Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I'm back to 40% of my running being barefoot . . .

Here's an explanation, based on your body's proprioceptive abilities–that is, the way it can communicate up and down all pathways. When you run barefoot, your body precisely engages your vision, your brain, the soles of your feet, and all the muscles, bones, tendons, and supporting structures of your feet and legs. They leap to red alert, and give you a high degree of protection from the varied pressures and forces of running.

On the other hand, when you run in socks, shoes, inserts, midsoles and outsoles, your body's proprioceptive system loses a lot of input. "This has been called 'the perceptual illusion' of running shoes," says Warburton. "With shoes, your body switches off to a degree, and your reaction time decreases."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Finding the Right Formula

Ok, I stole this post title "Finding the Right Formula" from Matt Fitzgerald's book "Running by Feel," but it's right on point to answer a question I've been asked recently which is "How have I been able to run 5 yrs. without injury?"  Well, it's because I found the "Right Formula."  On my way to finding the right formula, I had to answer a key question why is "Why do I run?"  The answer was pretty easy, "I run to stay healthy.  I run because of the way it makes me feel.  I run to talk to myself.  I run because it level sets my entire being."

My first answer takes a bit more analysis.  I run to "stay healthy" so that eliminated the types of running done by most runners.  I don't run to race.  I don't run for a specific time or pace.  Maybe because I'm a former Division I collegiate athlete, I've competed my whole life for big prizes and the idea of killing myself for a cheap medal doesn't interest me.  I know, I know, the response is people do it for the accomplishment but I can reach the same accomplishment on my own, on my own terms and in my own way.  This also allows me to stay injury free because I don't run according to some crazy plan or schedule.  This also eliminates ultra-type running.  Yes, I've run one (1) 50k but I soon realized, the ultra distance isn't about staying healthy or in shape.  That's about something else and in fact, it can enter a zone that is counter productive to staying healthy.  I see no reason to run those types of distances.  One can stay extremely healthy running anything from a 5k to half marathon distance.  It's more about consistency and repetition at that point.  I'm healthier today averaging 40 miles per week than I was back when I was in the 60+ mile per week range.  The reduced mileage allows me to run 7 days per week (there's the consistency and repetition) yet stay injury free without putting unnecessary load on my body.  I do one (1) hard workout per week in the 8-10 mile range with half of it in the 6:30 pace range but otherwise I do 90% of my running in the 9-10:00 pace range.

The second part of the answer, is if I run to feel good, then I don't need gadgets like Garmin watches.  I don't need to monitor everything related to my running.  Some of the data available is absolutely ridiculous.  Now, I do need my body and since my body is my gadget, it took many years to understand what it was telling me.  Once I understood what it was telling me, it took years to understand how to respond.  The only way to understand what it was telling me was to remove anything blocking communication paths and that started with the modern shoe.  The modern shoe blocks the messages from my feet to my brain and that's very dangerous.  Garmin-like watches also block the ability to hear the body because the brain focuses on stupid things like distance, pace and/or some pre-determined running plan or schedule.  The funny thing about running plans is your body will customize its own running schedule if you let it.  As I've run injury for 5 years, I compared this current year to the first year I ran injury free because the enjoyment I felt from 1 year of injury free running was so awesome and it's how I feel right now.  Low and behold, my running schedule, as set by my body, is almost the same.  I run 7 days per week.  I average about 40 minutes per run Monday through Friday and two (2) of those days, I run closer to 30 minutes and I refer to those runs as "rest day runs" and they are essentially physical and mental recovery days.  Then, I do one hard workout, generally on Saturday, averaging 60-80 minutes, half of which is at tempo to race pace (anything in the 5:55 - 6:55 pace range).  Sunday is generally 45-60 min. run, at an easy pace, usually on trails (I do 75% of all my running on trails).  As for the expensive and worthless Garmin, I know what pace I'm running by feel.  Based on effort, turn over and feel, I'm within :10 sec. per mile of what any watch would tell me.

Now for the part no one really likes to discuss because we are culture of gullible idiots when it comes to believing marketing hype.  The modern running shoe is one of the most destructive inventions of the modern times . . . the basic running shoe of the 1960's and early 1970's is all we really needed but we love to take it too far, then so far we lose control and perspective . . . welcome to the modern running shoe.  If you believe the natural design of the human body is flawed and broken then stop now and read no further otherwise you cannot, under any circumstances defend or support the design of the modern running shoe.  An elevated heel to put the body off balance . . . down right stupid and makes no sense.  Excessive cushioning to eliminate proprioception . . . incredibly dangerous as you have no control over your body and ultimately your stride.  Inflexibility with motion control and other designs to create stiff shoes . . . oh yea, the natural foot is flexible so if you want to run with braces on your feet, enjoy developing very weak feet which ultimately will result in injury and burning money on all types of gadgets to make your feet even weaker.  Lastly, our bare feet . . . my god, our bare feet are ingenious but we love to dumb it down.  Remember the sheer joy of running barefoot as a kid . . . well, how did we do it?  Because we were young?  Crap!!! It's because that's exactly how we were designed.  Now, I'm not saying the foot doesn't need minimal protection from the modern elements in the world but that's all it needs.  Of course, shoe companies can't allow this to become status quo because the revenue impact would be tremendous.  Imagine someone like me who pays $45 for a pair of running shoes that last 18-24 months . . . I'm a shoe companies nightmare.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Next Shoe Purchase, 2026-2030

Just hit me this morning during my run.  When will I buy another pair of running shoes?  I basically run 100% in the Puma H-Street and I have 11 new pair in the basement.  Each pair lasts over 1 yr. and in many cases I push toward 18 months per pair.  Then, add the fact that my body has all but fully adjusted to a barefoot-like style after 8 years of running combined with a neutral foot strike, my current pair is coming up on 18 months and could last 2 years . . . with a forefoot strike and landing lightly, I have very little wear & tear on the soles of my shoes (sole or upper).  I'm definitely a major shoe manufacturer's worse nightmare.  The average price per pair of Puma H-Streets was $45.

On the other hand, thank god for having 11 new pair as it's clear the major shoe companies have won the war (the minimalist movement put up a good fight albeit brief) and, as an industry, they are reverting back to overly designed, cushioned and support ridden shoe designs.  That will guarantee one trend . . . a high percentage of injured runners on a yearly basis.  At this point, it's not about the poorly designed shoes . . . it's about the running public that won't contest what is so obvious . . . just a basic level of common sense would lead one to question the design of running shoes when compared to the natural human foot.  Couple that with the fact that the vast majority of runners do not want to make the sacrifice required to correct all the bad habits . . . bad form, weak muscle, weak tendons, misalignment, imbalance, etc.  It's a long process, at least it was for me . . . about 8 years of blood, sweat and tears but oh my god was it worth it . . . I've learned it's one of those things where I just need to be thankful and humbled that I was able to figure it out . . . it doesn't require one to be a rocket scientist but it requires avoiding the easy road and traveling the hard road to find the answer . . . . what is the saying?  need to go through hell to get to heaven :)


Monday, September 29, 2014

Nothing more to say . . .

"Ironically, the closest we have ever come to an "ideal" shoe was the original lightweight, soft-sole, heel-less, simple moccasin, which dates back more than 14,000 years. It consisted of a piece of crudely tanned but soft leather wrapped around the foot and held on with rawhide thongs. Presto! custom fit, perfect in biomechanical function, and no encumbrances to the foot or gait."

"It took four million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot. We have converted a beautiful thoroughbred into a plodding plowhorse."

Nothing more to say . . . there is, unfortunately, no perfectly designed running shoe (yet).  The closest for me is the Puma H-Street.  The VivoBarefoot Evo has the most potential but they continue to miss the boat as it's too heavy and causes blisters.  If someone ever combined the best attributes of the H-Street and Evo, it would be a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last evolution phase?

I know, it has been forever since I posted but better late than never, right.  Well, I am in the last phase of the 10 yr. running cycle I've referred to constantly being years 8-10 (a runner friend of mine refers to this as the "smooth it out" phase when the body makes some final last tweaks as you truly become an efficient runner).  I've been running injury free for the last 5 years but now I can feel my body take the next step to become even a more efficient and productive runner and my body feels absolutely amazing.

To this point, I was tested again and long and behold my foot strike has changed slightly from slight under-pronation to a neutral foot strike.  Of course, with a neutral foot strike you still pronate but the fine line between pronating and under-pronating is an important and critical distinction.  So what has changed?  It's simple and I know what it is.  It's "Relaxation," plain and simple.  I run completely relaxed and that has resulted in the slight change in foot strike.  In fact, there's hardly any wear and tear on the soles of my shoes in the spots that would indicate under or over-pronation . . . the wear and tear is that of a neutral foot striker.

I'm not sure how I arrived here but within the past 3-4 months, I've been thinking more about being relaxed, regardless of the pace, whether warm-up or race pace.  I've also been thinking about Fred Rohe and his writing "The Zen of Running" and how he preaches about always being relaxed and never running with stress or pushing too hard.  For me, it's about comfortably hard running but also being totally relaxed and if I need to push too hard which, by the way, results in a dramatic increase in impact forces, I find that relaxed mode and I run as hard as I can provided I'm relaxed . . . anything faster that results in me not being relaxed is something I don't do anymore . . . if I feel the impact forces are too high, my arms are tight, breathing not controlled, etc., then I re-focused and find that relaxed rhythm and stay in that zone.  By the way, the more relaxed, the faster I run comfortably, however, there's a limit how fast you can run relaxed . . . if I have to push off harder then that's the zone I do not enter anymore.  As a result, I feel tremendous and every muscle and tendon feels great (for example, I can squeeze and pinch both achilles tendons with no pain or discomfort whatsoever . . . that's what I'm talking about).

I'm all about Running Relaxed.

Happy trails.


Thursday, February 6, 2014


It's interesting as I reflect back on the last 8 years since I started running regularly.  I've averaged about 50 miles per week during this time, however, as with many runners, I've had highs, lows, ups and downs.  I remember vividly the first week I started running in 1995 when, as luck would have it, I ran into an elite runner and had a conversation that shaped my running life.  That runner was so smooth and fluid, I mean, just a beautiful runner.  I told him I wanted to run like him and he said it was possible (of course, I didn't say as fast as him) but I had to commit for 10 years.  I looked at him with confusion and said why 10 years . . . why so long.  He said it would take 10 years to become an efficient and seasoned runner and furthermore, I had to commit to the 3 phases in the 10 year cycle.

I asked him to continue and he explained the 3 phases:

- Phase 1 (Years 1-3), he called it the "Adaption and Hell Phase."  Now, 3 years is a long time in hell.  He said it was hell because I would suffer every injury known to a runner during this 3 year period . . . achilles tendonitis, plantar  tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, top of the foot pain, sciatic pain, back pain, calf pulls, strains, tears, and the list goes on and on.  The point was it would take 3 years for every tendon and muscle to adapt to running regularly.  The question was whether I was committed to push through this 3 years of hell.  He said 95% of runners will not commit to continuing through this painful time but if I did, the reward down the road would be great . . . little did I know how right he was.
- Phase 2 (Years 4-7), he called it the "Discovery Phase" because it was during this phase that a runner discover his/her body, researches everything in the world about running and starts to place running as one of the more important things in their lives.  This is when you join every online group, runner's club, etc., and you and running start to become one.  This is also when you try everything from barefoot running (at least for me) and you focus on every single aspect of running whether it's landing lightly, high turnover, short stride, claw back, Pose, Chi, and then there's shoes, oh my god, there's shoes.   Flexible or rigid, support or no support, heel deviation or zero drop, light or heavy, road vs. trail vs. mountain surfaces (and don't let me get started on diet).  The point here is you discover and mold yourself into a runner.  You set PR's, finish your first marathon . . . for me, the most memorable was at the age of 43, I ran my first sub 18:00 5k (17:42) . . . that was last year.  Of course, the best part for me was after Year 4, I didn't suffer another significant injury . . . nothing that stopped me from running every day . . . no pain that impacted my running (that's always the #1 goal) and that runner told me if I made it through Phase 1, that day would come.
- Phase 3 (Years 8-10), he called it the "Refinement Phase."  My friends this is where I'm at.  He said this is when you are ready to understand the subtleties of running and you make slight tweaks that make all the difference in the world.   I'm in the midst of this right now and after all these years of a short quick stride, my turnover has decreased slightly and my stride length has increased, all while landing correctly.  I know understand what the paw back is and it makes all the difference in the world especially with respect to performance, speed and efficiency.  I understand the placement of my arms, hips, etc.  I've learned to run by feel and control my paces without the aid of a Garmin watch.  After all these years, I'm finally starting to get it.  I've learned to not counsel other runners as they must go on this journey alone (of course, I answer questions if asked).

So why did I share this?  Well, just to say, anyone can do it but the question is "Are you willing to go through hell to get to heaven."  Ultimately, it's about commitment . . . remember motivation is EASY, habit is HARD . . . all champions have HABIT.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Wow, forgot about my blog

It has been forever since I posted . . . just too busy but all is good.  I'm still averaging 50-60 miles per week, entering my 5th year without injury.  Nothing at all for me to complain about.

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