Yesterday I received my pair of Vibrams “Five Finger” shoes, which you’ve probably seen. They look like gloves for your feet, and the idea is that it forces you to run how people were supposed to run.
I won’t go into depth about Born to Run or any of that crap except to say that I believe the author, Christopher McDougall, when he says that people were never meant to run heel-to-toe, which is what sneakers and running shoes promote. To be very brief, the biomechanics of the human foot appear to suggest that people are designed to generally walk heel-to-toe but run on the pads of our feet, and for extended periods. Since the publication of Born to Run, research into barefoot running has exploded, and the science seems to bear out McDougall’s anecdotal evidence that people who don’t wear shoes tend to walk and run in the manner described.
This made sense to me, because like many runners with an elephant-like stride (not a good thing), I tend to get shin splints, knee pain, and all sorts of random aches cropping up after some weeks of continuous training. But the real impetus for switching to Vibrams, which essentially allows soft-footed children of suburbia like myself to run on pavement without having to develop blisters and callouses, was simply boredom.
I hate running. I hate doing it. I hate the feeling of trying to power up a hill at 5:30 in the morning when its thirty-four degrees outside. I hate the fact that it takes me an hour to run six or seven miles when it can take me 15 minutes on a bike. I hate the hour it takes me to cool off and stop sweating so I can take a shower. But the worst part, above all, is the boredom. Running is boring. I don’t care how good your playlist is, or whether your iPod picks up the local radio station, or whether the “scenery is nice” (you know as well as I do that last reason is total BS).
So why run at all? Well, I guess I don’t want to get fat. I definitely feel better when I’ve run: I’m more alert, have more energy, blah blah blah. Basically, I need to exercise but I get so, so bored running. And finding people to play a sport at 5:30 in the morning is somewhat challenging. So I have to distract myself. Before the end of October, I was motivated to run by the fear of failure in the Tough Mudder. Now, with the weather turning and the sun going down long before Alex Trebek The Asshole comes on Jeopardy!, I find myself hitting snooze a lot more often than not.
So really, the Vibrams are a distraction. A challenge to see if I can work my way back up to my customary run lengths, but without shoes.
Yesterday was my first run. After researching and reading a lot about how to get adjusted – if you know me, you know this is completely normal – I popped on my glove-shoes, which kind of make me look frog-like, and went for an extraordinarily short jog. If I went a half a mile in TOTAL I’d be surprised. I got back to my apartment without even breaking a sweat, showered, and went on with my day. I had no problems.
Until this morning. I woke up, rolled out of bed and HEY WHAT THE HELL LEGS!? My lower legs felt like during the night, I had sleepwalked to the gym and done 800 calf raises, followed by an hour learning “on point” from ballet. It took ten minutes of grabbing my toes to relax my calf enough to stand up. What the hell?
Now I know why it says, “Do NOT run two days in a row.” What a joke. I can barely walk.
I’ll try to update periodically about the great five fingers experiment. For now, I can report a startling amount of pain. Hooray, motivation!