Articles

The CrossFit prescription for eating.

April 1st, 2012 by Phil Brown

Someone asked me about nutrition the other day. I was at my local big chain health club, saying hi to people and using the free weights section to practice some stuff (we have yet to install our new floor at The CrossFit Place. He got me thinking about how many people at my gym – paying clients, giving their money over monthly to the man – are simply not seeing any visible change in their body composition. The man who asked me advice was clearly somewhat overweight, yet he is a regular in the gym, putting time and effort into his training and simply not achieving the goal he wants. Yes, there are questions to be asked about the quality of  training in many people’s programs. Intensity, variety and frequency play a contributory role in affecting our body composition. However, putting ALL of that aside for now, let’s look at it very very simply: what you are eating is the most influential factor affecting your body composition. Look at what you are eating, change what you are eating, see change..

At CrossFit, we have a very simple prescription that can be used as a basis for good eating. If followed, change will occur. These guidelines have no reek of what many would term a “diet” (in fact, a we are all on a “diet” – the word simply describing what we eat). They simply offer a guide for those who don’t want to make things difficult  or complicated for themselves. For those who want to take things further, they provide a simple jump off point.

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.

There you go. Boom. Try it. See the difference over a couple of months.

Eat meat
Get your protein from the best quality meat you can: lamb, beef, pork, chicken. It’s all good.

Vegetables
Leafy greens. Yum. Get your quality carbohydrates here, rather than from starchy foods like pasta, rice, sketty, spuds. Definitely avoid refined sources such as white bread, cakes, biscuits etc.

Nuts and seeds
Get yummy fats and oils from these babies. Good for snacks instead of chocolate or “low fat” crud that comes in a tub of some kind with lots of labelling (that’s another article)

Some fruit
One thing our government seem to have forgotten in their 5 – a – Day recommendation: fruit is sugar, albeit with added natural vitamins and nutrients……however, go easy. Think SOME. 1 or 2 pieces a day. An apple here or there…..berries rock.

Little starch
See above. Our bodies simply won’t use the amount of starch found in a “supermarket-based” diet – avoid starchy, dense carbohydrates. Think green, think lean.

No sugar
Our. Bodies. Don’t. Need. All. The. Sugar. We. Feed. Them.

Try it and see. Think 40/30/30 as a ratio for protein/carbohydrate/fat and give it a couple of months. For amounts, you could simply look at a standard dinner plate and fill  just under 3/4 with veggies, a 1/4 with meat and add a bit of fat for good measure.
If you want to look at nutrient balance in more detail, try Barry Sear’s Zone Diet books – a pretty simple way of learning how much is how much without the nightmare of unnecessary calorie counting.

Interestingly, I feel it is worth adding that before I discovered CrossFit, I was eating pretty near to the prescription. It works. What CrossFit suggest is nothing new. Many others before have proven that eating this way leads to good health.

More study:

Check out this interview with CrossFit founder Greg Glassman.

 

CrossFit beginner’s WOD #3

March 14th, 2012 by Phil Brown

Run 1 mile

50 0r 75 or 120  box jumps or jumps to a static object – around 16″ high will work fine to begin with. 12″ if you find that too difficult.

Run 1 mile

NOTE: box jumps options for reps are scaled from beginner to more advanced in number. Pick what will enable you to keep going without ending up taking a big break between each single rep!

You can also scale the distance of the run if you wish, to 0.5 mile

Box jump video worth a look here

box jumps

 

CrossFit Beginner’s WOD #2

March 8th, 2012 by Phil Brown

OK chaps – here is another basic WOD for you to try at home or at your gym. Again, it requires no equipment except your body.

3 rounds of:

20 tuck jumps

30 sit ups

Tuck jump: Jump up from a standing position, bringing your knees as high as possible towards your chest each time.  When you land, you must straighten up to full hip and knee extension, then repeat the jump.

Sit ups: Anchor your feet under a static object and extend fully to touch the floor with your hands behind your head. Bring your arms back over and lift your chest up towards your knees until you can easily touch your shins. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout to stabilise your lower back.

 

NOTE: this WOD will take you by surprise as it works the abdominals and the hip flexors intensely. SCALING options include lowering the number of repetitions by five or even half, if you are very unfamiliar with sit ups or not confident with tuck jumps.

 

 

CrossFit beginner’s workouts

February 29th, 2012 by Phil Brown

As promised at last night’s community class class, the first of the beginnner’s CrossFit workouts. These WODS are bodyweight workouts for everyone and are designed to simply get you used to the basic mixture of the WOD without having to go to the gym or try to find weights. I will post options if you have a set of dumbbells at home.
If you are a complete beginner or returning to exercise after a long period, try to fit one of these into the week alongside our class at Friars. If you are used to circuits and have a reasonable level of conditioning, try 2  and see how you go.

WOD 1

3 rounds for time of

10 burpees – or, if you have a real struggle with burpees to begin with, try up and downs

20 squats (weight into the heels!)

30 sit ups (as practiced in class first week)

A good burpees video here – go to the burpee demo on the list

Up and downs are demoed in this video

Post your times/comments in the Facebook entry.

 

A window of opportunity

October 19th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Treating people at Muscle and Movement Health Anglesey involves two things: The first is soft tissue therapy to release tight muscles and stretch connective tissue. This treatment brings new freedom to clients as they find movements that were restricted by pain restored. The effect can be immediate and the feeling of relief wonderful.

The second thing is movement retraining. Everyone who comes for treatment will be given their own exercises to do. These are usually two or three movements or stretches that are given to help “reprogramme” your body into more efficient movement patterns. Without establishing these longer term changes, the older, non – optimal movement patterns will simply reassert themselves. It is these movement patterns that, in many cases, have led to the ultimate expression of pain and limited movement.

Old habits…..

In this way, soft tissue therapy is the window of opportunity for a client. Treatment opens up movement again, where it was restricted. Once that movement is regained however, the body needs to be taught to use that freedom in new ways. Old habits die hard and formal retraining is required to lay down new “pathways” of movement that the body will eventually keep to in a more intuitive way. These new patterns, if movement retraining is successful, become new habits.

Willpower is not enough

It is not enough to tell someone to “sit up straight” or to keep their shoulders back or their chin higher. Postural habits that have become established over years cannot be overridden by willpower alone, just as lifting a barbell from the floor in perfect form cannot be done without consistent practice.

Imbalances in posture and movement involve inhibitions in the neuromuscular system – the system made up of the relationship between the brain and the muscles of the body. A common example is tightness and pain in the upper shoulder muscles. Very often, this is due to the mid and lower muscles of the upper back and shoulder girdle being inhibited. Simply put, it is as if they have forgotten how to work effectively. The result is that the muscles in the upper shoulders and neck end up doing the extra work to compensate.

Sleeping Beauties….

Inhibitions like this establish themselves all the time and can only be re-established by a kind of  ”rote learning” achieved through repetitive movements and muscle contractions that will “wake up” the “sleeping” muscles and bring them back to life.

Use it or lose it

Once these muscles become more responsive again, training must be maintained, otherwise regression occurs: the muscles will return to being lazy. Here, the old saying really is true….if you don’t use it….

Onward and upward

The second stage of movement retraining is actually the ground for a long term, life changing choice for many people. The choice is whether to make progress from here by building on a more balanced foundation of movement. Once range of movement and postural balance has begun to be restored, regular and appropriately scaled exercise can gradually increase and improve these elements as well as increasing strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility, co-ordination, balance and muscular reaction time. These qualities make re-injury and pain less likely, make physical work easier and improving performance in sport.  There are also far reaching, beneficial effects on the heart, lungs and blood pressure.

Duracell Bunnies

The one single basic reason for many, many of the injuries and pain syndromes I work with at Muscle and Movement Health is this: a lack of regular physical exertion that stresses the body enough for it to adapt by becoming more durable and maintaining that durability.  As we get older, if we do not have some form of regular physical activity to encourage upright posture, balance, co-ordination and strength, we will become bent, ungainly and weak.  As we do, risks of falls become greater and our confidence begins to drop.  Aging is unavoidable, but maintaining the fitness of our muscles and our movements can help see us into old age with far more vitality.

An end of pain but only the beginning of the cure

When a client comes for their last treatment at the studio, it is more and more common for us to spend at least as much time on exercises and movement as it is on the treatment couch. My aim with all my clients is to see them walking out of the door, upright and balanced and ready for making exercise part of their lives.

If you want to discuss how Muscle and Movement Health can help you improve your fitness and vitality, for life and sport, visit us at the website and read more about what we do, or call to chat with Phil Brown on 01248422260.

 

Non’s Great North Adventure

October 17th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Non Gwyn is a 27 year old teacher from Anglesey who this year has begun competing in half  marathons. She began with a little race in the North called The Great North Run and is  absolutely loving her new passion. Muscle and Movement Health took the time to ask her  about her running, her training and how she has worked with the clinic and training studio  to help her with her sport.

Hi Non, tell us a how you got into running in the first place…..it was actually by walking first wasn’t it? I’d always wanted to run and had done a few Race for Life’s but always gave up afterwards.

This year I signed myself up to do the Moonwalk with a group of girls from work. For those who don’t know the Moonwalk is a 26.2 mile power walk that’s done over night. I completed that in 5:33:37 in May and realized that with a little effort I could turn the power walking into running, and decided to sign up for the Great North Run & Royal Parks Half Marathons in September and October.
What led you to contact Phil Brown at Muscle and Movement Health?

Whilst training for the Moonwalk I found myself with pain in my left knee, my legs ached and felt heavy and my feet where really sore from blisters. I spoke to a friend who’d done a lot of training over the years and she recommended I go for a sports massage straight after the event. That’s when I came across Phil Brown at Muscle and Movement and Health.
Did you find the treatment you were given helped your training and competing?

I walked into the treatment room after the Moonwalk not being able to bend my left knee and could hardly put any weight on my feet as they were stiff and sore. I walked out ready for my first run.
Had you ever received any sports massage or soft tissue therapy before?

I had never received any sports massage or soft tissue therapy before and realized there and then how beneficial it was going to be to my training.

You and Phil Brown have started developing some complementary training strategies to improve your running times and keep you fit for running. Can you tell us what you were doing and how you feel this training made a difference?

I have stuck to three runs a week since starting training with Phil and have been doing some strength and stability work which includes………as well as explosive training which includes squats, running a 100 meters and then lunges.  When I added the Strength and Stability work into my routine I found within a couple of weeks I could utilize certain muscle groups like the hamstrings and glutes to power myself up hills much quicker.  Then after introducing the explosive training I found I had that extra bit of energy at the end of a run to finish strong or to push to the top of the hill stronger.
So – The Great North Run! How was it?? An exciting day yes?

Yes! Amazing! One of the best experiences of my life. The whole event was just fantastic and I’m definitely going back next year! The course itself took you from Gateshead in the City of Newcatsle all the way to South Sheilds, I didn’t see a part of road or flyover with out people cheering and showing their support. The atmosphere was fantastic and being part of such an event with proper athletes starting the race off and 54,000 runners all up for the same challenge was over whelming and by the end of the race I was an emotional wreck finishing in 1:53:35. 

How did the run turn out for you…? Was the experience similar to what you had discussed with Phil at the studio? Did you have an idea of what to expect or was it all a big surprise?

The run was fun, hard, easy and challenging all at the same time.  From discussing the race with Phil I went there with a plan of starting off slow and gradually picking up pace but I got lost in the atmosphere and completed the first mile at the fastest pace I’d ever ran a mile and as a result was tired by the end. Also in Newcastle I had a drop in energy levels and was so glad to come across the Bupa boost zone at 10 miles. Top tip always carry something like jelly babies with you during a race – I had never needed anything during training but you naturally push harder during a race and need to keep your sugar levels high to perform better. I was also quite shocked during the race to see people collapse around me and need proper medical attention because they were de-hydrated or had just pushed themselves to hard. I got quite un-nerved by this during the race and kept thinking is it going to happen to me? You just have to think about all the training you’ve done, that you are hydrated and that you can finish. Keep focused on your race and no one else is. Someone once told me “pain disappears with time but achievements last forever”. That’s one thing I tell myself when I hit a hard/dark patch when running and it always gets me through as it’s so true!


Do you have any advice for people training for their first competitive event?


Put in the hard work before the event so you can enjoy the day, don’t train too much 3 runs a week has been more than sufficient for me even though at times I would have loved to go out more. Your muscles need time to repair between runs and you’ll perform much better because of it. Also think of investing some money in a sports massage / soft tissue therapy during training, before and after a race. I can’t emphasize how much it’s helped me and I’m not just saying this because it’s an interview for Phil it really has! You walk into the studio with heavy tired legs and walk out feeling like you’ve been on a two week holiday to somewhere nice and hot. Think of it as an investment – you would never run in an old pair of trainers that have holes in them or in a ripped t-shirt would you?


How do you fit your training around the rest of your life? You are a teacher on Anglesey, so obviously really busy! Does training take up loads of time?

When I decided to start running I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t make up stupid excuses like “having no time to train” – I’ve made myself find time to train. If I know I can’t fit a run in after school I get up an hour earlier in the morning to do it then. No matter how tired you are going out you come back feeling 100% better, plus you then know your on track and don’t get fed up and angry as you’ve missed one of your training runs. Plus as I’ve only been doing three runs a week it hasn’t been taking up too much time, the more you run the faster you get so the good news is it takes up even less time unless you start contemplating a marathon like me! On average I spend an hour twice during the week training and then a long run at the weekend which I tend to do between 10-14 miles so two hours at the most. Obviously when I started my long run was 5 miles and it’s built up over time.


I believe you have just finished another half marathon in London? How do you feel your performance compared to The Great North Run?

My mission in London was to get a sub 1:50:00 time as the course was flat in comparison to Newcastle and I’d learnt from my mistakes in the first half. I set off on a 8:20 minute mile pace in London and kept a close eye on my Garmin watch all the way round to make sure I wasn’t picking up too much pace and also wasn’t slowing down. I carried jelly babies with me during the Royal Parks half and had one before each water stop so at approximately 5, 7.5, 9, 10.5 and 11. I also ditched the water bottle I’d carried round with me during all my training and the Great North Run as I felt it was weighing me down. It was my comfort blanket if you like during the first half but having let go of it now I’m so glad. If you go into the race fully hydrated you have plenty of adequate water stops on the way round. The combination of no water bottle and jelly babies helped me to no end during the second half. Keeping my sugar levels high meant I was more focused on the race, could push harder and felt stronger during the run itself. Also starting off steady and pushing towards the end was much better than crossing that line with nothing left in the tank. I completed the Royal Parks in 1:49:51 and felt fantastic! 

What are your plans for the next few months? How are you shaping your training?

I have another half in November and then one in March. Over the winter I’m going to keep my running to three times a week trying to increase the pace slowly and steadily. I’m also going to be working with Phil on building muscle so I have more power during longer runs and tweaking my diet so I get more sustainable energy for running from my food.

Many thanks for your time Non and good luck with your running!!

Barefoot running for beginners: Using then avoiding calf pain

August 19th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Barefoot running for beginners: avoiding calf pain.

This week I made two short barefoot runs out on the road. The second run was harder than the first as I was feeling somewhat tight in the backs of my lower legs. That said, the hardest part of the run was not the calf pain, but my feet getting used to the areas of uneven, broken superficial tarmac on the country road I was running on.

The calf pain I was feeling was a stiff, tight soreness that came on about quarter way through the second run on road this week. However, rather than debilitating me, this soreness became my instructor and helped me work on actually resting my calves during my run…..

To do this I began concentrating on lifting my knees more. When you do this in a forefoot striking gait, your hip flexion will lift or “peel” your foot from the floor. At this point, your foot will, if relaxed, softly plantarflex in mid air (the front of the foot will drop a little as the foot comes off the floor). Then, as the hip brings the leg forward with a soft, bent knee ready for landing, the momentum will encourage your foot to dorsiflex (the front of the foot will rise a little).
This subtle dropping and then rising of the front of the foot is an extension then flexion of the ankle. This movement in a weight bearing situation, would be loading right through the workhorse calf muscles. Here however, it all occurs in mid air! The calves should remain relaxed the whole time. It is here that they get rest from exertion.
As the knee lifts the foot from the ground, try to let the ankle soften while at the same time keeping some stillness in it. You should feel your foot “want” to drop forward without letting it go completely. Then, as you bring it forward for foot strike, let the forward momentum encourage the front to rise a little and your toes to perk up SOFTLY, ready for the next forefoot strike. The more yu concentrate on the action of lifting your knees, the more the movement in your ankle becomes natural.
Initiating foot raise using the knee and hip rather than pushing off from the toes is KEY here too: the calves are not stressed at all and are already relaxed going into the mid-air phase.

The extension and then flexion for landing in this “air” phase should not be much. Let momentum teach you the movement. To begin with, it may feel like a relaxed “flapping” of the feet.

The only time in the running cycle where there is much stress on the calves should be immediately after the ball of the foot is planted: the plantar arch contracts and stabilises the foot and the calves switch on to control a soft dorsiflexion to heel rest (an eccentric control action of the calves). However, this phase is momentary and light. You should already be thinking about raising the knee again as the ball of your foot lands…..as soon as you do, the calves are unloaded and enjoying their wonderful flight again. Barefoot running really should feel light, free and effortless.

A word about calf pain
Tightness and resulting pain in the calves from overuse is common in runners who are in the midst of adapting to their new barefoot gait. In the same way as muscle soreness from doing a new weight training routine can affect us, our calves will respond to this new way of being used.
You have a choice when this occurs. You can simply take a break and wait till your calves are rested, or you can, if careful, use the increased sensitivity to teach you how to run with less impact and less stress on the tired muscles. However, there is a limit. Learn to listen to your body. Overtired muscles are far more susceptible to injury and you are far more likely to run with bad form when they are tight and tired. If you are just beginning in your barefoot running, a break is easily the wisest option. Overuse injuries to the Achilles tendon are notorious lingerers.

For those of you further down the road in their barefoot training, here is a recap of points that calf soreness or tightness should remind you to do:

LIFT YOUR KNEES!!!
This is the most important point. Focus on knee lifting as soon as your foot plants. Cntact with the ground should be soft and momentary. Lifting your knees quickly and often will avoid you using your toes for push-off, which is a central reason for sore calves.

Increase cadence and shorten strides
If your calves are sore, shorten your stride even more. Focus on making your training during this time form training. Ease back and run smaller and softer. Decreasing your impact on foot plant will take stress from your calves too.
You can increase cadence rather than stride length to maintain any speed, but speed is not your issue if you have sore calves. Form practice is.

Stop for breaks and shake or walk
Again, listen to your body. The whole point of barefoot running is to enjoy it and develop a pain free way of running. There are no rules but the ones you make for yourself. Break up your run with walking and shaking off tension at various points. This will relax your muscles and stop you from tightening up and running with bad form.

Barefoot for beginners: The beauty of soft knees and “literate” feet.

August 15th, 2011 by Phil Brown

Today I took a barefoot road run. It was the furthest I have been on road barefoot and the difference since the previous session a week ago was marked. I felt like a different runner.  The springiness that more experienced barefooters talk about was something I actually began to experience rather than desire.

Running on tarmac and concrete has as much pleasure as running on grass. The firmness of the surface means that you can really “wind up” as your forefoot falls followed by the light touchdown of the heel. The feedback from the surface – particularly on a sunny day like today – is warm and smooth and allows your feet to spread evenly. I found this even easier than running on the field, since the ground was not unstable and I could concentrate on enjoying the run without the added challenge of uneven ground for my lower leg muscles and ankles (although that uneven ground is essential training not to be missed).

Road running barefoot would not have been anything like as fulfilling and certainly not as pain free if I had not been practicing what is a central technique in this lighter, less impact-heavy running style: running with bent knees.

With a heel to toe running gait, most runners land on their leading heel with the knee almost fully extended. The shock from that impact through the heel travels without much interruption straight through a relatively unstable, “open” knee and into the hips and lower back.

The running shoe – clad, heel-striking foot seems not to be able to “read” the impact of a strike as effectively as a soft, sometimes even gingerly-placed , bare footfall can (at least in my experience so far). In naked, the incredibly sensitive plantar surface of the feet feel everything on a road. The response from the body is to automatically look for ways to run in a lighter, pain free, easier way. Our natural response is to avoid pain: running barefoot seems to have a fantastic effect on the way we instinctively deal with movement and impact: we make it easy on ourselves: we bend our knees and when our feet plant, they do so at the end of soft, shock absorbing, bent knees. It. Feels. Good!!

Have you ever stood on something hard with sharp corners on it in bare feet? If you have children, you will know exactly what I mean: a midnight visit to the loo and suddenly the whole left side of your body is collapsing as if it has been shut down, as you stand on a die-cast car or the plug from some eletrical toy. It is amazing how the nerves in your feet can cause such a tidal wave of response all the way through the body. It may hurt like heck, but in actual fact, our feet are saving us from worse pain or damage. Telling our body to give way immediately lets us fall “around” the object rather than keep pressing down onto it without any give……barefoot running, once we adapt to it, is like that:  it is back to instinct, back to our interface with the ground we walk on, with nothing in between except our feet, which are learning how to read for us like they did when we ran barefoot as children.

How to learn to run with soft knees

Think about how you run up stairs. If you can, do it. What are your knees doing? Are they ever straight?

Now run up and down on the spot. Bring your knees up to your belt line as you do it. What are you doing? You are forefoot striking and landing with bent knees. You are doing this to make the process comfortable. Nobody has taught you this. You just do it.

Now, go outside and start running on the spot on hard ground. Do it gently and try to make every footfall as silent and as light as you can. Focus on LIFTING the knees AS SOON as your heel has touched the ground (the order should be ball of foot first, then toes and heel at the same time). Keep the cadence high and the footfalls light. (When you run or walk up stairs, the focus is on the lift of your knees).

Once you have tried this for a couple of minutes, break into a gentle run and keep the footfalls as soft as you were just doing. In order to do this you will have to keep your knees bent and keep lifting almost at the same time as each foot strike. Imagine being a ninja, moving so lightly that you aren’t leaving footprints! Keep the cadence light and moderately fast, but don’t try to run fast. Try to find a feeling of light,bouncy ease and just enjoy.

If things start to tighten up and you feel pain in the calf area or the knees, stop and try getting back your form by running on the spot as you started again: focusing on light bounces and lifting the knees and landing softly. I find the running on the spot technique great for getting back “in the groove” before carrying on again. Any pain apart from some direct contact sole soreness from the road means you are tightening up and that you need to adjust something. Watch your stride length too – keep it short and easy.

A word about pain: your calves and knees should not hurt when you run. If they do, it is most likely because you are trying to run too fast when you have not yet found your specific form (it takes practice and patience), or you have been running for too long when your body is not yet ready for it.  Go for short, gentle runs to begin with.  Learn the easy and light first, then the duration and speed will come naturally with time.

The value of true barefoot training:a lesson from pain.

August 9th, 2011 by Phil Brown

A few days ago I read  a review and summary of the book Barefoot Running Step by Step by Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton and Roy M. Wallack. One of the things that they recommend, according to the summary I read, is not to use minimalist shoes at all at first. This is based on the reasoning that any barrier between your feet and the ground will encourage a lazy approach to form, that, however slight, will result in a non – optimal and possibly harmful running gait.

I bought the book. It arrived today and looks wonderful. Nicely designed and full of useful tips and anecdotes from 2 people who have years of experience in honing their form. I haven’t really opened it yet, but something happened this morning (see the post on the barefoot running drill posted yesterday) that seems to prove the point about minimalist shoes in an uncannily accurate manner!

This morning I got out of bed with a localised pain in the ball of my left foot. It felt like a bruise. As the day wore on it got worse, to the point of me caving in and putting on sandals. My Vibram Fivefingers felt really uncomfortable too. Ice helped a little and I was able to to find some relief from soft sandals. I began, typically, to worry if I was facing weeks of plantar fascia pain. So, during a break between clients, I thought I would get out there on the grass and try a gentle pat around to see what it felt like……… and actually, it felt ok. Barefoot running didn’t make the pain worse. If anything, after a couple of laps around the field, things felt a bit better!   Hmmmm… I began to think and eventually thought about that recommendation of not using minimalist shoes to begin with.

This is my theory as to why I developed ball of foot pain and why it felt better when I went back to barefooting in the grass:

1. Since starting to change my running style, I have done all my running in Vibram Fivefinger shoes. They have felt great and I have enjoyed wearing them at work and play all day.

2. Two days ago, I ran a gentle, hilly tarmac route with no problems at all.

3. One day ago, I ran for the FIRST TIME barefoot. ON GRASS. The day after I had my first real pain since becoming interested in the barefoot running culture.

4. On hard ground, I ran in shoes, which, however minimal, protected the balls of my feet as I planted them. As a result, I planted them harder than I would have in bare feet. Over 4 weeks, I developed a HABIT doing this.

5. On soft, fluffy grass, I ran for the first time in bare feet. I used the style I had developed on the road in shoes. The ground was uneven. This challenged my feet as all the muscles that control the fine movements and “grasping” in my feet were working much harder than on the flat, stable surface of the road. That extra challenge on my feet and ankles, plus the habit I had developed of planting my forefoot harder than necessary put enough strain and impact on the underside of my feet to cause strain and some bruising.

6. When I decided to try out running today on grass despite the pain, I instinctively started with smaller strides and a lighter forefoot plant. The result was hardly any, if any, pain. My body was instinctively using pain as a signal to change its interface with the ground.

7. Running in bare feet has taught me, through this experience, how our shoes give us a false sense of security and don’t allow us to learn how to use our bodies properly. I took my shoes off and tried to carry on as usual. Pain was the result. I tried again, with pain….I adjusted without really thinking about it.

From now on, I will include barefoot running periods every week – on grass, on sand and on hard road. It is fascinating to think how much I have yet to learn about stepping lightly and easily in contact with the earth. And how much my body has yet to teach me if I allow it!

 

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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