Back on the road… again

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It’s been a while since I’ve been running. It’s been quite a while actually. Worst of all, the reason for my lapse is completely self inflicted. Let me explain…

Ten months ago I posted this about a glass splinter I’d managed to acquire while running. Not a problem, I’ve been here before; just dig it out and carry on. However this splinter was quite deep and took more than a little effort to get it out. Six weeks later I realised the small wound caused had healed over into a hard patch which made running uncomfortable–located as it was on my landing zone. Looking at it closely I realised I had a verruca growing there. And it took me another month to realise that’s what it was.

I’d only had one verruca before, and having gone through many painful and unsuccessful ‘remedies’ to remove it. All to no avail. The final solution was duct tape, which appeared to clear it up in four weeks. Of course they do go away on their own eventually anyway, so it may have been the duct tape or it may not.

So of course I tried duct tape, but it did nothing. So I upped the ante by also using a cotton wool bud, soaked in cider vinegar. Again, all to no avail. Eventually I resorted to over the counter verruca removal gel, which does work, but you have to apply and re-apply, over and over again, using an emery board to wear down the infected area. It’s a right faff. But finally after months of doing this I am almost at the end (I think) and I’m just about able to run on it without discomfort. So I’m running again.

Before all this happened I’d set out on a new scheme of running little and often, instead of trying to run longer distances only a couple of times a week. The idea being that little and often is kinder to my body, and the total distance per week is higher than doing more less often. I’d gotten up to 14 k per week and was very happy with that. I managed to keep this up for over 100 days and suffered no injuries the whole time.

Now it’s time to reinstall that strategy and see how I get on. So yesterday I ran 1 k and the same again this morning. I’ll do this very short distance for a week or so and then slowly up the distance.

Wish me luck.

Barefoot Running isn’t for Fatties

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I wrote an appendix page for this site a year ago about the preparations required for starting barefoot running. This was in response to the usual pseudo-science ‘studies’ that conclude that barefoot running causes more injuries that it cures–the real culprit being not enough time was allowed for the body to adapt, or simply that the subjects over did it.

In the final section I hypothesised that weight played a big factor too. I believed from my own experience, that being heavier when starting isn’t a good idea. The result being various setbacks and minor overuse issues. Thus I declared that being over a certain BMI wasn’t a good idea for starting barefoot running. Well it turns out that there’s now a study to back this idea, albeit focusing on weight rather than BMI.

The study at the University of South Australia concluded that if you weigh over 85kg then you’re more than three times more likely to suffer an injury. Whereas if you’re under 71kg you won’t suffer the same magnification of the risks.


Body Mass and Weekly Training Distance Influence the Pain and Injuries Experienced by Runners Using Minimalist Shoes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Joel T. Fuller BSc, et al. University of South Australia.

Study of studies finds study of studies pointless

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At least that’s what the headline to this piece should have been.

Little evidence for risks, or benefits, of habitual barefootedness

If I had a penny for every meta-study that attempts to draw conclusions on other studies regarding barefoot running and the difference between shod and barefoot humans I’d have £57.23. But seriously when are we going to see an end to these pointless meta-studies?

It’s hard enough to run a real study on the benefits/pitfalls of walking/running without shoes. So a study that has to pick and choose from other studies to try and cobble together unrelated aspects that tried to prove/disprove some specific aspect of this subject is shear madness. Almost all studies I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot) fail before they start. The transition time to adapt your body to a completely different running gait is long and I’ve yet to see a long term study that takes this into account. What usually happens is they take a bunch of either habitually shod or unshod runners and make half of them run in the opposite manner. Then after about two weeks they draw their conclusions. This is completely flawed science and an absolute failure to understand the adaptations needed.

Actual studies worth their weight in gold focus only on a specific aspect of running and even then they are cautious in drawing any conclusions, usually with a heavily caveated summary. Of course these are then picked up by the press with attention click-bate grabbing headlines that distort the conclusions or lack of conclusions the study pointed to. Most readers will not seek out the full text of the study and simply blindly believe the press article was accurate in summarising the research – they never do. Selling newspapers, or clicks or screen views trumps accurate reporting. Money talks; science walks.

 

More Glass

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So this is the third glass splinter in my current running streak. I acquired this early on into my run and stopped a couple of times to brush away what I assumed was a tiny stone clinging to my foot under the forth metatarsal head on my left foot. But there was no stone, and as I continued the run I suspected it may be glass.

So after I’d finished and taken a shower, I set about digging it out. As I’ve noted before, digging small slivers of glass out of your foot is quite hard. It’s effectively invisible and so you can only do it by feel.

It still can hurt like hell, and this morning was no exception. Previous glass shards I’ve dug out haven’t even drawn blood. This little bugger though was 3 x 3 mm and 1 mm thick. You can easily see it in this photo, as it’s stained with my blood. It was lodged deep and didn’t initially want to come out. I almost gave up, thinking I’d use baking soda and a bath later. But one last go managed to dislodge it, and started the wound bleeding at the same time. I didn’t care; better out than in.

I think my recent run of glass is caused by two factors: I’m running everyday, so there’s more chance to get a splinter; my run starts by passing by three pubs, which spill out onto the pavement every night. I’m guessing that if a glass gets smashed on that block paved surface that tiny shards end up being left behind. I may try using the other side of the road and see if that helps.

Anyway, I just consider it an inconvenience. As, apart from the time it touched a nerve, it doesn’t stop me running and I mostly don’t realise I have a splinter until after my run.

Incidentally, I’m not using the scalpel to cut the glass out; merely in the same way you’d use a needle for the same aim. It’s just I find a scalpel a better tool for this as the wedge shaped blade is better at staying connected to the glass as I try to dislodge it. My blade of choice is a 10A blade, which was the preferred blade for graphic design paste-up, back in the days before everything was done on a computer.

Ninety-nine

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As I write this post I’m now one day away from having run everyday for the past 100 days. Well, at least I’ve been on this track for the past 99 days, there have obviously been some days when for whatever reason it didn’t happen; I’m not a robot. But I kept track of everyday, and looking back I can see there were only 10 days out of the hundred that I didn’t run. So that averages out at a rest day every 10 days, which I think is acceptable. Common perception is that you need rest days, so I’m okay with this. As long as the intention is for me to run everyday, I’m okay with missing the odd few days.

This whole three months has been really easy for me. Before I started I worried about doing too much, getting injured, etc. But that proved to be just that; worries. It had no basis in reality and now twelve weeks on, running when I get up is so natural and normal for me now, that on the days I did need to skip it, I really missed it.

I actually skipped five days last week and so was naturally worried that my body would punish me on the first day back. I couldn’t have been more wrong, it was as if I’d not been away. This is good news and shows that the conditioning of the past three months aren’t simply thrown away with a few days off.

The weather is of course getting colder now which will make it harder to convince myself to got out in it. However I’ve already ran in an English winter and it doesn’t phase me. Besides I’m only running 2k each time, so even when I don’t fancy it, I know that once I’m out there, I’ll be done in 10 minutes and that really encourages me. However it’s probably about time I started upping my distance. I’m in two minds about how to do this. Once school of thought is to up my regular morning distance. Another is to continue my morning runs unchanged, but to start introducing the odd evening run. The morning being the status quo and the evening being the pushing for further. Both have their pros and cons. I’ll decide which way to go by next week.

I’m still chuffed that I’m now doing 14k per week without shoes. This is the most consistency I’ve ever had with my running; shod or shoeless. Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Walking on Broken Glass

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Or in my case, running without shoes where glass was previously broken.

I noticed a sore area on my left big toe yesterday. Because I’d been reading up about the two tiny floating bones under your big toe’s metatarsal heads, called sesamoids, I naturally assumed I’d inflamed one of these somehow. So I did nothing about it for day thinking it would sort itself out. It was only running again the following day that I realised it must be a splinter. And on closer examination it must be a glass splinter, as I couldn’t see the foreign object at all.

This is the second glass splinter I’ve had during my current running-everyday-thing and both where incredibly tiny. I managed to get a photo of this one, and as you can see it’s less that 2mm across at its widest.

I’ve probably had around four splinters in total since I started kicking off my shoes four years ago. I guess having two in short succession is because my rate of running has gone up. Plus I guess it doesn’t help that I have to run past several bars where there is bound to be tiny fragments left over from a smashed glass or two. Too small to see, and that’s the point. This kind of tiny splinter is just not visible and both times I didn’t notice it going it; only realising much later.

So while I’m constantly on the lookout for broken glass in my path, in order to avoid it, these tiny splinters are completely unavoidable. Fortunately both were removed with little fuss with a needle. Which I was amazed about, as they literally are invisible while in the wound. Still there’s always the baking soda method if that doesn’t work in the future.

Sixty-six

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So it’s now been sixty-six days since I started my latest running effort of running at least a mile each morning. In fact I moved house and so for the past forty-five days I’ve actually been running 1.3 miles, or 2 kilometers each morning.

So far, so good. My soles no longer feel sore at all, and my musculoskeletal aches come and go; I just run through them. I’m hoping that running every single day will kick start a process called Mechanostat Modelling. Which is the process of bones and soft tissue becoming tougher in response to strain. The strain being enough to trigger this process, but no so much that an injury occurs.

I wrote about this process recently when updating one of the running pages. It’s a useful thing to keep in mind; no growth or strengthening occurs if you don’t push yourself slightly beyond what your body is already used to. It’s the root of the old saying ‘no pain, no gain‘.

I’m also running wearing my Correct Toes. It only took a couple of runs in them before I stopped giving a shit about people looking at them. I’m running shoe-less anyway, and that’s enough to get people to stare. This will just add further confusion to them. They’ll probably think I’m wearing ultra-minimalist shoes of some sort; who cares, they can think what they like.

So, two months in and it’s all going well. Let’s see how my enthusiasm holds as the weather gets colder. Summer is definitely over in the UK now and the dropping temperatures are already noticeable.

Posture

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We all know that good posture is a good thing, or rather bad posture is bad for us. It’s often touted that a benefit of ditching conventional shoes is improved posture. But what exactly do people mean by this? And what evidence do they have of any benefit?

Symptoms of bad posture include:

  • Back pain
  • Shoulder/neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain (yes, really)
  • Reduced lung function

Permanent alterations to
your body include:

  • Anterior Pelvic Tilt
  • Thoracic Kyphosis
  • Rounded Shoulders
  • Hunchback

I think it’s hard to notice your own posture improving, unless it was really bad to start with. These changes happen over time so unless you took photographs before you began, it’s a little anecdotal at best.

However this week I attended a training course at RADA called, ‘Presenting with Power & Passion’. It was basically teaching you how to talk to an audience, without PowerPoint or any other props; just you and their attention. It was really quite amazing. Although I’m relatively okay with public speaking, I think there’s always more to learn.

The course centered around how you breath, speak and hold yourself. These three things deciding how much of the content you’re presenting actually gets through to the audience. So the third of these, how you hold yourself, or more correctly, your posture is very important if you want your audience to take you seriously. Also it seems that the right posture, improves your breathing, which in turn improves your oration. Thus the root of being an effective communicator starts with your posture; the foundation of which of course, are your feet.

In a 1-2-1 coaching session towards the end of the day, Johnny, our tutor personally addressed each participant’s posture, voice and breathing. We watched this process as he attended to each of us in turn. One thing that surprised me was that although everyone else’s posture needed correction, mine didn’t. I already had a perfect stance. As posture in this scenario is the basis for breathing correctly and ultimately orating like a professional; it seemed I had an inbuilt advantage. However I see no natural advantage in myself – I see that it’s been three years since I binned all my conventional shoes. That’s the posture advantage I had over my peers. I’ve been walking around without the hindrance of heeled shoes. Heeled shoes that permanently put the wearer off-balance and force the body into a crooked stance to compensate. That’s the advantage I had, three years of walking and standing correctly.

I’d previously thought my posture had improved since ditching the shoes, but this was the first evidence outside my own imagination.

More on Posture…

Thirty-three

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So I’ve been quiet on here for the past three weeks, but I’ve not been idle. I’ve continued to run 1 mile every day for the past 33 days now and I’ve encountered no problems whatsoever. I’ve had a couple of wobbles, but these have merely been landing on a small stone under my 2nd metatarsal head, and the following day’s run being a little tender in that spot. But the following day I got right back on the horse and never felt anything there again.

I also noticed that on days 18-23 my ankles and feet felt like they’d had a real workout. Not pain, just slight stiffness and aching. But I carried on regardless and this also subsided after only 6 days to leave me now feeling strong and capable. I’m not going to hurry stepping up this distance by any great margin. Although I am moving house at the weekend, and although I’m not moving far, I am moving slightly further away from my mile circuit of Clapham Common Westside, so this will increase my daily mile to 1.25 miles (2 km). I plan to do this distance, a quarter distance increase for another month to see how it goes.