April 23, 2011

Good Running Form.

Two years ago I joined the ranks of Minimalist runners.  At the time, I was not at all sure how long I'd be among the ranks, but I was intent on delving into this movement with both feet.  Fortunately, I started with some of the best Minimalist shoes out there: The Vibram KSO.  Other runners may start with something more transitional, like the New Balance Minimus, Nike Free or Merrell Trail Glove, but I did not.  Consequently, my changeover to a more natural running style was easy and a bit quicker. When it comes to overhauling your entire running form, however, slower is definitely better.  I could have easily sustained an injury because of my zeal.  Mercifully, I did not. Since that day, it's been a journey of learning, implementing and learning some more.  Each and every day I come across articles and stories from folks who are making the move to minimalist or barefoot running, and I try to heed each piece of advice or wisdom shared. Runners are not overtly unique. While some are indeed set apart in both athletic ability and mental toughness, most are people just like you and me, who want to run better.  More efficiently.  Without pain. 

Among the many training videos I've watched over the past year, there are two which explain as clearly as anything I've seen the basic steps to attaining better running form.  It involves primarily three areas:  1) Posture, 2) Mid-foot strike, and 3) Cadence.  But rather than trying to explain each in detail, simply watch the videos. They are short.  Indeed, there is no need for extensive prose on the subject.  A quick explanation of running form is necessary, but to see it demonstrated makes the point outright. 

Take a look at this website and click on the short video in the left sidebar.  And take a look at this one, too.  Running properly is not rocket science, so for some, this video may be uninspiring and obvious.  But to others (like it was for me), this could be a most illuminating instruction on the matter; a welcome wake-up call and the beginning of a renewed passion for running.

Happy Trails.

April 19, 2011

Birth of a Minimalist.

It began a couple of years ago. I had the urge to start running again. 

Over the years, running has always been something I enjoyed but rarely stayed committed to. The monotony of it all...the injuries that would follow; it was too much to keep with. The routine (and the lack of results) just didn't motivate me enough to continue the day-in-and-day-out pounding. For one reason or another, I would fall off the running bandwagon, only to try it again at a later time with little change.

During my running tenure, I have worn countless shoes from just about every company.  Nike Air Huaraches, Saucony Shadows, the Asics Gel Nimbus... these are just a few of the brands I laced up over the years.  Some of these were my favorites at the time, giving me months of enjoyable running (well, enjoyable may be too strong of a word).  But none of these models could ultimately spare me from the eventual injury that would sideline me for days or sometimes weeks. 

In all candor, many of my injuries were most likely caused by user error; not stretching enough, increasing mileage too quickly, no measurable goals, bad running form, etc.  So I am NOT blaming the shoes; at least not directly.  It's on this point -- bad running form -- that I want to dwell for a bit.  Because all things being equal (and I know they're not), the shoe itself can only do so much.  It can cushion, it can stabilize, it can protect, it can minimize. But it can not make up for poor running form.  No shoe -- no matter how expensive or loaded with whiz-bang technology -- can overcome the strains put on a body from poor running form (or being slightly overweight).  Worse, shoes can actually hide issues or inherent weaknesses.   Shoe company catchy slogans and marketing fluff will never change that.

Two years ago I caught a glimpse of something that held out hope of transforming my running, and my enjoyment of it.  It was a concept called Minimalist running; also called Barefoot running.  There is a distinct difference, to be sure, but more on that at a later date.  For me, it was simply a revolutionary concept that held out the prospect that running could once again be a joy; a painless joy.

So I started.  As I do with many things, I researched a great deal before tossing out my running shoes and hitting the pavement unshod.  I read reviews, articles; anything I could find to help me understand this new (to me) way of running.  It sounded intriguing.  And if I could experience even half the benefits of this running technique, I was in.  I was at least going to give it a try.  So I started by purchasing my first pair of Vibram KSO Five Fingers, and with little or no prep, out the door I went.

It took me a while to change my running form, but it was not awkward.  In fact, it was comfortable; I found movement and momentum more natural and freeing.  In essence, over the weeks that followed, I had rediscovered running.  Or more likely, for the first time. Yes, a "barefooter" was born. 

The experiment is now almost two years old.  To date, no significant injuries, aches or strains. Will it last? Time will tell, but I am enjoying stronger legs, calves, feet and ankles.  And that can only help my running.

So what is good running form?

Stay tuned.

April 7, 2011

The Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.

We had another beautiful weather day today.  So we took full advantage of it by spending a great deal of time outdoors at the local zoo.  Here are a few images of the day...

April 5, 2011

North To Minnesota.

After two full days of driving, we finally arrived.  The first thing to hit us was the temperature change.  Down in Houston it may be in the 70s and 80s, but up here they're still finishing up winter.  The kids have really never seen snow before, so the first order of business was to try to find some.  It did not prove difficult, as there were many places where snow remains on the ground from the most recent snowfall.  We are here visiting dear friends and have several adventures planned for the week.  Stay tuned for more!