Friday, December 11, 2009

Why I run barefoot/primal (minimalist)

Photo: Catamount waterfalls at the Hondo bridge.

A good friend asked me why I run in primal mocs and barefoot when I can (which isn't often, as I need it 60 degrees or warmer, live at 8,000 feet and run in the pre-dawn to early morning). Also, I sometimes get comments from people who see what I'm running in like "How can you RUN in THOSE?" Interestingly, I can only run because of them. Here's why:

I have constant neurological vertigo, which offers me two axes of motion simultaneously, all the time, without exception. As a result, my brain has no idea which way up is. The only way to compensate for it is to "fly by instrument" -- like a plane on a foggy night. So I use two heavy walking sticks which help tell my brain which way up is (yup, I run with them).

Going barefoot, or as close to it as I can get, helps in several ways:
Feet are "awake" (instead of asleep inside padded cells, er shoes), and thus provide a lot more usable information about where I have relative to the ground and gravity.
Most of these messages don't travel to my brain, muttling it's already limited capacity with an overload of   information to process. Instead, most of the feed back from my feet travels directly to the muscles of my feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hamstrings, glutes, back, and elsewhere triggering reflex responses to keep me upright. My brain doesn't have to know which way up is, because my feet and muscles are smarter than it when it comes to gravity.
Previously, when I could only walk, I lumbered along, intentionally falling from step to step, stick to stick. Yeah, I got good, and could hike for miles, but it exhausted me and my brain. Now, because reflexes mostly handle the positional awareness, my brain is ironically doing less work even though I'm running and accomplishing more.
Barefoot technique, in short is travel as tall and upright as possible while making as little sound as possible. Why? Because upright we're more efficient, an the less sound we make the more gently we are touching the ground and the more efficient each step is. There's a lot more to it (like short quick steps on the fore or mid-foot, no heel strikes, rapid cadence (180-230 steps/ min.). The end result is that running barefoot style energized my mind, body and soul, vs, walking the old way which took a toll on me. No longer are my back and shoulders all knotted up from lumbering about on my sticks. Yes, I still use them, but they are more to give my upper body gravity reference than the legs of Frankenstein's monster. Grin.

Plus 6.2 miles
Total milage: 271.8

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