Tag Archives: health

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?  Am I the only one that feels this way?  I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.  I mean… well… think about it.  If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.  And today, mine is.  It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.  The message is loud and clear:  “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

Happy Running!

Wise Running: The Truth About Cramps

I will tell you two truths about cramping up front and then explain them:

  1. Nobody fully understands all of the reasons for exercise induced cramps.
  2. Since we don’t fully understand the causes, we also don’t know of an ultimate solution.

Electrolytes and Cramping

Most people think of electrolytes as the key to avoid cramping.  If you avoid running low on sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes, then you can avoid cramping, right?  Maybe not.

Research trying to establish a correlation between muscle cramps and low levels of electrolytes in the blood of athletes have shown no significant relationship between these two variables.  This makes it highly unlikely that electrolytes are the culprit for the average runner.  Does this mean that I do not believe in the electrolyte tablets that I am taking?  No.  First, these studies are correlational.  The big limitation of correlational research is that it can’t prove that one variable is the cause, or not the cause, of the changes in another variable.  Hence, we need other kinds of more carefully crafted research before we can negate the possibility that my electrolyte tablets are helping me.stretching

On the other hand, I do believe that it is possible that only some of us need the electrolyte supplements.  I have two things that make my electrolytes lower than they should be:  genetics and eating habits.  Genetically, I have ADHD.  As an ADHD person I am aware that I use up electrolytes faster than the non-ADHD population.  Making matters worse, I have never eaten as many vegetables as I was supposed to consume.  I believe these are the best sources of electrolytes.  I think there is a good chance that if I ate more veggies, my need for the supplements would fade.

Beyond Electrolytes

While electrolyte supplements may or may not help, there are are several other theories about why muscle cramping might occur.  Insufficient fuel on a long run (>13 miles) can mean that your muscles simply cannot work properly.  In addition to proper fueling, cramps can be caused by overdoing it.  If your effort in a race is significantly more than you have done in training, your muscles may not be able to handle it.  Finally, short muscles may contribute to your cramping.  Working one side of your legs much harder than the other side for a long time may cause your muscles to become shorter and tighter.  The imbalance between the sides can cause cramping.

My Recommendations

The fact that there may be many causes for muscle cramping means that you should use a balanced approach.

  • Electrolyte Supplements  – I have not given up on my supplements, but the research definitely calls into question whether the average runner needs them.  When I do use them, I use them primarily as a preventative measure.  In doing that, however, I try to use as little as possible.  Experience is the best teacher.  I started with none and then gradually added some when I had issues during or after the workout.  Over time, I began to understand how much I need.  Electrolyte supplements are not cheap; don’t use them if they don’t help you!
  • Salt Tablets or Packets –  Studies have found that if your are experiencing cramps, one way to halt them is consume table salt.  They found that it the effect it has is to stimulate the brain to stop the leg cramping.  It does not stop because of the sodium, just the salty taste is enough.  Salt, therefore is not a preventative measure.  It is used after the cramps occur.
  • Stay within Your Limitations – Operate at the level of intensity for which you have trained.  Going beyond that can push your muscles too far.  They will rebel!
  • Stretch regularly AFTER exercise – Static stretches before exercise can hurt your performance.  Stick with dynamic stretching and warming up before exercise.  Static and dynamic stretches throughout the day after the workout, however, can lengthen and relax the muscles.  That can reduce or eliminate cramping altogether.
  • Hydration – The current recommendation of experts tend to be to drink to thirst.  This literally means let your body tell you how much to drink and when.  Others still recommend 4- to 6 ounces every 20 minutes.  Just as with the electrolyte supplements, you will have to figure out what is best for you.  Pay attention to how your body responds and learn what it needs for optimal performance.

Electrolyte supplement may or may not be helpful, so make sure you try the other recommendations too!  If you do stretch, stop and relax.  I don’t care if you are in a race.  Until you relax, your cramping is unlikely to subside.  When the muscles calm down, gently stretch and move them.  If you must continue after that, do so gently and paying great attention.  It is better to have a slow race time than to have an injury that will slow you down for months.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

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Running 101: Blisters and Chafing

cross country shoesRunning is awesome.  We love running fast and running far.  What we don’t love so much is the blisters and chafing that can come with it.  If you are a veteran runner, you have probably mastered the art of avoiding these painful skin ailments.  If not, here is some basic info to help get you started down the road to relief.

What Causes Blisters & Chafing?

Heat, moisture, and friction are the killer combination that cause skin to gradually weaken and become irritated.  Eventually irritation becomes damage.  The bloody nipple is the scourge of distance runner.  Ouch!  There are other areas that chafe, too.  These can be even more painful!  Blisters, of course, are usually on the feet.  We are all familiar with these.

Preventing Chafing

The best cure for blisters and chafing is prevention!  If you know the areas that chafe, then you can proactively use these techniques to avoid that chafing:

  1. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your clothes.  For example, I used to get chafing where my thighs rubbed each other.  When I switched to Under Armour underwear, the thighs no longer touched each other.  Problem solved.
  2. Applying a skin lubricant, such as Body Glide, will often solve your problem before it starts.  This handles the nipple chafing that I used to get when running over a certain distance.
  3. Other people use a combination of home remedies that they have tried.  Ask your running friends what they do!

Preventing blisters on your feet can be a bigger challenge.  You are coming down on your feet with the weight of your body. Any movement that your feet do within your shoes can potentially create friction and lead to blisters.  Here are some common strategies for avoiding blisters:

  1. Change your socks.  Cotton is not good.  Get a specialty wicking running sock.  Also make sure that the socks have a snug fit.  Even when wet, there should be no bunching or gathering.  These cause blisters every time!
  2. Moisturize with lotion regularly.   Even though moisture is a part of the equation, soft, moist skin is less prone to developing a blister.  Lotion.
  3. Put a layer between you and your socks.  Mole skin or a similar product can take the heat instead of your skin.  A layer of petroleum jelly can accomplish the same thing.  Some people even use two pairs of socks.
  4. Change your shoes.  Your shoes should be comfortable.  Not so loose that your feet slide around a lot.  Not so tight that your toes can’t wiggle freely.  Your toes should not be rubbing on the front of the shoes.

Healing from Chaffing & Blisters

For chafing, I personally apply triple antibiotic ointment on the area and simply avoid contact as much as possible.  I will put a band-aid over the affected area while I am running until it goes away.

For blisters, my first strategy is to let it heal on its own if at all possible.  When I succeed, this becomes a thick callous right where I need it.  It will prevent a future blister.  If it is too big or too painful, then you must drain it.  Clean a needle with alcohol and lance the blister carefully.  Gently press the blister to push the fluid towards the hole to let it escape.  I follow this up with triple antibiotic ointment and a band-aid.  I try to make sure the band-aid is on tight enough to not allow the blister to fill up again.  Then I try to avoid contact as much as possible.

Can you run on a blister?  Yes, unless it is huge and taking a thick layer of skin with it.  I dealt with this once.  I finally had to stop running for a week while my foot healed.

Take care of your skin and your skin will take care of you with less pain and more gain.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Hydration for Running

wise running logo 7_25_12



Your body is mostly water.  It only makes sense that a hydrated body functions better.  If you want health and performance, you will keep your body topped off with liquids as you go.  So, on a hot day, you might drink as much as a cup of water or watered down sports drink every 15 minutes. If you put it in as fast as you sweat it out, your body will thank you by staying healthy and performing as best as it can.  On the water hydration coupleother hand, it is possible to drink too much.  Current recommendations are to drink to thirst. If you are thirsty, drink.  If you are not thirsty, don’t. Any way you handle it, make sure you have access to plenty of water and/or sports drink while you run.

You should still be careful after the run! Most of us continue sweating long after the last step of the run.  Hence, it is important to keep your tank topped off!  There are now quite a few choices for sports drinks to recover after the workout.  The top choice remains the same as it has always been… good old water!

Electrolyte Supplements

Water is not all that leaves as we sweat!  We also lose minerals that play a critical role in our bodies.  They are called electrolytes.  Without these minerals and enough water, the muscles begin to cramp.  Muscle cramps are painful and cause damage.  Even if you do not reach the point of cramping, failing to replace the electrolytes means poor performance and frustration.

For some, simply drinking a sports drink provides enough electrolytes.  Other need more than the amount offered through sports drinks.  Electrolyte supplements come in powders, tablets, pills, & capsules.

Even though I require much more electrolytes than the average runner, I use the strategy of taking as little as possible.  You discover this by starting with the minimum suggested dose on the supplement label.  How do you know if it is enough?  Personally, I know that I have not taken enough Endurolyte Capsules if my leg muscles are twitching as I am relaxing after the run.  If so, I will take another capsule or two until it subsides.  Over time, you begin to learn what is right for you.

Regardless of which drinks and supplements you use, it is your job to make sure you get enough.  Your body is depending on you and so is your running performance.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!




Health and Exercise vs. Fitness and Training

There is a significant difference between concepts of health and fitness.  Health refers to the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being.  A healthy person tends to live longer and have a higher quality of life than an unhealthy person.  It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and healthy eating are two critical parts of being healthy.  Your sense of humor and your stress management techniques are also critical features of overall health.

sprintingFitness, on the other hand, is not about general health.  Fitness is about the level of fit that your body has in relationship to a specific task or set of tasks.  The measures of fitness for a baseball pitcher are quite different than the measures of fitness for an offensive lineman in football.  There will most certainly be overlap, but there is a big difference between extremely fit players in these contexts.  If you try to place a baseball pitcher on the offensive line, you are likely to end up with an injured pitcher.  He is fit for one task and not fit for the other.

Everyone should have the goal of being healthy.  As a runner, however, you want to make sure that you are fit for the task of meeting your running goals.  This requires all of the aspects of general health, but also includes running-specific measures of fitness:

  • How fast can you run a mile?
  • Are your core  and hip muscles strong enough to stabilize you during a run?
  • If you plan to run a marathon, have you practiced processing your calorie intake quickly and efficiently?
  • Can you maintain a certain pace for a certain distance?

The specifics of your goals will help you determine the measures of fitness that you should be tracking.  Your training should keep you healthy, but it should also move you towards measuring up to the specific fitness to the tasks set forth in your goals.  Accordingly, you can’t just exercise and expect to move towards your fitness goals.  Swimming is good cross-training, but will never replace specific training runs in moving towards your specific running goals.

Stay healthy.
Set goals.
Determine your level of fitness.
Train to improve your health and your fitness.


Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

Stretching Before Running

wise running logo 7_25_12

When I was young, I stretched because my coaches told me to stretch. I have never been that  flexible, but I never really understood the benefits. Here are the things that we are typically told about stretching:

  • Stretching prior to any type of exercise gets the muscles ready for the more intense exercise that follows.
  • A well-stretched muscle moves through a full range of motion with less effort. Therefore, stretching prior to physical activity will help you conserve energy and thereby improve performance.
  • Because our muscles get cold and tight from hours of sitting or standing at our jobs, periodic stretching will keep the blood flowing and allow the muscles to move through a full range of motion.
  • A muscle is more flexible when it is warm and stretched, and it is less likely to tear or overstretch from an abrupt movement.
  • Stretching increases the blood supply to the muscles and joints.  This keeps the muscles supple and healthy.
  • After a workout, stretching your muscles will keep them from immediately shortening and tightening as they cool down.

stretchingIn high school, I ran both cross country and track. My cross country coach had us stretch before running and encouraged stretching after the workout. Our head track coach, however, made us run a mile first and then stretch. Both seem like pretty good ideas, but which is right? I have great respect for both of those coaches, so I am going to say that I agree with both coaches MOST of the time.

Right now, however, I am suffering a round of tight muscles in my calves. Over the past few weeks, when I stretched BEFORE the run it felt very artificial.  My muscles would not stretch unless I forced them. Bad idea! They just would not budge until I pushed to the point of pain… and the led to more pain and more tightness. In short, stretching a muscle that will not cooperate is a bad idea.

Does that mean that I should run without stretching? I tried. Bad idea. It just forced the muscle to stretch under duress, just like stretching before the run. That led to worse pain and increased tightness.

How do you stretch a muscle that is firmly against the idea? Stretching first is bad and stretching after a mile is bad… where do you go from there?

The Technical Truth about Stretching

An extensive meta-analysis of the research on stretching reaches two unavoidable truths:

  1. Static stretching, the old method of stretching and holding a stretch before your run, can reduce your power by as much as 5.5%.
  2. Dynamic stretching through gentle movement and gradually attaining your full range of motion is much safer and more productive.

You can find a lot of dynamic stretching ideas out on the web, but here is what is working for me:

  • Warm up the sore & tight muscles by slowly and carefully moving through their comfortable range first.  Not by running, but just gently going through your comfortable range of motion.
  • After the muscles begin to warm up, the comfortable range of motion will begin to gradually increase.
  • Take that warm-up/stretch combination as far as your muscles will comfortably allow in a few minutes.
  • Begin to run at an easy pace and gradually increase your speed.
  • Stop to do a little more dynamic stretching if you feel the need.

This may not be new to you, but I was never told to warm up the muscle and stretch simultaneously. I suppose you could say that I am employing a combination of the advice of both of my high school head coaches. It just goes to show that the lesson that you teach to youth may be lost on them in the moment, but they can keep learning from that advice years later.

I continue to have some tension in those muscles, but it gets better every day. When my muscles rebel, I placate them with my new process of warm-up & stretching.

If you have been struggling with a tight muscle and just can’t find the right process to loosen it up, you might give it a try.

Be careful. Don’t overstretch.


The other item to add is about devices for stretching.   Here are the two products that I use to aid in the stretching process, not before a run but hours before or after.  They are both designed to work out knots in your muscles by rolling – like rolling out dough with a rolling pin.  You lay on the foam roller and use your body weight to apply pressure.  A lot of runners have found relief.  I most recently rescued my knees by using the foam roller.

foam roller

View Foam Rollers

the stick

View “The Stick”

The Stick, on the other hand, has handles and you press down to apply pressure.   I found this tool especially wonderful for my calves.  Oh, yes!

I hope these work for you as well as they have worked for me.  :)


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:


The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life


A Word to the Newbie Runner

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
                                                              –   George Sheehan

I recently sent out a message on Twitter asking what questions my fellow runners had.  I received a few interesting topics that I will blog about, but this one struck me.  The tweet from Tricia was this:

 @Wise_Running “what i want to know is how to start from scratch at 40yr old woman”

I followed up by asking, “When is the last time you ran 1 mile?  2 miles?  more?”

Tricia responded, “ummm….. college 20 yrs ago :0) I walk couple miles day and elliptical – I really did mean from scratch (correct shoes etc)”.

Wow!  That is a big request.  Moreover, this is an absolutely critical juncture for Tricia.  She wants to transition from a walker to a runner.  Her experience in the next month or two will determine whether she likes running or not.  No pressure, right?

So here it is.  This blog post is for all of the newbie runners out there.


Step 1:  Realize Who You Are

You become a runner when you take that first bouncy step, that first longer stride.  You don’t have to be fast.  You don’t have to run forever.  If you start running, you are a runner.  Welcome to the club. :)

Step 2:  Get Good Shoes

Running can feel torturous if you have the wrong shoes.  Do not begin any serious attempt at running until you have shoes designed for running.  Everyone has different needs, but I will not leave it at that.  Go to your nearest running store.  Do not go to a sporting goods store, a department store, or a discount store.  Go to your nearest running store.  The workers there run.  They are runners.  They want you to enjoy running and they have a way of analyzing your needs and helping you select a good shoe to get you started.  You can go discount or online AFTER you have found your good running shoes.  For the first round, have the experts help you choose and reward them for their effort by buying the shoes from their store.

What other running gear do you actually need?  Not much.  There are many kinds of clothing and accessories available, but if you are just beginning there is no need to get it all.  Let your needs arise and inform your purchases.  If the weather is nice, all you need is shorts, a t-shirt, and supportive undergarments.  As your needs become clear, your local running store can steer you the right direction on the gear that address these needs.

Step 3:  Set a Goal

If you aim for nothing, you are bound to achieve that.  You have to determine a goal before you can decide how to proceed.  A good goal is specific, measurable, & just a step or two ahead of where you are today.  If you have not been exercising at all, your goal will be much lower than the newbie runner who has been seriously walking, using the elliptical machine, or doing aerobics.  If you have lived a sedentary lifestyle, I strongly urge you to become a walker first and gradually graduate to becoming a runner.  If you have been vigorously exercising, then you may be more prepared than you think.  If that is the case, then plan for your first 5k.

Important Note:  Signing up for a 5K or other road races does not mean that you are committing to try to win.  Most runners are racing themselves; they set goals and use a race to check their progress.  It is also a social occasion to meet fellow runners and celebrate each others’ progress.

Step 4:  Get a plan

Do not just run what you feel like running on the days you feel like running.  Get a plan.  If you try to make the plan yourself, there are two major mistakes that newbie runners commonly make.  One of these would be going too far and/or too fast.  That leads to injury.  The other mistake would be to go too short and/or too slow.  Since everyone has a different level of fitness at the beginning, I can’t say in this blog what will be right for you.  Carefully find your level of fitness and get a plan that fits.

There are several training plans that you can find out on the internet for free.  I like the free plans on http://www.halhigdon.com/training/, but there are plenty more out there. Some of these will fit your stage of development as a runner.  Find the one that makes sense to you.  You can also have a tailor-made plan developed for you by a running coach.  A running coach is like a personal trainer, but specializes in running.

Step 5:  Follow the Plan

Once you find or purchase a plan that fits your particular needs, it is time to step out and do it.  As a newbie runner, your main goal is to just get running.  It is not to be speedy; that can come later.  For now it is enough to go forth and run on the days that your plan says to run.  Just follow the plan.  You can tweak it later, after you build some experience.

REMEMBER:  Fast progress leads to injuries!  Slow progress leads to health, happiness, & achievement!

Step 6:  Join a Club

Fellow runners are your greatest source of encouragement and knowledge.  Track clubs and road runners clubs have members of all skill & experience levels.  It is a great place for newbie runners to get connected with other newbies as well as some veterans that can help guide their journey.  My club has several weekly running groups that meet and run anywhere from 7 minute miles up to 12 minute miles.

Step 7:  Have Fun

Yes, running is hard work, but you should enjoy the ride.  Run with friends, laugh, joke, share.  Enjoy the bonus of endorphins.  A good workout will reward you with this form of natural high.

Don’t beat yourself up over a missed run, a bad run, or an injury.  We all have bad days.  Running is no different.  If you have more good days than bad days, eventually you will accomplish your goals. You will begin to build confidence as you gradually become a better runner.  Enjoy the process!

Stay safe.  Stick with it.  Get connected to other runners.


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:


The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Whether to Eat Before or After Running (or other exercise)


Is it better to eat before or after exercising?
How soon after eating is it okay to run?

P. Mark’s Answer:

You can eat before or after.  It depends on what your eating and how long it takes to digest.  Typically, your body takes about 3 hours to fully digest a large meal.  A small meal can be digested in as little as 2 hours.

The consequence of this: if you eat a meal of any size, you should wait at least 2 hours before challenging your body.  If the exercise is extremely light and easy for your body, it might be just fine.  Anything beyond that requires serious resources from your body.

Problem 1:  Your body fluids can’t be in two places at once.  Extra blood gets routed to the area of your gastrointestinal system so that it can absorb and deliver the incoming nutrition.  Digestion also diverts some of the water in your system to that process.  These combine to yield a significantly lower flow of blood to your muscles.  If you go fast enough that your body prioritizes the exercise over digestion, then you have other problems.  You could feel some cramping in your GI system.

Problem 2:  Heavy jostling leads to poor digestion.   It is too difficult for the nutrition to be absorbed effectively when it is swishing around.  Hence, you are getting less from your food.  This also requires that diversion of fluids to remain in effect longer.

Possible Results:  Poor Performance, cramps, &/or indigestion.  At the very least, it slows you down a little and you may have wasted some valuable nutrition.

What you CAN eat before a run or other exercise:  A small amount of simple carbohydrates can be eaten (or drank) within one hour of exercise.  That is what energy gels are designed to do: provide a blend of simple sugars and slightly more complex sugars to be used immediately by the body.

Remember This!

If you have been eating relatively healthy and in sufficient quantity,
your body has a supply of energy waiting to be used!

Glycogen is a complex sugar that is stored in your muscles and liver.  This is the fuel that marathoners have in mind when “carb-loading” the week before the marathon.  They are topping off that supply to have as much energy as possible available on race day.  If you are eating well on a regular basis, you have a supply of energy.  How much?  A person weighing 150 lbs can carry anywhere from 800 to 2000 calories.  The more healthy carbs you eat, the more glycogen you are able to store.

Hydration is just as critical, if not more so.  A body without a full supply of water will not operate well.  The tougher your workout, the more water you will need.  Work on hydration on an ongoing basis throughout the day, starting with 16 ounces of water when you wake up!

My Personal Habit:

When I am training for a marathon, I will not eat 2-3 hours before one of my key workouts for the week.  I do, however, consume calories immediately before as well as throughout my run!  Specifically, I consume the fuel that I will consume during the marathon.  Since you absolutely must consume calories during a marathon, this method of consuming calories during my workout prepares my body to run fast while processing small amounts of easy-to-digest fuel.

When I am not in marathon training, I am more likely to just follow the 2 hour rule.  Since nearly all of my runs are shorter than 10 miles, I know my body stores enough glycogen to fuel any run – because I am eating right.  :)

AFTER any challenging run, I fuel up with high quality carbs and some protein as soon as I can.  This is the ideal time to replenish the glycogen supply and start healing those muscles.

Eat well & enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99


Barefoot Running: Why, Where, and How

I have started running barefoot again.  For the last few days, I have run at least 1 mile each day with no shoes or socks on my feet.

Why am I running barefoot?  Because I want to improve my form.  The logic is this:

    1. We were created to run.
    2. We were not born wearing shoes.  We added that later.
    3. Hence, our natural running style will emerge if we run in bare feet.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up shoes.  Shoes were created to protect our feet from a variety of things that can cause pain.  Shoes are good.  The problem is that it has been so long since I ran without shoes, that my feet and legs have adapted to running in them.  Too much support and protection has allowed my naturally active foot and calf muscles to relax and take it easy.  My form has suffered.  Eventually, I became less efficient.

This was not always the case.  When I was 8 years old, I would play outside for hours with no shoes.  I specifically remember sprinting down a hot blacktop street in the middle of summer.  I could make it as far as Johnny Williams’ house before my feet were too hot to continue on the pavement.  I clearly remember the relief of stepping into the cool grass and eventually into the shade under the big tree in John’s yard.

How is this relevant to my current goal of running a marathon under 3 hours?  Simple.  When I sprinted down the street at 8 years old, my form was natural.  I leaned at the ankles, not the hips.  I didn’t put my foot too far in front of me.  My strides were short and efficient.  I landed near the forefoot.  None of these things were true of my form when I turned 44 a few months ago.

After decades of running in shoes, I knew that I needed to get back.  For the last few months I have studied books, web sites, videos, and anything else to find out what the best form for running would look like.  I tried to emulate the best ideas that were consistently in the most trustworthy resources.  Nothing felt natural.  It all felt forced.  I ended up pulling muscles trying to force myself into an efficient stride and footstrike.

How can I return to my natural, efficient running stride?  As I studied, one of the themes that emerged was that the most efficient stride is our natural barefoot stride.  Once I gave up the fight and accepted that I needed to try barefoot running, I stepped out on to the hot blacktop.  That is when my memory was triggered.  I could see that bright summer sun back in my old neighborhood.  I could feel the heat coming up from the driveway of my old home in St. Louis County.  I could feel myself start into a sprint, driven by the intense heat as I stepped onto the blacktop surface of Fairmeadows Lane.  I remembered the thrill of accelerating to a full sprint and being in wonder at how fast I was passing the mailboxes that lined the path to Johnny’s house.

At that moment, as this memory overwhelmed me, all of that running research made a lot more sense.  Run like a barefoot kid on hot pavement.  Don’t worry about form.  Just take your shoes off and run.  I realized that I do not need to work on my form.  I need to run barefoot and allow my form to emerge.

How do you run barefoot without pain?  I don’t.

Skin:  My eyes guide me around big rocks and other dangers, but I can’t avoid the tiny rocks that scrape my feet.  Over time, my feet are getting acclimated.  There is less pain every day.

Joints/Muscles:  As for the support that shoes provided, I am a pronator and always enjoyed soft cushioned shoes with motion control.  Barefoot allows for none of those things.  What pains have I experienced because of that?  Very little.  That is the point.  Shoes actually caused the need for all of that support.  My natural stride and footstrike have emerged as I run barefoot and try to avoid these pains.  My muscles are getting stronger.  I do not pronate because I have no shoe to lean on.  I have to stand up on my own.  If I run barefoot with poor form, a pain will start to emerge.  I naturally begin to tweak my form based on the feedback from my body.

In short, better form means less pain and more gain.  This is the reason to adopt barefoot running as a part of your training regiment.  I am not forcing myself into good form, I just listen to my body and naturally move towards good form.

My transition was made much easier because I have been running in Vibram Five-Fingers shoes.  I started using these for the same reason that I run barefoot.  Vibrams are very thin and have no support, so training in them has moved me towards good form.  I am adding barefoot runs to keep me moving in that direction.

It is worth repeating:  Better form means less pain and more gain.

I am using barefoot running to move me that direction.  If you can manage to improve your form without going barefoot, then do it.  If you are struggling to find that good form, then think about trying some barefoot running.

Important guidelines for Barefoot and Minimalist running:

  1. Start slowly.  VERY slowly.  Many experts suggest going barefoot 3 times a week to start.
  2. Start short. VERY short.  Your first few weeks should go from 50 yards gradually up to a quarter-mile.
  3. Build lower leg & foot strength.  Exercise your feet by picking things up with your toes.  Do calf raises.  Stretch your calves and feet regularly.

I have worked on  these three things on and off for months before I worked up to doing a daily mile in bare feet.

I have not decided how far I will end up running in bare feet.  I may build up to doing a few 5k races, but I have no intention of doing my long runs in bare feet.  My goal is better form, and that is starting to work.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  :)

Happy Running!


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store



Runner’s High: How, When, and Why

It is a feeling like no other.  I recall floating along a 6 mile run one time just about 30 years ago.  I don’t have a very good memory, but I remember that run vividly.  I had slipped into a zone where running was more like floating.  I ran fairly fast, but felt no effort.  I felt happy and my body felt happy.  I was as high as a kite!  I never wanted that run to end.

Although I hadn’t been smoking marijuana, the same receptor in the brain that is triggered by marijuana was, in fact, triggered during that run.  I really was high.  I was high on running! Until recently, many scientists actually believed that runner’s high was a myth, a self-fulling prophecy based on a misconception about endorphins.  Endorphins, after all, cannot actually produce the kind of high described by runners.  The scientists were right about one thing: endorphins do not cause runner’s high.  Even so, runner’s high is real.

What causes runner’s high?  A fatty acid called Anandamide.  It triggers the same receptor in the brain that marijuana/THC triggers.  Not only does anandamide make you feel high, but it also dilates your bronchial tubes and the blood vessels in your lungs.  End result: you feel great, run better, and run longer.

How do you get anandamide?  Run!  As you run more regularly and intensely, your body tends to produce more anandamide.  If you want to increase your likelihood of getting runner’s high, you run at tempo pace, just a little faster than your 10K race pace.  This pace adds just enough stress to cause the body to produce anandamide but not so much stress as to overwhelm your body.  It is the “just right” pace for a great workout and a trip to La-La-Land.  :)

You can read more at Runner’s World:


Enjoy the run!!!


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store