Monthly Archives: August 2011

Not so fast and other benefits

As you may recall, one of my goals in starting down the BR path was to increase my speed. In running shoes, I felt that I had reached a plateau of sorts and was having a very difficult time reaching faster speeds and better times over longer distances. I imagine with some pro coaching I might have been able to reach that next level but as an amateur recreational runner that just wasn’t a practical solution in my view.

Without shoes I hoped to increase speed, distance, and fun in running while reducing impact and injuries to my joints and muscles.

I can accurately report that I have quadrupled my fun. I’ve have been completely surprised by just how much fun I can have running barefoot down the street or through the woods! It’s incredible to me actually. That may be in part to how frustrated I was with my performance in shoes but I also think that it’s just plain more fun to run this way. Feeling the ground in such a new way is exciting and different. Interacting with the terrain in a much more conscious way also adds to the feeling of actively being involved in running rather than just a passenger along for the workout while my shoes pound out the miles.

In my shoes, I could “space out” and just go along for the ride sometimes while clearing my head of the stress of that day. Without shoes, I can’t check out of what’s happening around me, I will injure myself ( probably badly) if I’m not paying attention. What I do find is that by focusing on what my feet are feeling, where to step next, what’s up the trail, placing my feet under me, and all the little nuances that my mind is extremely occupied and that in turn pushes all of the same daily stress away. I get the same stress relief only its magnified by the concentration I’m putting forth. It’s not a hard effort ( I’m not thinking hard – trust me!) but it is a conscious effort to think about what is going on around me and that results in the same stress relief and relaxation that I was looking for in my daily shod runs.

The other half is definately the uniqueness / craziness of running without those shoes – its fun to see some of the looks, and answer the questions (very important to do this IMO) as I lumber down the street with my toes getting some sun. Being able to show people that anyone can do this with a little practice and lots of patience is rewarding, and fun.

So yes, I’m still a little frustrated that my speed and my distances are not where I hoped to be at this stage. I’m a little bummed that I have a few nagging injuries that hold me back some days. But I also understand that if I push through those problems it will result in even bigger problems and the dreaded TMTS. I know that it’s only a matter of time before I’m able to run pell-mell through the forest with a huge grin on my face and my toes seeking the light and shadows on the trail.

Until then, I’ll keep plugging along, building muscles, endurance, strength, form, and all those things. What I have achieved though is I’ve found the fun in running again.

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First steps

Having decided to ditch the shoes and focus on barefoot running I felt it was prudent to begin slowly! After all I was leaving the security of closed and protected feet and now willingly exposing my toes to pavement, concrete, rocks, and the occasional dog poo ( a story for another time!)

In barefoot running (BR for short) there is a common phrase used: TMTS.

TMTS stands for To Much, To Soon. TMTS stands for pain and injury. If you do TMTS when firstĀ  beginning to run / walk barefoot, you will be hurting.

If something starts to hurt when you start moving around barefoot, STOP! Take a break, come back and finish your walk later, put on some shoes. Whatever it is, avoid TMTS.

Shod runners have a tendency to “push through the pain”, “go the extra distance”, and other cliches. This results in injury which leads to poor performance and possible chronic problems later on. In BR we attempt to run lighter and more natural which results in less impact, less wear and tear, and injury free. Focusing on form over speed or distance takes a long time, the results are not immediately available to you as a BR runner. However, what is available is running at a comfortable pace that allows you to enjoy the process.

I started my transition by going barefoot around the house as much as possible. I still wore shoes to run in, but around the house I was using my bare feet. After a while, I moved outside the house, again being light and cautious as there was no rush to complete a set time or distance limit.

Finally, I began to move down the street, and within a few weeks was walking a mile on pavement and concrete. As my comfort level rose, I uppped the speed slightly, eventually reaching a full jog over time. Each time something did not feel correct or slightly uncomfortable, I stopped. On one or two jaunts, my old habits came back and i “pushed through” with immediate results – I had done T MTS and my calves and ankles were not happy.

Moral of my story – go slow. There’s no reason to push hard into BR. Start with 1/4 mile walking for a week, then go to 1/2 the next week. Once your up to a mile then start slowly jogging 1/4 of that mile. Again, watch out for TMTS and if you feel it coming on – STOP!

Hello toes!

Welcome to Cascadia Path – a barefoot journal!

I hope that I can use my experiences and learning to help others who may be considering trying barefoot or minimilist shoe lifestyle.

First of all, let me be perfectly clear – I am no expert nor am I qualified to give professional advice to anybody about anything, much less on how to walk or run barefoot.

What I can do though is give you some of tips and tricks that I have learned through others as well as hopefully provide a forum for questions and concerns as you consider taking up a more natural approach to running.

Finally, I will be documenting for your amusement my ongoing transition from shoes to none and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

So take off your shoes and come along!

Cascadia Path - a barefoot journal

The best (and the worst) of running free.