Virtually 100% of the time when runners talk of testing their training it’s in the context of performing at a race: How well has the race prep done in getting them ready for the race itself. Yesterday I tested my training, only in my case I was testing my form training.
This past week we experienced here in northern CO a pretty classic Fall weather phenomena: On Monday it was almost 80 degrees. On Wednesday morning we awoke to about 8” of heavy, wet snow. The trees (from losing limbs) and the streets (from having tree limbs in them) were pretty much a mess. Yes, being barefoot I’ve learned my feet can handle much more than I thought they could. I’m not ready, however, to go barefoot when it’s in the low 40s and below.
On Wednesday I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill. It was good from the standpoint I was able to exercise but, other than that, it was a disaster. I’ve done a lot of treadmill running in my running career. It doesn’t bother me for the usual reasons people dislike the treadmill. I can put on my tunes and get through it typically with no issues. What I hated this time was that I found it really hard to use the form I’ve been working on. I didn’t go barefoot – I’ve heard too much about feet getting hot and gym management becoming unhappy. I wore the Saucony Bullets I’ve described previously.
Yesterday I ran outside – again in the Sauconys. The streets were clear, it was sunny, and overall it was a beautiful day. The really fun news: My foot, which has had chronic heel pain, handled it extremely well. What didn’t go over very well was my fitness level. The barefoot running I’ve been doing has been slow enough where it really hasn’t been taxing my cardiovascular system. Running with shoes is a different story for me. The level of fitness I need to earn back became quite apparent.
The basic premise of being barefoot the last couple of months has been that 1) I probably need to build up some foot and ankle strength and 2) being really barefoot is the best way to learn how to run in minimalist shoes. As I’ve already reported, form errors have been very apparent over the last few weeks, and fortunately I’ve been successful in doing some slight form changes such that those errors seem to be corrected – or at least I’m more cognizant of them. As a result it was really fun to try the minimal shoes and put that form training to the test. I most definitely found myself being watchful of those things that I was forced to correct when barefoot. What makes me ecstatic, though, is that the foot handled the running so well. There is no doubt that activities that were causing pain prior to doing the barefoot thing (standing for long periods of time, and now apparently running in minimal shoes) now cause virtually no pain.
I’m not writing this as a report that my real barefoot days are over – not even close. I love being barefoot and plan on continuing to do so – as long as it’s not too cold. Hopefully this most recent experience becomes another example of how barefoot activity can be a tool to get running movement optimized. I certainly hope I’ll be able to report again on the results of testing my training – only next time I want to do that as most runners do: Giving a race report.