Tuesday, November 8, 2011

100-Up Challenge

I'm going to be participating in the 100-Up Challenge, stemming from the NY Times article the other day.  I'm really interested to see what, if any, changes that I notice!  The idea of building that muscle memory in makes a lot of sense.  Whether it is a fix for all that ails me... well, that remains to be seen.

My first run was a 2-ish mile run along the West River Road here in Minneapolis.  It was, as usual, slow and sluggish.  I did it barefoot, so my knees didn't hurt much, but still feels like I'm really working at each step.  I'm probably overthinking it.  It was SLOW (and by slow, I mean that 80 year old man with the cane could probably pass me).

In 30 days, I'll be trying the same run again, and we'll see if I notice any appreciable difference.  Through the process, I'll keep y'all posted on my thoughts (because really, my thoughts are fascinating, right?).  I'd love to hear from anyone else that decides to give this a try, especially if you are not currently barefooting!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Awesome and Interesting Article

If you are interested in barefoot running and haven't already seen it, check out this article:

The Once and Future Way to Run

I found it very interesting, and will definitely be giving the "100-Up" exercise a shot.  Seems to be validating some of the stuff I've found so far, although obviously we'll see how it goes in the long term.  Makes me feel like I'm a little bit less of a crazy person for trying it in the first place, anyhow!

Expanding my barefoot horizons...

So, as part of my never-ending battle with my weight, I decided to try to add some additional strength building workouts into my routine.  So I figured, I write a barefoot blog, let's try it barefoot!

I hit the gym at St. Kate's, and plotted my course.  After a warm up, I would run 2 miles (26 laps of the gym), doing a different strength building exercise after each lap.


Actually, I kind of feel like I could take on the world right now.

I had the gym to myself, so I was able to even kick off my VFFs (and we all know what those are now, right!), and do the whole thing truly barefoot.  It was interesting.  I noticed that without uber-supportive shoes, I had to pay a lot more attention to my form, and found that some of the things I did worked muscles I wouldn't have guessed, and that my core got maybe a bit more workout because of it.

Have to admit, I kind of dug it.  Plus, it was a nice way to work in 2 miles of running barefoot.  I'm shooting for a barefoot 5k on Thanksgiving.  We'll see how it goes.  Most importantly is not getting hurt.  I was actually able to work out the always-present cramp in my lower medial soleus (inner calf, for those not trying to memorize anatomy like me :) ), and am feeling pretty good at the moment.

Off to guzzle a gallon of water and then sit through lecture.  Must remember to stretch some more before bed, as I suspect my muscles are going to hate me tomorrow. :)

So if you're curious about barefoot, but maybe not up to running, try kicking off your shoes while you try something else.  You may enjoy it.  I'm planning to keep it up until administration notices and makes me put on shoes. :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What the heck are VFFs, anyway?

I've had it pointed out to me that throwing out initials for things that people aren't familiar with is just confusing. :)  So, to rectify that issue, here's my take on VFFs, or "shloves", as my friend (and amazigly talented artist) Kevin calls them.

VFFs are a common shorthand that I've seen in a lot of barefoot blogs for Vibram FiveFingers.  They are a popular "barefoot" or "minimal" shoe, and I got my first pair last spring from REI.  I have a pair of these (named for this guy, not this guy, no matter how I mispronounce it!).  I'll give you my very informal take on them, from a newbie perspective.  If you want a really good, in depth review, go check out the Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, who does some really great shoe reviews.

The first question I get, is "are they comfortable?".  The short answer is, "Yes, extremely".  The longer, more involved answer is yes, once you get used to them.  Getting into them is probably the hardest part, it took me a bunch of tries at the store.  As your feet get stronger and you have more control over your toes, it gets a lot easier.  It can be a little weird having your toes separated at first, but I got used to it really quickly.

They are a minimalist shoe, so they have a zero heel-drop (which means the heel of the shoe is not raised higher than the toe).  Look at most of your shoes, almost all of them probably have at least a slightly raised heel.  This can be a little weird to get used to, but is the #1 feature of a barefoot shoe.  They also have zero padding.  To me, this means that most people are going to have sore feet the first few times they wear them.   It is also why they tell you to ease into them (don't go walking around the State Fair all day the first time you wear them).  After about 6 months of wearing nothing but minimalist shoes, I can pretty much walk around in mine all day with little to no foot soreness. 

Secondly, you are probably wondering how they are to run in.  I enjoy running in them.  They aren't as great as running really barefoot, but for days like today when the pavement was just too cold, or the fact that I live in NE Minneapolis and therefore frequently run through piles of broken glass, they are great.  I find them definitely a little stiffer than just going barefoot, but still pretty good ground feel.  They are a little hot in the summer for my taste, which is when I will be switching back to my huaraches for hot pavement.

Now, lets face it, they turn heads.  They are strange looking, and tend to be bright, obnoxious colors.  Wear them, and you are going to get noticed.  Strange people will stop you and ask you about your shoes.  It's something I'm learning to deal with, although I'm really shy.  Given their unique appearance, they can be a challenge to wear certain places.  So far my work is letting them slide, but I doubt I'll get away with wearing them to clinicals.  I have yet to figure out a really good way to wear them out and NOT get noticed.

This will be my first winter barefooting, and I'm hoping to wear them all winter.  We'll see how it goes.  I wore them to my husband's hockey game the other night, along with a pair of Injiji toe socks, and was pretty comfortable for about the first hour.  The last 30 minutes got pretty cold.  I have run all winter in my Brooks, so I don't think they will be appreciably colder for running on plowed or broken trails.

There used to be a pair of fuschia suede VFF mary jane's that if I ever see again I'm snatching off the shelf.  I think they've stopped making them though.

I like my VFFs.  For me, they are about the 3rd best thing to being truly barefoot. :)

Thoughts?  Questions?  Things you would like to me address, now or in the future?  Feel free to post a comment!

Friday, November 4, 2011

First Rule of VFFs...

Be careful where you wear them.  Not because you might hurt your feet, but because people, for whatever reasons, will feel it appropriate to grab your toes.  No, seriously.  Total strangers have actually grabbed and wiggled my toes. 

But, if you handle it well, it's a good way to get conversations started about barefooting. 

I am, however, continuing my search for barefoot shoes for the winter that aren't quite as, well, obvious as my VFFs.  In summer I mostly wore my huaraches, which grabbed attention, but nobody grabbed my toes. :)  I'm wearing my VFFs pretty much every day now that it's cooler, but I know there are situations where they just aren't going to be accepted.  So far, that's probably my biggest trouble with converting to barefooting. 

Time to head off to bed, so I can hopefully be up early tomorrow and get in a run on one of our probably last nice fall days.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stumbling block (literally)...

Remember when I said on my run the other night, I could hear "scuff scuff scuff" when I got tired?  Well, I also wasn't picking my feet up high enough, and stubbed my toe on some uneven sidewalk (the joys of urban barefooting).  Didn't think much of it at the time, it smarted, but didn't break the skin or do more than make me take about 2 hopping steps and swear.

Well, I jacked it up good.  Granted, this is the same toe I've broken a few times, so I can jack it up by *looking* at it wrong.  Pretty painful and doing a lot of popping when I bend it.  I don't think it's actually broken, though.

So, a couple of days off of running, and perhaps a run or two in my cushioned trainers to make sure that it heals up completely before I run shoeless again.  Kind of sucks, since I know we're not going to have weather like this much longer.  But I've learned my lesson well enough, both shod and unshod, to let injuries rest.

So, if I get all my homework done tonight, hopefully I'll be able to fill in the time with some musings on my "shoes" in the next couple of days.

Happy Running!