Bend it like Fitartist

I yoged again 🙂 We had a different teacher this morning and, at first, I thought ‘Oh no, she’s putting on weirdy floaty chanty whaley music’ but actually she was very good and, once I’d stopped being distracted by the fact that the beautiful white walls are already scuffed after just one week, I had a good old stretch and even drifted off in a relaxed state a couple of times. Her class wasn’t as ‘sporty’ as last week, more ‘relaxy’, but I really liked it.

To get there I decided I would run. I got some gorgeous new shoes in the post this morning and couldn’t wait a moment longer to try them out. Now, I know you’re supposed to ease gently into minimal running shoes, but I was just too eager, and I decided one mile to yoga, a bit of bending and stretching then one mile back is quite gentle enough.

Cute shoes

Cute shoes

As I set off I was stepping gingerly along, afraid that I might heel-strike and do myself a mischief but, once I’d got over the initial weirdness of it all, I remembered that I strike with my mid-foot anyway, and didn’t really need to adjust much. The fronts of my lower legs started aching quite quickly, so maybe I was tensing up a bit, but I guess that comes with time. I felt much lighter and springy, which seems odd when you consider that these shoes have very little in the way of cushioning – the spring was all my own! I will keep you updated with my ‘barefoot’ progress as I try them out further this week. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Hector’s Lego Daft Punk for Travelling Hopefully, who has been enjoying the pumping beats at the gym:

Daft Punk as seen by a six-year-old

Daft Punk as seen by a six-year-old

You may wonder what an very-nearly-six-year-old is doing listening to Daft Punk, well they look like robots and they sound like robots, so what’s not to like?!

Real life robot

Real life robot

You may also wonder where I’ve been hiding for the past few days. Well, I have run – I did the 10k section of Peter’s class on Saturday. This was a one-and-a-half hour session with very many press-ups, a gruelling up and down hill section and a forty minute run – when he said ‘And now you will run for fourteen minutes’ I thought ‘Oh that’s ok’, but then I realise he had in fact said ‘forty’. It was hard-going but really good stuff. I have also been to the gym and I have stood around cheering on fellow runners at Hilly Fields Parkrun, something I always consider to be running by proxy…


Good Form Running at the Marathon Expo

I’m a bit behind! Last week you could have been led to believe that I was running the London Marathon, I was certainly entering into the marathon build up with great enthusiasm, right down to going along to the expo but, alas, that crossing-the-line feeling of joy was not to be mine. I was invited along to a special New Balance expo breakfast event on Thursday, so sneaked out of the house super early to ride the DLR with the sleeping people to the runners’ mecca that is Excel. I was greeted along with other running bloggers/writers Carla, Shaz and Kate by the lovely people from NB, all kitted out in matching black outfits and funky shoes. We quickly and enthusiastically drooled over the colourful array of new shoes before being introduced to New Balance’s new concept ‘Good Form Running’.

New balance have taken all of those things we know we should be doing when we run, to make us into more efficient (and injury-free?) runners, and condensed them into four key areas: posture, midfoot, cadence and lean. In the next few weeks this concept is being taken out into fifteen shops across the country so runners can pop in and have a look at their own form and receive some advice about what they might think about adjusting to make things run a bit more smoothly. To help us understand this, Kate took to the treadmill (already in some Minimus shoes) and demonstrated exactly how we should be moving. She was keen to point out that she found the shoes naturally put you into this optimum position, partly due to the fact that it hurts to heel-strike in a ‘barefoot’ shoe. First of all we looked at posture. We were told that it’s good to start thinking about the key points before you even set off, resetting your posture by standing tall, pointing your toes forward and, whilst running, allowing your arms to swing easily at about a 90 degree angle. Next we discussed foot-strike, with the midfoot strike being the kind of strike we should be aiming for. I sat there imagining my own running form, picturing a heavy heel-strike all the way, but actually, since attending the event I have realised that my footstrike is pretty much midfoot anyway (well phewee!). An interesting point that was raised next was cadence, how many times we strike the ground each minute. To help us reach the goal of 180 strides per minute, we were given a neat little metronome, which was pulsing away in the background to keep us in check. Finally we talked about lean, leaning forwards from our ankles, not bending from the waist. This can also be addressed pre-run by leaning forwards against a wall or tree and setting that position in your mind to carry you forward into your run.

Having seen it in action, this all makes perfect sense and, having just four key points to consider helps it become easier to implement in your everyday running. I can see how wearing lower heel shoes can make this happen more naturally, but all of these things can be put into action on any kind of run. Enthused by it all, I set out the next day with the 180 beat in my head and I simply sailed along! I’m not sure how long I could keep it up, but this is something you work on over time (NB suggest you go back to the shop around six weeks later, to see how you are getting on and reassess anything that might need addressing). In addition to learning about Good Form Running, we were shown some fantastic new shoes, ranging from tough and chunky ultra shoes to light-as-a-feather ‘barefoot’ shoes. I was most delighted to be given a pair of the rather special shoes created just for the London Marathon, inspired by Savile Row tailoring and with a matching ‘chap’ t-shirt 🙂

I have put together my photos of the day and you can find out all about New Balance shoes and apparel here.

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Visiting the Mizuno Performance Centre

I am a bit behind with this post, having visited the Mizuno Performance Centre way back in the days when the Olympic Games were still the talk of the town. The Performance Centre was based at Centre Point in central London for the duration of the Olympic Games and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of some new shoes called ‘Be’.

Performance Centre

As it was the summer holidays I had my assistant blogger in tow, so was armed with a bag full of pencils and paper and a little bag of chocolate buttons for any real moments of need (they were quite quickly whipped out of the bag when Hector announced loudly in a hushed room that it was boring and he wondered when the man might stop talking!). The man doing all the talking was the designer of the shoes, who told us that they were not designed for running, but for times in between training sessions, to aid running strength and ability. Here is some information about how these shoes came about:

‘The Be takes inspiration from the old Waraji sandals that were worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers during the feudal era of Japan. Fascinated         by why the Waraji were shorter than the feet of those wearing them, Mizuno conducted a series of biomechanical tests to determine the benefits of the toes protruding slightly over the front edge of the sandal’

We were told a lot about the biomechanics of the foot and how the Be has an inner sock which allows the toes to spread as if walking barefoot (these are not barefoot running shoes though). I had a look at some Be shoes and tried a pair on, they are lovely looking shoes, with the women’s design having a nice grey/pink colour-way and they are certainly comfortable. I’m not sure though how many recreational runners would want to spend money on an in-between-training shoe, but I imagine they might be good for someone who has an injury and wants to think carefully about how they look after their feet at all times.

Women’s model

Once ‘The Man’ had stopped talking, we went and had a look around the Performance Centre and had a go at the various activities on offer – you could test your footballing skills and there was also a mini running track to test how quickly you can come out of the blocks.

Checking out the track

You were given some rather nice spikes to try on and could race a friend or try your time against the clock. We just watched because they didn’t have children’s spikes – much to Hector’s annoyance – and were given a good view of the ‘race’ start from the top of the stairs:


I was also given a lovely pair of Mizuno Wave Rider shoes whilst at the centre, and have really enjoyed running in them since – I’ve had lots of comments about how lovely they are, they certainly stand out! I hadn’t run in Mizuno shoes before, and found them a little firm at first, but they have softened up after a few runs and I now find them just right for the road and a bit of trail – though I wouldn’t want any mud spoiling the lovely shiny toes! I found a page of nice colourful Mizuno shoes over on the Activinstinct website, and they now have the Be in stock as well.

Whilst at the Performance Centre, I was lucky enough to see some beautiful paintings by Hidekichi Shigemoto, and these have now been made into a moving image piece with brush-strokes capturing the movement of the Mizuno athletes in action.

In the pink

This morning’s run was the first in over a month where I have felt fit, strong and healthy. My breathing was good and I felt able to push myself up hill and still have enough breath in my lungs to turn and go up another hill. It felt good. I was out running again last week, fulfilling my school run duties, but each run was accompanied by a soundtrack of coughing and spluttering, so much so that it prompted a man with a very strong Sarf Lahndon accent to comment: ‘Come on love, cough it up, it sounds like you need another fag!’ That’s not the impression I aim to give whilst running!

Once I’d got home and had a shower, I was off out on my bike, running errands. On my ride I noticed two women running on the pavement and also noticed they were wearing ‘barefoot shoes’, one was in Vibrams and one in what looked like some really rather fetching green NBs (I think they must have been these). I was struck by how comfortably they both ran, chatting and moving smoothly along. I am guessing they have been barefoot running for a while because they seemed to be running along the Waterlink Way and not just a quick ‘test run’. I found it inspiring to see how easily they ran and thought about my own Vibram Five Fingers, gathering dust in my wardrobe (I won the Vibrams when I ‘won’ Juneathon a few years ago). I do like the idea of running ‘barefoot’, but have never committed myself to really going for it, unlike Eating Trees, who has even run races in his. I have been running in a lighter shoe and have found it really comfortable and far less cumbersome than my usual Asics. I was sent these lovely pink Puma Faas shoes months ago now, and have had so many comments about how lovely they look, they have become a favourite footwear of choice.

When they were bright and new!

Mine are the Faas 500 shoes, lightweight and good for shorter runs and races of around 5k. The Faas range does have a lighter racing shoe, the Faas 200 and at the other end of the scale, for longer distances, is the Faas 800. I’ve never really thought about the weight of my shoe much, I just go to a running shop and take advice from the assistant there. I am usually training for fairly long distances, so I end up with quite a hefty shoe with lots of cushioning, but I am beginning to wonder if this is what I really need. My runs in the lovely pink Faas 500s have been nippier and I feel far more sprightly and springy of heel. Maybe I should keep going with these for a while then try some short runs in the Vibrams…we’ll see!

Distance: 3.05 miles

Time: 30 minutes 14 seconds

Average Pace: 9.55

Best Pace: 4.44

Calories: 339