Monday, August 16, 2010

The 31st Mile -- Don't Push off on Those Metatarsal Heads

After all the excitement and new adventures, I have returned today to my home stomping grounds.  (Whoops -- did I say "stomp."  Don't "stomp" when you barefoot run.)

I finally am getting how to step lightly and BOY DO MY FEET FEEL GREAT!. If I thought barefoot running felt good before, now that I am stepping lighter I am really impressed.

This was my official day back on my smooth terra cotta-style sidewalk tiles. They felt really good. I was excited to practice my new lighter step without pushing off on those metatarsals, which I discovered in the shopping parking lot and practiced on my spontaneous run in the park.

After 10 weeks and 30 miles of running, I feel like I'm finally getting to a point where I can say I'm ready to begin. Now I can build the foundation. I will have to go round and round on the barefoot mile to make this habitual and to strengthen the muscles that got activated when I altered my step. But once that's done, maybe over the next couple of weeks, I think I'll be able to enter a kind of stage two phase, which will be gradual building and development.

They say that your feet will teach you the correct form. I believe that your feet will give you the information you need, but it's not like it happens immediately. There are two kinds of feedback (well, maybe more than two kinds, but for right now I'll be very general). Feedback one is immediate. There are just some things you won't be able to do if you are in bare feet so they will be eliminated immediately, like slam your heels into the sidewalk.

But then there's a kind of delayed feedback that happens after you run and even the next day. There is pain or little signs that you are not stepping exactly right. Beginner barefoot runners take a day off in between to kind of recover and then go out again. But I think the aftermath feedback won't work as well if you heal too much between runs, because the pain is going to force you to step a different way. If your metatarsals are sore, like mine were, or the side of your foot, that pain is going to be there to let you know you haven't got it right yet.

I finally figured out that I was pushing off. I didn't feel like I was pushing off with my feet. The symptom I have read about that might tell you if you are pushing off was blisters. I didn't have blisters so I thought that was a sign I wasn't pushing off. I actually had to use logic -- (I know, I know, it might have been really super obvious, but I'm so dimwitted I have to sometimes reason myself over to see things that are just self-evident) -- to figure out whether I was pushing off or not.

In this case, I think my plus-size weight actually worked in my favor because the extra weight when pushing off caused the issue to come to the fore fast (or at least to the forefoot fast). I think it could be possible for a lighter weight runner to be pushing off and not realize this was wrong until they increased speed or distance.

Well, to make a long story short, I think I've got the basic step down now. There are probably many things I will find to be adjusted and refined, but the basic gross motor movement of what I'm aiming for is there and now I can get a little stronger and proceed.

Some little notes from what I thought about whlie running today:

Plus Size Running
There's not a whole lot of helpful information out there about the needs of plus-size runners. I am forming some opinions about it. I was pretty worried that barefoot running might not be for overweight people, but now I'm thinking that it can be done but some precautions are necessary. I think plus-size people have to proceed more slowly. When they read a running plan for an absolute-beginner-to-5K, for example, the plus size person should spend more time building a foundation before beginning, and take more time -- at least double the time -- if not more -- to increase distances.

Weight lifters develop their muscle strength to the point where they can lift very heavy weights, so in principle, a plus size person should be able to develop greater strength needed for tasks of a heavier weight. However, weight lifters start with lighter weights and gradually increase, while a plus-size person is starting out with the heavier weights. Having really excellent form, and doing lower reps at first, going shorter distances consistently and repetitively, IMO, will be the way for plus size to start.

I don't know if I'm totally right about this, but it's working for me this way, and it makes sense, so for now I'll think these things, until any better information comes along.

Favoring a Foot
Today after about a mile, with a half a mile left to go, I started noticing that I was landing heavier on my left foot. I remembered that the problems with the metatarsal bone pain was in the left foot mainly and I wondered why the left foot. My left foot had been my "good" foot while I was training for the half marathon last year. I wonder if I came down harder on it and pushed off harder in an attempt to spare the right foot, which had the plantar fasciitis. Could be.

Somone Honked
Today was the first time I got beeped at by a car. It was my husband. "Hey, how do I look?"  He told me I had good form!

Light Dog Leash
Daffodil seemed to sense my lighter step and did not pull on the leash today. I was holding the leash lightly between my thumb and forefinger and she was trotting along beside me. I wonder if she sensed that something was wrong before, and now that I had the light step she could relax? You never know. Dogs key in to all kinds of states of being.

Let me tell you that my feet feel the best they have ever felt. I'm actually able to walk barefoot on the hard kitchen floor tile quite comfortably, even after sitting down to write this blog post. Usually I'm fine to walk around on my feet right after a run, but after sitting and resting a while, when I get up walking in bare feet will be a bit uncomfortable. Today -- excellent!  I'm really encouraged.


Neil Zee said...

You are doing great! Keep it up!

Avocational Singer said...

Thank you! I shall, Neil Z!