We're two weeks into the new year. Hope your resolution isn't waning! Here is some more fitness inspiration to keep you moving forward toward any 2012 fitness goals!
Winter running is pushing its way into my tropical island weather-loving gait. The blow of piling on an entire uniform to get my heart rate up has been softened by this particular winter's wildly mild temperatures!
Cold weather exercise does have its gravy; I'm more consistent out of necessity and guilt that my dog still gets outside for her runs ... even if there is snow and freezing temps.
And though the gear gets more abundant, (my must haves: CWX tights, a base layer, thermal vest, hat, gloves, wool low cut socks) my shoe has gotten more minimal thanks to VIVOBAREFOOT Lucy Lites.
I have been fascinated by the barefoot running trend for a while, but honestly thought that it would not be for me. I'm injury prone (which I now realize was probably due to my former "heel strike") and didn't think my weekly mileage even justified it.
Man, was I wrong.
One spin in these sneaks had me addicted. My VIVOBAREFOOTs (and the barefoot running program included) have singlefootedly reinvigorated my runs. I even think my dog runs better when I'm wearing these kicks! (Probably has more to do with my new stride – more on that later.)
VIVOBAREFOOT generously sent me a pair of Lucy Lites and some education to get me started. This was key. I've tried other minimalist sneaks, like the Nike Free and the Ahnu Sausalito, and enjoyed them before, but unless you learn the proper mechanics of running "barefoot," you may as well just be doing what you always do – which is most likely heel striking. Changing to a barefoot shoe calls for changing to a barefoot stride.
Essentially, "barefoot" or "minimalist" running shoes are just a shell of protection to give you peace of mind and ensure the hazards of your running surface don't infiltrate your soles. The Lucy Lite has a whisper thin, vegan outer shell with an extra-wide toe box (which my platform/stiletto-mauled feet love) and a removable insole to get your foot even closer to the earth! The Lucy Lite is appropriate for use on the road, treadmill and track, as well as for those wanting to undertake a more minimal angle on gym workouts and extreme fitness modalities like CrossFit.
Why anyone would even consider slipping out of technologically advanced, ergonomically engineered, fancy-schmancy running shoes designed to correct and compensate? For exactly that reason.
There is a school of thought that modern shoes have become a crutch for the human body. Instead of making the foot and ankle stronger, cushioned/motion-control/air-maxed shoes have created feet and corresponding bodies that lack muscular strength, are riddled with bad posture and have minimized proprioception leading to more injury that these shoes were intended to prevent.
The barefoot trend and the accompanying shoes were created to allow the foot to have maximum contact with the ground and a heightened sensory experience while providing just enough elemental protection not to impede this.
Milwaukee based running coach, owner of Thunderdome Running and 2003 member of the USA National Half Marathon team Matt Thull, says barefoot running can contribute to the health of runners of all levels and mileages.
"Within my coaching business and professional running career, I have always made an effort to monitor running footwear (running in a shoe with minimal cushion and less heel lift for a couple of runs per week) and incorporating barefoot strides within all levels of my training and coaching programs. Barefoot running stride practice and more minimalistic footwear without highly cushioned heels allow runners to lesson heel strike impact and land more naturally on their mid-foot, reducing the risk of injury."
Barefoot running can also make you faster. Yes – even plodders like you and me.
According to Thull, "a mid-foot strike pattern practiced through minimalistic footwear and barefoot stride work also helps a runner to run faster because landing on the mid-foot allows for quicker push-off and more running steps per minute compared to an entire roll through with a heel strike that a heavily cushioned shoe (in a way) forces."
VIVOBAREFOOT has tapped barefoot running expert Lee Saxby to create a free guide accessible through their website to get everyone started on their barefoot adventure: "Proprioception, Making Sense of Barefoot Running."
Let me tell you, I was intimidated by the title. I was pleasantly surprised to find the mechanics and instructions in complete layman's terms.
Saxby lays out a progressive plan to get you barefoot running and I cannot suggest enough that you follow it or get individualized coaching through an expert like Thull. Even if you are the most seasoned, high-mileage runner in traditional footwear, take the time to work through a progressive program. It will give you insight into your movement habits and unequivocally change your stride for the better.
I undertook Saxby's program upon ripping open my VIVOBAREFOOT shoebox.
The stages include learning proper foot strike for walking, squatting, jumping and then running – which for me meant relearning my stride completely. I was a heel striker, and a heavy-footed one at that.
Learning to walk "barefoot" and then progressing to the squat and jump made the transition to the more forward foot strike of the barefoot run seamless for me.
In fact, I experienced something on my very first "barefoot" run in my Lucy Lites that I have never felt: light on my feet and able to clip at a quicker pace. I felt so good I completely overdid it and kept going for 30 minutes. I paid the price with unreal soreness; I was relegated to walking and Epsom salt soaks for a week.
Lesson learned, I undertook a much more sensible transition in the Lucy Lites and have reaped the benefits.
If you read my "Up and Running Again" blog, you know I do not fancy myself a graceful or capable distance jogger. Now that my stride is in check, I feel more nimble and have more energy and efficiency due to the new foot strike. I am able to run farther and longer while feeling better! I even actually ran barefoot during my time in Maui – on pavement and sand. I experienced zero aches, which I attribute to my new Arnold Schwarzenegger-strong foot and ankle muscles.
The trainer in me feels the need to repeat the "slow build" warning one more time before this blog ends. You will be sore in many places as you transition. Your calves, your ankles and your toes will communicate to you as you get acclimated to the new stride, footwear and foot strike. But, be tough and follow a sensible progression to benefit with stronger bones, joints, muscles and runs!
And heed Thull's advice to try incorporating some barefoot stride work or a more minimal shoe into your current schedule a couple of days a week. This is a realistic approach as winter precipitation has finally shown its freezing face; you may want to use your barefoot shoes on the treadmill indoors and a shoe with more traction on wet, icy roads.
And finally, as a bonus incentive to give barefoot a go, VIVOBAREFOOT is doing something very special for OnMilwaukee.com readers. They are offering an incredible 25 percent discount! This is valid Jan. 14 – Jan. 21 by entering code VBONMILWAUKEE at checkout when you purchase a pair of shoes on their website.
@rbunz Did you know the inventor of Vibram FF wore Vivobarefoot shoes. Vivos came out two years before Vibram. They just don't look like guerilla feet so didn't catch on in the same wayjust saying.
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