Strengthening feet and calves October 28 2015, 0 Comments
We have said a few times now that starting barefoot-style running should be taken slowly to allow the muscles in the feet and calves to build up. Your feet, ankles and calves will not only because you need them to run, but also because without a layer of padding on your sole to spread the impact, you will need to correct continuously for small variations in the way that your feet land on different surfaces. After a while, your feet and calves will look (and be) tougher. Running does this, but some additional exercises can help to accelerate development and the transition to enjoyment. These should normally be done on rest days between runs.
Building strength as a general rule requires higher loads on the muscles and a smaller number of S-L-O-W repeats. If any of these exercises feel like too much, start with a smaller number of repeats and build up gradually, say by one repeat a week. Always exercise both feet equally.
Stop bending down to pick things up - use your feet to get them off the floor. Towels and clothing can be picked up by flexing the toes downwards to hold a fold of the material between the toes and the ball of the foot. Use both feet alternately, and if you don't pick up that many things during the day, exercise by picking up a towel ten times with each foot. Shoes can be picked up by grasping them between the big and second toes. For exercise, this can be done with progressively bigger items such as marbles or golf balls - if you are able to pick up tennis balls, you have reached champion status.
Toe spread and press can be done by putting some corks between your toes - the happy part of this is that you will need to drink eight bottles of wine... Alternate firstly squeezing the corks between the toes, and secondly trying to spread the toes wide enough apart to release them - ten seconds for the squeeze, two second break, and then ten seconds for the stretch. Repeat five times with each foot.
Feet and calves
Stand in front of a table or other such surface so that you can rest your hands lightly on it for balance. Stand on one foot (I tuck the other behind the calf of standing leg). Raise yourself to the maximum height to a slow count of ten, hold for two seconds, and then lower slowly to another count of ten. Repeat five times and then do the other foot. If you want to get additional benefit from this, do it with the ball of your foot on a stair so that the heel can travel downwards from the horizontal as well as up, which will help to develop the muscle through its full range of movement.
Sit and point your leg straight out horizontally with your foot pointing as a continuation of the leg, toes pointed. Lift your toes up to a ten-count until they form a right-angle to the foot, hold for two and then straighten out to a ten-count. Repeat five times with each foot. Martial arts folks achieve a good right-angle doing this so that when they kick somebody they hit them with the ball of the foot and don't hurt their toes.
Sit with your leg pointed out in front of you, foot relaxed. Flex the big toe upwards and the others downwards and then twist the foot inwards as far as it will go. Reverse the direction of the toes (big - down, others - up) and twist the foot in the other direction as far as it will go. Again, do this to a 10-2-10 count.
Sit with your leg pointed out in front of you. Flex the foot upwards as far as you can, and then rotate it slowly, still as far as you can, to the outside, down, inwards and then back to the start. Hold for two seconds and reverse direction, with each direction taking ten seconds to complete. Repeat five times with each foot.
If you are anywhere near a sandy area, try running on that, either barefoot, or with ZEM shoes as they are excellent at protecting the soles and still keeping the sand out. Your feet and calves work harder on a giving surface.
After a strength-building session, take some time to stretch the muscles out again. You will normally notice within a couple of weeks that running becomes easier.
Travelling, ZEM-style June 24 2015, 0 Comments
Summer hails the arrival of another holiday season when we head for the sun, sea or mountains to unwind after a hectic winter and spring. For many of us this involves flights or car trips to our chosen destinations. For this, and indeed any travel that does not require looking formal at the end, ZEMgear shoes are a useful addition to the travel inventory.
If you are like me, and take your shoes off as often as possible, the elasticated, no-lace design means that they can be slipped off easily when sitting down waiting for that flight, and on again in a trice to board. Off when seated in the plane (or car), and on again for a walk to the back of the plane. Also because they are elasticated, they will stretch to accommodate feet that swell up on a long flight or car journey, and maintain a good, snug fit as the feet shrink back to their normal size when we start to walk.
Normal shoes are bulky and impact the size of the suitcase that you take - it helps to stuff them with smaller items of clothing, but even so they take up a lot of space. Not so with ZEMs. They are compact enough to fit three pairs in the space normally take by a single pair of normal shoes, or you can slot them into the narrow spaces between other items to make best use of available space.
Finally, you can use them at your destination. If you continue with your running programme on holiday, they take up less space than your other running gear, and if you are so lucky as to be going to a beach, they are perfect for walking on sand as they keep your soles off the hot sand, and fit snugly to your feet to prevent the sand from getting inside the shoe.
There are so many reasons to travel ZEM-wise.