Barefoot and sore calves: A transition to forefoot running (Part three – The middle)

In the beginning there was enthusiasm… now I’m in the middle and it shouldn’t have taken this long to get here.

What started out as a good idea turned into a chore. The transition to barefoot running started much like any other good idea. Other good ideas included:

  • A Nutribullet
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Buying medium sized clothes
  • Crocs

I knew that barefoot running would take time but I wasn’t prepared for the regression. Like the Nutribullet I understood how it worked and why it was good for me but I wasn’t prepared to put in the time.

That’s why September came and went and my usual lifestyle choices meant that my path veered from the forefoot to the fat belly which wasn’t great for my medium sized clothing!

With a new year came a new me which lasted for a couple of weeks and then just three short months later I was back in the game. What led to this surge in activity you may ask? Another book!

Reading for me is dangerous as my impulsive nature leads me to want to do something new or try another fad (like intermittent fasting) which rarely leads to a sustained change. In an attempt to stave of my impulsivity I decided to keep my reading linked to the theme of running and with a quick scan of book recommendations I stumbled upon “Finding Ultra by Rich Roll.

Whilst I’d taken inspiration reading books by Scott Jurek and Chris McDougall I had not really felt a connection to their back stories but with Rich Roll I felt as if I was reading about myself. His life and mine were nothing a like yet in so many ways were similar which made his story so relatable. Like Scott Jurek he is a plant based athlete but his journey to becoming one of the fittest men on earth was one which began around his 40th birthday. That is all too simple a synopsis of a very well written book about one man’s journey to exceptional fitness and well being but for the purpose of this post I’ll leave it at that but I would highly recommend his book (link below). Needless to say I was inspired. What was clear from Rich’s journey that it was not just about exercising more, it was about lifestyle change, facing your demons and finding your motivation.

Finding Ultra

When I considered my teachings from “Finding Ultra” I realised I needed to initially focus on lifestyle if I was to make any progress in my forefoot running quest. When I contemplated Rich’s determination in the Epic 5 it made put my transition to the forefoot running into context. I needed to give my head a shake and get back on that horse.

So I turned back to Eric Orton’s “Cool Impossible” and started building the workouts into my trusty Garmin Forerunner. I took my previous attempts at training to count as my “Performance Running Transition Programme” and I moved myself on to “Strategic Running Foundation” section, a five month structured programme designed to build your stamina, speed and strength.

At the time of writing I’m at the start of week seven, almost one stone lighter (thanks in part to an increasingly plant based diet) and I’m running further than before on the forefoot. The strategic plan follows strict heart rate training zones and pace zones which increase in intensity over time. The biggest battle here is with my ego. During my Hardmoors training Stoney tried to instill the virtues of slow, steady running but in a typical fit of stubbornness I thought I knew best. Turns out I was wrong to ignore his research and advice…there’s always a first time 🙂 There is still a huge part of me that wants to shout an explanation of my slow speed as a I’m passed by a runner at pace but I’ve made peace with it now…except in the notes section of Garmin Connect!

What I’ve noticed is my pace has improved whilst training in the same heart rate zone. I can now comfortably run 12+miles on the forefoot where as I was struggling with more than 4 at the start of the year. At the end of week two I had a suspected case of shin splints which can be due to a number of factors including weight, technique, too much too soon and changes in footwear. I think it was a combination of the first two and I’m still confused by technique to the point where I have enlisted the help of a coach to review my tekkers. Whilst I’ve tried to video my self I’m still struggling to analyse my own performance.

As a PE teacher I’m acutely aware of the benefits of an external feedback for improving technique so I’m keen to get an expert view on my transition to forefoot progress. Result to follow.

Whilst its only been two months of renewed commitment to the forefoot I’m back in the game and one thing’s for sure; it’s lasted longer than my Crocs!

Mick Fenwick

Mountain Leader, D of E Co-Ordinator, Deputy Headteacher

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