Here’s a good barefoot running drill for beginners

August 8th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Chris Mcdougall is mentioned as talking to a crossfit group in this interesting snippet. What caught my eye was how he mentions wanting to do away with his intellectualising of the process of running; wishing he could simply go back and just learn to listen to the feedback from his body as he runs in barefeet; letting instinct take over.

This morning I worked on a running drill that felt, for the first time, like running can indeed be effortless, fluid and joyful. To say the drill is “designed” would be complete tosh: I just went out on a field of grass and ran barefoot, but on reflection, there are perhaps some useful things to share here for beginners:

On a field or beach/soft surface

Start out in a slow run with small, light steps. Your body should be upright but relaxed, your elbows mid-trunk by your sides and gently moving back and forth with the cadence. Imagine that you are trying to run as noiselessly and lightly as possible. Pay NO ATTENTION AT ALL to the voice that tells you you are running to slow or that it is not a taxing enough workout. This drill is all about loosening up and enjoying the movement.

Run for 5 minutes at this light pace, focusing on the bounce from your feet and the feedback from the ground. Practice adjusting your body as you go; trying to feel your way through to a light, bouncy, effortless rhythm. Your head at this pace will be over your body.

After you have found a that nice, easy groove (it may take more than 5 minutes, but who’s counting really….), up your cadence and speed up a little. Not with longer strides but with more frequent, lighter forefoot strikes. You may find as you speed up that your body leans a little more forward and your head begins to lead a little more. Go with this and you will find that you are a little more up on your forefeet as they “pat” down on the ground. Ease off as soon as things seem to lose their smoothness and ease: any time that happens, the rule is to slow up and find the easy cadence you started with.

Keep on with this: changing speed for a while and then easing back when you lose the rhythm and ease. Push a little faster and you will find your head and body lean even more forward and your foot striking is even lighter and quicker and more “up” on the forefoot. If you are more up towards your toes, your foot strikes should be quicker and briefer. As you ease down, your body will ease back and become more upright again; your foot striking will ease back and more of the mid foot will perhaps become involved. Play around with it, but ALWAYS stick with the rule that as soon as you lose ease and rhythm, come back down to a slow pace and find it again. As you gradually improve, you’ll find you can stay in that easy groove for longer at faster speeds.

Just remember, whatever pace you find your groove, ease and fluidity at, that is the perfect pace for you right now. Slowly play with opening that up, but above all ENJOY WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW! For me, this is the whole spirit of running – almost resting in the pace that is right for you and finding that smile crack on your face….

Keep the drill up as long as you want, but listen to your legs and don’t keep going if things start to tighten up.

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