Paul Beales is our Real Barefooer Number 14.
From following your posts for a while, you seem to have moved from being a dedicated barefoot walker into running. How long have you been walking barefoot?
The last long walk I did in hiking boots was in August 2012. It was around this time that Adam, a fellow heart patient friend that I met on Twitter started trying to get me to run, AND TO RUN IN BARE FEET! I eventually bowed to his persuasion and bought myself a pair of New Balance Minimus Trails to try in November 2012. The first actual barefoot walk/run I did was in June this year.
Injuries often set us off down the barefoot path. Was that the case with you?
Not at all Chris, I kicked off my shoes for the fun of it and the challenge, and in the hope of strengthening my feet and leg muscles to be able to run properly of course.
So.. what is a typical week for you. Do you balance running and walking?
I consider myself as a runner not a walker now, but due to my medical condition, I am not yet able to run for more than about two minutes at a time before my leg muscles run out of oxygen and insist that I stop and walk for a while; particularly on uphill sections! Initially, I couldn’t run for more than about 30 seconds, so I am getting better at it, and I am hoping to keep increasing the running portions next year – I would love to be able to do a 5K next year without any walking breaks. I am however a total fair weather runner and I hate running the streets, so I only get out once or twice a week at the moment at weekends.
I am concentrating on 5K runs now and I love to do parkruns. It is a 14 mile drive to my nearest parkrun though, and 9am in the morning is not the most convenient of times! My current PB is 00:35:32, which I did as a Freedom run at the Bryn Bach parkrun up in the Welsh valleys the other week.
I know you sometimes have Sockwa on your feet. How are the X8?
Haha, I ALWAYS have Sockwa on my feet Chris – I rarely wear anything else these days! It occurred to me the other day that I have forgotten what it actually feels like walking in shoes with any heel or cushioning. In terms of muscle use and ground feel, I am basically barefoot all the time now. Of course I am not getting the same amount of proprioception that you get when truly barefoot, and true barefooters will tell me here that I am not getting any of the electrical earthing benefits!
I haven’t actually tried running in the X8 yet. They have the same footbed as the G3 and they look great, so I don’t foresee any issues, but I am saving them for the warmer weather next year, as they are breathable. I wear Amphibians for work as they are fleece lined and warmer than my G3 and the X8. Unfortunately, this model has been discontinued by Sockwa and is no longer available. My favourites are still my bright yellow G3 though.
A 5 minute plank! – What was your first attempt like? Are you feeling any wider benefits?
This was the MPE300 challenge posted on Facebook by Paul Mumford, a barefoot running PE Instructor from Essex. He suggested that everyone start with a 10 second plank on 1st November and add 10 seconds every day to finish with a simultaneous 5 minute plank at his gym on 30th November. I had a go just to see what I could do. I started to struggle after about three days, but I stuck at it and with help from Paul and encouragement from all the other participants, I worked on my technique and I got better and better at it. The simultaneous plank was scheduled for 8am on 30th November, and I was supposed to be joining the group in Paul’s gym via a Google+ video link, but that didn’t quite work out and I ended up getting carried away the night before and doing a 5½ minute plank! I did of course stick to the schedule and do my five minute plank later on the 30th.
Yes, I notice quite a big difference when I run, in that my core feels much stiffer and I am a lot less unstable on my legs when landing on uneven ground. I also practice Qigong two or three times a week and I noticed that I could sense my Dan Tien much more. The odd thing is that we all asked Paul what we should do next, expecting him to say to do a 1 minute or a 3 minute plank every other day or something, but he said no, do something else like squat jumps, which surprised us all, but as Paul also teaches barefoot running, and I still can’t believe he had me a do a 5 minute plank in the first place, I have to believe him, and I am now doing leg strengthening exercises twice a week instead – Just out of interest, I tried a plank last night to see what would happen and I did 3 minutes no problem, so I’ve still got it! (https://www.facebook.com/pauldmumford.)
I was running yesterday and came to the conclusion that I need to stand up at my desk and then I read all about your standing desk. So..first of all why? and second..What was it like at first? and third…Can you feel a difference?
Haha, you have been following me closely on Facebook and Twitter haven’t you Chris?
Well, since you asked …. sitting down all day is one of the worst things you can do for your body.
Standing whilst I work burns around an extra 280 calories a day. I know this doesn’t sound a lot, but an extra 1400 calories a week is actually the same as an extra day’s food every week for me! Standing also naturally improves my posture and helps to strengthen my muscles. It allows my body the natural movement that it needs and takes the pressure off my back and joints. Standing up at my desk also keeps the blood flowing and keeps me feeling vibrant and alert instead of sluggish and slovenly, and I feel more energised throughout the day.
I am only on my second full week at doing this and I have to say, it is not easy. At the end of each day I feel like I have had a full day’s shopping trip with the wife, and I am glad to be able to sit down when I get home. I expect like anything, it will get easier with time though and I’m not giving in. It is too early yet to notice any actual health differences. One thing that I have noticed though is that it is so much easier to set off somewhere, like to pick up documents from the printer etc. now that I don’t have to struggle out of my chair, and my colleagues have also commented on how much easier it is for them to discuss things with me when they come to my desk.
You recently posted a picture which I think was comparing your weight in 2009 with recently. Many people talk about it but you have done it. If you have 30 seconds to share a couple of bits of wisdom with someone looking to do the same, what would you say?
Yes, I was 105kg then! This morning I was 91.8kg. A lot of the weight was water retention due to my then undiagnosed heart condition. Other of it was due to inactivity … also down to the heart condition I guess. I also liked my beer then and used to drink at least one or two cans a day – possibly the cause of the heart condition! I had also been a smoker until 2006 when my youngest son Jonty was born. As soon as my condition had been corrected diagnosed and treated I immediately felt a hundred times better! My cardiologist also told me that I must not drink any more alcohol and I have not touched a drop since August 2011. It was at this time that I started walking, and I enrolled on a number of charity walks for heart charities like BHF and Heart Research. I also did a Sugar Challenge earlier this year and weaned myself off lots of sweet things like Coca Cola and cakes etc. – though I have been known to have the occasional lapse on this.
So I guess my weight loss is down to water tablets, more exercise, no alcohol and less sugar? I wouldn’t recommend anyone else have to follow this particular weight loss plan, but I would recommend that people look at the surprising amount of sugar, glucose and dextrose etc. that there is in the most unexpected things like bread, cooked ham and baked beans etc.
I love the area where you run. I recognised one of your pics as looking down towards Tintern Abbey. It was a view that stuck in my head from when I walked Offas Dyke in my teens. What would be your perfect route for a run?
Yes Chris, the Wye Valley, Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean are all perfect places for barefoot running – though I have never met any other barefooters on my walks and runs!
My perfect barefoot run was actually done in Morocco on our summer holiday this year though. I used to fall out of bed at 6am every sunny morning and run through lovely clean streets, with a cheery wave to the street cleaners each day, down to the brick paved promenade and back along the beach with only the occasional other keen runner or seagull for company. I was dead chuffed to achieve a marathon distance in just the first week of our holiday!
I have wanted to play the ball game since reading BTR. How on earth did you get involved with the whole Trailball thing? Is it as much fun as it looks? and what are the plans for the future? Where can we find out more?
Errmm, Twitter again. I connected with another barefoot runner Christian in France, who was organising running sessions for other barefoot runners in Paris. He was looking for ideas to make his runs more interesting and came up with the idea of TrailBall. I volunteered myself to help him introduce the sport to the UK and he made me UK Ambassador and sent me three prototype TrailBalls to work with.
We held our inaugural UK TrailBall event on 24th November this year. Christian had teams running in Paris and we had teams, mostly made up of Wiltshire Barefoot Runners, running in Swindon, Wiltshire. The French team won the race and set a new world record of 00:25:58 minutes for the 5K speed challenge. Our A team came a close second only 7 seconds behind. We have a rematch scheduled for 22nd December, when we are hoping to have Welsh teams running in Newport, as well as Ian Hicks running English teams in Chippenham. Hopefully one of our teams will get our revenge and take the 5K speed title for the UK.
Yes, it is great fun Chris. It’s like being 10 years old again when you throw caution to the wind and chase after the ball. It is great for runners that want to do more than just run faster and longer or need motivation for running. I also noticed the other week that all the twisting and turning chasing after the ball was straining a whole new set of muscles not worked when I run.
Anyone with a TrailBall and a GPS tracker can form a team or run solo and set a new world record. There are many different and exciting variants of TrailBall described on the websites to suit all ages and abilities. The official TrailBall site is at http://trailball.net. The TrailBall UK Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/trailballuk and on Twitter at @TrailBall_UK. Anyone who wants to know about upcoming events in the UK should click Like on the Facebook page. TrailBalls can only be purchased from the official website.
You seem to enjoy having a challenge to focus on. Have you anything coming up soon?
You’re not wrong Chris, since I got my new-found energy I can’t seem to stop moving, haha.
On 1st January next year I will be setting off on a 605 mile (virtual) run from Land’s End to John O’Groats being held in aid of my Facebook friends Julia and Sandra’s favourite cancer charities. (https://www.facebook.com/landsendtojohnogroats2014)
On 1st March next year, Julia and I also will be launching the Amis Sans Shoes Global 10K Barefoot Run/Walk/Hike in aid of Care International UK. This will be taking the craze for virtual runs one stage further and we are looking for barefoot runners and hikers to organise barefoot events in their local areas so that barefooters can meet up with other barefooters and run or walk and socialise together – something that is still quite a rare event despite the rising popularity, and then share their experiences on Facebook . I should say here that when I say barefoot, I really mean BAREFOOT – no shoes, socks or sandals will be allowed for ANY of the 10K!
I will be organising my local 10K barefoot run around the world-renowned Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales – and everyone will be welcome to join me. If I can time it right with the tides, at least half of the 10K will be on the beach! I might even make it a weekend event and include a night under canvas at the camp site overlooking the bay!
The Amis Sans Shoes Facebook page is not quite ready to be launched yet, but if anyone wants a sneak preview, it’s at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amis-Sans-Shoes/284889931636079. Anyone that is interested should click Like to keep up to date with developments and so that we can get a feel for how many people are interested. We are hoping it will be hundreds worldwide!
I am also considering forming a team or teams of four to do the Camelot Challenge Multi-Terrain Half Marathon run by Julia in Dorset in September next year with a TrailBall, and set a new TrailBall Enduro world record. (https://www.facebook.com/CamelotChallenge.) If anyone is interested in joining one of these teams, please ask them to let me know.
Thanks Paul. Check out the rest of our Real Barefooter interviews here.
Pauls’ interview is our barefoot post of the day on our Barefoot Beginner facebook page. To keep up with other barefoot posts, visit and like the page here.