“Be patient. Take it Slow.”
I have to tell myself that almost every day. If you are like me doing this transition, you are way too anxious to get to the end game and run all day long. Impatience has taught me a few things.
First, you push too fast too soon and you’ll delay your transition because of overuse stress or injury. I did it on my first run and then about 3 weeks into it.
Second, your feet get used all the time! I have been doing a lot more barefoot walking and standing around to help strengthen the muscles. Without the masking of shoes, your feet are working all the time except when sitting. And you can stretch and exercise them then.
Third, I need to put me feet up at night for a little while. Makes sense. The muscles are developing so blood flow is greater. Let gravity help your heart. Once again men, your lovely lady would appreciate your helping gravity with a massage of those sore feet. (That will be my last hint on the ‘foot massage as start of foreplay’ topic!)
Cautions now administered, just be aware that your feet are going to hurt while you make this adaptation. I mean the muscles in your feet. And I am surprised by how many muscles these puppies have.
The new acronym I discovered is TOFP – Top of Foot Pain. I didn’t realize we had muscles on the top of our feet! They notified me of their existence a week or so ago after I did a stupid 10+ mile run too soon.
This, too, shall pass, but don’t push it.
NOTE: There is a difference between pain from use and exercise versus pain from injury. I learned my body’s language over time and can tell the difference. You need to do the same.
Before I cover some new hints, let me recap the big two.
1) Thumbs forward. This keeps your elbows in and helps maintain an upright posture for your run.
2) Knees up. Don’t push off with your foot, lift up with your knees. Lifting means you aren’t kicking out and your knees stay bent.
Now, we start “Getting in Tune with the Straight and Narrow”. As you can see, I’m into trying to find the simple rules that make everything else work right.
Corollary #1 – Get in Line When you run barefoot you’ll find that the most comfort happens with a slight hip rotation to help keep your feet running along a straight line. It isn’t a pronounced rotation. Everything in barefoot is subtle.
If there is a line on the side of the road, run so that you feel your heels (not your forefoot) touching the line. The line will be perceptible to your feet, so you’ll know if you are hitting it. Heels in line will lead to the right hip rotation.
Corollary #2 – Watch Your Speed Here’s the deal. To run barefoot, you have to shorten your stride because your aren’t kicking your feet out, but lifting them up. Shorter strides means more strides covering the same distance as traditional running. Normal shod running hits around 120-140 steps per minute (counting both feet). Barefoot running moves that up around 180 steps per minute, or 90 steps per foot.
Got a chronometer on your watch?
Count the number of footfalls on one or the other of your feet for six seconds. Then multiply by 10 and that will give you a relative cadence. There are 10 six second groups in a minute. After a while, as you continue to check the cadence, you’ll feel when you are at the right cadence. You can go faster, it is a matter of what’s right for you.
Side Benefit Alert – You do that little hip twist 180 times a minute and you end up working your core a bit. Which leads to “Honey, are you losing weight?”
Corollary #3 – Get Hippy You are running more erect (go ahead, make your puns) and you are taking shorter strides while not pushing off with your feet. So where the hell does the forward motion come from? I mean, this sounds like running in place.
It’s all in the hips. You need to keep you hips over your stride area. If you push them forward a bit, the stride moves forward with them. This may feel a little weird, like you are making yourself fall forward. Wait! Isn’t that what running really is?
This is the key. You’ve got the position and the technique, now we need smooth. Smooth comes from having the hips feel like they are being pulled forward by a rope anchored on your naval. Not a bowed back kind of pull, but just enough to keep you hips a bit forward with a straight back.
Try different amounts of extension. You’ll find that when you have hips forward just right you start to run smoother. And lighter. And faster.
We have all the pieces. Now it is a matter of putting them together to make the run a cohesive movement.
Take a look at this and use it to help you visualize good technique:
Or the beginning of this one:
BTW: Barefoot Ted is featured in Born to Run
Notice how everything I’ve mentioned is being done with subtle movements.
Take it slow, but get out and feel the run.
Next up – How the hell do I go downhill with nothing on my feet?