Friday, July 09, 2010

Vibram Five Fingers

Have you heard of the barefoot running craze?  Did you know that the Stanford track team practices barefoot and only puts on their Nike shoes for competitions?  Barefoot running sounds hard on the feet... could it actually be good for your health and training?

When I heard that the book Born to Run was based on an ancient tribe in Mexico and their ultra-running culture, I was immediately turned off.  It just sounded a little too far-fetched for me.  But it was recommended by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing and a voice I highly respect.  It took me a couple months to get into the book; Katie and her dad beat me to it.  They said it's a must-read.  So read I did.  And it's changed everything.

The idea of the book is this: our feet were made to run, and all of the "protection" of high-end running shoes inhibit their ability to get stronger.  Essentially the cushion prevents our feet from being stressed and this eventually weakens the feet, leading to injury.  In another post, I'll do a book review of Born to Run.  Today, I'd like to tell you about my experience with barefoot running.

My running career consists of two half marathons and three full marathons.  I have an educational background in biomechanics and exercise physiology.  Born to Run drew on these collective experiences and knowledge and convinced me to at least try to train part-time barefoot running.

I bought my Vibram Five Fingers three weeks ago partially on a birthday gift from my brother-in-law, Peter.   It is very important to know that you don't just jump into training barefoot.  So I've progressed from quarter-mile runs to about three miles yesterday.  This has taken place over the last three weeks.  Currently I'm on vacation in Sanibel Island, Florida and I just completed a 38-minute run in my Vibrams.

Many people ask, "How does it feel?"  Friends on Facebook are asking, "How do your ankles and calves respond?"  My answer aligns perfectly with one of my principles of training: progression is essential.

My feet hurt pretty bad after my first couple weeks of running in the Vibrams.  But I could literally feel my feet getting stronger.  I know the biomechanics of my feet and their high arches.  I know I've done a bunch of sprinting on the balls of my feet and barefoot running on grass and sand.  So I know the science says they'll get stronger.  But as with any form of training, there's a breakdown phase before there's a strengthening phase.  I'm starting to get stronger.

In Summary:  Born to Run convinced me to explore the barefoot running method.  I bought Vibram Five-Fingers and have been progressively training longer distances in them.  I have a long way to go to change my running form.  But as an athlete and a trainer, I've dedicated my life to helping people understand health and fitness.  This is just one other component to training of which I'm seeking to become an expert.

Any questions?  Find me on Facebook or ask in the Comments section.  In my next post, I'll talk about my first water-shed running moment - my first mile run in the Vibrams followed by four miles in my running shoes.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Family Camp 2010

For the second year in a row, Katie and I took the family to Fort Wilderness in Reinlander, WI for Family Camp.  This has turned into one of our favorite weeks of the year.  The Northwoods are so beautiful, but for us it has been about the community.

When I think back on our week at the Fort, I think of a giant family gathering.   How cheesy does that sound?  But here's the deal: the camp is full of families with kids of all ages.  Each family is so unique and so friendly.  We have met the neatest people there.  The Fort has established a sense of community that makes me as a parent extremely comfortable having my son freely walk around and explore.  This was my biggest memory from 2010: Sorin was able to walk around the dining hall and the walking trails on his own for so much of the trip.  Don't get me wrong, I kept a close eye on him.  But you can immediately feel the community love on these kids from the smiles, to the waves, to the gentle direction and watchful eye of a stranger who's about to become a new friend.

I watched for one week while Sorin walked more than he's ever walked in a week.   The camp is wide open and has trails that must be a path to adventure for a little kid.  Sorin had his first exposure to so many trees, the lake, trails, and even a playground.  I had him in our backpack for a couple trips and he loved the view from my back.  One of the warmest feeling I got was when so many of the men and women would look at him and call him by name.  To have other families embrace my child is very special.

My parenting years are only numbering two, but I feel it's safe to say that this type of community is not common for today's youth.  Sorin has an extended community of family and friends that make me excited to allow him to grow up as a Fort camper.

And Norah.  Well it was her first year and she was an angel.  Not really, but how do you follow up Sorin's experience with an 8-week old baby?  Norah didn't sleep so well so we had a long week in that regards.  To be fully honest, I slept pretty well - it was Katie that struggled.  All kidding aside, we did have a hard time with Norah.  We wouldn't have it any other way, but two kids under two makes "vacation" not the most accurate description of the week. 

Still, Katie and I had some nice times together on walks to and from meals and a couple times at the beach.  Of course we also had the added benefit of both sets of grandparents at Family Camp with us.  They helped quite a bit which is so nice. 

Katie and Sorin and I were in a tent for the week at Family Camp #1 last year.  This year with a newborn we decided to get a cabin.  Boy was that a great idea!  We had a huge cabin all to ourselves without a worry of waking up any other campers when Norah started to cry.  One of my favorite memories was around 7pm each night.  I'd give Sorin a quick shower to clean off his suntan lotion and dirt.  We'd get our pajamas on and sit around on the mattress that Katie and I slept on which was place between two bunk beds.  Sorin's pack-n-play was on the other side of a bunk and Norah slept on another bed or right next to Katie.  We had this whole cabin to ourselves to end our day as a family getting ready for bed.  It's moments like this that make me excited to create and continue annual rituals like Family Camp.

If you have children from newborn through high school, I would highly recommend Fort Wilderness Family Camp.  You can ask question in the Comment section or email me.  Kids these days have a lot of video games, tv, cell phones, and the cement of the city.  Fort Wilderness allows me and my family to get out into God's creation, see His beauty, and explore the great outdoors.