So I went and got married on a beach in Florida, and everything about it was perfect – from the weather to the catering to the DJ to my gorgeous wife, and we had an amazing time. We went kayaking and jet skiing and watched dolphins and manatees play just yards away from us, and lord how we ate some glorious seafood.

But in the week we spent on the beach, I found a problem: my feet are weak! After all the festivities in the rehearsal, wedding, and then just having fun on the beach, my dogs were seriously barking! I would have put Rocktape on them (I brought some along for the trip), but I’ve worn tape on my feet to the beach before, and the sand takes it right off. So I stretched and stretched and relaxed and in the end, decided to just suck it up.

This made me think about how one dimensional our workout or training routines tend to be. We do chest on Monday, arms on Tuesday, and cardio on Wednesday, etc. or like 2 miles Monday, 1 mile Tuesday, 3 on Wednesday, rest on Thursday and on and on. We fall into a rut of a routine, and although we may do a “shock” workout from time to time, we don’t mix things up often enough.

I’ve talked with some people recently that have made me think about some other things I would like to start doing to provide some variety into my fitness. I got a pretty sweet bicycle for my birthday a year and a half ago, and have probably ridden it a dozen times. I live here in Southern Illinois, home of the Shawnee National Forest with some beautiful hiking trails. I’ve been told there are some great running trails, too, if I want to pick up some trail running.

Obviously it would be ideal if we could all live at the beach and have the opportunity to run barefoot in sand and really activate those intrinsic foot muscles that help stabilize, that form our (often fallen) arches. But that’s not really an option for most of us, so we’ll have to do what we can with what we’ve got.

Remember a few years back when Vibram brought out their Five Fingers shoes? These, and knockoffs like them, have taken a bit of ridicule from all over for the way they look, but the people that wear them do so for function way more than looks. These, and other “barefoot runners,” allow the foot to splay out and use the muscles of the feet as they are designed. Other companies like Newton and Altra have developed shoes that look much more like the average running shoes, but have a larger toe box so the toes aren’t all smashed together, and for a similar purpose of allowing the runner to use their feet closer to how they work naturally without shoes.

With all that being said, I’m not endorsing any of those shoe brands or styles. I don’t ever tell anybody what shoe brand or style to wear, because we’re all different, and our bodies all react differently to various stimuli. I will tell you, though, that if you decide to try out a “barefoot” or “natural” style shoe, it’s something you’ll need to do slowly. When the idea of natural running came out, a lot of people decided to give it a shot and jumped in head first,
and they ended up with injuries.

For so many years, we’ve become accustomed to shoes with a “heel drop” – which is the industry term referring to the height of the shoe from the heel to the toe – which has forced us into a heel-toe strike pattern and bad running posture. Trying to change this too quickly often leads to overuse injuries or even exacerbating the injuries we were trying to treat.

I know I kind of went off on a tangent there, but the point I’m trying to make is to break out of your rut. Try something new. When you allow your fitness routine to become just a routine, you miss out on a lot of the benefits and fun of trying new things.

If you decide you want to learn more about other options, or have questions about how to work in some cross training, leave a comment. If you have started something new and are having the beginnings of some kind of overuse pain/discomfort, schedule a Quick Check with me or Dr Gill, and then we can help point you in the right direction.