Archives for category: Fitness

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     This was my second LA Marathon and my third marathon in all. I had high hopes for my performance this year- dreams of qualifying for Boston and all. Training had been going very well and I was right on track for a 3:25 finish. Of course, it didn’t all go as planned, but what does?

Oh, we’re getting old.  We have careers and children and houses to take care of.  We used to have a lot more time to exercise but didn’t need to.  Then things started to rearrange, sag, and lose their taut youthful glow.  Those creeping signs of age prompted gym memberships which we’ve had for a few years now and it’s been great to get back into shape again.  The struggle for me though, has been remaining engaged and motivated to push myself further.  I came to realize that doing things like running on a treadmill ad infinitum really seemed to parallel my responsible adult life in a kind of unsettling way.  As is true with most things (food, entertainment, sex)  it’s best not to settle into too much of a routine.  I decided to mix it up a bit with my workout.

We live a few steps from a bike/running path that stretches about 25 miles through the San Fernando Valley and I had never made an effort to use it.  I bought some new running shoes and started running regularly.  I hadn’t expected it to be so enjoyable, but exercising outside was a revelation for me.  Breathing fresh(ish) air, taking in the sun, enjoying the scenery, experiencing the changing weather, and seeing people of my community going about their days while I exercise makes me feel more connected to the world and keeps me engaged in my fitness routine.  It’s also a lot more gratifying to propel yourself, at whatever speed, without the mechanical aid of a treadmill, which I liken to running with one end of a rope tied around your waist and the other end tied to the bumper of a moving car.

Unfortunately, it’s not at all unusual to find that a 45 year old body can’t really handle the beating that it gets running out on a road.  Shinsplints, aching hips, knees and ankles ensued and the running stopped.  But then I started hearing about this new craze- barefoot running.  Well, you’ve probably seen the accompanying photo, so you already know that it’s not really barefoot barefoot.  The shoe in the photo is called the “Vibram Five Fingers.”  While we were on vacation, I saw my nephew wearing these extremely odd looking Vibram shoes, but I didn’t know that those were what people were using for barefoot running.  Then when I returned home, a runner friend was raving about them so I decided to give them a try.

The human foot is really a remarkable piece of organic technology.  There are around 26 bones, 33 joints and more than a hundred muscles, ligaments and tendons.  The arch, when barefoot, acts as sort of a leaf spring, which along with all of those articulating joints, serves to absorb a lot of the impact of walking or running.  Binding your feet in overly supportive shoes hinders the movement of your foot and changes your running stride such that you end up bypassing all of the shock-absorbing joints and arch of your foot and land on your heel, transferring the impact to your ankles, knees and hips.  (or so I have read in my internet research)  Wearing Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) shoes changes your stride, such that you land on the ball of your foot, making use of the shock-absorbing nature of your foot.  They also allow your toes to splay, giving you increased stability and additional power in pushing off.  So, that’s my over-simplified explanation of what these shoes are supposed to do for you.  The question remained, “how would they feel?”

Running with VFF’s is a really different experience than running with regular running shoes.  It definitely feels strange at first.  Aside from getting used to a totally new running stride though, the feeling is amazing.  Jokingly, I said that I felt like a Kenyan man running through the plains, chasing a gazelle.  That’s an exaggeration, but there is a strikingly primitive and connected feeling to running with these shoes.  They feel like being barefoot, save for a thin layer of rubber protection on the bottoms of your feet, perhaps not unlike the callouses you might develop if you really were barefoot all of the time.  A lot of people have complained of the bottoms of their feet quickly getting really sore.  I did not experience this yet, but I’ve only done two 2-mile runs- you’re supposed to really ease into this kind of running.  I did get the commonly- mentioned blister on one of my toes.  Also, as this type of running utilizes the calf muscle much more than regular running, my calves were very sore the next few days.  More importantly though, I experienced NONE of my usual joint or shin pain.  Mind you, these were both short runs, but I usually experience joint pain in the first 1/2 mile of my run, as well as later in the day and the next day.  So far, that is a non-issue.

How great it will be if I can get back to doing regular 6-8 mile runs, or even step it up to 10 or 12 miles!  I’m definitely going to curb my enthusiasm though and take it slowly to avoid injury.  Check back here to see how it goes.  Or better yet, get yourself a pair, then get out there and see what you think.