How I plan to run a barefoot marathon.

On New Years Day, 2017, I signed up for the Nebraska State Fair Marathon, which I plan to run barefoot on August, 26th, 2017.

Registration opened on New Years Day, and that was perfect timing for a goal that should take 8 months or so of training to accomplish. The first step in setting a goal is to create a timeline in which to accomplish that goal. The timeline is reasonable, reachable, but still, will require hard work.

Tough, big goals should be broken down into smaller actionable items. So, on January 7th, I woke up at 3 am and signed up for the Lincoln Half Marathon, which is on May 7th, 2017.

I work three jobs, including full-time Monday-Friday at an outpatient mental health clinic, part-time at the associated Crisis Stabilization Unit, and part-time at an urgent care clinic. I am a dad, pet owner (2 dogs, 2 cats), and I have a wonderful wife. Furthermore, I am going to an intensive post-Master’s Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program.

 I don’t have time for an intense marathon training program! 

My marathon training has to be done in short periods of time, in an automated fashion so that I don’t forget to train when I am wrapped up in life duties. (Oh yeah, I am on two state nurse practitioner boards, and the national board for my church, plus lead music weekly at church playing a different instrument most Sundays.) So, yeah I’m complaining. But my point is, I don’t have time to mess around running 20 miles a night and getting injured and stuff.

 

Training regimen is as follows:

HIIT = High-Intensity Interval Training 

Abel James talks about it here. Mark Sisson talks about it here and here.

My favorite HIIT workouts include running hill sprints. These are intervals of 30-seconds up to 2 minutes of all out work, followed by plenty of rest that allows the heart rate to get back down. There is a park a few blocks from my house that has tires. My wife and I run sprints to get there (30 seconds of sprinting, followed by 2-3 minutes of walking) and back, and then we flip tires for intervals of 30 seconds. My brother is into boxing intervals and jump rope intervals. HIIT is awesome because you can do it in a 20-minute workout (counting warm ups and stretching). The first time that I ran a barefoot half-marathon, I was pretty slow, around 10-minutes per mile. Of course, I had also injured my foot kick-boxing, but in general, I have always been a slow runner. Last summer, my training basically consisted of sprint workouts, with no long runs, and I cut 7 minutes off of my 5K PR. My goal this winter is to focus on sprints, so that I can get my 1-mile time down to the 7-minute range barefoot. For me, that is crazy fast. In high school, I think that was about as fast as I ever ran a mile.

 

Lift Heavy Stuff

Deadlifting is one of the most important lifts that anyone can do. Timothy Ferriss talks about how to start to increase your deadlift pull dramatically here. If you are a runner who is not deadlifting, you are missing out on some serious speed and endurance gains.

My deadlift plan is to do 3 sets of 5 reps-or-less once a week. I want to get back up to pulling double my body weight for reps. At that point, I will have to buy more weights.

I will also be working on the front squat (I gave my squat rack away, so I am limited to what I can clean off the floor), plus Oly lifts like clean and jerk and snatch, Crossfit style. Here is some awesome free programming from Mike Burgener himself!

I love functional fitness, so I try to find other heavy things to throw around beside weights. Moving rocks and concrete blocks around in the backyard is great (wear shoes for this!).  Wheelbarrows, sledge hammers, digging holes, chopping and splitting wood, rearranging furniture. Just make sure to lift something heavy at least once per week.

 

barefoot-trail-selfie
My wife is annoyed as I sat down for a barefoot selfie during our trail run.

 

Body Weight Exercises

I love gymnasticsbodies and GMB Fitness, and I will be focusing on these body weight exercises 3-4 times per week.

My daily warm up routine right now is pushups (with variations), squats (with variations), and lunges. I have been doing 20 pushups, 20 squats, and 40 lunges (20 each leg) for about a month, and my leg strength has improved, with a big decrease in knee pain. When I lose motivation, like this Monday morning, I bump it back down to whatever I feel like doing. Today I felt like doing 5 pushups. Once I started, it felt so good that I did 10 pushup variations, 10 squats, and 20 lunges.

If you lose motivation to accomplish your big goal for the day, cut the goal in half and give yourself permission to go for it anyway! If you want to run 2 miles, but can’t get off the couch, just tell yourself that 1 mile is fine, and get out the door. 

Mobility

Notice that I haven’t got to the topic of long runs yet. Long runs are not the highest thing on my list for training safely for a marathon. Mobility is more important than pounding pavement for hours.

My mobility goals are centered around the body weight exercises. For example, I tried to do a bridge the other day, and found that my 42-year-old body would not cooperate! How do I expect to train my body to perform spectacular feats of endurance, when I can’t even bend at all? The pike is very important to keep your knees and low back safe and strong. Pike, bridge, splits, and Supple Leopard for all of the tight spots.

Long runs

I love long runs. That is why I picked running a marathon as a goal. I admire those ultra-marathon crazies. Running is part of me taking care of my mental health. Barefoot running is how I connect to the Earth, ground my mind, and clean out the worries of the day. But the fact is, chronic cardio is bad for your health. One thing that is really obvious at a marathon in this country, is that 50% of the runners are actually obese. They are not specimens of health, they are just persistent.

My goal, therefore, is to do one really long, relatively slow, run per week. I want to get up to 10-milers by April, which is one month before the half marathon. Since I love running, I will probably do 1-2 shorter runs each week. But, I am not necessarily advising that for actual marathon training. HIIT, lifting heavy weights, body weight exercises, and mobility training will get me safely across the 26.2-mile mark.

Eat right

Since chronic cardio does not improve your health or your body composition, training for anything includes training yourself to eat better food. My goals are low carb, high fat (LCHF), clean eating. Basically, a Paleo, Whole 30, approach to food. Intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and keeping my body fat percentage somewhere below 15%. This means figuring out how to avoid empty carbohydrates and eat mainly meat and leafy green vegetables.

meat-and-veggies
Meat and green veggies. Perfect meal. Avoid sugary crap when you run long distance. That sugar gel goo, and Gatorade, will just make you obese and cause atherosclerotic plaques in your coronaries. 

 

 

 

 

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