I’d first like to thank Eric for this website and all the resources.
I recently posted I’d finally ‘felt it.’ I’ve been pondering ‘feeling it’ and I thought I’d share my recent experience. I have to start with a little background.
I’m addicted to running. I truly love it. It is my time and my peace. I regularly enter the zone and feel the runner’s high. I’ve been running for 30+ years and never thought much about or practiced form. I just ran. That is until I started running marathons. I went the way of the shuffle and I’ve been shuffling for about 10 years. I think shuffling is good if you’re just looking to finish a marathon, but I’ve moved beyond that and realized I needed something new. That realization came with running ultras in 2010 and 2011. Shuffling 30, 40, 50 miles was not for me. I noticed significant fatigue in my thighs and calves…really, in my calves. My hamstrings and gluts never experienced any fatigue or pain. I wasn’t using those muscle groups to run. Once I figured that out I knew I needed to transition my form in order to use all my running muscles. So, I started researching, and thankfully, came across Eric in Born to Run.
Time to transition, but how? Having lived in Iowa and then Maryland for the last 20+ years I developed a real distaste for running in the winter. I break from running in the winter months of December, January and February. I do sneak in winter runs during work trips to the San Fran area. During the winter I stayed fit by riding a stationary bike, but have picked up P90X for the last two years. This year I did two things that I believe are significant to me making the transition to better running form and ‘feeling it’ during some recent treadmill running.
First, I lost the shoes. I’ve done all my P90X workouts totally barefoot. No shoes…no socks (I noticed Eric is barefoot in his exercise demonstration videos). I believe this has been a huge benefit to me feeling my feet (hey guys, time to wake up). The Plyometric, Kenpo and Yoga workouts all have components of balance, strength and stability. Doing these workouts shoeless have allowed me to really feel the floor. Jumping, kicking, posing…feeling my feet. I noticed I have much better balance barefoot than in shoes. I also believe going shoeless put me on the balls of my feet resulting in significantly increased foot strength. Over the last three months my feet have learned how to grip the ground.
Second, I worked in several of Eric’s core strengthening exercises, and the icing on the cake, running in place barefoot. WOW!!! Really, simple running in place without shoes?! Yes!!! No mirrors. No looking at form. Just ‘feeling it.’ Come on Dente, think of Eric’s video. Looking like him. Stand up straight. Tuck feet under butt. Drive knees. Maintain the ankle angle. Just feel the feet. Feel the landing on the forefoot. Feel the heel lightly touch down. I found myself closing my eyes and just ‘feeling it.’ A couple of times a week during this winter I’ve run in place for 10 minutes without shoes and then 10 minutes with shoes (breaking in a new pair of Brooks). I did monitor cadence with my Garmin and a foot pod (my cadence runs around 88-90 for comfortable running in place).
So, get me to the treadmill. I do hate running on a treadmill, but I thought it would be good to practice the new ‘feeling’ under a controlled environment before I hit the road in a couple weeks (man I can’t wait until March 1st). I’ve run 40+ treadmill miles across two recent work trips. I’ve been wearing an old pair of Asics Piranha Flats (that’s as close to barefoot as I’ll get). Thankfully, the San Jose, CA Marriott gym had no mirrors near the treadmills. WOW!!! I felt light and springy. And the big observation…no aches or pains!!! (which I normally get from even just a little treadmill running.) Then I took a look.
The gym at the Courtyard Marriott in Bloomington, IN does have mirrors next to the treadmill. Ah, crap. I tried not to look, but I had to. WOW, is that really me?! I looked like Eric in his demo video. Standing up straight. Hips neutral. Forefoot strike ever so slightly in front of the hips. Proper stance leg. Knee drive. Neutral ankle. But forget about all that looking…it felt great!!! So, I stopped looking. Just picked a spot on the wall, zoned out and let the feeling sink in.
I’ve never felt my feet while running like I do now. They just came along for the ride before, but I think my feet being awake is allowing me to ‘feel it.’ They’re now wide-awake and I’m not going to let them go back to sleep.
I know I have a ways to go, but I feel very confident that this transition will be fruitful. Here I come Capon Valley 50k. Watch out…especially, now that my feet are awake.