Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Run fast and lift heavy stuff!

Let's start with the first part of that equation: Run Fast!

I'd like to extol the virtues of one of my favorite simple pleasures... Going Barefoot.

Have you thought that it's a cruel joke for whoever created us to make our main method of locomotion painfully sensitive? I mean think about it, why is it that we are supposed to walk around on our feet but trying to walk barefoot on any surface other than grass or sand can be a painful ordeal.  We weren't born with shoes, so what did we do before they were invented? Here's my personal take on the subject.

It turns out that our feet want to feel the ground. Our feet have a larger concentration nerve receptors than any other part of our bodies. This is supposed to form a sense of "connectedness" with out environment. It is necessary for proper balance, posture and proprioception.

Now the reason our feet have become so sensitive, is because they desperately want to connect with the earth. So they have become hypersensitive after years of being strangled by shoes in an attempt to feel the ground through our sneakers. It turns out that all we have heard about needing cushioning and support is a bunch of BS!

"We have spent four million years perfecting our feet, and the last hundred years destroying them!"

We weren't born in sneakers and no "almighty creator" would make us with the intent of us getting our own damn shoes. We were created perfect just the way we are (too bad modern medicine and diet are killing us). Our feet were designed to carry us on their own without any help. There are numerous studies done to prove this. Take for example some of the more poor indigenous people in Mexico. There are people who make a living everyday running rickshaws in their bare feet. Yet there are extremely low incidences of foot and ankle problems. However, here in North America shoe companies spend millions of dollars a year on developing shoes with more support, more cushion, motion control you name it. Yet the more we invest into shoe technology, it seems that there are greater incidences of ankle, foot and knee problems arising every year. So we buy more expensive shoes but to no avail.

Our feet have a natural arch and musculature that is designed to allow us to walk problem free.  Us wrapping them in shoes is causing these muscles to atrophy. The very muscles that we need to walk are dying from lack of use. This is what is causing so many foot problems in the rich western and European worlds where the latest and greatest sneakers are a fashion statement. Likewise, there are relatively no foot problems in third world countries where shoes are a commodity afforded by few. This is not coincidence.

Now it finally happens that some big shoe companies are finally starting to catch on with the advent of shoes like Nike Frees. New Balance now has a similar model as well. Vivo Barefoots are a great model but my personal favorites are my Vibram Five Fingers. Vibrams look like gloves for your feet so if you choose to get a pair (which I highly recommend) be prepared for lots of confused looks and many questions. I wear my Vibrams for everything. I especially love them for working out. I find that the added balance and coordination that comes from being the feel the world around me to be a great feeling and do wonders for my workouts.

If you are going to give going barefoot a try be prepared for a grand awakening. Start slow, you will need ample time to adjust to using muscles that have never really been used before. But, it won't take long and before you know it your knee and ankle problems may begin to disappear. Mine have. Once you begin to work out in a set of Vibram Five Fingers you may very well never look back.

Barefoot Running

Running barefoot involves a forefoot or midfoot strike. Eliminating heel strike. This is proper running mechanics. it happens instinctively as soon as you remove your shoes and is bio mechanically superior. Take a minute to watch a toddler run around in their barefeet. Nobody ever took the time to teach them to run properly however they instinctively run with their forefoot striking first.

Forefoot striking allows the muscles of the lower extremities to absorb and virtually eliminate the impact from running. This allows your momentum to be carried forward. When running in Spongy soles the heel strikes with the heel up to the pelvis forming a straight line. All your momentum comes to an abrupt halt sending the shock up through your whole body. Wearing absorbent heels does nothing to alleviate this because it turns out that the more padding you put under your feet, the harder your foot strikes the ground. Your feet want to feel the earth beneath them! With shoes on your feet strike with nine times the impact of running barefoot. Just sayin'

As I said before, when transitioning to barefoot running, do it slowly. Your calves are going to be sore. Start small and gradually work your way up. Withing a month you should be able to run up to 5k or more at a time.

Now for the second part of the title equation: Lift heavy Stuff!

Workout for Thursday April 8.

1 rep max for:
Back Squat
Power Clean
Push Jerk

It is a strength only day so warm up as needed. Take as long as you need between max efforts.
I recommend 5,5,3,3,1,1,1. With only enough rest between warm up sets to change plates.

Good luck.
Ain't gravity a bitch?

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