As most of you know by now, the old coach is blessed by living on the shores of Lake Ontario (one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water) in Port Credit, Canada. Of course, most of you also know that the old coach is somewhat ‘different’ in his approach to safe, injury-free running – not the least of which is running barefoot during most of the year in all weather conditions.
What most of you may NOT know is that I also swim in Lake Ontario after each of my 5:30 a.m. runs – for a few minutes from April or May till November (with water temperatures between 12 and 20 degrees Celsius) and not more than 1 minute in the winter months (with water temperatures between 0 and 8 degrees Celsius) ASSUMING there is NO ice on the bay. In cases like that, I simply soak my feet up to mid calf for up to 1 minute only. This is with NO wet suit – I don’t even OWN one of those!You might ask “why in God’s name would the old coach do something as crazy as THAT?” I would comment “that’s a VERY good question”. As near as I can determine, the reasons are numerous and make perfect sense – for ANYONE wishing to stay illness-free, stimulated physically and mentally and activated proprioceptively from the feet up. The last reason is critically important as it applies to running barefoot without injury. Please note the following:
- physiologically, I know the rush of ultra-cold water immediately shuts down the blood flow to the extremities to protect the core of the body from shock
- I also know that gradually easing into the cold water allows the heart and lung systems to adapt, thus eliminating the risk of sudden infarct (assuming you have no cardiovascular problems)
- the body automatically protects itself from the extreme cold via the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) response to opening of capillaries for improved blood flow
Once I exit the water, my body goes through the following changes:
- a sudden rush of blood from my heart to my extremities
- a general warming up of my WHOLE body to the point where I shed my running gear to dry off with NO feeling of cold
- the immediate elimination of any soreness, tightness and micro muscle tears from my running and training – a direct result of increased healing white blood cell counts to my extremities
- an increase in testosterone with a decrease in cortisol which basically means a dramatic uplifting of positive emotional and mental health that carries through my day
Of course, I also take advantage of running in ultra cold water whenever possible. This helps cool down my feet, keep me more balanced and lock in my quick, light foot cadence (the Squat-Scoot) as protection against the dangers of gravity.Finally, I encourage my running clients to run in water whenever possible for the reasons listed above.
I never get sick nor injured…and THAT is not a coincidence. For as long as humans have been on the planet, we have known about the benefits of immersing oneself in cold water REGULARLY. It’s just that in today’s world, most of us have become too used to falsely PROTECTING our bodies instead of ACTIVELY stimulating them. Thus, the dirth of barefoot runners and regular cold water ‘dippers’.
After reading this, MAYBE a few of you will experiment with both cold water immersion AND barefoot running as ways to keep you active, injury-free and stimulated at all levels!