? Lovely little pillows.

Coyote scat? A chance to step on second-hand rabbit fluff.

Get the (sensational sensory) picture?

Just as with weather, there is no such thing as a good or bad trail surface. There are just paths . . . a mix of rough and smooth patches to enjoy for what they are, for what they have to teach.

I have a favorite hundred yards of thick dust through a willow tunnel where my feet create silky splashes and the crepuscular bugs stick in my toothy sprinting grin. This is my barefoot trail running high, during which I sometimes forget the many lessons in humility I’ve almost learned: the vicious root-splinter jam that resulted in my only barefoot-related doctor’s office visit. Occasional spiny things that must be fingernail-plucked or dug out with a pocket knife. One ball-of-foot blister blob from a mid-day, mid-summer ridge run. The mysterious dark sole-splotch that I convinced myself—via some panicky internet research—was a melanoma . . . but turned out to be just a blood blister.

But yes, it’s true: rocky trails will slow you down. Hug this change in pace and terrain. It’s a chance to re-set your stance toward life: be aware of your body, relax relax relax, and see if your face doesn’t split into a smile as you take time to greet some even-slower-moving stone-faced creatures who were forged in fire deep beneath the earth. What distances they have traveled . . . oh-so-slowly.

I remember—my body remembers—long-ago summers spent running barefoot to the end of a rock jetty at a local beach. How I hurtled from boulder to boulder, as fast as my feet could leap, full of a trust I was not even aware of, a lithe-limbed confidence that a landing spot would open up. When I hear so many passing hikers comment that “I used to go barefoot all the time in the summer when I was a kid” – I wonder why, how, when we lose that wildness and let society shove us into shoes, even though our proprioceptive body is perfectly capable of finding a way over, through, between whatever rocky obstacles trails contain.

That my adult, choosing mind has re-learned not to obsess over where to plant my feet: that is the inexplicable and rapturously best part of the barefoot trail running experience . . . my fabulous feet find their own way; more bugs stick in my grin.

Until . . . yowch! Sh*t! My rock-radar fails, and somethin’s gonna be black and blue by tomorrow.

If no one is around, I might shout a word or two (see above) to disperse the pain. But if any shoddies are within hearing distance, well, I must not break the barefooter’s code of smiling silence.

Then—and this is key—I must open up my clenched toes. Re-relax. Greet the ground with a whole sole and remain vulnerable to that one shuffling step that could land me on something sharp, again. It’s worth the risk: here I am in the sun (or rain, or fog, or wind) with breath and life and many friends to say “hi” to: roadrunner, black sage, shapely river cobble.

Tomorrow, there might be a bruise. There might not. What remains, though, through long days under fluorescent lights, is the feel of flying flying flying . . . with such light bare feet.

IMG_7638 (480x640)

Thanks Thea – Make sure you check out Thea’s blog ‘Barefoot Wandering and Writing’ here.

Jun 25

Training Log wb 23rd May 2014

Wed 25th May 14

3 miles in 4mm Xeros tonight with the last half mile barefoot. It is the first tme that I have been out in the evening for a while. i usually run in the mornings but have been struggling to get up early enough.

It was also my first run in any sort of footwear for a while and I must say that I had forgotten how easy the Xeros are to run in. Maybe I shouldn’t ask what footwear is right for me but ask which is least wrong. The Xeros have rarely caused me any issue at all and are so easy to carry.

The Northwest barefooters summer run is coming up soon so i thought I had better put in a mile or two. Looking forward to exploring a bit during the summer hols. I have booked a camp pod near the area we used to have a caravan. I am looking forward to running the same routes that I used to run a few years ago.

 

Fri 27th June 14

3.2 miles in Xeros on forest trails by a babbling brook. I decided to run and out and back course so that I knew how much time it would take and so I wouldn’t feel pressured into hurrying. Wearing Xeros meant that I could go on rougher terrian than I have been running. A little rubbing between toes on my right foot but other than that they are excellent.

 

Jun 24

How to overcome my barefoot awkwardness – Some days, I don’t!

I read a comment recently in our facebook group that struck a chord with me. It was heartfelt and was about feeling awkward about people gawping when we go out for a run barefoot.

The obvious advice, is of course to get over it and not worry. Let them gawp, we have every right to run barefoot if we want to. However, if you are anything like me then it just isn’t that simple.

I have days where I couldn’t care less but they are rare. Contary to popular opinion, our barefoot running is not attention seeking behaviour. I don’t do it to stand out from the crowd and be different. For me, barefoot running is a pragmatic means to an end. I need to be barefoot because it allows me to run. I don’t do it for the adoration of the crowds. That just isn’t me.

Check out 16 ways to tie your Xeros and huaraches here

I did a quick survey of barefoot runners a little while ago about the barriers to barefoot running. I wanted to know what had stopped them taking the plunge and start sooner? One of the main things was people thinking that they were mad. It is tiring to have to explain ourselves all the time. We find ourselves in a position where we can end up defending our barefootedness repeatedly. It can become tiresome and if I am a truly honest, I have found myself avoiding runs sometimes because of it.

There you go. I have said it out loud. That is a bit of an admission. There are days when I have not been out for a run because I was not in the frame of mind to handle the gawping. I just felt like I could do without it.

It is similar to many people who come to running later in their lives for the health and weight benefits that come with it. I have known runners who are keen to get out there but only when nobody else is around or they have the camaraderie of a group to add a layer of protection. I understand that, it makes sense to me.

So..what do I do about that. How do I handle it?

Firstly, it is much better now that I have recognised the pattern of behaviour in myself. Now that I can see what I am doing, it is much easier to overcome and tell myself that I needn’t worry. I steel myself against it and run anyway.

I often run early morning when I see the same dog walkers and milkmen. We have been through it all and they no longer bat an eyelid to my barefootedness.

I also have some simple answers ready. At first, I used lots of funny responses about their dogs being barefoot and how I was born barefoot so it is easy for me. Now I tell the truth. I say that it is part of my rehab from a running injury and that it helps makes my feet and legs really strong. People seem to accept that without a second thought. It makes sense to them.

I run with a friend or two. We just chat as we run and people seem to accept that as more normal than a lone barefooter out and about and gawp less.

Finally, there are days when I haven’t got up early and for one reason or another can’t face it. I sometimes run a route with no people or I might leave it until tomorrow. I run for myself and it is meant to be enjoyable.

I know that there are many sensible folk out there who think that I should just run and not care about the gawping. I know and that is also the advice I would give if asked. I just want to be honest with my advice and say that there are just days when I can do without the attention and the stares. I have no desire to be a local celebrity thankyou very much. This barefoot lark is a personal thing for me and not one that I am doing to attract attention.

I share my stories because I want to help injured runners find another way. Feeling awkward is OK. If we pretend that we are all barefoot evangelists all the time and never acknowledge those feelings then our reluctance can creep up on us unawares and prevent us taking those positive steps forward.  Thanks to Tim for his very honest post in our group. It is good to know that I am not alone.

Happy running folks

Chris

 

 

Jun 16

Who should I trust when buying minimalist shoes?

We recently had a question in the group from a new member who was wondering where to buy minimalist running shoes.

We got a good response that ranged from specialist retailers where you can call in for a chat and expert advice to the big corporations who stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap but couldn’t care less about your running or wellbeing.

I guess it depends what you are looking for. If you are new to the whole barefoot/minimalist thing then you may be looking for a good chat and some advice before buying then there are a number of retailers who are specialists.

Here are a few who I know will do a good job. It is meant as a starting point. If you know of any more then let us know in the forum.

Barefoot Britain - Run by Tracy Davenport. Tracy is a barefoot runner and specialises in Sockwa and Xero shoes. She also sells Luna Sandals and a Luna DIY kit. My first pair of Xeros and my Sockwas came from Tracy. Her customer care is excellent and she will spend as much time as you need having chat about sizing etc before you buy.

Footworks – Run by Colin McPhail in Edinburgh and a specialist in barefoot/minimal running. Colin also organises and hosts the Scottish Barefoot Conference and has a good reputation amongst our group members for spending time making sure that runners get the right thing for them. I always think of Colin as a specialist in Vibram Fivefingers but they also stock Lunas, Xero, Vivobarefoot and others.

Primal Lifestyle - Run by Matt Wallden. Matt is the UK distributor for VFF and very knowledgeable. He often pops up in our group to offer advice on VFF and all things barefoot and minimalist. He is well placed to point you in the right direction if you are lookiong to try on a pair of VFF and need to know you nearest retailer. You can also buy online from their VFF store.

Ten Point – Run by Helen Hall. Helen is a barefoot triathlete (understatement of the year) and coach. She runs a Tri-store in Amersham, Bucks and she is very knowledgeable. Helen was the first person to ever look at my running form and she nailed it in the first 50m. A knowledgeable person to chat to.

Born Barefoot - Run by James Anelay. James runs an online store that specialises in VFF, Lunas, Merrell and Lems. My trusty VFF EL-X came from James and I visited him last year with my son as he hosted a session with Barefoot Ted.

Xeros shoes – Run by Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix. When I ask a question, Steven is usually the first to repsond and the great thing is that you can buy Xeros from them in the US and they will ship quickly all over the world. Their website is a great barefoot resource and well worth checking out.

XeroshoesUK - Run by Simon Hanna. Simon runs a very similar website to Steven and Lena in the UK. My 4mm Xerosand my children’s Xeros all came from Simon ages ago. The 4mm are still going strong.

Go-St Barefoots - Run by Jorg Peitzker. The home of the amazing chainmail Paleobarefoots. I have two pairs courtesy of Jorg and they are the real deal. Great customer service. Certainly one of my favourite things to run in.

Softstar – Founded by Tim and Jeanie Oliver and run by the Softstar Elves. If you want to find Softstar shoes (and they are lovely) then you might have to go direct to Softstar themselves. They are a fmily run business and intend to remain that way. I have a pair of Moc 3s and they are just lovely to wear. Now and again, they have a sale where the things left get cheaper every day.

Luna Sandals - Run by Barefoot Ted. My first pair of Lunas came direct from Ted in the US way before the introduction of fancy ATS laces. I love them. It is very easy to buy direct from there and get them sent to all over the world.

Feetus - Run by Lee Firman. Lee runs an online store based up in the north east. Feetus mainly specialises in Vibram Fivefingers, Luna Sandals, Xero Shoes and Iguaneye.

Barefoot Running Store - Run by me! – Here is the place to get hold of zero drop fell running shoes from Walsh. I am not trying to take over the world with these shoes but they are awesome if you need to race down a muddy hillside. Plus they are made in my hometown of Bolton. I have been working with them for a little while and you can find out a little more by visiting the store.

Finally……

The big boys who don’t really care about your feet, just your money!

I wasn’t sure whether to include these but they are a reality and we are all consumers. After wrestling with my conscience for a bit, I decided that you needed to know the full picture and decide for yourselves. The decision is yours.

Amazon – There are tales of folk knowing what they want and finding it at a discount on Amazon.

Sports Pursuit - I know folk who have bought cheaply from Sports Pursuit. They have a VFF sale periodically which seems popular.

 

My advice would be to form a relationship with one of the retailers who really knows what they are talking about. You may want plenty of advice after you have bought a pair. This was one of the reasons I started to guest post on Barefoot Britain. Buying the right shoes is important but what you do and don’t do in them is more so.

I wouldn’t spend a fortune if you are new to this. Start cheap and experiment. You will learn more about what suits you as you go. If you do end up chatting with one of the retailers listed above, say hi from me.

Happy running

Chris

ps. This list is a starting point for discussion. if you have any other suggestions or want some particular advice, you mention it in the forum here.

 

 

Jun 10

Training Log wb 9th June 2014

Tue 10th June 14

A mile barefoot this morning. I intended to go further but was up later than usual and didn’t have time. one thing that I have noticed is how I need more time to go barefooting than conventional running. It is because I don’t yet know how long a run will take especially when there is a trail involved. Glad a grabbed a mile though. I have not run in shoes for quite a while now and the rough ground was not really noticeable under my feet. I could feel the sensation but it was not painful in the slightest. I wonder if you could condition your feet with a mile every other day.

Thurs 12th June 14

3 miles on the hills this morning barefoot. I had been stuck in a rut and fitting in runs quickly in between other things. I posted about it and received a bit of advice. I decided to get up early and do a unpressured run barefoot up on the hills. I did an out and back route so that I knew how long it would take and that meant that I was not worried about taking a long time over rough sections. It was well worth it. I had a wonderful time in the early morning sunshine and took my camera with me.

I have not run in shoes for quite some time and feel better for it.

Jun 05

The low point between waves

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surfersI have to admit that I have been struggling for motivation over the past couple of weeks. This is my first blog post for a while and this morning I ran for the first time in over a week.

I have just had a week off my from day job and had big plans to get some of the barefoot course written but in the end didn’t even switch the computer on. I had plans to run every other day but in the end didn’t run a step.

What is going on?

People often call me driven but I don’t recognise that term about myself. I don’t think that I am driven. I just think that I work hard. I think that the term ‘driven’ is sometimes used to describe people who work hard by people who don’t as a sort of cop out. Maybe I am wrong.

Last week, I felt that I couldn’t run and that I couldn’t clear my head and write. It seems to part of my natural cycle and it no longer worries me. I go in waves. I had spent some time riding a big wave of enthusiasm and had worked very hard for a sustained period. I had very little downtime and I produced quite a lot of good stuff. I had laid down the basics for our online barefoot course and set up our new forum. I had blocked out the academic work that I am doing on coaching and mentoring.

I had ridden the wave for all it was worth and about 2 weeks ago felt the energy starting to dissipate. Eventually, I was just worn out and needed to stop. I stepped away from almost everything and did things that I haven’t done for a while. I slept in longer, walked in the woods with my family, read books for fun and watched junk TV programmes. I felt like I needed to stop.

Read Steven Sashen’s Guide to Barefoot Walking here

I think that many people would just see this as a holiday, as a way of recharging my batteries but I think there is a difference. For me, holidays are planned. They are something you look forward to. You plan to work hard for a sustained period and then have a rest.

This feels more like you pick a wave and ride it until the energy dissipates. Then you go into a lull until the next one comes along. The problem is that if you don’t understand and recognise the cycle, you can end up feeling low and dispondent. You wonder why your energy has gone and what on earth you are going to do get out of it. When I look back on my life, I have always done this. I catch waves of enthusiasm and ride them for all they are worth and then if I am not careful can fall into a period of lethargy that lasts longer than I would like. It becomes hard to get out of. Eventually, I pick up a new wave and go again but it I can see that there have been period where I have slipped too far.

It has taken me many years (in fact decades) to recognise and accept that this is the way I work. I saw myself as someone who jumped from one idea to another and didn’t stick with anything for long. I saw this as a major character flaw but now I don’t see it that way. I am now learning that many successful people are just the same. They are addicted to the steep part of the learning curve.

So..do I just sit in the ocean and wait for another wave or do I start to paddle gently and build up a bit of my own momentum? I think that I have learned that I have times when I need to just stop. Then after a little while, I need to paddle gently and keep my forward momentum going. If I don’t, I can slide away for longer than is really needed.

So what can I do about this. How can I remain happy and productive and not be hard on myself?

  • I accept that this is the way I work and that it is OK. My productive spells more than make up for my lulls. So much so that people call me ‘driven’ even though it is a word that I don’t like. I am riding the wave not driving it. The more I understand that I do this, the more selective I will become. Life is too short to try and ride every wave in the ocean.
  • Accept that although planning for the long term is useful, things change. What I want to achieve may not be the same as in 6 weeks time. I accept that I need to ride the wave and when it dissipates re-evaluate where I am heading. The next wave might take me in a slightly different direction.
  • Have a way of dumping the things swirling round in my head. In these periods, I often have so much swirling around that I am not sure where to start or which wave to catch. Sometimes, I free write. I just start writing about where I am upto and let it come. Sometimes I draw. Rough plans of what I would like things to be like. I can then look at one aspect and focus on it. It can take me a little time before I am ready to comtemplate doing that but it helps every time.
  • Have a very simple skeleton plan for when I am in the lull between waves. Something that keeps me moving forward inch by inch. It needs to be easy to do and understand. The chances are that I won’t use the plan at first but when I feel ready then I can start in a low gear. I know enough about myself that the next wave will come along soon enough.
  • Separate each aspect of my life. The wave will catch me and before I know it, I will be riding it and if I am not careful, the other parts of my life will suffer. I need to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

I am just paddling at the moment but I can feel a wave coming. I have had a couple of weeks where I felt exhausted and unable to do much. Now I am on my way back. I have a basic structure. I am up early either running or writing. I am at the point where I am ready to dump my ideas on paper. They are bursting out of my head. This will help me choose the right wave for the next adventure. I am working during the day and focussed on my day job. I come home and spend time with my family with the computer off. A little later, I spend time in the Barefoot Beginner community. It takes longer than you might think.

I know that my big tasks like the barefoot course will come along in due course. I have time built in for those. I am a parent of teenage children. I spend alot of time waiting outside places in the car whilst they do sport or music. I love the peace that these times give me to concentrate on longer, deeper pieces of work. I know that when the wave catches, I will end up being very productive in a short period of time. For now, I am just going to paddle along and keep writing each day. A little bit of forward motion that gradually gathers speed until the wave comes along.

I used to be worried about it but I am not any longer. I know that it will arrive. Barefoot running is teaching alot about life. I am happy with that and feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. It is OK to work like this. I am finding that listen to my body more and not just my feet. It was telling me to stop, that the way I was working was unsustainable and that I needed a rest. I feel so much better for it.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the ways in which we operate. I have started a thread in our forum here. Join in.

Barefoot Running Sandals by Xero Shoes

Jun 02

Training Log wb 2nd June 2014

Mon 2nd June 14

A mile barefoot early this morning. It has been a little while since my last run and it felt strange to be out this morning. I have been in a lull and struggling for motivation. It followed a persistant niggle in my right calf that was difficult to shake off.

I was soon back into the swing and I wanted to use this morning to see how it was. There was no problem. Barefoot didn’t cause the problem, it was running in footwear that caused the niggle and barefooting is part of the solution.

I am at a point where I am confident that I can be a lifelong runner which is a world away from where I was when I thought that I would never run again.

Wed 4th June 14

1.5 miles barefoot this morning. Dry morning and I felt like my feet were very robust. I stood on a few small stones and although I felt them, they did not register any pain. This lulled me into a false sense of security and I copped one right in the centre of my left heel. Ouch! I only ever do this on reliable smooth surfaces that I trust. By technique is just as Jae Gruenke said in her post on running on different surfaces. No niggles anywhere.

Friday 6th June

2.3 miles barefoot this morning. It is so much more pleasant to run after a day where I have not eaten much. I had about 600KCals yesterday as part of my experiment with intermittent fasting. I feel more alert and ready to run. I was breaking into a run at times yesterday when i was walking down the road in my suit. I couldn’t help myself.

My feet felt a little tender and ached a bit as I set off. This wentaway pretty soon and although I didn’t feel like they were upto 10k this morning they handled debris strewn road and pavement for a couple of miles without any trouble. I feel really good and ready to rock.

Sun 8th June

3 miles or so on mixed terrain barefoot. I have run 4 times this week and every step has been barefoot. I carried Freets with me this morning as they were on the top of the pile when I was looking for my Sockwas. You cannot rush when you are barefoot. It is one of the barriers or rather tweaks in the mindset that you need to make. you cannot go out and run 2.5 miles in 15 minutes because you want to get your miles in. You need to go for 1.5 miles and enjoy it. Pressures of time are a challenge. When I set out on a barefoot run, I never know how long it is going to take me so I sometimes don’t. I sometimes put on footwear because I have to be back by a certain time. I wonder how many other people are int eh same situation. Had a good chat with a man near the end of my run. He has problems with his ankles. He should take off his shoes and go for it.

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