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The Importance of Experimentation

“Each of us is an experiment of one-observer and subject-making choices, living with them, recording the effects.” -George Sheehan

     Learning to run barefoot will require you to try many different techniques and methods.  You must be open to experimentation.  You must be willing to adopt anything that works and discard anything that does not.  Whenever you encounter something new, try it a few times.  If it seems to lead to improvement, stick with it.  If it does not, revert back to what worked best.   

     When going through this process, it is important to only change one variable at a time.   Do not try changing multiple things.  If you do, it will be impossible to determine which variables were successful or unsuccessful.  It may help to keep a journal of the changes you try.  This will help you objectively determine what does and does not work.

    I spend a significant amount of time actively experimenting with every aspect of running.  I do the majority of this experimentation on long runs because they closely approximate the conditions I will experience in the races I run.  On any given long run, I may experiment with my form, what I eat before, during, and after running, clothing options, hydration options, equipment, anti-chafing measures, pacing, and a whole host of other variables.  For me, this experimentation helps make running an endlessly exciting adventure. 

There are many standard practices involved in running.  Many runners blindly follow these practices without considering if they improve or degrade their performance.  As an example, I used to stretch religiously before and after every run.  I’d see most runners at races stretching and assumed it was the “right” thing to do.  After experimenting, I found my performance increased and soreness decreased if I did a light warm-up instead of stretching.  Remember, we’re all an experiment of one.