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Garmin & HR Training November 30, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running, Thoughts , add a comment

I really enjoy being a part of the Google group hosted by Barefoot Ted.  I contribute to the discussion occasionally, but like to read what the good folks around the world have to say.  It’s focus is on minimalist running, but often the conversation strays into other avenues.  One recent thread of conversation introduced me to a book called The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone.  The premise of this book is very similar to another book I was introduced to by the same group called Van Aaken Method.  Both books focus on increased health through endurance training, and the best part is that neither of them condone training in such a way that you’ll feel like you’ve been run into the ground.

Van Aaken Method was published in 1976, but Dr. Van Aaken had published his “pure endurance” method, “first in a 1947 article entitled Running Style and Performance,” and mentions that his method, “was made available to the running world more than 10 years before Arthur Lydiard of New Zeland popularized a similar method.”  (1976)  In any case, Dr. Van Aaken, a sports oriented family physician from Germany, promoted an endurance method of training.  One that focused on “long runs at moderate paces.”  Dr. Van Aaken often said, “My whole teaching in one sentance is, ‘Run slowly, run daily, drink moderately and don’t eat like a pig.'”  He was also quoted as saying that “true health starts with endurance.”  (1976)  His method recommends that you keep your pace at ~130 bpm while running and a good way to measure that is by making sure you can maintain a conversation without interruption.  The book is small at ~130 pages and is written in a time before political correctness . . . it’s very refreshing.  It is a very efficient and succinct book, much like an endurance runner.  Not a lot of extraneous material found within.  I resonated with much of what he wrote.

Enter Dr. Maffetone.  Dr. Maffetone is a chiropractor by training, but was interested in a broader scope of treatment.  He shares in his book that, “it was my disappointment with the philosophy of the chiropractic profession and its narrow range of assessment,” that led him to contact his old boss for his old job back.  He discovered a group of students that were participating in, “weekend professional seminars offered by medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and others who taught about natural hands-on healing, diet and nutrition, and exercise.”  (2010)  After getting into the book, I’ve been very impressed with his methods which I find very similar in scope to Dr. Van Aaken’s.  However, Dr. Maffetone seems to have refined his methods and has some details I find make it easier to apply his training methods to any individual.  First of all, you need a heart rate (HR) monitor.  It doesn’t need to be a fancy one, just something that will track your HR while you are exercising.  Second, he utilizes the years of data he has accumulated to come up with a formula to find your specific optimal training HR.  It all boils down to staying at your optimal training HR for the duration of your workout with a warm-up and cool-down on either side.  Once a month, you’ll do what he calls a maximum aerobic function (MAF) test to determine your current level of fitness.  He recommends performing this test every three to four weeks to track the progress of your training.

Honestly, you won’t feel like you’re exercising after you’ve finished your workout, but believe it or not you will get faster.  You don’t only have to run . . . you can do anything that will get you to and keep you at your specific training HR.  It takes time to get your heart and circulatory system in shape, so be patient.  Eventually, you will see that your speed has increased in order to keep the same HR.  It’s pretty amazing how you progress in speed when you haven’t been feeling winded during your workouts.


Aaken, E. v. (1976). Van Aaken method . Mountain View, CA: World Publications.

Maffetone, P. (2010). The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. New York: Skyhorse Pub..

Transition to Barefoot/Minimalist May 9, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running , 2comments

I’ve been a member of an online discussion group on google hosted by Barefoot Ted for the past several months.  There are many dedicated runners on that forum that have brought up a lot of good points.  Many have no formal degree related to healthcare, but nonetheless have done extensive research and have made themselves proficient, if not masters, in the field.  One of the topics that has caught my attention has been the discussion related to stress fractures of the metatarsal on transitioning to barefoot/minimalist running.  I reviewed bone physiology from my med school days and was reminded of the following:

When enough stress is applied to a bone to create microtrauma or microfractures, (such as what happens during the transition from shod to unshod) the cells around the microfracture die and send signals for the osteoclasts (the bone cleanup cells) to come in and essentially clean out that area.  This process takes about two weeks.  Then, more signals are sent for osteoblasts (the bone manufacturing cells) to come in and lay down a matrix of new bone.  This process takes approximately 3-4 months.  Over the next three years, the matrix that was laid down continues to become mineralized and increases in density and strength to that of the surrounding mature bone.  So, here’s another testament to why we should not make the transition to minimalist/barefoot running too quickly.

I don’t know how ethical a prospective study on people transitioning from heel striking to forefoot landing without proper instruction would be, but I’m sure there are enough people out there transitioning to a forefoot landing stride that didn’t listen to the signals their bodies were trying to send to see if this is something isolated to barefoot/minimalist runners or if it would hold true in “modern” running shoes using a forefoot landing.

The Long Winter February 1, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Diet, Health, Running, Thoughts , 2comments

It has been a bit of a long Winter . . . and with a high temperature in the next 10 days of 37°F, and a low of -4°F it’s clearly not over.  I got all gussied up to fight the cold with a new beard and some nice base layers, but it hasn’t worked out like I’d envisioned.  It turns out I’m pretty much a wimp when it comes to cold weather, but that should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.  Whenever I am asked where our family will settle down . . . I invariably say, “somewhere warm.”  After living in the Caribbean for more than two years, I learned to value warm weather.  I don’t mind the cold . . . for a short time.  I really enjoy being able to wear shorts and a t-shirt every day.  Although, I have made good use of my base layers by keeping warm wherever I go.

To continue increasing my mileage, I’ve been running on the treadmill.  I have a goal to get to 175 miles per week.  Last week I ran 27 miles and am attempting to increase my mileage by 10% per week.  So, if I remain injury free and can keep it consistent, I should reach my goal the week of June 13.  So far, I haven’t had any injuries and have really enjoyed running.  Oh, by the way . . . all of these miles have been/will be barefoot.  After I recovered from my five week respiratory infection (which ended in early January) I began running again.  I took most of December off.  Since I began logging my miles this year, I’ve run 85 miles barefoot on the treadmill.  My longest run to date was eight miles which I’ve done twice.

My diet also changed a bit as I came into the holiday season.  I dumped the conventional wisdom and started eating a diet more heavily concentrated in vegatables, fruits, and meat.  Saturated fats are no longer taboo.  One of the key concepts of my diet is that I only eat when I’m hungry.  An interesting thing about fat is that it triggers the satiety response and keeps us full for longer periods of time.  I end up eating fewer calories and haven’t been really hungry since I began this style of eating.  I cut my consumption of refined grains significantly and have subsequently lost 26 lbs.  I feel fantastic.  I have more energy and the aches and pains I was experiencing prior to consistent running have pretty much vanished.

I’m looking forward to Spring, but feel like I have made this a productive Winter.

Dailymile.com January 31, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Gadgets, Health, Life, Running, Thoughts , add a comment

I was recently introduced to www.dailymile.com (you may have noticed the new widget on my sidebar).  It’s a neat website that allows you to keep track of your workouts: running, fitness, cycling, swimming, walking, weights, yoga, cross training, spinning, rowing, commuting, eliptical, core fitness, hiking, crossfit, cross country skiing, or rock climbing.  Whew . . . that was a mouth full.  I’ve only been using it to keep track of my running as that’s pretty much all the exercise I’m doing right now.  I’ve found it very motivating to be a part of a community of like-minded individuals and seeing how many people run is inspiring.  In fact, there is one woman I’ve met on there who is 61 years old.  She’s running around the same pace and mileage I’m running.  Truly inspiring and I certainly have a goal to be doing the same when I reach her age.

Here’s a link to my profile.  Try it out and see how motivating it can be!

Mount Timpanogos in VFF KSOs October 11, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Hiking, Life, Running, Shoes , 1 comment so far

Photo by Eric Ward of Provo, UT.

I live in the shadow of a very majestic mountain.  It’s called Mount Timpanogos.  It sits at the Western edge of the Rocky Mountains in the Wasatch Range.  At 11,749 feet above sea level, it is both imposing and beautiful.  The elevation of the valley to the West, Utah Valley, comes in around 4,500 feet above sea level.  7,000+ feet above your head is something to behold.  I climbed to the summit once before as a boy scout.  My troop hiked part of the way up the mountain, camped and summited the next day.  It was, as I recall, a very beautiful view.  That was over 20 years ago.

Recently, I’ve been feeling the urge to try out my new feet on something different than my usual run.  As I’ve been barefoot running for the past several months, my feet and legs have become quite different than they once were.  As I’ve described to several people when talking about barefoot running, I feel like a kid again.  As I run barefoot, the fun and enjoyment have returned.  The next time you observe kids running barefoot, take note of how they move and how much fun they seem to be having.  Then, if you have the opportunity to contrast them with an adult running in the same area, notice how much less fluid the adult typically seems when running.  This difference comes from the “spring” that kids and adults running barefoot utilize consisting of the arch, achilles, calf, quads, and glutes.  I wasn’t quite ready to attempt the hike barefoot so I wore my Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs).  My brother-in-law said I was brave for doing so, although I imagine he thinks I was a bit nuts and just being nice.

Last Monday I met up with a classmate of mine from high school to hike Mount Timpanogos.  We started our hike at the Timpooneke trail head in American Fork canyon which is at 7,370 feet above sea level.  The hike was fun and a great workout.  The leaves had passed their fall peak, but there was still plenty of color to appreciate.  The weather for the week preceding our hike was nothing less than perfect.  The day of the hike . . . not so much.  Partly cloudy skies with a forecast of scattered or isolated storms.  We got a bit wet on the way up, but for the most part the hike was dry.

Timpanogos Basin

For me, the most memorable sections of the ascent were coming into Timpanogos basin which is a large plateau at a little over 10,000 feet above sea level, and arriving at the saddle.  The saddle stands at 11,288 feet above sea level.  The view, of course, was fantastic as you can see into Utah Valley as well a great distance in all directions.  When we arrived we debated on continuing to the summit.  There was a large storm coming across Utah lake that would make our time at the summit very miserable and possibly dangerous.  We began to expeditiously trek to the summit when we noticed the speed at which the storm was progressing in our direction.  We turned around and headed down the mountain.

The Storm

This brings me to the highlight of the adventure.  We literally ran down a good portion of the trail.  This was very technical and an exercise in agility as the trail traverses several talus piles.  However, as we continued down the mountain, I noticed how smooth my feet were carrying me.  It was an absolute blast!  It required acute concentration, but it was an extremely satisfying descent.

In the end, I’m glad I went.  I’m glad I wore my KSOs, and I’m glad I have been running barefoot.  I can’t imagine it would have been as enjoyable to wear my KSOs had I not been running barefoot and strengthening my feet and legs over the past several months.

Do You Like Running In Those? October 4, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Life, Running, Shoes , add a comment

When people see me wearing my Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) I invariably get the question, “Do you like running in those shoes?”

The answer to that question is complicated, and since I’ve developed such a passion of barefoot/minimalist running I risk the very real possibility of letting my mouth run like a river.  I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion dominating the conversation when the subject of running emerges.  I could talk about running barefoot most of the evening . . . and I often do.  The short answer to the above question is, no.  I don’t like running in VFFs . . . I prefer barefoot.  I then get an inquisitive/confused look from the questioner.

Questioner:  “Where do you run?”

Me:  “Pretty much anywhere.  Mainly I run on the sidewalk and asphalt.”

Questioner:  “Doesn’t that hurt?”

Me:  “Funny you should ask . . .”

After giving as brief explaination about the benefits of barefoot running and my personal reasons for which I started, I tell them that if I can’t be barefoot I throw on the VFFs.  If I can’t be as casual as VFFs require, I throw on my Sanuks.

So, in short, no I don’t like running in VFFs if I can avoid it, (mind you I haven’t been through a winter running in this manner) and yes, I love my VFFs for when I can’t be barefoot.

My Feet Have Changed August 23, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running, Shoes, Thoughts , 1 comment so far

True to my desire to give barefooting a good try, I have only had three different situations surrounding my feet.  If I’m in a somewhat dressy situation, such as church, I wear my Sanuk Boardrooms.  If I have to enter a public building where shoes are required, but it’s not a dressy situation, my footwear of choice is my Vibram Five Fingers.  Every other situation I go sans shoes or any other type of foot covering.  So, being summer and all, I’ve been shoe-less quite often.

Of course, I’m still running barefoot.  Just this past Wednesday, I ran/walked (mostly ran) 4.5 miles.  This was quite a unique run.  Not only was I barefoot, but it was also dusk when I started.  It’s amazing how the senses in your feet really compensate for diminishing amount of eyesight you have at night.  I hit a few pebbles on the trail, but my body did exactly what it was meant to do.  My body’s reflex made me do a double-step.  The pebbles were no more than split-second annoyances.

As I’ve continued running barefoot and utilizing the muscles and structure of my feet the way they were designed, I noticed something that I had read was going to happen.  My feet have gotten bigger.  I used to have the most narrow feet.  Now . . . They’re beefy.  They’ve really bulked up in the mid/forefoot.  What really made me notice the change was about a week ago I was sitting in church in my Sanuk Boardrooms.  My feet were feeling kind of claustrophobic so I kicked them off.  It was like taking a breath after being underwater for several minutes.  It felt good.  It was that moment I connected: my my shoes didn’t used to fit like that.  It’s been a very gradual thing, but as I’ve read from several sources . . . my feet got bigger.  I haven’t measured my height to see if I’ve gotten taller, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I grow a centimeter or so.  🙂

Here’s to the amazing ability of our bodies to adapt to nearly any situation in which we put them.

Keeping Track July 19, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Gadgets, Health, Running , add a comment

A little while ago, I met someone that was really into cycling.  When I say he was really into cycling . . . it’s an understatement.  This guy admitted to me that he had spent close to $20,000 in one year on bikes and cycling equipment.  WOW!  Was I ever glad the tool of my exercise/hobby came with me out of the womb.  However, he did show me one thing that really piqued my interest . . . because I’m a total gadget guy.  He has a Garmin GPS sport watch that has a heart rate monitor, plots your course and uploads it to the internet, shows you your pace, calories burned, climb . . . I think it even does your taxes for you.  I started thinking of how I could justify the $200 price tag.  No matter how I looked at it, I couldn’t figure out how to justify it on my in-between-med-school-and-residency income . . . which is, in round numbers, zero.  Then it hit me!  There’s gotta be an app for that!

Sure enough, here it is: Runmeter

Obviously it has a prerequisite . . . the iPhone, but who wouldn’t love to justify that into their hands?  As I’m learning from this incredible app, it’s super smart and does a ton of things while you’re not even thinking about it.  One of my favorite features, that I haven’t experienced yet, is that it will post your run to Facebook and when people comment on it . . . Runmeter will read their comment to you!  I guess that could either be good or bad . . . depending on your friends. 🙂  The only feature it doesn’t seem to have is the wireless heart rate monitor.  This app is definately worth the $4.99 on iTunes.

“Can’t You Get Parasites by Going Barefoot?” June 29, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running , add a comment

Chances are, if you’ve told anyone about your desire to try running barefoot you’ve heard that question.  So, can you get infected by a parasite by running or walking around barefooted?  I hate to say, but the answer is . . . yes.  The parasite you’re at risk for acquiring when going around barefoot is hookworm.  Pretty gross, huh?  Don’t let this stop you from kicking off your shoes.  Even with this bad news, I’ve got some good news to share.  Although going barefoot is a risk factor for a hookworm infection, it’s not the only risk factor.  Nor is it the most important risk factor.  It is, however, probably the most easily changeable risk factor in hookworm infections.  Hookworm infection is acquired through skin exposure to larvae in soil contaminated with human feces.  Honestly, how many of you can say that this applies to you?  Hookworm infection in the United States is rare and only really played a role in the impoverished South until the 1930’s.

So, can you get infected?  Yes.  Is it likely? Not really.

Running Barefoot in the Rain June 28, 2010

Posted by Emily in : Running, Thoughts , 1 comment so far

A few days ago, as I was walking out of Walmart (which must be my favorite store since it is the store I shop at the most) it had started to pour rain.  I was wearing some flat sandals (totally barefoot approved) but they had no traction on the bottom of them.  I found myself hydroplaning on the small layer of water that coated the entire distance from me to my car.  Afraid of falling on my butt, (which almost happened several times) I took off my shoes and ran barefoot to my car.  I remembered David telling me how our feet get more grip when they are wet (sweaty or whatever) and our shoes get slippery when they were wet.

WOW.  He wasn’t kidding!

I ran confidently to my car, barefoot, in the pouring rain.  Not only did it remind me of being a kid, but it made me long for warm Texas rain storms.  There’s nothing quite like puddle jumping in warm puddles, with warm rain coating your face.

This barefoot thing really brings out the kid in you.