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Monday, February 22, 2010

INTRODUCTION to BFR - & I'm done!

Hey my run mechanics DVD is finally available - I will be able to ship them out in about 3 weeks - watch the website.

A Coach’s suggestions to introducing BFR to your routine

(This article goes out with a clear warning – no NOT try this without first clearing with your physician)
This process can be a little easier for triathletes who do spend some time running barefoot from either the water to the bike, or the dismount to the run and hopefully training for that.
The trick with moving from fully shod all the time, to experiencing the conditioning, mechanical and performance benefits possible through BFR, is gradual progression – just like regular endurance training.
· Your specific mechanics (including weight)
· Foot wear transition process and suggestions
· Venues and surface
Somewhat obviously your specific mechanics are the most crucial aspect as pertaining to the entry process to BFR. If you are a serious over-pronator with collapsed arches who originally chose your footwear because of pain or injury due to this, you need to pay special attention.
Use this as a disclaimer (speak to your doctor). Bottom line – your feet could always use some strengthening and everyone can benefit from addressing their running mechanics, BUT SOME FOLK REALLY WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RUN AT ALL WITHOUT MODERN SPECIFIC FOOTWEAR. If you have issues either structurally or with soft tissue that logically and in the opinion of a respected expert, preclude you from efforts to do some running (or even walking) bare foot – stay away. As an individual you will know from informal barefoot experience whether this is a route for you to try or not.
Lastly, remember that the likelihood of early man, the runner who chased his lunch down, had a body fat of over 10% is highly unlikely – they had no high fructose corn syrup! An individual’s weight is key going into a BFR integration process. As an example, I set goal weight targets (based on a % body fat) for my beginners before they transition from walking to running and from run/walk to running. Similarly, neophyte triathletes from a swim background (or to a lesser extent, a biking or highly sedentary background), must first do some walking, foot strengthening and bone density increasing activities before beginning BFR. So too should any athletes who have clear limiters to BFR regarding their physical suitability.
Once you have jumped through the hoops to ensure you can safely launch into a BFR process then it’s time for HOW.
The first HOW is footwear. You might say well, if we are talking BFR then let’s go do it – run without shoes – but easy there Tiger, not so fast. A good model is the one of orthotics – have I said a bad word? Often individuals who opt for orthotics, maintain the same support shoes & end up over-supported – it is essential to reduce the amount of support you get from your shoe if an orthotic is doing much of the work already. Also consider that often an orthotic does its work in a very short time & proprioceptively improves your foot function meaning you need less orthotic VERY soon. Lastly the greater the amount of support, the greater the weakening of the foot structure as its function is taken over by external devices. This, by the way, is the whole argument of the BFR fraternity – these shoes have weakened our feet to such an extent that we have become dependent upon them. Ironically, this is also the voice of reason in the whole process: yes strengthen your feet, gain as much natural strength & function as possible & reduce the support & cushioning of your footwear to the safest point possible. The whole idea of course is to run as fast as your physiology permits & you desire & then also remain injury free, (which is the secret to optimal fitness any way – consistency!)
So using the orthotics model – the greater your dependence upon supportive shoes & orthotics & the less effective your own natural mechanics, the slower the process. This might mean wearing slightly less supportive shoes as your specific process begins, while another, who wears a neutral racer or racer/trainer can possibly go straight to barefoot work or to some kind of minimalist footwear.
Lastly the surface that is to be run on needs to be carefully considered. While thick grass is good, there are some inherent challenges: hidden dangers like glass, rocks, splinters & dog poop landmines are an ever present possibility. Grass is also uneven & can cause sprains & the like. Dirt is somewhat hard & stony. So those surfaces often require some sort of covering of the foot sole like a cross country racing flat. I really like synthetic grass surfaces – they are soft enough & firm enough & somewhat clear of debris & reasonably accessible.
1. Start off by walking about the house & garden barefoot for ever lengthening periods – good luck with the garden in northern climes (or way southern climes) in the winter!
2. Spend some time (a maximum of 10 minutes) “playing” with minimalist shoes (no heels or real cushioning or support) – Frisbee, throwing a ball, light soccer, kids, etc
3. Before run sessions, after a brief barefoot walk, run around on a smooth, softer, safe surface at a comfortable pace for a maximum of 5 minutes & gradually increase from there.
4. If you do regularly sprint or stride & do plyometric drills, begin doing some small part of these barefoot or in minimalist footwear
5. Build these until you have achieved the desired effect & you have determined a level of footwear cushioning & support that suit your needs for performance & safety
& for goodness sake – have fun with it!

Bobby McGee

Look out for my new DVD on Run Mechanics & Drills in the next 3 weeks on my website & from USAT or Endurance films

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