Almost Back: Persevering With Minimalist Running

10_6_13It’s been almost two months since my last update on transitioning to minimalist running and I’m still at it. In fact, after hitting a sort of stride in July, I’ve basically been free of injury, increased my number of runs per month, my mileage, and have actually improved my average time per mile. I’m even faster now, on average, than I was running with “normal” shoes. As with most things though, the numbers can be a little deceiving.

As you can see from the graphic above, I’m up to about 3.40 miles coming in at 7’35″/mi. When I was in standard running shoes, I was at a slightly higher distance, but averaging only 7’45″/mi. I don’t attribute this so much to my “finger shoes” as I do to gradually increasing my distance. In the past, if I wanted to reach a goal in running, I would basically just brute-force it. I would push myself hard until I got the desired result. Running minimalist-styles, I just can’t do that. If I push myself too hard at once, I typically end up with an injury of some sort that would put me out for a week or more. So I learned early on to only increase my mileage 0.10-0.20 miles each time or every other time.

Although running this way has gotten more familiar, I still pay close attention to my mechanics, how I feel, and remain flexible with how much I run. I would like to increase to 3 runs per week, but often I find the need to rest two days in between runs, pushing the weekly average to twice per week. I continue to cross-train on my off days, so I work out 1-2 times in the 5-finger shoes each week, in addition to my two runs. This provides a nice stretching and strengthening in between runs, while keeping the rest of me more fit, since I’m running less than I used to. In fact, with this setup, I’m probably more in shape now than I was when I ran further/more often.

My achilles still hurt every time for the first half-mile or so, then that goes away. I also find that my pacing has totally changed running this way. I run a slower first mile now, working the kinks out and slowly stretching those achilles especially, then increasing speed as I go. I used to ran faster up front, then gradually slow down. So it’s been a total mental shift too. But the title says “persevering” because there’s still a bit of discomfort with each run, but the difference is that my knee pain—which got me to switch to minimalist running in the first place—is pretty much gone.

So I forge on, hopeful that I’ll be back up to my standard 4 miles by the end of October with a faster average/mile. Assuming all goes well, the next step will be to increase my average runs/week up to three.