May 2015 archive

May 30

Barefoot Beginner Training Blog May 2015

Fri 1st May 2015

A planned mile barefoot to get May off to a start. It is interesting. I have just listened to a coach taking abiout motivation. he says that everyone has motivatioj but what they lack is structure. He believes in giving people structure. I think that seems right. I like to have things that you can tick off each day and then forget about.

Sat 2nd May 15 – Up early to start brewing and then got involved in family stuff so didn’t get the long run in that I planned so just a barefoot mile.

Sun 3rd May 15 – I was out last night and so just did a quick barefoot mile in the rain this morning. Feet feel good.

Mon 4th May 15

Another barefoot mile. I had grand plans to run a long way today but didn’t really get there. I have not had the urge to write and fiddle with websites for ages but this morning I couldn’t help myself and ended up just doing a mile instead of the 15 I had planned!

Blimey – What have I done. I have enterered the Chester marathon on October 4th. Should be a good course. Have a look.

Tues 5th May 15

A very wet 5 miler this morning with a marathon very much in my thoughts. I have no idea what sort of pace is right for me to do it barefoot. 10 minute miling seems sensible but I have 20 weeks or so to practice running a bit quicker so 9  minute miling seems reasonable. I will have to have a play with my pace and see what happens. I have no real concerns about the distance, that is just practice. I think.

Wed 6th May 15

Still got toe taped up and ran a barefoot mile with some stiffness in calves this morning. Gone by the time I got back. Achilles a bit tight too. Not sure where that has come from. I have not used the roller for a long time and have no plans to start on my legs but I do like it in the arches. it really stretches out my feet and seems to help with calf tightness.

Managing squats well and can now do a full squat without falling over backwards. that is quite something. The experiment with the book under heels has done its job. I am going to keep on with it. i want to be able to do it comfortably and siti in that position for extended periods. Hip has felt the benefit.

Thur 7th May 15

General election polling day and i started it with a 6 miler barefoot. i decided to head for a route around Stones Bank which has some rough tarmac on the roads. If i am going to do this marathon in October then I am going to have to get used to it underfoot. My feet were sensitive and i slowed right down. A little later, I was climbing a hill and a mountain bike was overtaking me. I raced him for a quarter of a mile or so uphill and was pleasantly surpised at how fast I could go. I then had a mile left and I kept a pretty high pace up. maybe i should do a few 800m reps so that I get to feel what different paces are like. It would be interesting.

Friday 8th May 15

A quick barefoot mile. I ended up running the first half pretty steadily and then enjoyed upping the pace on the return. Good fun but it shows that I am just not used to running quickly. Out of breath but grinning. I know that it will come. I am confident about that just not it a big rush. Had a few beers and then walked home in the evening. Very steep and lots of steps and I breezed up them. I am so much fitter than I have been for a while.

Saturday 9th May 15

The plan was to go out for a 5 miler this morning but the beers from the night before disagreed. We were trying out quite a lot ofnew beers that we are selling on Sunday. remember, I taste them so that you don’t have to.

Just a mile then.

Spent the day at a coaching clinic with Ben Le Vesconte. I will post more about at some point when I get hold of the videos of me running. I learny a lot. You get things when people ask questions and see others running so you get something different each time.

MY running technique initially was pretty good. I was pleased with that seeing as I don’t really think too much about technique and rely of the fact that I am running every day without footwear.

I have slight forward lean which is a hangover from Chirunning, i think. Ben recommended more of a lean at the hips which is more Ken Bob’s way. I have been trying to do this but it looks like I could do with practising.

I do stand up staright but could do with opening my shooulders out and relaxing them a bit more and just leaning back ever so slightly.

The biggest thing was to do with pulling through my hamstrings. I do it OK and that is probably becasue I don’t often run at speed. If I want to run more quickly and for longer, I would benefit from increasing the way I pull my heel through quickly and geting it higher (towards my glutes) and then down quickly. I was much better at it than I thought when i tried. I have struggled with it in the past.

My flexibility is a shocker. I am pleased with how I have done with squats and it looks like my idea of using a book isn’t a bad one. I need to keep going with it. I was shocked how easy some people found it whereas I struggle. The prgression to lifting your bodyweight seems a long way off but I do have every day for the rest of my life to get there.

My quads are tight and this limits lots of things. Good stretch for that. Again, I was shocked at my lack of flexibility compared to everyone else. Lots of things to do every day.

The toe exercises wheree also fascinating. can’t do those either although my big toe does engage with the floor when I run and feels strong. i will be engaging it when i squat from now on.

All in all, a really useful day. I confirmed to me that this experiment is working and that I am not doing something stupid and that I have lots of things to work on in my quest to be a lifelong runner. My feet and lower leg bones and structure  is building up gradually to be strong but my flexibiliy and sterength in other areas needs attention. It can be done.

Sunday 10th May 15

A barefoot mile before heading off to Rammy Farmers’ market. I think I get it. When I ncrease speed, my cadence goes up rather than pulling through and liftingnhigher with hamstring. I think that to help with that, I could run with a metronome for a while. I need to get a new one.

Monday 11th May 15

Life is busy and I am struggling to motivate myself intoo longer runs. Ticking along too easily. need to get back in groove (or is it a rut.) Quick mile this morning practising with hamstring pulling through.

Tues 12th May 15

5 barefoot miles this morning. I am pretty lethargic at the moment and fell asleep very early last night. One of those where I sat down but was too tired to even go to bed. I had done some kneeling to work my quads and found it a challenge. Looks like I now have a regime to follow that can help with flexibility.

I did squats this morning. I am turning over the pages of Heritage of Britain and thereby reducing the heel raise I am using to squat. Last month I was squatting over Magna Carta. This month I am over Henry V.

I set of slow and sluggish but by the last couple of miles was upright and thinking about my form. When i run fast, I either lean too much or increase my cadence. It would be good to set a mtronome and pratcie running at quicker speeds whilst maintaining cadence and minimising the lean. I need to push hips through and get that foot up and through a bit higher as my speed increases.

Feeling hip a little which i out down to not running any distance for a few days and a few days off squatting. It could also just be because I am trying one or two new stretches and things need to settle down. Good to get that run out of my system.

Wed 13th May 15

First run for a while without toe being taped up. I must have smacked it harder than I first thought. It is bruised and still a bit tender. I do keep catching the same one which is interesting in itself.

I ran the first half of my barefoot mile this morning nice and steady and then the return as quickly as I could. I started by concentrating on form and pulling through using hamstring. In the end, i just ran as fast as i could and only thought about the hamstring pull. Out of breath quickly which is good. It can only get better and it makes my mile runs a bit more fun.

Thursday 14th May 15

5 barefoot miles this morning without scraping my toe. Sitting here dripping with sweat because I ran the last mile as fast as I could. No idea how fast that is but I needed to concentrate hard to keep going. My natural style has a high cadence but I sort of lean forward slightly and almost reach out gently to touch the ground and then I pull myself through. I feels natural and quick. This morning I resisted that and kept myself upright and tried lead from my hips. Sort of like the chirunning prompt of imagining being pulled forward from the naval but I did it from my hips. Everytime I visualised that it seemed to click into place (My techinque – not my hip!). I then focussed on the lift and pull through using hamstring. I fatigued quickly and it was mostly my core that struggled. I think I might do that a bit more often. My soles threatened to get sore but in the end didn’t and I just get going. Bumped into friend and brewing partner Phil running the other way this morning.

Friday 15th May 15

A barefoot mile before work. Ran quickly and then sttod on something sharp coming round the last bend. amazing how quickly I can stop when I need to. No damage done.

Saturday 16th May 15

Up at 5.30am to fit in a 8.75 miler barefoot his morning. The road was damp and my feet were singing by the end of a couple of miles. It is rough uunderfoot. I can pretty much run on any surface now but my speed is affected. I let myself go down hill and concentrated on lifting heel rather than knees and pulling through quickly. On these longer runs, I think I just need to go with the flow and enjoy being out and let the form take care of itself. I am definitely improving though. The short runs with focus on tecnique are helping me to run more quickly.

Got thinking about targets. I think a good way to decide whether it is healthy is if a second makes a difference to how you feel about yourself.

Sun 17th May 15

A quick barefoot mile before heading off to the market today. Feet a bit tender but still manged to run pretty quickly. I speed up when I push my hips forward. Targets wise, Imaging running a 2:59 marathon or a 3:01 marathon. Would it make that much difference to you? If it would, the maybe the 2:59 target wasn’t a healthy one in the first place. Attaching so much importance to arbitrary figures seems crazy when you stand back and have a look at it. There moust be much mre worthwhile things to set yourself as overall goals than that.

Mon 18th May 15

A barefoot mile in the pouring rain after posting about how setting goals can bash your resilience and what to do about that.

Tues 19th May 15

A quick barefoot mile and I turned right instead of left. Immediately found myself on a steep, slick slope and footing was a bit harum scarum. Rough is one thing but slippy is quite another. Give me gravel any day of the week. Squats challenging today. I have been using a table to hold onto to bounce once I am in the squat and this is waking up places I didn’t even know I had places. My right knee is a bit crunchy on the way down which is a surprise. i also feel it when running. Last time I had this sort of thing was when I doing some lunge type exercises and I thnk I am stretching stuff around the knee. Not a worry but something to keep an eye on and back off from if needed.

Wed 20th May15

Felt pretty awful in the night and woke up with a pretty bad stomach ache. 5 barefoot miles sorted it out but to be honest I am still feeling a bit ropey. I am more convinced than ever that giving yourself structure helps with motivation. Things to tick off. If I had not had the structure then I would only have arun a mile this morning and in the end, a 5 miler was well within me and was no problem. I could do with doing the same thing for my blogging and also beer writing. It would help with a bit of focus and stop me drifting. Create an experiment with my time and see if it works. I am nothing if not a pragmatist.

Thursday 21st May 15

A quick mile barefoot everyone got upp on my wife’s birthday. I set off slowly within 5 minutes of getting out of bed and it took a few hundred yards to iron the creases out and then I felt good and was away. Iran quickly for the second half mile and kept my hips forward and chest and shoulders open. Running more quickly increases the friction on my soles and it is good practice because it sorts out your form. I might have slipped into bad habits now that my soles are more robust when running at slower speeds.

Friday 22nd May 15

Planned to run 5 this morning but was very tired and sluggish so ended up doing a barefoot mile. Ate too much yesterday and was up until well gone midnight with school work. Feel better having got it done and not too bothered about missing the 5 miler this morning.

Sat 23rd – Tuesday 26th May 15

I a bit of a slump but still manged to run a barefoot mile each day. I did come out of it a bit on Tuesday by running a different route with hills. I have been preoccupied by the artisan newtwork market we did on Monday. It was causing some stress and looking back it took its toll. It was new venture for us as we were running a bar as well as just our stall. It went well but worn out. Hip threatening to flare up because of lack of real miles.

Wed 27th May 15

6 barefoot miles this morning. Just took my time and I was full of running. A little tired in the last mile or so but feet felt good. I am learning to go with what my body needs and I think it needed me to back off for a few days and recover. I have slept a lot and feel better for it.

Thursday 28th May 15

A mile barefoot with my son this morning. The weather was sunny but blustery and as usual he set off at a cracking pace. I pitter-pattered along behind him and the first thing that I noticed was how good my soles felt. I think that laying off and reducing miles for a few days has done me some good. I caught him up pretty soon and the second thing that i noticed was how fit I feel. Running every day for over 7 months is going to do that to you but it creeps up and today I was flying alongside him with no problem at all without raising a sweat. Sometimes, we just need to go wiht the flow and back off.

Friday 29th May 15

Tipping down with rain and streams running down the centre of the road. Fantastic to run in although my toes did get cold to start with. Thinking about some of the Vivobarefoot training. The before and after vids don’t compare like with like. it would be more interesting if there were 3 videos. A before followed immediatley by a barefoot with 180bpm metronome and then one after coaching and drills. It would be interesting to see where the biggest change came. between video 1&2 or between 2&3. Just a thought that has been niggling away at the back of my mind and I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I can see how important the drills are and for me that was worth paying the session fee for.

Sat 30th May 15

A quick barefoot mile this morning. The weather was great but it was a heavy night out but it was a brewing day today and I needed to get out to the brew shop whilst mash was on rather than run.

Sun 31st May 15

Another mile this morning instead of the 10 planned. 2 thngs going on. My mileage has decreased significantly since entering the marathon. It might be that the pressure of geting in some bigger miles is meaning that I just don’t fancy it and I might be better forgetting the marathon and just putting in the 2 goals that are easy to understand. Run every day and 20 miles a week. I could do with changing the secons one to a simple to understand structure that I can just tick off. Too woolly at moment.

The second is to so with structure. I find it so much easier to run when my days are structured. i don’t seal well with a lack of structure. I carry around a feeling of guilt with me. Guilt for not running as far and also my food intake has not been as good. I find myself longing for a bit of structure and being back at work. Something to think about for the the long summer holidays.

I also have so many other things that I need to get done during the holidays that running gets put in the back burner. Shame!!




May 28

Teacher, Aleks Kashefi running length of Britain barefoot this summer

I am running every day barefoot this year and hope to do the Chester Marathon at some point. That is a challenge but nothing commared to Alex Kashefi who is running 1206 barefoot miles this summer to raise money for the stroke association. You can read more about it here and here is a link to Alek’s Just Giving page  if you would like to join in and donate. barefoot run

May 28

Free barefoot running ebook from Lee Saxby

I am not sure how many of you realise that Lee Saxby has a website of his own. I enjoy his blog posts. They are short, informative and to the point. He also has a free ebook for download. It takes you through his philosophy in a simple, easily digestible way.

You can visit Lee’s website here and find out more.

Lee Saxby ebok

May 26

18. Advice with achilles issue – Physio says wear orthotics

I received a request from one of our group members. Trish has been suffering from achilles issues and was receiving orthotics advice from physio. She was looking for some wider advice and so I opened it up to the coaches and also to the wisdom of the group. Thanks everyone for taking part.

Trying to work thru Achilles issues…need help….physio tells me to wear my orthotics in a well cushioned shoe but this just hurts. She is trying to convince me that the minimalist shoes cause more harm than good and yes there is good research for both sides of this coin. Exercises or sites that have helped anyone with these issues would be greatly appreciated. – Trish

First to reply was Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes. –  I wouldn’t begin to diagnose your problem from the limited amount of information you gave, and without seeing you, seeing you move, and without doing a thorough analysis.

That said, I can tell you that your physio is completely wrong and, I’m guessing, young enough to not recall that prior to 45 years ago ALL shoes were minimalist. Nor does your physio seem know that the meta analysis of orthotics shows that they are only effective on a small percentage of users (but it’s impossible to pre-identify which ones), and that expensive, custom-made orthotics are no better/worse than insoles you can buy off the shelf in a drug store.
If I had to place a bet, though, on what’s going on for you, it would be this: overuse and/or putting excessive strain on your Achilles by either overstriding while forefoot landing (puts strain on the Achilles because you’re using it to decelerate with every step), or getting your foot off the ground by pushing with the foot/ankle rather than by lifting (by flexing at the hip).
Feel The World!Steven Sashen, CEO
Xero Shoes

The wisdom of the group  – I opened this to our group. You can see the whole discussion here


Anne Vasey I have much painful personal experience here, too. Eccentric calf raises are good, but only if the tendon isn’t inflamed. Settle it down by strapping on an ice pack for 20 mins per night. Use arnica or ibuprofen gel before bed. First thing in the morning, write the alphabet with your feet to gently loosen stiffness in the tendon before getting out of bed. once the inflammation is gone, start stretching The tendon properly. Meanwhile, work on core strength, glutes and calf. The physio should be helping you to address any biomechanical issues with drills. In my case, the problem has been caused by tight hip flexors and a tilted pelvis. These are fixable with work. Hope you feel much better soon!
Michele Hall Like Anne Vase says it’s never as simple as just the tendons. You have to address the flexibility and power of your entire body. Strong and flexible will absorb shock and rebound with elastic energy like a solid rubber ball. Flexibility alone is more like a soft sponge ball, absorbent but without rebound. Lack of flexibility is more like a glass ball. It will shatter every time you try to workout. Use this time to work on your entire body get the hips and legs in shape and be patient with yourself. Think how long it took to get into this condition. Getting everything back in action is going to feel great.
Andrew O’Brien –  I’m a physio and Vivobarefoot coach, so I’m going to come at this from a different angle than your current physio. Hopefully without upsetting them too much.

Firstly, everyone above is pretty much bang on the money.

Yes, the eccentric exercises can work, but as Anne Vasey says, only if the tendon isn’t too badly inflamed.

The most important thing to remember is to do as you get back running is to build it up slowly and steadily- you should be trying to work on your from before you even think about fitness or speed.

While you are resting, try some toe-ga exercises (I’m sure there are videos on here somewhere, but if not, send me a message and I’ll get some over to you).

Also, work on your cadence as much as you can- again you might need to wait until the tendon settles a bit more) by bouncing in time with a metronome set to 180bpm (remember to let your heel kiss the floor though).

Also, if you are at the physio, I’m sure the do it anyway, but get them to work on the trigger points in your calf muscles- preferably with dry needling if they do it.

Finally, when you are running, remember the 3 golden rules, in this order, and you’ll be heading in the right direction- POSTURE, RHYTHM, RELAX.

I hope some of that helps…
Thank you to everyone who took the time to offer some advice. you can see our FAQ barefoot page here.

May 26

Feldenkrais and the ‘correct way to run’

I was picking up my emails today and this one from Jae Gruenke grabbed my attention. I trust Jae and what she has to say about running form. She once wrote a post about the way we run over different surfaces that made me think she had been watching me run. It described the way I changed my stride perfectly.

Click the picture or here to see what Jae has to say. It makes you think!



May 15

How goal setting bashes resilience…and what you can do about that for your running

check-listAs a species, we humans have become obsessed with target setting and achievement. We hear these words so often. ‘Goals, focus, achieve, objectives, targets, strive’ and a myriad of others. They have become so much part of modern life that we don’t stop to challenge whether they are good for us and I have a deep seated mistrust of things that we all just take for granted. This obsession with achievement is so deeply embedded in our culture that it needs a closer look.

It begins when we are children and here is classic example.

It seems common sense that if a child gets a grade A in an exam, we should lavish them with praise. However, it is counterproductive and I believe that the same is the case for the way most of us set goals and targets for our running.[spacer height=”08px”]

I can hear the confusion. What on earth am I talking about? How on earth can praising a child for getting a grade A be a bad thing? It is so counter-intuitive that it seems like crazy talk but go with me for a minute.

I have worked in education for well over 20 years and one thing we know is that children who get regular praise for excellent achievement can gradually begin to duck out of challenging things. They are good kids so why would they do that? One theory is that children who are consistently praised for the things they achieve develop a self-image that they need to live up to and they end up not wanting to be seen to fail. It isn’t their fault and it isn’t an ego thing. It is the way they think the world values them and they strive to live up to it. In short, their whole value system and sense of self-worth becomes skewed and becomes just about achieving consistently high grades. Everything is fine whilst getting As but drop to a B and the world ends. They can end up unconsciously protecting themselves by playing safe and not putting themselves out there.It is understandable, it doesn’t happen on purpose but it happens all the same.[spacer height=”08px”]

Praise is useful but we need to tweak how we use it. Not a big tweak, the same children still get the praise but for a slightly different thing.[spacer height=”08px”]

The answer with children is to praise the amount of work they did to get the grade A (or B or C or F) All the value goes into praising the process that got them there. The grade itself is incidental, the praise all goes on the way they applied themselves.[spacer height=”08px”]

When you do that with children, we know that they become more resilient. They are much more likely to stick with it and take risks because they understand that failure is OK. In fact, it is all part of the learning process. The most successful people in life and not the ones who play safe and therefore never fail. They are the ones who have the resilience to pick themselves up after a knock. They continue to put themselves out there and take a chance. They are not as afraid of failure because it is part of the process that gets them there. They are much more likely to give it all they have got next time rather than go to pieces because they didn’t achieve an arbitrary grade printed on a piece of paper on a certain day.[spacer height=”08px”]

Running is just the same. We are told to think big, the sky is the limit. There is no limit to what we can achieve. We can run a marathon…or an ultra. We can run it in under 3 hrs or 4 hrs or 5hrs or whatever. Those sorts of things are OK but they just don’t really do it for me. They are superficial and in most cases unhelpful. If your success or failure depends on a second or two then you have to question what you are doing to yourself in the long term. If 3hrs 59minutes and 59 seconds is success but 4hrs is failure take a good, hard look at your value system and the way your self worth is attached to it.
I covered overall goal setting in an earlier piece and would encourage you to dig deep and uncover the real reasons you want to run. They are much more likely to keep you going in the long term.[spacer height=”08px”]

So…do I set goals for myself?

I do and I find them very useful but t has taken me a long time to work out how to set myself targets that get me out of bed in the morning and work for me. The trick is that I now set myself goals that are all about the process that is going to help me run in a way that is linked to my deep seated reasons for running.

Firstly my goals are positive and not negative. They are about doing something rather than not doing something. e.g. Eating grapes every day is a positive target and easy to do. Miss a day and it is not the end of the world. Not eating chocolate however is a negative target and you can end up feeling dreadful if you slip up and have a crunchie. From a behaviourist point of view, this makes sense. If you want to embed a behaviour, you reward yourself when you do something and end up feeling good. Ticking each day off seems to be reward enough for me and I am forming new life enhancing habits. To stop yourself doing something, things get darker and it is more about punishing yourself. I don’t want to live in a world where I am beating myself every time I slip.

I was listening to a coach speak recently on the radio. He was talking about motivation. He finds that most people have bucket loads of motivation but no structure to build things on and see things through. I found myself nodding along with him. My goals are attached to the structure and process of my running rather than the outcome.

My ultimate goal is to be active and healthy into my old age. To achieve this, I am aiming to teach myself good technique by running barefoot consistently. My structure is simple to understand and easy to tick off. Just 2 points.

  • Run barefoot every day for a year (at least a mile).
  • Run around 1000 barefoot miles across the year (I have broken that down to about 20 miles a week and I just tick it off each week.)

It is an experiment and there is nothing in there about how fast I should run or anything linked to an event or performance. It is all about the process and getting in the miles and on a motivational level it works. I find myself enjoying ticking off the days and logging the runs. It is just the beginning and if I cannot make it on a day or I don’t make the miles so be it. It will not be the end of the world. I am not ascribing that much value to it. The process of trying is making me stronger and a better runner and I will be fitter as a result. I think that I will probably drop in a few events as the year progresses but they will not be as important as the process that will have got me there. It is helping me achieve myoverall goal of  keeping active as I get older.[spacer height=”08px”]

The goals that work the best for me:

  • Have some challenge in there – we are not talking about ducking difficult things. Quite the opposite. We are talking about challenges but making the goal about the process that gets you there rather than attaching all the value to achieving a certain thing on a certain day.
  • Are positive and not negative. It is much better to shape your positive behaviour rather than beat yourself up all time.
  • The process involves me doing something that happens at consistent intervals (Daily, weekly etc)
  • That thing can be ticked off, felt good about and then forgotten about until the next time
  • Are built on and cumulatively help you towards achieving your deep seated lifetime goals.   [spacer height=”08px”]

This type of thinking goes against the dominant discourse that surrounds us. This obsession we have with target setting to achieve things is pervasive throughout society and of course we can see that it does work sometimes. There are many success stories where we hear all about it. The problem is that we only hear those stories. Nobody talks about the impact on people when it doesn’t work and their reluctance to put themselves out there again because they develop a fear of failure that leads to them just giving up. Nobody really wants to talk about that because we live in a society that values the go getters and high achievers and we think that it is the only way to get there.[spacer height=”08px”]

What I am suggesting is a tweak the way you set your targets. Make them postive, process orientated and challenge yourself. It is much more likely to make things healthy and nurturing rather than ending up distorted and demoralising. You have the rest of your life to be a runner and your value is not attached to achieving a certain thing on certain day. Being a lifelong runner is much more challenging and worthwhile than that.

If I was starting out a barefoot runner from scratch, I would have one process goal that it simple to understand. It would be to run barefoot every other day for the next 12 weeks. No distance or time involved. Just the process and structure. Tick it off. Log it in whatever way works for you and then see where you are at the end and take it from there.