I know. I know what you all must be thinking: What the heck is an iron geek doing, writing about a barefoot running book???
Hellooo!!! McFly!!! Look at the blog title! “Athlete”-“Creator”. C’mon, I can’t be a one trick pony if I’m going to give myself that title, can I?
First of all, I’d like to apologize to Jason. Jason Robillard is the author of The Barefoot Running Book and originally emailed me a couple months ago about writing this review after I posted my Correcting Heel Strike and Shin Splints post. Well, being that I am such an iron geek, posts about running aren’t too extremely high on my priority list. (As you can tell, writing posts of any kind aren’t too high on my list right now. Sorry ’bout it.) But, let’s get to it…
Not gonna lie, I was pleasantly surprised by Jason’s book. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but he presented the material in a way that even I, someone not really interested in long distance running, wanted to keep reading. He combined corny humor at times (near and dear to my heart), scientific evidence (near and dear to my heart), and real world application/results (all that really matters).
He spends just the right amount of time talking about the physics, biomechanics, and all that sciency stuff that you need to know. Just about the time you start to think it’s getting boring, you turn the page and BAM! He jumps right in to how you can apply the techniques and start barefoot running that day.
The Part I love
As we all know, I apply a Biofeedback approach to all of my training. Jason may be unaware that there are ways to test what progressions would be best for that day, but he accidentally has one thing absolutely right:
Listen to your body.
If your form during the run is not as good as it was when you started, stop. If something begins to hurt, stop. If there’s pain after a run, back-off the next time out. Only progress at a minimal pace. Progressing each session is much much faster than 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.
He also includes a plethora of drills you should be doing at each stage of the game: beginner, intermmediate, and advanced.
After reading this book, you should absolutely be ready to begin your barefoot running endevor.
The Thing I Disliked
I was utterly amazed that I had gotten to the final 2 pages of the book to get to something I disagreed with. But there it was. Staring me in the face like a giant spider ready to eat my soul. He endorses crossfit for his crosstraining.
He does an absolutely BRILLIANT job explaining how to listen to your body. Only progress as fast as your body will allow. It was pure bromance. But then he says to do martyr-fit.
The problem with martyr-fit is that it encourages you to absolutely pummel, punish, destroy, and kill your body as much as humanly possible during the 15-20 min. workout. Exactly what about that is listening to your body? Stopping when your form begins to fail? Stopping when you begin to become fatigued beyond a certain point? Stopping when you’re in pain?
It is a distinct contradiction to what he encourages in his primary running programs.
I absolutely agree crosstraining should be a part of any training goal, but to throw away the key ideology of your main goal is just silly. That is my one and only disagreement in the entire book. Wait, that’s a lie. He claims that there are no funny Pauly Shore movies. If that were true, why do I own Biodome, good sir?!
My Attempts of Minimalist Shoe Running
After reading his book and successfully converting two co-workers to barefoot running (well, just generous nudges, I guess), I figured I should give this a try.
My first time out, I was running in my Nike Free 5.0’s. Technically, not even close to barefoot. Jason would call them “reduced shoes” since the soles are a lot more flexible and there’s slightly less foot support than mainstream running shoes these days. Still, not barefoot.
Any-Hways, I headed out to my favorite lake in the summer, Lake Calhoun. It’s my favorite because that’s where all the cardio bunnies go. (Hell, if I’m going to torture myself, I might as well have some eye candy too.) I had planned on doing timed runs, but as I got going, running just felt really good. I had good form, my lungs didn’t hurt, and I felt like I was flyin.
I made it about 1.5 miles before I had to stop. The only reason I stopped was achey calves. Lungs were still good. If I could magically carry a magical, weightless bike on my back, I would have packed it up an called it a day right there since that’s what my body was telling me. Me, being stubborn and not wanting to walk the other 1.5 miles back to my car, just decided I would walk as long as needed to fully recover.
It didn’t take long, and I was off running again. Probably made it another 3/4 of a mile and had to stop for good. Things were really starting to hurt and anymore running after that would have just been way too much to recover from.
Managed to run/walk the entire 5k in 30 minutes. Still not horrible for the first time running in over a year (ya’rly!).
Needless to say, I didn’t run for another 2 months. In fact, not until this morning. In that 2 month time period, I picked up a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, or as Jason calls them, minimalist shoes. I somehow woke up and envoked Forrest Gump. I just felt runnin-ga, and that’s what I did. Threw on my Vibrams and headed out in the drizzle.
I just went around the neighborhood and didn’t have any distance in mind. Just go until I knew it was time to stop. Starting out, things felt perfect: stride length, foot placement, ground contact, torso lean, evryfing. Then, after about a 1/4 mile (I’m guessing), I noticed that my foot was leaving the ground incorrectly. Thanks to Jason’s book and my Movement Coaching seminar, I knew that my big toe should be the last toe to leave the ground. But it wasn’t; my pinky toe was. Listening to my biofeedback, I just made a little adjustment, and voila!! wasn’t an issue anymore.
After the first 1/2 mile (I had my GPS/HRM watch on) I still felt super fantastic. It had taken me ~ 5 minutes to run 1/2 mile. I decided to kick it up a notch. Ah yes, there was my normal running pace. It felt so good.
At the final 1/4 mile, I began to notice fatigue. My lungs were still really good (I was amazed), but I noticed that my heel was bouncing off the ground much more than it should. As Jason explains, even with forefoot running, your heel will still come in contact with the ground, which it had been the whole time. But now my calves were fatiguing so much that they could not absorb the eccentric energy from landing. I had to consciously think about not letting my heels hit, a big no-no in biofeedback training.
All in all, I ran 1.56 miles in only 14.5 minutes. WHOA! That’s not bad for someone that has run only 2 times in 1.5 years and my first time ever with minimalist shoes. I’m just gonna go ahead and pat myself on my back. Don’t believe me, take a look at my training log:
Why I Still Hate Running
As you can see in the picture above, I spent 14.5 of my precious minutes doing something I don’t care to do. That’s fine. I spend 9 hours of my day working at a job that I despise. But what I hate about steady state running is that in those 14.5 minutes, I only burnt 185 calories. Really?!?!
For those of you that run because you like long distance running, I can totally respect that. It’s not my cup o’ tea, but many things aren’t.
For those of you that run because you think it burns a lot of calories, are you out your got damned mind?!?! 14.5 minutes and only 185 calories?! GTFO. I burn that many concentrating on taking a hefty dump. Please, do something more useful with your time if you’re only doing it to change the way you look.
I fully endorse this book. It’s a fun read. Has great information. Is only 52 pages long. Has a glossary of terms. And is chalk full of drills and applicable programming. If you didn’t click the link above, here it is again to buy it on Amazon:
Full disclosure: I make ZERO dollars from any of his sales, and I still think you should go buy it.
All in all, I’m still not ever going to run on a consistent basis, but I’m sure as hell not going to purposely NOT do it anymore. I actually kind of enjoyed myself this morning. *GASP!!!*
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.