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.

2011 and Beyond – My Running in the Future

I have written about my experiences as a runner in my 40 Years of Running Series and I can think of no better way to end this series than to look to the future.

Today is time to set goals related to running and look forward.

What are the biggest things that I want to begin to accomplish in 2012 or beyond?

First

That’s easy – just be able to run when I want to. 

No pain, major injuries and no minor ones that interfere with my running. That is the biggest thing I want to accomplish this year.

If I do that I will consider 2012 very successful indeed.

Second

Change and improve my running form.

Since mid December 2011, I have worked on improving my running form from this inefficient style to one that I keep my feet straight, use a mid-foot/forefoot strike, run tall, my arms at 90 degrees, not crossing the center line, with my thumbs on top, with a slight forward lean, while being relaxed. This is how I ran in the mid 80’s and unfortunately, over the years I lost that good form.

I have read Chi Running, watched PRS Videos (easy running), looked at the Pose Method and am very interested in Barefoot/Natural Running as different examples of developing good running form. I know what I am looking for in my form and probably could figure it out myself, but I want to see/read other people’s theories and practices to see if they can help me improve what I do.

For far too long, I forgot to look at what others are doing. I can save a lot time and wasted effort i.e. stop trying to re-invent the wheel and use the knowledge that others have already learned to make it easier for me to improve. That is why I have started reading running books and blogs so much. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, that is available to us, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Third

Re-engage in the social aspect of running.

What do I mean by that?

Since 1987, I have basically been an individual runner who isolated himself from runners. I just ran without communicating or talking very much with other runners (except to go to a running store once in a while or if someone ran that I worked with we would talk running). When I was doing what I now call isolation running, I didn’t have a support network of runners around me when things were not going well or I was an injured, there were not others who understood what I was going through, which would have definitely helped in a lot of situations.

In November I began to start participating in the online running communities via Twitter and Google+, these efforts have led to an increased involvement in the running communities and making contact with so many other great people, who just happen to be runnahs too. I had forgotten how supportive the running community was/is and want to stay an active part of this community for a long time.

I want to find a local running group or club to go beyond just the online support system that I am developing. Really I think this is the part that I miss the most is being able to run with someone beyond TheWife and enjoy their company and the friendships that develop out of the shared running.

Fourth

Also I want to continue to grow the  “A Veteran Runnah” blog/brand. To be blunt, see if I can make any extra money from writing “heah”.  An additional stream of funds would be a welcome addition to our fixed income.

This is very intriguing to me – to see what happens. I strongly believe and think that being selected a FitFluential Ambassador will be a big help in this respect and give me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.

It would be nice if Veteran Runnah could grow to help support some of my running habit. This may never happen, but I need to try to see what will happen.

Time will tell on this one. 🙂

What would be perfect if a small Running Store opened up in the local area and I could get a job there part-time (but then I would really be broke all the time).

However, I am not going to become one of those spammy blogs or bloggers who uses every opportunity to sell or push something onto my readers. I don’t like those blogs and will not put “A Veteran Runnah” into that category.

Fifth

I want to start racing again and not just virtually.

I want to line up at the starting line and compete with real people, while I may not be very competitive in my age group or overall.  I just feel the need to challenge myself beyond just going out my front door and start running – for the first time in a long time.

It goes back to the social part of running and when you race, you share in the comradiere before, during and after the race is over. Share a beer or two, swap a few lies, but most of all make friends with people who share your passion – running.

Unfortunately, with the cost of race fees, I may have to go back to work in order run some of these races. The entry fees are just slightly intimidating to someone on a fixed budget.

Anyone want to sponsor a slow, old guy, who writes a lot?

Hehehehe yeah right. But if you do use the contact me button. I will be sure to get back to you. 😉

The reality is that

that while these can be measured – they are much more holistic goals and are meant to be for 2012 and beyond. They also give me a lot of flexibility to move forward and change as needed to keep moving forward.

2012 Goals

What are my measurable goals for 2012?

  • Run at least a total of 1,200 miles in 2012
  • Run at least 330 days in 2102
  • Run a 5K sub 20:00 minutes sometime after 8/6/12 (this is my pie-in-the-sky goal)
  • Weigh less than 155 pounds on my 55th birthday (I weighed in at 172 today)
  • Run at least 4 races in 2012
  • Join a local running club in 2012

Those are my measurable annual goals. While I could include smaller interim goals that would help me have little successes or checkpoints along the way, that would make this look way too much like an IEP. Which bring back too many memories of when I was a Special Education Teacher. These goals just don’t have all the excess legalese and verbage.

2012

2012 has the potential to a great year for running and with the running community’s (local and online) help, along with the support of TheWife – it will be.

Now its time for my 5 miler to Notta Road. Where did I put those damn running shoes, oh damn why is there mud everywhere (TheWife is going to have a hissy), ah here they are. Darn I never cleaned the mud off them after the other day’s mud run, what other shoes should I run in? Ah hell I’ll just knock the mud off of them outside and put them on the step, the mud will be gone by the time I get back :-).

Thank you everyone for a great 2011 and even more for the opportunity to get to know you better in 2012.

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 .

Running Gifts – What did you get?

Christmas is now a memory, but hopefully it was lots of good memories! Many of us are sleeping off food induced comas, perhaps a bit too much of the grain or vine and some are even back at work today.  However, many of us are off this week and will be gearing up our running, looking back at the year and setting goals for next year.

One more post on “What did you get for Christmas?” Then I will move on to the other things.

Those of us who run, probably hinted asked, suggested or even helped others pick out presents for our running selves. Those things that we wouldn’t buy for ourselves usually, but that as long as someone else needs to get us a present, it might as well have something that we have eyed, but just never pulled the trigger.

What kind of neat things did you get that you suggested or “begged” that others get for you yesterday? Which gifts were totally unexpected but “way cool”?

I know that I did that kind of stuff before Christmas this year and even though we agreed before hand to really cut back on what kinds of stuff, we would buy, I did get some really great stuff related to running.

The picture above is my new Brooks Running hat to replace my old one that has seen better years and was starting to get a bit tattered and permanently dirty (no matter how many times I throw it in the washer the grunge is so bad it is part of the fabric ;-). I think it has become better known around the neighborhood as that crazy old guy in the bright green hat. But they can’t say they didn’t see me before they hit me.  I let it be known that I was interested in getting a new one.

Three books that I got related to running.

I suggested buying “Chi Running” to TheWife, because after going to the website and reading the reviews they indicated that if I followed the practice of ChiRunning that it might help me with improving my form, which definitely needs work. I have started to read it and just got to Chapter 4, we will see how it goes. The idea of running with fewer injuries is something that I really want to work on this year.

The hard copy runner’s log is something that I haven’t used in a long time and probably wouldn’t have gotten one for myself, since I have been using a combination of Google Spreadsheet, Dailymile and this blog to log my running. However, I will leave it on the table and fill it out every day, who knows maybe it will help to keep me more consistent, or if we lose power this winter for any significant amount of time, I won’t have to find a scrap of paper to log my runs.

“Running Past 50” – Well I am past 50 and originally I ordered it to see what advice they had for over 50-year-old runners. When the shipment arrived, it got sucked into the Christmas present vortex and yes I got a few smart-ass comments when I opened it up. Nothing overly serious, just smart-ass – not that I would ever be that way back to anyone.

These are things that I got related directly to running, how about you – any surprises.