I’ve been inspired to barefoot run of late. I love being barefoot and do much of my life barefoot, putting something on my feet at home only to stay warm during the coldest part of winter and completing most of my training unshod. Kettlebells, yoga, jumping rope, performance circuits, QiGong…all lend themselves to letting the toes wiggle freely. And while I love my VFFs, it is not minimalist shoe running I want to do.
I want to feel the earth move under my feet!
Off and on over the past several weeks I’ve taken off the footwear and moved in a running fashion. Loved it; every sensation of it. Then I decided to approach it methodically and have been following Jason Robillard’s method. The Barefoot Running Book is a great resource and describes different ways of approaching learning to barefoot run, depending on your running and barefoot history.
Robillard offers up some great precursor exercises which help better prepare you for barefoot running because rest assured it isn’t necessarily as simple as leaving the shoes and taking the strides.
I particularly like his holistic approach which incorporates relaxation, body awareness, playfulness and biomechanics. Reframing how we move our bodies, especially the feet, is one of the best gems in the book. Rather than thinking of foot strikes and pushing off, which I often do when running shod, I am learning to think of kissing the ground and lifting off. The paradigm shift is significant.
I also appreciate Robillard’s discussion of barefoot running versus minimalist shoe running versus shod running. Having done a bit of running in my VFFs, I am glad it was a minimal amount as this can interfere with efficient barefoot running. (I did spend the day in my VFFs yesterday at a Women’s Expo.)
The book is well written, straightforward, basic. The simplicity of the book compliments the simplicity of barefoot running as a means of existence.
So, after a week or so of not running but performing the preparatory drills and exercises in the book, I headed out this morning for a short first barefoot run.
There was frost on the ground and a good bite in the air when I headed out the door. The watery morning moon was still high in the western sky while the sun was rioting just below the eastern horizon. I strode, shod I might add, down my laneway. The 200 or so metres always lets me warm up slightly, connect with my surroundings, and mentally place myself into my i-am-not-a-runner running mode.
Today the sunrise bounced off the neighbour’s home and barns and I could hear a woodpecker in the back woods. A distant engine of a big truck hummed and faded. My fingers began to tingle as I took a couple of photos. I anticipated posting this brief run in Diane’s Blog My Run Challenge (thank you Di, you are an inspiring friend with a beautiful spirit and a fantastic blog) and was glad my camera battery had enough juice for a couple of shots.
I doffed my mules at the end of the laneway and let soles and soul meet snappy asphalt. I ran today with my mind almost totally on biomechanics, mindful of staying relaxed in my legs and arms, engaged through my core. I focused on lifting my feet, rather than pushing off, on landing softly quietly, on taking smaller steps than I might normally in an effort to find and maintain about 180 steps per minute. Except for the biting cold of the pavement causing some discomfort, it felt great!
When I run just out my back door like this morning, I run a rural road with little traffic, farmy smells, songbirds flitting and an occasional skunky encounter. I revel in the beauty around me, always lifted by being a part of this amazement. And, as I am wont to do, I head out west so that I can return east, running into the sunrise. There is always a transcendent quality in this for me; I explode out of myself, fragmenting into and amongst the molecular universe. I am no longer. In fact, I am not.