The McGill Tribune had the chance to sit down with Martlet and Redmen cross-country and track and field Head Coach Dennis Barrett this past week for the sports section’s podcast, Beyond the Back Page. As a trainer for many professional athletes—including Olympic gold medalists, CFL players, and NHL players—Barrett has witnessed and experienced many movements in the world of physical fitness. He weighed in on a number of trendy topics for athletes, as well as his general fitness advice.
On barefoot running:
[Barefoot running] is something that I’d discussed with people a long time ago before it became popular. As a young runner, I used to suffer from shin splints, and I know a lot of athletes that suffer from shin splints. If you’re born in a country where you run around barefooted you don’t have that problem. I wore shoes since I was very young. That wasn’t my choice—that was basically your family’s choice [….] The problem I see with barefoot running now is a lot of people are jumping in foot first, and part of the problem is they’re not used to it. They have these five-finger shoes that are not giving [runners] a lot of support. The problem is if you’re not accustomed to doing it and you go into it too quickly, you’ll develop a lot of problems.
If you want to go barefooted or run close to barefooted then you start off on grass and you walk, and you jog, and you walk, and you jog and you gradually build up. It takes your body a while to adjust to it basically because […] the centre pad of your foot is the forefoot and at times what has happened is that the running shoes that they’ve made have been too thick. With the thick running shoes you can’t feel how hard your impact [is] on the ground and a lot of people just hit too hard because they can’t sense it. The minimalist shoes do bring that to the forefront where you will learn to not hit the ground that hard because it will hurt [….] It’s a matter of conditioning and not putting our kids in baby shoes and trying to keep them barefoot as much as possible.
If you know what you’re doing it makes a huge difference. The main thing is having a balance in your diet. One of the key things is having a lot of raw foods. Basically, a lot of vegetables, a lot of raw fruit—that makes a big difference. You can still have meat, which gives you protein, but you want to balance it and try and ingest more alkaline foods than acidic foods. A lot of meats, sweets, and baked goods are acidic. A lot of things that are tasty tend to be acidic [….] We live in an era where we have a lot of fast foods and not enough [healthy] eating. You want your athletes to eat more fruits and vegetables. It just keeps you a lot healthier.
On training athletes:
Anybody who is motivated and loves to train will always over-train. I was one such person. You need that guidance […] a lot of us need that coach to tell us not to do so much. One of the things that I preach to my athletes is that it’s not [so much] about hard work. Whatever you do in life, it’s about constructive hard work [….] If you’re a sprinter, and you’re running 10 mile runs, it won’t help your sprinting too much. So it’s not [just] hard work but constructive hard work that’s very important.
Remember, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Interview conducted by Mayaz Alam and Remi Lu. Visit www.mcgilltribune.com/sportspodcast to listen to the entire interview.