Fun transition programme for natural running, barefoot running and minimalist running

Fun transition programme for natural running, barefoot running and minimalist running

There are many runners out there now who are in the process of transitioning to a more natural and more minimalist running style such as that seen in earlier generations of runners (from the 50s-70s), who practically ran in plim-soles, or the running style of barefoot populations.

 Download the “Fun transition training programme into natural running, minimalist running and barefoot running”

Barefoot/minimalist/natural running transition programme – workout descriptions (coming shortly, bear with us!)

Unfortunately, this process often happens to be very little fun and whenever I looked for a transition programme on the internet or in the plethora of “barefoot” running books now available, my reaction has been “that does not appeal to me as a runner”. There seems to be no transition programme for barefoot running, natural running or minimalist running that is truly enjoyable to do.

As a Lydiard coach, a thought struck me:

“What would Lydiard have done, if he faced the issues we do today, and if he had been an expert on transitioning people back to natural running form”?

Barefoot transition programme screenshot
A screenshot of our new "Fun transition programme" to barefoot and natural running

How can you know what Arthur Lydiard would have done?

While it may be presumptuous of me to profess to know what the Arthur would have thought on barefoot transition, I felt I simply had to apply the principles clearly reflected in all his training methodologies to construct such a programme. Trust me? Well then just download the programme and enjoy. If not, read my detailed premise at the end of the article explaining why the programme looks as it does.

Hang on, this is 7 days plus morning/evening runs!

Run as many times per week as you plan to do when you go back in normal training. Elites will often train 13 times per week, or more, so in this programme, anyone training at that level can keep their normal routine while transitioning to natural running or barefoot.

If you want to go back to running 5 days per week, then pick the workouts ranked 1-5 and only do these. Read more about why running daily would have been Lydiard’s suggestion below.

Who is this programme for?

If you are in the middle of trying to transition from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes (such as the Inov-8 Road-X 155), barefoot technology shoes (such as VivoBarefoot and Vibrams FiveFingers) or all the way to barefoot running.

You need to take the first week and progress it from there using our guidelines. If you wish everything done for you and customised to your individual needs, we can do all that work for you if you purchase one of our full training programmes.

What do I need to do to start?

Mark Cucuzella with ChampionsEverywhere
Dr Mark Cucuzzella of the Natural Running Centre shares a social moment with CE coach Jason Kehoe

Educate yourself on proper running form and natural running style/barefoot running form and get the best advice on it you can. If you are already progressing well with your barefoot/minimalist transition, use this programme to develop your skills further and more enjoyably.

At ChampionsEverywhere, runners attending our “Natural running and natural movement workshops” would be ready to move straight onto this programme. For overseas runners the “Natural Running Centre“, run by our friend Dr Mark Cucuzella, is a great resource.

Understanding the “Lydiard principles” behind the transition programme

I designed the programme based on the following Lydiard principles:

  1. Always start with the end in mind: the purpose of a transition programme is to return to full competitive training, such as that in a standard Lydiard schedule (for examples you can check ours). For this reason, the goal of the transition programme is to run at least sixty minutes, but preferably 2 hours comfortably as this is the corner-stone of a proper training week.
  2. Make it fun and varied: Arthur trained competitive runners first and fun runners later but we all need to enjoy our training. Focusing on technique can be challenging and tedious for some, so by using several of Arthur’s trademark workouts, we keep the weeks interesting.
  3. Hills: Lydiard used his “hill circuits” to refine technique, strength and power. This format is perfect for training your natural running technique, although you need to do it slightly differently. Use the workout descriptions on this page rather than those in our normal workout overview.
  4. Run every day, preferably twice: When you transition to minimalist or barefoot, you can often not run very far at a time. So it is even more important to run daily when you can, or even twice daily, so you can quickly get fully to grips with the natural running style. Any skill takes time to master so the more hours you set aside, the quicker you will transition. Just don’t get overwhelmed.
  5. Develop skills and energy systems in the correct sequence: Lydiard said that without proper technique, in any sport, you cannot get the most from your fitness. So it makes sense to undertake this training programme as an introductory phase before you begin your aerobic training and then continue through the normal Lydiard training phases (Hills-Anaerobic-Coordination-Taper-Race)
  6. Develop speed: The epitome of proper running form was practiced by Lydiard in the “Coordination” phase of training when runners did windsprints (to practice keeping good form when in oxygen debt), time trials (to practice consistent hard efforts over set distances) and strides (fast relaxed running). These workouts are a perfect way to practice your new running technique as long as you keep focus on execution (running form) instead of outcome (time/pace).
  7. Be aerobically active as much as you can: If your goal is to run 10.5 hours per week then spend 10.5 hours per week doing exercise. The best way to spend your time during a transition programme is to run as much as you can and then use the remaining time to do your natural movement/natural running drills. For instance, if you would normally run 90 minutes on a Tuesday, but can now only manage 30, that leaves you an hour to focus on your drills. It’s worth it.
  8. Train, don’t strain: This “Arthur’s Law” applies strictly to this schedule as well. No matter what the programme says, listen to your body and finish all runs on a high note. Don’t finish your run when you’re limping home. Always finish knowing you could have gone just a bit longer and could have kept your technique just a bit longer.
Most of all, I believe this barefoot/minimalist transition programme speaks to the competitive runners spirit. We were not born to be excited about “Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute” and motivation will flag if we are forced to train that way. It is too inhibited and too conservative and lacks all the elements that gets our blood boiling.

Why so many workouts – especially tougher ones?

Workouts such as windsprints, Out & Back and hill circuits will not feel physically punishing when done with a focus on technique, but they will feel like “proper work” and by repeating them week after week, we can easily compare progress and see ourselves moving towards our ultimate objective – of training at 100% of our old intensity with our new natural running form. If you do it right, you will do so with less to no risk of injury and with greater efficiency of movement which should translate into better performance than ever before. Keep that carrot dangling in front of your mind’s eye at all times.
Doing this variety of workouts will allow you to practice your new running skills at different paces as well. In general, the faster the pace, the more difficult you will find it to retain control initially, so the durations of the faster work are very very short compared to what you have been used to. At least initially.

Cautionary note on doing a fully bare foot running transition

If you have decided to not run in any footwear at all, then running every day or even twice daily is not recommended as the soles of your feet will need recovery periods in between being exposed to hard surfaces. Your best option is shifting between doing some runs bare foot and some in your minimalist or barefoot technology shoes.

Can I use my old runners using this transition programme?

We do not recommend this: it will only confuse matters further and slow down your overall transition. The most effective way to transition is to commit fully.

Can I race in this transition programme?

Preferably not, unless you feel 100% confident you can race in your minimalist shoes or run bare foot very comfortably. This is unlikely when you are transitioning minimalist running or barefoot running. This natural running transition programme is therefore best used out of the competitive season when the urge to race will cause conflicted priorities for you. Transition once and for all and then move forward into a competitive training programme.

I don’t think Lydiard would have supported bare foot running and minimalist running…

We deal with this question here.

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Director and coach at Borg Coaching Services
Rene Borg is the head coach of Glendalough AC and a passionate runner competing over all distances and terrains.

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