All in stride.

by Elizabeth on August 22, 2013

I’ve been neglecting the run chat around here lately. Honestly I haven’t been running as much as I used to. I’ve really enjoyed walking lately so I’m going with it! I figure it’s a win win? I get a break during the hot and humid Texas summer and will also feel refreshed at the end of September when (or if, rather) I plan to start training for the Houston Marathon in January.

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I read an interesting article in Running Times the other day called, “The Running Machine Myth.” Here are some points I found really thought provoking.

  • It used to be thought that by maximizing the running efficiency and stride of one’s individual body would produce faster times and stronger runners, similar to the way machines work.
  • The flaw in this logic is that runners are not machines. Machines can’t continue to function after a key part malfunctions. Humans however, have the ability to recover from injury or even get the job done with missing parts. This is thanks to our ability to shape coordination around individual peculiarities.
  • Think of the way if you were to run the same loop in a grassy field over and over, you would eventually carve a trail in the terrain. The body works similarly. The more you do the same thing over and over the more you wear and tear the same spots in your body.
  • It’s been found that in order to maximize your performance and minimize injuries, you have to keep your body guessing. We should regularly shift our running parameters; pace, distance, terrain, surfaces, footwear. Such variation allows the body to offload accumulated stress and encourages recruitment of new tissues. (I guess this is why we did barefoot running regularly in college? who knew!)
  • This inevitably leads to a stronger, more efficient runner who is less prone to injury.
So, if you’re looking to improve your race times, this is definitely something to experiment with!
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1. What kind of training has produced the best results for you?

2. Have you ever done barefoot running?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jojo @ RunFastEatLots August 22, 2013 at 6:36 am

Lately, I’ve been working on speed development, so I’m switching up my pace with fartleks and tempos. I wear minimalist shoes, but have two pairs. The ones with slightly more cushioning are for my longer runs, and I wear the lighter pair for speedwork.

Haha I’ve ran completely barefoot once, when I was getting blisters from a new pair of running shoes. I decided to run the 1.5 miles back home barefoot (through the city). Not the smartest idea, but oh well. It was pretty fun, and I got a few stares.
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2 Corrine @ Eat Run Wine August 22, 2013 at 7:37 am

I try to vary my distance/speed every run of the week, and incorporate recovery runs. I also have one long, hard run (usually on Saturdays). My week/training plan revolves around those!

I haven’t tried barefoot running, unless you count actual barefoot running on the beach. I don’t actually understand “barefoot running” shoes- and honestly I think it’s a fad in the running community. I do like very light-weight shoes though! My Mizuno Waveriders are fab, and I can’t wait to try the Sayonaras!
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3 Amy @ Long Drive Journey August 22, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’ve always heard that barefoot running is a lot harder, so since I am a new runner, I’ve never tried. I definitely think switching it up is important – I am trying to incorporate more strength, different distances/paces, etc…into my training as I recover from injury.
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4 Laura @losingrace August 22, 2013 at 7:56 am

I change up my training a lot which has always been the best for me. I can’t just go out and run every day same pace and distance or even same time of day, it just doesn’t work for me.

I did barefoot strides a lot in college at the end of practices and occasionally I’ll do them now but not that often
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5 Jen Floyd @ milesandblessings August 22, 2013 at 8:26 am

I have never done barefoot running…I have kinda tried to go more minimal with not a ton of success. I have been able to go from a heavier stability shoe to Mizuno Roders which are fairly lighter.
You have usch good running pictures!!! I hardly have any pictures of me running and none of them are that great :)
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6 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom August 22, 2013 at 9:42 am

I’ve been working on speed work lately, but I’ve also incorporated a lot more strength training into my running and I have noticed a marked improvement in my running! I’m loving it! I’ve never done barefoot running, but Running With The Kenyans looks a lot into this practice! Definitely really interesting!
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7 Liz @ The Girl on Fire Now August 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

I’m actually sidelined right now, but I’ve been trying to focus on pace :)
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8 Ashley @ Eat Run Live Happy August 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

speed work has really helped me get faster and stronger and I’ve incorporated strength training in my arms and shoulders which REALLY helped. But honestly the biggest thing I’ve learned is to get mentally strong. I’ve been telling myself how proud I am, how good I am, how far I’ve come and it’s helped me to really be able to PUSH myself more. You have to dig deep mentally and I’ve finally learned how to do that in a positive way.


9 jenn @ runnderlust August 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

I read something very similar a few years ago and have altered the workouts I provide for my athletes since. I like to change up distance of intervals or do surprise intervals where I don’t tell them how far they are going until they start!

I also do limited barefoot running—i mainly do strides barefoot and really practice on my running form.
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10 Debbie @ DebRuns August 22, 2013 at 10:53 am

I used to run barefoot on the sand at low tide, but only for a mile or two per run. I mainly did it because I didn’t want to get sand in my running shoes. Ha! I mix up my speeds, but not the surfaces. I need to walk on that…
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11 Nicole @ not before my tea August 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

This is a really, really interesting post, and makes total sense! Through college, our coach really varied out workouts – track, road, grass, and “trails” (what trails we could find in Florida). I never had a serious injury, which makes sense based on this article. When I trained for my first marathon last fall, I also never had any serious complains (besides being tired, of course), which I think had a lot to do with the fact that I cycled a good deal instead of running.

I’m finding now, though, as I train for my second marathon (for which I’m doing hardly any cross training), I’m feeling more pains that aren’t the “good” training pains (if you know what I mean). It sounds like I should re-incorporate more cross training, or at least find a different running trail!

Thanks for this post! You look really hardcore in your college pics by the way. :)
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12 Alyssa @ See This Girl Run August 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

So true!! I’ve noticed that when I mix up my runs during the week and incorporate speed work, as well as various cross training, that’s when I see the best results. If I were to just run the same thing every day I wouldn’t get nearly as strong.
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13 Becky August 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I have found that my times are the best when I make sure to include speed training in my workouts and not all just long runs, which are my favorite. :)
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14 Laura August 22, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Can you expand on the barefoot running you did in college? Distance, pace, how often? Did you like it or did it hurt?


15 Elizabeth August 22, 2013 at 8:35 pm

We usually did it during a cool down from a workout. It was ten minutes barefoot on the soccer fields next to the track. It didn’t hurt at all! I recommend trying it. It just gives your feet a new experience and strengthens the muscles.


16 kendra @ August 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm

mixing things up is definitely important. i felt the best physically when i had something different on the schedule everyday and participated in boot camp classes regularly. boot camp always kept my body guessing. i’m bummed that the classes here are only offered at 6 am.
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17 Andrea R. @ Morning Runner Girl August 23, 2013 at 4:52 am

This was great to read! I really agree with this study… we should always be switching up our workouts to prevent injuries. I get on weightlifting kicks, spinning kickes… and of course running is always in there, but at different levels of intensity. Last week I put in 45 miles, this week I am only putting in about 27 but adding lots more weight sessions.

keep confusing the body :)
The only time I have done barefoot running is in the grass for stride-outs
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18 Amy @ Run Mom Run August 23, 2013 at 9:00 am

I run in a different pair of shoes every run (between 3 pairs) so I guess that’s something! I need to practice on different terrain more though.
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19 [email protected] Comfort Zone and Beyond August 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm

interesting thoughts alright. yea, i tried barefoot running at the start of the year and it didn’t bode well.. i was injured within 2 months. my podiatrist said the structure of my foot meant i just had too much movement within my foot and my injury was a direct result of the barefoot running. apparently Mr doctor makes a lot of money from barefoot running experiments! i was building up slowly so i really think those things should come with a warning and detailed instructions as to how to adjust to barefoot running. rant =over! on the plus side i felt like a teenage mutant ninja turtle (green shoes!)
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