Advice... It's worth what you pay for itI'm celebrating. I've had my first week after starting this barefoot running experiment where I have no soreness the day after a run. Gravel paths have gone from "ouch!" to "interesting...". I'm thinking it's a good time to reflect on what I've learned getting here.
Before I go into what worked for me, I have to say that this is not advice. I started this crazy project by reading everything I could from others who'd been there and done it. Many of them had advice about stride length, body position, arm-swing, breathing...you name it. Looking back on my struggles, I'd have to say I would have been better off without reading what I'd read. I screwed my self up, but good, trying to follow the advice of others.
That said, I think there is possible insight to be gained by reading the struggles of others as a basis for working through problems.
So what worked for me? After ending up sore trying to follow the advice of others, I came up with a simple rule: If it hurts, try something different until it doesn't. Yeah, yeah, okay, what about more specifics? I have a few thoughts below.
Problems and solutions
|Issue||Presumed Cause||Presumed Solution|
|Sore arches||Weak foot muscles||Barefoot long walks|
|Sore foot-pads||Weak foot and leg muscles||Barefoot walks, building running distance slowly|
|Sore calf muscle||Weak calf||Building running distance slowly (disappeared after a month or so)|
|Sore calf tendon (Flexor Digitorum Longus)||Swinging arms too-far side to side||Arms move nearly straight forward/back. Someone from the Chi Running camp can tell me how I'm screwing up my mechanics on this one.|
|Sore, tight hamstring (semitendinosus)||REALY weak hamstring||Hamstring stretch, foam roller, hamstring exercises. I particularly like the single-leg romanian deadlift while holding a weight as it works all the balance muscles in my foot and leg.|
|Tight, painful back muscles||Holding muscles tight during running||Focusing on relaxing during running -- keeping spine straight and vertical, relaxing abdomen.|
One might ask, did all this need fixing? That is, if I was just running in shoes, would this be necessary? Some of it, like the tight back muscles was a problem when running with shoes as well. I'm banking a bit on the research that indicates better long term joint durability from running barefoot. And how can I complain about having stronger feet and legs with better balance?
I'd love to hear about other's experiences of failures and triumphs. Feel free to comment, or send links to your blogs to firstname.lastname@example.org