Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barefoot Running Part II: The Preparation & Training

What you need before you start? Actually you don’t need anything to start with. Some said the adoption will be even better if you start as none runners. So, like how we start running in shoes, we do the walking first, and take it slowly.

I choose to start right after the PBIM so I won’t have any race to push for a long enough period of time. I substitute my usual morning run with barefoot walking for 1 week. Then I start brisk walking and slowly increase the distances, pace and duration on barefoot. I also start with the tough surface first, instead of soft or barefoot friendly surface. Asphalts on my neighborhood really give me a tough time, but also my soles build up quickly with the rough surface.

You may think if I already ran in VFF, I should be able to start to run barefoot immediately. The answer is no. VFF provide some protection on the soles, hence you landing will still be quite heavy compared to barefoot. During your transition to barefoot running, the most valuable learning is how to run with light foot landing. Many ways to land but to put down your foot lightly, your muscles will be strengthen by all your effort to tiptoes over the route. Listen to the feedback and learn how to you can adjust your landing without the painful “ouch!” is the main task in this stage.

Once your soles build up (at least >28 days or 4 weeks), you can start to put in some speed and add more distant. The key is to follow your body feedback, if you got blister, tentatively your soles is not ready for that speed you trained on, or the surface you ran is too rough, or even the combination of both. No matter how much your soles developed, you will still need to slow down in rough surface to avoid or minimize the wearing of the soles. Learn when to slow down, change running route, or even take a longer break is the key to success in barefoot running.
In short,
1. Remove the shoes and your running PB target, start from zero.
2. Identify a suitable training ground, hard or soft surface will depend on availability and your choice.
3. Walking on the training ground to get familiar with the surface, pay attention to the feedback from the feet.
4. Start brisk walking once your soles are ready to take the beat. Check this Marrels Barefoot Running video on good barefoot running posture (short strides, high cadences, body keep up right but at ease, running with slightly bending forward).
5. Learn how to land lightly without the painful “ouch!” on each landing. Train up the landing muscle.

If you usually training on tar/asphalts/road, some tricks you can use,
1. White / Yellow lines are your friends, but only follow these lines when the traffic conditions are allowable. Don’t run at the middle of the road when you foresee heavy traffic.
2. Select a stretch road that you are familiar with and near by to your home. If you have VFF, do a few survey runs on these stretches before go barefooting on them. If you felt the road surface in VFF, most likely it is too rough for barefooting.
3. If you ran after rain, you can see clearly the condition on the asphalts. Normally the asphalts or the tar surface that trap moisture (look wet and other part of the road dried up) is rougher. Pick the dry surface to save your soles (yes I knew the temptation to run barefoot over the puddles.
4. Normally the inner road condition around neighborhood is worst compare to main road.

Enjoy barefooting!

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