Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Barefeet: Signs of Spring

This week, I saw my first barefoot runner of the season. Granted, it happened to be 32 degrees at the time and I thought he was crazy, but it felt like seeing a daffodil blooming in snow.

Also, my crocuses bloomed.

Today was truly warm. So, I grabbed the dog and went running up the mountain in capri running pants and no wool whatsoever and not even an ear-warmer or gloves. I kept my (minimal) shoes on.

But that was only because the dog got into the shed yesterday and ate four-days worth of food, and he was clearly feeling the weight of all that naughtiness, and I didn't feel like dragging him along and carrying my shoes, too. Bad boy, Andre.

But I really wanted to take my shoes off.

Ok, so I'm addicted to bare feet. Yeah, it's a craving.

And also, it keeps me injury-free. For someone with a life-time of random running injuries and 15 years of knee problems, that's just short of miraculous. I plan on never having a running injury again. My knees feel fantastic. We'll see what happens when I try to ramp up the miles.

Not that I haven't had nasty set-backs. Like almost-stress-fractures when I tried to jump in too fast. And Achilles tendonitis that took forever to go away.

So, in case you're thinking of shedding your shoes, too, or just want to pretend you have, here's a little of what I've learned about how to run like a bare-footer:

*Keep your knees higher than you think. If you watch the Jamaicans--who grow up barefoot-- you'll notice they run with higher knees than the Americans--who grow up wearing shoes. And the Jamaicans win.

*Never hit the ground heel-first.

*In fact, never hit the ground. Bare-foot Ken-Bob says kiss it. The idea is to keep your feet light. Think: lift, not land.

*Bend your knees more than you think. Especially on downhill, try to bend as much as running uphill. Think butt-kick.

*Work into it slowly. Start with a tiny bit of barefoot in the grass and increase a little at a time. If you're transitioning from ultra-padded chunkers to minimal running shoes, only use the minimal ones 10 percent of the time as you build up strength. Or just take your shoes to a shoe-repair place and zero-out your padding. You've babied your feet all your life. They're weak. And thin in the soles. You'll get sore feet or stress-fractures or achilles tendonitis if you jump into minimal or bare too fast.

*Yoga. Helps everything without injuring anything. Just take that slow enough, too.

*Find the joy. If you've never run bare in the grass you don't know what I mean.

It's like extra-dark creamy Swiss chocolate for your feet. Or daffodils in snow. Fuzzy pussy-willows. Crocuses in the grass.

Like spring coming around at last. February banished.

See you in bare feet. :)

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