Saturday, April 17, 2010

Week 8 Progress Report

The first 5 weeks of training in Vibram FiveFingers were followed by 3 weeks of running barefoot sans-shoes. I've discovered some resources on the web that indicate this is backwards; that barefoot training should happen before VFF training. Oh well, I think there are good arguments either way.

After 8 weeks of training, some significant changes in form have emerged:
  • Toe striking is the preferred gate and feels more natural
  • Heel striking is gone. Mid foot strikes are common on trails to distribute body weight over tricky terrain (gravel, foliage, debris).
  • Overstriding is painful, so I just don't do it
  • My pace should be 180+ BPM but it's closer to 165-170 BPM (needs improvement)
  • The runs are decidedly non-aerobic (more fat burning, less sugar burning)
  • The chronic lower back and knee pains are gone, but replaced by....
  • Some cramping along the plantar aponeurosis (PA) on the left foot (see image below)
My research indicates that years of wearing shoes will cause some muscles to atrophy, so the minor pains I'm experiencing are a re-awakening of muscles that need strengthening.

The PA cramping tends to set in within the first 2 miles on the left foot when I'm running on the balls of my feet. When this happens, I adjust to a mid-foot strike and within 5 minutes the pain somehow subsides (or tissue stretches out?). There's a possibility of tearing the PA during the strengthening process, so listen to your body and throttle back at the first sign of pain. I have no idea why the right foot doesn't have a similar problem. The right foot is definitely used and strengthened much differently than the left when playing golf, throwing a ball, or kicking in martial arts.

Because the runs don't get to a level of heavy breathing, I get the sensation I could run all day. Distance runs seem much more achievable. I've started scoping out some local 5K, 10K, and even (gulp) marathon runs as possible barefoot running challenges.

As a Musician, I'm accustomed to locking into beats-per-minute. One trick I'm trying is thinking of a 90BPM tune and running to it in double time. If I were road racing, I might try assembling a mix tape of all 90 BPM MP3s for variety (or record my own hour long groove in the home recording studio), but right now I find barefoot running too mentally engaging to be bothered with a headset and music. I can't put a finger on it, but hearing is one of those senses that changes when running barefoot. It's as if a primitive dependency is awakened that uses hearing to anticipate the conditions of each footfall.

Comments such as "Ouch!" accompanied with finger pointing are not uncommon as I run through the trails around Tryon State Park :-) It's interesting how many people want to 'debate' the pros/cons of barefoot running rather than respect it as an individual choice. That's probably to be expected in the town that invented waffle-bottomed running shoes (Nike in Portland, OR) and pumps millions into the local economy.

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