During my high school year as an exchange student (1989/1990) I decided to go for the full American experience. This meant going all out with sports.
In fall it was football, in spring it was track. Go big or go home. In all fairness, I was a terrible athlete if you looked at the stats. With my physique I certainly wasn’t the sprinter type, but okay at medium to long distances.
When I joined the track team it wasn’t because I was such a gifted runner, I simply sucked less at running than at baseball.
At home I was already graduated and getting my first taste of grown up life as house music mixed with alcohol introduced itself. I wasn’t quite prepared for how serious fellow students and coaches took high school sports activities in the US.
Hard-lopen = pijn
Looking back at the type of track training, it was full-on traditional power running and heel strikes. After a while, daily training took its toll.
A classic approach, big strides with focus on push-off, plus weight training. We never discussed efficiency, breathing or running form and mechanics. Just put in all your effort if you want to go fast!
So as I tried to push my boundaries by adding more power, I found it hard to improve much at all. On top of it I developed shin splints (overuse injury) which were absolutely killing me. But as a teenager trying to fit in, I didn’t want to give up, I kept going even though my legs were telling me to stop.
Unfortunately there was nothing that could give me some relief. No massage, icepack, ointment or cream or even new shoes. Track team also introduced me to typical running injuries.
As competition started my brother sent me his ‘spikes’ that he used in his former training days. How was anyone able to run without heel cushioning, with spikes under the ball of the foot?
Couldn’t wrap my head around it. Without Youtube or Google to ask my question, I tried to understand the mechanics, but was never able to get it. Without proper knowledge it felt best to just stick to what I was told. Don’t change anything, try harder.
When the season ended I was so sick of the pain I decided I would never voluntary go out running again. I truly hated it.
Fast forward 30 years later and boom, we’re back at it again. But this time, things are different. Running without shoes has transitioned into a movement practice instead of a sports activity.
Barefoot rennen als natuurlijke beweging
In 2015 maakte ik kennis met barefoot rennen via Wim Hof. Na het succesvol afronden van een jaar koudetraining I was looking for a new challenge.
Pretty soon I was drinking the barefoot-cool-aid. I got some technique training and read the barefoot-bible ‘Born to run’. Within a year I would run my first 51k ultra-marathon in de Zwitserse Alpen op 'Five Fingers' hardlopen. Not on bare feet but on minimalist shoes for basic protection.
Ondertussen maakte ik kennis met 'Natural Movement' door MovNat, waar ze ook barefoot hardlopen onderwijzen en promoten. I decided to become an instructor.
Running without shoes in a natural environment, this was actually fun! What happened? I thought I hated running and would never ever do it again.
Well, I found out I was doing it wrong. That’s right, you can go wrong running. ‘Just putting on running shoes and go run’ is the biggest cause of injuries amongst recreational runners and amateur athletes.
Why? Because most bodies are tense, stressed out, misaligned and augmented with footwear that takes away all feedback from your feet.
That way you run further, can push through, although in reality your body may cry out. People simply miss the cues to truly listen to what their body is telling them. That certainly was my case in my teenage track-days.
Once you remove the competition element (also the competition with yourself) and add some biomechanics, suddenly things start to click. Nowadays my runtime is about relaxation. There is no competition, no PR to beat. More barefoot benefits come naturally with time.
Minder spanning betekent minder pijn
Becoming a barefoot runner is about relaxing every part of your body, staying mindful and alert, tapping into a movement archetype present in all of us. What you’ll find is that your body has different ways to handle tasks efficiently.
Only depending on muscle strength (and tension) will wear you out quickly. Our physiology for running connects into fascia, breathing and mental resilience. Strength and stamina will be a result of consistent practice.
Physical pain in voluntary action is something to avoid, no matter what. So whenever you feel something is up, never push beyond pain. Find out why your body is asking for attention. It’s a marker you can improve on technique or release unnecessary tension.
No matter your movement history you will at some point run into discomfort running barefoot as your feet adjust to their new workload. Once they grow stronger you’ll build up enough strength to leave injuries behind you for sure.
30 jaar na mijn persoonlijke 'looppensioen' had ik nooit gedacht dat ik een ultra-afstand zou rennen, laat staan dat ik het leuk zou vinden om het te doen. Training voor zo'n evenement verhoogt je wekelijkse aantal kilometers, maar afgezien van enkele blaar was er nooit meer echt pijn. Ik heb meer in een jaar gelopen dan ik ooit in mijn leven had gedaan! Het verraste me en gaf me vertrouwen.
In de afgelopen paar jaar heb ik geleerd dat een natuurlijk bewegen de geest kalmeert. Wanneer je jezelf voedt met natuurlijke sensorische input, ben je bezig met het scannen van je omgeving, voelen, verbinden, verwerken, in plaats van te denken aan niet-productieve gedachten. Elk lichaam is in staat om verbazingwekkende dingen te doen zolang je dit sleutelprincipe van efficiënte menselijke beweging begrijpt: ontspan.