Most new runners are advised to adhere to a crucial starting rule: find a shoe that works, based on your unique foot type, and stick to that shoe for as long as possible. This process, in many cases, involves a shoe that will provide the right level of support and cushioning to mitigate injury and discomfort.
Minimalist running, fundamentally, stands as the antithesis of the previous mindset; also called barefoot running, it broadly refers to running footwear that is thin, close fitting, and organic in the sense that is perhaps the closest one can get to running barefoot without actually doing so. Extreme as it may sound, minimalism has undulated as a running fad recent years, partially due to the popularity of Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, a memoir that aims to challenge our collective perceptions on what is “normal” in distance running, including the footwear we choose.
Today, there are several major shoe brands offering minimalist-inspired models, from Vibram to Saucony. However, despite its suggested benefits, it is important to understand that minimalism is not for everyone and must be pursued carefully to avoid frustrating setbacks.
That said, here are a few quick pros and cons to adopting minimalist running:
The potential benefits
- By running in minimalist shoes over a consistent period of time, one may be able to promote beneficial gait adaptations observed in successful runners worldwide. For example, many notable runners from third-world countries display a lower arch and, subsequently, a more stable foot as a result of regular barefoot running. Minimalism has been linked to similar changes that can improve a runner’s overall biomechanics.
- Additionally, minimalist shoes can lead to less bodily pressure experienced during long runs, as they promote a more natural heel strike with each step. Normal running shoes tend to encourage runners to adopt a heel-first stride, which can quickly accumulate pressure on the body over an extended period of time. This effect can also reduce the risk of certain injuries associated with the heel and sole.
The potential setbacks
- Even if it eventually works for you, minimalist footwear brings with it a slow, sometimes frustrating transitional process, which can quickly derail a training cycle or mileage building phase depending on when it is implemented. That said, it will take a lot of careful foresight and planning to adopt the footwear in a healthy, natural manner. As runners, we usually like to get back on the roads as quickly as possible when set back, so this notion alone can be a red flag, depending on the scenario.
- Minimalist running can lead to a specific variety of overuse injuries, mainly involving the achilles or calf, and it can exacerbate preexisting or recurring ones if the runner in question is simply a poor fit for such footwear. This setback is rooted in personal running style and body type, but in most cases it lies in the sudden shock of ramped up work for new muscle groups — ones that may have been worked differently with conventional shoes. Proper planning can reduce the risk of such injury, but just like the previous point, the primary setback here revolves around a potentially long trial-and-error process.
In his biographical novel, The Origin, Irving Stone describes how Charles Darwin walked on a designed path on his property. Each time he came around to his starting point, he kicked a small stone, placing it on a line with the others so that he had could later count his laps. With this method, he could free his mind of frivolous thoughts that might interfere with his more profound thinking later in the day. Darwin did some of his best thinking as he walked because the exercise relaxed him and cleared his mind of distractions.
While Darwin used walking as a meditative exercise to remove thoughts that were not useful to him, others have practiced mindful running, thus generating a healthy and pleasurable way to run that results in both physical and mental well-being. That is, as they go on their routes, mindful runners try to be in sync with their bodies by listening to their breathing and adjusting their pace so that they are not “huffing and puffing.” Mindful runners try to remove any distractions that keep them from performing well and being in tune with themselves.
Benefits of Mindful Running
Scientific research has shown that mindful running is both legitimate and beneficial to those who practice it. In fact, Translational Psychiatry published a 2016 study that demonstrated how directed meditation combined with walking or running significantly reduced symptoms of depression by 40 percent in the depressed participants. Scott Douglas, who suffers from dysthymia, or chronic low-grade depression, wrote in the August 8, 2017, edition of Runner’s World that he runs “to bolster” his mental health. In the Los Angeles area, one psychotherapist, Dr. Sepideh Saremi, believes so strongly in the positive results of mindful running that he has “on-the-run sessions” with patients who are willing to join him.
Along with reducing the symptoms of depression, mindful running frees the runner from distracting thoughts. Studies conducted at the Human Performance and Health Research Group at The University of Portsmouth revealed that visual and audial distractions lowered endurance performance. So, learning to ignore such distractors with mindful running can translate to success, not just in distance running, but in life, the longest distance one will go.
If you have recently completed a marathon, congratulations! You accomplished one of the more noteworthy feats in aerobic fitness, a 26.2 mile trek that was likely physically and mentally grueling.
That said, one of the best parts of the marathon process is taking time off to recover, bask in the glory of your achievement, and begin planning your next race goal. This period may seem easy in theory, but it must be traversed carefully to ensure proper recovery and mitigate setbacks.
Here are four quick tips for better marathon recovery.
Utilizing the next morning
Running (or physical activity in general) may be the last thing on your mind the day after your marathon, but it is crucial that you work in some type of light activity to properly kick off your recovery cycle. Whether it is a light jog, a walk, or a cross training session (swimming, cycling, or pool running work fine), this segment will promote healing blood flow and loosen up your muscles. Your body will thank you for this activity later.
Taking enough time off
It may seem obvious, but be sure to take as much time off as your body needs. If the marathon was a once-in-a-lifetime goal for you, your recovery period may be a tad longer than someone who clicks off several marathons a year. In most cases, a period of 2-3 weeks is usually long enough to promote recovery without sacrificing baseline fitness. Either way, you know your body best, so be sure to listen to it.
Marathons can physically punishing in the moment, but they can also have lasting effects in the weeks after you cross the finish line — one being immune system suppression. Therefore, it is easy for recent marathon finishers to get sick after the race. This notion in mind, do your best to cradle and support your immune system during your recovery period. Get enough rest, utilize supplements, and keep the fluids rolling to ensure you are keeping yourself healthy and ready for your return to the roads.
Easing back in
When you finally get back into running, it is imperative that you ease back in; start with low mileage at an accessible pace and gradually build both back up. Be cautious during these first few days, as you may have lingering aches or pains from the race that were easily missed during your period of inactivity. Once you have found your feet — both literally and figuratively — you can start to increase the intensity and work towards new aerobic gains.
About Allen Curreri
Dr. Allen Curreri is a pharmaceutical professional, a researcher in clinical decision making, and a consultant. But first and foremost, Allen is a community member.
Allen Curreri is proud to call Atlanta, Georgia home for the past two decades. He cares deeply about his hometown, and after seeing how much his city gave to him as a young man, Allen is dedicated to giving back tenfold to the community he loves.
Allen considers it a personal responsibility and a privilege to serve his community in every way he can. Plus, Allen knows how to have fun getting his hands dirty for a good cause! As a family man himself, he is particularly drawn to the work of United Way, where he has been a loyal volunteer for over fifteen years, and counting. With United Way, Allen focuses on creating self-sustaining progress and strong communities. The mission? Filling the most vital gaps and providing for the most fundamental unmet needs: health, income, and education.
A long-time running and marathon enthusiast, you can often find Allen on the paths and tracks around Atlanta training for his next challenge. Nothing is more satisfying than taking care of yourself while working for others, and Allen Curreri is a great believer in getting out on the streets and running for a good cause in fundraisers and charity marathons.
Allen’s Current Project
All across America, thousands of students are denied the federal student aid they need to fund their dreams of a college education. Why? A one-time mistake. Few people know that teens with one-time drug offenses on their record are made ineligible for student loans or work study, even if they never re-offend again.
The kids affected the most are often underserved, underprivileged, and lacking support systems — kids who already fought every odd to get a quality education. Kids who’s dreams are crushed without the federal support they need to tackle tuition.
These kids aren’t looking for a handout, just an education. Allen Curreri’s mission is to give them a fighting chance to reach their goals. He is currently working to build an organization that will offer scholarships to youth with one-time drug offenses. Those who pass the rigorous essay and interview process will live out their dreams of attending college, right there at home in Atlanta, GA, where they’ll enrich the local community and economy.
Allen is currently seeking support and partnerships of all kinds to turn his vision — and the vision of hundreds of students — into reality.
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Allen Curreri studied pre-pharmaceutical work as an undergraduate and soon tailored his focus to the business side of the medical industry. In 2003 he entered the College of Business Administration at Georgia Southern University. As he worked toward his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Allen balanced his studies with an entry position in medical sales. One year later, he joined GE Healthcare as an ultrasound equipment sales professional.
For the next eight years Allen worked with GE Healthcare, spending much of his time inside hospitals and ERs and cultivating the wealth of medical industry experience that guides his work to this day. When he left GE Healthcare in 2012 he sought out a role in pharmaceutical sales. He accepted a position as Director of National Sales at Prestige Medical Solutions Limited, and would eventually work his way up to Chief Operations Officer of Prestige.
Allen’s experience in pharmaceutical sales has allowed him to travel around the world and to network within diverse pools of professionals at industry conferences. A resident of Atlanta, Georgia, Allen has traveled everywhere from parts of the U.S. and Canada to England, France, South Korea, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. He attends conferences to track the expansion of different institutions or pharmaceutical companies; over the years he has observed some of the largest and most influential conferences attended by pharmacists, technicians, and Congressional health care policy writers.