Saturday, June 18, 2011

Training on Barefoot Running

For barefoot running neophytes, it is said that in order to achieve the substantial strength needed to endure a trail race, ideally, one must do training for a period of 40 days. But since the Merrell Adventure Run happens in less than two weeks from the time I bought the shoes and because I was already running for quite some time, I thought of slashing my training period to 8 days.

Mistake number 1: Training periods are designed for a good reason. Never do short-cuts.

The following is my 8-day training journal on barefoot running and some mistakes I made that should not be followed and I hope you learn lessons from:


I started my run around 4pm to 5pm and began with my routine stretching exercises. I added more focus on calf and lower-calf extensions, calf flexing, and lunges. My training course is located in the undeveloped area of Filinvest’s Corporate City Complex in Alabang. The road is paved with asphalt and is free from debris.

In order for me to feel and accustom myself with the roughness of the terrain, I first walked for 1.5km on my bare feet -- just an intimate encounter with the road and my soles. However, I don’t suggest this type of warm up if your training course comes with potholes and loose pebbles.

I was too excited to do barefoot running in the right form, I focused a lot on doing away with heel-strike running and tried my best to do middle foot landing. Being new at this, it was like running on tiptoes most of the time and which, I supposed, made me look ridiculous.

The recommended distance for this should be 1 to 3km of brisk walking or short stride running. Since I was pressed for time, I decided to extend my distance to 5km. Once I got the light weight feeling and bounciness, I switched to longer strides.

Shortly after, I felt soreness on my calves which, according to the instructional video, is normal so I just slowed down for just a bit. After a while, the soreness on the calves extended to my lower calves. That was the time I decided to stop and went home.

Mistake number 2: Never overdo warm-ups. This might lead to injury.


I woke up the next day feeling Day 1 was a disaster only to find out that Day 2 would be even worse. I felt like my calves and the rest of my feet were about to explode. It’s like running for the very first time where certain muscle groups were suddenly awakened from long years of dormancy.

To ease the pain, I took pain relievers and analgesics thrice that day. Walking around or even standing for a long period of time became a challenge. Running would further be impossible. I searched in the internet for some quick remedies or some kind of self-management therapy but to no avail. Most of the seasoned barefoot runners were recommending to just wait it out as healing will take time.

A brief review on human anatomy: Muscles are like rubber bands. If certain muscles become unused for a certain period time, they lose their elasticity. When that happens and we decide immediately to do a tedious physical regimen, muscles will tear. That is why it is recommended to have sufficient warm-up and stretching before running.


It’s seven days before the run and I can barely walk. All recommendations I read told me to wait for the muscles to heal. In order to reduce the feeling of immobility, I decided to cross-train and go biking. I started to do gradual stretching three to four times the whole day before I took pain reliever meds.

I did this because I didn’t want to totally block-off the pain while I stretched and to know my limits if movements become too painful. I needed to be reminded that my muscles were still in the healing stage and I didn’t want to tear them again by overdoing the stretches.


Biking is a good cross-training discipline because it involves another group of muscles used for the circular motion as you pedal. Somehow, it isolates the ones which are still recuperating and it doesn’t hurt as much as walking.

I divided my cross-training regimen into three parts. At 8am I biked for 6km and maintained a slow, constant RPM using the middle ring for an easy leisure ride. In the afternoon, I did more gradual stretching with indoor lunges and upper body toning like push-ups and pull-ups. In the evening after work, I repeated my 6km biking regimen again.


The soreness and pains have slowly worn off. A friend of mine suggested I wear the Barefoot shoes again even if I’m not running. To be honest, after the traumatic experience, I felt a little apprehensive of wearing them again just yet. But I knew I needed to conquer this obstacle.

So just again, just to get the feel of the shoes, I wore them while doing about almost everything -- when I biked, as I worked, did my usual chores, bought groceries with my wife, etc.

It worked. After the end of the day, I was at peace with the shoes again.


It’s three days before the run and I felt my preparation was a complete mess. So I decided that this day would comprise my self-assessment depending on the result of my run after 5 days of recuperation.

To bare or not to bare was the day’s question.

I started with a few breathing exercises followed by gradual stretching. I tackled the first km with a leisure walk. After the 1km mark, I stretched again focusing on the calves and lower calves. So far, so good.

And then I ran in small strides focusing on my form while maintaining a consistent slow pace. After 5kms, I felt a solid core. Shortly after, I decided to run some more and raise my game a little higher. After the 10km stretch, I was on top it.


I decided to run again for two reasons:

One, I needed to know if I’m up to endure the steep hills of Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal.

Two, I needed to reserve the last day for rest and for preparation. In the morning, I felt a little soreness on my calves but it was manageable. I was consistent in my daily stretching at home and my morning bike ride. In the afternoon, I ran another 10km and I felt great after.


Today, I rested. I reviewed my training journal for the whole week and, despite the setbacks, it was all good.
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