New running shoes – Vivo Barefoot Neo

I picked up a new pair of running shoes this week. It’s been long overdue as the aqua shoes I had been running were well past they’re best – and they were never that good.

They have a few plus points – they are cheap and the ground feel is very good but they also often caused blisters and were falling apart.

My old shoes


Enter the neo

There are a ton of minimalist shoes on offer at the moment and after hours of research I eventually came back to a company I know well – Vivo Barefoot. I’ve got a few pairs of their casual shoes and am a big fan.

I ended up going for the Neo. I’d read very good things about this shoe and haven’t been disappointed.

They have all of the main features I expect from a minimalist shoe:

  • Thin, flexible sole
  • Zero drop heel to toe
  • Minimal cushioning
  • No/minimal arch support
  • Wide forefoot to allow toes to splay
  • Comfortable to wear without socks

My new shoes


    I’ve only been out for a couple of runs in them but they’ve performed very well so far. I like how fast the shoes feel, I find it very hard to run slowly in them.

    They are also nice and grippy, I took them on an easy trail after some rain and ran it hard with no slipping.

    I also managed my first kong vault in them, although that may not be soley down to the shoes…..

    All in all, if you are in the market for a minimalist running shoe then I recommend them highly. You can also fine some great deals on them on t’internet (thanks Barefoot Athlete!)


    First muscle up!

    This is a big week for firsts.

    I’ve been concentrating on the muscle up for a few weeks so am v happy to have popped out a few singles to tonight.

    There’s a bit if kipping and I need to work on controlling the descent but I am well pleased.

    Kong vault

    I’ve been playing with some parkour tricks while out running for the last couple of Wednesdays. My main focus has been on the kong vault and practicing rolls.

    Rolls are used to break falls so are pretty fundamental to get right before trying anything more advanced – best to know how to fall safely before you try and jump.

    The kong is one of the more basic vaults. I managed to get a passable kong over the course of two ten minute practices using the progressions in this video. It still needs more work but I am still very pleased with myself. This is the first proper parkour-looking skill I have learned!

    I’m far from an expert but the last point he makes on the video is spot. The kong doesn’t take too much effort, it was my mind that was holding me back. Once I relaxed and properly committed to the vault it was ok.

    The same is probably true of a lot of parkour techniques, and why kids might pick them up quicker – they have no fear!

    15 a day

    From the Guardian today:

    “A cheering piece of research suggests that just 15 minutes of exercise a day ??? half the recommended amount in the UK ??? can boost life expectancy.”

    I find this kind of journalism frustrating, it sends totally the wrong message. Surely we should be convincing people to move more not that it’s ok to move less?

    The suggested exercise is pretty poor too:

    “England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, told the BBC the study would remind people there were many ways of getting exercise, “activities like walking at a good pace or digging the garden can count too”.”
    This suggests that by walking to the train station and back each day I would be set. Surely that’s quite obviously not right?

    Current workouts – August 2011

    The muscle up practice is going well. My false grip is much stronger and I’m feeling more comfortable working into the transition from the bottom of a dip.

    I’m going to put some more focus into both the muscle up and back lever, I want to nail both skills by the end of this year (hopefully much sooner). The back lever has been on my hit list for a long time.

    With that in mind I am increasing frequency so I work on both skills every workout. My focus is on building false grip and transition strength for my muscle up and consistently practicing the back lever.

    I’ve also added in some squats as leg strength work has been a bit lacking over the last month or so, plus extra pressing/pulling (for variety), grip work and some running/exploring.

    It’s a really nice mix.


    A1: False grip chins – 2 x >10
    A2: Dip (into transition) – 2 x >8
    B1: Back lever (straddle) – 3 x 5sec
    C1: Get outside, run, sprint, crawl, jump over stuff, climb stuff, play

    A1-A2 for two rounds, then B1, then C1


    A1: False grip rows – 3 x >10
    A2: Dip (into transition) – 3 x >8
    B1: Back lever (straddle) – 5 x 5sec
    C1: Tiger bend push up – 3 x >10
    C2: T-shirt grip chin up* – 3 x >10
    D1: KB goblet squats
    D2: KB swing

    A1-A2 for two rounds, then B1, C1-C2 for two rounds, then D1-D2 for five rounds


    A1: False grip chins – 2 x >10
    A2: Dip (weighted) – 2 x >8
    B1: Some kind of squat – 5 x >8
    B2: Pony clamp pinch – 5 x >5
    C1: Fat grip reverse curls – 4 x >10 R/L
    C2: Back lever (adv tuck) – 4 x 12sec

    A1-A2 for two rounds, then B1-B2 for five rounds, then C1-C2 for four rounds

    * I wrap an old t-shirt over each gymnastic ring to create a much fatter grip. Chin ups and grip work – winner!

    Fitness attributes – stress

    This is the next in the series following my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

    Being overwhelmed by stress impedes your ability to go about your life, both by occupying your mind and making you more susceptible to disease. To have well rounded fitness you should be able to manage the stresses of your life.

    What is stress?

    Stress is anything that activates the stress, or fight or flight, response. In its most basic terms it is a series of hormonal releases within your body designed to help you survive danger.

    In the excellent book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky uses the example of how the stress response would affect an animal in the savannah. A very simplified version of the sequence may go something like:

    1. Lion wants to eat you
    2. Stress response on
    3. Hormones released
    4. Non essential systems shut down (includes things like digestion and saliva production)
    5. Extra blood and energy sent to the essential ones (i.e. legs).
    6. Run
    7. Escape (hopefully)

      When the danger passes a different set of hormones are released, you relax and all your bodies systems go back to doing what they should. This might happen once every day or two.

      The problem for humans in the modern West is that this happens multiple times in the day. The stress response is always on, your day might start something like this:

      1. Woken up by an alarm (heart pounding straight away)
      2. Rush through breakfast (I’m late, I’m late)
      3. Have pointless argument with wife about the location of your keys
      4. Rush for train
      5. Stand on hot uncomfortable train (getting very irritated in the process)
      6. Arrive at work, check to do list and instantly worry about its size.

        That’s all by 9am.

        This is no good. The negative effects on your health are endless but the big ones are: heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure. All very real, all can be caused by excessive stress and all are killing lots of people each year.

        So how do you control it?

        The things that cause stress are real and unavoidable parts of modern life but we often get stressed about things with limited long term effect. I know in my case I often put the stress onto myself rather that it be put on me by an external source. 

        When faced with a stressful situation like any of the examples above try think about the bigger picture. Will the thing that is causing stress matter to you in 5 years, or even 1 year? Can you change it? If you do care then try and get as much control over the situation as possible.

        If you don’t, or it is out of your possible control, then you are probably the source of stress so let it go.

        It’s easier said than done, but think about what really matters. In the grand scheme of things a lot of the things we stress about are of little consequence. If they don’t matter, let them go. The stress response exists for a reason, fight or flight – so if they do matter, use it.


        Further reading

        Chris at The Garage Gym Online has recently writeen an excellent, and detailed, series of posts on stress. You should check it out.

        How long does it take to form a habit?

        I have written about building good habits in the past – the idea that including lots of little good habits in your day will improve your health.

        I’ve read previously that it takes 21 days to build a habit – I’ve been trying to avoid the lifts at work for the last three weeks and have only used them once (I bumped into my boss’ boss at the entrance to the lifts – unavoidable).

        So I should be set, right? Apparently not – research by University College London found that the average was 66 days (the actual spread was 18 to 254 days). The time taken depended greatly on what habit the participants were trying to build. Something relatively simple like eating fruit every day or drinking more water were much quicker than a daily run or doing 50 sit ups each morning.

        I know that I was thinking a lot less about using the stairs about half way through week two. I guess the advice is to concentrate and be mindful until you don’t have to.

        It’s not an exact answer but worth doing. Building these little habits is the fitness equivalent of ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.

        Further reading