Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back to Naked Barefooting

4.0 mi. BF (Wedgwood)
Well apparently the post-blister tenderness is pretty much healed, because I was able to run a full 4 miles barefoot tonight. I didn't set any land speed records or anything -- can you say 12 min. miles?! --  as the sidewalks around here are tough for barefooting! Good for building up the callouses and foot strength, though, I suppose. I stopped because the ankle hurt, but at least I made it a little farther this time.

For the record, I've been stretching the plantar fascia most mornings before getting out of bed (and occasionally when getting up from the desk after working for long periods) and I often spend some time before getting out of bed in happy baby pose, fully extending and fully scrunching my toes, pointing and flexing my feet, and rotating my ankles (among others). These past two weeks I've been consistently doing several arch strengthening exercises: one leg balance with eyes closed, resisted eversion and inversion exercises, stepping sideways with a rubber band around my ankles (advised by my chiropractor for strengthening the peroneus), deliberately holding my arches in a neutral position while standing and walking, and heel raises upward and outward (from a source I've now forgotten). There. Now that I've put it in writing, I'll really have to maintain my consistency!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I *Love* Surprises!

3.3 mi. VFFs (Green Lake)
Good news! I think I was right about letting this post-blister heal up a bit more before I can go out barefoot again. Tonight I went to Green Lake and had a great run in the VFFs. I even felt like starting a second lap, though I didn't make it too far before my ankle pooped out. That's ok, though. I hit an avg. pace of 8:47. Speedy for me! And just so Em knows that some day I will be able to keep up with her again....Miles 2 and 3 were at 8:41 and 8:42. Everything felt really good.

And then it got better! Just as I was finishing up my first lap, I passed a handwritten sign in the grass that said "Complimentary Fitness Training" and I saw a small group of people gathering with some very fit-looking trainer types.  I had hoped to be able to keep running, so I passed it by. But after making it only another 1/2 mile or so before having to call it a day, I decided to go back and see what they had going on.

As I approached the guy manning the sign, I asked "Can anyone play?!" He cheerfully invited me to come on up and join them, as the group (of about 8 exercisers and 2 coaches) was just getting warmed up. Turns out it's a training team called Furious Fitness, and they've been doing outdoors bootcamp style training "camps" at Green Lake all summer. I was able to stop in as a first-timer and try out the class for free, but several of the other folks there had already been attending for a couple of weeks. We started with some interval training in pairs. While one person sprinted "to the tree and back," the waiting partner had to do squats. When the runner came back, we switched. We did 3 sets. For the second round, the non-running partner had to do standup/pushups while waiting (stand up with hands above the head and then down into a pushup, then back up to hands above the head, and so on).  After 3 sets of that, we did another round where the non-running partner had to lay on their back and do low scissor kicks. Given the sprints in between, I was good and pooped at the end of all that.

Since I had stopped running because the ankle was sore, I was a little nervous about the intervals, but they were a short enough distance, with stopping in between, that it wasn't a problem. After the intervals, we went back and did combos of jumping jacks, and one-leg hopping exercises, planks, lunges, and some other combos of fun fitnessy stuff. We ended with some ab exercises and stretches. I have to say that during the crunches, it was pretty cool to hear the guy say "keep your eyes toward the sky" and to actually be looking at the sky.

It turns out they're currently charging $135 for 12 classes, and I'm seriously thinking about doing it. At some point, when the weather makes it necessary, they take the training into a gym of some kind (no details on that yet). I'm already a gym member, but have long considered working with a trainer. But this seems like it would be a nice affordable way to maybe get a couple more weeks of outside workouts, with some small group training in the mix as well. Anyway, it was a great unexpected workout that was both challenging and fun. Their website says they're usually there at 6:30pm on weeknights if you want to stop by and try it out. I didn't stick around afterward to talk with them more, as it had started raining toward the end (and had gotten fairly dark - we were working out for 45-60-ish min.), and people were scattering pretty quick. But I did get a packet of info, and a friendly invitation to come back again. What a great way to end the evening's run!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Does Going "Minimalist " Mean Buying More Shoes?!

When I'm not barefoot these days, I'm usually either wearing my VFFs or my red suede Vivo Barefoots, which have an "ultra thin puncture resistant sole" to mimic barefoot walking.They've been very comfortable, and easy to walk in when I'm specifically trying to walk with a neutral arch. The only problem is that neither of these will work for professional events, and wearing heels right now can get rather painful in a very short time.  But guess what I just found on the Vivo Barefoot site?! They're selling boots! I've always wanted a pair of boots but have never been able to justify the cost. But these boots would be both good for my feet and would be potentially suitable for getting dressed up during the winter months. Or would they? They might look too casual since they have no heel. Hmm. I'm not likely to run out and grab them right away, but well, let's just say I'm keeping my eye on them.

We just got back from our first time cycling the full loop around Lake WA - 58 miles in just under 4 hours. It was a good ride and the ankle didn't bother me at all. So whatever happened last weekend (fortunately) seems to have been something of a fluke. It did hurt for a few minutes after I got off the bike, but that has happened after several of our long rides. Glad that was it, though. It was a beautiful, crisp sunny fall day, and the ride felt great!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chalking it Up to a Healing Blister

1.0 mi BF (Wedgwood)
I was only able to do a mile again today before the ankle started hurting, but now I have a theory as to why. The other night, the skin on one of my blisters/callouses came off while I was 'sanding' down some of the extra callousy bits on my feet (just to clean 'em up a little -- goodness knows I'm happy to have the callouses!). No biggy, it had been there for days so it was plenty healed up underneath, but the new skin is still just that, new skin. So a little tender. And this little spot (if you look back at the photo of my feet from last week) is just under my pinky toe on my right foot. (The one on the other foot never actually blistered, just calloused right up.) So I think the issue yesterday at Green Lake, made more noticeable this morning when running on my rougher neighborhood streets, is that my foot was trying to avoid putting pressure on that still tender skin toward outside of my foot, thus leaving me running more on the inside of my foot. Which is precisely the movement that causes me pain, and thus precisely the movement I've been trying to avoid with all these arch strengthening exercises and such.

I came up with the theory when I had shoes and socks on this afternoon and found that my foot felt much better than it had earlier in the day. Having that tender area protected made me realize just how much it had been aggravating me and affecting my gait earlier. I was going to test my theory by going for a run in the VFFs, which would protect that skin, but since we're planning a long bike ride tomorrow, I figure instead I'll just take the rest of today and tomorrow to let that skin heal. I'll see how it is on Monday before deciding whether to go BF again or take a day with the VFF's.

Friday, September 25, 2009

10th Barefoot Run - One Step Back

0.8 mi. BF (Green Lake)
After a week of more-consistent-than-some-weeks strengthening exercises, productive chiropractic visits (my tight lower back is feeling considerably better than it has for three weeks), and short runs, things seemed to be moving along well this week. But today my heel was noticeably on the sore side. As I headed out to Green Lake, my foot was feeling like it had just finished a run even though I was just getting started.  Just over a quarter mile in, the ankle was pretty uncomfortable, and by 0.8 miles it was downright painful. That was going to be it for the day.

Since I ended up walking back to the car, I took the opportunity to do some work on my soles by walking on the (pebbly!!) dirt path. Ouch! Yep, that definitely had me treading more slowly and gingerly. Eventually I opted for the grass. Reminding myself to focus on what I can do rather than on what I can't, I headed to the gym to get some weight training in. Perhaps the ankle was still a little pooped from the 34 mi. Red Hook ride we went on yesterday (though fortunately it didn't bother me during that ride like it did last week)? Who knows. Even with this not-so-great outing, I still feel good about how this barefooting business is going.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Giving the Soles a Day Off

3 mi. VFFs (Green Lake) - Wanted to do a short run again, but the soles weren't ready for it a second day in a row. This was a bit of a faster run (as they always are with Jennie pacing me!). The ankle ended up tired, but not painful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's a Stone? It's a Twig? No, It's a Callous!

3.2 mi. BF (Green Lake).
I run Green Lake a lot less often these days than I once did, but I think that's about to change. What a smooth run for barefooting! I made it all the way around and back to my car without my soles screaming. I kept feeling like I was stepping on a pebble under my left foot, though, and kept trying to wipe it away. I finally realized that what I was feeling was a developing callous! I think there's one spot that's still just a little tender, so it feels like something's poking me when it's not. I ran on the grass for a short stint, but stuck mostly to the path. This was easily my best run in weeks, and boy am I grateful for it.
Surface: Super smooth asphalt, so much nicer than Wedgwood sidewalks!
Ankle: Definitely fatigued, but not that painful twinge this time.
Time: 9:40/mi average (considerably faster than my first barefoot attempts of 11:30/mi), with one mile in the middle at 9:01 (which is a good pace for me no matter what's on my feet!).

Oh, and I finally made it into see my chiropractor (Dr. David Weber) yesterday. He adjusted not only my tight lower back, but also my jammed up ankle. That was new.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2.2 BF + 37 mi. on the Bike

2.2 mi. BF (Wedgwood). I stopped because the ankle started to twinge, not the soles (though my soles were happy enough to stop). I was surprised to find a slight bruise in the middle of the arch of my left foot - guess I must've hit a small pebble just right. It doesn't hurt at all -- and since it's in the arch, there's no pressure on it when I walk. Interesting....

Later in the day I followed this up with a 37 mile bike ride - and faced yet another new challenge. That ankle twingy thing kicked in while I was riding. I've had it happen very briefly, in the first couple of minutes upon returning home from a few long rides, but it's never been an issue while riding. (It's that sharp pain you get when you feel like your ankle really wants to pop but won't). This time it started about 30 min. into the ride, and was with me for the next 2 hours. I am not a fan. I'll be checking in with my sports medicine doctor and/or chiropractor very soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Week 2 Barefoot

Sept. 18

1.8 mi. BF (Wedgwood)
Could've gone longer, but I had an appointment to get to. Besides, I'm happy to let that blistered area heal a bit more.

Sept. 15

1.75 mi. BF (Burke Gilman Trail)
Ah, the Burke feels like Heaven compared to the sidewalks around my house! The blisters were fine since I took a few days off to heal them, but the skin around them was still a bit tender by the time I finished. I stopped because the ankle was hurting, not the soles.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week 1 Barefoot

Sept. 12
1.5 mi. BF (Wedgwood) I figured out that the sidewalks by the church are smoother than everywhere else, so I included a few loops around that block. I had planned to try 2 mi., but this time had to stop because of the ankle pain, not because of my soles. However, when I got inside, it turns out I was developing a really decent blister on the ball of my right foot by my little toe. So it's probably a good thing the ankle made me stop.

Sept. 11
1 mi. BF (Wedgwood), but felt I could've run a little more. Soles were not an issue right after the run, but were tender a little later. I'm shocked at how much farther I was able to go than just two days ago!

Sept 10
0.7 mi. BF (Wedgwood)

Sept. 9
0.5 mi. barefoot in Wedgwood (tough, tough sidewalks/streets). Soles were stinging and continued to sting for the rest of the afternoon!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Ache, New Adaptations

I've been running in the VFFs (mostly, though some in the Asics) for the past two weeks, and I've got a new issue cropping up: Ankle pain that runs from the bottom front of my inner ankle (still on the right foot that was diagnosed with PF, of course) up to my mid calf -- but primarily with the pain right around the ankle bone. It seems to crop up right at about mile 3.5 or 4 and is painful enough that I have to stop running almost immediately or else find myself hobbling up the street to get back home.

A little research suggests that I might be having an issue with my posterior tibial tendon (Dr. Google not being a real doctor and all, I'm totally self-diagnosing here). This seems to be an issue that can be caused by weak arches, and since I overpronate slightly and have been wearing arch supports (aka arch weakeners) for years, it's no surprise at all that my arches might need some help.

Full-time barefoot runners ( say that you should only run as far as you can run barefoot. Since I'm currently experiencing pain at about the 3.5 mile mark (in the VFFs, not totally barefoot), I'm guessing that means that that's as strong as my arches currently are, and that I need to continue the strengthening/stretching that I've been doing, as well as the short-distance minimalist running to keep working my feet, calves, and ankles (my right ankle has been extremely stiff ever since this PFF business started). One interesting site that suggests that you can strengthen your arches by practicing standing and walking with your arches in neutral position. Sure enough, if I stand with my arches in a neutral position for about 10 minutes, the muscles all up the outside of my legs, and other muscles in my feet and ankles get surprisingly tired! They clearly aren't used to having to work so much to keep my arch strong, but by gosh they are going to learn! I also read that balancing on one foot with your eye closed is a good arch strengthener. Fortunately, I've been doing these all summer. And sure enough, it's amazing at all the muscles and bits that engage in the foot/ankle/leg doing this!

Square One? Naked Feet
In addition to adding more focus on standing and walking with a neutral arch, I'm thinking of taking this barefoot thing from the other direction. Full-time barefooters argue that you shouldn't transition down from shod running, but should rather go the other direction. Get rid of the shoes entirely and start running barefoot, and build up distance and pace as your body allows, aka as your body learns to run softly and strengthens the parts that need strengthening. If that means that either your skin or muscles or whatever can only handle 1/4 mile at first, well, then you should only be running 1/4 mile. This seems untenable for a runner used to running long distances. But guess what. News flash. I'm not running long distances these days. So do I really have anything to lose by starting uber-slow, if it ultimately means healing well, and eventually getting to a place where I'm running injury-free well into the future?

I have to admit that I'm not planning on being a full-on naked barefoot marathoner, but I am pretty much thinking that the VFFs are my new forever running shoe. So building back up some distance by barefooting, and then using the VFFs only after the barefooting has done its work, may be the way I go for a while. Tomorrow morning I'm going for a barefoot run, first thing in the morning. It shouldn't take long as I don’t expect I'll get very far (the sidewalks around here are super rough). If something hurts, I'll stop. Maybe I'll try that for a week or so and see how it goes.