Sunday, November 27, 2011
I recently started a CrossFit style training program between cycling programs. CrossFit seems to mean simple, old-school, exercises using mainly body-weight for resistance - push-ups, squats, jumps, lunges, crunches, etc. I'm following a progressive, periodized program from Mark Lauren's "You Are Your Own Gym."
I started wearing my New Balance MR759 running shoes - which I bought mainly for running hills, and general athletic pursuits. With all the lunges, and single leg squats, and some of the pulling exercises I found my feet squirming around a lot in the shoe. When I got them tight enough to feel "stable" for the movements, the shoes felt too tight.
I wanted to be able to "push into" the floor with my toes, etc. for a little more stability, and I like the idea of developing better foot strength and flexibility - benefits that are associated with barefoot training and minimalist shoes. My garage isn't warm enough to exercise barefoot, and I plan to add sprints and "bounding" to my cross-fit program, so some minimalist shoes seemed like the ticket.
I've been a fan of New Balance shoes for years - I've had and worn a lot of shoes from Merell, Montrail, ECCO, Vasque, but always seem to find gravitate back to New Balance. So, when I started looking into minimalist shoes, the New Balance Minimus MX20 was my expected favorite. My local New Balance store didn't stock these - but they fitted using the MT20 (trail version). They sent me away convinced I needed an 11 EE (even though I always wear 11.5 EE, and I've read to order the Minimus 0.5 size larger).
During my trial workout in an 11 EE, I felt 2 toes (my 2nd and 3rd toes extend past my big toe) squished into the end of the shoe. Overall, I liked the shoe - flexible, I felt my feet were supporting me for my workout, instead of an inch or rubber... On side lunges, I still felt squirming. By the time I had the right size, I was in the 12 EE (one toe still squished up in 11.5 EE). I was pretty content and ready to call my shopping done, until...
...Until, I decided to give Virbam FiveFingers a try. I didn't like the squirming on side lunges, and thinking about what I like about the minimalist feel, and the gap to what I thought would be perfect, I started to see why those goofy shoes just might be the ticket...
When I tried them on in the store (REI) it took me about 5 minutes to put them on. I was pretty skeptical that this would be a shoe I would put up with. They felt good though - better than expected. Real grippy - they have these razor-siped soles like winter tires, so on smooth surfaces (like retail store floors), they just stick.
I worked out a few nights in each - the Vibram and the New Balance, and in the end, the Vibrams were the clear favorite. They just feel right. I can plant my feet and they don't squirm, without the shoe feeling tight or constrictive. I can use my toes to push off for lunges, and dig in for my "Let Me Ins". When I wear them out my feet feel sore - not like joint sore, but like muscles-got-a-workout sore.
With the decision made, I went for a walk with the boys (ages 3 and 5), one or the other riding on my shoulders 70% of the time. We were in Houghton, Michigan, which is a hilly town, and there has been snow already this year - so it was a hilly, wet, gravel-ly walk. We went about a mile total, with maybe 100' elevation gain (and loss - not uphill both ways).
I even found myself wearing them around the house - and wore them for the long (8 hours driving, 10 hour day on the road) drive home - including stops for my boys to "pee on trees" in the snow (on the long stretches between civilization). Not as comfy as my favorite wool socks, but surprisingly comfy still - given first impressions.
I think the drawback with this will be that I can't really wear them a lot of places - not that that's too bad. I have other shoes. The New Balance are "neutral" enough that they look like normal shoes, and could be worn just about anywhere...
Friday, November 18, 2011
I noticed this as a soft lump in my stomach at the end of September. Since then I tried a week of rest, and that didn't help (or hurt), so I went back to training. I was at the end of my cycling program - where I'm supposed to take a break, or switch to strength training, so I switched to strength training.
I'm following a CrossFit type program of body-weight exercises. I've got 1/2 of the garage taken over with benches, steps, medicine balls, and a pull-up contraption thing. I'm really enjoying it, and I'm missing the bike less than I thought I would be.