October 2014 archive

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.

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I am suggesting that you do just that.

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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. [spacer height=”8px”]
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:[spacer height=”8px”]

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


What surface?[spacer height=”8px”]

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. [spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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?[spacer height=”8px”]

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.

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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. [spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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. [spacer height=”8px”]
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?[spacer height=”8px”]

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. [spacer height=”8px”]
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. [spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

Stop reading and start running[spacer height=”8px”]

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. [spacer height=”8px”]
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?[spacer height=”8px”]
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. [spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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 23

October 2014

Thursday 2nd Oct 14

1 mile barefoot before dawn again. I was fairly motoring and enjoying myself. it is 2 weeks since I limped 3 miles back to Bedford High and this morning I find that I have forgotten which leg my pain was in. Seeing as I could hardly walk, I think that it is remarkable. I feel sprightly. I am enjoying the 5 mile week thing. It is making me think about the quality of my running. I am also wondering whether I can improve my fitness on 5 miles a week.

Monday 6th October 14

2.5 miles barefoot before dawn. I was raring to go and found myself racing along. I think that was why my soles were singing after just over a mile. My legs feel refreshed. I got a thorn stuck on my heel in a dark section of pavement. It didn’t hurt but felt different and I could tell it was there. I stopped, pulled it out and carried on no problem. Good fun this morning. An early night helped.

Friday 10th October 14

2.5 miles barefoot his morning. First run after a heavy cold. I was bursting to get out and it did me good. The ground was smooth and cold and felt good on the soles. My ankles were stiff at first but eased off as I made my way downhill. I found myself pondering data and the preference we have for studies involving large numbers of people so that we can find a curve and create some generalisations. They are useful but not much use to the individual who is the dot along way from the curve. I prefer the individual tales that runners tell. There is truth in there that cannot be dismissed just because they are a single case. I am in the middle of writing an article for barefoot running magazine about that very thing.

Tuesday 14th Oct 14

3 miles in Paleobarefoot tonight. Trying to be barefoot when I can but I was in the dark in unfamiliar territory. Felt good in the chainmail.

Thursday 16th Oct 14

2 miles barefoot in the foggiest, blackest of black mornings. Making my way by the streetlights. After a mile I was marvelling at how well I was doing and then my left calf suddenly hurt in about 3 spots. It didn’t build up slowly. Not there one stride and then there the next. For the previous 200m or so I had been thinking about the spot that hurt and how well it had recovered from a long run in shoes a little while ago where I had ended a run in a lot of pain. I was a mile from home and pitter-pattered all the way. I walked the last 100m so as not to do any lasting damage. The last 2 times that something like this has happened, I have felt like it might before I have run. I have been tired and run down and feeling on the edge. I have not had any running or muscles signs to listen to, it has been more of a general feeling in my whole body that I am pushing my luck. Even though I didn’t want to run, I forced myself because first I was getting ready for a race and this morning becuase I wanted to make sure that I could get 3 runs in this week. I have been run down, with a cold and wanted to get some fresh air into my lungs.
I ran in Paleobarefoots a couple of days ago and was fine. yesterday, I had a bit of a muscle cramp which came on whilst working the clutch pedal on the way home from work. I was sure that barefooting would ease that off but it didn’t. I am not despondent. It is not serious and I will be out again soon but maybe I should learn to listen to more then just the obvious signs from my feet and legs.

Thursday 23rd Oct 14

A mile barefoot in the dark this morning. First run for a week after getting pain in my calf all of a sudden last time out. I rolled my arches before setting off which I believe helps release tension in the calves. I am very tired at the moment. It has been a long half term and I seem to have had a lot of firsts in a short period of time which has taken up headspace and left me on the edge of what i can manage. I feel great about it but there is no doubt that I am worn out. I have been having early nights which helps. My diet is very poor at the moment and after reading about a systems approach to pain, I think that my poor diet is linked to my calf pain in some way. I am running so fast that I am struggling to find a way to deal with that at the moment.

Friday 24th Oct 14

Another barefoot mile this morning. It is feeling like the beginning of a streak. There is no reason why I can’t just build 10 mins into my day when I first get up. We will see. I rollered my arches before setting off. For the second day running, I have noticed that my left arch is tense and tight. The roller felt good. This is the same leg that iIhave been having my calf issue on. My ankle has also been a little sore with hotspots in certain places.

I feel like a big issue is my diet. It is poor and I need to do something about it. if I can onlt stop for a moment or two then maybe I can think about it more. Very tired at the moment. I need some very early nights consistently for a while.

We break up for half term today and that should give me a chance to rest up a little. I have college work to do though. I think that I will spend all day in college on Monday. That wil mean that I can forget about it until then.

My son wants to walk up a mountain this holiday. I think that it will be a trip to Helvellyn. I like the route from patterdale but i think that it will be from Glenridding and up to Red Tarn. then we can climb Catstycam rather than Swirrel Edge for a first outing. I like catstycam, It is pointy at the summit and feels like a real mountain.

Saturday 25th Oct 14

A mile barefoot this morning just as dawn was breaking. this mean that i could make my way down an ulit road that I haven’t run for a while because of the dark. I am feeling run down at the moment and unfit. It is funny how a 1 mile runstreak can make a difference to that initially. I ran a half-marathon quicker than I expected on a mile a day last year. I am interested to see how many days I can do as the weather gets colder. I found my self contemplating cold induced vasodilation this morning. I finished by running pretty quick which was not how I expected things to go.

Sunday 26th Oct 14

The clocks changed this morning so it was an extra hour in bed. It gave me time to write a piece about the reasons why we run. We all run for different reasons but rarerly stop to think about them. there more honest and clear we are, the more we generate our own motivation. It gets hard when we are running to the beat of someone else’s drum. I ran a mile barefoot agin today. I really enjoyed it and the steep hils just melted away. I find them so much easier with nothing on my feet. I ran pretty quick. 4 days running on the trot. I feel better for it already.

Monday 27th Oct 14

2.75 miles barefoot just as it was getting light this morning. There was a ghost of a niggle in the first few hundred yards and my left ankle was tight and stiff. I need to remember to roll my arches before setting of and giving everything a warm.

I spent 9 hours putting up a very large IKEA wardrobe yesterday and am stiff all over. My back is aching but the run certainly helped. I intend to keep this little runstreak going for now. I am enjoying it.

Tuesday 28th Oct 14

A mile barefoot this morning as dawn was breaking. My left lower glute is very sore and so is my inner thigh at the rear. These are connected. I think that it is due to the amount of stretching around I did putting furniture together as I didn’t feel them during my run.

My feet feel robust. I think that it is good to run each day as long as you don’t get a cut. My last run streak was plagued my a cut to my left arch which I did on a sharp twig. I ended up with spray plaster on it. I now have some surgical glue in case it happens again.

I spent a good part of yesterday working on assignment 1 of the Doctorate. It felt good to commit  a few things to paper. I am becoming more convinced that the way to the truth is through a narrative approach. Collect multiple perspectives on a point in time at regular intervals and see what story they tell as a whole.

My bag is very heavy and I carry it on one shoulder. I think that I need a good quality laptop rucksak then I can carry it on my back an walk in a uniform way without tweaking my back.

Wed 29th Oct 14

4 barefoot miles on a glorious autumn morning just after sunrise. A week long runstreak and I fell better for it. I ended up thinking about running form quite a bit this morning. I had that whisper of a niggle in my left calf for the first couple of hundred yards again and focused on relaxation.  I find that the Ken Bob marionette image works for me. A string puppet has its limbs lifted from above and doesn’t push off. When I bend my knees a little more and imagine myself as a marionette, I find myself relaxing. It isn’t clompy. I am not doing a ‘knees up’ exercise. It is just a shift in the way I am thinking and I relax. It seems to work for me.

I also think of myself as a steam engine with a wheel and piston. A bit like the unicycle that Danny Dreyer talks about in Chirunning. My bent leg is like the two shafts that are driving the wheel in a circular motion from above. When you draws it out, it doesn’t really scan but the image really helps me.

After a while on the uphills, I develop a tension in my body and find myself driving. When I check in, I then relax to get rid of the tension.

I am struggling to bend down and put a sock on with my left leg at the moment. I used the roller on my left glute this morning. it is sore to touch and this means that other bits into my groin etc are tensing up and becoming very tight. the spiky roller on my arches this morning was pleasant.

Thursday 30th Oct

A barefoot mile very early. It was black out there this morning and it had been raining hard all night. I enjoyed running along a long thin trough of a puddle that was in the road. I struggled with the uphill today. i am very wheezy and was full of food from last night. I ate too much yesterday, most of it cake! I felt big and heavy.

My first proper lakeland outing with Dan this morning. We are heading to Glenridding and up Catstycam. Weather is poor but we will keep safe and walk where we can. Looking forward to the start of something. Hopefully, it will be the first of many days walking together over the next few years. Planned to pick up beer from OSB near Carnforth and Prospect in Standish on the way back plus we will be dropping off a pair of Freets with a runner in Hoghton. The beers will be the first in our new beer box. Our producers license came through yesterday so Holy Well Brewing is open for business.

Friday 31st October 14

A mile barefoot this morning. My body is recovering from the wardrobe making and I am much more able to bend down today. Still very wheezy. Good walk up Greenside Rd towards Red Tarn yesterday. The weather was poor and the visibility was nil up on top so no point heading up onto the tops. Enjoyed walking and chatting with Dan. He spent the entire time collecting interesting stones.


We took a few shortcuts down steep grassy slopes and the Walshes did well. Very sure footed.

We stopped off at Old School Brewery on the way back in Warton. Good chat to the brewer and came away with a few cases plus some that they didn’t sell a year ago. 5.5% porter call Governor. They forgot to prime before bottling so didn’t sell it. Very nice a year later. They have a 12 barrel plant that they jumped straight in with 3 years ago. It came from Lancaster brewery when they upped to a 50 barrel plant. Lovely location.

Then called in at Morrow brothers to pick up our first ever Pin. I was able to watch it being individualise with banding and name plate. A humble beginning for Holy Well brewing. who knows where it will lead.

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. [spacer height=”8px”]

Over to Florian:[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]
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[spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

Aren’t we born to run?[spacer height=”8px”]

Glücklichtrainer and author of nativerunners.com