I have always done things differently – especially when it comes to physical training. Even as a kid, I experimented with types of physical conditioning that all of my friends basically thought were ‘weird, out there, one-of-a-kind”. We didn’t really have coaches when I was a kid – nobody ever told me about ‘unique’ ways to train. They simply came into my head and I implemented them. Some worked and some didn’t work. Most of them DID work.
At age 8, I trained for my elementary running and jumping events by filling old socks of my dad’s with rocks and tying them around my ankles. I would then run laps of our school track and do jumping repeats – all in an effort to strengthen my legs. Somehow, I figured out that weighting down my legs would build explosive power and fatigue tolerance to help me generate better results in my school’s competitions. It must have worked – I was the fastest over 60 metres and could out-distance all of my colleagues in the long jump. Before I knew it, some of my friends were weighting down THEIR legs and my competitive advantage disappeared!!!
At age 14, I figured out that by riding piggyback up and down hills, it became rather easy and simple to run strong and fast without tiring on flat, straight surfaces. Thus, I incorporated this into the training routine of the sports teams at my school. These included the football, basketball and rugby teams. It was tough training and my teammates complained initially BUT our teams were always the most physically fit and consistently successful. I never saw any other team train like this.
Beyond this, I always ran barefoot at our cottage over any type of surface with my siblings and cousins. We never gave this a thought – it was a given that NO COFFINS (shoes) would grace our feet from June 28 till September 7. Of course, we never thought of the benefits – no injuries from any type of physical activity, lean, hard, fit bodies that could climb, jump, swim, run and hang for hours on end.I also figured out by running barefoot consistently on any surface, muscle soreness was non-existent. After virtually any run, I would awake the next day, get up and feel absolutely perfect. No fatigue, no discomfort, no injuries, no imbalance…amazing as that reads, it is 100% true. During my Varsity rugby days (ages 19 to 23), I always led the team in drills and training. Implementing backwards running (which, at the time, was NOT part of the standard rugby training protocol) made sense to me at a few levels. First, it made us focus on balance and spatial awareness. Secondly, it strengthened our back, butt and hamstring muscles better than any other drill I could thing of. Only many years later did I also figure out that backwards running activated the Extensor Chain muscles of the body (similar to what the SkiX device accomplishes) – thus improving posture, body centering and decreasing the risk of avoidable running injuries.
Getting back to running barefoot, I have a major problem when our Canadian winters get too harsh – even for me, it’s virtually impossible to run outdoors barefoot (without getting severe frostbite). Thus, I go to my Sockwas with Barefoot Science inserts as option 1my Vibram Five Fingers as option 2and my Skora flex as option 3. They are in the top left corner of the photo below. What I notice whenwearing ANY of these for a run in nasty winter weather, my feet are not nearly as activated. I feel heavier and I run with less confidence. Worse than all of that, I wake up the next morning still, sore and unable to move up and down stairs without grabbing a railing. This NEVER happens when I am able to run barefoot. The flushing out of toxins through my bare feet, the full proprioceptive activation of my body and the light, flicking action of my feet all contribute to NO PAIN during and post-run.
In conclusion, I am led to believe that my penchance for going against the grain, thinking outside the proverbial ‘box’, doing things in physical training that are unique yet effective AND running barefoot keep me healthy, fit and injury free – even as I approach age 64!