I know how important it is to relax the feet and legs while running barefoot, but I think this may be the part that keeps me from increasing my speed and mileage. Can anyone offer suggestions on how to relax?
Don't think about relaxing the feet. Relax the ankles, knees, and hips. Be mentally relaxed. Instead of "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" think "smoooth." Keep your strides short and quick.
1. Before you run, run in place. No stress, just casual. Slowly run backwards a few steps, then forwards, keeping the motion the same. Go back and forth, then when you're ready, keep going forwards. Or backwards, if you want to be a weirdo.
2. During the run, imagine the smooth asphalt to be rough gravel. Would you slap your feet? Push off? Thud? Other than that, just focus on how everything in your body feels. Keep effort to a bare minimum.
3. You can always be more relaxed. If you think you're relaxed enough, you'll never be as relaxed as you could be. Your feet should make no sound on the ground, you should feel no thudding with your steps, the horizon should not bounce. You know you're getting close when you feel like there's nothing in the world you'd rather be doing than running, and that you could run forever.
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This is good stuff. Thanks so much for the advice, guys!