I’ve gone through several different mindsets so far in my barefoot running training. The first idea I had was that it was impossible and my 57 year old feet would never adapt. That faded after my third run, which was only a mile but left me feeling like I’d had a great foot massage. Suddenly I thought it would be easy–but I was wrong about that. The rest of the summer was a series of small successes and moderate setbacks. Problems with the huaraches (solved by customizing them to my feet); tendon problems in my calves, treatable only with rest; and a series of strange migrating pains in the arches of my feet as they slowly reconsidered what they ought to be doing for a living. I was less optimistic at the end of the running season, but still determined. In spite of the adaptation problems, I find barefoot running pleasant.
Winter is a whole different challenge for me. When the temperature drops to near freezing I work out inside, because a lifetime of hard labor and dusty jobs has been tough on my lungs. I don’t like to admit I have asthma and I can usually ignore it, but winter running is like running with no air in the air. The fun goes out of it quickly.
Treadmills are the substitute for running in my wintertime training, and I don’t find them to be entirely satisfactory. Mill running is an illusion at best. You have the movement of running, but you don’t propel yourself anywhere. You don’t push your body mass up hills–the machine moves your feet for you and all you do is make the motions. It’s a good cardio workout but it is not the same as running. Maybe that’s why I don’t take it seriously enough and just do minimal training. I’d rather be outside.
Spring is always a wrenching shift, when I find out exactly how much fitness ground I’ve lost and what it might be that I did right during the indoor season. This year it’s not bad. I’m sure the winter training did me good, this time, giving my body time to heal and reason to keep slowly shifting towards what is natural. My legs feel much different now. I have soreness deep in the center of my calves, but it’s not terrible, and it’s outweighed by a strength I feel there now. It’s like I’m walking on spring steel, and I like that feeling.
How long I can keep it, I don’t know. It’s so easy to go too far and get the old injuries back. For both of us it’s been a long chain of recovery and practice and injury again, but we are nearing the top of the hill.