Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Simple Bare Necessities!

Oh hello there, thanks for dropping by. Gather round and get comfortable because this could be a controversial post...

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

*Disclaimer: The following post is purely my opinion and based on very little/no scientific fact

There is a craze sweeping the running scene at the moment. I have used the term 'craze' but have also heard it described as an 'epidemic', 'revoloution' and 'fad'. All or none may be correct, but I chose craze just because the topic does seem to make people go a little coco-loco at the moment. Do you know what it is yet?

Barefoot running.

It's often heralded by the barefoot running community as the answer to eliminating a lot of injuries and the book 'Born to Run' is credited with helping to give it the hypothetical 'leg up' on it's way to public awareness. Before I get stuck in, let me just explain to all our non-running friends what I am talking about:

Barefoot running is pretty much what it says on the tin - running without shoes. However in the running world it also covers people who run in extremely minimalist shoes, a common brand being the Vibram five fingers (refered to as VFF). VFF's are like gloves for your feet, providing the feeling of runing barefoot without the pain of treading on sharp stones. Try treading on an upturned plug/stickle brick for an idea of why VFF's are a very good idea if you want to grin and bare it.

VFF - taken from good olde Wikipedia

It is claimed (note the claimed) that running barefoot is in fact better for us and there would be far fewer foot/leg injuries in the community if we didn't have such supportive shoes. The logic kind of makes sense. When you have your foot in a plaster cast for several months the muscles weaken and people often require intensive physio to get back to 'normal' again. The same is believed by the barefoot brigade about overly supportive and cushioned shoes, by providing all the extra support the muscles do less work and hence we get more injuries. (Simplistic view). If you are really interested in the philosophy behind it just google barefoot running and you will be bombarded with information.

In fact, it seems to be making a lot of headway. Many shoe companies have now launched more minimalist shoes to cater for the demand. I should know - I've brought a pair of Nike Free +2 and  have to admit they are extremely comfortable - although being injured still I have not run in them.

Then there's the 'anti' barefoot gang. It's difficult to know exactly how to describe the 'anti's' as I have yet to meet someone who genuinely hates/disapproves of barefoot running. I think it's more a case of people either being sceptical or deciding it's great for others but not for them. So we'll call them the sceptics.

From my trawling of various forums it does seem a little like the barefoot brigade think that everyone is out to get them and anyone questioning the barefoot revolution is automatically part of the 'anti' gang, when in fact they are just sceptical.

The reason for all the scepticism? Well there's not actually any solid scientific proof that barefoot running is actually better for us. In comparison to running shoes it hasn't been around nearly long enough to obtain any valid or concrete results. There have been a few minor studies carried out and printed in low impact scientific journals, often quoted on barefoot running websites, but when looked at in detail (rather than just the abstract) they only provide 'snapshots' of running and none have really been big or thorough enough to make any real conclusions. One study I looked at actually discounted two barefoot runners from it's results, as they had to drop out half way through the tests due to injuries - doesn't really seem right does it?

Ok so now I sound like a skeptic. Let me balance the books - whilst there is no scientific research done to prove barefoot running is better/worse for us, there's also no scientific research to prove that running shoes are better/worse for us. The barefoot running community is still a very small percentage of all the runners out there, so it's very difficult to compare injury rates etc. and barefoot running isn't helped by the fact that you can't just go out and run without shoes. After years of shod feet it takes many months to build up to being able to run distances like you can in trainers and many barefoot 'wannabes' fall at the first hurdle by attempting to run 6 miles in just VFFs on their first outing.

In my opinion it's just like the races we run. Some people love short sprints and others excel at ultra distances. What appeals to one person may be considered hell for another. It's exactly the same with barefoot running. I have no doubt that it does help some people, just like i have no doubt that trainers help some people too. I have great admiration for those that make the 'transfer' but I am not convinced that barefoot running is for (or will benefit) everyone. I do believe in giving everything a go before poo-pooing it though (sorry for the term). Before jumping on either bandwagon, think about giving it a try and deciding for yourself. So if you fancy trying out a bit of naked feet I have this advice:

Don't just go for it! Get some advice from some of the very detailed barefoot websites and communities that are brimming with tips and tricks to start making the transition. This will keep you (hopefully) free from injury and make the whole process smoother and more rewarding. Remember: Stay safe kids!

And if you don't fancy trying it out? Well then don't. Simples!

So will I be barefoot running soon? No. But will I be running in trainers soon? No.

So let's call it even and go and have a cup of tea and a biscuit shall we?
Now let's make friends and go and gang up on the 'Zumba' or backwards running society...

Keep debating

Biscuit Nikki x

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Another official press release from BiscuitNikki Towers

Well with all the non-running related activities recently I've been neglecting the blog a bit.
In terms of a running update we're into week 10 of no running - although it really feels like week 100. I counted today, expecting it to actually be a lot more than that. The 'itching to get out' feeling has been replaced by general frustration with the whole situation. So ok, it's only been 10 weeks, but that feels like so so long (insert more moaney self moping comments).

In good news, lots of my fellow Sandhurst Joggers who marshaled at this years marathon got places for the London Marathon 2012 next year through the marshals ballot. Well Done guys!

So what have I been up to? Well with all the beautiful weather and no running orders there was only one polite option; beer festival!

Reading held it's annual beer and cider festival last weekend, the perfect opportunity to meet up with good friends and sit around in tents trying copious amounts of ciders and perrys (in my case at least). The weather was perfect and the atmosphere was relaxed and extremely chilled out, giving it a good festival vibe that made the whole site feel like a giant pub. It was great to catch up with some old uni friends that I don't see nearly as much as I'd like and be joined by my lil sister too. For the first time in ages I didn't want to be running in the beautiful weather.

In sadder news forest fires have been raging in Swinley Forest/Crowthorne Woods, my favourite place to run and walk. The surrounding roads (including the main road from my house) have been closed for over a week whilst the fire brigade do their best to try and get it under control. At last report over 300 hectares had been affected and two stupid youths have been arrested on suspicion of arson. I'm quite upset by it. I love that area and am very reluctant to go over there now as I imagine it's going to be absolutely devastated. The marsh areas usually recover well from fire but the large trees will be a different matter. There are no decent photos showing the damage yet and I think that might be something to be pleased about. I really don't want to see.

So I'm not going to be the only one trying to recover in the following weeks. Perhaps by the time I am able to run over there some of the wildlife and greenery will have started to grow and return. I'm going to try and concentrate on flexibility and core strength over the coming few weeks, putting me in the best position once I am allowed to pound the pavements again.

If you're a regular reader of my mindless dribble then you might be pleased to know I've added a new tool - you can now subscribe by e-mail, meaning that when I write a new update you wont have to wait for me to post a link on facebook. And at Biscuit-Nikki towers we hold client privacy with the highest importance so wont pass your e-mail onto any third parties or contact you about anything other than blog updates.

Fancy following in my racing footsteps? The Yateley Road Race series is starting next month. It consists of three 10k road races through the summer, on the first Wednesday of June, July and August. All money raised is donated to local charities and the organisation is top notch! (I should know - I am on the committee).
Come on guys, we need to 'right the balance' - if I can't run one of you lot will have to!
For more information follow the link below to the Yateley Road Race website:

Yateley Road Race Home

Keep running!

Biscuit Nikki x