In that last blog post, I outlined my plans for strengthening my flat feet. I would cut back on the running attempts and wear my Vibrams every day at the gym. After my feet got stronger, hopefully my shin splints would be under control, and I would be able to start running for longer and more frequently.
Over the week following that post, I started feeling pain in my feet. I'm not talking pain from impact, or general soreness from using the muscles in my feet. This felt more serious. It was like the shin splints moved from my shins down into my ankles and feet. But it was worse than shin splints because instead of only feeling pain when I walked, I also felt it while just standing or sitting too long in the same position. There were two spots on each foot (on the inside and outside, just below the ankle) where it hurt to touch, almost like a bruise.
Looking back on my plans, I'm reminded of the Greek proverb:
Learn to walk before you run.I think I was asking too much of my feet, too soon. They've been locked up in rigid shoes for my whole life, and I was expecting them to magically get stronger in a few weeks. I didn't want to aggravate them any more (and it hurt to walk around anyway), so I took a week off from working out. Last week, when I started back, I wore my cross-trainers instead of my Vibrams on the elliptical machine. Until this morning, I hadn't run at all in 3 weeks.
Getting Back Up
For the past couple of days, my foot pain has gone away completely (the human body is kind of incredible like that.) So, this morning I attempted a run. I was able to go about 3/4 of a mile without pain, and then I decided to stop before hurting anything. After my run, on my short cool-down walk, I started feeling some pain again in my ankles, so I'm glad I stopped when I did.
If you don't learn from your mistakes, you're doomed to repeat them, so I'm changing gears for what seems like the 5th time. I need to slow down again, and this time test the waters a little before jumping in with both feet.
My plan for this week is to continue wearing my cross-trainers on the elliptical machine, but wear my Vibrams on my 2 weight days. I'm still going barefoot at home and wearing sandals when I have to go out in public. Then, if my feet feel okay next weekend, I'll go for another run. I'll run until I start feeling pain, or until I reach the .8 mile mark.
I'll keep doing this (gradually increasing my run distance if I can) until I can go a full week without foot pain. Then, I'll start replacing my cross-trainers with my Vibrams on some of my elliptical days, and replace at least 1 elliptical day with a run instead. By the end of August I'll hopefully be able to throw away the cross-trainers for good.
I'm sure there are flaws in this new plan as well, but it's good to have a goal to work towards. I'll be keeping this blog up to date as I make progress.
Some Miscellaneous Observations
There are a few things I noticed over the past 3 weeks that didn't really fit into the text above, but I feel like they might be useful to put in writing.
1) The elliptical machine. The strange thing about the elliptical machine is that it's a rigid, defined motion. Your foot moves maybe an inch inside its stirrup (that seems like an apt description of the thing that keeps your feet attached to the machine) over the course of several cycles. It's almost like wearing shoes outside of your shoes. So when I wear the Vibrams instead of my cross-trainers, it doesn't really feel any different. At the same time, my almost-naked foot doesn't really feel "right" in the stirrup. I have more range of motion in my foot because of the Vibrams, but I'm still performing the same movements over and over for 50-60 minutes.
I think it was this repetitive motion that caused me a lot of the pain over the past 3 weeks. Without any variation in terrain, my foot's ligaments and joints were just grinding back and forth, back and forth, over-training very specific muscles, ligaments, and tendons in my feet. Since the pain went away literally days after I switched back to my cross-trainers, I'm pretty confident that this was the case.
The conundrum is that most of my strength training workouts involve sitting or lying down. The only time I'm on my feet is during my elliptical workouts. To improve my foot strength, I need to be doing more, but not so much that I over train and injure myself. The best plan would probably involve stopping partway through my elliptical workout and switching shoes, but who wants to change shoes in the middle of the gym? Sometimes I think to myself that if I get off the machine now, it's not very likely that I'll get back on. So hopefully my plan of mixing in one day of elliptical with the Vibrams will allow me to get there gradually.
#2 Conflicting Goals. I have two fitness-related goals at the moment. For the past 6 months, I've been trying to lose a specific amount of weight. And for the past month and a half, I've been trying to become a runner. The problem is that in order to lose weight at a quick pace, I need to burn a lot of calories during my workouts; and since I'm a newbie runner, I can't use my runs yet to replace a cardio workour. Furthermore, the setbacks I've experienced so far while running have crossed over to the weight-loss side. When I took a week off to let my feet heal up, I had to stop my weight-loss training as well. Fortunately, I'm only a few weeks away from meeting my weight-loss goal (5-6 more lbs) and I can start focusing more on running.
#3 Perseverance. In the past, I would have given up on the running a long time ago. As soon as I felt the shin splints the first time, or the foot pain from the past few weeks, I would have probably thrown in the towel. For whatever reason, I seem to have turned a page mentally. I've been able to stick with the weight loss, I've been able to stick with the running (even though there have been few victories), and after a month of I've also been able to stick to updating this blog at least once a week. Hopefully the feeling decides to stick around for a while.