So my latest running spurt, after a 16 month hiatus, has hit the buffers… for now anyway.
It is almost of no surprise to me that I’ve managed to do overdo it yet again. I’ve sprained my right foot, causing me to stop all running until it’s recovered. It’s completely my own fault. I failed to obey rule #1: Listen to your body. Although looking back I can see how I’ve managed to do this.
My return to running was mainly prompted by a wish to rid myself once again of the dreaded planter facetious (PF), or as I’ve said before what should more correctly be called planter fasciosis. Running (in a barefoot style) cures this. So as I eagerly adopted my short everyday runs again, I could really feel the tendons working though my right heel, as it worked the lymphatic system to pump away the waste and restore health to my foot and heel. This is an odd experience, as it’s almost like mild pain, but yet it feels good. As if your body is telling you that the discomfort is worth it. As is the case with shod runners, it’s easy to ignore any pain while running by tapping into the fight or flight response. This isn’t something you have to consciously do, it just happens. Your body effectively self-medicates with adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Numbing the pain and allowing you to continue running. But this ‘pain’ I experienced was just mild discomfort which would go away in time as my PF got better.
This was the plan, however I didn’t count on me over doing it, and the PF discomfort being replaced with the pain from a foot sprain in the mid-foot. I did notice the area of discomfort move forward, but in my mind associated this with the PF. This was a mistake as it turns out. I should have recognised the symptoms of a sprain and rested my foot immediately – I didn’t, and carried on running unaware I was just compounding the problem. Of course I didn’t really notice when running, due to the aforementioned drugs my body was generating. I did notice when not running, most particularly when my foot had been inactive for a while: upon waking; after sitting at a desk for hours; etc. In between times it didn’t really bother me that much. Hardly at all in fact. I was only that this started to get worse, which alerted me to the fact that this wasn’t my PF but something different. I stopped running right away and have been careful to rest my foot as much as possible.
So let’s see where I went wrong. My progress was as follows:
10 days at 0.36 km
7 days at 0.60 km ~ 60% increase*
7 days at 0.85 km ~ 41% increase*
9 days at 1.3 km ~ 53% increase*
8 days at 1.9 km ~ 46% increase*
3 days at 2.2 km ~ 15% increase*
*percentage increase only worked out when writing this blog
It’s clear to me now that this was too much too fast. Perhaps if I’d not had the PF to start with then this would have been acceptable, or perhaps not. I’d also been experimenting with altering my walking gait. This involves using more of your reverse stride, rather than your forward stride, and does exercise the mid-foot more than a conventional gait (more on my barefoot walking gait experiments in their own post shortly). So maybe this was to blame, or a combination of the two .
But for now I think it’s interesting to just look at the running and to realise how much I stepped up the distance in terms of percentage. On average I was increasing the distance at 50% each time. Most people who talk about increasing the distance for barefoot running talk about stepping up only 10% at a time. If that advice is correct I was smashing that. I’d not considered the percentage increase when I was upping the distance, only using the next convenient road loop and working out the distance I ran later from my tracker band.
So, I’ve now stopped running to recover and the recovery is going well. I’ve been stopped for 4 weeks now and I guess it may take another 8 weeks before I try again. Annoyingly sprains tend the take about the same time as a fracture to repair; 3 months at least. So I’ll take it easy and consider this last progress plan when starting out again.
I always knew that learning to run barefoot would be period of discovery and re-education; I just had no idea that, as with all life’s learning, the eduction never ends.