Monday, April 15, 2013

30 Day "Barefoot" Challenge

People often like to give suggestions, advice and encouragements to others, especially in the fitness world.  Sometimes that advice can be great, when it is backed by personal experience and/or scientific study.  Unfortunately more often than not, the advice can be detrimental when it is solely based off of something somebody heard somewhere, or something they read on the Internet.

One of the topics that has become popular lately in the field of fitness is all the talk on "barefoot" running, and "barefoot" training.  This is in reference to many of the minimalist footwear companies out there that stress the importance of getting back to our natural movement and running patterns, and getting away from the detrimental biomechanics of the flashy, thick-soled shoes we have grown accustomed to. 

I happened to have already purchased a pair of Vibram KSO's a little over a year ago so that I could be essentially barefoot while lifting heavy loads (i.e. deadlifts, squats, cleans) during my training, while also dabbling in some minor runs/sprints.  This was all well and good, however, the only times I would wear them was when I was training, so I felt like I wasn't gaining the full benefit of the "barefoot" lifestyle that some of these companies touted.  Not to mention my legs always hurt after running in them, but I was told that this was due to the fact that I wasn't giving my body enough time to adjust to them.

So rather than continuing this inconsistent implementation of "barefoot" footwear in my training, I decided that I would embark on a 30 day journey of wearing nothing but my Vibram KSO's.  Didn't matter if I was visiting family I hadn't seen in forever, taking my wife out for a nice dinner, or going out with our friends; I would be the guy with the weird looking "shoes".  I decided to self-impose this experiment not only for my own experience, but also so that I could give clients and others an honest opinion on how I felt about "barefoot" footwear.

Below is a summary of the day-by-day experiences I had while living the "barefoot" lifestyle:

Day #1 (3/26/13):  Got a lot of funny looks & questions.  Feet felt tired & cold by the end of the night.

Day #2 (3/27/13):  Worked a 13 hour shift on my feet primarily.  Taught Kettlebell Circuits w/ many plyometrics/step-ups.  Toes felt bruised, and heels as well.  Minor aches in my calves/shins.  Sleeping was mildly uncomfortable.

Day #3 (3/28/13):  Woke up aching in my feet & calves.  Foam rolled and ate heavy breakfast (eggs, potatoes & sausage).  More funny looks & questions while in public.  After lunch, noticed my feet felt better/stronger.  Enjoying the comfort of feeling the ground beneath me.  Off to Jiu Jitsu.

Day #4 (3/29/13):  Jiu Jitsu felt different last night, feet were more sore on the mats, but wasn't an issue.  Today, feel much better.  Hardly notice that I'm wearing the Vibrams, and I feel better  while walking.  Enjoying the experience.  Squat day (5x5's) and felt great.  Ate Red Kidney Bean + Beef burgers w/ brown rice & green beans.  Shot footage for my Balsamic Tuna burger video.

Day #5 (3/30/13):  Jiu Jitsu day.  Eggs Potatoes & Bacon for breakfast.  Had a discussion with another individual who swears by minimalist shoes, and furthered my appreciation for this "way of life".  Hip was bothering me later in the evening, believe it was a result of training, and not stemming from these shoes.

Day #6 (3/31/13):  Today is Easter, and I look strange, to say the least, going to see family.  I am dressed in nice jeans, and a classy long sleeve shirt, while wearing bright red Vibrams.  Got a lot of questions, and was able to explain my physical/social experiment behind why I am wearing these.  Most found it intriguing, almost all found it odd.  It began raining, and this is the first night I experienced wet, cold feet.  Minor nuisance, but also liberating as well.

Day #7 (4/1/13):  Back to work, doing another 13 hours shift.  Feet were cold in the morning, but other than that, they are essentially unnoticeable, and my feet are not sore.  Hip pain is still there, but still crediting it to a minor "tweak" during take-down drills at training.

Day #8 (4/2/13):  MY FEET STINK!

Day #9 (4/3/13):  Working another 13 hour shift.  On my feet all day. Hip pain is gone.  Taught my Kettlebells class again, and really pushed it.  Lots of plyometrics, lots of squat-presses, and lots of lunges.  Feeling tired.  Throwing the Vibrams in the washer.

Day #10 (4/4/13):  Woke up sick and sore.  Feet are KILLING me, but crediting most of the pain due to my weakened and fatigued body.  Air drying the Vibrams, then off to work.  Going to try and take it easy today.  Chicken cutlets, brown rice, and peas were my meal of choice for the day.

Day #11 (4/5/13):  It's Friday, and I am sick and tired.  Feet are slightly aching, but so is my whole body.  Wound up crushing a new Deadlift PR, 355 lbs X 4 reps!!! Hmm...  I think I need to wash the Vibrams again.  Regardless I will be training Jiu-Jitsu tomorrow.  Had a Chicken, rice & bean burrito for dinner - Amazing.

Day #12 (4/6/13):  Trained my client this morning, went hard at Jiu-Jitsu, and then food shopping.  Noticing the funny looks once again.  Wife is starting to ask when my 30 day challenge will be over, I don't think she is a fan anymore.  We had grassfed beef burgers w/ provolone & homemade sweet potato fries!

Day #13 (4/7/13):  Client in the morning, competition training shortly after.  Feeling exhausted, and got whooped on pretty good by the upper belts.  Feet are feeling great though.  I would have no idea that I was even wearing them anymore if people would just stop asking me why the hell I am still wearing them.  "It's an experiment, guysss!"  Went to Sol Mar in Newark, had skirt steak w/ black beans & rice and the biggest shrimp I have ever seen!

Day #14 (4/8/13):  It's Monday, another 13 hour shift.  Worked on handstand push ups.  Feet stink again.

Day #15 (4/9/13):  I've come to the realization that I love my Vibrams (funny how it's the halfway mark of my 30 day experiment).  Was talking with a friend and told him I'd wear these for life if they were more socially acceptable.  But in honesty, looking to upgrade to the Biklia LS's (Green & Black 41M) as soon as I get the funds to do so.  Dinner was Venison steak with white rice and veggies.

Day #16 (4/10/13):  Taught Kettlebell Circuits 2x's today, at separate locations.  Not too much plyometrics, but heavy bells.  Felt awesome, balance is on point, and no soreness throughout.  Need to wash them again. 

Day #17 (4/11/13): NOOOOOOOOOOO!  My Vibrams have a small tear forming on the lateral portion of my left foot, and the pull-strap ripped as well.  Not happy about this at all, believe it's from the heavy use and washing.  Hopefully they hold up for the next 13 days.

Day #18 (4/12/13): Unfortunately, I think this is the end of the "barefoot" movement for me for now.  My Vibrams are pretty beat up and saturated with sweat & dedication.  Want to extend the life of my KSO's for a little bit longer than the next 2 weeks, so I'm going to take some time off from them for now.  The constant training in them and washing of them is really testing their limits. 

I know, I didn't make it to 30 days...Regardless, after wearing my KSO's strictly for 18 days straight, I can say that I truly do love them, and enjoyed the acclimation process.  My feet feel better and stronger than ever, and my balance has gained a noticeable improvement.  Would I recommend other people try minimalist footwear?  Yes, but slowly ease into them and don't overdo it. Trying to retrain your foot to move naturally and to be sensitive requires patience and perseverance, but it's worth it, in my opinion.

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