Sep 132018

I’ve always enjoyed running on soft surfaces more than pavement. I sometimes run on trails and cinder tracks, but I really get a thrill out of running barefoot on the beach. I spend most of the year now in San Carlos, Mexico, living right on the Sea of Cortez. So my track and my swimming pool await just outside the door!

There’s something unique about feeling my skin connecting with the earth with each running step. I savor the sensory experience of the grainy sand compressing under the sole of each foot and the occasional wet wave that washes over my foot. The salt air tinges my nostrils and the sea breeze blows my hair, whistling in my ears as if I strode at a mighty Olympic pace rather than the average pace I actually run.

Running barefoot on the beach – or anywhere for that matter – isn’t without risk. My husband blackened his big toe one morning stumbling over a rock. My son had the unfortunate experience of landing on a dead porcupine fish that lay hidden under the sand. And I landed once on a cholla cactus segment that had somehow blown down onto the beach. Ouch!

My recommendation for anyone wanting to run barefoot is that you learn first how to walk safely without shoes. Because the barefoot technique is different. Muscles in your feet and lower legs work much harder when you’re not wearing shoes. I started by walking a couple of kilometers on the beach every day barefoot. At first, my plantar fascia and toes felt sore afterward. Sometimes my calf muscles cramped up. Once my feet and lower extremity muscles adjusted, I worked my way up to five to seven kilometers. Then I added running to the mix. Now running and walking on the beach is easy for me.

When I first started running in sand, I had to listen to my body, to notice and sense what felt right. I land on the ball of my foot when running barefoot instead of heel-striking the way I do in shoes. That seems to absorb the impact from my landing best and gives me the opportunity to do a sudden weight shift if I feel something sharp under my foot and don’t want to put full weight on it. Other runners may find a different technique works best.

Connecting your naked feet to the Earth not only is a wonderful sensory experience, it offers abundant health benefits as well. Your heart, muscles and nervous system all receive electrical impulses from your body’s cells. The earth’s electrical energy helps keep human bodies and the bodies of all living beings in balance. When we spend too much time indoors, we don’t receive nature’s healing benefits. When your body has a chance to connect with the Earth’s electrical energy, you sleep better, inflammation is reduced, you perceive pain as less traumatic, and even heal faster from injury and illness. This isn’t just hocus pocus. More and more studies are coming out that show connecting with the Earth is not only beneficial, it’s necessary for optimal health. Please read this informative article by Chevalier et al. in the Journal of Environmental Public Health for a more in-depth understanding of the benefit of grounding or earthing.

If you haven’t tried barefoot running, but have the urge to try, why not give it a go the next time you head to a grassy park or a sandy beach. For me, there’s something joyous and childlike about running in the sand. If you’re like me, you might have so much fun running barefoot, you find yourself skipping along or turning cartwheels in the sand like you were 10 years old.

Learn to be a better runner, avoid injuries and train smart with Dr. Jason Karp’s REVO2LUTION RUNNING program. I have taken several workshops from Dr. Karp over the years and he’s an amazing educator! For information on certification courses for runners, coaches, and fitness professionals, check out the REVO2LUTION RUNNING web site. Use code SUSANCOOK for a 15 percent discount on any course.

Sep 102018

Yesterday, I competed in an open water swimming race in Guaymas, Mexico in the Sea of Cortez. It was the Cruce de Bahia Miramar event and more than 200 swimmers participated. I swam the 1800 meter race, which began at the beautiful old Cortez Hotel and ended at the Miramar beach. The race started at 7 AM.

My husband was slated to help with kayak support, so he needed to drop me off early at the start. At 6 AM, I stood on the dock on the water at the hotel. The sun hadn’t yet risen and the sky was purplish pink, the sea smooth as glass. Water lapped over rocks the nearby beach, where dozens of pelicans soon took off, gliding over the water in search of fish. The competitors gradually arrived. Some plunged in the water right away, wading in from the beach or somersaulting off the end of the dock. People greeted each other with a cheerful “Buenas Dias”–and often hugs and kisses. I spoke to some of them in Spanish. Competitors weren’t from San Carlos or Guaymas–some had driven an hour or more from Hermosillo or Obregon or Kino Bay.

Swimmers began performing various warm-up activities under the palm trees on the beach–stretching, arm swinging, jumps.  Even with hundreds of people gathered–the event lacked the noise and chaos of a pool swimming event. People spoke quietly. There was no loud whistling, screaming or horns. I still felt connected with nature. I heard birds singing and could watch them dive for fish. All around were pelicans, cormorants and terns. I watched the brilliant orange sun slowly make an appearance over the arid volcanic peaks in time to cast an orange glow across the water. I waded into the shallow water to warm up, watching fish–parrotfish, sergeant majors and puffers–swim below me. People were lining up along the dock now. The race was about to start.

And then it began. There was a flurry of arms and legs splashing at the beginning. I jerked to a stop when someone not used to swimming straight in open water came at me on a direct collision course. Gradually, the crowds disappeared. I was back to swimming alone in the water just like my regular mornings training at San Francisco beach. I could still see fish below me, stretches of rocks and rippled sand. I felt the water flow past me as I swam. I tasted salt. Smelled it. Experienced it. All my senses were thriving on this experience of propelling myself through this marine world. The water rushing past me made me aware of every muscle. I sensed the instant my hand first connected with the water each time before it began to pull through the heavy water. I felt it flow over my shoulders and back. I felt my calf muscles contracting with every kick. With every stroke, the thick, salty water was massaging my body, energizing me, making me feel so vibrant, so alive. I live for this experience! It’s like nothing else I ever experience. Only the water can make me feel this good.

I sited on the buoys to stay on course. There were seven of them–some bright orange, the others neon yellow. I swam next to a young girl for a while, matching her stroke for stroke. Then she pulled ahead of me. I drafted off of her for a hundred yards or so until she pulled further ahead of me. I was back to being alone in the water. I could see the colorful inflated balloon arch of the finish. I couldn’t believe the race was almost over already. It felt so good to be swimming, I felt as if I could just keep on going. For another 30 minutes, an hour, maybe the rest of the day.

The sand was just a couple of feet below me now. People were walking through the water toward the finish, too tired to run. Others made the effort to run. I swam a few more strokes. Swimming is always easier for me than moving on land. Finally, I stood up. Ran for the finish. The water slowed my legs. They felt heavy as I dragged them through the shallow water. But I was almost there. I smiled and waved to all the spectators as I ran through the arch. Exhilaration rushed through me. This was so much fun! In Mexico, athletic events aren’t just attended by spouses and kids. There were grandmothers on the sidelines. Aunts and uncles. Neices and nephews.

I was expecting some friends to come and meet me later, but I didn’t see them when I finished. I strolled down the beach a ways, noticing how good the water felt on my skin in the morning breeze, how soothing the sand felt squeezing between my toes. I knew then, as I’ve known for some time that open water swimming is the perfect realm for me. I’ve always loved the water. But swimming through water where I can experience the full range of sensory experiences that the natural world delivers is quite simply amazing. Every single time.

Me with a wonderful friend, Veronica Garcia, after our races.

Sep 012018

I am officially a Regional Sales Director for Revo2lution Running, founded by leading running expert Dr. Jason Karp. If you are a personal trainer, running coach or a runner seasoned or new, this cutting-edge program can give you the competitive edge. You can attend a course to become a certified professional or as a runner. Courses are offered in most U.S. cities and many countries worldwide. There is also a home study course that makes it easy to learn during your free time!

Learn the importance of knowing your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold in doing effective training. Learn how to create a running program for someone new to running, whether it be you or a client. If weight loss is a goal for you or your client(s), learn nutrition tips that will make this goal more achievable. And most importantly, learn how to run safely with less potential for injury. 65 percent of people to participate in running experience an injury over the course of the year, which can mean missing races, fun with friends, and interfere with weight loss goals. Why not avoid injury altogether so you can keep on running? Knowledge is power and Dr. Karp’s program will give you power with a capital P and so much more. To read about or sign up for a workshop, home study program, runner mentoring programs and more, check out the Revo2lution Running web site. For a 15 percent discount on your workshop fee, please use the code SUSANCOOK when you purchase.