DIARY: A shoe in the works

“I’m not sure I’m ready to run the marathon in bare foot technology,” I told Tony, “can I just use the racers.”

“Well, it’ll just wreck you again mate.” He said, and it proved prophetic.

DSC_0085My running has been relaxed since the marathon and I have focused mainly on catching up with other things. Organising last weeks workshop easily took 30 hours of work into account, so having a period of relative downtime was welcome. Yet, I did notice that my right foot had remained somewhat sore on the three outside metatarsals were they had been squashed by the ASIC DS Racers I wore in the heat. For the last ten miles or so it was like running with my foot in a vice.

Me at Brockagh over the weekend

Tony poked around at the foot during the workshop and looked up at me as I grimaced “you’ve actually got the early stages of a stress fracture, when did you last run a lot?” When I answered I had taken an easy three weeks with just short runs, and some barefoot on tarmac, he suggested I keep it that easy for another two weeks. With example he showed me how my squashed foot would have looked in the ASICS shoe and why it was inevitable that what occurred happened. They are now going into a huge bag of shoes I have in the boot of my car. Some are so new I wanted to give them away. But you don’t give away dangerous equipment, so everything in that bag is now going in the bin.


Preparing to jump into a plyometric push-up. Still room to improve my movement. Plenty in fact!

What’s interesting is that ever since the marathon, I have never considered myself injured and I am actually relaxed and content about everything. I don’t do stupid things like taping up my foot to “relieve pressure on the foot”. The thing is – if I shove inappropriate forces up through my body because of poor technique then it does not matter whether I have taped up a sore area. These forces cannot just dissipate, they’ll just go somewhere else.

I don’t pop anti-inflammatories because I eat pretty well and I don’t have a very inflamed response to begin with. Whatever I do have I welcome because it’s part of the body’s natural healing cycle. It has to be there, I don’t interfere with it.

I don’t stretch the foot because I know that’s the best way to make it tense and I don’t see any specialists to ask what to do. That’s the crux of it – having the exact knowledge of what’s going on and knowing what to do. My routine creates a constant cycle of positive reinforcement for the body whereas putting on a pair of cushioned shoes and using other symptomatic relief to “try and cope” would create a vicious cycle which always leads back to the chronic injury cycle that so many suffer from.

To me that is the ultimate power an athlete can have – to know exactly why things happen and how to correct them.

“There is no transition”

“There is no transition,” was one of the wake-up moments of the weekend. I had heard this before in earlier work with Tony but it was good to have it elaborated on. I won’t, as I’ll wait to give Tony the chance to talk on what will be a controversial topic for many.

What it means for my personally, however, is that I won’t waste more time doing anything half-baked. This was necessary because my marathon was imminent and everything was booked. I’m cancelling my Snowdon ticket although I will still travel to the race as team manager for the Irish development squad.

I could rush back into hill running training over the next weeks and days but it DSC_0042just starts another cycle of half-baked training. Instead my focus will likely be the Dublin marathon and I’ll eschew the hills this year. This is what it means on a personal level for me that there is “no transition”. It’s like what Yoda says in Star Wars: “either do, or do not, there is no try.”

Aoife used to have poor posture running, but is a great example of improvement. I’m a proud coach!

What we tell people in the natural movement workshops is that the first step in a purist approach is to run with perfect running form for sixty minutes in barefoot technology shoes (or bare foot should you wish/be able) and have no ill-effects whatsoever within 72 hours. Then you need to build up to 120 minutes which you need to do the long run in an elite level Lydiard training programme but most people can start a normal training programme once they get to the 60 minute mark.

My aim is now to reach that level of technical expertise by August and then commence aerobic training. Whether I can achieve that is purely down to what I put into it. I have been given the tools, so just need to keep cracking.

Two corrections that worked

Since breaking my chronic injury cycle late last year, I managed my best spell of training and a slew of PBs. How could I do that if my technique still had flaws?

Well, the basic corrections – better posture, better rhythm and relaxation – were enough to allow me to train at 100km plus per week. I want to fix more though as my training aspirations are much higher than that. Another thing that strikes me increasingly clearly is that almost every single runner who is analysed is using the hybrid movement that Tony calls “jogging” (which is basically running with a pendulum motion similar to walking rather than with a quick pulling motion that looks more like you are riding a uni-cycle).

DSC_0029Glorified walkers

An example of “pendulum action” although difficult to see on a still.

Science confirms it, but just looking at a camera recording shows you how ineffective that hybrid motion has to be. So we have people out there running very good times and even winning races doing this. “Glorified walking,” is how I refer to it, and our Western population are getting very good at it. Imagine how good we could be if we actually ran!

Breaking the chronic injury cycle was my first motivation for embracing Tony’s methods. The second was that the evidence presented to me could not be ignored. The third is that my running style is still so poor in many places that monumental gains in performance can be made if I can put my head down and improve it.

The fourth is looking at Bernard Hopkins, a boxer in his late forties with perfect technique, he recently trashed a 26-year old. Other more naturally gifted boxers, but with poorer technique, are shadows of who they used to be. Simply put – technique is the ticket to longevity in sport and an almost ageless ability to perform and remain efficient. As a late starter to the sport, that’s just the ticket I want to buy…