Why is Running So Hard for Me?

This question stumped me for years!

About two years ago, I was making some awesome strength and cardio gains by incorporating more high-intensity interval weight training into my workout program. As the weather would warm up, I would always look forward to running outside to really focus on the finishing touches for that summer body, but for some reason, I always felt like running was the one exercise that never seemed to get easier. I played soccer and ran track in high school but running as an exercise was always the hardest, most boring and most painful to endure. 

After a while, I started to become annoyed, frustrated and fed up with running. I was tired of shin splints and frustrated that running a mile never got easier. Most of all, running wasn't fun, to the point where I just either "forced" myself to do it or avoided it completely. I would have to crank my iPod to max volume just to blot out the thoughts of how much I hated it. I can significantly tell the difference in interest between my weight lifting routines and running.  Running just wasn't as fun as lifting weights!

After a frustrating run one day, I went straight to Barnes and Noble and saw if I could find some more information on running. Little did I know that I would find a book that would change my fitness journey forever. I stumbled across a book entitled, "Barefoot Running: Step by Step", by "Barefoot" Ken Bob Saxton. I always like to read the first couple pages of a book to see what kind of interest it sparks in me and this book lit off fireworks!

The book was written by "Barefoot" Ken Bob Saxton who had ran over 60 marathons completely barefoot. Let me say that again...marathons! I was shocked! Here I am, crying over one mile with shoes on and this guy is running marathons without shoes with a huge smile on his face. I said to myself, "he must be doing something right", and bought the book. This book was probably one of the best investments I've ever made!

I find exercise physiology or human movement to be the most interesting thing in the whole entire world (hence why I chose to graduate with a Kinesiology degree, and dedicate my whole life to health and fitness). So when I say that every page in that book made perfect sense in terms of the physiology and science behind barefoot running, it really did! What I learned in the first couple of pages is that running with shoes on was the answer to that daunting question that became the title of this blog. 

Here's some exercise science for you. Your body communicates within itself through different kinds of receptors that are placed all over your body. The clearer the communication is to the brain, the stronger the response will be.

For example, your feet and hands have billions of receptors that detect temperature, pressure, texture and pain. When you touch a hot pan, temperature receptors on your skin send messages to the brain saying the pan is hot. Your brain interprets the message and sends a new message to the appropriate muscles to contract and pull your hand away from the hot pan as quickly as possible. Your body uses these receptors to keep your body away from injury and harm. The clearer the communication to the brain, the stronger the response will be. 

Now that we have a better idea about receptors and the constant communication that occurs in the body, we can discuss why barefoot running will literally teach you how to run correctly, significantly reducing injury, all while having the most fun doing it!

Running barefoot will literally teach you how to run correctly because our feet are our natural shoes. The human body was scientifically designed to be barefoot. Our feet are like our hands. Our feet can grab and wrap around things, the skin can become tougher to protect itself from abrasions and cuts and the structure (foot-ankle complex) can become much stronger from the constant bearing of your bodyweight. Once man created streets and pavement, the shoe was invented to "protect" your feet, but since then, we've lost all natural movement and motor control of them. Shoes to this day have been nothing but a mere fashion statement. 

When you take your shoes off, do you feel an instance of relief and joy? This is a sign that your body wants to be in it's natural state and constantly needs that feedback contacted between your feet and planet Earth. When we put our shoes back on, we lose that communication and it becomes very hard for your brain to speak to your lower body. This eventually can lead to postural imbalances, lower back pain, knee pain, fractures, falls, loss of balance and proprioception (bodily awareness), very weak ankles, improper running form, and unstable lower body joints and injury. Your body wants to keep you away from harm, but wearing shoes makes it very difficult for your brain to speak to your lower body. The barefoot life is a huge part of your natural being and wearing shoes less can make you happier, less stressed and fitter!

Running barefoot can significantly reduce lower body injury especially ones that are related to running. Since the feedback from your feet to the ground becomes crystal clear for your brain to interpret, the biomechanics of how you run begins to naturally change. When you run without shoes, your body moves in a forward progression as opposed to with shoes running in a backwards regression.

Here's more exercise science: "Ground Reaction Force" is the force that is redirected to your body from the ground. When you push into the ground, the ground will push you back equal to the amount of force you produced in the exact opposite direction. When you jump, you essentially don't lift off the ground, the ground pushes you off.

This pictures shows the difference in biomechanics and impact between running with and without shoes.

This pictures shows the difference in biomechanics and impact between running with and without shoes.

Thick soles on the bottom of your running shoes make it deceptively comfortable to land on your heel. When this happens, your leg is almost straight and locked out. Your knee becomes the first joint in line to receive eight times your bodyweight of that ground reaction force, then the hip with six times the impact, and then your lower back with about four times...it kind of makes sense that marathon runners experience injury every year. 

When we begin to land and run on the balls of our feet, your body will naturally lean forward more. When we press the balls of the feet into the ground, the ground reaction force propels us forward which is the direction we want to achieve when we run. Bio-mechanically, your lower body joints will receive a significantly lower impact, ultimately reducing your chances of running-related injuries. Think of your heels of your body as the brakes and the balls as the the gas pedal. Running with shoes on is like slamming the brakes in your car every 10 yards. Barefoot running teaches you how to keep your "foot" on the gas, literally.

Not only will running barefoot teach you how to run correctly and greatly reduce injuries, it's way more fun than running with shoes on! This was the ultimate selling point for me. Barefoot running made running fun for me. The stimulation of Earth under your feet gives off a pleasant feeling of being your "natural self". I felt more connected to life and I believe that's the true "runner's high." I can also tell I was having more fun because I never felt the need to run with headphones on. I loved the experience of being in the present moment with just myself and planet Earth. I may sound like a hippie now, but never in a million years would I have thought that I'd be talking so highly of running. Running barefoot is a completely different experience than running with shoes on. It was life changing for me.

This was my first barefoot 5k in Waldwick, NJ on May 4th 2014. I ran this race faster than I did the previous year with shoes. No shin splints, no cuts and there's that smile from all the fun I had doing it!

This was my first barefoot 5k in Waldwick, NJ on May 4th 2014. I ran this race faster than I did the previous year with shoes. No shin splints, no cuts and there's that smile from all the fun I had doing it!

Interested in Learning How to Run Barefoot?

I will be hosting a four-day workshop over the course of four Sundays in April. The first day will be this Sunday, April 10th at 8 a.m., and completely FREE for anyone that's interested in learning.

The lesson will take place at the track behind Cedar Grove High School (90 Rugby Rd, Cedar Grove, 07009). If you'd like to join or are definitely interested in trying this workshop, type your name and email into the box below and join us on Sunday! Hope to see you there!

Always Dedicated to Your Success,

Carl Anthony Grande

Co-Owner of Empyrea Group Training - www.trainempyrean.com


Athleta FREE Workout Event - Empyrea Group Training

Here's the recap video of the FREE workout event with Athleta in their Wayne, NJ store! This workout was so much fun to train and this definitely won't be the last time we'll be doing this! If you live near the Essex County area of New Jersey, definitely take a peek and follow our social media!

If you're looking for an awesome workout program that incorporates  strength training, cardio, nutrition coaching and motivating energy, Empyrea Group Training would make a great fit for you! Hope you all enjoyed this video and a special THANK YOU to all of the Empyreans that made it out to the event! You are all the best!

The Importance of Exercise Intensity - Empyrea Group Training

How hard do you work out? The truth is that everyone will always have a different answer to that question because everyone has a different perception of "intensity". The more that we step out of our comfort zone, your perception on "intensity" diminishes making you stronger, work harder and push longer. This is how the human body changes and adapts to an ever changing environment.

Watch my video below where I discuss the importance of workout intensity and how much of a key factor it is to always push yourself hard in the gym, no matter what!

On a scale of 1-10, how hard do you push it at the gym?

Lesson 1 - What are Carbs, Proteins, and Fats?

Hello Empyreans!

I hope everyone is having a great start to the week! 

Empyrea Group training is happy to announce the launch of our educational video series! These videos are designed to help guide you through your fitness journey!

Lesson 1 - What are Carbs, Proteins, and Fats?

Our first lesson is about the 3 macronutrients. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. We believe that in order to develop healthy eating habits, we need to understand what we are eating first.

All foods are made from from these 3 macronutrients. If you want to look better and feel better, you need to know how much your body should consume depending on your bodyweight, exercise intensity, and your fitness goal. The amount consumed of each macronutrient changes when you become more physically active. The more intense your activity is, the more your body will want to seek out these macronutrients. 

What is a Carbohydrate?

A carbohydrate is a fancy word for sugar. Your body needs sugar to do EVERYTHING like walking up stairs, cutting an onion, waiting on line for coffee, cleaning your room, breathing, and everything else. Carbohydrates can also be thought of as ENERGY.

There are two types of carbohydrates. There are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates spike your blood sugar up quickly for a short period of time. Complex carbohydrates spike your blood sugar gradually over a longer period of time. Simple carbohydrates come from foods like fruit, syrups, honey, and white potatoes.  Complex carbohydrates are your foods like whole grain oats, fibrous vegetables like broccoli, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, granola, quinoa, and brown rice.

Be aware that complex carbohydrates that become processed turn into white simple carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are usually white in color like white rice, white pasta, white bread, and quick oatmeal. If these processed carbohydrates are ingested, the effect is very similar to that of eating fruit, honey, and other simple carbohydrates.

When Should I Eat These Carbohydrates?

Simple carbohydrates should optimally be ingested right before and right after intense exercise or physical activity. The quick elevation in blood sugar levels will give your body a stream of fast, usable sugar to fuel your muscles. Ingesting simple carbs before a workout will also delay the time before your body taps into your reserve sugar stores called glycogen (stored glucose). 

Complex carbohydrates should be eaten more throughout the day, preferably in the morning. But if your fitness goal is fat loss, your carbohydrate servings should mostly come from your lower calorie, complex carbohydrates which are your fibrous and green leafy vegetables. 

Complex carbohydrates may also be optimally ingested a couple of hours before your workout and a couple of hours after your workout. Having complex carbs two hours before a workout will perfectly time the peak of blood sugar elevation right when your body needs it most. 

What is a Protein?

Proteins can be thought of as BUILDING BLOCKS. Our bodies need protein to make things like muscle, organs, saliva, hair, nails, skin, nerves, and brain cells. When you start engaging in intense exercise or physical activity, the importance of protein becomes critical! 

Protein foods come from chicken, beef, turkey, fish and other animals, greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, and milk, and protein supplements. The more protein you ingest, the more likely you'll build lean muscle. The more lean muscle we have on our bodies, the more efficient and easier it will be for your body to burn stubborn body fat.

When Should I Eat Protein?

Protein should be eaten throughout the day and should be present in every meal. Minimum daily protein requirements should be as close to your bodyweight as possible. When you start becoming more physically active or exercise intensely, your protein intake needs to be even higher!

Protein may be optimally ingested one hour before and within 30 minutes after intense workouts. Having protein before a workout will give your muscles the building blocks it needs to repair and remodel new muscle during exercise. It will also delay the time before your body starts tapping into the protein stores in your muscles for energy.

What is a Fat?

Fat is a key macronutrient, especially if your fitness goal is fat loss. Fats help support a lean body composition. Your body needs fat in order to create and balance key hormones that are known for burning fat and building muscle like testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone. Fats can also support metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity, keep you feeling satisfied, strengthen your heart, and decrease inflammation. 

If your goal is fat loss, we advise a reduction of carbohydrates and eat foods that are higher in healthy fats. A body with balanced hormones, supported metabolism, satisfied pallet, less inflammation, and a strong heart is better designed to build lean muscle and burn body fat, wouldn't you agree?

Foods that have great fat content are your nuts, seeds, nut butters, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, red palm oil, avocados, and even meats, especially salmon. 

When Should I Eat Fats?

You should eat more fats than carbohydrates if your goal is fat loss. Eating fatty foods with your protein will leave you more satisfied and promote a leaner body composition. Try to save your carbs for pre and post-workout or you can even dedicate a whole day to eating carbohydrates if the rest of the week was particularly low with them. Here is a link to our previous blog about healthy fats:


Eat to Promote Fat Loss!

So now that we know have a better understanding of these macronutrients, we should have a better idea of how to promote fat loss.

Save your simple carbohydrates for pre and post-workout and eat fibrous, green leafy vegetables with fats and protein throughout the rest of the day. The combination of fats and protein will keep your body designed for fat loss and give your muscles the building blocks they need to create new muscle. The more muscle we have on our body, the more body fat we will burn throughout the day. 

I hope you all enjoyed Lesson 1 of our educational series! If you haven't  subscribed to our YouTube channel, please do! Subscribing to our channel will give you access to our future videos. Subscribe by clicking here!

Follow us on Instagram @trainempyrean for exclusive behind the scenes photos and videos.

Thank you for your continued support! Talk soon!

Always Dedicated to Your Success,

Carl Grande and Justin Marrone