6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 5: Posture

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<< Back to Part 4: Cadence or Start from the top

Welcome to the penultimate instalment of the 6 Weeks to Barefoot Running series. If you’ve been with us from the start, you should now have a solid grounding in the techniques involved below the waist. This week, we’re going to focus a bit more on the rest of the body.

One of the primary purposes of good running form is to allow you to run as efficiently as possible in order to maximise speed and endurance. Good posture is one of the key parts of the equation as it will reduce the energy required to keep yourself upright as you run.

To understand how this works, imagine a tower built of bricks. If all of the bricks are neatly stacked, one above the other, the tower is strong and will stay up. If, however the bricks are laid poorly, the tower may begin to lean and ultimately collapse under its own weight. The same is true in running. If you keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line, everything is in balance. If, however, you lean forward or back, your muscles need to engage to allow you to maintain that position. This drains away valuable energy, which would otherwise have been used to propel you towards your goal.

This week we’re going to try out a few techniques that will illustrate what good posture feels like so that you can use it to improve your running.

Session 1

As with other weeks, we’re going to start this one with a run. Get your feet out and head outside for a 10 minute run. Try to keep it nice and light, and focus on all the tips and techniques that we’ve gone through up to this point: Soft, forefoot landing, lifting your feet, bending your knees, and a 3 steps per second cadence.

By now as you run you should start to be feeling the difference it makes when you keep your feet under your body. Your strides should be quite short at this point, and your feet shouldn’t be coming off the ground very high after each step.

Once you’ve finished the run, take stock of how you feel and if you need some rest, take a few days off. If you can’t run for 10 full minutes, then intersperse walking as needed, and keep trying until you can run the whole distance. Remember that the slower you go, the longer you can run!

Session 2

Have you ever seen a model walking around with a book on her head?  Ever wondered why they do this? The trick is simple, really. If you try to balance something on your head, it’s much easioer to do if the rest of your body is in alignment. By keeping your back straight and head up, you can easily walk without upsetting the book. As soon as you start to lean even a little though, it’s inevitable that the book will slide off.

This is the technique we’re going to practice today. Because it’s a bit unusual to see people wandering the streets with books atop their heads, feel free to practice this one at home.

Find a reasonably heavy hardcover book, and place it on your head. Try to make sure that your back is straight and you’re looking straight ahead. Walk from one end of the room, making sure that the book stays on your head. If it falls off, go back to the start and try again. Keep at it until you can walk from one side of the room and back a few times.

Once you’re comfortable with it, do it a few more times, and really pay attention to how your body feels when it’s aligned. Take some deep breaths and feel how easily the air flows in and out of your chest.

When you’re happy with your book-balancing skills, head outside and do a 1km or so run. While you’re out there, try to practice keeping your body in alignment, but don’t forget about the last few weeks’ lessons!

Session 3, 4 & 5

For the rest of the week, we’re going to do proper runs. You’ll want to keep them under 2.5km for now, and try to take it easy. As you run, you may find it helpful to imagine that you’re hanging by a thread attached to the top of your head. Imagine it pulling your head up so that it’s aligned above your neck and shoulders. You should feel like you’re “running tall” and that your whole body is stacked up almost perfectly vertical.

For this week’s runs, try to over-emphasise this posture. Draw yourself up nice and straight. You should feel the difference in how much air you can draw in and once you get used to it, you will find that you will be able to run longer and more comfortably in this position.

Scorecard

    • 10 minute run complete
    • Walk like a model
    • Session 3 run complete
    • Session 4 run complete
    • Session 5 run complete
    • No blisters/soreness

On to Part 6: Free Fall >>

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Stomp of Approval

Barefoot TJ with Zola BuddOne of the best things about barefoot running is how it can bring people toegether. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as you take off your shoes, people just start talking to you! One of the best places to chat with other barefoot runners, and even meet up with them in real life is the Barefoot Runners Society (BRS) website, the world’s largest barefoot running community.

BeginningBarefoot.com was lucky enough to receive the BRS Stomp of Approval (see that lovely logo to the right?) and added to the Stomp Roll alongside a collection of excellent barefoot running blogs. In honour of this, I had a chat with Barefoot TJ, co-founder and president of the BRS:

Dawsy: For those of us new to the barefoot running community, can you please tell us a bit about who you are?

TJ: I am 45, married to the greatest guy I have ever known, and blessed with two precious little boys age 9 and 5.  I used to work in IT as a Network Administrator for a major airline before becoming a stay at home mom.  I am also the president and CEO of the Barefoot Runners Society, of which I am pleased to share that we are the largest barefoot and minimalist running club in the world with almost 3,900 members and nearly 90 chapter clubs located around the globe.

Dawsy: What first attracted you to barefoot running?

TJ: Running in shoes became so unbearable, that one day, after suffering great pain on a 10K run, I had no choice, thank God, but to take my shoes off and complete my run without them.  I instantly knew I was onto something new and exciting.  It felt awesome!  It felt natural. It felt right!  That was over three years ago.  After that first barefoot run, I found out that the shoes I had been wearing and running in had caused me to develop four neuromas in my feet (two in each).  The condition is called Morton’s Neuroma, and it is quite debilitating.  I found that I could run much farther barefoot than with shoes before the crippling pain would set in, so out went the shoes and in came the feets.  😉  I have surgery scheduled in January to have the neuromas removed once and for all.  Wish me well!

Dawsy: What’s the BFR (BRS) and how does it benefit members?

TJ: The Barefoot Runners Society was founded on November 1, 2009, and is an all-volunteer organization with many, many resources to help runners learn how to safely shed their traditional shoes and run barefoot and/or minimal at no cost to them.  Some of our resources are:

Forums:  The most active forums going on barefoot and minimalist talk.   Learn and grow with other members, new and veteran alike, as you transition to healthy running.   We have forums for Barefoot & Minimalist Running;  Barefoot & Minimalist Triathletes; Ultra Barefoot & Minimalist Running; Ask the Docs; Gear & Footwear; Health, Nutrition, Injuries & Medical Conditions; Mileage Reporting; New Member Introductions; Races & Events; the Barefoot Pub; and state/country forums as well.

Chapter Clubs:  Join in on group runs and races with other members in your area or head up a chapter in your area and arrange meetups.

Calendar of Events:  Stay informed on the barefoot and minimalist running, racing, and meetup events taking place around the country, in your area, and where you may be traveling to.

Ask the Docs Forum:  Get answers from medical professionals about your barefoot or minimalist living and running health.  Each of our three doctors are well-known in the barefoot and minimalist running community:  Dr. Michael Nirenberg (Podiatrist), Dr. Mark Cucuzzella (MD), Dr. James Stoxen (Chiropractor), Dr. Stephen Gangemi, a.k.a., Sock Doc (Chiropractor), and Dr. Andrew Klein (Chiropractor), and each one is a barefoot runner, so they can really relate to our members!

Map of Barefoot-Friendly Doctors & Specialists:  Find a doctor or specialist near you who won’t treat you like an outcast for your running-style, or you can share those barefoot-friendly docs you learn of with the rest of us.

Member Map:  Put yourself on the map, and locate friends and mentors in your area to run with.

Map of Barefoot Running Instructors:  For those who need an extra bit of help and some one-on-one instruction.

Product Reviews:  Share your experiences and rate a product you may have tested–gear & footwear–and read what others are saying about products you may be interested in buying; footwear can be rated by Weight, Flexibility, Zero Drop, Toe Box Width, etc., etc.

Course Reviews:  Rate a course, trail, or race on barefoot-friendliness you have experienced, so others will know what to expect should they want to run it too.

Home Page News:  Stay informed on the latest in barefoot and minimalist running and the news that impacts our sport.

Blogging:  Share your experiences with others, or learn more about your friends’ personal triumphs and trials in an all-inclusive place.

Library:  Review our Library, fast becoming THE go-to source for academic research and info on the benefits of barefoot and minimalist running, review how-to instructionals, and learn safe transitioning through Barefoot Running 101.

Mileage Clubs & Mileage Reporting:  Be inspired and motivated by logging your barefoot and/or minimalist running miles and inspire and motivate others along the way.  Earn a merit award at the end of the year to display proudly or keep as a memento of your hard work and efforts.

International Barefoot Running Day:  Annually, barefoot runners get together all over the world to share camaraderie, express unity, and share with the world an alternative, viable way to run.  We will be celebrating our 2nd annual IBRD on Sunday, May 6, so stay tuned for details on an event near you!

Stomp of Approval Program:  The BRS’s Stomp of Approval is given to those individuals, organizations, and running events that show support for barefoot and minimalist running to display on their sites.

Communication:  Communicate with other members through private messaging.

Dawsy: Can you tell us a little bit of the history of the BFR (BRS)? (Eg:How did it get started, and where’s it headed?)

TJ: After establishing the Barefoot Running forum at Runner’s World, I really felt the need to connect with the friends I was making online.  It was great being able to talk to them through the forums, but I wanted more, I wanted to run with them.  I knew that if we could run in groups that we wouldn’t be looked at as odd, but instead, we would be seen as intriguing.  I needed support, and figured there were others out there who did too.  I thought it would be cool if we could actually establish a club and create our own site.  Jason Robillard and Victor Palma, two of my closest BFR buddies were some of the first to help me found the BRS.

Dawsy: What’s your stance on Minimal Shoes?

TJ: Jason said it best, Shoes as Tools.  It can’t be said any better.  But to answer your question, I take this directly from our About Us section on our site:

We are a barefoot AND minimalist running club.  We support both the barefoot AND minimalist runner.  We prefer people to FIRST LEARN (or relearn) TO RUN BAREFOOT before donning any footwear and only doing so after they have learned to run with proper form first.  This is why we chose the name Barefoot Runners Society… ..

We believe that the best way to decrease your chance of injury is by starting over, literally from scratch, and allowing your plantar skin to take you only as far as you are physically capable of and safely able to go.  (Increasing from there can be learned by listening to your body and all the great advice you will receive from the many resources within this running club.)

There were six of us that started the BRS.  Two of us were purists, two of us were minimalists, and two of us were somewhere in between.  When we started the BRS, it was important to include all flavors of the barefoot/minimalist movement, not just focus on purism, and this is why…

We understand that not everyone can run barefoot at all times under all conditions.  Some people may not be able to run completely barefoot from the get-go.  We got that.  They may have health conditions (severe osteoporosis, diabetes, neuropathy, ciculatory conditions, etc.) that would prohibit them from doing so; others may live in areas where the terrain is always extreme, and most of us live where we experience extreme weather/temps at some point during the year.  We also realize that in the end, most people are not going to choose to run truly barefoot 100% of the time or at all.  Therefore, we believe it is very important to provide our members with information that will help them to make informed, healthy decisions about what to put on their feet.

Dawsy: What have been your best/worst experiences with barefoot running?

TJ: I always try to reflect positively on the run, even the most difficult ones.  The difficult ones are the ones that are most important as they humble us and teach us the most about ourselves, what our limits are, what we can and can’t get away with.  I refuse to waste a run with negative thoughts.

Dawsy: Have you got any advice for folks new to barefoot running?

TJ: Take your shoes off and leave them off until you have found a safe, proper, healthy form that works for you.  By then, hopefully, you won’t want to put them back on, and if you do, may it only be when you truly need to wear them.  We have learned through our combined experiences that our musculoskeletal system progresses at about the same rate as our plantar skin conditions, so our soles help to prevent us from overdoing it.  Minimalist running shoes tend to make the wearer believe they can run farther and faster than what they are ready to, thereby increasing their chances of getting injured.

Set your racing goals aside.  Understand that upfront you will need to make sacrifices to your distance and your speed, although you will once again regain both, if not exceed in both areas.  Expect to learn a lot about yourself through this journey, and when you are ready, you will be amazed at how far and fast you can go.  Most importantly, join the Barefoot Runners Society at http://www.BarefootRunners.org for a wealth of information and tons of support from others both veteran and new alike.  😉

I’d like to say a big thank you to TJ for taking the time out to answer a few questions. I’d also like to highly recommend heading over to barefootrunners.org, signing up for a free membership, and taking part.