Sometimes we have to hit the RESET button on our running.

Running barefoot on grass was a mainstay back in the '60's and early '70's. My brother, Al, has told me stories about workouts when their coach had them run barefoot on grass fields. Not that their shoes were much to speak of, usually thin layers of crepe for an outsole ( no midsole to speak of ) and a thin nylon upper.

A good friend of mine, Laser, has hit a plateau with his running, so I surprised him with a short workout last Saturday. We had previously discussed getting back to ground zero with his running; shoes, training schedule, racing, nutrition, cadence, etc. We even discussed the need to rediscover the joy of running.

If it's a chore, don't do it any more. Take a break. He was on the precipice of a long break from running.

We drove to a nearby middle-school track. Classic cinder, a few weeds here and there but overall in nice shape. The bleachers were at least off the track. And the grassy infield, used for lacrosse and soccer, was in fantastic summer shape. Lush grass perfect for the second half of the workout.

The plan was to let Laser feel the freedom of running as he cut across the grassy infield. Barefoot of course. I wanted to see if he could rekindle within himself what pure running was like, even for a short burst.

I did not let him in on the complete workout, and to his credit he allowed me to unpack the steps one at a time. Since he was fairly warmed up after riding alongside me while I put in a ten mile run, I asked him to warm up with a couple of easy laps, as if he were getting ready for an interval workout.

With his shoes on, and on the track, he did two laps of 'run the straight-aways and jog the curves'. I asked him to roll into the running part, hit a good pace, then glide to the end. Curves were for a complete recovery. Work on form, and feel the pace, nothing forced. If you feel yourself losing form, slow down and regroup. I filmed him for review later.

Next step was a 220. Cool it around the curve then open it up for the straight finish, building to the finish, no let up this time. He did it all and as I watched I noticed his pace and gait were constant. He was on a plateau, both mentally and physically. We both knew it, but busting through was going to take more than a single workout.

And that's okay. Laser is in this for the long term, as we are all. The multiple benefits running brings far outweighs a season, a year, or even a few years of setbacks. We now measure running as a lifestyle of decades, not days.

Sitting on a set of portable, metal bleachers, I let Laser know it was time for the second half of the workout. Time to take your shoes and socks off, I said. "Oh, really? This is going to be interesting," he replied.

It was the same routine; two warm-up laps on the grassy infield. Then two sets of strides the length of the infield, followed by one 220. Or about a 200 since it was on also on the grass. Time and distance didn't matter, I again let him know. It's all about feeling the run, working on your form, enjoying the run across the field and letting your barefoot self go.

Thanks to Laser's trust in my guidance, and his belief in himself, the workout was a success! During the grass portion, especially, he was excited and encouraged. When I asked him how it felt, he said, "It feels like my old, kick-ass self!". Laser loves to finish a race or workout hard, and it's been a long time since he's been able to do so. He talked about one of his racing goals, and said, "I just want that feeling of finishing a race hard and not dragging my wasted self across the finish line."

It was a blast for me to see Laser light up during and after the workout. Although he has some nagging injury issues right now, getting a taste of what's to come, what is still within him and waiting for an opportunity to blossom, it was fun to see that Laser is primed once again.

Building back from scratch is going to take some time, yet Laser knows it's all in his best interest. I love knowing he is all in with his goals and what it's going to take to get there. He believes in himself, and even if it takes longer than hoped for, he always finds a way out of the valley of doubt we all run through now and again. 

Laser enjoying a run across the field, sans shoes!

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