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Five Steps to Finding a Balance Between Learning From Others and Learning From Experience

Posted by on Feb 22, 2011 | 4 Comments

Barefoot running, like many endeavors in life, requires a balance of learning from those that came before you and learning from your own experiences.  New barefoot runners will find a wealth of information on the Internet, including a great deal of information here on my humble site.  This wealth of information can be great… as long as it does not come at the exclusion of the most important information- that which we receive from our own experiences.

It can be easy to get caught up in the finer points of barefoot running, like the perfect foot strike, exact cadence, precise angle of a forward lean, and a myriad of other details us barefoot teachers like to talk about.

The danger, of course, is that we become so focused on these details, we ignore the feedback we receive from our own bodies.  We focus intently on the advice of others without considering how that advice applies to us.

In some cases, this is our fault.  All of us have been known to take on a “we have all the answers” attitude and dispense advice as if it were gospel.  I know I’m certainly guilty of this.  I sometimes forget that each of us is an experiment of one… each one must find their own way.  What works for me may not be the exact same thing that works for you.

How do you find this all-important balance?  This is what I do:

  1. Research. I find as much information as possible on any given topic that captures my interest.  If there’s a lot of information available, I skim various sources instead of intently focusing on one source.  In almost every case, the composite of many opinions is more valuable than one single opinion.
  2. Experiment.  I try out the various things I learned in the first step.  The goal is to try as many things as possible.
  3. Record the results. In almost all cases, this is done informally.  I have been known to actually collect data on rare occasions, and maybe even make a graph or two.
  4. Keep what works, discard what does not. This is the part where I sift through my experiments and keep the good stuff.  The stuff that does not work in put on the shelf.  I may revisit it at a later time depending on the situation.
  5. Customize. At this point, I can really begin tweaking to fine-tune your skills.  This is where my own self-awareness really comes in handy.    By listening to my own body and intuition, I can dial in the skills for my own specific application.

Follow these five steps and you will easily find that balance between learning from others and learning from your own experiences.


In completely unrelated news, we utilized our world-class dermatological sciences department to accomplish a task once thought impossible- we stimulated hair growth on Christian Peterson’s face.

We are obviously excited about this breakthrough.  We hope to use this emerging technology to help other facial hair-deficient individuals in the future.  We will begin experimental trials immediately.

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  1. Angie Bee
    February 24, 2011

    Its hard to teach others how to run barefoot when my fist response is “you don’t need me, just listen to your own body”. I remember fondly scouring the RWBF forums for answers and asking people like you how to do it and I was told the same thing, “your body knows what its doing”
    It reminds me of childbirth. That was one of the main points that if you relax and let it happen, it will.
    Full circle I have come to say it like Yoda.

    oh and my hubby can grow total boss beard compared to you kids 🙂

  2. Janice Nicholls
    February 23, 2011

    I’m very happy that you wrote this article. Before taking off my shoes, I did lots of research. I tried many things. I still don’t do things that way I should according to many who have gone before me, but what I’m doing is working for me so far. I still have lots to learn, but I’ve also learned lots. The thing I’ve learned best is to listen to your body and your soul. Your body knows how to run and your soul experiences the joy of being barefoot.

  3. The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy
    February 23, 2011

    Well at least when my employer sees that picture on the web, I can claim it’s not me. I apparently cannot grow facial hair…

  4. Jen
    February 23, 2011

    Good to remember. I get caught up in all those little details but forget to really listen to my own body.
    And I like this little facial hair war that’s going on between you two.