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Minimalist Training

With the recent release of the adventurous book "Born to Run" more and more runners are experimenting with barefoot or “minimalist” training. There is no question that running barefoot on the beach or through cool grass is a fast and freeing experience. It makes you feel like a kid again.

Running barefoot or in minimalist shoes has potential benefits such as building strength in your feet and ankles, improving balance and increasing proprioception, reducing injuries such as calf pulls or Achilles tendinitis caused by short, tight tissues, and helping you to develop a more natural gait. However, for those of us who have been shod since we were two, it is important that we take baby steps while shedding our shoes. Be mindful, and back off if you experience any of the following problems.

• Achilles Tendinitis and Calf Strain
• Plantar Pain in the bottom of the foot
• Blisters
• Injuries due to road debris, rocks, glass or ice.

Enjoy short doses of running barefoot this summer, be smart and stay safe! Because the main disadvantages of wearing supportive running shoes is the tendency of your lower leg muscles to become weak and de-trained, Rick Morris (www.planet running.com) suggests this conservative 8 week plan for getting started as a barefoot runner:

Week 1
This week, begin your barefoot activity by walking around your house without shoes or socks as much as possible. Kick your shoes off as soon as you enter your house and don't put them on until you leave. Perform lower leg strength series two times this week.

Week 2
Continue to keep your shoes off while you are in the house. This week begin to walk outside on a soft surface such as grass, sand or artificial turf for about 10 minutes per day.Perform the lower leg strength series two times this week.

Week 3
This week extend your walking on a soft outside surface to about 15 minutes per day. Begin to walk on concrete or asphalt for about 2 to 3 minutes per day.Perform the lower leg strength series two times this week.

Week 4
This week I suggest taking your first barefoot running strides. Find an area of soft grass, sand or artificial turf. Scan the field to be sure there are no sharp objects you may step on. Run 5 x 2 minute repeats at an easy pace. Let your feet relax for a 2 minutes between each repeat. Do this three times this week. Walk barefoot on concrete or asphalt for about 10 minutes per day 3 times this week.Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.




Week 5
Run 5 x 5 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on a soft surface. Rest for 2 minutes between each repeat. Perform this workout three times this week.Walk barefoot on concrete or asphalt for about 15 minutes per day 3 times this week.Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

Week 6
Run 2 x 10 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on a soft surface. Rest for 1 minute between the repeats. Perform this workout three times this week.Run 3 x 2 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on concrete or asphalt with 1 minute of rest between each repeat. Perform this workout three times this week. Perform the lower leg strength series three times this week.

Week 7
Run 4 x 800 repeats at an easy pace on a soft surface. Rest for 1 minute between the repeats. Perform this workout three times this week. Run 3 x 5 minute barefoot repeats at an easy pace on concrete or asphalt. Rest for 1 minute between each repeat. Perform this workout 2 times this week. Perform lower leg strength series three times this week.

Week 8
Run 2 miles at an easy pace on a soft surface. Perform this workout two times this week.Run 1 mile at an easy pace on concrete or asphalt. Perform this workout one time this week. Perform lower leg strength series three times this week.

Ease into the experience. Watch for symptoms of problems. Be safe.

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