Think You’re Too Slow? Here’s Why You’re Wrong.

StopwatchIt can be disheartening when you’re training as hard as you possibly can, but you’re still not seeing results. Maybe you’re in peak physical shape and you just can’t shave off one more second. Maybe you’re on the other end of things and questioning if you’re even meant to be a runner. Either way, you’re probably a lot faster than you think you are. Here’s why.

When you look at average times for a mile or whatever distance you’re looking to hit, typically these trackers don’t take into account how much inclines change or how many terrible hills you’re pushing yourself to run up. They don’t take into account your weight, level of fitness, or natural ability. In general, they’re just misleading. It might be corny, but the fact is that you can only measure yourself against yourself. That’s the only running time that really matters. And if you can’t get any faster, that’s probably your body saying, “Hey, this is how fast you’re supposed to be running. Quit pushing yourself so hard – you’re going to get injured if you do.”

Running calculators are just as inaccurate as apparent “average times.” Consider the Riegel calculator, a running calculator which attempts to figure out how fast you’ll run based on one race time when you add or subtract miles. It sounds straightforward enough. But imagine comparing your pace in a short sprint to a marathon. A calculator can’t possibly predict how your body will move from a sprint to a long distance run. It’s been proven that some people are natural sprinters and others are more inclined for long distance running. If this is you, you could either be running much faster or slower than that calculator predicts you will. This is yet another reason you’re faster than you think you are: if you’re not a natural long distance runner, you’re going to struggle a bit harder than the natural. It’s in your genes, man.

Another issue with running calculators is that almost all of them are based on the times of elite athletes. The way an elite runner runs is much different than the way the average runner runs when it comes to pacing, gait, and all sorts of other factors that determine how fast you’ll finish a race.

All of the above have been technical ways that measuring your speed just doesn’t work when it comes to determining how fast you are. Because of this, you’re probably faster than you think you are. There is of course more to it, though.

One way that you can run faster than you think is by mixing things up. Long distance runners focus so much on long distance running that they don’t realize how important speed training is. Tempo style workouts just aren’t enough. What you need to become faster is faster running exercises. Think sprints and interval training. If you’re not trying out different strategies to speed up, you’re letting yourself down. You can run faster than you think – you just have to train smart.
Perfect your form and gait. If you’re working hard but have bad form, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You need the foundation of a strong technique to become the fastest you can.

Beyond training adjustments, another way of looking at things is taking a key word from the phrase “you’re faster than you think.” That key word is “think.” There are numerous studies that back up the power of positive thinking, no matter how corny you may think it is. Visualise yourself running faster, running as if you could run forever. Listen to motivational speeches, encouraging high-tempo music, and even happy pop songs while you’re running. They’ll propel you forward, as will mantras that encourage you like, “I’ve got this,” “I’m a fast runner,” and “Just keep going.” You’re faster than you think you are because right now you’re too hung up on thinking you’re slow. And what you think becomes your reality.

Start believing in yourself now.

Once again, the focus should be on yourself. Running isn’t about competing. It’s about the enjoyment you get from pushing yourself hard, reaching goals, and living a healthy life. If you’re the type to look around you, challenge others to races, or talk yourself down, you’ve got to stop. All runners enjoy running: that’s what you have in common. What you don’t have in common is body type, various strengths and weaknesses, body weight and body fat percentage, muscle mass, and all sorts of other factors. Because of this, you can only race yourself. And you’re the only person you should be concerned with beating in a race, as you’re the only true measuring stick you have to go by. When you stop beating yourself in races, congratulate yourself: you’ve reached peak physical shape. That’s something worth celebrating.

This has been a guest post by Dan Chabert

Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, hchabertusband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.

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Study: Barefoot Running May Improve Perception And Working Memory

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

ThinkBarefootA recent study (pdf) out of the University of North Florida is shedding light on the cognitive effects of running barefoot. Their study, which consisted of 72 fit and healthy students, tested how working memory is affected by running barefoot versus shod.

The results were rather interesting, and support the idea that barefoot running requires more attention and awareness to avoid treading on obstacles. The trial ran over 2 days, and participants performed several running sessions around a track, alternating barefoot and shod. While running they were tasked with trying to step on small targets strewn about the course, while also performing a working memory test (phew!).

The results showed that runners who had completed a barefoot run in an earlier session and were trying to step on the targets in a later session, had higher working memory scores than the the other groups. What this suggests is that running barefoot and trying to pick a particular route, can engage the working memory part of the brain more effectively than in other scenarios.

The paper suggests that this may be a result of increased proprioception from actually feeling the targets, and also from the need to be more aware of the route chosen when running. They go on to suggest that further studies are required, on larger populations, and that testing experienced barefoot runners could provide some more interesting and useful results.

It’s exciting to see creative studies involving barefoot running starting to emerge. This particular study seems to have been reasonably rigorous, well thought out, and conservative in its conclusions. Another small part of the puzzle of what makes barefoot running different from shod running has been revealed, which is great news for our sport.

What do you think of this study? Have you noticed any benefits from making the switch to barefoot? Let us know in the comments!

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BOLE Balls – Turning Barefoot Running Into A Team Sport

The following is a guest post by BOLE founder, Logan Bittle, who is bringing the ancient game of rarajipari to the rest of the world

Boles7The ancient running sport of the Tarahumara Native Americans remained mostly hidden from the world until the release of Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run.” This book did two big things: it launched the barefoot shoes movement, and it introduced us to the team endurance sport, rarajipari (pronounced rah-rah-gee-par-ee).

If you’ve never heard of the Tarahumara, they are a remote group of Native Americans living in the Copper Canyons of Northwestern Mexico. The Tarahumara are famous for their ability to run barefoot over ultramarathon distances at an incredible pace. In many ways their entire culture is centered around running.

Boles3
By now most of us have heard the many benefits of minimalist running, but what we’re still catching up on is the many reasons why we should play the Tarahumara ball game, rarajipari. These are the biggest reasons why I couldn’t wait to hit the trails with a rarajpari ball:

  • Boles1Rarajipari combines endurance running with a team element. Traditionally, in one race the Tarahumara will run between 12 and 150 miles (did I mention they are really good at running long distances). It’s easier to achieve longer distances when you have a group of friends or a team depending on you.
  • All runners typically wear no shoes, sandals, or minimalist shoes. The Tarahumara are known for wearing huarache-style sandals while running. If you’re down with barefoot running, rarajipari sounds like something you might like to try.
  • Playing the Tarahumara game requires a certain level of dexterity. The additional skill requirement adds excitement to what would have otherwise been a simple run.

Playing the Game

Boles5The game is simple, two teams choose an agreed upon distance and race each other. Each team has one small, wooden ball, which they pass between their own team members using their feet. The most common kick is something I call the “shovel-kick.” The “shovel-kick” is used by placing your toes under the ball, lifting the ball onto the top of your foot, and flicking the ball to a desired distance. The first team to pass the finish line with their team’s ball wins.

Traditionally, the two teams have four or more people. The key strategy being to let one teammate run ahead with the ball, and once the ball gets caught in an outcropping or goes off the trail, the other team members catch up and a new teammate runs ahead, taking a turn with the ball.

Boles2Besides the traditional way of playing,there are many fun variations to the game, such as having more than two teams or running alone. Having more than two teams increases the intensity of the race, and running alone with a rarajipari ball helps you concentrate on the run as you move over different terrain.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Logan and the team at BOLE for giving us an overview of the game of rarajipari. Rarajipari is a very interesting sport with a lot of potential to help us become better runners, and get even more enjoyment from running. If you’re interested in trying out the sport, the team at BOLE have everything you need to get started!

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FitBit Charge HR – Worth The Price?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

The FitBit. I’ve wanted to try out one of these since they first came out on the market a few years back, but let’s be honest, they seem like very expensive pedometers, right? As luck would have it, I recently got the chance to try out a FitBit Charge HR free of charge, and see if they’re truly worth the money that could otherwise be spent on race entries and minimal shoes.

Initial Impressions

Before even trying it on, I had to admit that this is an attractive bit of kit. I really love the minimal styling of the FitBit Charge HR, and can understand why this particular model seems to be the current most popular style.

I couldn’t help trying it on before charging it up, and with a nice wide band, and plenty of notches, it was easy to adjust and very comfortable on my wrist.

I even liked the colour tone on the device. I was given the blue band, but there are five colours to choose from (black, plum, blue, tangerine and teal).

Actually setting up the FitBit was pretty straight-forward. I simply plugged it in and followed the instructions to download the client software to my computer (via a web link), and to my Android smartphone (via the Google Play store).

I left it to charge while the software installed and let it get fully charged before giving it the initial obligatory run-in-place test.

To my chagrin, none of my steps were being counted initially and my heart rate was in the mid hundreds. Sure I haven’t been exercising much recently, but that seemed like a very high resting heart rate. In retrospect, this issue may have been related to my device being a testing sample, and was likely refurbished or at least tried and returned at some point.

Others that I have spoken to had no such issues and their FitBit Charge HR just worked.

I admit it was a bit disappointing to have issues right out of the box, but at the same time it gave me an opportunity to test out the FitBit help resources. A quick Google search led me to the FitBit help pages, which are pretty comprehensive and very helpful. Within minutes I had learned how to reset my device, and my problems were resolved.

Features

For such a small, and minimally styled device, the FitBit Charge HR packs quite a lot of features into a small package:

Heart Rate Monitor

The heart rate monitor is arguably the most high-tech feature on the Charge HR. It uses LED lights on the bottom of the device to track changes in the blood flow in the veins of your wrist. I was expecting it to need to be worn on the underside of my wrist, however it works fine in the regular watch position.

The FitBit lets you check your heart rate via a menu option accessed by the small button on the side of the display. I’m not sure why, but my heart rate usually appears elevated when I try to view it this way, though the recorded stats, viewable via the FitBit site or mobile app, seem about right. This is a bit annoying, and I wouldn’t use the device as a dedicated HR monitor because of it. I do find the historical tracking interesting though.

Other users have reported the same issue, so it may be fixed in a later update. Many users, however, report no such problems, so YMMV. Post your experiences in the comments section as I’d love to know if any of you have a similar issue.

Pedometer

The core function of all FitBits is the built-in accelerometer that is used primarily as a smart pedometer. The Charge HR is no different, and it does a great job. Like any off-the shelf pedometer, the device can count your steps as you walk around or engage in exercise. What makes the FitBit different is that it can work out when you’re driving or riding in an elevator, and stop recording your steps appropriately.

Of course, the pedometer isn’t foolproof and there will be times when it doesn’t record, or over-records your steps. Try to keep the air-drumming to a minimum though, and the differences should just about average out.

There is a default 10,000 steps goal programmed into the device which causes the device to vibrate and alert you that you’ve reached the goal. The amount of steps can be changed via the settings panel.

Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking is the killer app that you didn’t know you were missing. The data received from your device is compiled onto your FitBit account, where funky algorithms are applied, and the quality of your sleep is assessed.

It shows the duration of your sleep, periods of restfulness, and periods of wakefulness, measured based on the movements of your arm and what, if any, major movements or steps you’ve taken during the sleeping period.

As a parent with 2 sleep deprivation-inducing kids, I’ve found tracking this a morbidly fascinating experience.

From what I can tell, it’s pretty accurate, though it only records sleeps of more than an hour – power nappers and polyphasic sleepers, you have been warned.

Stairs

On top of the built-in accelerometer, the Charge HR also has an altimeter, allowing it to measure distance travelled vertically. Like the pedometer, it has built-in smarts to avoid recording elevator or plane trips.

Clock

I know, right, a watch with a clock in it – how novel. Actually the only reason I mention it here is that the FitBit Charge HR has a neat feature whereby it turns off the display when you’re not looking at it. To activate it, just lift your wrist and turn the watch face towards you, and it lights up , showing you the time (or one of the other metrics if you choose to change the defaults via the FitBit site).

It’s a cool, futuristic-feeling feature that I like, though there have been many phantom wrist-lifts where it didn’t turn on, requiring a press of the button to light it up, or else a repeated arm movement (a sure-fire way to spot another FitBit user by the way!)

Calculated metrics

All of your stats are compiled instantly as your device is synced with your FitBit account via the included WiFi dongle, or bluetooth-enable device. A couple of these are also calculated and shown directly on the device.

These include Calories Burned, and Distance travelled. Calories Burned is calculated based on your basal metabolic rate using your provided height and weight, and factors in periods of activity and rest. It’s hard to say how accurate it is, though FitBit insists that it’s very accurate.

Distance travelled is also calculated based on your height and activity, though is not as accurate as a GPS would be, and as a barefoot runner with a short stride, I’ve found it pretty unreliable.

Field Testing

The FitBit Charge HR is designed to be worn as often as possible, during the waking and sleeping hours. It has a great battery life, allowing it to function continuously for several days.

I’ve found that taking it off and charging when showering (it’s not waterproof), gives it enough of a boost to keep it fully charged without losing too many tracked steps.

And that’s my next point. Wearing a FitBit really focuses you onto the number of steps per day you’re taking. I’ve never really given it much thought before, but now I find myself pacing, or taking the longer route home, or looking forward to forgetting something.

It’s a really strange and subtle change, but does make an impact. I’ve struggled for years to get back into a regular training routine. Being focused on steps has encouraged me to move more, which has in turn helped with setting up a training schedule.

With regards to accuracy, the FitBit pretty much behaves as you would expect. Steps counted seems reasonably accurate, barring jarring hand movements, etc.

As described above, the heart rate monitor seems accurate on the app, but not on the device. I suspect that there may be some extra noise filtering going on once the data gets online, which is why there is an apparent difference. I’m guessing here though, and don’t know for sure.

The sleep tracking has been a lot of fun to look at. It’s really fascinating to see just how well/poorly you slept, and how that is affected by external factors, such as late nights, big runs, alcohol, or kids. It’s one of my favourite features, and I hope they expand this metric in future iterations.

Another cool feature that I hadn’t realised was even on there until a spoke with a friend who has one is the Friends list. This lets you create a community of FitBit wearing friends, allowing you to compare steps taken (basic default), or else challenging each other to various missions involving activity within specified timeframes. It’s surprisingly motivating if you have competitive friends.

Conclusions

I’ve been using my FitBit Charge HR for a month now, and am honestly quite surprised at the results. Since week 1, I’ve increased my weekly mileage significantly, am sleeping longer, and am now consistently taking over 10,000 steps per day.

As a tracking device, it does a fair job of reporting metrics.  Sure there could be some improvements in accuracy, but in all honesty, a minor improvement in accuracy wouldn’t change how I use the device, or give me much more useful information.

I was lucky enough to receive a testing device without charge, but knowing what I know now, the price tag (be sure to look around for deals as price can vary tremendously) seems more reasonable than it did at first, and if that’s all it costs to encourage me off the couch and onto the trails more often, then it’s money well spent.

Where the FitBit excels is as a conduit to more exercise. Its very presence encourages you to move more and pay more attention to your habits. I’m really looking forward to the next generations of these devices, to allow tracking of weight, food intake, etc. If they can do for those areas what they’ve done for movement, FitBit will be unstoppable.

Beginning barefoot would like to thank the fine folks at FitBit Australia for providing a device for testing. Have a look on Amazon.com or at a local retailer to try one of their devices out.

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XeroShoes Umara Z-Trail: Yes, You Do Need Another Pair Of Sandals

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Z-TrekThe barefoot running community is abuzz with excitement over the launch of the new XeroShoes Umara Z-Trail. But do you really need another pair of sandals? In this case, the answer is definitely a resounding ‘Yes’!

The past few years have given us some tremendous minimal footwear, so excitement over the launch of another sandal may seem surprising. The reason for it, however, is that finally XeroShoes have cracked the code and managed to produce the holy grail of minimal sandals.

Featuring a 3-layer sole that caters for abrasion, flexibility, and comfort, the Umara Z-Trail has all of the important areas covered. Add to this that they’re lightweight, expertly constructed, with a sensible, and very adjustable strapping system, and you have an amazing pair of sandals. Oh, and did I mention that they come with the XeroShoes 5000 miles guarantee?

“But”, you might be saying, “I’ve already got a pair of XeroShoes, why would I need another pair?”.  The answer to this is simple. The Z-Trails are better. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the XeroShoes family are excellent, but they each tend to be best used in one particular area.

For example, XeroShoes’ previous release was the Z-Trek. Like the Z-Trail, it’s a postless sandal that is very light. It differs in that is uses a performance sole, which, although ideal for running, and walking on relatively smooth surfaces, can be unfomfortable after many miles on a rough trail.

Ztrail_new

The case is similar for the Amuri Cloud, which is XeroShoes’ other ‘comfy’ sandal (it also uses a BareFoam layer on the footbed). It’s a very comfortable sandal, but uses a rope-based, huarache tying system. Huaraches are great, and are very adjustable, but the thick straps of the Z-Trail give the wearer just that extra little bit more width to spread out any rubbing.

And of course, we could compare them to other brands, but really, nothing compares in terms of weight and flexibility. Lunas and Shammas are great, but they are much heavier and use a 10+mm sole. Really, the Z-Trails are in a class all their own.

On top of all this, the Z-Trail are a relatively inexpensive sandal, which brings me to my final point. The Z-Trail officially launches today! And thanks to all of the early interest, the price has been reduced during the launch period, so now is an excellent time to grab a pair for yourself.

I would love to hear what you think of these sandals, so please comment back if you decide to buy a pair (or tell us why you didn’t buy them!).

 

 

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XeroShoes Umara Z-Trail Preview!

Stop the Press! XeroShoes have just announced the release of the new Umara Z-Trail sandal. I was lucky enough to get a preview pair and OMG, they’re awesome.

As a special treat for Beginning Barefoot fans, I’ve put together a short review video so you can see what they’re all about.

In a nutshell:

  • They’re very lightweight
  • The new soles are durable, comfortable, and flexible!
  • They Float!
  • They’re the best sandals XeroShoes yet!

The Z-Trails launch officially on March 11th, but if you’re quick, you can take a sneak peek and enter to win a pair of your own!

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Review: Xero Shoes Takes On The Mainstream With The Amuri Z-Trek

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

AmuriZTrek
Since appearing on the show Shark Tank 2 years ago, Xero Shoes have been working hard to bring their unique sandals to a larger, more mainstream audience. They came out running, with the launch of not one, but 2 new huarache-style sandals – the Amuri Venture and Amuri Cloud. These represented a major departure from their original, simple designs, and were heartily embraced by the mainstream and barefoot running communities.

Now in 2015, on the back of increasing success, the pressure has been on to come up with more new and innovative designs, and this they have done with their latest offering, the Amuri Z-Trek Sport Sandal.

Overview

Unlike all of their previous models, the Z-T2015-08-22 14.23.05rek has a more mainstream-recognisable, postless sandal style. This departure from the huarache style is a big surprise, and has opened up the market to include those of us who don’t like the rubbing and chafing often caused by sandals that split the toes.

Not ones to simply copy existing footwear, Xero Shoes have done some significant tinkering with the Z-Trek, that sets it apart from other, similar sandals.

2015-08-22 14.22.56The first difference is the near weightlessness of the Z-Trek. Unlike the thick slab of rubber featuring in most postless sandals, the Z-Trek has a sole that is just 5.5mm thick. Going this thin is something that most manufacturers have avoided as it has the tendency to increase ‘sandal slap’, and make the shoes clumsy to wear.

This is where the second feature of the Z-Trek comes into play. One look at the strapping system and it’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into it. In practice, the clever use of fixed and adjustable straps significantly reduces slapping, and helps maintain the sandal’s shape when running or walking.

2015-08-22 14.23.28-1Unlike with their huarache style sandals, the Z-Trek has a custom shaped sole, which allows the straps to be threaded in without contacting the ground. This makes for a nice, clean interface between the straps and the sole, which reduces wear and is aesthetically pleasing.

There are 2 straps that form the upper of the sandal, which are permanently stitched to the sole. A sturdy plastic buckle and Velcro heel strap, however, allow for a surprisingly large ability to tighten and adjust them so that they fit just right.

Though the adjustment of the straps can take a little bit of time initially, once they have been correctly fitted, the sandals are extremely easy to take on and off, by either pushing down the heel strap, or using the quick release feature of the main buckle.

Performance

2015-08-22 14.22.37In terms of performance, the Amuri Z-Trek fits roughly in between the Venture and Cloud. They are rugged enough for trail work, but comfy enough for day-to-day walking.

On the trails, the Z-Treks fare quite well. The chevron grip system allows for solid foot placement when running on flats and uphill, and the reverse pattern on the heel does a surprisingly good job of helping stability on the downhills.

The heel cup has a slight tendency to collect a small amount of debris on the trail, which can require the odd shake or a quick finger scrape to clear out. At first I questioned whether it was needed or not, but it does seem to add to the structural integrity of the sole, and I suspect that this was why it was added.

As with the other Xero Shoes sandals, a lot of the performance and comfort gains of the shoes are gleaned when correctly adjusting the straps. This can take a few goes, and some adjustments are needed when conditions change, especially in the wet. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do, and once done, the solid strapping system doesn’t slip and loosen, even when running.

Conclusion

The Amuri Z-Trek is a very strong effort for a first attempt at a postless sandal. There has been a lot of thought put into the design and appearance of the sandals, and they seem to have a good chance of getting picked up by more mainstream shoppers.

I look forward to seeing how these sandals evolve over time, as there is still a little wiggle-room in terms of ease of adjustment, and possibly with initial fitting. I’d really love to see more Xero Shoes in the shops where these hurdles could be easily overcome by retail staff.

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