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Designed for running August 18 2017, 0 Comments

We are designed to run, and a number of our design features passively help us to do so.

We've previously discussed the anatomical features that show how we have evolved as long-distance runners. Our long legs and impressively large buttocks give us a long, loping stride. Because we are bipedal, our stride does not limit our breathing in the same way as for four-legged animals. Our ability to sweat keeps us from overheating and enables us to outlast animals that can only cool themselves by panting. The nuchal ligament in our necks, which is not present in tree-dwelling apes, keeps our head stable while we run. And finally, strong elastic ligaments in our feet and achilles tendons store energy from our landing and re-use it in the push off into the next stride.

Professor Dan Lieberman eloquently explains and quantifies the passive elements of running in this short video, explaining that the arch of the foot stores 17% of landing energy, and the achilles tendon another 35% - energy that does not have to be generated in the muscles to contribute to the next step as it is released naturally by the springy ligaments. There are two conditions for this to work at its best - we need to run and land with good form, and we need to relax while we run so that our passive mechanisms can make their contribution.

So, shoulders down, easy breathing and a light, springy step in order to enjoy the countryside around you rather than focusing on the effort - after all, if you are doing it right, 52% of that effort comes for free.


Just r-u-u-nning in the rain! May 15 2016, 0 Comments

Despite a deluge of rain, we ran last night. I have a regular group run on Thursdays, and to make even better use of the time I borrow the neighbour's dog and try to get him tired - a forlorn hope as his running batteries are much bigger than mine. We arrived at the venue already sopping wet - he's a labrador and seemingly impervious to any kind of water - and set off a little stiffly as the temperature had headed back winterwards in the last two days.

Running in the rain

It's interesting how once you settle into the run, the weather becomes a less significant influence, and after a couple of kilometres warm up it becomes an irrelevance. It even has its benefits as it keeps you from overheating, and if you begin to feel a little chilly you can accelerate and burn a few more calories to keep warm. To help on this front I had donned an HG long-sleeved top under my running gear and was snug as a bug for the whole trail. I switched my summer ZEMgear Terras to go back to some winter Heros, and my feet were toasty warm even when running through deep puddles.

Sport HG topZEMgear TerraZEMgear Hero

At the end of the run everyone's spirits were noticeably higher, and I confess to a smug self-satisfaction that we ran in those conditions. If you drop it into the conversation at work the following day, you can watch people's eyebrows arch in amazement.

But here's the thing. It's not crazy. Rather than sitting at home and gloomily watching the rain on the other side of a window pane, getting out and running in it leaves you feeling relaxed, virtuous, and nicely ready for a good night's sleep. So next time it looks wet and miserable outside why not go out and confront it head on?


Spring in your step March 22 2016, 0 Comments

It's that time of year when some of us wonder when we are going to have to do the spring wardrobe switch. The weather, of course, does not go out of its way to make the decision easy, and temperatures swing wildly over a twenty-degree range making any fixed decision in either direction incorrect for at least part of the time.

For the ZEMgear barefoot shoe runner, an equally weighty decision has to be made in respect of footwear - when to switch from those warm winter Heroes and Apexes so as to avoid reproachfully steaming feet at the end of the run? I wait for them to be too warm, rather than switch early and suffer from cold feet - at least warm feet are flexible and don't hurt. This decision was reinforced by the experience of setting out on a balmy spring day last year wearing a pair of summer shoes and climbing above the snowline on the surrounding hills, hobbling back a half hour later with painfully cold feet.

So the decision has been made. The Terras are in waiting for a warm, sunny day, unless I plan to climb high. Meanwhile the Heroes will be used until the snow is completely gone. My 360s are used indoors where conditions are controlled, and for flying where swollen feet make having elasticated shoes a huge boon. All of them have that wonderful feet-on-the-floor feel that simply doesn't come with standard shoes.

Check them out!

 


What are the relative values of running and walking? March 12 2016, 0 Comments

You know that running is more intense than walking, and believe in your heart of hearts that it is doing you good. But what does the evidence say? The benefits of different durations and intensities (walking and running) of exercise is discussed by Wen et. al. in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2014, 64:5).

It seems that, even in very small doses, walking and running are beneficial in reducing cardiovascular disease and lowering the risks of diabetes and hypertension. The benefits are on a sliding scale that increases as the amount of exercise goes up, but the biggest increase in benefit is at the beginning of the curve, where the amount of exercise is small (figure 1, after Wen et al.).

Figure 1: Relative benefit in reduced mortality for average daily running or walking time.

The implications from this are that benefits can come from relatively small changes - good news for those who have difficulty finding the time to do long work-outs. It also means that beneficial exercise can be built into your day by, for instance, getting off the bus a couple of stops earlier and walking the last part of the journey into work.

For those of you who want to ease yourself into spring with running or hiking, and would like to do so with less shoe and more you, ZEMgear Hero and Apex shoes are warmer for the still cold weather, but you should graduate fairly quickly to Terras as it warms into summer.

Good running and walking all!


Do your running shoes look like this? August 27 2015, 0 Comments


After a season and a half, my faithful Terras are feeling their age. You can see that the tread on the tough undersole that protects you from sharp and hard objects has worn smooth, and in places the light grey and orange mid-sole is peeping through. I'm a little more careful on stony ground now, but still able to cope with all but the very worst of surfaces. The picture above means that the combined thickness of 6mm for the inner-, mid- and outer-sole is down to an average of about 3-4mm, and less than this where the flexible and relatively soft mid-sole is showing.

It's nearly time to switch to the winter Heroes and Apexes, and these will be new, and with the full protective thickness that will allow me to run comfortably on pretty well anything.

So if you're feeling the stones more than you would like to, check your soles out. It might be time for a change.


Running the Caballo Blanco Ultramarathon - article in the Laramie Boomerang May 27 2014, 0 Comments

If running is in your blood, this should strike a cord...

 


See you at Greifensee? August 23 2013, 0 Comments

After some time of putting it off, I have finally bitten the bullet and signed up for the Greifensee Lauf half-marathon on September 21.  I shall be fashionably attired in a ZEMgear T-shirt, looking a bit like this...

...and of course running in a pair of ZEMgear minimalist shoes.  If you're interested, feel free to come up and say hello and check them out.

See you there!


Ouch!! March 19 2013, 0 Comments

On the run in the dark the other night, I stubbed my toe on a rock sticking out of the trail.  You know the type - your foot bounces backwards from under you, and you spend the next three or four paces trying to stop yourself from nosediving into the ground.  Pretty uncomfortable, but it would have been a truly eye-watering experience if not for the rubber wrap-around protection on the toes of the Apexes. 


Forest running in winter March 16 2013, 0 Comments

Sometimes it's a little tougher to summon up the gumption to go out when the weather is wet or cold, one of the reasons that I run with a group, as there is support in numbers.  In the last two weeks I've been out running at night on a few occasions, but two in particular are of note.

The first was a weekend run where I was looking to extend my distance (race coming up...), and I came across a forest trail to Uetliberg, a high hill/small mountain overlooking Zürich and its lake.  I've meant to run up there for a year, now, so took it on the spur of the moment.  Brother, how steep...  At the top was a stunning view over the lights of the city and around the lake, which made all the huffing and puffing on the way up good value.  This run was a test for my Apexes - first time worn in anger as the Heros were in the wash - and they acquitted themselves well with 16km under foot and no discomfort.

The second was another night run in the forest, this time with a light dusting of snow on the trees and the ground, like a Christmas card. Back to my trusty Heros for this, as the temperature tracked steadily below zero celsius.