Part of my autumn, 2015 training has involved daily ‘dips’ in Lake Ontario (one of the 5 Great Lakes of Canada). We happen to live on the shores of Lake Ontario and have a family cottage on Lake Huron. Thus, I have grown up swimming in some of the coldest fresh water lakes on the planet. It never truly dawned on me the powerful healing properties of the Great lakes – until this fall season. As the air temperature lowered and the lake temperature lowered in kind, I decided to continue my daily early morning (6:30) dunks…just because!
After the 1st of these, I noticed a few things were happening to my body. These included:
1. the rush of blood to my heart and lung system
2. the increase in my breathing rate
3. the total elimination of aches and pains from my body (my dunks are always after a rather strenuous outdoor running workout)
4. the rush of adrenaline upon exiting the lake and drying off
5. the feeling of being alive, alert and ready to take on the day – an instant response
6. the positive mental state no matter what was going on in my life
Beyond this, I started training one of my 140.6 swim, bike, run clients on the rocks of a marsh close to where I live in Port Credit, Ontario, Canada (called Rattray Marsh). Michelle happens to run barefoot and came to me 5 years ago to learn to proper way to do so. She also competes in the Canadian Death Race (in the Rockie Mountains) where running barefoot over rocks, gravel and stone is the norm. I decided to incorporate the following into a typical 1 hour session:
1. doing hill reps running side to side, crossover, forward, weaving, shuffle on an 8% grade of rough, sharp stone, rock and gravel leading into the marsh. This fully activated Michelle’s feet
2. doing reps over a bed of sharp stone mixed with flat slate, focusing on a springing action from the mid-foot
3. running into the marsh, sinking in mud and pulling out quickly to build up fatigue tolerance in the legs
4. running through the bush over logs, tree roots, log bridges and up and down steps to improve balance and reaction time
5. running along the lake over river rock covered in slime to better activate the feet, improve blood flow through the extremities and increase proprioceptive activity from the feet through the rest of the body
6. running into and out of the lake (temperatures of 8 to 12 degrees celsius) over sand, stone, zebra muscle shells and logs) to promote better blood flow and flushing out of bodily toxins
7. backward up and down the far east hill of the marsh over sharp stone and gravel to stimulate the extensor chain group of muscles. These in turn improve posture, balance and decrease the risk of avoidable running injuries
Michelle experienced a total unlocking of her body which in turn helped her swim, bike and run injury-free over tough daily workouts. She also recovered from a minor calf muscle tear (incurred whilst pushing heavy wattage on her bike) after one session in the Marsh – we both attribute the speedy recovery to the healing powers of running barefoot over river rock and stone plus the plunges into the rather cold waters of Lake Ontario. There had been no other form of treatment.
This is not a research study with a sample size of 2. It is simply an Exercise Physiologist training one of his clients and discovering the healing effects of barefoot running on various rough terrain in the waters of a Great Lake. I don’t expect many (or ANY, for that matter) of you to rush out and train like Michelle and me. However, do yourself a favour and go barefoot over the stones and rocks of your backyard or neighbourhood AND walk barefoot through the next puddle of cold water you encounter. Then tell me that you didn’t notice positive energy coursing through your body!