A Little Guidance on My Routine

Questions I get from regular people…

Hi there Jesse!

First off, thank you for the great resources that you have provided in your blog. It is almost exactly what I’ve been looking for. I have been wearing vibram five fingers as my daily shoe now for about 3 years. I prefer to wear nothing else really, but sometimes I’ll wear a regular shoe if I don’t have any clean Injinjis.

About a year ago, I was exercising pretty consistently and part of my exercise was about 20-40 minutes of running on a treadmill 4-5x per week. I’ve never felt better mentally than when I was running everyday like this but I ran into a problem. I was waking up every morning with sore achilles heel tendons to the point where it was almost debilitating. Because of this I backed off of the treadmill and started doing the elliptical. Then, on the elliptical one day, I pulled a muscle in my lower back fairly severely and it basically put me out of commission from all exercise. I got lazy and eventually put on about 30-40 pounds.

I am now back to weight-lifting 3x per week doing the Bill-Starr 5×5 workout. Immediately following the workout I do a 15-20 minute Yoga routine consisting of Sun Salutation and some relaxing neck and back stretches/twists. I also try to walk for about 30 minutes on my off days. I attempted to reintroduce jogging back into my routine but after the first day of jogging, I woke up the next morning with my achilles heel on fire so I began thinking that barefoot running just wasn’t an option for me.

This is when I ran into your blog and your 12 weeks to running program. I intend on starting the program next week during my non-weight lifting days. I do have several questions for you however, if you don’t mind answering them. First, do I need to start doing the exercises you recommend to strengthen my feet even though I’ve been in Vibrams for 3 years now? Second, will a 30-60 minute yoga routine be sufficient for your functional exercise? I would be focusing mostly upon stretching and balance poses and less on strengthening poses since I am weight lifting. Third, when walking, should my foot be landing on the ball/midfoot area of my foot or the heel? Currently, while walking I land on my heel, I have tried landing on the ball of my foot but it feels odd. While running I of course land on the ball of my foot. Lastly, do you think the 12 week program is the best place for me to start? I really miss that “high” I get from running and would like to get that feeling back as soon as I can!

Thank you so much for your time and effort!

My Response

First: Do I need to start doing the exercises you recommend to strengthen my feet even though I’ve been in Vibrams for 3 years now?

More than likely you have been wearing shoes for the majority of your life. With shoes placed on your feet as you took your first steps. If you were wearing shoes extensively while you were learning to walk, especially stiff, thick soles, it would have affected the development of your arches and entire posture. Add in a couple of decades of shoes and you more than likely have some significant postural dysfunction.

In the past three years, you have probably come a long way in improving your arch and postural health, but there is more you can do. There is always room to improve your postural strength and stability. And if you are starting at the beginning of a new program, why not start at the very beginning… training your body to move efficiently? Spending that extra time training with healthy, efficient movement is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of injury down the road.

The two serious injuries you are healing from (achilles pain, low back pain) are a sign that you have some significant postural dysfunction. I would also include the hips and shoulders into your corrective work. The feet are just the foundation to the entire postural system. The whole system deserves attention. So, yes I highly recommend working on your feet, hips, and shoulders to strengthen and stabilize your entire posture.

Second: Will a 30-60 minute yoga routine be sufficient for your functional exercise? I would be focusing mostly upon stretching and balance poses and less on strengthening poses since I am weight lifting.

No. Yoga is a great modality of functional exercise, but it does not include every movement at every speed your body is capable of performing. Functional movement is about using your body to its fullest capacity. To do this you must dabble in multiple healthy modalities of movement. Using Yoga as your only source of functional movement is like having a high performance sports car and only going slow around the corners. Your body is designed to push, pull, bend, twist, crawl, walk, run, sprint, swim, skip, jump, climb, throw, and so much more. Are you getting all of these movement patterns from your current routine?

Third: When walking, should my foot be landing on the ball/midfoot area of my foot or the heel? Currently, while walking I land on my heel, I have tried landing on the ball of my foot but it feels odd. While running I of course land on the ball of my foot.

This is an area of debate, and I’m not really sold on one solid answer. I walk both ways depending on the situation. I am currently 99% barefoot. When walking on sharp rocks, my body naturally lands forefoot first. It is too painful to land heel first. I don’t even have to think about it. My body makes the adjustment by itself. But other places, I find my body feels natural with more of a heel strike. I suggest spending as much time barefoot as possible, and let your body decide. Don’t think about it too much. The more you can get your mind out of the picture, the better your body will move in general.

Lastly, do you think the 12 week program is the best place for me to start?

No. I suggest beginning with this six week walking program first. You are coming off of two very significant injuries in your life and you have recently felt the achilles pain when you attempted to run. This tells me that the injuries are still very present in your body. NOW is the time to be mindful about doing too much too soon. It is more safe to err on the side of caution. Four to six months of building up slowly, getting your body stronger and without pain will lead to better outcomes than taking it to fast, getting injured again, and sitting for a few months on your behind.

Now is a great time to introduce foam roller therapy and to get some professional help for massage, personal training, and running form. Here is my guide to recovering from injuries.

Also, I suggest staying off of the elliptical. I don’t recommend any machine (cardio or strength) that tracks your body movement for you – with the exception of a bicycle.

I hope this helps. I look forward to hearing about your progress. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Jesse James

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