TRAINING: Barefoot intervals

I met Amidou, Jason and club captain Gary this evening for an undefined workout in Marlay Park. Gary look at the three of us and said “you look like a cult”. We looked down and noticed that all three of us were wearing matching VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite shoes. “We’re trying to create one,” I said and then all of us jumped into squats and other drills while Gary went through his own routine.

40s guy?

As we ran around the park to the starting point, Gary commented “you look like one of those guys from the 40s with the way you run and the haircut, René.” A bit later during the session I used some of the “new lingo” I have picked up and noted that “I can feel I haven’t been doing much physical training since May.” “Now you speak like someone from the 40s,” was Gary’s retort and I wondered if this perhaps was not exactly what was our intention? Anyway at least he did not say I looked forty.

I’d long wanted to try and apply a familiar training format to the type of technically-focused training we are doing from Tony’s advice. My idea was to try and do standard intervals but with a focus on good technique and use the rest intervals to do squats and other drills so the body can be “put back in order” in between. This meant that the recovery would have to be long enough that we could get the system relaxed enough again to run each interval consistently without form breaking down. It also meant we couldn’t go “balls out”. We ran easily for 15 minutes over to what i considered “a controlled environment” in the form of a 1km loop on really good tarmac (except for a small section with a bit of tiny pebbles strewn across) with a grass field on the inside.

Sometimes “just do it”

As a coach I think you can think too much about whether a workout will do what you want it to do: sometimes you just have to go do it and see if it works. It’s the only way to know for sure. The boys were up for it but Amidou wanted to take it easy on his big toe and Jason felt he’d done a lot of hard minimalist running so stayed in the Aqua lites. For myself, I put the shoes under a bench at this stage and decided I would stay barefoot as long as the skin on my feet was not too tender.

“Steady relaxed,” I said, “probably around marathon to 10 mile effort.” We all went off with Jason in the lead and the rest of us strung behind. The moment I hit the slightly rougher patch, I needed to assert more conscious control to relax and keep my stride. Ignore the ground, keep the same rhythm. Amidou and I had this conversation just two days previous at the natural movement circuits and he shared his usual astute observations on how the slightest hesitation caused by focusing on what you consider “rough terrain” is part of what makes your stride “collapse”. In this case it was pretty easy and I could run strongly through the end and we all finished together. “3:36”, I said to Jason who had been the rabbit, “that’s pretty decent marathon pace for you”. “Didn’t someone say “about 4:40ish”, said Gary. It was clearly not going to pan out like that.

A hard place for soft feet?

I did two more repetitions in my bare feet and the impact was never a problem, quite the contrary. I felt nice and bouncy. The lads began to finish 3 to 5 seconds ahead of me at this point but to my surprise we were only getting faster with 3:33 and 3:33 for me.

On the fourth, I had begun to feel a slight burn under my right big toe and the tips of both my second toes. This was the perfect time to slip the Aquas back on and do the next repeat in the shoes. As we took off this was clearly the fastest start we’d had and this time I came in a good 5-8 seconds after the rest. Once again we were faster this time with 3:27. Jason and I decided to call it a day and run the next lap easy while Amidou and Gary went for a fifth.

Something for every man to do

I’m very pleased with how this session went. It stayed controlled for everyone, probably just about pushed the boundaries for what we can do in terms of minimalist running. Key now will be to monitor the body tomorrow but apart from a little bit of sore skin, my legs are not sore at all. Running 3000m at just over 17kph in bare feet followed by another 1000m in just about 17.5kph with my Aqua Lites (without insole) is very encouraging. That’s a fair amount of forces to manage, so being able to do this on a hard surface such as this represents another great milestone. So for me personally it was the type of encouraging test that adds a buzz of excitement and enthusiasm to continue working hard to improve. After all, if I can do this, only training and focus would stand between this and doing the same pace for 42.2km on a similar surface in bare feet. Given I’m hardly a physical marvel (quite the opposite if you ask my gym teachers), it really lies within most people’s capabilities if they can get the right advice and coaching.

Going it alone, I doubt I would ever have reached this stage, certainly not 9 months after the journey began.

Cramp cure

My only complaint today was a sore stomach from some rotten water I drank yesterday. I found a sachet of Orbana in the back of my car and mixed it up. One of its unadvertised benefits, at least for me, is that it always cures my stomach cramps, headaches and hangovers. It did not disappoint this time!