Mr Lydiard, when should I take rest days?
I’m not running this morning. It’s not because I’m tired; if anything it’s to give my dog Sunny a break. She’s been running with me all week, and the distance I’d like to run today is a bit much for her at this time. I can’t leave the house in the early pre-dawn for a run by myself, otherwise she’ll wake up the whole house by poking them with her nose. Instead, I’ll be running nine-to-twelve miles this afternoon after work. Not too fast, but a little faster than an easy frotz-about trot.
Today will be my thirty-third day of running in a row, averaging over six-and-a-half miles a day. I feel good. I’ve cut down on the speedwork to a very fun fartlek on Wednesdays and a long tempo on Saturdays (when I’m not fun-racing). Not once have I woken up and felt unprepared to run. Every step is welcome, unaccompanied by an “ugh.”
To learn how to run barefoot and enjoy it, you don’t just take off your shoes and PRESTO CHANGO you’re transformed. The education comes from trying to first figure out how to do it without pain (gently! relax! patience! reflection!) and injury. By removing the protection of the shoe, your running choices need to change in order to accomodate that new environment. If you learn to run so gently that the hard ground feels welcoming to the feet, you’re running gently indeed!
What does this have to do with running every day? I wonder if rest days are like shoes. That is, it’s self-destructive to run in a way that requires them. The answer to the question, “what if you ran so gently that you didn’t require shoes?” might be the same as “what if you ran so gently that you didn’t require rest days?”
Of course, life is tough and sometimes there’s no room to fit in a run. That’s not the kind of “rest” day I’m talking about, and my streak might end when we have to travel to and from our future home in the Olympic Mountains this June. Or it might not. The point is, I’m running each day with the mindset that I’m going to run again the next day, and the day after that. Sure, sometimes I will do too much, or give my all in a race, and a rest day will be needed. Or maybe life’s struggles will demand a day off. If I’m sick, yes, absolutely, I’ll take a few days off. Resting due to circumstances is not what I’m talking about, though. It’s the required one-two-three days off every week in 99% of the training plans out there that I suspect might actually be counter-productive. If you need regular days off each week, why?
Just as a shoe allows you to do more than you should, maybe rest days do too. If we know we have a rest day coming up, do we push harder? Run farther? Let me ask the same question from the other direction: if you were forced to run at least a couple of miles every day, would your running habits change? I think they would, and maybe that change would be for the better.
In the end, I think this comes down to how you think about running. If you think of running as punishment, as something you do to deserve that second piece of cake, then running everyday will seem masochistic. If instead running is who you are, it’s what you do, a part of your existence on this speck of dust in the universe, maybe running should be put in the same category as eating, sleeping, smiling, and breathing: something to be done in the right amounts every day.
What you are about to read, should you go beyond this paragraph, are the notes for the barefoot running seminar I am conducting/conducted (depending on when you’re reading this) on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at RunnerDude’s Fitness. These are notes, so the ideas are disjointed and lack my usual smooth comprehensibility that I’m renowned for. To get a better idea of the presentation, add a bunch of “umms” and “uhhhs” and “you knows.”
Hello, I’m Josh and I like to run barefoot, provided the weather and terrain are decent enough. When I do wear shoes I think the more minimal the better.
I believe that anyone can run the way that I do, but concede there’s a possibility I’m “special.” If there was something special about me that allowed me to run barefoot enjoyably, how would I know?
There’s one thing about me I think it is important for you to understand: I am not a tough guy. Sure, I have moments of toughness like everybody, especially people in the running community, but in general I am strongly averse to pain and discomfort. If running barefoot hurt, I wouldn’t do it.
At any rate, tonight I’d like to share with you the running perspective my bare feet have given me, with the hopes that you might all decide to throw out your shoes and start living your life barefoot. Failing that, I’d be thrilled if tonight you learn a few things that can be applied to your running life with happy results. Failing that, I hope to entertain. So let’s get started.
How do I run barefoot without hurting my feet? Like this: (run in place). There you go, now you know how I run barefoot. I suppose that answer is unsatisfying, and I notice we still have about 55 minutes left of the presentation. I could try to go into the whole physiology of it, but at best all I’d be doing is rehashing information that can be found on youtube presented by people who actually know what they’re talking about and have like, an education and stuff:
Some naked-faced weirdo:
Instead of going into detail about biomechanics I’m not qualified to talk about, I’ll be presenting what I think is more important to understand first: the barefoot perspective, as opposed to the shoe perspective.
When I say “barefoot,” I mean BAREfoot. Unfortunately, “barefoot running” has become a means of marketing minimalist shoes, counterproductively reinforcing the shoe perspective. I don’t think there’s anything devious going on, we’ve just gotten ourselves in a perspective rut.
The shoe perspective, which is really more than about shoes, is this: in order to run well and injury-free, we need outside forces to change us. We need shoes to correct our deficiencies and inefficiencies. We’re passengers in our shoes.
As a result, many runners buy “barefoot” shoes and expect the changes to happen to them. Of course they do! Putting on a pair of shoes and expecting a presto-chango transformation is how shoes have been sold for decades! In reality, your body requires TIME to adapt, even if the shoe were to deliver on a promise of instant perfect form.
Think about the changes in the biomechanics from running in a traditional shoe to a minimal shoe in “good form”: forefoot landings can fracture weak metatarsals, no heel cushioning can tear up tight calves and snap Achilles. It’s like trying to do a bunch of pushups after your arms have been in casts for your entire life.
Since it’s unlikely a runner will instantly understand and perform good running technique, we must also allow for time to figure out how to do it right in the first place, because a shoe isn’t going to fix your form (a la the shoe perspective). Old habits die hard, and running AS IF you had cushioning when you have none is destructive.
It’s difficult to understand how to run barefoot from a coach. First, assuming the coach runs barefoot, the coach has to accurately understand what they’re doing. That’s hard, because our understanding is clouded by all of our preconceived notions and assumptions. Then, the coach has to adequately explain what it is they’re doing. THEN, the student has to understand what the coach is explaining, which is hard because the student has a whole bunch of preconceived notions and assumptions. AND THEN, there’s still no guarantee the student will accurately put into practice what they understand (how many of us have seen video of our running and were shocked?).
Instead, the barefoot perspective starts at the beginning. You have your feet, and any addition must have a practical application AND be applied with an understanding that the tool comes at a cost.
How much does a shoe cost? Not just $$$. What are the compromises you make when you choose to put on a shoe?
What does a shoe do?
It retains heat, dulls the sensation of the ground, and if there’s a heel, alters posture.
Do shoes make you a better runner? How does making your feet hotter, heavier, immobile, squished, and desensitized help you run? Maybe the temps are cold enough or the terrain pointy enough to outweigh these costs. If so, it’s important to have a good understanding of what the trade-offs are.
If you stomp on a rock and it hurts, the shoe perspective is to add cushioning: the rock hurt me.
The barefoot perspective is to not stomp on the rock next time: I hurt me.
The shoe perspective seeks the perfect shoe. The barefoot perspective seeks to CREATE the perfect self.
Learning to run barefoot requires a commitment to a sense of personal responsibility, a belief that you’re in control of your experience.
Instead of shielding yourself from the slings and arrows the road is heir to, a barefoot runner learns to move gently, so the slings and arrows don’t hurt.
How? pushups! (Demonstrate mad pushup skillz)
Think of your feet as hands, imagine they have similar utility.
Feet are hands that specialize in catching your weight.
If you take off your shoes, start running, and stop before it hurts, you’ll never do too much too soon. If you think of any pain as something you are causing with the way you move, that will disappear if you run gently enough, you will slowly and gradually learn how to run better.
If, however, you remain committed to the shoe perspective and expect the changes to happen to you, that you’re a passenger in your shoes, running without protection will likely cause a lot of hardship, pain, and injury.
I got to where I am in my running life by being committed to the belief that if I run gently enough, I can run anywhere without shoes. I’m not there yet, and probably never will be. But as a result of this pursuit, I can run as far and as fast as my legs can carry me without shoes if the surface is smooth enough. As time goes on and I continue to practice with the mindset that I always have more to learn, more and more surfaces are smooth enough.
(Everyone participate in 100-up exercises)
Possible discussion topics:
My personal BF history
My current training regimen and race goals
Why BF studies are generally bunk
How to change form if BF isn’t an option
BF hygiene and safety (Needles! Poo!)
I ran sixteen miles in five consecutive days (avg 3.2 miles/day). The runs weren’t entirely pain-free; my right ankle would get a dull ache every once in a while, but it goes away quickly. The little talus pebble never got pinched in the joint. That’s good!
I suffered no side-effects from the high dosage of ibuprofen. I rarely take medication for anything, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Those waters were calm for smooth sailing. That’s good, too!
A note about the NSAIDS, and my opinion about them specifically and how the body functions generally: the reason I was prescribed NSAIDS was not not mask pain telling me to stop damaging myself. Rather, it was to get my body’s inflammation response to a non-issue (Os Trigonum) back down to normal levels.
The body is not very intelligently designed. We see things upside-down, the functionality of the heart relies on one single aeorta, and our immune system has a scorched-earth policy to any possible evil-doers that makes the military industrial complex look like a gathering of hippie kittens frolicking in rainbows. And whales have hip bones! Not that that has anything to do with what I’m talking about, I just think that’s a neat fact. So, based on my feeble understanding of what’s going on with the ankle, my body had been treating a minor, un-healable issue that is causing no damage as if it were a hostile enemy, sending the inflammatory response to make me stop running (successfully) and repair something that doesn’t need fixing (unsuccessfully). The NSAIDS hopefully changed that response, and I should be able to continue running without them like usual.
I know people have strong opinions re NSAIDS, and I’m sure it’s frustrating to learn that I, well, don’t. I think most of the time inflammation is good (the muscle stiffness after hard runs) and is important not only for recovery, but for athletic improvement. I base this on no scientific knowledge whatsoever, it’s just what I think and why I don’t take anything to ease post-run soreness. However, I also think the body is capable of working against itself, and the inflammation response can do more harm than good. In those circumstances, NSAIDS can help. Understand that TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch), and there might be a cost in side-effects. Life is full of tradeoffs, and I’m suspicious of any proposed solution that claims the TANSTAAFL rule isn’t applicable.
Remember though, where my own biases are currently aligned on this issue. I was seriously worried I wasn’t going to be able to run again. I was worried that maybe my shoelessness was the culprit. So when a doctor, a foot and ankle specialist, tells me with confidence that not only can I run again, but that I should run again, and that I should run again as barefoot as I please, and that all I have to do is get my inflammatory response under control by taking a few pills for five days, well, sign me up.
Tomorrow will be my first run after the NSAIDS regimen. Hopefully I’m good to go.
Even though I’m out of shape and keeping my mileage short, I am so relieved to be running again. I need the routine. My brain feels like a puzzle who’s pieces finally fit right again.