When I first decided to transform my running to a more natural style, I moaned that I had timed the work right as winter started to rear its head. In late October, when I made the commitment, we had a huge, wet snowstorm that left us without power for 7.5 days.
I looked for the positive in the timing and figured that the cold weather would be a governor to keep me from running too far while my feet and legs adapted after forty years in running shoes. It looked like another winter where I’d be doing a lot of aerobic shoveling.
Well, since then we have had a whopping eight inches of snow, total, and temperatures have been the most mild I remember in January and February in New England.
Then it happened.
On Sunday January 29, 2012 I hit a runner’s plateau. You know what I mean. That point in your training where something changes and you know you’ve stepped it up a notch.
On that Sunday I ran a four miler and it felt normal. There were no twitches in foot muscles. There were hot spots on my feet. My calves felt normal. The tops of my feet didn’t have that last bit of soarness that I had been listening to for about two weeks.
Unless you’ve been there, you may not understand. The signal was that I could start to build up now. Slow, progressive mileage. Since that run I’ve added a mile a week and just finished a 7.5M run this past Sunday and everything feels great.
It was frustrating for me to hear about people who just started to run in natural style and never looked back. I was ready to actually start to develop my running. My feet were going to support me now. It had taken longer than I had expected. I guess I had the legacy of decades in running shoes to overcome. My foot muscles had plenty of time to atrophy during that time. Yes, the reconditioning took longer but, it has happened.
You know what else I’ve noticed? Well, a few of things.
First, I find myself walking barefoot a lot. Even strolling out onto the deck during twenty degree weather. In some ways my feet are more sensitive and responsive and in others they seem more tolerant. I’ve grown accustomed to the sensation.
Second, I can stand on one foot for a much longer period of time. Just a few months ago if I put on a sock while standing I usually needed to lean against a wall or door jamb to keep my balance. Now, I go free form and can stay on a single foot for minutes without an issue. I also feel the strength in my forefoot and arches. Especially when going up or down stairs. It is amazing how that bit of strength informs the rest of my leg muscles and posture. Good posture makes me feel confident. That makes me smile. Its all a good thing.
Third, my bare feet in sandals can take a pretty cold temperature outside, as long as it is dry. I wear my Luna Sandals solo in temperatures of 30 degrees or higher. Sure, the first bit is cold, but less than half a mile into the run the blood circulation equalizes everything. This is true for shorter runs. Much more than 5-6 miles and the feet do start to get cold, so be careful. It may have been a mild winter, but it has had its moments.
Fourth, and this is probably pure ego, but my calves look better. The muscles seem more elongated than before and I’d swear that the muscle is bigger even at rest. It could just be the amount of running at this time of year. I never did a before and after measurement, but I think barefoot running has changed the shape of the muscle. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Fifth, I don’t feel tapped at the end of a run. When I was in the early season running wearing running shoes I would always feel my whole body kind of worn when I increased mileage. Kind of the general, worn out feeling like just before you come down with a cold. Well, each time I have upped my mileage in minimal shoes I have only felt any tenderness in the muscles of my feet or calves. As I am writing this I just completed a 4.9 mile run and feel like I could go back out and do it again.
I waited a few weeks to file this update because I wanted to get several runs and more mileage under my feet to see if the comfort continued. It has. A couple of times I ran twice a day to get mileage (3 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon). I’m doing hills with more consistent form. I’m running more comfortably and not thinking about my form constatnly. One of the big indicators for me is that my mind is beginning to get into its meditational mode on my runs again. I love it because that is when I work out all of the issues facing me. Too bad not everyone agrees with what I’ve worked out, but that is their problem.
The next plateau is in my sights. I have a half-marathon scheduled for April 1st. I’m not looking for a fast time. To finish feeling comfortable and like I can run more is my goal.
Everything I have said about keeping form is still holding true. I’ll do a tune up on that in my next entry. Until then, I’ll leave you with the famous quote from Jack Kirk, the Dipsea Demon:
You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running.