Monday, July 5, 2010

Another Barefoot Mile -- Learning to Run in the Present Moment

Well, after accomplishing another barefoot mile today, I think I am beginning to see the way this is going to go.  It's not going to be about goals or what the next advancement is going to be.  It's going to go slow. Barefoot running is managing to teach me a completely different way of being.

I notice that when I am barefoot, my alertness level raises pretty high because I am being so careful to avoid harmful objects and to step well.  When I had put the Vibrams on last Wednesday, I had felt a sense of relief from that heightened sense of care.  Almost a feeling of relaxation.

Another time I have the level of alertness that I have while I'm barefoot running is when I'm driving a car.  There is a sense of responsibility, and an awareness of a very present and conscious state of being.

I really can understand how, after 6 - 7 barefoot miles, I might be tempted to think - "okay, I've got this down.  I can start increasing distance (or frequency)."  But today I learned that I have not exhausted the possibility of this mile yet.  I may think I understand or "get" the barefoot running form quite a bit, but I really have not even yet begun to understand it.

For one thing, as I was running along today, I noticed a kind of "scuffed" feeling at the front of one of the toes on my left foot.  I didn't feel myself scrape or drag that toe, but became aware of it in a way that told me I wanted to take care not to do that.  I began to ever so slightly raise my toes, and kind of set them down again with each footstep.  However, as I did this, I then began to start "grabbing" the ground with the toes, and I recalled the exercise I had done in the park in the barefoot running clinic a few weeks ago.  Michael Sandler (author of Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth) had us walk across the grass grabbing the ground with our toes like a cheetah spreading her paws and grabbing the ground.

The feeling I had of using my toes this way came into play today while running along, all because of that moment of awareness of the scuffed feeling on my toe.  "Wow," I thought, "it really is true that my feet are teaching me the form."

I realized that this was going to take time.

I had to throw away all ideas of how I would progress, and just stick with this simple barefoot mile.  In fact, I probably jumped to the mile too soon, but, well, since I'm here, I'm going to stick with the mile and not go back to a half mile.  I don't get tired at the end of the mile, and the form does not begin to disintegrate, so I think I'm okay.

Besides that, it just feels like there's plenty of time in a mile to figure out what's happening, correct or add something, and practice the new addition.  It seems just right.

I think that I will just know when it's time to go further.

I have been toying with the idea of using Wednesday as the "long run day."  But a "long run day" in seed form.  One that will evolve into the long run day eventually.  I was thinking of having Wednesdays be minimal shoe day - Vibrams.

There's only one thing that bothers me about it.  Barefoot is a lot of focus and concentration.  What I sometimes loved about running in the past is that I would kind of get on an automatic pilot and just start thinking about so many things.  It seems like barefoot, at least in these beginning stages, takes away that daydreaming quality while running.  Is that what a running shoe does?  Like putting the car on cruise control on the highway? The shoe does the work?  When I'm running barefoot, I feel like I'm doing a lot more mental work, and it does feel hard.  I wonder if, once my feet are more conditioned and I become more advanced in barefoot running, if I'll have to pay as careful attention or if I will be able to go a little more on automatic pilot at times.

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