Transitioning to natural running – week 2

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 and backstory

To read the goals for my season preparations and transition to a “fully fledged natural runner”, see the first instalment.


Week 2 – Sunday 25th Nov to Saturday 1st Dec


      • 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 11 minutes running, 5:16 min/km (8:30min/mile) average pace. 93.2km (58 miles)
      • Achieved for the week: 7 hours 59 minutes running, 5:37 min/km (9:04 min/mile) average pace. 85km (53 miles)
      • Assessment: Work just keeps getting busier at the moment but still managed to up the mileage and slightly increase the pace. The body is almost under-challenged at this stage and recovering with lightning speed. Base fitness is returning. Once I reach 8 hours 30 minutes, I will begin focusing my efforts more on increasing pace. Then look to increase volume towards the 10 hours 30 minute mark later in the build-up.
      • Natural movement tracker: Happy with the quality of my drills and the continued discipline around toe drills and posture work. All I’d like is more volume of the natural movement circuit training as I know how valuable it is and how big a competitive advantage it can potentially give me in 2013. More commitment needed!
  • Sunday

    Ballycotton running form

    During the Spring 2012 my posture was much improved but some plantar pain would follow using cushioned racing shoes like the Nike LunarRacer. Don't do it!

    •  Planned session: Long run (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite

I exchanged my usual haunt on the Glenmacnass Road with and out and back route towards Clara Vale from Glendalough, for some variation. Weather conditions were horrendously wet and the route proved both harder (more climb, rougher tarmac) and more aggressively undulating. Had to wear socks for two days after because of cuts sustained from the soaked Aquas (how ironic!). Have definitely fallen out of love with socks…

  • Monday

    • Planned session: Easy run (road) and natural movement circuit training Footwear: Bare foot
The usual 90 minutes of natural movement circuit training with our “Run injury free” training group , with lots of quadruped movements and a full set of the Pilates Running exercises – some of my favourites – when you’ve done them it feels like you’ve been “reconnected” to your core.  More people risked the bare foot on the three finishing laps of the estate after.
  • Tuesday

    • Planned session: Speed training Footwear: VivoBarefootAqua Lite and bare foot
I was with a good crowd for the speed session in Stillorgan Heath but had to rush out of work so ran with more tension in the body than is ideal and did not have time to complete Tony’s drills before the run.  Weird moment of the night: An old man with his dog thought it entertaining to kick our cones. When I yelled at him: “THOSE are OUR CONES,” he hastily mumbled “sorry, sorry” and retreated into the dark of the park. One of our real speedsters Amidou joined up after this marathon efforts and said to me a few days later “this session really kickstarted my body again”.
  • Wednesday

    • Planned session: Medium long run (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite
Once again I headed out the long and hard Glenmacnass Road but on this day the legs weren’t there and while I covered more time both my pace and distance did not compare favourably with the previous weeks run over the same course. But this is nothing unusual – in the first weeks back in training a few dips happen as the body adapts again to regular consistent exercise.
  • Thursday

    • Planned session: Fartlek (grass) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Breatho Trail
A true highlight for the week – we had a big group out for this “old school training” event and we began with 10 easy minutes before some quick relaxed drills and then we played two games – two “Indian laps” followed by a bout of “Paarlauf”. I was matched (perennially it seems) against Jeff Fitzsimons. The main workout segment was a 43 minute session of “surprise sausages” – each runner led a harder repeat of 30 seconds to 2 minutes 30 seconds (their choice, but only known 20 seconds in advance by the rest of us) with double running recovery. Felt fantastic at the end – no soreness, tons of energy.
  • Friday

    • Planned session: Recovery run (road) Footwear: VivoBarefoot Aqua Lite and bare foot
With work stress being at a crescendo all of this week, I did not get out at lunch-time but instead had to do an early evening run around the estate before driving off to dinner with Aoife at friends. Despite the close to frozen tarmac, I thought I should try to do a few kilometres bare foot and to my surprise found the cold surface was barely noticeable.
  • Saturday

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

Saturdays are turning into “explore local trails” day for me at the moment. Because of a very late night (1:30!), I took the extra sleep rather than joining the regular group of explorers led by Diarmuid O’Colmain. Aoife joined them as I was only getting to my senses and I instead headed out in the afternoon for a fabulous trail loop with 730m of ascent. This was the strongest run of the week with some blistering descents. You really learn to get your feet properly off the ground when you’re storming down a vertical fire-road with just 3mm of plastic and 2mm of studs under you feet. Week finished on a high… (ed: Then disaster struck as both Aoife and I went down with food poisoning Saturday evening. After a day in bed, week 3 has come off to a non-running start. But as someone told me “it’ll help you get down to race weight quickly!”)

What to improve next week

Not a perfect week, but still improving, here’s what needs to keep improving:

  • Try AGAIN to manage a more systematic circuit. Work commitments left only time for running, one circuit and drills this week.
  • No late Friday next week ahead of the workshop with Tony and Ben and try to find a clever way to get the Saturday run in despite working all day (think think!)
  • Get a second run in one of the days – failed this week – but after Wednesday things look like they could ease off a bit
  • Keep up the intensity and volume of fartlek, this was a real success this week and another tough sausage session will do the job next week

The week started slow and the overall paces are somewhat knocked down by the hilly terrain on the long run and the Saturday run but I feel the body is beginning to shift into gear so would expect to see some radically faster running in the coming few weeks.

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