I asked my physiotherapist about barefoot running.

Her only warning was to proceed slowly and with caution, but she said that ultimately running barefoot would help improve my speed and maintain good form. She also said that she didn’t recommend that I get into it right away since my body was already adjusting to a lot of new training. However, right afterwards I went to MEC looking for a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (they aren’t getting any until the spring). I want my gorilla feet.

The physio appointment was very much worth it. I got stretched and examined and I walked out with some great tips. My physiotherapist taught me a more effective warm up routine, and more effective stretches specific to running.

I learned about running cadence, a term I was unfamiliar with. Cadence is the number of steps we take per minute when we run. Good running form involves a shorter stride. As we step, the leg should land almost directly beneath the body instead of overextending in front of it. If our cadence (steps per minute) is too low, that means our stride is too long and we are overextending. My cadence should equal 180 steps per minute. So tomorrow I plan to time myself (once with shoes and once barefoot) to see if I’m hitting 180 steps (my stride tends to be much shorter with bare feet).

Two things I can improve right away: core strengthening and glute exercises. Apparently I make a mistake that most runners make: I depend too much on my leg muscles and not enough on my glutes. The glute muscle is powerful, and learning to activate it more regularly as part of my running is going to take a load off my legs. It will allow me to immediately run longer and faster since I am not developing any new muscle, just using what I have more efficiently. Over time, as I continue to build my glutes, my performance will continue to improve.

Strengthening my core would yield similar benefits. I am already doing a lot of core strengthening with my trainer, but what can happen with common core strengthening exercises is that a lot of times the larger abdominal muscles take over and develop, leaving many of the smaller muscles underneath underdeveloped. I learned how to activate the smaller muscles while keeping my larger muscles relaxed, thus exerting more control over my body and achieving greater balance and improved running performance. An added bonus is that I can do most of these exercises throughout the day as I go about my business, without adding additional time to my training.

There is currently nothing physically inhibiting me from completing my first marathon in October. This is great news. The peace of mind I have now going forward is going to do wonders for my training. I am much more confident in my ability to get through this injury-free, and with the guidance I have received I can achieve in a few months what normally takes others much longer. I’m in a good place. And moving forward.