Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Laps

I ran 7 laps today. My usual routine is to walk to the track in my Merrell True Gloves, and to walk barefoot around the track once before starting my run. Until I started barefoot running, I didn't quite see the benefit of warming up first. I knew intellectually that it was good, but I didn't feel the difference directly. However, when barefoot running, I need to wake up my feet first, and not just in minimalist shoes. I always feel a little stiffness and discomfort in my feet when I warm up. In fact, I usually worry a little bit that it will continue during my run. In the past, when I was overworking, it did. However, now it fades quickly after I start running. It's so nice to run a mile without any pain. That might sound funny to you, but I'm still getting used to it. Before now, I couldn't run at all without getting shin splints or top of the foot pain. I got another small blister on one toe. However, this time, I didn't feel the hot spot before I finished. Better than last time. I hope this doesn't keep happening, though.

I saw another barefoot runner there. I was a little excited at first, but that quickly faded when I saw her form. She was pounding the ground, heel striking. It was loud. At the end of her run, she sprinted a lap. I was doing that a few weeks ago (sans the heel-strike) and I paid the price. Sprinting is fine if you've worked your way up to it, but it was quite obvious given her form and shape that she was not an experienced runner. Maybe she's just starting. Hopefully she'll see the light soon.

I was tired at the end, more tired than I've been since my first run this year. Once again, I'm afraid I won't be progressing as fast as I'd like. However, I've observed that my lungs are dying before my muscles, so if I improve my diet and hydration, I'll probably be able to go longer. On the flipside, my form is improving. It's easier for me not to bounce or push off. It's easy to land softly. My calves are still a little tight, but I imagine that they'll begin to relax as they get stronger. When I started two weeks ago, I was doing calf-raises after my runs to maximize my progress, but I feel my calves are getting a sufficient workout from the run itself now that I'm going over a mile.

Things are great. Hopefully I can continue progressing at this rate. I've been going on a few dates with a runner lately. She ran a marathon and I'm barely going over a mile, so I hope she never wants me to run with her until I can run at least two miles. But that won't be for a few weeks.

Friday, October 28, 2011

6 Laps

6 laps is just over a mile. It was a good run, and I didn't lose count. I was definitely more tired than last time, but I imagine that's nothing to worry about. I got a small blister on one of my toes though. I felt the hot spot on lap four I think. I know I'm supposed to stop as soon as I feel it, but I wanted so bad to finish. I don't know for sure I made the right decision, but I won't run again for four days anyway. I'm pretty sure the tiny blister will be gone by then. No harm done. At least I had no other problems like before. I think it was because I was running too fast.

I find myself analyzing everyone else's form when they run. I almost always look at their feet to see if they're overstriding. I also look at how much they bounce. Posture is my most recent fascination. It's really interesting to me that mostly everyone has bad form. I even saw someone heel-striking in Vibram Fivefingers. It baffles me that someone would think that merely wearing the shoes would do the trick. If you're going to heel-strike, those are the last shoes you'd want to wear.

Given, my form isn't perfect. However, my posture is definitely straighter than most runners I see, if only because I'm so conscious of it. I still need to work on running light and without bounce. Today, those two were my main focus. They say you get it right when you don't think about it, but I think that's false for someone who's never run correctly before. I think that once you've done it right for a while, it will be natural, and that statement will be true. At the moment, when I don't think about it, I midfoot strike too much, and I bounce.

They say that when barefoot running, you can forefoot or midfoot strike. However, when I midfoot strike, I feel a thump. That thump is my gauge for my foot strike. If I feel it, I'm hitting my heel too much. It feels right to me that this thump is exactly what researchers are talking about when they talk about the unhealthy impact of heel-striking. That thump is the impact being absorbed by my joints. That thump is exactly what we're trying to avoid in barefoot running. At least that's what makes sense to me. You're free to disagree.

Anyway, back to my run, I focused intently on striking correctly and not bouncing. I tried to rid myself of anything but forward motion. It felt a little weird, but then again, everything feels weird the first time you do it. I imagine that the more I do it, the easier and more natural it will feel. Even though it was weird and gave me a blister, I feel like I'm slowly beginning to understand what barefoot running is supposed to be. The biggest problem is that as I focused on forward motion, I sped up a little, which is why I got the blister I think.

I'm at the point where it's becoming a challenge again. When I first started, every run wore me out. However, after I took a week break and started again with one lap, every run has been really easy. Three laps was a little tiring, but four and five were fairly easy. The six laps was pretty tiring. It made me wonder if I can progress as fast as I'm hoping. However, I imagine that as my form improves and becomes more natural, I won't get tired as fast. Also, after next week, I won't be increasing a lap a day anymore. I'll be progressing by a lap a week, so I'll have more time to strengthen before I raise the bar again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Counting Problem

I have never had a problem with counting, especially when I'm only counting to five. However, today, just like monday, I lost count of my laps. I ran either five or six laps. My feet are fine and I didn't feel anything during the run, so even if it was six when it was supposed to be five, no harm done.

Five isn't that big a number, so I think that unless I can train my mind to keep track, I'll need to compensate somehow. I like to think that my mind will get the hint and start focusing. We'll see. Six laps on friday. I'm going to continue increasing by a lap per run until the end of next week, finishing on nine. After that, I'll start increasing by a lap a week instead. I'll be running around a mile and a half by then, so I'll need to slow down my progression a little bit. However, since I'm planning to increase by approximately 10% a week, it'll speed up eventually.

Once I hit about three miles, then I'll really start expanding my horizons. I'll start doing fartlek runs, hill runs, etc. I'm excited. At that point, I'll feel like an average runner. An average runner doesn't run marathons. But I won't be an average runner long. I'll continue my progression until I'm running marathons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Doing Great

I ran the three laps on friday and I think four today. After a few laps, I got distracted and forgot how many laps I'd gone. I wasn't sure if was on my third or fourth, so I ran one more just in case. So if I didn't run four, then I ran five. Either way, my feet feel great. No pains or anything to be concerned about. Five wednesday and six on friday, making it just over a mile. Obviously, I won't be running the 5k in four days. If I'd known a few months ago what I know now, I may have been that far by now, but I didn't and I'm not. But that's okay. It's not lost time. It was time spent learning from my mistakes so that I could do it right later. Later is now.

To paraphrase Jason Robillard, there are three kinds of barefoot/minimalist runners:

  1. Barefoot purists - Strictly barefoot.

  2. Moderate minimalist runners - Mostly barefoot, but accept minimalist shoes as tools (Jason Robillard, Michael Sandler).

  3. Minimalist shoe runners - Only minimalist shoes.

I'm sure there are some people that are mostly minimalist shoe runners that barefoot once in a while, but that's beside the point. I think I've decided which category I fit in. I'm fairly sure of it in fact. I'll tell you which and why.

First off, since I started barefoot running, I've become more and more aware of the thick heels in normal shoes. The big block heels in my dress shoes drive me up the wall. They make me walk funny. I don't know how girls wear high heels, and I can't see why they think they make them look better. I personally think girls' barefoot posture is very attractive. I remember thinking that well before I ever thought about going barefoot myself. My Chacos, which I used to worship, are now a pain. Barefoot feels much more comfortable and natural to me now.

Not only does barefoot feel better for standing and walking, but running as well. When I run in shoes, I really notice the impact. My impact is hard even when I run on the balls of my feet. They talk about how if you run gently, you can run in anything, but I just can't seem to run gently in shoes.

My Merrell True Gloves are the best I've got, but even they seem to keep me from landing softly. I feel like the balls of my feet are smacking the ground. I can't even walk normal in them. Given, it's alot better than when I'm wearing anything else. But I think I'm pretty much decided. Unless I really need minimalist shoes, I'm going barefoot.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two Laps

I ran two laps today. I felt pressure in my feet, which was a little disconcerting, but no actual pain, so I continued. It's been a couple hours and I still don't feel any pain, so I think I'm good. I'm hoping that the pressure is the foot's equivalent of positive muscle soreness. Either way, I was afraid to run any longer. I didn't feel that pressure last time. We'll see how my feet feel on friday. I may or may not run a full three laps.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back on Track

I ran a lap this morning without pain. It felt great. I didn't want to stop at a lap, but I had learned my lesson in the past. I'm going to run three times a week, increasing my distance by a lap each time until I reach about a mile and a half, at which point, I'll slow down the increase. I predict it will be about 9 weeks before I'll be able to run a 5k. In other words, if the 5k were in December, I'd be in good shape. Running it in a week or two is nuts.

Since I hadn't run for a week, I'd forgotten how natural running barefoot feels. I had been in shoes all week, and shoes feel so clunky and wobbly compared to bare feet. I have a pair of Chaco sandals, which I've been in love with for the few months I've had them. But now that I'm getting used to being barefoot, I'm starting to get annoyed by their thick soles. I've been trying to find some minimalist footwear for casual use. Unfortunately, most minimalist shoes are pretty flashy and expensive. However, Teva released a minimalist sandal for around $65, the Teva Zilch. Depending on the color, it can look pretty conservative compared to other minimalist footwear. If it weren't october, I'd be ordering a pair now.

As for winter-wear, I don't know of any alternatives. My Merrell True Gloves are way too flashy for me. I would gladly wear a pair of Vivobarefoot Aqua Lites, but they're $130. It looks as though I'll have to be happy with my thick-soled shoes for the winter. Maybe next summer I'll get a pair of zilchs. Maybe someone will buy my chacos. They're in great condition since I've only had them for a few months.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking a Break

A couple days ago ran one lap around the track. I hadn't run for four days, and my ankle looked okay and wasn't bothering me, so I decided to give it a go. However, midway through one lap, it began to complain. It didn't hurt bad, but I knew better than to argue. I stopped, threw on my sweats and Merrell True Gloves and walked home shivering in the rain. After a few minutes of sitting on my couch, my ankle began to feel tight. The swelling flared up a little bit, though not as bad as last time. I'm writing this at night, and I only feel a slight bit of tightness. I like to think I didn't make things worse.

This morning, I checked out my ankle and it looked and felt fine, so I decided that I'd run just one lap around the track. I figure I should start following the pros' advice and start small, since running as little as a mile has already caused problems. Unfortunately, right as I hit the track, I felt pain on the top of both feet. If I were the only one in there, I would've stopped right then and gone home, but there were a few other people. Prideful as I am, I decided to fight the pain for one lap, then I threw on my shoes and went home.

I made a decision. I'm not going to run at all next week. The fact that I felt the pain after only a few steps tells me that my feet haven't yet healed from the mile runs and even my short runs are keeping them from recovering. I'm pretty sure my goal of running the 5k later this month is out of the question. But that's okay. I've decided that I'm going to swallow my pride and take it slow. If I don't humble myself and slow down, I'll just hurt myself. I just need to trust Michael Sandler, and Jason Robillard, and all the other prominent barefoot runners who all agree that starting small is the best way to go. They even recommend that experienced runners start running less than a mile. I'm no experienced runner and I've been going a mile. Bad news.

Anyway, I'll be doing calf and foot exercises in the meantime. Hopefully that will help me hit the ground running when I start again, no pun intended. Really.