Nov 17

Digging deep – Why do you run?

digging deepThis 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 liely 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

imagesOn 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!

Oct 13

From achilles pain to ultra distance in three months

Thanks to Florian for his story. I would love to hear your tales. There is truth to be found in each and every one. You can send them to me via the contact form at the top of the page.

Over to Florian:

I published before on Barefoot Beginner. Back then I really used to be a beginner. If I compare my 30 years of running “wrong” to my three year of working on my running style I am still a barefoot beginner. And I suspect I will always remain one.
06 first marathon
Why? Because after I trained for my solo Sahara trip in 2013 I thought to be as fit as never before. I used to run more kilometers per week than ever before and I seemed to be in a very good condition overall.
After my return I joined a company race in Berlin in my vibram fivefingers. 6000 people started on the 6km course. It was so much fun and I just ran as fast as my legs carried me.
I came in at number 81 with 20min flat. My calves burned like hell but it was fun and I loved it. So I started at another race one week later. My time was almost the same. I was so much into running that I planned to run ULTRA marathons and I registered for the Berlin 100miles in August 2014.
BUT, my achilles told me that they were very unhappy about the pace in my races. I started to feel some knots at my achilles and I tried to get rid of the pain that barely let me walk with ice, with heat, with massage, with pausing, with doing slow sessions… guess what.. nothing helped. More than a year later I still had pain in my achilles when I went on a short run. I almost didn’t run at all anymore.
In the meantime I gave up my apartment in Berlin bought a 1971 Mercedes Benz truck that was converted into an RV ages ago and travelled Europe and North Africa with my girlfriend. We drove half a year and more than 30.000km and have been to the most spectacular places.
But well, that is another story.
In July I received a call from Ronald Musil (race director of Berlins 100meilen.de). He reminded me that I preregistered for the 100miles a year ago and that I have a starting slot if I like to. I replied that I would really like to but am totally out of shape and that I don’t know if I am able to run that distance. He gave the best possible answer to trigger me. He said: Well, you won’t find out if you don’t try. He got me there, I agreed to give it a chance. I still had 33 days to train and to get in shape. My achilles was still aching and I went to a Berlin based natural running coach: Sven Spanka
He did some very simple analyses with me and was sure that all my pain is based in insufficiently trained calves. He told me to workout for my calves daily. Furthermore some training for my hamstrings, and most of all: my belly. My doctor who fortunately reads my blog, wrote me and suggested to treat my achilles with Traumel as often as possible. I did so and started running again daily. We went to southern France and ran some really nice trails there and then moved to Switzerland where I started to run mountain trails daily. All that running up and the daily training for my calves really worked. Although I could feel some pain in calves it did not get worse. But still the farest distance that I ever ran on record was 27 kilometers.04 swiss mountain trail
On August 16th I started at 6 in the morning in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg for the 100 miles. It was a perfect running day. I had so much fun and so much pain and fun again and much more pain. Friends of mine were waiting everywhere around the course and accompanied me for a while. So I ran my first marathon ever, and then my second. Then I tried to run my third and I failed. I made it to the 100km mark and couldn’t move another step. I had to quit although there were still 60 kilometers left. I had to admit miles are not the same as km.
For the race I taped my ankles, achilles and calves with kinesiotapes. I wore Luna Sandals and the only mistake I did, was to wear my sandals a little too tight on my right foot for the first 30km. That led to a swollen foot which mainly forced me to quit and had me suffer a little for the following days. Apart from that I was absolutely fine and most important my achilles pain is gone since that day.

Back in Switzerland I continued racing in the mountain and fortunately the minimal running fever caught my girlfriend Judy as well which let us run the alpine single trails together.

DCIM100GOPROWe even went to an alpine Ultra marathon together. Her competing in the 27km with 1500m D+ and me in the 55km with 3500m D+. I can tell you, now I know what running in the mountains mean. Although my achilles were fine I developed two really bad runners knees during the race. It took me forever (13hours) because I could only walk downhill. I had promised myself not to quit and finishe this race no matter what. I ended up being fifth. From the back. Almost everybody who was slower than me was taken out of the race because they did not meet the cutoff times which were really tight.
The race awarded every finisher with 2 qualification points for the Ultra Marathon Du Mont Blanc, which I believe to be one of the hardest races in the alps. So I guess there is a new goal ahead of me.

Since I found out this year, that most of the tendon pains you can experience during a race is a sign of muscle weakness somewhere else, I started to train my thighs and am now free of pain even on the downhill sections.

I did not run any remarkable times at all, but within three month I made it from an injured runner to two ultra marathon distances and a pain and injury free runner.

Do you experience any pain yourself? Let a good barefoot coach examine your running style and the strength of your ankles, calves, thighs, hips and belly and then train strength, not endurance for the affected muscles.
If something hurts use Traumel, Dolocyl and Kinesiotapes.

Aren’t we born to run?

Florian
Glücklichtrainer and author of nativerunners.com

Sep 26

My 5 mile running week – Why constraints boost creativity and motivation

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Why is that? ..and can I use it to give my motivation for running a boost?

Why is it that when faced with a host of obstacles, the brain sits up, takes notice and the creative juices begin to flow. How can we harness that for our own devices when struggling for motivation with our running (or anything else that we might care to mention).
Create a few carefully chosen constraints and your brain will kick into gear and look for inventive ways to make the most of what you have left.
Why do I run (and write) more consistently when my life is at its busiest?
Over the years, I have consistently found this to be the case. I dream about retiring and having the rest of my life to do nothing but run. I can picture myself running over the hills into the sunshine with an air of freedom and wild abandon. However, I know enough about myself to recognise that it just won’t be like that. At least not all the time. Given complete freedom, my motivation will plummet. In the same way that I crave a bit of peace and quiet from our crazy family life and an evening on my own is bliss, a week on my own is too much and I long for the hurly burly again.
My brain loves to solve problems – In Laws of Subtraction, Matthew May says that

‘Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints…it does not require unrestrained freedom; rather it relies on limits and obstacles.’

Given a blank page art is difficult. Given some rules, we thrive. If you have ever tried to write a Haiku or a limerick, you will know what I mean. You work within a framework of constraints and the juices begin to flow. Many things are the same. If I asked you to review your favourite running book and gave you total freedom, a few of you will jump to it but most of us are not sure where to start and therefore never do. However, If I ask you to tell us the best thing you learnt from a running book but you have to use exactly 33 words (and none of them are to be the word running) our brains suddenly start to work on it. We can’t help it.
Summer is the same for me. I work in schools and long for the summer holidays where I imagine endless days stretching into the distance. However the truth is that I don’t run as much during the summer as at other times of the year. I just have too much freedom. It goes well to start with but with a blank page to run into my motivation drops.

Important!

I have added a thread in our forum on the topic of intelligent constraints. Please come and join in. It is easy to login with facebook.

In summer, I am best if I give myself constraints and rein the freedom in. It works if I commit to running every other day with a friend. We did that last summer with success; we also restricted ourselves to not running the same route twice. It kept our motivation up.
How does it work in other areas of life?
It is certainly the case that I never seem to have enough money and some periods when we first had children were tough. Some of the best days out we have had as a family is when we have had strict financial constraints. We had a brilliant day doing all the free things for kids in Liverpool. The ice-cream tastes better when you know that it is the big treat for the day. When we need to be thrifty, our brains kick in and for some people it is their way of life. It is a lot of fun. When we are in that position, we often crave a big wad of cash but somehow days where we spend with no regard are just not as much fun. Maybe once in a while perhaps but not as the norm.

I am not a great cook and tend to go through the motions at meal time. I buy the same old things week in week out. However, I love it when we have next to nothing left and I need to create a meal out of it. There is something immensely satisfying and it tastes good. The same goes for calories. The popular fasting diet going around at the moment limits you to 600 calories on your fast day. (Don’t get me started – Eating and calling it fasting is like running in shoes and calling it barefooting). I have done it a few times and found the motivation to cook more creatively than I have for ages.
Many people make a living out of the struggle. They thrive on the task of sorting things out under tight constraints and even when they have made it and are very successful, they long for the old days of wheeling and dealing and ducking and diving. It can be in the heady world of high finance or the more gentle pursuit of gardening.
The late Geoff Hamilton was the chief gardener at The BBC for years. Geoff became very successful and created 38 beautiful gardens at his Barnsdale home and in the years before he died, made a number of television series and took viewers through the process. However, they were all pretty similar and merged into each other. His family said that he looked happiest when he did a series on the £2 garden. His challenge was to create a lovely garden on no more than £2 a week. He didn’t lower his standards but you could see the joy on his face when he used a cloche made from old bamboo and hose pipe rather than simply buying an expensive one. He seemed reinvigorated and no longer going through the motions. He got his mojo back. As an example, I appreciate that it is a bit random but it has stuck with me. I enjoyed that programme more than any other because my brain was ticking alongside his and trying to solve his problems.
So..how can we harness this for our own purposes? How can we add intelligent limitations to our running?
Anyone can impose strict limitations on things but how do we add a constraint that gets our creative juices flowing and us out of bed in the morning raring to go?
An obvious choice is limiting the number of miles we run. We could limit ourselves to a 10 miles a week or 20 or 30 or 50. Whatever fits best for you. You could run as many times a week as you like but have a maximum long run of 5 miles (or 10 etc).
How about limiting the number of hours a week you run. How about 3 hours spread in any way you like across the week but no more than 3 hours in total.
How about limiting the number of runs. If you are the kind of runner who runs almost every day, why not constrain yourself to 3 runs a week. Mileage is up to you but you must do the in no more than 3 separate outings.
During the summer, I set myself the constraint of never running the same route twice. It stopped me slipping into a rut and I had to get the map out to search for new places to run. It worked for me.
You could limit what you wear on your feet. How about having a week where you wear nothing at all on your feet.
The way we can set intelligent constraints for ourselves is limitless and what will boost for one person may just feel silly to another. Play around until one tweaks your curiosity. Dig a bit deeper until your creativity starts to work despite yourself. Then have fun with it.
I am going to set myself a constraint over the next couple of weeks. I am being drastic and am only going to allow myself 5 miles a week to play with. As soon as I thought about it, my brain started to come up with the best ways of getting the most out of them.
Should I run 1,1,1,1,1 or 1,3,1 or 1, 1.5, 2.5? Should I add some speed work into the mix in one of my runs? Should every run be barefoot? Should I mix up the terrain and run a mile barefoot on the rough stuff to help me get used to that? I have some good hills close to home, should I aim for them and do some hill reps? Maybe if I find a system that works for me with 5 miles, I could then scale it up. Perhaps this is a good way of pressing reset and going back to basics.
I would love to hear about some of the constraints that you set yourself to spice things up.
….and I wouldn’t mind some advice. Given a 5 mile week what would you do with it?

Important!

I have added a thread in our forum on the topic of intelligent constraints. Please come and join in. It is easy to login with facebook.

Sep 19

You don’t need anyone’s permission to run!

Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while will know that I don’t get annoyed. At least not in print. I am more the ‘Live and let live. run and let run’ brigade.

...but I read something a few weeks ago which got under my skin. I read a fantastic post from one of our members. It was a tale of real success and progress. The sort of story that you just have to share with people who will understand. Nothing wrong there. So what was it that made me so annoyed?
It was nothing to do with the story. It was the fact that they seemed almost ashamed. The runner posting wanted to share their progress but they didn’t feel right about calling it success. Where does that come from?
I then read another post from runner in another forum from a runner who was very disparaging about runners who they thought were non serious. i.e. Those who were not trying to win. Those who were discovering running later in life. The language used was insulting and what hit me more was that the person posting was completely oblivious to the impact that their words may have. He seemed to think that the everyone only runs to try and get on the podium. It was almost as if everyone else was running for his benefit so that he could demonstrate how good he was and beat them.
This simply isn’t the case.
I think he thought that during a 10k with a few thousand runners taking part, everyone was looking to see who came in the top 3 and was very impressed. I have done hundreds of races and I can safely say that with the odd exception (I once came 3rd – It was a long time ago!), I have no idea who won.
Running offers us so many benefits that many runners measure their success without considering times or race positions.
Running is not owned by a few people who are relatively quick compared to a few other people. We do not run with their permission and should not be seeking their approval.
Of course, most quick club runners understand that and they are encouraging, helpful and supportive. Unfortunately some aren’t and we end up with disparaging comments that say more about the commenter than anything else.
The real question is why we want to run in the first place. If it is because we want to win races then that is great but the answer will be different for each of us.
So…have a go at these 3 questions and see what comes out of the other end. It may not be what you first thought. Be honest with the first answer and then use questions 2&3 to dig a little deeper.
1. Why is running important to you? (e.g. I want to improve my fitness)
2. Take you answer from question1 and ask ‘..but why is that important to you? (e.g. Because I don’t want to die young from heart disease. I want to feel good in my clothes and keep my emotional state level)
3. One last time..Take that and ask ‘…but really. Why is that important to you?. (We only get one life, I don’t want to waste it. I want to enjoy my grandchildren and remain active into later life)
I went through the process and at no point did I mention coming third in a local race. I did that once and I loved it but it isn’t my real reason for running. For me, it is to do with maintaining my weight and keeping on an emotional even keel. I want to live a long and happy life that I can share with my family.
We can measure our success better when we first realise why we run in the first place. We need to challenge that dialogue that exists out there that it is all about times and podium finishes.
I enjoy running fast and enjoy trying to beat my previous times and for a few years that was all I did but I now have much more important reasons for getting out of bed for an early morning run.
I used to run with a club who had a number of different groups that ran on club nights. The slowest groups had christened themselves ‘The Slugs’. After yet another lay off, I returned on club night and went out for a 7miler with them. The pace was slower than I had ever run but I found it a humbling experience.
What I found was a group of dedicated, serious runners. They raced more often than most other groups and were more regular attendees at club nights as they seemed to be injured less than the faster groups. I came out of that evening with a different perspective than previously. For these people, running was deeply ingrained in their lives and there was real camaraderie in their group.
There are millions of runners out there with millions of reasons for running. It is folly to assume that everyone is there for the same reason as you. Understand your reasons, dig a little deeper and you will find the motivation that you need to be a runner in the long term.
You don’t need permission from anyone to run. Mark your progress against your own criteria and ignore everyone else’s agenda. Be proud of your achievements and shout them from the rooftops. We are listening and applaud you all. Bravo running folk. Bravo!

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.

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