Friday, November 30, 2012

Love It Hate It

Speed Work.

Speed work and I have a love hate relationship.

Today was my first speed work in a month and a half, and I remembered today  just how hard it is to run a half mile as fast as you can. During each fast interval I was spontaneously creating reasons why I shouldn't do the other fast intervals.

I did do them all though. I muscled through it. I kept turning my legs over, and kept redirecting my thoughts to a positive way of thinking.

So I thought I would share some of the things that keep me going when there is a part of my brain telling me to slow down and take it easy.

I want to get faster.
In my world I almost never have to push to myself to my limits, so I must choose to do so.
I want to increase my heart health so my daughter will have a daddy longer.
-------------so my wife will have a husband longer.
------------------so my stepkids will have a stepdad longer.
If I want to inspire other people to do something about their health I have to set the example.

How about you, what keeps you going? Comment below.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is Too Much Exercise Bad For Your Heart?

Since the death of ultrarunner Micah True, there has been a good bit of news making the rounds debating on how much exercise is too much exercise. Some have said that more than 25 miles of running per week is too much. Others have said that more exercise is always better. Still others are still sitting on the couch and using these headlines as an excuse to not get up and exercise.

The full formula on what is too much is probably very complicated. It is probably different for every person, and probably different for a person at different stages of his or her life.

My two cents: Get up and exercise, chronic over exercise might be bad for the heart, however a sedentary lifestyle is bad for health.

If you are worried about the health effects of over exercising, don't run 5 marathons a year, but do run for fitness and fun. If you are running less than 20 miles per week, you have nothing to worry about. If you spend 8 hours per day sitting, you have a lot to worry about.

Meanwhile, I will leave the search for the facts on this issue to the exercise scientists and cardiologists while I train for my trail half marathon and olympic triathlon next year.

How about you? Do you plan to change your training based on these reports? Comment below.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why I Run In "Barefoot" Shoes

First, I'll say it again. I am very disappointed that the phrase "barefoot shoes" has caught on. Barefoot means roughly "not wearing shoes" so barefoot shoes would be the shoes one wears when not wearing shoes.

I guess I need to get over it.

This line of thinking got back in my head after talking to a few different runners who don't think minimal shoes are good for running. I tend to discuss this subject mostly with other people who run either barefoot or nearly barefoot, so I forget how weird it still seems to others.

I never intended to join the barefoot/minimalist running craze. In fact I didn't even know there was one when I got my first pair of VFFs. As I was checking out with my Bikilas, someone else in the store asked me, "So do you do barefoot running?" I was confused. How could my purchase of a pair of shoes lead someone to think I'd be running barefoot? He quickly followed his first question with, "What do you expect to accomplish in shoes like that?" I was still confused, I was very new to running and had not been indoctrinated into believing that I needed shoes with a medial post, or that running in traditional running shoes would cause me to go blind from too much heel striking. I just knew that when I ran in the shoes I was running in it felt bad, and running in these shoes felt good.

Looking back on it a year and half later I can say this.

With no running training whatsoever, I was a sloppy runner. The less shoe I wear, the less sloppy my running. The less sloppy my running the less I hurt. The less I hurt the more I run. That is why I wear weird looking toe shoes, moccasins, and sandals to run.

And here is the evidence.

Me running in shoes.

Me running in much less shoe.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Slowest 5K Ever Was Also My Personal Best

Wife and daughter during the first lap.
Thanksgiving Day 2012 I woke up my just-turned-five daughter, fixed her breakfast and asked her if she was excited about her first 5K race coming up that day. The Great Turkey 5K in Bowling Green 2010 was my first, and now she wanted to run a 5K. She had run several half mile races and a single full mile race, but had never run even two miles before.

Once she got her bib, she was so excited she couldn't stop bouncing until the race started. She ran and laughed and ran backwards. Her mother and I jogged next to her, grinning ear to ear. She wound up running about a mile and a half before she settled into a walk. At about 1 and 3/4 miles she was convinced she couldn't go any further. She kept going (with coaxing, encouraging, and bribing from her Daddy (including sport jelly beans) she made it to two miles. I ran ahead to get the jogging stroller and ran her to mile three where she got out of the stroller and ran to the finish finishing in around 50 minutes.

Still running, still smiling.

If I were running by myself, I could have watched an episode of "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" on Netflix, then started running and I would have finished faster. The idea for this race though, was not for me to race, but for my little girl to get to try her hand at a 5K.

Seeing her smile and sprint to the finish line is what it was all about.

I also got a bonus experience at this race.

Feeling totally done at mile two.

I have often noted that the people that I find the most inspirational at these events are not the people at the front of the pack, not the guys who finish in around 16 minutes, but the people who struggle to finish at all. The people who get out there and put the same percentage effort I put in to a race except they do it for twice as long are the ones that make me excited about fitness. To see those ladies and gentlemen coming to the finish line of their first 5K to see them reaping the rewards of a fitness program they recently started, that is what makes me want to jump up and cheer.

Thanks to my darling little girl I got to run with those guys and girls that morning.

Keep putting one foot in front of another everybody.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Disciplined Mind In A Disciplined Body

I did not want to go for my run that morning. Thanksgiving was just a week away and the sky was black as coal with tiny diamonds sparkling throughout and a rosy scarf on the horizon. In the light of the moon I could see the frost on the grass sparkling like a sugar cookie on Christmas morning. My alarm had rudely prodded me out of bed only thirty minutes earlier and I was just not in the mood to go out in the cold and exert myself. It was only a short run, like routine maintenance, but I did not want to go.

I was not in the mood to smile and think happy thoughts. The accumulated stress over the last few years was taking a toll, my wife had gone back to school, I was juggling part time jobs and caring for our young daughter, she was juggling school and caring for our daughter. She got her first teacher job and the schedule got worse. Now, five days a week she leaves before seven and returns some eleven to thirteen hours later. The bills had piled up, but finally we had enough income to slowly start digging out of the hole we were in. I was, however, stressed and did not feel like being positive.

I got out of bed even though I didn't want to. I put on my layers and my leather Runamoc Dash running shoes. I put on my balaclava, strapped on my Princeton Tec headlamp and headed out into the cold. Even though I did not feel like doing it, I knew the importance of it. The exercise would improve my body and give me a chance to clear my mind. Routine maintenance is important.

I put on a smile even though I didn't want to. I made a conscious choice about my thoughts instead of letting them drive themselves. I directed my thoughts instead of allowing them to progress into a downward spiral. I knew the importance of it. This exercise would improve my mind and keep me out of the ruts I sometimes find myself in.

I run, I exercise, I train kung fu because without it, my body will atrophy and decay and become gradually more and more useless. I train to stay strong and healthy so my body can withstand more of what the world throws at it.

I discipline my thinking because without it, my thinking will deteriorate into stress and depression. I train to stay strong and healthy so my mind and spirit can withstand more of what the world throws at it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Homemade Huaraches

The real beauty of huarache sandals is how easy and inexpensive they are to make. I have now made three pairs of homemade huaraches, and spent a total of twelve dollars in the process. One pair was for me, one for my wife, and one for my five year old daughter for her birthday.

Golf Cart Tire Huaraches
 The first two pairs I made, for my wife and myself, were made from a discarded golf cart tire. It had been heavily worn and had lost a lot of its thickness, so I took it home, traced my feet and my wife's feet on it, cut it with a utility knife and had my huarache soles. Putting the holes in it was a challenge. This rubber is dense and tough. Using a hole punch and hammer was like trying to wreck a building by throwing socks at it. So I got my drill and drilled the holes. I bought a camping clothesline and used if for the string.

Golf Cart Huaraches On
My Foot
You can see in the picture when these are not on my foot, they curve up like, well, like golf cart tires, but when they are on my feet they conform pretty well, and the "toe spring" keeps them from snagging when I step over obstacles.

I recently bought some Xero Shoes Huaraches, and I have to admit they are more comfortable, lighter, and have better ground feel than my homemade huaraches. When I got them, my daughter watched me putting them together and asked if she could have a pair of huaraches. My little girl has an artistic streak and a DIY attitude, so for her birthday I bought a couple of leather scrap kits, one tough, hard leather bag, and one suede scrap bag. I was able to piece together enough scraps to make her two pairs of huaraches. We finished the first pair up today.

Gluing the footbed to the sole.
To have a kit ready to surprise her with for her birthday, I traced her Soft Star Shoes and cut out a tough leather sole and a suede footbed for each foot. On her birthday morning I presented her with her pieces, wrapped in leather cord for the ties. She wanted to get right on it, so we got out our multipurpose arts and crafts work surface, (pizza box) and glued the footbeds to the soles.

55 pounds and a book make a
 great press.

I don't have any clamps, so to press them while they dried, I used what I had handy.
 Once the glue was dry, we punched holes.
Hammer Time!

 We strung the laces and tied them on.
 My girl, her girl, and her-aches.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Running In Xero Shoes Huaraches

Xero Shoes now come in FIVE colors -- Cool Black, Mocha Earth, Electric Mint, Boulder Sky, and Hot SalmonThanks to Kentucky's version of November weather, (sometimes below freezing, sometimes above 70F) I've been able to put some miles on my new Xero Shoes huarache running sandals. It was a rather different shoe buying experience. Like most shoes there are colors to choose from, but with the Xero Shoes you also have the option of sending them a tracing of your foot and letting them finish your sandals or getting the kit and doing it yourself. I chose to do it myself. The final decision I had to make was whether to get the 6mm contact sole or the 4mm connect sole. I chose 6mm and am glad I did. Even at 6mm these huaraches have better groundfeel than my VFF Bikilas, VFF Treksports, or my SoftStar Runamoc Dash with 5mm sole. In short, these are the most barefoot soles of any of my running shoes.

The Kit

The kit came in a flat little package, it included the soles, two strings, a hole punch tool, and a pamphlet with the basics of how to put them together. I had been all over the videos on the Xero Shoes website so I was pretty confident on putting the shoes together myself, it took me about 15 minutes to complete them.

Tying and Running

I'm putting tying and running together because I feel that they are pretty inseperable with this type of shoe. There are lots of options on how one could tie huaraches. There are several video tutorials at the Xero Shoes website, some by the makers, some by users. I reccomend trying several different methods out to see what you like best. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses and every foot is different.

Running in huaraches is different. Modern running shoes are often designed to cushion, protect, and coddle the feet. Huaraches are not. They are designed to put a piece of material between your foot and the ground to protect the foot from abrasion and pointy things. Modern running shoes will protect your foot from bad running form with padding, cushioning, and other features, huaraches will tattle on your running form like a 3 year old at preschool. This to me is the number one reason to run in them.

If you push off (toe off) too much, the string around your ankle will tighten and let you know what you are doing, if on footstrike your foot is skidding into place instead of setting down, the string between the toes will press in and tell on you. If you have an odd twist to your foot like I do (did?) The strings around the sides of the feet will tell on you.

This next sentence is why I really love my Xero Shoes.
When I wear my Xeroes, I don't make as many running form mistakes because I get instant feedback from my shoes when I do.

My Xero Shoes are becoming a coaching tool, and I believe that my running form is improving and becoming more efficient from running in them. It isn't automatic, they don't magically fix the problems with running form, they just let me know there is a problem. I have to listen. I don't care if your coach is Alberto Salazar, if you don't listen to what he is saying, you won't benefit. This is a mistake some "barefoot runners" have made. They throw on a minimal shoe, call themselves barefoot, and keep running as they always have. It is vitally important when going minimal or barefoot to listen to your body's feedback.

Customer Service

I have to mention the customer service from Xero Shoes. No other shoe that I've ever had did I get free advice about my blog from the CEO of the shoe company, and only one other shoe company has been as hands on with recommendations and advice about their shoes. Steven Sashen has made all sorts of resources available on the Xero Shoes website, on the user forums, on his blog, through emails, and even over the phone. Absolute above and beyond customer service.

In Short

Quick summary:

Xero Shoes
Even the thicker 6mm version has better ground feel than the VFF Bikila.
Has the most breathable upper of any running shoe I've ever seen. (The upper is a string so. . .)
When my form is good, and the laces are dialed in correctly, I almost forget I have shoes on.
When my form is bad, I hear about it immediately.

Even if you are not a minimal, or barefoot running person, I recommend getting a pair and doing occasional short form training sessions in them. They are a lot more affordable than a high speed camera and professional coach.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Time To Take Charge

It seems that I have become a little off center lately, so it is time to do something about it. I've been good about my fitness, I run, I bike, I swing kettlebells, I do Hung Gar, but all that falls under physical fitness. I've been neglecting the other aspects of my health. I have not been taking time to train and maintain my mental, emotional, spiritual, and community fitness. 

So it is time to take charge.

How do I plan on going about this?

I will take inspiration from how I train my body. I know how to get up and go for a run even if I don't feel like doing it, so I will take time to read even if I would rather mindlessly cruise google plus. I won't read just anything, I will read things that are helpful to me. Thich Naht Han comes to mind. I will take time to sit quietly and pray/meditate/be. I will get back in the habit of healthy food. I will practice patience. Patience for myself, for those around me, patience in situations that I am powerless over.

I will look for opportunities to do random acts of kindness and to encourage others to do them as well. 

I will start planning community improvement projects.

It is time to take charge.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tattle Tail!!

I've been examining my sole.

Soles actually. I've been studying the wear patterns on the soles of my shoes. I can see the evolution of my running form in the soles of my shoes.

New Balance 622.

I started off by running in the shoes I had. My running form was completely awful. I knew nothing about running and these shoes completely shielded my feet from any feedback I would get from slamming my heels into the ground. They are worn from the outside of the across to the big toe area. My toes stick out to the sides when I walk (duck feet) and when I ran in these shoes I did the same thing. Not only did I heel strike, I also zig-zagged somewhat when running.

Vibram Five Fingers Bikila:  The majority of the wear was on the outside edge of the forefoot, with some minimal wear at the heel, and another large area of the wear on the sides of the toe units.

Wait, what? On the sides of the toes? How does that happen?
after discovering this wear on the sides of the toes and the outside of the heel I started really trying to see what my feet were doing. I was landing on the forefoot, with my duckfootedness still happening, as my heel lowered, my foot would rotate into a forward pointing position causing the sideways wear on my toes and the sideways wear at the heel.

Soft Star Shoes Runamoc Dash:
Running in this shoe overlapped with running in the Bikilas and had a similar wear pattern.

My new Bikilas also feature the sideways wear at the toes, but lack the sideways wear at the heel. I think my foot is coming to the forward position more quickly than before so that by the time the heel lands the rotation is completed.

Time will tell what my new Xero shoes will tell me with their wear pattern, but they are already tattling on me quite a bit. I get feedback faster from them thanks to the construction. There are more details on that here.

What do your wear patterns tell you?