Tag Archives: injuries

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!

Ask P. Mark: Finding Your Running Form and Stride

Today’s question comes from a newbie runner who has just started using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running.

Question:   How do you find your perfect stride?

P. Mark’s Answer:  I will give you the same answer that I give to experienced runners.  It is a bit unorthodox, but it is very effective.  In fact, I have to work on my form from time to time and I always use this method.

Remember This:

The quickest way to find good form is to run barefoot.

No, don’t run your entire workout barefoot.  Just find a nice clear path on some concrete or asphalt/blacktop and jog a few hundred feet.  Don’t sprint.   That might do some damage to the bottom of your feet.  Just start to jog and gradually pick up the pace – just for a few hundred feet, relaxing your body as you stride.  That relaxing is highly critical.  This will not work if you are not relaxed.

We choose a hard surface for a reason.  Your body will naturally tend towards moving in ways that protect your feet and knees, absorbing the impact as best that it can.  We are counting on that.  Its called Good Form.

As you begin to pick up the pace, pay very close attention to your barefoot form:

1)  How is your foot is making contact with the ground (footstrike)?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you should find that your foot will begin to contact the ground very lightly on the front of your foot, as if you were testing out the ground.  As you shift your weight onto that foot, however, you will gradually place your entire foot flat on the ground.  This distributes the weight to ALL parts of your foot:  a little on the front,  a little on the heel, and a lot on the middle part of your foot.  You should find that:

  • Every part of your foot made contact with the ground in a gentle way.
  • No part of your should foot take more weight than it can hold.

2)  How long is your stride?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have shortened your stride.  The majority of runners have strides that are too long.  The consequences of overextending your foot too far ahead of your body are large:  sore knees and other joints, heavy wear and tear on your body, and a slower pace.  Yes, sticking your leg to far forward actually puts the brakes on.  You can run faster with the exact same amount of effort and a shortened stride.  You will find yourself moving to a faster cadence as well.  In perfect form, with your new shorter stride, the number of steps you take during each minute of the run will tend to be somewhere close to 180.  That is true of newbie runners and elite runners.  You can actually find playlists of songs for runners in which every song keeps the beat at 180 beats per minute.  :)

3)  How is your body positioned in this relaxed running state?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have very erect posture.  The most common mistake made by runners is to lean forward at the waist when they are trying very hard.  This actually slows you down and takes more effort.  You do need to lean forward a little to run faster, but you lean at the ankles, not the waist.  In other words, you don’t lean the top half of your body, you lean your entire body.  From your ankles to your head, your body should be fairly straight.

I have found myself doing short barefoot runs at least once a week, either on rest days or just before a run.  It reminds me of good form, saving me energy and saving my body from injuries caused by bad form.

Check your form frequently.  Be good to your body and it will be good to you.

Enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running 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


Ask P. Mark: Dealing with Shin Splints

Question 3 :   I’m currently using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running. But I’m running into a minor problem and need some advice.   My shins are starting to feel sore during the running bits.

P. Mark’s Answer:  Shin splints come from a combination of poor form, running on hard surfaces, and changing intensity levels too fast.

As for form, the idea is to set your foot on the ground gently as you land.  A good guideline for this is the sound you make.  The quieter your foot is when it makes contact with the ground, the better your shins will be.

As for running surfaces, a nice rubber track is a very kind surface for running.  If that is not available, then remember this progression:

  • Grass and dirt are softer than gravel.
  • Gravel is softer than asphalt/blacktop.
  • Asphalt/blacktop is softer than concrete.
  • Stay away from concrete when you have shin splints!

If you are suddenly training much faster and/or farther than you have recently, this can also cause issues.

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

It can take as long as two weeks before shin splints completely fade away.  To begin the process:

  1. Address the inflammation by icing your shins and taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.
  2. While running, shift to softer surfaces & slow down, being careful to land gently.
  3. Make sure you stretch all muscles properly before and after running and walking.

You can run with some pain, but it should not be severe and it should not get worse.  In the case of shin splints, the old adage of “No Pain No Gain” makes no sense.  If the pain is too intense, skip the running for a few days.  Taking the time now will pay off down the road.

Be good to your legs and you will once again enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running 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



Ice Bath for Runners: Benefits and Recommendations

Since I have been dealing with some minor injuries lately, one my friends suggested that I take ice baths after my runs.  She specifically mentioned it as being beneficial in terms of my plantar fasciitis.  I have heard of ice baths, but had not followed through up to this point… mostly because I have not had any significant injuries.  With the luck that I have had lately, however, it sounded like a good idea.

ice bathAs I was taking my very first plunge, I began to wonder:  “Is it worth it?”.  I resolved then and there to search for the scientific foundation of this method of treating injuries.  Here is what I found in therms of benefits and recommendations:


Many elite runners and not-so-elite running enthusiasts that consider ice baths to be beneficial based on their own experience.   They claim that it leads to a quicker recovery and less pain.  So how does it accomplish this?  After about 6 minutes in the icy water, your blood rushes to the area to rescue you from the cold.  This rush is what helps to flush out the metabolic debris that might otherwise take days to flush out.  In the meanwhile, the cold is reducing the inflammation in the area.  This combination makes ice cold baths after a big workout a hot idea!


While the current research does not tell us what protocol is ideal for ice baths, we do know a few things.  The most important thing to remember is that ice baths of over 20 minutes can be detrimental.  You body will actually begin to break down after 20 minutes in ice cold water.  Most experts suggest that runners submerge their legs for 6-10 minutes, just long enough to feel the blood rush in to save the day.

Possible Con:

One study found that ice baths after 90 minutes of exercise actually hindered the refueling process.  This is really only an issue if you plan back-to-back days with long runs, which is not a good idea anyway.


From my experience, the recommendations of friends, and the scientific evidence, I would conclude that it is a good idea.  I will continue the ice baths as I recover from runs over 90 minutes.

What experiences have you had with ice baths?


“Train hard, race easy, & 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


Muscle and Foot Relief: The Stick Rolling Massager

In the ongoing saga of tight calves and the foot problems they have caused, I have used several tools and tricks:

  • Stretching my already injured parts made things worse.
  • My plantar fasciitis night splints loosened things up enough for some temporary relief. I would recommend them to anyone with a long-term case of PF.
  • Rolling my foot across cold golf balls or frozen water bottles also offered temporary relief.

The one that really made the break-through and led to long-term healing, however, was “The Stick.”  This tool was recommended several times by my cousin who works in the field of therapeutic massage and sports medicine.  At first I resisted the notion that such a simple device could make a difference.  After all, it just looks like a few pieces of plastic tubing and a stick with handles.  After going through the list of tools and methods above, however, I was desperate!

I finally heeded my cousin’s advice and ordered The Stick from Amazon.com.  My Stick arrived in less than a week.  When it arrived I was both excited and disappointed.  It was smaller than I had imagined and it really did look like another fad piece of health equipment.

Wow!  Was I wrong!  There were not many instructions given, a sentence or two of specifics, just one warning, and a lot of suggestions via pictures.  Still, I had shelled out my $30, so it was time to try it.  After I rolled my tense, sore calves for about 45 seconds I could already feel it working its magic.  The Stick became my companion for the next week.  I rolled my calves when I first got up out fo bed, before and after a workout, and right before going to sleep at night.

I still carry tension in my calves as I always have, but The Stick helps me roll a lot of that tension away.  It is also great on cramps.  I saw one on television the other day during a college football game.  A trainer was working on the hamstring of the quarterback using The Stick.  I may not be an elite athlete, but I treat myself like one.  :)

As for my plantar fasciitis, it is fading away and almost gone.  I attribute this to my ongoing use of The Stick Rolling Massager.

Happy Calves = Happier Feet

Happy Running!


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice for Runners

I took the Cheribundi Challenge!  Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice is supposed to pack a powerful punch of antioxidants.  Cherry juice is more potent than pomegranate, grape, blueberry, and other juices commonly offered for their antioxidants.  With this knowledge, combined with the fact that I have been plagued by minor injuries lately, I was more than ready to accept the Cheribundi Challenge

The official Cheribundi Challenge is to drink their tart cherry juice for four days.  Before the four days, you score yourself for sleep, athletic recovery, and aches& pains.  You revisit the scoring after four days of Cheribundi to see if it makes a difference.

I have gone over that by two days.  So far I have consumed an 8 ounce serving each day for six days.

On day 1, I drank Cheribundi Whey Cheri – with the juice of 45 cherries, 8 grams of whey protein, & a powerful ratio of nutrients, carbs and protein.

On day 2, I drank Cheribundi Skinny Cheri – with the juice of 40 cherries, but sweetened with natural Stevia so it has only 90 calories!

On days 3 through 6, I drank Cheribundi Tru Cherry – with the juice of 50 cherries and sweetened with natural apple juice concentrate, but still only 130 calories.

BEFORE taking the Cheribundi Challenge, I rated my sleep as somewhat restless.  I rated my athletic recovery as being far too slow (I am so impatient).  Most importantly, I rated my aches and pains as frequent because I was in the middle of issues with plantar fasciitis and related pains in the foot and ankle.

AFTER 6 days of drinking Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice products, I have to say that I am sleeping a little better and my recovery is a little quicker.  As for the aches and pains, I really do feel that the tart cherry juice has made my healing much quicker.  I have a lot fewer aches and pains.  The ones that remain are certainly less severe than before.


I would not claim that Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice is a cure-all, but I do believe that it gave my body a lot more high-powered antioxidants than I usually give it.  This, I believe, is speeding my healing process.  I have more Cheribundi, and I am going to be drinking it regularly.

There are other sources from which I could get tart cherry juice to add to my diet.  Most of these are in concentrate form.  Cheribundi is not from concentrate and it comes in handy 8-ounce bottles which make it easier to deal with.


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

Stretching, Injuries, & Overstretching

I have never been able to easily touch my toes.  Even when I was young and running the fastest times of my life, touching my toes was quite an ordeal.  On many occasions, I have managed to overstretch and not be able to reach peak performance just because I wanted to touch my toes.  Its probably because of my calves.

I have had several doctors tell me that my calves are too short.  I went to an orthopedic specialist for my knee problems.  He said that my knees would always be bad because of my short calves.  He prescribed short mileage and no hills.  Seriously?  This is what you tell a cross country and road runner?  You know I am not going to follow that advice, don’t you Doc?

Despite my issues with short, tight calf muscles, I put in many long runs training for marathons and I do hill work to get faster.  The question is not whether or not to do these things.  The question is how to manage the associated difficulties.

The things that everyone does, I need to do more carefully and better.  Warm-up, stretch, start slow and ease into a rhythm.  That is my routine when I am doing it right.  Unfortunately, I lost my momentum on that and have been having difficulties for a few weeks.  First, it was the soreness stemming from metabolic accumulation.  Lactic acid and other waste products were not being removed as fast as they were being produced.  I slowed down my running, but the tightness this caused continued the back-up.

I finally started stretching more carefully again and that begin to help.  Unfortunately, I was so excited by the results that I became overzealous about stretching.  My stretching fixed one problem and caused another.  The tightness in my lower calves went away, but my plantar fasciitis was activated.  I have faced this nemesis before, which may also possibly be related to my short calves.

My attention shifted to easing the pain and doing stretches for my plantar fasciitis.  There are several great stretches, but I again went too far, too fast.  Now I am nursing a sore spot at the bottom of my Achilles tendon on both legs.

This whole situation is a lot like the wreck that my daughter had on a rainy, winding road.  She had let the car go a little to far towards the side of the road and over-corrected a little bit.  The car was now over the yellow line with a car quickly approaching from the other direction.  She finally ended up hitting a tree on the side of the road that she first tried to avoid.

The lesson that my daughter and I have both learned is that over-correcting to avoid a slight problem can lead to a much larger problem!  A better strategy is to make small changes in your routine in order to correct problems.  If a problem comes on gradually, the solution and healing process will also be gradual.  Lesson learned!

Now, if I can follow my own advice, I should be running without any of these issues in about a week.  Patience is not just a virtue.  It is a necessity.

Happy Running!