Chi Running – Thoughts After a Month

I can’t say that Chi Running is some kind of miracle cure for all my running ills, but I have to believe that it is more than mere coincidence that I am running as well as I am now. Before I started reading and attempting to implement the concepts of Chi Running into my running, I was struggling to run a mile, little more than a month ago.

Yeah, a run was something that was endured – not enjoyed, if I ran at all.

Needless to say I was frustrated, tired of being in pain and just wanted even a glimmer of hope that I would start running like I know I could – at some point in the future. The way I felt that night, that hope was fading fast. I seriously questioned whether running was going to be a thing of the past.

Too many injuries, too much discomfort and pain every time I ran made running a chore versus the sport that I loved.

Back on October 14th, needless to say I was in a very dark place with my running. Since early September I had been dealing with a balky right hip that wasn’t getting any better and I was getting ready to go see a doctor. Not one of my favorite things to do if you know anything about me. I had visions of…well you know or can imagine where my mind was taking the lack of progress with the hip and being 60 put me right in that ballpark.

On that Saturday night when I purchased the Chi Running eBook for my Kindle Reader, I will say I was desperate and in the back of my mind, subconsciously or whatever to hell you call it – I was pretty sure that how I ran was a lot of the problem. Even more than too much Harold being Harold stuff.

I had dabbled with Chi Running back in December 2012, when I got the Chi Running book for Christmas. I was running fairly well and it seemed like too much work to change everything just to do what some book thought was the best way to run. I passed the book on to someone else who was more interested in it and continued to run Harold’s way.

That night I read more than half the book and finished it the next day. I kept finding myself nodding my head and saying to myself this is me. Then I re-read it and highlighted areas that I wanted to focus on. A little later, I ordered the Chi Marathon book and Chi Running log, because I am old-fashioned and sometimes when I actually handle a book and write on things. I understand better and remember what I am doing at a higher level using a real book it seems.

DISCLAIMER: There is nothing scientifically based or probably even replicable by someone else, all the following is my anecdotal account of what happened during the month or so after I read and attempted to implement Chi Running into Harold’s running. So the disclaimer is that Chi Running has worked great for me, but it might not be the right thing for you or how you do things in your running. I have personally purchased all of the books I reference in this blog post and was not asked, prompted or paid in any way for writing about Chi Running – these are completely my thoughts and experiences with it.

Reading Chi Running really hit home hard this time, because I was at the bottom of the barrel looking up, without a lot of hope that running was going to be a part of my future if I didn’t make some drastic changes. I knew that my form sucked, I had seen video and photos of me running, but had never really taken the time to make changes that I should have made. I was under the belief that was “how I ran” and not a whole lot could change it. Plus there were studies that “showed” attempting to change your form mostly moved around what got injured.

For me, my way of running wasn’t working – I guess Harold’s running form was too f’d up to and while I might run well for a while, I inevitably ended up with some kind of injury or discomfort in the Achilles’ tendons, calves or hips that either shut my running down or was something that I learned to block out and would “grin and bear it” to run.

Enough of the background.

With my usual aplomb, after reading Chi Running, for the next two weeks I attempted to implement all of the tenants of Chi Running into my running immediately. While there were some improvements, there was a lot more frustration on my part and I was feeling overwhelmed to say the least by attempting to do too much too soon, without knowing enough about Chi Running for it to make sense or become a part of how I run incrementally.

I have never been one to do a process well and take time to incorporate something slowly – I WANT IT NOW! Unfortunately, after more than 40 years of running, completely overhauling my running form overnight is not gonna happen. There is just a little muscle memory and scar tissue to overcome everything that quickly.

One of the best things I did in this transition, was getting the Chi Marathon running book and reading through that. It cleared up many of the questions that I had about Chi Running from the first book and best of all, it had a process that I could use to actually implement Chi Running. You might call it a training plan, I call it a process that I could follow to let me learn the basics of Chi Running without getting overwhelmed with attempting to change everything about my running all at once (which wasn’t working).

If you are an experienced runner and are considering trying Chi Running for yourself, I strongly recommend getting the Chi Marathon book. I think it explains things a little differently than the Chi Running book and it gives you a process to transition to Chi Running. However, you really do need both books, also you will need to watch many different videos and eventually go to a Chi Running clinic (which I will do at some point).

Yeah, in other words trust the trust the process and make the changes incrementally.

The first couple of weeks were not wasted, I did learn what I didn’t know and what I needed to change about my form and yes, even when I am walking. I think many of the form/posture things that I needed to work on changed the most while I was walking and carried over to my running.

Walking is an important part of the Chi Running change process in my opinion.

The biggest and hardest change for me was and is keeping my feet pointed straight ahead. After several injuries to my feet, ankles, knees and hips (running and non-running), both of my feet were badly splayed, but the right foot was especially splayed out and when I look back at photos that have tracks behind me, they have been that way for many years.

Which meant that everything was out of alignment from the hips down and more than likely the root cause of many of my injuries. The other thing is that I have had issues with my Achilles’ tendons and learned that forceful toeing-off might be one of the causes – which is how I was taught to run way back in the dark ages – use a hard toe-off to propel yourself forward faster.

Over the past month plus I have worked hard on improving my posture and while it still is not perfect, there is significant improvement in how I walk and run with all parts going pretty much in the same direction. I still have a way to go on the right leg the muscle memory of that splay foot style is still causing tightness at times, but the pain and discomfort are almost gone.

Another thing that I have worked pretty hard on is lifting my foot and landing with more of mid foot strike. This seems to have helped the issues I had with my Achilles’ tendon. A good example of this was on my run this morning, the left Achilles began to bark at me at about mile 4.5 and in the past it would have progressed to the point where I would have had to walk this summer. Instead I simply adjusted my stride a little to lifting my foot, versus toeing-off and the barking stopped after a bit and I finished the run without any other issues.

However, don’t get the idea that this has been a wonderful experience that has been effortless transition to better running.

It has not been easy!!!

My body doesn’t like the focus on running with my feet pointing straight ahead, it was damned uncomfortable during some of the early attempts and at times a little bit of pain when I bust up the scar tissue that had formed (it is in there and I feel it when it releases).

When Chi Running mentions effortless running, it sure as hell ain’t me they are talking about and it is in my opinion some marketing drivel, because while I have felt great while running on a couple of occasions, it never is effortless.

It doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing, but if you do attempt to transition to Chi Running, expect to work hard to do it correctly and be ready for it to take longer than you want for it to show a lot of/if any progress. I am one of the lucky ones, I have been able to do a lot in a short time – it ain’t that way for everyone.

The reality is that

Chi Running is not for everyone, but for me it has given me hope for my running going forward and a process where I can work on improving my running form and running efficiency. Hell, in this short of a time, I have gone from wondering if I will ever run pain-free again, to thinking about racing again.

A major change in perspective.

The biggest thing that Chi Running has forced me to be is more mindful about my running. Each run has a focus and a strategy to maintain that focus – which is what I need. Instead of heading out the door and running while I am thinking of everything that is going on in my life, I am focused on keeping my feet straight, is my body aligned, hips level, lengthen the neck and all the other focuses that my beginners training plan has me doing.

Yes, I do cheat a little and add more of the focuses together or run a few more miles than the plan calls for at times, but at other times, I just focus on those one or two things for the entire run. I have attempted to temper my enthusiasm for how well I am doing and stick to the Chi Running transformation process – well most of the time :-).

Who know maybe I am learning patience and the value of using a process to make positive changes to my running..

You can believe or not that changing your running form is doable or even a good thing. All I know is last month at this time I couldn’t run a mile without being in pain and since I have started using the Chi Running method, I am back on the roads running and enjoying it more than I have in a long time, especially the part where there is a LOT less pain or discomfort during my runs, but by no stretch of the imagination is Chi Running effortless. There is a lot of hard work involved and at times a more than a little discomfort to go through to get to the good side.

My experience tells me that these were changes to my running form that were needed, because my running form was too screwed up to be sustainable as a 60-year-old runner, who wants to keep running at a decent level for many more years.

It will be interesting to see where I am six months from now. Not that I will be a world-beater or anything, but it sure would be nice to run consistently for a long period of time to see what is left in the old body.

Chi Running is making a positive difference in my running and for now that is more than enough for me.

Chi Running – Initial Thoughts the Second Time Around

Yep, this is the second time I have started to use Chi Running to help “fix” some of the glaring problems I have with my running mechanics. You can read more about why I picked it here, but the short and sweet version is that I had yet another overuse injury that caused me to stop running again. I knew that I had to do things differently if I want to keep running and chose Chi Running to help me get there.

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However, knowing what I know now, I really wish that I had continued to work the Chi Running program when I started it in 2012. I have a feeling that it would have saved me a LOT of pain, discomfort and aggravation over the last five years. Who knows I might have even run more consistently – that would be a first.

I guess the only answer is – I wasn’t ready to change back then, I was too busy running to fix my running, so I can keep running as an old fart.

What I am actually doing with this Chi Running thing.

After watching several Chi Running YouTube videos and making the decision to start using it again, I got the Chi Running eBook from Amazon. It took about three days, but I read through it, after all I had read and studied it pretty thoroughly back in 2012, so the material was not new, which made things a lot easier to grasp.

After watching multiple videos on YouTube and all the other books I have read on running and other subjects, the philosophy and mechanics of Chi Running made a LOT more sense to me this time than it did five years ago.

Stuff I Needed

Screenshot_20171024-141652.pngTo help integrate all the stuff I need learn I did invest in the Chi Running app for my phone. It is a pretty basic GPS phone running app, but it gives a good idea on what the pre and post run routines are and it has a metronome set to 180 SPM, which I am finding invaluable.

Although I had a few hiccups when I first started using it, I now have an understanding with the app, so it does what I need and I won’t delete it.

I ordered the Chi Running Book and Log Books, since it is easier to thumb back and forth in the physical book quickly than it is to go on the computer or phone to figure something out. Also for down the road, I got the Chi Running Half Marathon and Marathon training guide, more to see how it compares to other training books I have than to prepare to run a marathon. I don’t see me doing a marathon anytime soon, but I would like to start doing Half Marathons again.

However, I probably should have gotten the Chi Walking book instead, because right now I am doing a lot more walking than I am running. The curse of the injured runner, but it is also forcing me to stay focused on this change and keep doing what I need to do. I will check at Barnes & Noble to see if they have a copy in stock I think.

So I have the books, the app, watched way too many videos and have started to run as much as my right hip will let me (up to 2.0 miles max) – what’s going on?

ChaChaChaChanges

Changing anything about my running after more than 40 years of doing it “my way” ain’t going to be easy – as I found out the all the times before that I have attempted to “improve” how I run.

This time I am going into this with the mindset that I am going to work on making my running more efficient over the course of the next year or two, which should lead to fewer overuse injuries versus a wholesale change of how I run overnight.

If I went into Chi Running with the idea that I have to change everything about my running immediately, it is very intimidating and would be setting myself up to fail – again. Chi Running is a series of processes to remember and it takes time to make it how you run instinctively versus thinking about every little step that it goes through.

This time I know it will take quite a while and a lot of repetition to change the muscle memory and brain to running  differently than I have for so many years.

 

Posture

The biggest thing I know is that I need to work on my posture and get all my body parts going in the same direction at the correct time.

I have a horrible duck walk that looks like an “V” when you look back in the snow, that is exacerbated by a twisted right leg due to an injury in 2008 from falling off a ladder.

When I run, I have pretty much straight legs before driving my heels into the ground on landing and I sit back in the saddle (almost a backward lean). About the only good thing about my posture is my arms, I do hold them at about 90* and don’t cross the center-line too often – that I carried over from the first time I tried Chi Running.

Needless to say the posture was the first thing that I need to work on and will need to continue to work on for a long time to come.

I am making progress, even when I am not running, I am focusing on walking with my feet straight – a lot less duck walking. It is working, although my right hip doesn’t like the change at all. It was hurting before I started all this Chi Running stuff and the stress of changing how a twisted leg is being used while it is healing at the same time probably ain’t a good thing.

There seems to be a constant discomfort around the right hip, well when I walked on it today and really focused on what was going on – not really so much discomfort as much as a constant tugging against the turning in the right hip and upper leg area that I am doing to walk with my feet straight. Especially since when I go back to walking or running “normally” it doesn’t bark nearly as much.

However, due to the amount of change that is going on in my body when I walk with my feet straight, I can tell it is something that needs to be done to help get rid of the twist in my right leg.

Go slowly grasshopper.

The other thing that is helping with straightening out my feet, that really surprised me is a pair of Newton Kismet 2’s. The forefoot design with the Action/Reaction plate gives me feedback when I don’t have my foot fairly straight. I have run well in Newton’s before and I wonder if that was part of the reason – they helped me get rid of some of my duck-like stride? I can tell the difference in my stride when I wear Newtons and when I am not.

That is the reason they have become my primary walking and running shoe lately.

Cadence

The second thing that I have been working really hard on is increasing my typical cadence on most runs from 165-170 up to 180 SPM. This forces me to take shorter strides to maintain the turnover necessary for that cadence. Which in turn forces me to land with more of midfoot/forefoot landing, instead of that stiff-legged inverted “V” heel slamming running style that I typically exhibit.

Although I still slam my feet down from time-to-time and get off cadence a bit, I am making progress, learning to be a little “lighter” on the feet and land under my hips.

At this point I am not really concerned so much about how my foot is landing or if I am toeing off (which is going to be a bitch of a habit for me to break), I am just focusing on getting that 180 cadence at different speeds down.

Before getting back into Chi Running I used cadence a lot differently than it does. When I run faster, my cadence is faster, whereas Chi Running uses a steady 180 SPM cadence for all of its running and to me that would mean about an 8:00 per mile pace. Which I proved to myself on an earlier run before I had the metronome going.

So in the short time that I have been using the Chi Running method, it has meant that I am running faster without wanting to run faster. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it feels odd to me when I am running to have a 180 SPM cadence and attempting to run at a 9:00 minute pace.

I am getting better at slowing down and maintaining that 180 SPM cadence, but the body and mind are very confused about this change.

The tool that is helping me with this is the metronome in the Chi Running App. It keeps me focused on the correct SPM and when I change the lean (shift gears), I don’t slow down the cadence to go slower. If you are new to Chi Running or even a veteran at it, the metronome is a necessary tool to keep tweaking your cadence.

The other part of the equation was the first time that I attempted Chi Running I didn’t really have feedback on whether I was maintaining the 180 SPM and this time I do. My Garmin 230 has a cadence field in the data it provides, which shows me how well or not I am maintaining the proper cadence.

The metronome and GPS watch that gives your cadence working together has helped me see how I am doing much more clearly and gives me the feedback I need.

Proper feedback is a good thing.

Skipping Around

Those are the two things that I am primarily working on right now and probably will be for a long time before I get really comfortable with the changes I am making through Chi Running.

However, doing it this way means that I am picking up bits and pieces of the program in a jumbled order from the book. Although it seems as though for experienced runners (like me) the program is a bit more fluid than it would be for a newbie runner.

I know that I have skipped a lot of methods and steps in the process that Chi Running lays out in the book, but I have a pretty good idea of the weakest parts of my running and am picking up some of the other parts of the program as I go along thanks to the videos that are available online.

I am doing the drills to work on things and they are helping as well.

Long Ways to Go

So while I believe that I am making pretty decent progress in a short time, I do know that I have a long ways to go before Chi Running is instinctual and I am proficient enough to see the improvement that I want and need with my running.

However, there are a few extra aches, pains and discomfort in the old body since I started using Chi Running. Which to be honest should be expected. After all I am changing how the body does things and using the muscles differently than I have in a long time. They are not all that bad, just a part of what happens when you change how your body does things.

I am just starting this part of the journey and only a few steps into it. I take heart with the knowledge Mark P. has had great success using Chi Running and I can only hope to emulate some of the success he described in a previous comment.

The adventures continue.

Why Chi Running?

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Chi Running by Danny Dreyer

This post was one of those that was hard to write, because it forced me to really look at why I have decided to use Chi Running practice to help me run more efficiently.

After all making a commitment to use one program over all the others that are out there is a pretty big deal.

This is the second time that I have decided to use Chi Running, the first time I was not ready to actually give it a realistic chance to succeed and moved on after little more than a month of using it.

Fortunately for me and often unfortunately for my body, the biggest issue that I have, is that I have gotten older over the last five years. I am learning the hard way that my now older body is no longer forgiving of a running form that has multiple issues with its running mechanics.

So in my infinite wisdom, I have decided it is time to fix some as many of those issues with my running mechanics that I can. I going to do this despite recent studies that seem to indicate that runners screwing around with their running form may not have as much success as the programs and their proponents would have us think.

Too Many Options

However, attempting to wade through the myriad of coaches, methods, studies, books, magazines, blogs, websites or programs out there that claim they can improve your running is daunting to say the least.

Once you get beyond all the business models (they are all in the business of selling their version of “proper” running form), marketing hype, vocabulary differences, philosophies, etc., and get down to what all these different businesses are basing their running improvement programs on:

  • improved running posture (run tall, how to hold your arms, running with all parts of the body going in the same direction, etc.)
  • use your core
  • a lean
  • a shorter stride where you land under your hips
  • increased stride rate/cadence
  • increase speed or mileage slowly
  • use a variety of training runs to achieve your goals

The biggest differences seem to be in the process each of these businesses use to take you from your present flawed running form to their “new and improved” running form.

There are many runners and “experts” out there who don’t believe that changing your running form programs work and that the biggest solution to running better was simply to…

“run more”

then you will be a better runner.

Personally, I would love to simply “run more” and my body would probably eventually find its most efficient running form – if I was able to run consistently.

Unfortunately, my problem is that I haven’t been able to run consistently. The most common result of my running more – is to run, get injured, rehab/let things heal and then repeat the cycle, especially over the last five years.

That is the reason I need something that will provide me with more structure and focus on finding that most efficient for me running form versus the hodge-podge mess that I have used and has not worked for me.

Why Chi Running?

From what I have seen all the different methods have their pros/cons and it is up to the consumer (runner/me) to decide which method best meets my present needs and goals.

My reasons for choosing Chi Running are:

  1. Familiarity – I started the program before and have a working knowledge of what is going on.
  2. Philosophy – I like the Eastern philosophy behind Chi Running and while some scoff at the woo factor that it brings to the table, it feels right to me.
  3. Competitiveness – I am finally accepting that I ain’t all that good of a runner, even when I am not injured. At this point in my life, my best running is far behind me, but I still harbor fantasies of racing well – at least in my age group. If I can run consistently, the speed I have left will be there.
  4. Long-Term View – When I was researching which program would be better for me, Danny Dreyer was speaking in an interview I watched and this quote stuck in my head. I may not have captured it perfectly, but this is my interpretation of what he said and it really hit home for me.

    A performance based mindset can’t be sustained indefinitely, sometimes have to let it go and allow things be how they are, which is not always how you think  they are or want them to be.

  5. Journey – As I have gotten older, I have finally begun to realize that sometimes the journey is as important and sometimes more important than reaching the goal itself. What happens along the way often changes who we are and how we do things.

Once I got beyond the marketing hype and into the substance of Chi Running, I found the philosophy and methods best matched the direction I want to go. Running is a part of who I am and is more to me than a physical activity that I do.

I have found that you have to put in the time and effort to improve our running beyond where you are now and it will not happen overnight. There will be failures, head scratching, backsliding, in addition to successes. Any improvements I make in running efficiency will need to be earned and become a part of the runner I am and will be.

A question that Danny Dreyer asked in one of his videos and resonated with me:

What can you learn from your running besides putting your shoes on and going fast?

I think that is the right question for me and one that I want to answer.

The reality is that

I have to believe at age 60 there is a program or system that will help me improve my running mechanics to the point where I can carrying my fat arse down the road, trail or track in the most efficient way possible for many more years.

There are many out there who are making a business out of improving a runner’s form, who are willing to help you achieve their version “perfect” running form – for a price. Chi Running is the form improvement business that appears to be the best fit for me.

However, no program/method/practice will make my running effortless, that it is marketing hype, which is shared by most of the other businesses, I looked at. I chose Chi Running for reasons far beyond the hype and all those great testimonials of how great it is. Although if they didn’t have them you would wonder where they were.

Running is a lot of repetitive work, where you have to get your arse moving and actually do the work to see any improvement or even to simply maintain what you have earned before.

Will I follow Chi Running implicitly without question or change – nope.

I am me and that means that I am not the same as anyone else. There will be times along my journey to that more efficient form that I am searching for, where I will find something else works a bit better for me than what is presented in Chi Running. I will add it to my practice, while incorporating whatever it is into my interpretation of the philosophy or principles of Chi Running.

Through my research I know that Chi Running is not for everyone, but it does seem like a good fit for the kind of runner that I want to be moving forward.

Who knows maybe I will even find some answers to Danny’s question.

What can I learn from my running besides putting my shoes on and going fast?

 

Going Backwards to Move Forward

Right now MY running really sucks and to be honest it has for a while. It has been inconsistent at best, fraught with minor injuries and setbacks that have not allowed me to do many of the things that I wanted to do this year.

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I know what you are thinking another Harold post on how he is going to change, become a better runner and all that other horse shit that I usually blather on about.

This most recent malady – not really an injury, but enough to make things miserable when I run, has lingered for longer than I want it too. However, the more I have thought about things, it might be just what I needed.

What in the hell are you talking about?

The past few weeks of very little running have made me focus more on what I want from MY running, not your running, not Runner’s World’s running, not the running that all too many books talk about, not anyone else’s running.

What do I want from MY running?

I might have some answers, but the biggest thing is that…I still am not totally sure, I am still figuring it out and that is being quite honest.

 

All I know is that running makes me happy, even when it is not always pleasurable (there is a HUGE difference between something making you happy and something giving you pleasure) and it is something that I plan on doing until I can’t any longer.

Going Backward

Back in 2011 I got Chi Running as a Christmas present and I read the book in about 4 days, then attempted to incorporate some the ideas into my running that I felt were pertinent to me, over the course of the next month or so. Unfortunately, I was more interested in upping my mileage, doing running shoe reviews and getting my blog business off the ground, than doing work that Chi Running required. I fairly quickly let go of attempting to “do” Chi Running and went back to “just do it running”, with periods of attempting something different.

Well, I got to reading some of my old blog entries from that time last week and realized that I had been running consistently. When I read many of the comments on the book review about Chi Running blog post that I wrote back then, it really piqued my interest again.

 

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Enough that I got a digital copy of the book and have re-read almost all of it over the past two days.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Many of the techniques that I had started to learn, were ones that I still use. It wasn’t so much that they were special or novel, it was more the way they were presented, made sense, focused on where, you the runner were actually at and took a long-term view of your running.

Quality over quantity is something that I noticed a lot.

There are no short-cuts and it does take a lot of work to follow the Chi Running path and yes, I still have a feeling that attempting to do the Chi Running practice only from the book is fairly complex and not very realistic to only attempt it that way. However, there are more videos up on YouTube, there is a Chi Running App available that has video included and yes, I will be getting the Chi Running log book.

I think those things will help me get the basics of what I need to learn and then continue work on improving things that I will need to keep working on. At some point I think going to a live workshop would help clear up any other question that I have about Chi Running.

In other words, I have to embrace and be open to the changes that are necessary to use the Chi Running program.

Actually I don’t see that I have too much choice in the matter if I want to keep running for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, back in 2012 I was not ready to reset my running to the point that would have been necessary to embrace Chi Running at that time, now it is not really a choice.

Do I agree with everything in the book – probably not.

After all I know how to run and have been running for over 40 years. My running form is pretty much ingrained (even if it does suck in my opinion), it needs to be more efficient and not beat up my old body as much as it does.

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Since I am basically starting over right now with my lowest mileage in years, it seems like a good time to hit the reset button and embrace Chi Running

We will see how it goes.

Who knows I might even try Tai Chi at some point, after all it is something that I have always wanted to do. 😉