Saturday, 21 January 2012

Starting again

Yesterday I went out for 3.5 mile run - in my trainers.  I tried to employ barefoot techniques - keeping a rough cadence of 180bpm, light on my feet, 1-2-3 footfall (ball, heel, toes, in quick succession), concentrating on lift, not landing.  It was great to get out for a proper run again, and I really enjoyed it.

When I got home, I took off my trainers and ran up and down the side of the house a few times.  My bare feet felt fine (though it is only a smooth surface).  Then I realised that the neighbours opposite would have a great view of the side of the house, so I went inside.

Today, I put on my FiveFingers and did just under a mile.  I was extremely careful, being vigilant for any signs of TOFP (top of foot pain).  There was none, just a slight stretching of my achilles.  I tried to remember all of the barefoot running hints & tips as above.  I tried to run silently and effortlessly.  It seemed to work reasonably well.

I did notice that I had no calf pain which I had definitely experienced in my previous FiveFinger outings.  I think this is because I make sure the whole of my foot touched the ground, and I didn't focus on staying on my toes like I had done pre-injury.

On my return home, I once again took off my fives and ran up and down the side of the house completely barefoot.  I was relaxed, gentle footed and it felt good.  My neighbour's blinds were shut so I felt a little less silly.  I think this is the way forward for me for the time being.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

First post injury run

Full of trepidation, on a cold and frosty morning, I laced up my trainers for the first time in 5 weeks. Not sure if I shouldn't wait one more week, even though I'm pain free, I nervously stepped out of my front door.

My memory held out, prompting my feet to move, and pushing away the familiar flutters of anxiety before any run, and off I went.

Of course I was scared that there would be pain. I remembered Ken Bobisms... 'relax, relax, relax', 'bend your knees', 'it's like you're cycling'. I hummed Rizzle Kicks 'Mama do the hump' - the only plus 180bpm track I've found so far, and I ran.

It was a great feeling.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I relished every second. I noticed a minor twinge halfway, so I took heed of Ken and walked a few metres to check it was nothing before continuing.

It may have only been 3/4 of a mile in total, but it was an epic run for me.  It marked my return from injury, my return to something I love, and to something that fills me with pride.

I will take it easy for the next few weeks, but today has been a great day for me.  I've loved, and lost, and am loving again.  How lucky am I?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Ouch, it's gravel

I'm trying hard not to become obsessed by the barefoot lark, but it's not easy.

This morning, I remembered that down the side of the house we have a thin strip of very sharp gravel between the house and the fence.  We are quite overlooked by neighbours, and there is a touch of embarassment factor that goes with wandering around barefoot (I can see the neighbours twitching their curtains and commenting on the developing madness of the woman next door).  So under the pretext of righting the garden chairs which had blown over in the recent wind, I went out with nothing on my feet and trampled around on the gravel.

Well, I say trampled.  Obviously Ken says I should bend my knees and 'relax, relax, relax'.  I tried to spread the weight of my body on my feet, but I have to confess I found it mightly difficult to relax.  It was downright painful.  This is good - according to Ken - it will help me learn to move efficiently.  I'm not yet convinced.  When I got back indoors, I simply thought 'I could never run on that'.

Maybe I'll have another go later.  PS - I should stress that in fact I only stood on the gravel and lifted my feet up and down a few times.  Trampled would be entirely the wrong word (Ken, I hear ya!).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

To barefoot or not to barefoot?

As I've been unable to run, I've spent most of the Christmas break reading about running, or looking longingly out of the window wishing I could be out there racing through the wind and rain.

Having been good enough for Santa to bring me a Kindle, I decided to download Barefoot Ken Bob's book "Barefoot Running Step by Step", which I have been reading avidly for the past few days.  It's been a bit of a revelation (and I haven't even finished it yet!).

Firstly, there are a few paragraphs about the transition to barefoot running using Vibrams.  The paragraphs could be describing me:
"Although running on your toes can seem fun and exhilarating for a while, it can lead to stubbed toes, blisters, and metatarsal stress fractures (a too common malady particularly striking in beginning Vibram/minimalist footwear runners"
Here, Ken Bob is talking about the 1-2-3 (ball, toe, heel) technique.  This is ringing bells in my head.  I'm having a lightbulb moment.  I was running on the balls of my feet only.  When my calves were aching a bit (Ken says if they're aching, you need to tweak your technique, or stop), I did lower my heels a little more, but I thought this was wrong, and would produce a shock impact, so I tried really hard not to put my heels down at all.  In fact, the foot should land with the ball a split second before the heel or toes follow, thus reducing impact whilst then quickly spreading the weight across the whole foot.

The next interesting thing is that Ken says you should learn to run barefoot with nothing on your feet at all, and on the most uncomfortable surface you can find.  That way, you will learn to create the most gentle running experience possible, in order to avoid any pain.  It is this technique that leads to significant improvement in form.

The last thing I want to mention at this stage is cadence.  I've read before that a good running cadence is 180bpm, and I've even once or twice tried to find music tracks with the right bpm to run to, without success.  Yesterday, I had a proper look for this beat, and the reason it's difficult to find is because it is phenominally fast.  At Ken's suggestion, I took to my exercise bike this morning (not one of my favourite activities), and I tried to pedal at 90rpm (the equivalent of 180bpm when running).  I was astounded at how fast it is.  I certainly worked up a good sweat in the 10 minutes I did, something I've never really done before on an exercise bike - I was clearly just plodding along before at around 60rpm.

The question now is whether I want to pursue this barefoot lark.  I know my friends and relatives will think I'm bonkers.  My OH is supportive, though concerned about the combination of feet on stones and broken glass, which I too would be worried about - though a little less now I've read some of Ken's book.

Ideally, I'd have a hidden bit of gravel in the back garden where I can make a start in private.  Perhaps the winter isn't the best time of year either - I could certainly get away with running up and down the road with my son barefoot in the summer.

Barefoot Ken's feet after 10 miles of gravel
Oh, and I don't blame the Vibrams for my injury.  I just wish I'd read Ken's book first.