DIARY: Cross-Training and barefooting

I have been quiet on the blog of late by my own standards, life being in one of those busy phases were most days feel like a chase of my own shadow. Today is another such as I depart for a wedding in Wexford, but thought I’d post a brief update on how I have tried to keep fit for the Lakeland 50 Miler in fifteen days time on a menu of mainly short barefoot runs and cross-training.


Let’s start with the barefooting, after digesting “Barefoot Running – Step by Step”, “Natural Running”, and “Barefoot Running – How to Run light and free”, I felt I had the academic expertise to get started. After watching Lee Saxby’s videos on VivoBarefoot and exercises on Pilates Running , the final pieces fell into place and I embarked on my journey. As a coach I need to get everything exactly right before showing it to others, so Aoife and I will travel to London in late September to have a one-to-one session with Pilates Running owner Antony Riddle.

Antony’s teachings were the most important to me as they deal with the “Hierarchy of Movement” e.g. if you fix people’s posture you can fix the way they walk and then you fix the way they run. He also impressed me with his theories that unnatural weight training exercises ingrains detrimental movement patterns into you body that you take with you into sport. To combat what he calls the “infection of bodybuilding” into boxing, Antony runs a 50-60s style boxing gym as well.

My barefoot running usually consists of 2-3km warmup and cooldown in flat shoes (such as my newly purchased Inov-8 Road-X Lite 155) followed by 1.6-2km of barefoot running on the flat concrete path at the Glendalough Upper Lake. This is a good transition surface to break down the footpads and bones just enough to stimulate them growing back quicker. As instructed in all barefoot books, I leave a full days rest between any such session.

To supplement I walk in the gravel outside my house every morning and do some “Cerutty-style” sprints up the tiny grassy outside the kitchen with a focus on high cadence and high knee lift. I also do no longer wear shoes, at all, unless I am at the office or in a public place. I’ve caused a few weird glances already walking to the Starbucks in Sandyford in my bare feet.

A few observations: Lower leg soreness clears much quicker than when wearing shoes, my foot flexibility and hardiness has improved measurably, I can pick up golfballs with ease now with my feet, and I no longer get cold feet. The latter was a terrible problem for me, so much I thought I had bad circulation. Michael Sandler explains in his book that this is due to the body diverting bloodflow to your feet for building new bone, fat and other material to turn the foot into a “living shoe”. It stands to reason that this additional bloodflow is exactly what you want with lower leg injuries especially in tendons where blood supply is the major impediment to speedy recovery.

If I can establish a safe methodology for transition, I will aim to help other runners make this transition as well. The improvement on my achilles in the three weeks of barefooting versus the four weeks of wearing shoes just demonstrates the problem: If you had a broken hand would you keep it in a cast and expect it to return to its normal function?


I have also been helped by a very varied program of functional strength training, let me share how it has looked over the last few weeks:

  • YESTERDAY: Race Walking (8 minutes) and Yoga – 90 minutes
  • THURSDAY: Mixed running (normal, barefoot, strides and drills) – 50 min
  • WEDNESDAY: Barefoot Running – 33 minutes
  • TUESDAY: Core Synergistics
  • MONDAY: Rest


  • SUNDAY: MT. Leinster race and Yoga Stretch 1 Hour
  • SATURDAY: Barefoot Running – 20 minutes
  • FRIDAY: Easy running – 17 minutes and Legs and Back resistance 60 min and Core 15 minutes
  • THURSDAY: Yoga 15 minutes (morning) and Yoga (65 minutes) evening
  • WEDNESDAY: Core (15 minutes) and Arms and Shoulders (60 minutes)
  • TUESDAY: Race walking (15 minutes) and Cardio (60 minutes)
  • MONDAY: Barefoot Hill Walk (69 minutes)


  • SUNDAY: Core (15 minutes), Race Walking (15 minutes), Hill Walk (30 minutes) and Barefoot up/down sprints (20 minutes)
  • SATURDAY: Back and Biceps (60 minutes)
  • FRIDAY: Race Walking (15 minutes) and Kenpo (60 minutes)
  • THURSDAY: Core (15 minutes) and Core Synergistics (60 minutes)
  • WEDNESDAY: Yoga (50 minutes)
  • TUESDAY: Yoga (40 minutes)
  • MONDAY: Rest


  • SUNDAY: Strawberry Half-Marathon
  • WEDNESDAY: Cardio (40 minutes), Core (15 minutes) and Legs and Back (30 minutes)
  • TUESDAY: Core Synergistics (60 minutes)
  • BEFORE: Weeks of depressed exercise-less moping…