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    April 5, 2012

Finding Peace in Barefoot Running

I recently attended a locally sponsored Merrell Barefoot Running Clinic.  Those of you who know me know that I am not particularly keen on running. I will occasionally partake in a spontaneous 5k, 10k and/or take my dog out for a morning jaunt. But, as I have honestly declared in my adherence lectures, if I were to volunteer running as my daily exercise tradition (i.e. “key” to adherence), the door to success would remain locked a majority of the time. Maybe it’s the thought of the impact on my knees and joints that tarnishes the activity. Granted my running form is far from perfect. I used to force myself to run just to fit the cardio component in. The days following my run, my hips flexors, quads and calves were almost always blessed with DOMS. I can almost validate that the soreness was due to lack of efficiency; essentially lack of proper form. As many of you may resonate, one day I basically just got bored with running so I inherently stopped.

After obtaining my 200-RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher certification), my outlook on my personal physical fitness shifted. I began focusing more on sustainable activities (not that running is not sustainable; it just was and is not for me). Some people are ‘born to run’—and others, well, we are born to do others things. I began to embrace the idea that I was not a ‘born runner’. I began to focus more of my energy on functional fitness (aka. planks, yoga, bodyweight exercises). I wanted to use my body as the instrument. I began to contemplate activities that would be sustainable for me in the long term. What feels good now, as well as what I will adhere to and enjoy as my fitness career progresses, or better said, simply as I age.

 So, how does all this apply to barefoot running? Well, when I was in Costa Rica for my 200 RYT, a co-yogini in training asked me to join him for a barefoot trail run. I, even strongly disliking running, would never turn down an opportunity to be active. So I joined. I slipped on my pair of five fingers and headed out for a barefoot run. No true consideration of my environmental elements, the terrain in the middle of the rain forest= wet, dark and slippery—and above all, never even bearing in mind the proper barefoot technique or form. I ran leaping and bounding behind him for what seemed like an eternity, more or less a mere 45 minutes. For the next several days my legs, hip flexors and arches of my feet begged for mercy. I blamed the terrain.

Remember, not being an avid runner, I hadn’t spent much time digging into what the true term and or proper technique of “barefoot” running deemed. I assumed, alongside the general spectator, that barefoot running was simply, as the title implies, running barefoot: aka. minimal arch support. I simply assumed it to be highly damaging to my arches as well as not ideal for the general population. However, after attending the “Merrell Barefoot Running Clinic” last weekend, my assumptions have shifted. I engaged in learning the actual form and/or “set/re-set” position. The clinic enlightened me with the concept that barefoot shoes actually insist functional strength for arches. Similar to the concept of strength training, it  is a functional exercises that sustain us—they provide guidance and promote overall strength. Therefore, the minimalist approach to running coincides with this concept. They allow us, as the video below affirms, improved body awareness, increased freedom or movement, a connection with the environment, as well as and not limited to, increased reactivity. I am humbled by the workshop and might just invite the idea of barefoot running into my daily activities.  

Please Note: If you are to begin a barefoot running regiment, remember to start slowly. Build up your barefoot baseline. For example, if you are already running 3 miles per day, start with maybe 1 mile barefoot and then switch your shoes and run the last 2 miles. Same concept applies to strength training. We do not start with heavy weights; we start light and build up!

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