TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW KICKS

They say you can’t teach an old dog new kicks.  Well, it’s been a couple of weeks and my return from injury / conversion to minimalist running and things are going swimmingly.  However, all that you have heard about making the decision to changing to running minimalism is true.  There is definitely a learning curve but it is rewarding.  My six week layoff coupled with the change in running philosophy has forced me to begin almost at ground zero.  I still have a nice foundation as a runner but my endurance and speed just is not there yet.  But all it takes is time.

Where do I start with my last two weeks of running?  How about my new footwear?  This isn’t a full report on the Lunas but so far I am impressed.  It is not as different as I expected but at the same time it is.  It’s complicated.  Running is still as natural as ever but, at the same time, my stride is changed as I am now forced to land slightly differently.  I am noticing that my fore foot/toes land first but microseconds later the rest of my foot is on the ground…then I am up faster than before.  I don’t know too much about turnover but it does seem like I have more turnover now.  I can definitely feel that I am engaging different muscles in my calves, ankles, and feet.  Days after runs usually begin with soreness that shakes out after 15 minutes as I build the lower part of my legs and feet back up to snuff.  Fortunately, I have spent the last 15 months running in Kinvaras which only have a 4mm drop so the conversion to zero drop isn’t horrible and my Achilles haven’t been acting up.  I have been straining my calves but that seems to be dissipating  as I get stronger.  It has not been a seamless transition but it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I was afraid it would be.

Now, the other main difference is ground feel.  I know run with less than a half inch of rubber between my feet and the ground.  I feel the earth more so than ever and find that my toes are constantly flexing and grabbing on uneven ground…and it is really cool.  I am beginning to understand  the minimalist/barefoot fascination with having as little as possible between your feet and the ground.  It is a much more organic experience.

Where do I stand on the minimalist experience so far?  I am enjoying my foray into minimalism.  Philosophically, I like it for a number of reasons.  I enjoy the feel of being a bit more natural in my running experience.  The feel of the ground under my feet and the wind on my toes is fantastic…just like when you are a kid and realizing you have speed to play with on the fields.  I also like the idea of being less tied to the ultra pricey running shoe industry.  I know that my Lunas were not free but I also know that, being just a piece of rubber, I can basically run them until they fall off of my feet.  I plan on finding out how many miles I can put on them.  I am also enjoying the fact that I am becoming stronger.  I have read numerous times that a lot of college running coaches like their athletes to do barefoot days every week to concentrate on form and strengthening.  I totally get that now.  Even if you don’t have any interest in going minimalist, I would recommend barefoot or minimalist days too. 

On to the comeback trail.  I have heeded the warnings and have been taking it slowly.  In the past couple of weeks I have gone for six runs totaling a whopping 22+ miles.  I went for my first “long” run last night…and let me tell you, five miles has never felt so much like an ultra before…ok…I exaggerate – it was not that tough.  I took last night’s run nice and slow.  It was great.  I can slowly feel the endurance coming back into the equation…now I just need the speed to come back along and I will be in good shape.  My pace has been anywhere between the 7.5 min. mile mark and the 9+ min. mile mark.  I am still a good way off from racing condition but the pace will drop as the days go on.

I hope all is well out there in the world of running for everyone.  Run free and strong, my friends.

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