3 Fitness Experiments I’m Dying to Try

First, thank you for all the congratulations and kind words about my 50-miler!  I sincerely hope you all got the message that it’s something I really believe you could do, if that’s what you decided you wanted.

I’m no great runner.  I absolutely hated running until I got to college, and even when I did decide to run a marathon, I couldn’t stay healthy and it took me almost five hours the first time.  Nothing wrong with that, but there are people who break three hours or qualify for Boston in their first marathon.

My point is just that I’m not a “natural,” and fortunately, the thrill of accomplishing this stuff isn’t reserved for “naturals.”  I’ve had to work my butt off to do it, and you can do the same thing if it’s worth it to you and you decide to.

3 New Experiments

Training for the 50 took a lot of work.  It also took a lot of being careful.  I didn’t want to try anything new, for fear that the slightest injury or change in diet might make hauling ass for 50 miles impossible.  (Or at least miserable.)

So here they are, the three new things I’m really excited about that I just couldn’t do during that preparation time for fear of screwing something up.

1. Strength training.

Lifting weights was something I intended to do in preparation for the 50.  But after I procrastinated for a few weeks on getting started, I didn’t want to introduce it so late into the training.

While I’m not so sure it’s worth it for most road races, I’m coming to believe that having more strength to power up those hills would “outweigh” the cost of carrying around a few extra pounds of muscle.  Some of the dudes at the front of the pack during this race were straight-up jacked.

I’ve been reading Robert Cheeke’s new book, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness (he sent me an autographed copy!).  I have no interest in building muscle just for the sake of building muscle, but I have found the information about how to do so on a vegan diet really useful (and inspiring).

I think posting pictures from my race recap sent some family members into a tizzy thinking I’m too thin.  I don’t really care about this, because I feel better than I’ve ever felt, but I do think I’m on the low end of where I should be.  I think a focus on strength training and some corresponding changes to my diet might make a big difference in my running.

2. A liquid cleanse.

I realize that drinking only liquids for five or ten days would be counterproductive with #1.  It will surely cause me to lose a little more weight, and I won’t dare do it until I’ve put back on the weight I lost during the 50.

But I can’t deny that I find the energizing promises of the alkaline diet (which I’ve been reading about in the pH Miracle) fascinating.  I’m sure some people will criticize this, whether silently or with a comment.  But I’ve decided that the alkaline diet (and a cleanse that accompanies it) is something worth investigating, at the very least.

Am I embarrassed that it’s kind of new-agey?  Not really.  Guys whose opinions I really respect, like Tony Robbins and Brendan Brazier, are advocates for paying attention to alkalinity in your diet.

I’d be embarrassed about completely buying into something like this and throwing all skepticism to the wind.  But I’d also be embarrassed about dismissing something completely just because it seems a little out there and there’s not much evidence to support it yet.  Lots of ideas that we now consider self-evident started out as heretical ideas that the establishment violently opposed.

As long as I become convinced that it’s not dangerous, I think I owe it to myself to try anything once, and to evaluate it based on results, not speculation.

To learn more about the whole alkaline thing, check out Alkaline Sisters, one of the blogs whose ad I’m featuring (for free) in the sidebar this month.

3. Running trails in Vibram Fivefingers.

This one will probably be less controversial: I want to start running real trails in my Vibram Fivefingers.

Right now I do track workouts in my Vibrams, and occasionally a run on a gravel trail near my house in them.  But for the most primal, connected-with-my-running-roots experience possible, I want to wear them on the hardcore trails in the woods.  I want to run through mud in them, cross streams in them, and feel every rock under my foot in them.

It will probably hurt a little.  I might bruise the ball of my foot when I step on a big rock and have to take a few days off.  But my next 50-miler isn’t until late September, so I can afford to take this small risk.

Other Vibram notes:

  • Erica from Itzy’s Kitchen sent me this article about an increased frequency of barefoot running injuries that are popping up in doctors’ offices.  Surely part of it is due simply to the fact that more people are running barefoot or in the VFF’s, but still the article has some interesting perspectives.
  • My wife, Erin, just got a pair of the new Vibram Fivefingers Bikila, the first model to be designed specifically for running.  (The originals were designed for general barefooting and even boating.)  The Bikila feature a little more cushioning shape, so they do depart ever-so-slightly from the barefoot ideals that made the original Fivefingers so popular.  I’m working on Erin to try to get her to write a review for us.

So that’s my deal (yo).  Lots of new, exciting things to try out.  And you can expect to read about all of them in the coming weeks and months.



Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

The 7 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day

wooden signpost near a pathOur 7-Day Kickstart Plan is unique in that it focuses on the highest quality whole foods (including the 7 foods worth eating every day), to make sure you get everything you need on a plant-based diet.

The Kickstart Plan includes:
  • A 7-day meal plan, built around the foods worth eating every single day
  • 14 of our favorite recipes that pack in the nutrition, taste great, and are easy to make
  • Focused on simplicity and speed, to minimize stress and time commitment
It's the best way we know of to get started with a whole-food, plant-based diet, for just 7 bucks. Learn more here!


  1. I totally respect that this is your body you are dealing with. However, I peeked at the pH miracle website you pointed out and it’s got a few red flags for me.

    “Dr. Robert O. Young’s New Biology™, most simply stated, is that the over-acidification of the body is the single underlying cause of all disease. ”

    Anything that claims to be thing single cause of disease is (almost) guaranteed B.S. The human body is complex and disease is multifaceted.

    Further browsing the website looks like this couple has concocted a load of pseudo-scientific nonsense. There are only testimonials, and no scientific findings, whatsoever, despite numerous claims that they exist. However, there are numerous claims that only certain (eg. bottled waters) are safe to drink, conveniently for sale on their website. They also have a whole like of pHlavor foods.

    Do I think its dangerous to try their diet? Not really, the foods they claim to be “alkaline” are fairly varied (if expensive) and cover the four (Canadian) food groups. My opinion is that it is clever marketing that probably makes people feel better because (a) highly processed junk food is out and (b) they feel like they are doing something aka the placebo effect.

    • Ditto!

    • Ananas,

      I wish all “negative” comments were as fair and well thought-out as this one. 🙂

      One thing I’ve heard about the “single cause of disease” thing is the the community that advocates this type of diet (which does include some legitimate medical professionals) is challenging the entire notion of disease itself, especially the germ model. I’m honestly not very educated about it yet, and I’m certainly not defending it without knowing a lot about it. But I think from that point of view, their more holistic view of the body might lend itself to simplification of models and the existence of “single causes” of things. So while in the traditional model disease is multifaceted, viewed another way it may not be. (Like I said, I don’t know what I’m talking about. This is just my surface-level impression.)

      I agree that the pH Miracle website looks entirely scammy and sales-y. I’m going to unlink it, because that’s nothing like the book and I don’t want to send the message that I’m a fan of that site. Interestingly, the people who I really trust who promote ideas very similar to those in pH Miracle have never mentioned pH Miracle that I have heard. Perhaps the site is an attempt to make money off of ideas that do have some merit.

      Like I said, I’m open to trying lots of things, and this is one I’m excited about. By no means does that mean I’m diving in and buying everything I read about it.

      Thanks for a thought-provoking comment.

      • I should probably add that I’m studying bio-medical sciences and nutrition, so I definitely have a bias.

        However, the more I learn about the mechanisms of disease and health, the more complex it becomes. There is a genetic component complete with “jumping genes,” RNA splicing, interfering RNA etc. that goes beyond simply what is in one’s genetic code. Nutrition and exercise do have effects on gene expression (ie. it can enhance or repress expression of genes), as well as providing the body with nourishment. There are disease where the body attacks itself. There are diseases where the body fails to recognize a pathogen. The list goes on.

        Often times there is no single cause of a disease but rather a multitude of contributing factors. Genetics, lifestyle, and plain bad luck all have a role. Also, often times what we refer to as a single disease, say cancer, can result from a multitude of different mechanisms. In the case of cancer, there are loads of different mutations in pro-oncogenes, or tumor repressor genes that can result in uncontrolled cell proliferation. Different mutation cause the cell to stop secreting the proteins that stick it to its neighbours, so that the cancer can metastasize. Just to name an example.

        And to be brutally honest, if someone was truly able to discover the single cause of all disease, or even the single cause of one disease, they would probably be on the front cover of Science, and Nature, and be all over the news.

        Hence my skepticism of the “single cause of disease.”

        However, a holistic treatment itself, including behavioural, nutritional, and science-based medical treatments seems like it would probably have a better outcome than only treating a disease with medication, and many nutrition studies have shown these sorts of outcomes- and many have also shown no effect. (Having said *that* not many patients like to modify their eating and other behaviours).

        Sorry, that seems to have come out very lecture-y. It’s not meant to be, but rather just enjoying this discussion. 🙂

  2. I just got a pair of KSO’s and will be learning how to run in them over the next month or 2. That link you posted regarding the increase in injuries is interesting… I guess you have to take it at what it is and give the barefooting thing a shot. I’ve had plantar fasciitis flareups for years now and shoes, orthotics, etc have not been of any great relief so I’ll try this. I figure I don’t have much to lose and it’s very free feeling. As far as strength training… I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials, but you should check out p90x. You’re not going to get huge on it, but you will make strength and lean muscle mass gains. The only negative to it is that it’s 6 days a week.


  3. There are a lot of things I love about this blog post, but two things made me excited. #1 You didn’t get really into running in college. This is awesome because I’ve been a “runner” most of my life, but definitely a casual runner, and am just starting to get into it more…now that I’m in college. #2 You said you aren’t a “natural.” YES!! YES! That is sooo great to hear! I am definitely not a natural, running is NOT easy for me, and I would love to think that it really, honestly doesn’t matter. I can do great things too. I hope this is true. I was supposed to do my first marathon on May 16th, but for various reasons which I might write about later, didn’t get the chance to run it. This was disheartening. So disheartening I stopped writing my blog, re-considered if I wanted to continue running long distance..and now I’m just starting to get it into my head that I might be able to do it. On July 4th I’m running my second half marathon, see how that feels, and hopefully make plans to run a full sometime soon in the future. Keep running! Keep inspiring! I might even start writing in my blog again 🙂

    ps I did run the Bolder Boulder 10k in my No Meat Athlete T-Shirt and it was super comfortable and definitely got some positive comments!

  4. Why wear the five fingers on the trails?

    If you really want to feel nature in all it’s glory, go barefoot. It’s better for you anyway.

    As for more people getting injured running barefoot, I think a lot of that is a combination of more people running barefoot, more injuries of people wearing shoes like the five fingers, and more people not being very smart about how they train, especially when wearing minimalist shoes but sometimes barefoot as well.

    It’s a lot easier to injure yourself in shoes like the five fingers than when barefoot because they take away some of that connection with the ground without giving you the cushioning that traditional trainers do.

    • Blaine, I believe you when you say it’s easier to get injured in Vibrams than truly barefoot because there’s that added layer of separation from the ground. I guess I’m more worried about cuts (and the pain!). How do deal with that?

      • Well…first, most of my barefoot is on pavement, especially up until the Pineland Farms race.

        For the barefoot 5k, I just ran over the rocky sections without worrying about it. In training, it wasn’t too comfortable, but I was running slower and was already tired from an 80 or 90 minute run ahead of time already. During the race, my increased leg turnover meant my feet weren’t on the ground long enough to really be bothered and I found it very comfortable. Obviously, I picked a good path and avoided anything sharp or overly rocky when I could.

        The next day I did cut my foot; I punctured it on a stiff piece of grass. (It was in a recently mowed haying field.) It hurt, but not so much that I had to stop and finished the race with no trouble (I’d only run the last third of it barefoot, so about 5.5 miles.) Afterwards I just cleaned it up and didn’t run barefoot or in my huaraches for a week.

        I just recommend anybody that wants to run in five fingers should start with learning barefoot so you have the right running form. I think the VFFs were why I got hurt last year…too much too soon and too fast with not the best form. That said…I made myself some huaraches and they’re much closer to barefoot than the five fingers so I’ve been wearing them more this year (for running, at least…walking around I still wear the VFFs more than anything else.)

  5. I love my FiveFingers! I want to run trails in them too! I’ll feel so…spartan. 🙂

  6. I liked your comments about the Vibrams.

    After running three Chicago marathons a bunch of shorter races (in addition to countless training runs) in Brooks Adrenalines, I decided to try the VFFs. I had seen them in an an area store a while back but didn’t think much of them. Then, last fall, I started reading more about them and barefoot running. So, last December, I finally got a pair of KSOs. I liked them right from the start, but took my time and added mileage very slowly. I was also diligent in stretching my calves and strengthening my feet and lower legs. By early-Spring, I was 100% in the KSOs for running and general wear (yay for my casual office!). I still feel a little soreness after runs, but it fades quickly with good stretching.

    When I found out about the Bikilas, I was instantly hooked and couldn’t wait to get a pair. I was able to score a pair over the phone from City Sports in Boston on the day of the Boston Marathon, when they were first released. I think I may have been the first person in Chicago to get a pair. The Bikilas are totally different from other VFFs and take a run or two to get used to. Now I do all of my running in them. The KSOs are still great, and I havealso added a pair of Sprints to my line-up, but, for running, nothing touches the Bikila. Vibram did their homework and knocked it out of the park with this one.

    VFFs are definitely not for everybody. Some people just need and/or want cushioning. I have also had my doubts over the past few months, brought on my a string of little aches and pains. I am sure it all comes down to refining my running form. My upcoming marathon training will help me decide whether I can handle big mileage in the VFFs. I love running in them, but, if being able to run 26.2 miles pain free means my needing to wear a shoe with some cushion, so be it. I hope not.

    Running in VFFs is much different, and you must become very efficient in terms of form in order to enjoy them and avoid injury. Luckily, when running barefoot, attaining proper form comes naturally. If you heel strike, you will know it right away and it will hurt.

    For all the VFF information you can stomach go to birthdayshoes.com. It’s a great site with info on running form and styles (Chi, Pose, etc) as well as other minimalist shoes.

  7. Thanks for the shout out 🙂 I love that you’re always looking for a new challenge. I think building up some additional muscle is a great goal! I’m not so sure how I feel about anything titled a liquid cleanse (unless ice cream counts as a liquid ;)). You and Erin are going to have a blast running in your Vibrams together- you will have to do a post together about the experience.

  8. I just got Vibram KSO’s the other day. I am going very easy and gradual. I have been forewarned by many friends and random emailers about taking it slow. A few reviews I read about the Bikila’s say they were great, but advised that the first pair you get should be the KSO’s if you’re going to use them for running. They said the Bikila’s hide some of the natural feel you get from the KSO’s–the KSO’s will protect, but feel more “barefoot”. Check out my latest blog post–somewhat funny, if you’re a bit strange…

  9. As a runner and triathlete I have found strength training to be very positive influence on my racing. I did p90x in 2007 for the first time basically as it is prescribed and gained lots of strength. Since then I have tried other beachbody products such as p90x plus, Chalean Xtreme, etc… and now use them 2-3 times a week to maintain the strength while still being able to train for marathons or half ironman triathlons. I think strength training 2-3 times a week is a must for all athletes, and people in general.

    I guess I am skeptical in the liquid cleanse, because I feel like whole foods is the way to go.

    I haven’t pulled the trigger on the Five Fingers yet, although have definitely thought about it.

    How is the recovery on the 50 miler going?

  10. I am waiting for my Bikila’s to return to me in the correct size. My KSO’s are great, but one of my feet is slightly longer than the other and I have pain constantly in that foot. Just at the top under the toes. It’s just the way the shoes are made and they way my foot just happens to fit in the shoe. Sucks, but I love them!

  11. ohh i actually just copied that article to send to you about the injuries. thanks for your thoughts! my boyfriend has been running in them for a while and i was curious about your perspective.

    great job on your 50-miler, by the way! you rock!

  12. I love that you’re strength training! Since the weight room is closed 8am-noon every day at my gym (ridiculous, right?) I totally slacked on this. But now that it’s summer I started doing it again. I’m running the San Antonio marathon in November, so I want to build a good base now before I get into the training for it. Clearly it was something i was lacking because it hurt to sneeze the day after my first ab workout. I try for a good balance in my eating, why shouldn’t I with my fitness?
    Good luck with your goals!

  13. Hi!

    Can I first say, I LOVE this blog. My husband and I are both vegetarian (as of 18months ago) and new runners (me, 8 months, him 2 months). He stumbled across your blog and its been great for giving us a sense that we’re not alone, or crazy, in our thinking 😀

    I also run in Vibram KSO’s, LOVE THEM. We’re in New Zealand and they aren’t available all the way down here, so I get a lot of weird looks and/or questions. I followed your link on barefoot running injuries… I just wanted to point out that the article states that 90% of barefoot running injuries are to the heel…. may I suggest that those getting injured barefoot running are doing so because they’re not changing their style? They’re prob still over-striding and landing heel first… with barefoot running you should take smaller, faster, strides and land mid foot. Initially I think (especially ppl used to running shod) people need to be very conscious about each stride, landing mid foot, keeping knees well bent etc. I sustained a frontal foot injury because I misinterpreted and was landing fully on my frontal foot, and not bending my knees! The physio here objected to the whole barefoot thing, and told me to get shoes… did I listen? Heck no, and I’m glad I didn’t! A little rest, a lot of reading up on technique and thinking through the idea of barefoot running and I’m back in action. I now have no pain, and have learnt to land gently, as our bodies are built to do so! For anyone who’s interested, here are a couple of sites I’ve found helpful:




    also thought some may like this article, on ‘living a barefoot life’

    Thanks again for your blog!

    • Jess, that’s really interesting that perhaps those getting hurt on the heel are not running the way their supposed to. I remember reading somewhere that “it’s impossible to heel strike in Vibrams because it hurts too much,” but maybe the habit is so grooved that people do it anyway.

      Thanks for the articles; I’ll check them out.

  14. Just wanted to put my 2 cents in on your strength training experiment… As a certified strength and conditioning specialist and running addict, I am a very strong believer in weight lifting for runners of any distance. I believe it has improved my running dramatically, taking almost a minute and a half off my mile time in the past 3 years. I think any type of lifting, whether it is CrossFit or Thrive Fitness, can help with injury prevention and just make you stronger. Good luck with it… and now you gave me another book to read this summer!

    • KVH, that’s good to know. It’s an interesting question because if you look at the guys that are winning marathons, most of them don’t do anything except run. So that added muscle comes at a cost, whether it’s more weight to carry around or simply training time spent on something other than running. But I know what you mean about feeling good running when you’re also lifting, so I’m going to give it a go. Not sure if I’m going to try the Thrive Fitness routine or a custom one.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      • It’s an interesting question because if you look at the guys that are winning marathons, most of them don’t do anything except run. So that added muscle comes at a cost, whether it’s more weight to carry around or simply training time spent on something other than running.

        Most of the people I know that win marathons have some sort of strength or cross training components in their workouts.

        Obviously, running is the focus, but it doesn’t matter how much you lift, if you are running a lot or doing anything that involves a lot of endurance you aren’t going to put on a ton of extra muscle mass.

        If your body has to choose between being able to pick something up or staying lean and having a better chance of survival, it will choose to not die. If you are running a lot, then your body is going to want to be more efficient at that every time.

  15. At least on the trails I can say: go for it! I’ve done as much as 12 miles on trails in the Vibrams, with no injuries or other problems. In fact I enjoyed it a lot: feels very connected, agile, and of course light

  16. I’m buying my Fivefingers this weekend as well. Really looking forward to giving them a go.

  17. I have enjoyed training with weights for over 25 years now. Once I realised I was never going to be Arnold S and had a few serious injuries I started to be more sensible in my routines. I stopped reading all the glossy mags with the steroid junkies and read books by Stuart McRobert instead. He published a number of years ago a little magazine called Hard Gainer – lots of good info in there. I now keep my routines short and simple as running is my #1 priority. I do a whole body workout twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes max. I concentrate on exercises which will strengthen my core, standing shoulder press instead of bench press. Anyhow have fun in the gymn and remember to mix up the sets, weight and rep numbers as the body adapts pretty quickly.

  18. I would definitely recommend the alkaline diet. I believe that it is very cleansing. I’ve had good luck with raw foods, kombucha, and alkaline water. I lost 6 lbs in one month by just laying off the booze and adhering to an alkaline/raw/vegan diet.

    • Lauren, yeah it certainly interests me. I think it’d be nice to have more motivation to skip the coffee and beer. Although the weight loss part—that’s what I’m worried about!

  19. As always Matt, great stuff!

    I think there is a lot more out there about alkalinity and foods impact on urine/body pH than people realize. Most of the research by Remer and Manz is in regards to this topic. They have done a lot of work about calcium retention in post menopausal woman in relation to body pH and food acidity. Very interesting stuff. This is one of their journal articles but you can find plenty through pubmed.gov:

  20. I also believe in the acid/alkaline effect of foods, but didn’t feel comfortable with Dr Young’s book. I think he’s too far out, especially about his condemnation of fruit. I’ve since bought another book on the subject, The Ultimate pH Solution, and am much more comfortable with that.

    I always admire you for trying new things!

    • Hanlie, thanks for the suggestion. I know what you mean about Dr. Young’s book seeming to extreme. I haven’t finished it yet, but it doesn’t seem like something I could live with. I will absolutely check out the other one. Thanks again.

Leave a Comment