Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


The 100-up Challenge: Week 1

So it’s been about a week that I’ve been doing 100-ups. For this week I decided to only perform “minors.” I guess I figured I’d go slow with something, for once. The first couple of days I stopped as soon as I caught my back bending slightly to compensate for tired legs. By the third day I was up to 100, no problem.

What I learned this week:

  • If nothing else, the 100-up is an excellent workout for the hip muscles. I recently learned that I have some hip weakness that may be causing kinks in my form (or vice versa), so the tired hips I get from this exercise is welcomed.
  • I theorize that the 100-up exercise is helping build some muscle memory in my back, which is the first thing that decides to give up the ghost when I’m tired. I won’t say it’s any kind of miracle difference, but I did notice on my last two runs that I sit up a tad more, and that my back was still straight at the end of my miles.
  • During this week, my friend Christian (the Maple Grove Barefoot Guy) threw some darts at my 100-up Challenge (but I think he was aimed more at Justin Owings’s, because he has more than 12 readers), proposing that squats may be an even better way to train your body to run well. I say he is right and wrong, and only wrong because I think both exercises may be only equally good. Both exercises expose your body to some of the actions of good-form running, but neither of them is anything like running (although, one could argue that at least the 100-up involves leaving the ground).
Conclusion? This week I may include squats in my regimen, and see if there is any added benefit to my form. Anybody else have some good conclusions? I’d love to hear them. And as always thanks for reading!


The 100-up Challenge

A still from McDougall's 100-up video (click to URL)

The other day, Chris McDougall, NY Times columnist and author of Born to Run, published a piece on the importance of good running form called The Once and Future Way to Run. In it, he describes his concern over the way that barefoot and minimalist running footwear has not by itself deleted the heel strike, or magically created a bunch of runners with perfect form, as once surmised it would. He writes about the New York City Barefoot Run in September of this year, an event that I attended. During the run, Peter Larson, an evolutionary biologist at St. Anselm College, filmed all of the runner’s scantily-clad feet. And despite our lack of shoes, the video caught a ton of us heel striking.

I like to believe I wasn’t one of those heel strikers, but even still the thought makes me want to re-evaluate my form. For the last several months I have been perpetually injured. I have been in the mindset that my injuries have been caused by overuse or some other excuse that helps me to more easily reject the idea that my form needs work. But if I’m getting injured at all, something is missing. It’s either a lack of good form, strength, basic ability or a little of everything…I need an overhaul.

At the end of this article McDougall posted a video introducing what’s called the “100-up Method.” It’s an exercise developed in 1874 by a runner named W.S. George. George didn’t have enough time to run during his lunch hour, so he did this exercise instead. The 100-up exercise made him a smoother, lighter runner with perfect form, and over time he was able to earn world records in several distances.

So I watched the vid a few times and thought to myself, hey, what the hell, I’m going to do this. I’m giving myself this challenge: practice 100-up every day for a month, and see if it does anything. If I like the results, keep doing it.

Today I got to 68 “minor ups” before I wonked out. The rule is that as soon as your form starts to slide, you stop and call it a day. I look forward to seeing how this goes.

So Check out the video, folks. Try it for yourself. It might make a world of difference, it might not. But I think it’s worth a go. I hope you’ll check back in a little while and let me know how it went for you.