I couldn't believe how slim I'd been. I remember buying some purple speedos (size 32? 34? Speedos were cut very small in those days) in a surf shop at Merimbula, which fitted perfectly (You may remember -- I used the experience in one of the chapters of Footy.) I still have them somewhere, but I couldn't get into them now!
|Me, Merimbula 1994 or 95, with my younger son|
So I decided to do something about it.
I was thin (-ish) then because I ran. I haven't been able to run since about then, because my knees were simply too sore. So I stopped running. Then I stopped even walking, because my knees hurt too much. But what if I could (somehow) start running again? I'd seen some pieces in our local paper on barefoot running.
So I bought a couple of books on barefoot running from Amazon. One author said that the experts had told him he'd never run again after he was involved in an accident and ended up with one leg shorter than the other. But he did, provided he ran barefoot. Some interesting facts ---
- Trainers of running teams say that the better (i.e., the more expensive) the running shoes, the more injuries their team members get.
- Humans have been running barefoot for hundreds of thousands of years.
- Running is the only sport where sixty-year olds are almost as fast as twenty year olds.
- Roger Bannister ran in thin-soled shoes without padding. Everybody did, then, before Nike.
- In fact quite a few famous runners have run barefoot. All this, without the ill effects that running shoe shops and running shoe manufacturers assure us will occur if we run without extensive sole padding.
So I tried it.
Now remember, it was getting so that even a couple of hundred metres walk caused me pain. I ran ten metres, barefoot, on the pavement (sidewalk) outside the house. No pain. Next day, I ran twenty metres. Fifty. A hundred. No pain. After a few weeks of this gradual increase in the distance run, still without ill effects I splashed out and bought some Vibram Fivefingers, which are designed to mimic barefoot running while still protecting your feet from glass, stones and syringes. Over a month or so I increased the distance I was running to just under five k's which took me just under an hour -- less than half the speed I used to be able to run at. But then I'm 18 years older and 25 kilos heavier.
Still no knee pain. But I had a lot of tendon and calf muscle pain and plantar fasciitis in the arches of my feet. And these things are related: when you have heels on your shoes, your calf is permanently shortened. When you walk or run barefoot, the calf has to stretch, and the pressure is felt in the muscle itself and in the tendons down the back and the side of your ankles. Meanwhile, your arches are acting as springs to take the stress of running, which they don't when you wear padded running shoes. On the other hand, when you have heels on your shoes, you tend to "heel strike", which means you jar your knees every time your foot hits the ground. If you run barefoot or in Fivefingers, the ball of your foot hits the ground first, followed afterwards by your heel, which just taps the ground before you are already starting the next step.
Being old, and cautious, I stopped running until the calf pain went away. Afterwards, I read about a gung-ho runner who tore his calf muscles by being too aggressive after switching to Vibram Fivefingers. I strongly recommend to you that if you try barefoot running or its close relative, running in Fivefingers, you do it very garshly. Take it slowly. Build up over several months. I started again at the beginning. Very slowly. And increasing the distance I ran very slowly, too. The calf pain and the fasciitis have not returned.
I'm back up at 2.5 to 3 k's. I've tried longer, but I think I may need to be fitter for that. My knees hurt on 4 or 5 k runs, and I suspect it's because I'm plodding on the way home because I'm tired. When I'm fitter and lighter I'll try longer distances.
|My Vibram Fivefingers are this style but black|
Is it working? Well, yes. I'm losing weight, down 5 kilos. Both my lady and my son have commented that I look thinner, and also that my legs are much more muscular. I'm down at least one pants size from 100 cms (40 inches) to 95 cms (38 inches). I say 'at least' because I'm finding size 36 (90 cms) jeans and swimsuits easy to get into and wear. In fact, I wear size 36 jammers to run in. But best of all, I feel I'm in control. You feel such a failure when you balloon. Going the other way is wonderful. I have a long way to go -- I used to wear size 30 (75 cms) or 32 (80 cms) pants, undies and speedos, and I weighed just 75 kilos. But I'm getting there.
I did other things too. I stopped taking Nexium which was preventing me from absorbing magnesium, which in turn gave me cramps as well as made my heart beat very irregularly. Scary! I went for a course of hypnotherapy to help me stop eating when I wasn't hungry. I started taking iodine supplements because I was extremely deficient.
My new motto? Never say die! After all, I haven't run for nearly 20 years. And I am again. I can't tell you how much I missed running and how good it makes me feel now that I can again.