Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Small Town Blues

I love living in a small town. I love the traffic, or lack thereof. I love the fields and animals that are so close. I love the small town newspaper. I love the schools (for the most part) and I love that I know so many people. Although I am not naive, I like feeling safe here. However, by choosing to live in a small town, I give up some things. We have about 3 good restaurants in town. Shopping is limited. I have to drive 30-45 minutes for real shopping. And the gym selection sucks. There's just no sugar coating that one. There's not really a good option and the only reason I am at the gym I am at, is because of my friend, Holly who's an instructor there. And none of the gyms in town have a pool. And our city only has an outdoor pool. So if you want to go swimming in the winter, spring or fall you have to work around the swim team, swimming lessons, and swim meets at our high school pool. It really is annoying.
My Saturday was going to be a busy one. I had planned on pool running for a couple of hours before it began, but was sorely disappointed to discover that the swim team was having a meeting and the pool wouldn't be opened until 1:00. That was going to be too late for me. I was already a little ornery about having to be in the pool anyway and the preparation that goes into getting into a swimming suit. This didn't help my mood. I went home and changed and headed to the gym to find that it was locked and I left my key faub at home thinking they would be open. I sat in the car for 10 minutes until they officially opened and then headed up to the bikes. A class was just ending (sigh) and there was a new sign on the door that said that the room would be locked unless a class was going on due to some abuse to the bikes. Seriously? I got on the elliptical and hated every minute of it. My calves were tight and they wouldn't loosen up. I did 60 minutes in pain. I know, smart. Then I went to the weight room and pounded out another 45 minutes getting it all my frustration out.
I guess I should back up and explain why I needed the pool. Ever since my glorious 20 miler my toes that felt tired at the end of the run were now sore. I'd wake up in the morning feeling good, run, and then have them ache for the rest of the day. Then the top of my foot started hurting. I started icing but kept running. Then by Thursday night the whole top of my foot was hurting. It even hurt during spin class Thursday. That's when I decided that I needed to take a break and see if I could get it feeling totally better.
So here it is almost a week later and it's finally almost completely better. I did make it to the pool on Monday night for a good 70 minute run. I've tried the floatation devises before but can't get my heart rate up very well so I just ran in the deep end from one end to the other. It was boring, I did it in 10 minute segments with a drink break in between until the time was over.
My plan is to give it a complete week off, take a test run on Friday and decide from there if I should long run on Saturday or not. I just don't want that pain to come back! I CAN NOT get injured at this point in the game. I also signed up for Utah Valley Marathon 3 weeks after Ogden and signed up for the Top of Utah Half Marathon at the end of August. It was filling up fast and I've run it the last 3 years so I couldn't miss out! If any of you Utah bloggers or anyone else for that matter, are thinking about that one... DO IT!

Monday: 1 mile run barefoot on treadmill, full body weights, yoga
Tuesday: 5 mile run in Evo's outside
Wednesday: 7 mile run barefoot on treadmill (6 hill repeats), upper body weights and abs
Thursday: 5.5 mile run in VFF's outside, 60 minute spin class
Saturday: 60 min elliptical, full body weights

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pavlov's Dog Conditioning Theory for Runners

I am by nature a skeptic. I doubt a lot of what people tell me. I think that advertisers are liars just trying to make a buck. I spent a good portion of my teen age years bucking the system and testing things out for myself. I tend to learn best by my own knowledge. This is not always the best way to learn. I was kicked out of my parents house at 17 when they just couldn't take it anymore. I have a lot of regrets about choices I've made and hopefully I have grown up a lot since then. And I really try to learn from other people's mistakes. How does this relate to running? Well after the traditional ways of running led to injury after injury for me, I found myself on the barefoot and minimalist path. It's been a really great thing and while I'm still learning all the time, I find that even in this community I am still a skeptic and roll my eyes a lot.
For instance: In Michael Sandler's barefoot running book he talks about being in sync with the earth's frequency, or heartbeat. Did you know that the earth has a heartbeat? Apparently it does. It's called the Schumann Resonance. Google it. Our brains use the same frequency to survive and thrive. We are in sync with the earth's heartbeat. And our cell phones and other electronic devices and shoes interfere with our ability to connect with the earth. And it's not just weirdos that believe it either. Nasa created a machine to help the astronauts stay in sync when they leave the earth's resonance behind. Lance Armstrong's crew slept on these blankets that plugged them into the earth to help them recover faster and have decreased inflammation. So while my eye rolling had started, I wasn't sure what to believe or not.
He also talks briefly about running with meditation beads. He uses them to be present during the run. He rubs his fingers over them and repeats a mantra. He also watches to see how much they are bouncing and tries to be smooth and run softly. He also says it reminds him to have his arms relaxed. Running his fingers over those beads helps him be in a meditative state while being aware of what his body is doing. Truthfully, when I first read this I thought to myself that maybe I was reading the wrong book. This was just kind of weird. I am one of those people who at the end of a yoga class, when everyone else is quietly relaxing in corpse pose, am fidgeting and wondering how much longer we have to lie there in silence. Don't get me wrong, I like silence. I just can't lay there with a bunch of other people when I know class is over and there are things to be done next. It's a problem, I admit. I have trouble completely relaxing my mind and body.
But lately, while running, things have been different. I am able to relax and think clearly. This thinking clearly thing is not new. I often get my best ideas while running and solve problems that are weighing on my mind. But I really like the idea of relaxing while doing something as physically demanding as running. That's more my style of relaxation.
One day, after seeing an episode of the Office, I got an idea. Kind of Pavlov's Dog Conditioning Theory for Runners. Check out this clip and then I'll explain my new combination of meditation conditioning.

I starting thinking about the mantra that I use to remind myself of correct form during a run and wondered if I could trick my brain into doing a sort of self correction. It's kind of like combining the meditation bead theory and the Pavlov theory. So for the past month I've been using it for a certain period of time during each and every run. I really used it during my long run last Saturday and it came in very useful, especially towards the end.
Instead of beads I just lightly rub my fingers together. I have five words that I use as cues. They are: soft, relaxed, smooth, fast, strong. I picked a point low on my pointer finger that I rub the tip of my thumb on for "soft". While I rub the side of my pointer finger with my thumb, I think of things that remind me of the word soft. Like big snowflakes lightly falling on the ground. I try to make my footfalls as light as snow. I try to run as quietly as possible.
Then I rub the tip of my thumb and pointer finger together. This is the cue for "relaxed". I think of my legs and arms as spaghetti noodles. I focus on my breathing being relaxed and when I exhale all the tension flows out of me. I make sure that I'm not tensing any part of my body. My shoulders are relaxed and loose. Think Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
The tip of the bird finger and thumb are the cue for "smooth". I think of my feet being clipped into the bike and they're moving smooth. Like the wheels on a train or the road runner. I pick a sign or something in the distance and see if I can get it to not bounce in front of me.
Then I move to my ring finger and the tip of my thumb for "fast". I think of running on hot coals and having my feet move quickly. The turnover is fast. It helps me pick up my cadence.
My pinky finger is the cue for "strong". I check to see that my abs are engaged. I lift my head up by the base in the back to allow my chest to inflate and let in the maximum amount of oxygen needed. I feel confident and strong. I see myself being strong at the finish line.
So while this may sound like it will take a lot of time and is kind of goofy, yeah, I admit, it might be. But my hope and theory is that before long, after practice, I should be able to touch the tip of my pointer finger with my thumb and have my body automatically relax. I should be able to make my movements smooth by simply touching my birdy finger. And while it might take time for my brain to do it automatically, I have got lots of time and roads ahead of me. I even practiced the relaxing one in the dentist's chair and it worked. In fact, I was so surprised at how much tension I was holding until I touched the tip of my pointer finger and everything relaxed.
Call me crazy, but I'll pretty much do anything that will help me with my running.
What do you think? Am I off my rocker and out in the deep end?
Wanna try it?
Tell me your mantras and physical cues that you want to try and lets see if it works!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marathon shoes: Decided!

Our computer crashed last week during an upgrade and I almost cried. I thought of all my thousands of pictures, music, e-mails, and files that were all on that computer. And then the reality of how addicted I am to this little machine set in. I love reading about all my friends and receiving inspiration and comments from you guys. And I have been without it for 5 LONG days. Luckily, I have a computer genius for a husband and he assured me that he would be able to fix everything and bring it all back. We've been wanting to get another disk drive to automatically back up the computer, but just hadn't done it yet. We do now. Still, my husband has been able to save everything. My music is copying as we speak and at some point I will get caught back up on all your lives. I sound a bit pathetic, don't I?
On the running front I had a big happy face this weekend! On Thursday I ran to the gym in the evening to my cycling class. And I ran the whole way barefoot. It was only 2 1/2 miles and I've run farther, but it fun running barefoot to a destination. The only hard part was carrying my shoes and water bottle.
Friday night I was up late. We had been out with friends and had a great time. But on the drive home from the restaurant, I started to dread my run the next morning. DREAD. I am sick of my music and couldn't do any changing because of the computer situation. I wanted someone to run with. That wasn't going to happen. I am sick of the places that I run. It seems like I have run everywhere in my little city and I need new scenery. But with no one to go with the hubby was not going to let me run the canyon or somewhere like that alone. I really just didn't want to do it. I whined to my husband.
I woke up Saturday morning still filled with that dread. I finally got a grip and told myself that it really was going to be a sucky run if I kept that attitude. So I pulled up my bootstraps and sucked it up and got dressed. I took my peppermint oil for my stomach issues (thanks toMisszippy!) and packed up my Hammer gels (montana huckleberry) and headed out the door in the hurricane style winds. I told myself that I would do 3 x 5 mile loops and then stick 3 miles on the end. After the first 3 miles in the wind, I told myself that if it didn't let up that I would go home and finish it on the treadmill.

In the middle of that first lap I got a text from my slightly injured running partner Heather, asking me if I wanted some company on my run. She was volunteering to ride her bike next to me. That my friends, is the sign of a true friend. She knew I was dreading that run and was going to help me out. Unfortunately she had a flat. She got the o.k. from the chiropractor to try her foot out this weekend so her husband drove her to me and she ran 2.5 miles with me to finish out loop #2. It was SO nice to have some company. The wind had let up a little and her company totally cheered me up. It also ended up being a really great running day. My body felt good. Really good. We grabbed my husband's bike for the 3rd loop and she rode next to me. So fabulous. She left me to finish out the remaining 3 miles and I knew I could do it.
I was trying to decide where 3 miles would be and finally just made the decision that I was feeling so good I would just make it 20 miles even. I finished out those last 2 miles a little faster and couldn't believe how good I felt. The only thing that was even hurting was my toes and the top of my left foot again. I was to the point where I wasn't feeling it much at all during the week but I guess 20 miles will bring any little aches to the surface. My hip flexors were a little tight, but as soon as I stopped they were fine. I could have kept going but decided to stop and save a little for another day. It was a mileage PR in my monkey feet and I think they are going to be my marathon shoes.

This was just the little boost I needed. My recent long runs were not what I wanted them to be. This run was how I want marathon day to feel like. My stomach was great. I gelled at mile 6,11, and 16. 3 gels. No stomach problems whatsoever! Since I had success with the Hammer electrolyte tabs, I tried Nuun this week and LOVED it. That will be my new drink of choice. What I really love about both products is that there's not a lot of sugar. I can drink it with my gels. No more carrying gatorade and water on long runs. Yahoo! I felt great the rest of the day and absolutely no soreness the next day. Not even in my calves. I expected that I would with a mileage increase. I kept wondering if I counted the loops right. I still almost couldn't believe that I had done it. It's almost like I'm training for my first marathon all over again. I'm quite excited about all of this and can't wait to share another little mind game that I've been working on. If you didn't think I was weird before, you will after that post!
We also got the garden started Saturday. After hauling in 2 truckloads of compost last weekend, my husband tilled and got the rows ready for planting while I was on my run. We have peas and spinach planted and will do broccoli, cauliflower, chard, arugela, cabbage, carrots, and onions sometime this week. I can't wait until we have fresh tomatoes and peppers again. That's by far my favorite.

Do you have a garden?

What fresh veggies are you looking forward to this summer?

What's your best long run tip?

Monday: 5.5 mile run in gorilla feet with strides outside
Tuesday: core work, 60 min spin class
Wednesday: 6.26 mile run barefoot on treadmill, upper body weights and abs
Thursday: 4.5 mile run in VFF's outside, 2.5 mile run barefoot outside, 60 min spin class
Friday: 4 mile run barefoot on treadmill, upper body weights and abs
Saturday: 20 mile run!!! In gorilla feet outside

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I love my Spin Class

I love my spin class. And so do a lot of other people. Starting in January (new year folks) it has been full every week. I had to start going 45 minutes early just to get a bike. It got to be that we started the class early every week because we were full. Yesterday was the first time that it hasn't been completely full. But you better believe that I'll still be there early next week just in case. Part of the popularity is because of our awesome instructor!

She is a personal trainer and has been one of my best friends for 12 years or so. She's the only reason I've stayed at that gym. She has good music and knows how to motivate you to work your hardest. I've gone into the class thinking that I'd take it easy. Yeah, that never happens. You just can't help it!

Aren't those purple walls the best! You should see the lime green paint in the rest of the gym. Insert sarcasm here. I pretty much just sit and stare at her arms the whole time and wish I was good enough to eat like her so that I look like her.

You wouldn't think that spin class would relate to running much, but I have found that it has helped me in unsuspecting ways.
The first thing it's done for me is teach me that I don't have to stay with the beat of the music. I used to have a real issue with running to the beat. So I would try to start with a medium tempo progressing to a faster tempo towards the end of the playlist. But because of spinning and having to pick up my cadence during parts of a song and no longer follow the beat, I have translated that over to my running. When I find that I am running to the beat and maybe have slowed down, I tell myself to pick up the cadence and I can.
Spinning has also taught me to have a smooth motion in my feet. It's easy to pound down on the pedals to get yourself going but that makes for a jarring ride that's not good for the joints. It's better to have a smooth 3 to 9 position with the pedals constantly pushing through with the quads, pulling with the hamstrings and calves. Even while standing it's better to try and isolate and make it smooth than to pound it out bouncing up and down or even swaying back and forth. Feet are in a straight position, no pointing of the toes. So how does this translate to running? I try to picture my feet while I'm running as being clipped in to that bike. No heel striking or pointing of the toes. Just landing and lifting up and repeating. I think about my motion being smooth, soft and light and kind of looking like the roadrunner with that circular motion in the legs, all the while his upper body is standing still. Kind of makes you want to let out a "meep, meep" huh. Maybe I should try it. It might make me faster!
Spinning has taught me that engaging your abs helps keep everything aligned. Bending at the waist (like a Barbie), keeping a flat back, and engaging the core is the proper form while riding. Now obviously while running you're not going to be bending your waist, but engaging the core is something that helps support your lower back and consequently everything that is connected below that. This is something that I really need to work on.
Since I decided that I wasn't going to do speed work this time around, I am using my spin class as modified speed work. I really pound it out while I am there and those intervals really get me going. And I am dripping wet by the time I am done!

What is your favorite cross training activity?
Do you think it helps with your running?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekend Madness!

First: Thanks for all your ideas on fueling! I'm going to try several of them and let you know what works best. It seems that stomach issues are kind of a big deal for a lot of people. I'm glad I'm not the only one! It never ceases to amaze me how great the blogging/running community is. I love that everyone is willing to share their tricks and that even the elites are willing to share their "secrets" to help the average joe runner become better. Awesome!

Second: I may have the best husband in the world. We had a really busy weekend planned. My brother was in state from Alabama with his wife and new daughter. They were blessing her while they were here with family and we were traveling down south to be with them. (She is a doll by the way! I almost stole her and took her home.)

But as such, we were leaving early on Saturday morning when I would normally be running. I jokingly told my husband that he should take Friday off so that I could do my long run then instead of being stuck on the treadmill for 15 miles. I didn't think much more of it until he came home from work 2 days later and told me he took it off. What a sweetie!

My long run can be summed up in one word: windy. YUCK. There is pretty much nothing more than I hate than running in the wind. Give me rain, snow, sleet, hail... but keep the wind! I feel like a big whiner most of the time when I talk about my long runs. So why would this week be any different, right? The muscles all around my ankles feel tight lately and it took about 5 miles before they felt loose and good. The top of my foot hurts right above my big toe, but it never got any worse during the run. I wore my VFF's with bandaids over the blister residue and socks. I still don't really like them. I think my off brand (Gist) work better on my foot. The VFF's just feel so tight around the top of my foot and a little too loose in the toe area. But the size down felt too tight all around. Argggg. I'll still give them another go before I make up my mind. I tried GU Chomps as fuel and got nauseous towards the end. I'll try Hammer gels again next week and see if it was a fluke that they worked for me last week or if they're a keeper.

Saturday, in the middle of family activities, I got to meet up with my elite runner friend, Janae. It was great talking with her about running and life in general. I love that girl. She is so sweet and really cares about people. If you are one of the few people on the planet that doesn't read her blog yet, you should. The only complaint I have about our meeting is that it just wasn't long enough!
Sunday we spent the day at church and then with my husband's side of the family celebrating my mother in law's birthday. So much fun! Especially since the weather was springlike! My favorite part of the night was having races with the kids across the grass. We did skipping, gallops, sprints, running backwards, wheelbarrow races, and combinations of them all. It was great and was the biggest reminder that spring really is coming!

Yes, that's me in the white dress. It was getting dark so they're all blurry!

And yes, I'm coming in 2nd. In my defense I was dodging kids. But I still beat my daughter so everything was good!

I missed all of my spin classes last week due to a charter school meeting (we are working on getting one going for the 2012 school year. It will be the first one in our area!) and a church meeting and I can't wait to get back at it again this week!

What did you do fun this weekend?
What work outs are you looking forward to this week?

Monday: 4 mile run outside in Evo's, upper body weights and abs
Tuesday: 6 mile run outside in Evo's (4 hills), lower body weights and abs
Wednesday: 6.25 mile run barefoot on treadmill, upper body weights and abs
Thursday: 2 mile hike (.5 barefoot)
Friday: 15.5 mile run in VFF's
Saturday: 5 miler run in Evo's

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quantity vs. Quality

I tend to get carried away fairly easily. With mostly warm spring like weather last week, it was an easy decision to run in the afternoon when things were at their warmest so that I could start toughening up my feet again. Friday's run I was able to go 3.75 miles completely barefoot. I was pretty excited. Yeah, my feet were feeling a little raw but I was glad. Up until this point I have felt like I could have gone farther. Not this day. They were at the point where they couldn't go on that chipped asphalt anymore. Cool. I inspected my feet. No blisters or hot spots. They just felt raw. I slipped my gorilla feet on and finished out my run.
It just so happened that last week the kids had early out Wednesday and no school on Friday. I had much more time to run and so I did. Saturday is when it came back to bite me. I started adding up my miles for the week and knew that I'd overdone it. If I did my planned 16 miler, I'd be doing 47 miles in a week. That would be a new distance record for me ever. And with all the barefooting I had done, it wasn't going to be the smartest idea. So I set out just to see how it would go and I'd make the decision based on how I felt while I was out there.

It was a great day. 41 degrees and overcast. The first mile was torture. I don't know why. I just wasn't feeling it. But after a couple more miles I was settling in to a nice easy pace and enjoying myself. I ran out west by the grandma house that I want to own someday. My feet were starting to get tired. As I got closer to town they really started to ache. All over, but mostly in my toes. I called the husband at mile 14 and he came and got me. My feet ached all Sunday too. So I'm glad I called it in. Still, 44.5 miles last week. But I don't feel like they were quality miles as far as marathon training goes. Yes, I did do hills and I did run longish. But most of it was spent having fun barefooting, trying out new shoes, and just having more time than I usually do. I feel like I keep losing my focus. While I'm loosely following a plan, my heart just isn't into this marathon like I wish it was.
On the fueling front: I went to my running store and talked with the owner about different options. I decided to try Hammer gels because they don't have any refined sugar in them. I really think that all the sugar that I consume during the race makes my stomach upset. Between the sweet gatorade and then the gels, my stomach just doesn't do it well. It may be something else, but that's what I've come up with for now. I tried the apple cinnamon kind and it tasted good and I had no stomach issues. I also tried their electrolyte fizz that I added to my water. It was refreshing and not sweet at all. I'll keep trying this new concoction on longer runs and see if it continues to work for me. The only issue then is packing my own nutrition to the race instead of just being able to use what they have.

Anyone else have stomach issues?
What do you do when you lose focus?
How do you get it back?

Monday: 9.5 miles outside in gorilla feet (2.5 barefoot, 3 hills)
Tuesday: full body weights, 60 min spin class
Wednesday: 9.5 miles outside in VFF's (1.5 barefoot)
Thursday: 4 mile run outside in Evo's (1.5 trail), 60 min spin class
Friday: 7.5 mile run outside in gorilla feet (3.75 barefoot)
Saturday: 14 mile run outside in gorilla feet

Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm back, baby!

Let me start this post by saying that I probably didn't make it clear in my last post that I am not a shoe wearer hater. Or even a shoe hater. In fact, I love shoes. And if shoes are working for you, I think that's great. We're all just trying to be healthy and do what we love. I'm just sharing what has worked for me. Reference this post to get my real feelings on how runner's should behave towards one another.

Now... I didn't realize how badly I was feeling with that head cold of mine until Monday when it was almost gone. Monday's run was euphoric because I felt so good. It could have been that I waited until the afternoon when the sun was out and I was able to do 2.5 miles of it barefoot. (I got to go on that smooth asphalt west of town! And I had no blisters or hot spots. I probably could have gone longer.) It could have been because my daughter ran a mile of it with me or that I tacked a killer hill for 3 repeats. Or it could have been everything combined. But I was able to really push it clear until the end when I looked at the time and found it was almost time for me to drive a dance carpool. I was surprised to find out that I had gone 9.5 miles and didn't even realize it.

Wednesday's run was similar except for one small issue. After my scary trail run incident, I got the o.k. to get some real Vibrams with some traction. I've been running in my gorilla feet that are kind of a knock off brand called Gist. I've liked them a lot but when I tried on some real Vibrams last month, there was a noticeable difference in the quality and feel. I've wanted some ever since. So with the hubby's o.k. to purchase more shoes in my quest to run barefoot (ha! ha!) I got a pair of Bilkilas. I am right in between the sizes and ended up getting the larger because I felt like the smaller ones wouldn't work well in the heat or longer distances because my feet tend to swell. My toes were right at the end and they felt very snug. So I figured larger would be better. However, after about 3 miles I could feel some rubbing going on. I adjusted the straps to looser then tighter but it just kept getting worse. I ended up just taking them off and going barefoot as long as possible. It was wet and not very warm so it wasn't as pleasant of an experience. I only lasted 1.5 miles. And my feet felt more raw than Monday's 2.5 miles. I attribute it to the wet streets. It was a toss up as to which was going to hurt more. I put them back on and headed home doing another 9.5 miles. I don't know what to do with them. I obviously have to wait until these blisters heal before I can try it again. I don't know if I had them too loose so they rubbed or if they are just too tight overall. I don't even know if the store will take them back. I'm not to thrilled about that. Everything else was great though. No top of the foot pain or any pain other than those darn blisters! Urrgggggg.

Thursday I got to run on the mountain for a little bit. It was a rainy morning that was beautiful. I really need to get on that mountain right behind my house more often. It's not really beautiful, unless you think sagebrush is beautiful but the hills are a killer.

It's been in the 40's almost all week so my run for today is planned for outside as well. The kid's have the day off from school so I can go whenever. Really, I'm so excited for spring and summer!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I Chose to Run Barefoot

It seems funny to say that because for the last several months I really haven't been able to run barefoot. But even in minimal shoes these last couple of months have been the most rewarding period of running. I've run more days per week and more miles than I ever have been able to do before and felt better doing it than ever before. And let me preface this with the fact that I am still a beginner. I don't have all the answers. I still have questions. I'm still working on my form. I'm a newbie. But I love it and want to share it with whoever wants to listen.
It really has evolved, as most things do, from years of little things that culminated in the final decision. I am one of those chronically injured runners. My IT bands were almost always the culprit. But I've had a TFL injury, piraformis issues, and calf problems. I always thought that it was because I would increase my mileage to soon, run too many hills, or try to go too fast. And that may well be part of it. But after a lot of research on the internet (I love you, google) and talking with my chiropractor last summer, I came to the conclusion that running wasn't hurting me, I just wasn't running correctly. I really believe that if we run properly, and coincidentally, efficiently, that we should be able to run pain free for years and years. And I'm not thinking 20 or so years. I'm thinking until I die type of years. And by running efficiently I should be able to feel good while running more miles. I'm not looking to break any world records, or even place at events. I just want to run pain free for life. This is where I really started focussing on a mid foot strike. All the research I had done pointed me in this direction. When you strike the ground with your heel first a lot of things happen. First you land in front of your body with your leg mostly straight. Your heel comes in contact with the ground and because it's in front of you, it has a braking effect. All the force from the contact with the ground then radiates up your legs to your knees,hips and back. When you land mid foot with your leg mostly under your body and your center of gravity, your arch, ankles, and knees all act as shock absorbers. You aren't braking either and when you lift your foot you are continuing in a constant moving motion rather than the stopping and starting associated with heel striking. I combed through years of past running photos and found that I was a heel striker. So I started practicing landing mid foot. But I found that even when I thought I was watching my form and trying to land under my body, I was still heel striking. And trying to force myself to run on my mid foot was almost exhausting. It was hard work. That's when my research led me to barefoot running. I read that by taking off the shoes you would automatically start to run properly. It's not fun to land on your heel without all that cushioning. It's painful. So your body compensates and helps you to land correctly. I decided that I would give it a try and just learn to run properly so that I could run in shoes the right way.
Last September I ran my first mile barefoot. Actually it was 2 miles on a treadmill and I couldn't walk the next day because my calves were so sore. And we did Disneyland that day. I hadn't done all the research that I should have and though I knew I should start out small, I didn't realize how small, small really should be. Like as in around the block kind of small. I gradually started replacing my miles with barefoot miles or miles in socks. And my form improved. Somewhere along the way I found that it was just plain fun. I had a smile on my face while running. My body didn't hurt anymore. I started running more frequently with great results. While my original plan was to just run properly, I found that I didn't want to put the shoes back on. Unfortunately it got cold really quickly and before long I didn't have a choice. Running with numb feet isn't fun and really doesn't do you much good because you don't get good feedback. However, I found some good minimalist shoes that allow me to have good form along with protection from the snow.
If you are interested in learning about barefoot running and proper form I would suggest a couple of videos from Jason Robillard founder of Barefoot Running University. And of course check out his website. I have found it invaluable information that I refer to often.

Here's a few things that I have learned along the way:
*Take it slow. Slower than you would think. The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones are not used to this. They've been confined in shoes for a long time. But they will become stronger and work as they were intended. But if you go too soon, too fast, you will end up injured. Barefoot running is not a cure all for injuries.
*Be prepared for some sore calves. And sore feet. Every single time you up the mileage or the speed. But know that it won't last forever and you're only getting stronger.
*Listen to your body. Your feet will tell you everything you need to know. Blisters and hot spots and where they are located on your feet will tell you that you are not doing something right.
*Relax. Envision your legs and arms are wet noodles.
*Think light and easy. Imagine the back of your head is being pulled up by an invisible thin thread. Your posture will improve immediately. Your lungs will be able to take in more oxygen.
*Short quick steps help the process. Aim for 180 steps or more per minute.
*Lift your feet. If you concentrate on the lifting motion, your landing will take care of itself.
*Run on ice. There is no better form check. You simply can not push off and stay upright.
*Start on hard surfaces. Grass can hide small objects and won't give you the feedback you need.
*Smile. This one takes care of itself. It's fun being connected with the earth. It's fun feeling the different textures beneath your feet.

I have loved my experience with barefoot and minimalist running. It has been a joy! I can't wait for some warmer weather so that I can enjoy it even more.

Have you ever thought about trying barefoot running?
Do you think it's a fad or the next big thing?