Book Review – Chi Running

I just finished my first reading (but not last) of Chi Running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. Which I got as one of those Christmas presents I choose while browsing (err shopping) at the Maine Running Company in Portland, but TheWife paid for and wraps for you to get later.

Why would I want a book on Chi Running when I have run for – well let’s just put it this way a long damn time? Quite simply I watched myself run in a video I took earlier in the month and let’s just say that my form sucks.

After seeing myself in action, I did some research on different ways to improve my form and Chi Running was one of three methods that really interested me.

So how was the Chi Running the book?

The Good

Chi Running had some great ideas that I want to add into my running:

  • I can see the importance of the 4 Chi Skills and know that I need to go back and really work on using them:
  • Focusing
  • Body Sensing
  • Breathing
  • Relaxation
  • the idea that correct posture is very important to better running form
  • getting everything moving in the same direction – forward. i.e. my feet instead of running with my feet at about 45 degree angles have them as straight as possible
  • keeping my arms at 90 degree angle and not cross my body
  • creating a column
  • using gravity to propel you – I haven’t got this down yet, but think I am close
  • having a lean to help gravity propel you and changing the lean to change your speed.
  • I am very intrigued by his method of going uphill and want to try that out
  • back in the early 80’s I was introduced to the metronome method of running and used it for a while, so I understand its usefulness to maintain a certain turnover rate, just do it when no one else is running with you.
  • his ideas on how to avoid or aid in healing certain injuries warrants a closer look

I have just touched on a few things that really jumped out at me, the book has a wealth of knowledge, that I believe I will find very useful when I can wrap my head around all the information that it has about changing to Chi Running.

Scratching my head

  • Some of the terminology had me scratching my head, which left me frustrated and overwhelmed that I wasn’t understanding what they were trying to say especially in Chapters 4 & 5.
  • How to level my pelvis is still escaping me
  • I still don’t have a clue what peeling your foot off the ground really means or how to implement it. I think it means lift your foot straight up or something like that – once I get this piece a lot of the others will fall into place.
  • Some other things I just had trouble wrapping my head around should be clearer when I go back through and do more than just read that section.

It almost seems as though just enough information is given to really make you want to go buy the CD that is a companion to the book or attend one of their running workshops. The book attempts to spell out how to begin Chi Running, but in a couple of sections I did get frustrated and overwhelmed with the information being presented and voiced that on Twitter.

Some Chi Running advocates graciously provide links and watching videos of people using Chi Running on YouTube explained a few of the areas I was really having difficulty with. One time through the book, does not give me a lot of confidence that I could completely implement Chi Running to my running yet and the Dryers warn you in the book that you will probably not be able to after only reading the book once and that it will take time to fully implement Chi Running.

Warning

I completely agree with that warning and that there is simply too much information being presented to understand Chi Running after one time through their book. It will take a lot of time and effort to completely get a handle on the changes the you will need to do to become proficient in Chi Running.

Need to attend Chi Running Training

When I was complaining about being overwhelmed on Twitter by what was in Chapters 4 and 5, the biggest suggestion that I got on Twitter was that “I should go to one of their full days sessions” and after that I would really understand the power of Chi Running.

Unfortunately, as great a suggestion as this might be and as much as I might want to go to an all day sessions someplace – that is not an option for two reasons,

  1. there are not any local Chi Running training sessions going on in my area that I could find in the near future and travelling is not an option. One of the disadvantages of living up heah in Maine is that we are kind of off the beaten track for a lot of things.
  2. the costs associated with one are simply not in the budget for the foreseeable future.
Re – Read Important Sections

Hopefully after I have gone through the book’s sections that give you the action instructions a few more times and practiced the drills, I will understand better what they are talking about and will be able to make the changes as I go along.

If I decide that Chi Running is what I am looking for in how to change my running form, I will end up buying the CD and when I have some extra cash someday, I will try to find a training session within a days drive to attend. Until then I will muddle along through the book a few more times and watch YouTube videos to help me understand what it is trying to tell me.

Change isn’t easy

Changing a running form that you have had for several years is not going to be easy and I don’t expect it to be. I expect to work hard learning how to run with a better form/style and that I probably won’t get “it” overnight. At the same time I have to wonder a little, if I am overwhelmed now by some of the terminology or expectations that you need more “stuff” to understand the practice of Chi Running, will Chi Running meet my expectations of K.I.S.S.

Worth It

I think that Chi Running has a lot of potential to help me become a better runner and I am looking forward to learning more about Chi Running – it has certainly piqued my interest.

With the little knowledge that I have gained in reading and underlining the book once through, I am starting to consciously run differently than I did before reading the book. I know that I am attempting to use some of the techniques described in the book while running and while I haven’t gotten the knack of how to do circular feet yet – I am making positive progress.

Chi Running is worth looking into a lot further, if you are looking to change your running form. I won’t say it will be for everyone, but it is definitely worth reading the book to see how it meshes with your expectations.

FTC Disclaimer: I have not been provided any compensation or free samples of products as part of this review, they are simply my thoughts on something that I have purchased .

Wanted to Run, Rest Day Instead – 12-29-11

Joey resting

Today is a scheduled day of rest and I really didn’t want to. I wanted to run more than anything else today, even though it is in the mid-20’s with 30-40 mph winds.

Yes I must be totally off my rocker, nuts and all those other things that people say about us crazy runners. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view, I would have to agree with them – I am a little crazy.

However, I am also trying to be smart about my running – a very new notion for me. Part of that being smart is to take rest days at least every 13 days. I didn’t want January 1st to be my next rest day so last week I chose today. Thursdays just seem to be the best day of the week for resting.

I also did a quick Twitter poll to help me out on this one and the overwhelming majority of my Twitter community told me to take the rest day – Thanks everyone for your support.

So as bad as I wanted to go out there and run this morning – I didn’t and I won’t this afternoon either. My body needs a little rest and a day off will do it a lot more good than a 3.0 mile run.  See you can teach an old dawg new tricks.

There is a DNR in the running log and that is a good thing.  Hmmmm I might even take a long bath and try to soak out a few kinks in the back in legs :-).  This is different for me, I am actually thinking about things I can do to relax!

Quality of Run: DNR
Weight: Didn’t Weigh In (I usually don’t on rest days)
Time of Run: DNR
Temp:  25F
Weather: Bright sunshine with 30-40 mph winds out of the NW. = FREAKING COLD!

Rest doesn’t mean I am not keeping up with or learning more about running, it just means that I am not out there putting in the miles – today.

Looking Back at My 2011 Goals

Every year I go back and see how I did on my previous year goals and the outcomes.

#1  Determine whether or not I want to remain in Special Education as a teacher.

“This is something that I do every summer – take a good long look at the job I am presently in and decide whether or not to stay.  It is very stressful being a Special Educator for a variety of reasons (which I have documented in other blog posts) and I have to determine if that stress is still worth it to me or not. 

I won’t make any rash decisions or anything like that, but I will look at whether I am still enjoying my chosen profession and make my decisions during July of this year.  If I do decide to no longer be a Special Education teacher, I do plan/want to remain in education in some capacity, preferably in Education Technology or some other role.  Time will tell.”

  • This one was pretty easy to measure – I retired. The biggest reasons I left teaching were 1) My health – teaching is a very stressful profession – the stress was negatively affecting my health, 2) teaching is a very jealous mistress with your time and 3) the final straw was that I no longer enjoyed the artificial requirements of standardized testing and Special Education paperwork (CYA more than helpful) – whole books have been written these two things so I won’t get into them.  The bottom line was that teaching stopped being fun and there were not enough “aha” moments to sustain me.

#2  Enjoy writing more at “One Foot In Reality”.  “Writing about what I do for my day job (Special Education) was getting very tedious for me – it was just too much of something. I needed to be able to take off my Special Education hat much more than I was.  Changing my blog’s primary focus to doing reviews on software/web applications is something that I always wanted to do, but in the past always thought “who am I” and there are so many other people out there already doing that, who would want to read what I have to say?  If I don’t do this now, I am not following one of my dreams and giving it a chance to see where it leads me.  I am very passionate about using technology and believe that I have some unique perspectives on how software/web applications are or can be used, so we will see how this change pans out.”

  • “One Foot In Reality” is no longer my primary blog and I found a niche/focus that I really am enjoying – Running. I plan to include some of the technology stuff into “A Veteran Runnah” at times, but my focus and passion as I have discovered is more related to running than technology. I am writing a lot more, just not at “One Foot In Reality”.  I am following my dreams and running/fitness are a part of those dreams.

#3  Prepare for a reduced income over the course of the next couple of years.  “I have a feeling that education is going to go through some tumultuous times over the next few years in the State of Maine and throughout the Country.  I am still at the bottom of all the lists and am probably in a better position weather the storm than some others, but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to learn to live on a reduced income.  This goes well with my last year’s goals of being less materialistic and more self-sufficient.  Hey who knows, maybe I will decide to leave teaching, become a freelance writer and finish writing the book that I have started and stopped so many times.”

  • When I retired in June this one smacked me right upside the head. Going from a pretty decent wage to a small fixed income has meant some major changes in how we do things. We have been relatively modest for many years, and we have no bills other than normal monthly bills, so that was a big help. Now I can’t just go out and buy a new pair of running shoes (as much as I want to try the VFF’s) or the newest running clothes.

I am more willing to try my hand at other revenue streams (now that I need to) and was selected as a FitFluential Ambassador.  In the past I didn’t worry so much about monetizing my blogs, now if I can without annoying readers, I will do that. However, I will not just whore myself out, for the sake of extra dollars. I have to look in the mirror and now I like who is looking back at me.

#4 Get myself back in reasonable shape.  “My knee is balky at best, but it doesn’t bother when I lift weights or use a recumbent bicycle at the gym.  There are some lower body exercises I will have to stay away from, but other than that I don’t have any limitations other than what I can do.  My definition of reasonable will be walking over 1,000 miles (logged), getting my weight back to 170 or lower (lower is better) and not having the doctor bug me too much when I visit him in May.”

  • I am going to break the 170 pound barrier soon and am running over 20 miles a week. I consider myself back in “reasonable” shape. However, I am not satisfied with this and now plan to work on being in excellent shape. I now have the time and desire to do.

The knee finally got so bad that in April I went to my PCP and Ortho Surgeon to get knee surgery done. Initially the diagnosis was a degenerative bone disease and I was looking at a replacement. The doc wanted to do exploratory arthroscopic surgery first to actually see what was wrong. Turns out it was not degenerative, but cartilage damage.

It took a while to mostly recover (my PT said full recovery is between 9-12 months), but I am back to running – something that I was told I would NEVER do again. Stubborn old bastard aren’t I. 🙂 Seriously, I love running and it is a part of who I am and I am so glad that I can do it again.

#5 Let go of things that I can’t control. “I have a difficult time with this, I want to do so much, but I have come to learn that I can’t fix or help in every situation.  Sometimes you just have let it go and move on.  Don Quixote is not my alias but I have the belief that Don will ride again, but just not as often.”

  • I have done a lot better with this try to let things just roll off me, instead of taking up arms over things I can’t change.  Don Quixote attempted to ride a couple of times during from January to June, but I was able to trip him up as he was mounting his steed and voicing his opinions.

#6 Be positive as possible in all my personal and professional relationships. “This is a carry-over from last year and believe that it helped to look at this every so often.  If I am positive good things happen and relationships improve, it is when I get negative…well we all know what happens then.” 

  • I have become much more positive since I have been able to run again. Running for me and many others, gives me time to help think through issues, relax a lot more and have a much more positive outlook on life around me.  I had dwelt on the negatives of having knee surgery and waited until I had no choice, it really turned out so much better than anyone (including the doctor) expected.

It often pays to look for that silver lining in those storm clouds.

I often wonder if I had been able to run the last six months as a teacher, if things would have bothered me as much as they did towards the end – I will never know.

#7  Say “no” and mean it.  “Often I say yes to things that I can’t accomplish or don’t really want to do, but say I will because of who is asking or some other reason.  Saying no is not part of my usual “can do” attitude, but with the demands of home, work and other things I like to do, taking on even more is not something that I want or should do.  This will be something that I do more often this year – just say no.”

  • This is one thing that I did very well in my last six months as a teacher and have been better at since I retired. If taking on something is not what I really want to do, unless there is no way around it, I have said no several times.

It is hard for me to say “no” because I want to be a nice guy and be known as someone “can do” attitude, but I have finally learned that I can not be all things to everyone, do everything that others want and still lead the life that I want.

At the same time being able to say “no” and mean it can be very self-empowering.

#8  Take the Google Certified Trainer series of tests and finish them by the end of April break.  “I started going through the trainings last summer and completed them, but just haven’t taken the tests.  Completing this would be good resume material, if I need it and will help me gain more self-confidence that I do know something about what I am doing with technology other than in my own mind.”

  • Did all of the studying, went through the prep work, but never took the certification exams = NOPE.  Now this certification does not mean as much to me, so I will probably not do it, unless something changes drastically.

#9  Attend one of the #edcamps in the area.  “I really love to meet the people that are in my Personal Learning Network and see them face to face.  I have come to rely on my PLN for ideas, support and comments to help me improve as an educator.  I plan to continue to participate in the #chats that are on Twitter and MLTI webinars whenever it is convenient to do so, but they are on the calendar as probable, not definite.”

  • I attended EdCamp Boston at Microsoft’s NERD Center last May. It was so great to meet and talk face-to-face with many of the people that I had talked with on Twitter #edchat & #spedchat. I was in the final decision-making stages of staying or retiring and attending this event was a positive reason to stay a teacher. The EdCamps are a great way to learn a lot about teaching and education, as well as meeting many of those people you communicate with via social media.

#10 Make sure that I stop and smell the roses.  “I get so wrapped up in getting school work done, trying to figure out how to interest my students, playing with the computer, participating in #chats, webinars and all the other things that happen my day-to-day world that I forget to stop and just enjoy my life.  I need to remember I have a life beyond school/education or my laptop and need to enjoy that part of my life more.  The work-life balance that I sometimes forget about.”

  • Since I have retired, this is something that I take much more seriously. I try to finish my morning coffee, eat a good breakfast, read my email, gReader and answer any comments on the blog. Then I start in on a blog post instead of rushing around with my head cut off. I am lucky that I can do this but at the same time I chose to simplify my life and as a result can stop and smell the roses more.

When school was in session, teachers do not have a work-life balance. As a teacher your life revolves around the needs of the school and your students – in most cases your family and personal life take a second fiddle. I know many don’t believe that, but to be a good teacher, it is the way it is.

I am enjoying my life now more than I ever have in the past!

Those are how I did on my 10 goals from last year.  I would like to believe that I have made progress in all but one and that one, is not as important to me as it once was.

The reality is that retiring has changed my outlook on many things and my priorities are different now than they were in June.

How did you do on your 2011 goals?  Did you meet them or did things change for you during the year?