How You Can Exercise All Day and Still Get Stuff Done


Exercise via US National Archives

Like many people, I struggle to find the time to exercise during the day. I’ve been able to make it a priority, but often at the expense of other worthwhile pursuits and hobbies. All of these things are good, and I want to make time for all of them.

During the work day, I usually sit in my office, at my desk, typing away. I may trade my computer for paper & pen, but I’m still sitting most of the day, and there’s growing evidence sitting isn’t the best thing for you. I want to move, but I can’t just leave the office to go exercise.

Sound familiar?

I want to share with you something that I’ve been doing for several weeks, and it has changed my exercise habits. The key word is Habit, because exercise has become just that.

The dictionary describes a habit as:

“a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up”

Instead of carving out a single 30-45 minute block, I take little swipes at it throughout the day. This habit keeps me involved, focused, energized, and you can do these exercises anywhere with no equipment.

I call it the All Day Workout.

The basis of the All Day Workout is that you pick 4-6 movements that you do at intervals throughout the day. The movements are quick, short, and in a small time frame, so you can do them anywhere, and also not get too sweaty or smelly in a work environment.

All you need to remember is: 15 seconds every 15 minutes.

That’s it.

On your watch, set the timer to beep every 15 minutes. When it beeps, take a 15 second break to move however you want. Here are some examples of body-weight exercises you can use, and none of them require equipment (watch videos here).

  • Pushups
  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • Lunges

Remember, you’re only moving for 15 seconds! This helps you feel refreshed and gets the blood flowing, without working up a sweat or smell that’s going to follow you in to the next meeting.

Moving like this has helped me immeasurably throughout the day. I feel less stressed, more active, energetic, and less hungry. Movement also breaks up a project and helps clear my mind for upcoming tasks. I love it.

To see the cumulative benefits of the All Day Workout, in terms of total output, here’s what I did on Friday.

Total Hours Exercised – 6 (at 4 intervals/hour = 24 intervals = 6 minutes total exercise)

  • Pushups: 90 (15 reps x 6 intervals)
  • Squats: 72 (12 reps x 6 intervals)
  • Lunges: 36 per leg (6 reps x 6 intervals)
  • Burpees: 30 (5 reps x 6 intervals)

Not bad for 6 minutes eh? Remember that these are my numbers. Yours will be different. The beauty is this program meets you where you are physically. Do it for yourself.

A normal work day is 8 hours. I only listed 6 hours exercised because as we all know, things happen during the day. You can’t drop and do pushups during your meeting, and you want to have a peaceful lunch. If your timer passes 15 minutes and you can’t move, it’s ok. Pick it up next time, or the time after that. Cumulative effort will pay off! Plus, the hope is for less stress and better health, so don’t add to your stress by thinking about a missed interval. There will be more opportunities.

Obviously, this doesn’t have to simply happen during your work day. Consider waking up, setting your timer, and moving all day! Imagine the effect! I will talk about that more another time, as well as simple equipment exercises that will take your All Day Workout to the next level.

What do you think? Do you believe this could be something attainable for you at home or the office? Since I have just recently begun this myself, I would love to hear your thoughts!

New Balance 2012 Minimalist Shoe Reviews


When you look at the major shoe companies, I will say that New Balance seems to be most aggressively pursuing minimalist footwear. With the exception of Five Fingers, the Minimus Trail 10 series is the funkiest looking shoe on the market, showing NB is not afraid of going against the grain. Today I’m giving you a look at 3 different shoes that NB is released this spring, I’ve put them through the ringer and you get to reap the rewards. Thanks to New Balance for being willing to connect with bloggers and new media types like myself, it shows a lot of forward thinking towards where reviews and information are headed.

On to the shoes!

Getting’ Low with Minimus Zero Drop 

This week the Minimus Zero was named Outside’s Gear of the Year, and will undoubtable continue to pile up awards. This shoe is legit. The bar has been set high with the introduction of the Minimus Zero-Drop line, a naturally progression from the previous 4mm heel-toe drop released in 2011. What’s cool about this shoe is the heavy customer feedback that NB relied on in designing and testing the shoe, setting up Q&A sessions between people who posted on their social media sites, and their stable of elite runners.

The shoe I was able to test out was the road version of the Minimus Zero. I put about 40 miles on them during training, on sidewalks, asphalt, track, and grass. My longest run in them was 5 miles, and I felt no foot fatigue or soreness after. I primarily run on the trail, so to be able to spend a lot of miles on the road feeling a shoe out was a bit of a novelty. I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

The “Zero drop” claim simply means that the heel and forefoot have no difference in height. Many road shoes average a drop of 10-12 mm, giving the runner who heel strikes a natural roll towards propelling back off the toes. This is the first zero drop line that NB has produced, but don’t think that you are completely in contact with the ground either. The shoe still has a slight 1mm cushion, and rises .5 mm to the arch (actually assisting the runner in staying on their mid foot through propulsion) before descending back to a 1mm cushion.

Pros – Breathable, comfortable, snug, but also a roomy enough toe box. Extremely light, they are flexible and moved with my feet well. I did have to stay disciplined in my foot strike and frequency, since a zero drop and pavement will make a runner pay for poor form! I actually really enjoyed running on turf and rubberized track workouts in them.

Cons – The main design con for me was the shoes were narrower than others, and I the balls of my feet seemed to cover more than just the insole. The mesh is very breathable but I wonder how it will hold up over time.

Other Notes – I had to be very disciplined in my foot strike and frequency. I think this is a more advanced shoe, especially being a road model. I think most minimalist runners tend to the trail, with its natural cushioning and varying terrain. The repetitive nature of a road run can expose a runner’s flaws much quicker, and I’m afraid the nature of these shoes may accelerate that. It’s not really a con, just a reality of the shoe. Like I said, for more advanced users who are dialed in to their stride.

Overall – I’m like the shoes and they have made my road runs more enjoyable, and are good for focusing on my form. I’ll continue to run in them and see how my body adjusts.

Details – Weight = 6.4 oz (181 g). Heel-Toe drop = 0mm

Interested in the Zero Trail? Click here to view.

Minimus Trail 10 

I’ve run the most miles in these shoes, about 50. My longest run was 10 miles. Initial impressions are been great, I have been wanting to try this model since they came out.

The Trail 10 have a 4mm drop, which in the market of minimalist shoes is still pretty low. Personally, when I run on the trail I prefer a little drop, the varying nature of the terrain can throw some random obstacles your way, and it helps it have a little more.

I ran all over Asheville area trails in these shoes, and am very impressed. They don’t look the coolest, but if that’s why you’re running then hop right back on the treadmill next to the good looking people.

My biggest run was on a technical trail ascending to Mt Mitchell, which is very technical with a steady incline. There are several stream crossings, along with your usual big rocks, roots, and ruts. The Trail 10 performed well, with great breathability, protection, and grip. When I ran through streams, a few times I consciously immersed the shoe, and 20 minutes later my feet were dry again. No raisin feet at the end of the run!

Here are some more notes…

Pros – The shoes are very breathable, flexible, and comfortable. They have a roomy toe box, are supportive, and comfortable without socks. I was impressed with the pod grips on the outsole, gripping well on wet rocks, dry packed leaves, and muddy trails. On downhill sections, the heel offered just enough cushion to make the impact tolerable. I also liked the forefoot brace, it helps keep your foot steady during the moment of impact.

Cons – The only cons are those inherent in trying minimalist shoes in the first place (support, cushion)! Honestly I don’t even really notice the 4mm drop, it may show more when I give the Trail Zero-Drop a try, but I think these are great. Visually, the shoe looks like nothing else I’ve worn before, and I can’t say how I feel about it yet. I wouldn’t wear this shoe besides running, but of course that’s their function!

Overall – As a shoe, they’re great. I think these are great shoes for people transitioning to minimalist running, the slight heel-toe drop allows people to still heel strike at times, especially late in runs when form is fading.

Details – Weight = 7.5 oz (213 g). Heel-toe drop = 4mm

MT 110 

I’ve run 25 miles in these shoes, and really like the improvements made over last year’s 110, which I put close to 1000 miles on. The new update is well-done, once again with feedback from their trail team. The biggest update was to decrease the heel-toe drop from 8mm to 4mm.

A cool yet utterly meaningless feature of this shoe is that the insole is printed with one of the hometowns of their runners, i.e. my pair had “Tested on the Flatirons of Boulder”, home turf of Anton Krupika.

Pros – What stood out to me was the update to the outsole, which was my biggest beef with the 101s. NB kept the rockstop plate, and added extra beef to the traction lugs on the mid & forefoot. Footing and control on slick and overgrown conditions is much better. Similar to the Minimus 10s, I appreciated a slight drop from heel to toe. I think the uppers of the shoe breathe very well, and the detachment of the mesh and synthetic layers provides a little extra support and protection with sacrificing much weight.

Cons – The ankle collars are stitched differently than last year’s, and after the 1st run they had begun to fray. The rock plate does its job, but compromises flexibility, a similar problem with the 101s. The heel seems to be a little more protected than the 101’s but a soft heel means that small rocks can become embedded. The shoe is not near as flexible as the others, but you have to weigh that against the additional support it offers. Simply user preference. The shoe also does not dump water and moisture as well as the Trail 10.

Overall – I think the changes have been great, I liked the feel during my runs and was able to keep a consistent mid-foot strike. The minimal flexibility is a big con for me, but may not be for others. As with any shoe, try and get to a store and test it them out for yourself.

Details – Weight =  7.75 oz (219 g). Heel-toe drop = 4mm

Time to Run

You can now order any of these shoes online (click the shoe name), visit an authorized New Balance store, or your local running store. Get a feel for the way you run in them, and ask what the return policy is on the shoes. I know last time I bought my 101s at a NB store, they said to wear them for a week, and bring them back if I didn’t like them. Can’t beat that!

As you all begin to run in these shoes, please post your own thoughts and comments, I’d love to hear them and add to the conversation. Also let us know if there’s anything I didn’t cover that you would like to know.

P.S. This post was originally written for the running site BarefootRunner.com, and will be published in the near future. Enjoy this early look!

Trail Runner Magazine Publishes My Article


Great news everyone, my guest article has been published by Trail Runner magazine! I really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the leading trail running publication, and would be honored if you would go check it out! If you like it, please share on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment.

Read the post here

Visiting my site from TrailRunner?

First of all, thank you for clicking through! I appreciate your visit. Please look around and check out some of my earlier posts. My writing covers a lot of great topics, including outdoor adventure, simplicity, running, spirituality, and business productivity.

If you are interested mainly in running, here are a couple posts I’m really proud of. 

Running in the Rain

Running an Ultra Marathon: Technical Aspects of Training, Gear, and Nutrition

At the very least, here’s an awesome video of Ultra Superman Kilian Jornet!

Thanks again for reading, let me know if I can help you with any of your running questions!

Running an Ultra Marathon: Technical Aspects of Training, Gear, and Nutrition


Training Program

As I stated before, I followed a regiment of training consistently at low intensity. For the first 2 weeks, I ran 3-4 days a week, with a long run of 10 miles. I also trained with weights, and swam twice a week.

In weeks 3 and 4, I ran 4-5 days a week, with long runs of 15 and 22 miles. Even with those long runs, my average distance during the week was only 3-4 miles. Keep in mind that all of the runs were done at heart rate levels of 60-65% of max. Whenever my heart rate went over 165, I stopped running and would walk until it slowed down. My pace was nothing stellar, but I kept running.

Weeks 5 leading up to the race was strange, I traveled that week, stayed up too late, and didn’t run very much. At that point in training, what’s done is done, but I feel better when I can be mildly active.

In review, I can’t be upset about the training because I did meet my goal of finishing the race. I wish I could have run a bit faster and with less pain, but that’s alright. With more time to run extra miles, and especially the long runs, would have remedied that.
I will add that I think this plan is very doable for anyone looking to run 13+ miles. Scale the program to your needs, and stick with consistency over intensity. The miles will come!

Nutrition
I have become a regular user of Hammer Nutrition products. I also like/use Clif shots/blocks, and Honey Stinger chews. But what I like about Hammer is how complete their offerings are. They have a full line of products for the different stages of training, competition, and recovery.

Hammer products I used:

The only “real” food I carried on the run was a ProBar Superfood Slam. ProBars are my favorite energy bars, and their whole food ingredients, high caloric content, and flavor make them great for endurance activities. Read a little about their offerings and food culture on Adventure Journal.

I also ate one for breakfast on race day, which gave me a nice store of energy for the beginning of the race. I am NOT a fan of beginning a race on an empty stomach.

Finally, I did eat some of the aid station food, whatever looked good at the time. Mainly I ate bananas, oranges, m&m’s, potato chips (mmm… salt), and some chicken noodle soup (wonderfully warm). I do not count on these options for my the bulk of race calories, but they are a nice change up.

Gear

I feel very strongly about running gear. It’s important to have quality, lightweight, functional layers on, especially in a winter mess like the Mt Mitchell Challenge. Temps ranged from 30 degrees at start, 45 degrees and sunny at 10 miles, then 10 degrees with 50 mph winds at the summit. Wrap that up with descending back to 55 degrees and sunny at the finish. My gear had to breathe, keep me from overheating, warm me from the cold, and protect me from the wind. A tall order, but I was extremely pleased with the pieces I wore.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

I love this jacket, best piece of gear I’ve bought in years. I wore it during a pouring rainstorm, snow, and then 50 mph winds, and it stood up to all of them. The hood is great, and even with the extra ounce it weighs, totally worth it. The Houdini weighs just 4.3 oz, and packs in to it’s own pocket, or stuffs in to a front pocket in most shorts. Patagonia hit a home run with this piece.

Patagonia Speedwork Tights

My first pair of running pants, and I really like them. Stayed cool or warm in the right conditions, and mesh behind the knees allows them to breath. They don’t wrap muscles as well as Salomon or CWX tights, but they are also cheaper. They fit well, were tough through 2 falls, and kept me moving. Unfortunately this product seems to be in the process of being discontinued, so you can probably grab it on clearance somewhere.

Patagonia Capilene 2 T-Shirt I’m a big fan of Patagonia, as you can tell. The Cap2 shirt is fantastic across a wide range of temps, and paired with arm warmers and the Houdini, I was perfectly comfortable throughout the run. My favorite running shirt.

Smartwool Arm Warmers, Compression Socks, & Running Socks – Wool is a dream fabric to be outdoors in, and I love it for the extremities. In keeping with the theme of lightweight comfort across temps, all of these fit the bill. The arm warmers are on of my favorite pieces no matter what, because they are so easy to strip on and off during a run. They can also be pulled down to cover the hands as makeshift mittens. The compression socks are nice, giving me a little extra warmth, and caring for my calves. A complaint though is that over 18 months they have developed more holes and rips than I expected. The socks are fantastic, and I wore them over the compression socks because of the holes and cold (the compression socks are thin).

REI Stoke 19 Pack

I probably didn’t even need to carry this, but considering the conditions I knew it would give me some peace of mind. The pack is fine, I wish it was a little more stable, and I don’t need 19 liters of space. It’s more of a day pack, but I’m not going out to buy another pack simply for long-haul running. Yet. I was able to easily fit 50 oz of water, food & gels, my ipod nano (long time in the woods), a wool layer, extra socks, and YakTrax.

Nike Therma-Fit beanie – I picked this up at a Nike outlet, and it’s served me well. Soft shell outer, fleece interior, and wicking headband. I like it, but it’s not a game changer. Most beanies will do, depending on your preference. I would certainly recommend anything that wicks sweat and breathes. No cotton headgear!

Mountain Hardwear Momentum Running Gloves – I appreciate that they are light, and have a windproof shell. However, they do not keep my hands as warm as I expected. I attribute this mainly to “butter jersey” palm fabric. Yes, it’s soft, but the wind goes right through it, and doesn’t not hold heat well. Fine, but not a cold weather glove.

New Balance 101 Shoes (link to updated design) –

The foundation of a run is the choice of footwear. I have been running in these shoes since October 2010, having trained for and completed the Black Mountain Marathon, Stumpjump 50k, and now the Mt Mitchell Challenge. I have run an estimated 1000 miles in these babies, and this race was a fun send-off for them. They are light, breathable, have a 10mm heel-toe drop (which was awesome in October ’10) and a rock plate on the forefoot. Weight is an airy 7.48 oz. New Balance has since updated the model, but if you would like to read my original review, click here.

In Conclusion:

Overall, I did not need most of the stuff I had in my pack, especially the YakTrax. I could have been fine with 2 water bottles with hand jackets, and had a couple too many gels. But I wasn’t out to win, and knew I would be out for a significant amount of time. Better to be safe than sorry in that situation. Next year I will have trained and planned a little better, and even if there was a question of needing YakTrax, I could have holstered them on my elbows (picture to come). But that’s for a future run, and lessons I needed to learn on this one. Let me know if you guys have any questions about a topic I left out, or a fuller review of something.

Happy Running!

Running an Ultra Marathon: 0-40 in 6 Weeks (Part 2)


On Sunday, I posted part 1 of my story about preparing for and running the Mt Mitchell Challenge. Here is part 2.

I have to tell you that my final week of training and preparation did not go to plan. I was in Florida, traveling for work, and spending the majority of my time driving. I wasn’t able to stay loose, I stayed up late, and didn’t eat all that well, at least in comparison to the previous month. Then the day before the race, I drove from my Aunt and Uncle’s home in Port St Lucie, FL back to Black Mountain, NC. A cool 700 miles by my lonesome, with a stop in Jacksonville for lunch with my brother. My wife was able to go pick up my race packet, and our friends there said to kindly pass along the advice that I was crazy. Agreed. I got home at 9:30 pm, packed and prepared for the race, and was in bed by midnight.

Race day began at 5:30 am, and I began the ritual of coffee, breakfast (superfood slam probar) and stretching. I kissed my wife, “Be careful”, she said. Then I grabbed my bag and was out the door. I drove up to Dan’s house to borrow a pair of Yaktrax, and he handed them to me and said a prayer. I told him happy birthday. “Thanks, see you later!” he said.

Honestly, I still had not made up my mind fully. I was leaning towards the 40 mile Challenge, but didn’t know how my body would feel. I decided I would attempt to run to the parkway in time to make the challenge cut-off time, then make another decision. I had to make those 14 miles in 3 hours, not a crazy time, but averaging 12:51 min/mile. For the distance I was going, that was on pace for what I hoped would be on the faster end of my average. If I needed to poop during the run, it could spell disaster! The race begins at roughly 2000 ft, and even the cutoff point climbs drastically to 5000 ft, before the final push to 6684 ft. I met my friends Jay & Allie at the start. Jay and I planned to run together, he was even more undertrained than me, but he’s a better runner and I figured he would whip me anyway (he did). Allie was gunning for the win in the women’s challenge, after 3 straight years of victory in the marathon. We exchanged clever jokes about the silliness of what we were about to do, and soon the starter yelled “GO!”

So began a journey that took up my whole day. A long, beautiful, treacherous, sometimes painful day in the woods. I fell at mile 5, soaking my gloves in a creek. I clipped them to my pack waistbelt to dry, but 2 miles later they were frozen stiff. My water hose froze, cutting off water supply, so I stuck it in the pack. I didn’t shut the nozzle though, so when the water melted, it leaked through my pack and froze my butt (hint, close the nozzle and stick the hose in your shirt). I fell again less than a mile from the cut-off, rising in pain and panic that I would be too late. I wasn’t, coming in 4 minutes ahead of schedule. I rested, and made the decision to move on as I watched poor souls come in at 3:01, 3:02, and be turned around. I had made it, might as well keep going a little further.

The miles ticked off, and I hit the summit at noon. The temps hovered around 10 degrees, and winds gusted between 50-75 mph. I touched the sign, was marked with an “S” for summit, and stopped to look around. I had made it to the top. I took a short break to walk to the overlook, and stood on a bench to survey the mountains. I had made it to the top.

via Asheville Citizen-Times & Colby Rabon

The feeling of making my way all the way up, on foot, was amazing. I shouted to the heavens, and smiled. I hopped off the bench, and made my way down to the summit aid station. I still had a long way to go, and the return would take several more hours. I thought about the hero’s journey; the ancient cycle of culminating the quest, and returning. We can’t stay on our mountaintops and stare wistfully at the scenery our whole lives, we must return to our communities, with a vision of how we can contribute and make other’s lives better. We have been given a gift, and the best course of action with a gift is to share it.

As I ran over to the station, the volunteer shouted to me, 

“Runner! What’s your number?”

I smiled again, and shouted back,

“40!”

Afterword: The rest of the race was just as tough, and I finished in 9 hrs, 46 minutes. My legs stopped caring around mile 30, and I couldn’t keep up my pace. I told myself the whole time that simply to finish was my goal, and I accomplished that. Fast? Not at all. I finished in the bottom 5, my worst athletic finish ever. But no one cared about that, myself included. Family and friends were incredibly supportive and encouraging, and I had a blast. Thanks to Jay Curwen and his team for putting on an amazing run. If you are interested in running either race next winter, check out their website at BlackMountainMarathon.com.

Running an Ultra Marathon: 0-40 in 6 Weeks (Part 1)


via Asheville Citizen-Times

Yesterday I ran the Mt Mitchell Challenge, a fantastic trail run that covers 40 miles from Black Mountain, NC to the top of Mt Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet. I’m writing a short story about the race and submitting it to Outside, Trail Runner, and Blue Ridge Outdoors. But first, you, constant reader, are able to see the work in progress over the next few days. Enjoy!

We were sitting in the restaurant, waiting on our Thai food, when Dan spoke up. “I’m going to have to drop out of the Challenge this year, my hamstring just won’t hold up for the big runs. Kills me.” My ears immediately perked up. The Challenge. A 40 mile eastern epic that climbs from Black Mountain, NC to Mt Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies. Last year I ran the accompanying marathon, which in comparison is treated like a 1 mile fun run. For 2012, I hadn’t gotten in to the race in time. When registration opened on October 2, I was 3 miles deep in to the StumpJump 50k. That probably didn’t even matter, because both races filled up in less than 15 minutes. Besides, at the end of the race I was so fed up with running ultras that I didn’t care. However, that feeling did not last. Between the end of StumpJump and the current scene, I had run less than 40 miles total. But when Dan said he was out, I immediately wanted in. I asked him to check with the race director and see if I could fill the space. The problem was, the Challenge was in 6 weeks.

I knew it would be an interesting training program. While I had run long distances before, I had not kept up my training during the past 3 months. I simply wanted to see if I could do it. What was the intrinsic desire that compelled me to even attempt this run? The course is notoriously treacherous, with sub-freezing temps, snow, and hurricane force winds. I knew I couldn’t possibly as prepared as I wanted to be, but I still wanted to try. Perhaps some of the desire was male machismo, but I also wanted to believe there was an ability and mental toughness inside me that could keep going. I stumbled upon a training regimen that intrigued me. On Timothy Ferris’ blog, he had interviewed an ex-special ops soldier who had taken up ultra distance trail running (read the post here). Pavel (not his real name), had been training for years by using a model of consistency of heart rates (60-70% of MHR), moderation of distance/intensity, and nose breathing. By not pushing the body to extreme fatigue, he was able to recover faster and be more consistent. Pavel rarely takes days off, and by having a moderate, but consistent, 30 minute workout each day, does not particularly need to. The nose breathing piece was also intriguing, because it is a way to keep the intensity down. The first few times I tried to run while nose breathing felt like 30 minutes of hyperventilating. My breathing became smoother, and it helped keep my heart rate down. I decided to stick with this approach for the remainder of the training.

I had no grand notions of doing well, simply to finish. In fact, I initially thought I would go out and run the marathon again, and spent the first 4 weeks training for that. I didn’t start thinking seriously about the Challenge until 2 weeks before race day, when training culminates with a big run. Mine was 22 miles, run in snow and freezing temps. When I finished, I thought “Hell, I just ran 22 miles, so I know I can run the marathon, and I already did that last year. Maybe I could finish the Challenge.” Being able to pull off a 22 mile run after 4 weeks of serious training had me thinking grand thoughts of long distance using the Pavel Method.

In Joseph Campbell’s masterwork, The Hero with a Thousand Faceshe states that the adventure of the hero begins with a “Call to Adventure”then follows 3 main phases:

  • Departure
  • Training/Initiation
  • Culmination/Return

In my work, we have studied the hero’s journey, rites of passage, and community contribution, so I was able to apply these tenets while making sense of the desire to run. My call was undoubtably when Dan said he was having to drop out of the race. But why keep running? The marathon was achievable, within my grasp. The challenge was a risk, I could endanger myself and others. I believe that we all aspire to challenge ourselves in ways we know will require all of our abilities. Running 40 miles up and down a mountain would require all I had physically and mentally. Could I accomplish that task in such a short amount of time? I didn’t know, but I felt that I wanted to try. I trained diligently during those 6 weeks, consistently running, sticking to the training, and eating properly (a entirely separate post). The run itself was initiation.

I’ll be posting Part 2 of the story by Wednesday, February 29. I appreciate everyone that continues to read my essays and stories, it means a lot! Until then, here is a video made by 3rd place finisher Tim Weed, who does a great job of running fast and showing what kind of course the race is. Thanks Tim!

My Experience with Vibram Five Fingers


I admit, when I first saw Vibram Five Fingers, I thought of those ridiculous water slippers I used to have to wear around the river. So it was not love at first sight. I did love being barefoot as a kid though, and after reading Born to Run and getting the running bug again, I decided I wanted to run in the Five Fingers. Morgan was kind enough to get me a pair for my birthday. I’m a believer now, having covered hundreds of miles in my KSO’s in only a few months. I love running in them, hiked Angel’s Landing, and every time I wear them am engaged in a conversation about hear they feel/look/perform/help/hurt/and more (listening, Vibram?). 8 months after reading the book and receiving a pair, I ran my first Ultramarathon, the Capon Valley 50k, and I credit the Five Fingers with reintroducing me to the joy of running.

Overview

Now, on to the “shoes” themselves. First, they necessitate the runner striking on the mid-foot. This is good news for most people, as most modern running shoes naturally encourage a heel strike because of the cushioned heel. Try running barefoot and heel striking, you will feel pain quick. Since humans ran for thousands of years before the running shoe was invented, makes sense that heel striking is not the way to go. VFFs are light, comfortable, and stay on your feet well. I found that the mid-foot strike felt so much more natural, and have loved running in them. The thin vibram pad protects fairly well against roots and rocks, most of the time there’s an initial shock from the pinch, and it wears off quickly, a few choice words aside. Stubbed toes aren’t bad either, the sole curls up over the tops and does a good job protecting. Grip is fantastic, thanks to the siped grooves in the sole, similar to car tires. If you see a pair in the store, just bend the shoe and you’ll see what I mean. Newer models such as the TrekSport have even more tread, but are still flexible.

Fit

If you are interested in getting a pair, and live within 50 miles of a retailer, I strongly recommend going and trying VFF on. The Vibram website has a good fit guide, but until you have them on your feet, you just won’t know. Some “models” fit different than others. A size 42 KSO is perfect for me, while the 42 Sprint is tight. TO get them on, get your toes in first (spread ’em to get each toe in its place), and then pull the heel in. It will be tough at first, but it gets easier. Adjust whatever straps to dial it in, and then get to moving.

Comfort

I think they feel great, its like my feet are free, closer to the earth, and adjust to its contours and feelings. The footbed is comfy, and I noticed a difference in my walk and running gait quickly. They really only hurt when running over technical trails and I step on a rock or root that digs in to my foot. But, the feeling quickly subsides, the foot bounces back, and I move along. Only once have I had a bone bruise last more than 1 day (it was 2). They also dry very quickly, a great reason to wear them while hiking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, stream crossings, etc.

Protection

The rubber sole, while thin, offers great protection against most elements (roots and golf ball sized rocks being the exception, see above). It also curls up over the front of toes, protecting against stubbing on the trail. Your toes will bend dramatically at times, but the stability of the shoe, along with letting your toes be toes, keeps it in check. I’ve been very well protected when I’ve worn them, no injuries and very little lasting pain.

Starting Out

Everyone is different, but to be on the safe side, take it easy with your running to start. Run on grassy areas or well-manicured trails, steer clear of pavement and technical trails, just until you get a feel for them. I recommend spending time just walking around in them too, no matter where you are. Gardening, walking the dog, getting the paper (do people still do that?), going to the store, etc. Also, get ready for the stares and the conversations, they’re coming. While hiking around Zion NP this Spring, Morgan and I had nearly 40 people stop us on our hike to ask about them. You will too. Be proud of your VFF, naysayers be damned.

Care

VFF are machine washable, and they get pretty funky after a few wearings, especially if you’re moving a lot (trail running, hiking). Just throw them in, wash on cold, and then hang dry, preferably out of the sun (garage or mudroom will work). I just got the first rips in my KSOs, both the result of sticks on trail runs poking through. Hopefully Vibram will replace them for me, if not, they can sewed up. There is certainly a risk of ripping them, it’s mesh and stretch nylon. But, they are still perfectly functional even with the rips.

Wrap-up

If you are curious, and can swing the cost (cheapest is the Classic at $75), go get a pair, you will be a believer. There’s a ton of research on the benefits of having at least some barefooting in your life, and VFF are the best of both worlds. Harvard Professor tests Barefoot Running and Vibram North America. You can buy them direct from the Vibram site, REI, and other retailers.