Saturday, 7 July 2012

Slowly getting there...

The pullling of the calf muscle has slowed my progress down by having to take longer days to rest the muscle.  It seemed every time I was ending an exercise session the tweaked calf muscle would let me know it was there. 

Going carefully with running distances - recommendations state that start with 1/4 mile and increase by 10% per week - is key to building up the calf muscles which get more use using this style of running.

After poncing about with 1/4 mile runs, I had a great 1/2 mile session and thought I had gone through the barrier and proceeded to go a further 1/4 mile with no problems.  It was only on the 6km/hr pace walk for warm down after that I was aware of the tweaked calf muscle again, so rest was on the cards again.

With the UK summer cancelled this year, the ability to go for a bit of a hike in the hills wasnt a tempting option for gentle exercise while waiting for the calf muscle to heal.  One of the delights of hill walking in this wet, little island is the ability to quickly reach a viewpoint that gives great panoramic views of the area.  Walking when its hissing it down, not only demands the wearing of waterproofs (with their supposed breathability) but drastically limits the view range when you get to any viewpoints.

So nursing the calf muscle, and being too lightweight to go hiking in the rain, has limited progress to improving fitness levels and reducing weight.  Ive probably only lost about 6lb but Im now running 1/2 mile distances and looking to build up - look likely that London 2012 is coming too soon for me.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

First time doesnt go well........

Eventually picked up my Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) while on holiday in Florida.   Managed to get them for just over $60, while the UK prices are over £100 which is a heck of a difference - and a lot easier to justify the expenditure too.

The constant piece of advice about changing your running style to the barefoot style is not to fall into the trap of trying to do too much too soon (TMTS).  I would like to add another warning/piece of advice – that being TKTT – Too Keen to Try.  Having waited quite a few weeks to get the VFFs I couldn’t wait to get on the treadmill with the new shoes.

Normally I have a fairly constant regime of stretches, warm ups and use of CV machines, prior to using the treadmill.  I did the stretches as per usual, but instead of a 12-15 spell on the Nordic Ski machine, followed by a 5 mile cycle on the cycling machine, I did 7 mins on the Nordic before skipping over to the treadmill.

The general advice for starting barefoot running is to start at ¼ mile distance, then slowly gradually build up the distance over time as the calf will hurt and that’s what I had intended to do.  After a fair bit of walking and with just 300 yards (American machines are still in miles) into the run – ping !, I pulled a calf muscle.  It hurt, and I slowed down to a mild walking pace right away.  So that was the end of ‘barefoot’ running for a few days.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Rules are rules.....

Trying to run in completely new way is not an easy task.  There’s only so much ‘running’ you can do in your house and as I live in a Wendy House I can go from the front of the house to the back in about 6 strides.  I've been trying to run in a barefoot style with normal running shoes on but I'm not sure if this helps or hinders.
If I get the chance I try to run in socks on the treadmill as this gives me the opportunity to try barefoot running without worrying about treading on glass, sharp objects or dog poo as the local park seems to be the canine toilet of choice.
This morning I was shuffling along on the treadmill in my socks only to be told off by the gym staff that what I was doing was a health & safety issue and I had to stop.  Initially I thought that my immense weight must be causing earth tremors as a foot hit the ground, but no,  apparently running in socks cannot be done.  It seems that the socks could be trapped between the moving belt and the fixed side runners so I had to stop....clearly laces wouldnt do this eh ?  Ah well, rules are rules.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Survived the Gym

Managed to get over 1.5hrs in the Gym - virtually all Cardio exercise - and lived to tell the tale.

Most advice about barefoot running is to take it easy.  Its been known that runners who can normally run 8 miles upwards without thinking twice about it, can experience great calf pain when trying out the barefoot running style.  Frequently terms such as ‘listen to your body’ and TMTS (too much too soon) are used.

In preparation for this, I started to do small periods of workouts & stretches that focused on calf work and strength.  Many people poo-poo the use of ‘active’ computer games like the Wii, but I found some of the balance games, the Obstacle Course and the jogging parts of Wii Fit Plus very useful to help build up calf muscles and get used to relying less on heels when walking or running.

So the gym session involved 25mins on the treadmill which included running just over a mile in the barefoot style which went quite well – I didn’t ‘heelstrike’ (ie having the heel of the shoe impacting on the ground first) too much that I was aware of.  This was followed by walking for a bit (to get my breath back) before I shook off the shoes and ran in my socks. 

It doesn’t sound like much (and the UK Olympic long distance running team aren’t in any danger of being replaced) but I managed the recommended 1/4mile no probs before chancing my arm and going 200metres further.  I felt I could have gone further but didn’t want to push my luck (see TMTS earlier) plus the friction between sock and treadmill belt was generating heat.

Tired but happy that calf pain isnt evident – and pleased for Man City winning the Premiership even though I don’t support them.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A week to go

After a lifetime of being involved in some form of sport or exercise, the last 2 years of inactivity have been difficult.  Exercise has always been a key part of maintaining my weight - particularly as I have a healthy appetite, which is a polite way of saying I’m 'a greedy barsteward'.

My running/jogging activities were curtailed by a bout of painful tendonitis which I aggravated by going back too soon and put me back to square one.  This prolonged period of inactivity (approx 18 months), coupled with a sedentary job, a bit of a sweet tooth and memories of my mothers wrath if the plate wasn’t cleared, made my weight balloon.

I knew that getting back into running after such a long period would have to be carefully managed.  I took up hill walking as a way of slowly introducing these old bones and muscles back into exercise.  All was going well until a stupid slip on a stone stile resulted in damaging my coccyx bone and another period of enforced rest.

It was at this period that I  became aware of barefoot running and spent some time trawling the internet for information.  A guy I knew in the States had told me a few years ago of this phenomenon and that he had purchased a pair of Vibram Fivefingers (VFFs or Toe shoes as some call them, ) to try out. After a few months of getting used to this ‘new’ style of running he became a convert and claims it has helped him improve his speed & distance while reducing his aches & pains.

I'm too old & out of condition to be interested in the speed aspect of his improvements but the reductions of aches & pains was of interest.

When the Vibram Fivefingers (link ) were first released it was clear that they weren’t going to be bought for their style. I used to run in New Balance shoes (which never won any awards for style) and I was convinced that some of the designers must have moved from NB to Vibram, such was their lack of pleasing aesthetics.

These are the VFFs Im going to purchase (believe me when I say there are much worse styles & colours) :

With crazy prices for VFFs in the UK and Europe the purchase of these shoes is not to be taken lightly, unless you’re flush enough to spend £120 on shoes on a whim, or female.  As I'm neither, I took time to commit to buying them and coupled the purchase of them with a trip to the States where they, like virtually everything, are much cheaper.  So I'm 7 days away from getting my first pair of 'barefoot shoes'.

This blog will catalogue my experiences with VFFs and barefoot running and hopefully chart some weight loss along the way.