Sunday, April 1, 2012

Minimalist Running (Guest Blogger)

Jim asked me to do a bit of journaling about my entry into minimalist running so here goes. I've heard of barefoot running and have had the book "Born to Run" on my Kindle for a couple of years but have never gotten around to reading it. I've got what I consider very sensitive feet and have struggled for years with a Morton's Neuroma and some osteoarthritis in my feet - I definitely didn't think this minimalist movement was for me and, because I've been injury and pain free for a long time (knock on wood), I didn't want to mess with a good thing - after all, I can't even walk to the end of my driveway in bare feet, let alone run! However, the little I had heard seemed to make some sense…

So last Saturday I went into our local REI store to use my dividend and 20% off coupon and was taken aback by the direction REI has taken with their footwear department. Vibram and Merrell are definitely dominating the section and the area was packed with people trying them on. I nudged in to the area to see what I was missing out on and, admittedly, got sucked in. I left REI with a brand new pair of Vibram Seeya's.

I arrived home and sheepishly showed them to Jim - he won a pair a few years ago and after the teasing he got from friends and family the first time he wore them, never put them on again. I then proceeded to read everything I could regarding barefoot and minimalist running. I found many blogs and articles and am thru chapter 4 in the book "Born to Run". (Note that I was talking about the book at dinner last night with my sister Barb and her family and was surprised to hear that my 14 year old nephew, Quinn, is about 1/2 way thru the book and loving it - he's a soccer player so I'm not sure what specifically interested him in the book but I see this as promising to future generations).

Some things I've read that have struck a cord with me are that, indeed, people with sensitive feet like myself are the people that might benefit the most from minimalist running (MR from now on) - I might be one of those folks who have had their feet controlled for so long that their feet have forgotten how to operate on their own and have turned weak and "stupid". Using the theory "if you don't use it, you'll lose it", I've lost what it takes for my feet to function on their own without controlling shoes. It's kind of the same theory regarding doing the "third world squat exercise" (basically doing a full squat with your butt near the ground and feet flat on the floor) - this exercise is difficult for many of us because we've lost those muscles (so important to posture and back/leg strength) because we sit in chairs all our lives.

The other interesting note is that the majority of the people raving and blogging about their successes are NOT the nimble, skinny runners you might imagine (those people that already know they can run in their racing flats all the time and don't notice that there's no cushioning in them). Many of them are larger people with frames more conducive to any other sport than running but have been plagued with bad knees or other leg/foot related injuries. These are the success stories that interest me.

What I've learned so far is something I've found applicable to almost everything in life: just about anything done in moderation is good for you - too much, too soon (or too little, too infrequently) can be catastrophic.

I'll cover my reflections and progress on the first week of my minimalist progression and then try to update weekly. Because I'm not totally sold on barefoot or MR and don't want to mess myself up, I'm completely at ease going into this SLOWLY and progressively. The day I purchased my Vibram's I wore them around the house for about an hour - for the most part, I spent that hour just sitting. I then downloaded the pdf guide from Vibram which contains the recommended progression and some exercises.

I've found the exercises interesting and somewhat frustrating. It's recommended you do 3 sets of 20 reps, about 3-5 times per week. What I find frustrating is that I can't do some of them and really struggled - especially the one where you're supposed to pick up a towel from the floor and transfer it to the other foot - I can't do that once, let alone 20 times! I can pick up the towel using each foot about 6-7 times and that's going to have to be my starting point - I'll work on transferring as I go! My legs were a little tired but for the most part, the exercises are going well. After doing them tonight, I'll have 4 days this week. I've also tried to wear my Vibram's around the house for longer periods of time and ran to the mailbox (our mailbox is actually 2 houses away from us). Yesterday (the 5th day) was the first day that my "medium arches" felt sore. I took the Vibram's off and put my Chaco sandals on - that gave me some arch support but still left my toes unencumbered. The other thing I did was to order some minimalistic shoes to help the transition. I ordered a pair of Brooks purecadence - my thought is that I'll run short distances in those as I transition away from my Asics Gel-Nimbus (with Superfeet pink inserts). That transition may be as far as I get - we'll see what happens and what the next week brings….

-Bonnie

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