No longer is Spring Training only for Major League Baseball players.
If you want to improve most of your movement patterns and become resilient to injury it’s import to practice “training your springs” year round!
BACK TO BAREFOOT
Why barefoot training? More like, why not barefoot training?
Optimal health is all about the mind body connection. If you’re only working out in shoes then you are not allowing your brain to fully function or properly connect with the body. You are also misaligning your bone structures and training your muscles to be weak and reliant upon shoes.
Our bodies are highly evolved technology designed to operate at top performance. The only reason we’re not performing at peak levels is because we let something get in between our technology and the natural environment. Like an inch of rubber.
The ability to develop strength, power, flexibility, mobility and speed all share the same fundamental mind body connection.
By getting back to barefoot and learning to properly use your foot muscles you will establish a stronger mind body connection and develop a great arch support in your foot regardless if your feet are flat. (See my blog The golden Arches)
Learning to develop your foot muscles and the arches in your feet will greatly improve your athletic ability and liberate you from foot, ankle and knee pain.
If you don’t integrate barefoot training you will be missing out on the most vital benefit of “working out” and setting yourself up for future disappointments.
Sure not everyone is ready at this present moment to kick off their shoes and take off through the wild, but it is important to begin integrating barefoot training into your fitness routine.
If we were supposed to wear shoes all day long we would’ve come straight out of the womb wearing booties. Our epidermis is all the protection we need to create a strong foundation for walking around.
NOTE: Of course the invention of asphalt and concrete are the exception here, because our body takes more adaptation to handle the man made surface. Over time you can build up to walking on any surface, but for now start with the grass and shock absorbent mats in your gym.
Experiencing your environment barefoot is one of the main keys to staying young and having a strong mind body connection. This is attributed to one of the oldest know survival mechanisms in the body, proprioception.
Proprioception is the act of our feet serving as receptors or antennas for the brain. As bare feet experience our surrounding environments or new spatial awareness they receive information through millions of nerve sensors.
The nerve sensors send lightning fast signals to the brain and the brain interprets this signal sending it immediately back to the feet. The feet muscles will adjust accordingly to provide the necessary balance to maintain a super stable posture and navigate terrain.
When wearing shoes the rubber soles distorts this connection between the feet nerve cell receptors and your environment inhibiting this signal from being properly transmitted and interpreted. Without these signals our muscles stop firing properly over time reducing the integrity of the foot structure (i.e. why most people have fallen arches or flat feet)
This is a reason why treadmills are so bad for your overall health. But let’s not get me started on that soap box!
How to train barefoot
Integrating barefoot training into your lifestyle is super simple. Step one: Free those puppies! There are many gyms now that promote barefoot training so I recommend joining one in your area.
If you don’t have a barefoot gym near you then think about doing some simple movements in your gym’s cardio studio in between class schedules. Also I always kick off my shoes at the squat and deadlift racks because those are a controlled areas, and two of the most beneficial movements to practice barefoot!
It’s best to start with static movements such as squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, balancing on stability ball and yoga. As you build up awareness you can do other movement oriented workouts involving actions like crab and bear walking, suitcase carries, over head presses, walking lunges, crawling.
One thing I love to do is move around barefoot in a park or on the beach. This is where your feet will really begin to gain new awareness from the diverse terrain. The more you can practice moving and working out barefoot in a grassy field the better.
When you’re barefoot on the earth you not only are improving your physical body but you are always connecting with the energy of the earth. Your spirit will feel so enlivened from this experience
Spend some time walking on these softer terrains barefoot. Start out just a few minutes a day and then build up to a half hour and then an hour. This process could take up to 6 months so be patient. Rushing things will only create a set back. Remember you’ve been wearing shoes for almost all of your life so your feet will need some time to re-wild themselves.
A great way to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to go is purchasing a minimalist shoe. I love vibrams toe shoes and rely on them for longer hikes or more intensive gym workouts. Still it took me 6 months to build up the ability to perform long hikes and workouts in these shoes. I still do not jog in my vibrams.
NOTE: Do not buy minimalist shoes and begin running or taking long walks immediately. This type of extreme usage can take 6 months - 2 years to develop the endurance. Begin walking 1-2 blocks at a time for several weeks - months.
A practice that will expedite the process of building up your feet is learning to activate your foot arches. Believe it or not you have control over your arch support. Most people are told they have flat feet and that is the end of that. Not true. You can build an arch. (See my blog, The Golden Arches) for more details.
Also toe expression is crucial for healthy feet and a functioning mind body connection. Our does are supposed to be spread apart and have muscular independence in each toe. Instead shoes create the opposite. Our toes can become cramped and smooshed together until we free them and give them each their own personality!
Try this super fun and game changing toe exercise in the picture below. You can perform this anywhere. Especially while sitting at a desk, standing in line, sitting in traffic and so on.
Standing barefoot, continue alternating between your big toe down and little toes up , and vice versa. I usually practice this for several minutes a few times per day.
Also practice spreading your toes as wide apart as you can just using your mind for several minutes a day. This will bring new found independence and massively improve your balance.
With all this new barefoot experience your feet may require a bit of extra attention in the beginning. Just think of the millions of nerve cells that are being stimulated and the muscles that are being fully activated for the first time. Certainly don’t underestimate the importance of a great foot massage.
A foot massage can help to remove lactic acid in the foot muscles, break up old scar tissue and retrain your fascia to reposition the muscles and bone structures.
This is highly important when training your foot to maximize it’s potential. Of course if you can go to a professional masseuse that is always ideal, but don’t forget about the lacrosse ball.
Self massage can be just as effective and very liberating because you can perform it anywhere. I always keep a tennis ball or lacrosse ball near me most of the day. I am constantly rolling my foot on top of the ball to massage the tendons and muscles in my toes, foot and heel. I recommend this becomes a regular practice at least 2-3 times per week. And It only takes 5 minutes.
I cannot tell you how many clients I have had who treated and reversed their plantar fasciitis with this daily practice. You simply have to learn your body and what it needs.
By now I’m certain you’re ready to get out and run through a beautiful green pasture barefoot! SO what are you waiting for, go for it! Just remember, re-wilding your feet is a process. Again I emphasize the need to be patient and optimistic about your progress. Enjoy the journey!
CPT, Yoga Alliance Instructor, RKC Kettlebell Instructor, Emotional Intelligence Trainer
In 2011 I decided to make a change. At the age of 28 I found myself the most unhealthy and unhappy I had ever been in my life. Realizing God had more in store for me I sold my thriving business as well my personal belongings. Moving across the country to California lead me on a journey to discover my passion and purpose. These writings are a collection of my experiences and breakthroughs during this life changing journey