Left foot hitting on outer heel

Modern Day Running Shoe

Let’s get down to the meat of this article–the top three reasons to use minimalist running shoes.  Here they are:

  1. They are lighter, making it easier to run faster and longer.
  2. They give your run more spring for every step.
  3. They allow the foot to hit the ground naturally

They Are Lighter

Minimalist running shoes are absolutely lighter.  Pure and simple, less padding and less structure mean less weight .  When your feet have less weight to carry, it just makes sense that you will run faster and longer.

About one year ago, I purchased my first minimalist shoes–the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS running shoes.  Note that I have not run “barefoot” in any shape, way, or form since I was a little boy in the Philippines.  I’ve worn normal running shoes–the type I’m moving away from now–since I’ve started running, back in the mid-80s.  The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS running shoes  look like this:

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS running shoe

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS running shoe

As you can see, they look like gloves for your feet; they don’t really have much padding and support.  When I first got it, I took it out for a test drive and ran with it for about two miles.  After that run, my ankles were a little sore, and my calves were very sore!  At this point, I realized that I really need to ease into this.  I checked out one of my running magazines which featured minimalist shoes and found the Saucony ProGrid Mirage Running shoe.  This pair isn’t as bare as the Vibram.  It is still considered minimalist; however, it still had a bit of padding and a bit of support.  It looks like this:

Saucony Progrid Mirage

Saucony Progrid Mirage

This shoe is very light and has very minimal height difference between the heel and the toe.  I first ran with this at the 100th anniversary Bay to Breakers in San Francisco.   The only thing was that it was a bit tight around the toes (I have wide feet, that’s why).  However, after I broke it in, it felt better.

During the Bay to Breakers run, this shoe was so light that I didn’t even notice that it was new.  Every step of my run had that extra spring, and it felt great.

More Spring For Every Step

Speaking of spring in every step, minimalist shoes do not have as much heel as most common running shoes today.  As such, your heel may not hit the ground first.  Instead, your foot will land around the mid or fore foot area.

If you’ve been running with regular running shoes for some time, and you start using minimalist shoes (like the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS or the  Saucony ProGrid Mirage), you will notice soreness on your calves.  That’s because your calves are acting like springs.

Because you are using your calves more, there will be spring in every step you take during a run.  It will feel like you have more energy because the force of landing is mostly preserved and recovered from the spring-like action of your calves.

Compare this to the energy wasted when you use a running shoe with a thicker heel padding.  With a thicker heel padding, your tendency will be to land on your heel.  And as your heel lands, the force of the landing is absorb mostly by the padding, your knee, your hip, and the rest of your body parts above your hip.  It is no wonder why the number of running injuries have increased over time as the modern shoe designs have used faulty premise regarding foot comfort during a run (i.e. more heel padding and shoe structure is better for running).

Allow The Foot to Land More Naturally

The running shoe Industry has really changed the face of running for the masses.  Ever since they’ve worked to make the ride softer/smoother, neutralize pronation (over or under), and added more support, the number of running injuries have risen.  Why is this? The industry has pretty much arrested the natural running motion of the foot, causing the various foot injuries we hear about from fellow runners:

  • plantar fasciitis
  • Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome
  • Runner’s knee
  • Hip pain
  • Shin splints
Since training for my first marathon, I’ve experienced many such injuries or pains.  Originally, I blamed most of these to over-training.  But after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, it all made logical sense.  The shoe industry was in fact causing people’s feet to get weaker with their fancy shoes (higher heel, more padding, more structure, etc).  In effect the foot and the muscles in it were getting weaker as a result of the shoes providing more support.  This is akin to putting the foot in a cast; this results in the foot muscles getting weaker and basically experiencing “atrophy”.
In reading  Born to Run, Christopher McDougall mentioned that there are tribesmen in Mexico who can run over one hundred miles or can run for days.  For these guys, running was a way of life.  Here’s the interesting thing.  None of them suffered from the western foot injuries mentioned earlier.  As a matter of fact, the tribesmen only ran with hand-made sandals.  They didn’t worry about over or under pronation; they didn’t have extra padding on their heel either.
Because their feet are not restricted and over protected, they are free to move and land as they were intended to be.  Note that the human foot has 26 bones and 33 joints.  It is a complex bio-mechanical structure, and it is naturally designed to move in various ways to absorb the shock of an activity like running.


So there you go:  the top three reasons to use minimalist running shoes.

  1. They are lighter
  2. They give you spring in every step
  3. They let your foot hit the ground as nature intended them

Are you looking to use minimalist shoes?  Please comment below.

Taekwondo is well-known for its high fancy kicks.  Yet, when it all comes down to it, the most effective kick for self-defense is the most basic of all kicks–the front kick (AKA front snap kick).  Why?  I will explain.

First and foremost, the front kick is the simplest and easiest kick to learn.  It doesn’t take years to perfect it.  For some, one lesson will do.  For others, a little longer.  Nevertheless, people can quickly learn it.

Second, it is one of the hardest to see, if you are on the receiving end.  Yes, you can see it if you are expecting it, but if you are some bad guy who is accosting someone who looks like a victim, you aren’t expecting and will have difficulty seeing something coming from below.  The kick can be delivered quickly before anyone can react to it.

Last and most important, the kick doesn’t have to be exact in terms of distance and target to be effective.  Remember, if you are applying the front kick in a self-defense situation, it is because you are creating the necessary distraction for escape, and not initiating a toe-to-toe fight.  If the kick is applied closer than expected, the shin or the knee could end up hitting your opponents groin; this is good enough for the purpose intended.  If the kick fails to line up with the opponent’s center line, it could hit the shin or the knee; both of these are good enough targets for distraction purposes.

Because it is easy to learn, hard to see, and doesn’t need much accuracy, it is one of the most effective self-defense kicks in Taekwondo’s arsenal of kicks.




I found a web site that provides absolutely free tech support.  The site is called techguy.org.  They’ve been around since 1996, and they seem to have a large membership group of around 450,000.

The free part comes from the fact this site is sponsored by ads and is mainly supported by people like you.  Through forums, people with various issues can post their  problem, and another user who may have the answer posts their answer back.

Since they’ve been around since 1996, they have amassed a lot of problems and solutions that may be applicable to your situation.  Be advised though since technology changes at an extremely rapid pace, having been around the Internet that long may not give them the advantage.

Their strength really comes from the large membership.  For example, I did a search on “fake antivirus”.  The search result came back with over 5000 results.  I checked one of the responses and most of them are pretty detailed.

Give their site a try.  I know I will on occasion just to see what I can find.


Promotion Testing

Every two to three months, our school goes through a promotion test.  The tests are typically very structured, formal, and can sometimes feel intimidating.

With that in mind, why do we take promotion tests?  Is it because we want that next belt, that promotion?  On the surface, that is what it might look like, but underneath, we take promotion tests for the following very good reasons:

  • To gain more experience and get better.  When you take tests, regardless of what type of tests it is, you typically have to study and practice.  If you don’t, you reduce your chances of passing.  Our promotion tests are no different.  In order for you to pass, you need to study and practice hard.  In the process of studying and practicing, you gain more experience; and through experience, you get better.
  • To become more confident by testing under pressure.  Whether you are young or old, our promotion tests can make you feel nervous, especially when standing in front of your peers, an audience, and judges; however, through practice and study, you can become confident.  As you go through more tests, you learn to handle the pressure and are able to channel nervous energy into more confidence.
  • To be tested by qualified judges.  When you go through a promotion test, certified Taekwondo judges make an assessment of your proficiency to move up in rank.  So when you pass that test, you can be confident that you’ve earned that new rank.

So the next time someone asks you about why you take promotion tests, you can say that you want to get better, confident, and that you need to have qualified judges check your skill level in order to advance.


Tae Kwon Do

At the school where I used to teach, we start every class by reciting the tenets of Taekwondo.

“Tenets of Taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit, victory”

What is the purpose of reciting it, and what is the tenet’s purpose?

We recite the tenets every class so that you never forget what they are.  By repetition, we ingrain them in your mind.

Now, it doesn’t do anyone any good if you know the tenets but don’t really know their purpose.  The tenets provide a general guideline of behavior and action.  In life, there are way too many situations to dictate all possible responses.  These tenets are general enough so that the martial artist can make the best decision about how to handle almost any situation.

By knowing them and applying them, you can be on your way to becoming a better martial artist.

Recall the tenets of Taekwondo:

  • Courtesy – Be courteous and respectful of others; in short, be nice to others.
  • Integrity – People can depend on what you say and do; you can be trusted, and you are responsible.
  • Perseverance – In the face of adversity, you fight on and never give up; if you fail at something, you figure out what went wrong and keep moving forward.
  • Self-control – Sometimes anger can overcome one’s common sense or a strong impulse can cause one to lose control;  there are many temptations out there, and a strong self-control can keep you from doing the wrong thing.
  • Indomitable spirit – Set high goals and go for them; to succeed in life one must have a purpose–set them and go!
  • Victory – Having a positive mental attitude can help you overcome almost any situation; infact, it can help you learn!  Where one sees a problem, you should see an opportunity!

No Cable TV!

Cutting the Cord: No more Cable TV

My family has been with no cable TV for over 2 years now.  We’ve saved almost $1000 over that time.  Well, we didn’t really save; we didn’t have to spend is more accurate.  I imagine some people have more expensive cable packages–in the $100/month range.  At this rate, someone could easily reduce their yearly spending by at least $1000 per year!  That is significant especially in this poor economy.

You might be wondering what we do for entertainment since the TV is generally the modern-day traditional entertainment center.  The secret is high-speed Internet and streaming video.

Within the last decade, high-speed Internet has been here and affordable.  It costs me around $30 per month to maintain DSL speed Internet service.  In 2007, Microsoft came out with built-in WiFi on their Xbox units.  A year later, Netflix became available on the Xbox.  With wireless access points for the home being available at a very affordable price, these two events set the stage for Internet TV.

Today, between YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and the occasional DVD purchase, we can pretty much watch anything on TV.  The only thing we cannot watch are those pay-per-view type events or other events that only makes sense to watch live.  But I think it is only a matter of time before the networks realize that the Internet is the way to go.

This is the basic setup I have:

  • Console:  Xbox 360 4GB Console – around $200 at Amazon.com; you can use the Wii or the PS3 also
  • Internet service:  Verizon’s DSL Service – around $30 per month; any high-speed Internet service will generally do
  • Wireless router:  NETGEAR RangeMax 150 Wireless Router  – around $70 at Amazon.com; this one has been pretty reliable for me
  • Streaming service:  Netflix – $7.99 per month

Have you cut the cord yet?  If so, how are you doing it?

It’s 2012!  Most people are resolving to do something or to quit something.  Why not start the year off with a 5K wellness run or walk?

Well if you are up to it, join others in Stockton on Saturday, 21 Jan 2012, at the St. Joseph’s 5K Fun Run/Walk for Wellness.

By the way, the proceeds to this event goes to the community.  Specifically, all proceeds will benefit St. Joseph’s CareVan. St. Joseph’s CareVan Mobile Health Clinic provides health care services for over 4,000 low-income, medically underserved and vulnerable populations in Stockton. The CareVan decreases unnecessary hospitalizations including Emergency Department visits and help patients in finding “medical homes”.

OK.  Aside for this noble cause, run or walk for your own wellness to get a good start on 2012.

You can register online, and the cost isn’t too much–$30  ($10 for youth under 10).  On 15 Jan 2012, the price goes to $35.  The event starts and finishes at 1800 North California (at St. Joseph’s Maple St. entrance).

View Larger Map

29th CIM Finish Line

Crossing the 29th CIM Finish Line

I’ve run two marathons in my lifetime so far, and I plan to run more.  The first time was the Chicago Marathon, and the second was the 29th California International Marathon (CIM).  In this article, I will compare how I trained for each and look at the results.

Training for the Chicago Marathon

Before I ran the Chicago marathon, I trained for an entire year.  I used a training plan from a book I read by Dean Karnazes (50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!).  This marathon training plan is in one of my postings if you want to get right to it.  Does the training take an entire year to do?  No.  I ended up running through the training two times.

The first time I completed it was around May-Jun 2010 time frame; I actually ran a marathon on my own; were my calves sore after mile 21.  I had to walk and jog periodically until I completed around 26 miles; it was pretty hot that day too!  My time was around 4:37.

The second time I completed the training plan was before the actual Chicago marathon.  I really stuck to the plan, which meant I ran anywhere from 4 to 6 times per week, logging in many miles.  during this second round, I injured myself a couple of times.  The first time was to my left knee.  I think I logged so many miles to the point that my left knee got very painful to the point where I could no longer run.  I stopped running for about a couple of weeks until I could run on it again.

The next time was maybe a month before the marathon.  This time the muscles under my feet were sore.  I experienced the pains associated with plantar fasciitis.  To treat it, I iced my feet regularly using ice in a regular plastic cylindrical bottle (I rolled my feet on it); eventually, it wasn’t as bad anymore and I could run on it.

Oct 10, 2010 came.  I ran the Chicago marathon and completed it in 4:57.  It wasn’t ideal running weather as it was warm (around 60’s in the morning, then 80’s later in the morning).  Were my legs sore!  The last 800 meters were a killer as a small incline caught me by surprise.  Then on last 200 meters I pushed to the finish line, even getting a chance to take a picture of the finish line from a distance.

Training for the CIM

I took a different approach to training for the CIM.  This time I used a training plan from Active.com which they provided for free.  The training was scheduled to begin in August and complete just before the CIM (Dec 4, 2011).

Before August 2011, however, I continued some degree of running regimen.  Running three times a week only with occasional cross training activities involving a stationary bike (non-weight bearing workouts).  I used a training concept I read from the book titled “Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary FIRST Training Program“.

The general idea is to run only 3 times a week with cross training work outs in between.  For the three runs to work, you need have a purpose for each run–interval runs, tempo runs, and long runs.  This comes down to achieving the following with each run:

  • interval runs – trains you to run faster
  • tempo runs – helps your body become efficient at processing oxygen; this way lactic acid are handled better, and as a result, you can run faster longer
  • long runs – designed to help your body get used to running for long periods of time; builds endurance
During this time frame, I also read a book called McDougall called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage).  McDougall is on to something.  This inspired me to look into two thing:

Perhaps the problem is that my feet have been effectively in a cast for the many years I’ve been wearing running shoes.  This could account for the weakness in the muscles in my feet, and the issues I had with my plantar fascii.  So I got myself a Vibram shoe–Vibram Fivefingers Mens Bikila LS Castle Rock/Navy/Grey 44 to be exact.  All information regarding running barefoot says to take it slow, so I did.  On some days I do short runs, I would wear my Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS.  Boy, did I notice a big difference; my calves were sore.  Running almost barefoot makes you want to land on your forefoot by instinct.

To ease my transition to barefoot/minimalist shoe running I also bought a Saucony Men’s Progrid Mirage Running Shoe,Silver/Black/Yellow,11 M US.  This is considered a minimalist shoe.  It has a very small heel to toe height difference.  I ran with this for this first time in May 2011 at the 100th Bay to Breakers (12K run).  Running in these shoes felt great, it was very light.

I stated to experiment with the chia seeds.  You can make chia seed drink simply by mixing 2 table spoons of the seeds with 40 ounces of water.  Add some brown sugar for flavor (or whatever turns you on), mix, and let stand for at least one hour.  I leave mine overnight in the fridge, and it tastes good.  It really does give you a energy and because it absorbs water very well, it serves as a good energy drink for long runs.

OK.  Back to the training.  August came and went.  I began my training runs, doing only 3 purposeful runs a week and mixing in some occasional cross training workouts in between.  The core of my training was just the 3 runs per week.  Two week from December 4, I began to taper off.  On the last week, I did very little running.

December 4 in Sacramento area was great.  The weather was perfect for running–no wind and the temperature was around the 40’s.  On the morning of the run, I made sure I had a little light breakfast (just a light breakfast bar), and I made sure I was hydrated (drank gatorade).  Just minutes before the run, I finished drinking my chia seed energy drink.  For this run I wore my Nike Pegasus 26+ (not my Vibram Fivefingers since I’m not ready for that yet).

I had a strong first half (2:03), but I buckled at around mile 23 I think.  I had some of the most serious muscle cramp attacks in my life–on my left quadriceps and on my right hamstring.  I had to periodically stretch and walk just to recover.  Nevertheless I completed the run in 4:36!  Overall a good run.


Personally, I thought my training for the CIM was better for my body since I didn’t suffer any injuries during my training period.  However, I think I didn’t really follow the training plan as well as I could have.  I attribute the muscle cramps to this.  The preparation in the morning with the chia seeds also helped significantly I think as I felt a lot of energy that day.

Goal for 2012

Got your goal set for 2012?(credit: Dream Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

With 2011 behind us, and 2012 ahead, have you met your 2011 resolution/goal?

If you said “yes”, then congratulations!

You have 2012 ahead, and should be setting a new goal for the year. If you answered “no” or “what goal?”, then remember that one of the most powerful tools in life is setting goals and going for them; so go set a goal already.

You can set any goal provided it is within the realm of possibility (be realistic).  Set a high goal and go for it.   This goal must be breakable into smaller objectives. These objectives must be realistic, as well, and be measurable (in some way); this way it is easy to see if you’ve met it.

Completing all your objectives should lead to your goal.  Sounds simple enough?  Well it is.  It is in the execution where most people fail; but you can do it; just stay focused.

Anyway here’s an example. Let’s say that your goal is to write a book by the end of the year. To do this, you must create multiple objectives as follows:

  1. Write an outline for the book by the end of January.  Book target size is 100 pages.
  2. Write 10 chapters–a chapter per month, starting in February, with an average number of pages per chapter of 10.
  3. Wrap up the book in December (add usual parts like acknowledgments, table of contents, etc.).

You can turn each item above into an objective.  You can probably make ten (10) separate objectivs for the second item.

If you approach your future goals this way, you will almost always reach them.  If you run into issues, learn from them so you can be better next time.

OK.  Now that we’ve got that straight, start thinking of your 2012 goal or resolution.  Don’t wait too long; make sure you get it set this week.