Transitioning to natural running – week 1

Running diary

Can it really be true that we have all been misled for so long? That natural running is the best way to train and the only way to stay injury free? Follow René’s training as he emerges from Tony Riddle’s tutelage to prove established notions wrong and show that we are truly “Born to Run”, but only if properly rehabilitated from a life of seated posture and hi-tech shoes. Follow his training, day by day here.

My blog “Mountain Runner – a hill running journey with Lydiard” is known to be verbose, so I am challenging myself to describe each day’s training in just a few sentences so you can get an overview of the journey from injured shod-runner to injury-proof natural running machine. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride, and leave your reading of this diary series thinking “I want to join in on this journey too” – because you can

My goals

Heel striking

Not a natural! Heel-strike during cross-country sprint finish - in spikes...

I turned my back on traditional injury treatment and established notions on strength and conditioning to achieve these objectives:

  • Never get injured again
  • Perfect my running style to increase my life-time best performance limits
  • Spend no more time on rehabilitation, stretching and other symptom relief
  • Learn to become as capable a mover as our hunter-gatherer ancestors – rather than a helpless modern human
  • To run like THIS
  • To not run like the picture on the right!

The back story in brief – 3 months since going “cold turkey”

I experimented with a hybrid version of Tony Riddle’s approach to rehabilitating runners back into a natural running style – the approach now taught at our “Run injury free” workshops. I  raced and trained in traditional running shoes from November 2011 to May 2012. This went reasonably well (8 PBs, no serious injury) but almost cost me a stress fracture in the final race (the Copenhagen marathon). I let the body settle with one month’s mental and physical recovery, then went purist, gave away my shoes and decided to train solely and exclusively bare foot and in footwear that does not handicap natural movement patterns (such as VivoBarefoot shoes) – criteria for such shoes can be found here.

Week 1 – Sunday 18th Nov to Saturday 24th Nov


      • Training phase: Pre-Base
      • Goal of phase: Ascend to my optimal current training volume  (8 hours and 30 minutes running at average pace 4:38min/km (7:28 min/miles) within 8 weeks (by 13th of January)
      • Goal for the week: 8 hours 3 minutes running, 5:22 min/km (8:38min/mile) average pace. 90km (55.9 miles)
      • Achieved for the week: 7 hours 40 minutes running, 5:38 min/km (9:05 min/mile) average pace. 82km (51 miles)
      • Assessment: Good start week. Monday run should have been longer. Fresh, no issues but very busy work week. Below target but “on track”.
      • Natural movement tracker: Lots of natural movement done before and after workouts – especially toe drills, squats with overhead bar and the biomechanically correct “push-ups” (pull-ups) – it’s like I’m jumping into a few every time I see a tiled floor!
Pre-Base training week  - Rene Borg

Pre-Base training week - acclimatising to handling the forces of running unassisted

  • Sunday

    •  Planned session: Long run (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite
Heel-striking on descent

The definition of movement illiteracy - heel-striking on the rocky Bone Shaker in 2007. The future will be different..

Hard surface and maximum concentration on good running style was the order of the day on the Glenmacnass Road, out and back route, from Glendalough. Felt fatigued from start to finish and almost unable to keep up with Aoife but got better as run progressed. No negative after-effects despite running a half-marathon with over 366m ascent and descent with no protection except my own skill-level. Encouraging.

  • Monday

    • Planned session: Easy run (road) and natural movement circuit training Footwear: Bare foot
90 minutes of natural movement circuit training with our “Run injury free” training group followed by two laps bare foot on the pavements around Sandyford. Terrific run, like running on air, effortlessly and softly.
  • Tuesday

    • Planned session: Strong fartlek (grass) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Breatho Trail and bare foot
Very stressed day leading into the session and forgot my running gear. Borrowed a t-shirt but ran the session in my best pair of jeans! Mixture of sessions as part of an OMNIUM setup. Felt slow, lethargic, stressed and out of sorts. Took off shoes in last part of session as soft surface plus soft shoe was too much to handle technically. 53 minutes of mixed tempo running.
  • Wednesday

    • Planned session: Medium long run (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite
A delightful run and great improvement on Sunday and on the same course (if a bit shorter). Ran just over 18km in the 94 minutes planned and hardly ever felt the extreme hardness of the road – even on the steep descents.
  • Thursday

    • Planned session: Sprint training (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite and bare foot
An easy 10 minute trot followed by drills and 4 x 30m sprints (bare foot) then 6 x 70m. On the third and sixth 70m, I threw in a further acceleration for another 30m for a 100m stride. The first four were done bare foot. I finished with 2 uphill sprints then continued until the clock hit 66 minutes. Comfortable and enjoyable session.
  • Friday

    • Planned session: Recovery run (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite and bare foot
A lunch-time run on rough tarmac (at first) and then nice clean pavement later. Body felt good, so decided to throw in 2km in bare feet. This felt very comfortable despite a cold and wet surface on the day.
  • Saturday

    •  Planned session: Steady run (hills) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Breatho Trail

I cancelled my usual run on the Glenmacnass Road to jump at the chance to explore some new trails along with a group of running friends in the morning. Running in the Breathos was never easier. I let loose on the final downhills clocking a 3:23 minute kilometre despite stopping to pat a dog (no auto-pause) – what impact forces again? At one stage leg speed reached a level where my nervous system straight away messaged me “ok, now I’m tired”. Must do more of this work.

What to improve next week

A very encouraging beginning to the new season build-up but a few things can improve, a few SMART goals for the coming week:

  • Do at least one more formalised circuit training sessions instead of only random natural movement (but keep that up too)
  • Ensure proper food intake within 20-30 minutes of completing all workouts
  • Go to bed before 22:30 on all days next week
  • Complete a longer run on Monday around the Circuit training
  • Complete at least one “easy morning run”
  • Ensure fartlek run is more like 70-90 minutes and not 53 minutes like this week (remember running gear!)
  • Complete a real “Circuit run” instead of an informal hill run
  • Put more concentration into runs so pace does not drop so low – I can handle more than I took this week

Seven more weeks to make it to the beginning of a full Lydiard-style Base training. Onwards and upwards.

Base training week - Rene Borg

Base training week - the first week of normal training - get there in 4-5 weeks

If you enjoyed that post, you'll probably like these: