In this follow up article to Chi Running Hills & Trails, I want to share The TOP 10 Things I Think You Should Know About Chi Running…That They Don’t Tell You! This list could actually apply to any running technique that’s a good form or natural technique, but I chose Chi Running because I believe it has the very best support materials like books, DVDs, forums, blog and newsletters to help you succeed. No one has done a better job of packaging their instructional materials than Chi Running.
So, where do I start? Seriously, it’s been just over six weeks since I first wrote about Chi Running Hills & Trails. As I told you then I had finally come to grips with the fact I needed to make some drastic changes in my running form and posture. So how am I doing? I “think” I’m doing ok but since there’s no way to set a time table on progress I really can’t tell if I’m on schedule to become better, behind schedule or just fooling myself that it’s even possible. I have an idea where I’m at and will share that later in this article, but the real test will be coming up soon when the Fall race season begins here in Arizona.
The TOP 10 Things I Think You Should Know About Chi Running…That They Don’t Tell You!
*Disclaimer: I am NOT a trained Chi Running coach. Below are nothing more than my experiences with attempting to self-coach and learn Chi Running. If I mention something below that contradicts what you’ve understood from reading the Chi Running book, watching the DVDs or working with a Chi Running Certified Coach I would suggest you listen to them first or at least investigate on your own to determine if you understood them correctly.
- If you have to think about it, it isn’t as much fun. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, it just means what used to be a relaxing run on the trails now feels like work when I’m constantly checking my posture, my form, foot strike, elbows, etc. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just that you shouldn’t expect instant success.
- Be prepared to take one step back. Just the simple fact you are thinking about what to do with your feet, how long your stride is, if your cadence is fast enough, on and on takes your mind off actually running fast and tightens up your muscles. Do you golf? Shoot hoops? If you have to tell yourself “take the club back slow and smooth, stop at the horizontal position, drive with your hips, keep your head behind the ball at impact, follow through in a big arch” you might as well plan on whiffing the ball or missing the fairway by 50 yards. Same goes for shooting a basketball, “ball on the finger tips, elbow straight, eye on the rim, follow through”…air ball! Just like those examples Chi Running is meant to be practiced during training sessions, so when you really want it to count you can free your mind of mechanical thoughts and focus on other non-form related items.
- Take a break away from practicing Chi Running. Not like a month or year, that would be quitting. I mean more like once or twice a week. After 4 weeks of “practicing” Chi Running during every run (the entire run or parts of it) I found myself getting slower and slower. Some I attributed to summer heat just dragging on too long, some I attributed to multiple 90+ mile weeks back to back wearing me down and a lot I contributed to constantly thinking about how to actually run (see #2 above). With no intention at all one morning I decided to run an old route that I used to run last summer but got bored with it. Wondering how much slower I was getting I strapped on my rarely used Garmin and took off. I quickly got caught up in the trail itself and trying to maximize my effort that I completely forgot about my stride, form and posture. At the end of my 8 mile run I felt great and quickly realized it might have been a PR on that loop for me. When I got home and compared the Garmin stats to past runs on the same loop I discovered that each of the 1 mile splits was faster than my best previous time. The closest split time was 15 seconds faster, the best split time was 29 seconds faster. Was it from Chi Running, I can’t say yes for sure but the temperatures were still the same hot Arizona temps I’d been running in, my diet is the same, sleep as much the same as always and my miles were adding up the same that week as previous weeks, so you be the judge. I think it was benefits from Chi Running popping through. Now I routinely take at least one and often times two runs each week where I push Chi Running out of my head and just run.
- The metronome drives me crazy. But it’s useful. Maybe I was over doing it at first trying to run with it every day for the entire length of the run. But I did that because I noticed as soon as I turned it off a few minutes later I’d realize my cadence had slowed down, bringing back the dreaded heel strike. After a few weeks I started only using it once a week and now just count strides periodically during a run. If my cadence has dropped significantly I turn the metronome on for a mile to get my rhythm back.
- I know more about my body and more about running form after 6 weeks with Chi Running than 6 years without it! Two physical ailments, discomforts or pains have continued to plague me throughout my running years. Achilles pain and shoulder tension (to the point I can’t turn my head after a few miles). I can’t even guess at the number of internet searches I’ve done, books I’ve read, PTs and MD friends I’ve talked to but have never found anything to help. Through Chi Running I’ve solved both problems and know what I was doing wrong to aggravate both. If I get nothing else out of Chi Running that alone was worth 5 times the value of a book and DVD (or 10 times, or 20 times…). Now when I start to feel either problem on the trail I make a simple adjustment and within a few strides it goes away. If you continually suffer from the same running related ailment (whatever it might be) you might find the cure in a better running form and posture.
- Although Chi Running says it’s best learned on flat surfaces, like the road, do a few hills too. Oh boy, I’ll probably get in trouble for this one, and I don’t mean to tell you to learn Chi Running on hills but a few decent inclines taught me a lot. I don’t do roads so my first foray into Chi Running was barefoot on a football field. Obviously you can’t run very far so it was a mile of laps then put on the shoes for another mile then find a trail. I quickly noticed that small hills were a lot harder. Why? Because I didn’t have the proper lean and any gradual, or steep, incline felt like I had something hooked to my belt pulling me backward. That thing hooked to my belt was gravity! Once I realized what the problem was (it took a couple weeks to figure it out) I also realized I didn’t have enough forward lean on the flats or downhill either to let gravity pull me forward. Don’t forget, I was used to leaning back, over striding and pushing off hard to propel myself forward. Just getting straight up and down felt like a lean to me until I got to a hill and realized I still had further to lean before I was in correct form.
- Watch the video(s), read the book, practice, reread, practice, rewatch, practice, reread… You get the idea. I’ve found it enlightening to open the book each morning while I have my prerun coffee and read a small section. Incredibly there hasn’t been a day that I didn’t have a new understanding of something or get reminded of something I’d completely forgotten. It only takes 10 minutes but I think it’s one of the most important things I do to help me get better.
- Books, DVDs or Coaching? I had a friend tell me they signed up for a 2 hour Chi Running class put on by a local certified coach, this friend had never tried Chi Running before. At first I thought that was great but the more I got to thinking about it my personal preference would be to practice Chi Running as I am for 1-2 months, then see a coach. I think I would get a lot more out of the coaching session, hopefully they would only give me a few things to take away and work on instead of everything up front. There is a possibility that I’m self-coaching incorrectly and creating bad habits but unless I could see a coach weekly this would be my suggestion for any new Chi Running students.
- Make videos of yourself. I use a tripod and my digital camera, but if you’re unlike me and actually have a friend, it’s so easy in today’s world to take a few minutes during or after a run together and have a friend shoot a 20 second movie using your cell phone, thank them and put it in your pocket to view later at home. It’s amazing what you’ll see! You might see major improvement, you might say “WTF!!! I don’t feel like I’m doing that!”, or any number of other reactions. The point is seeing yourself run is a lot different than imagining what you look like and can be very beneficial to your progress.
- Read the Chi Running blog. http://www.chiliving.com/blog/ Don’t read it in place of reading Trail Running Club, read it in addition to TRC. There are a lot of good things on the Chi Running blog related to running form and posture. Reading the blog will help catch you up on what they’ve talked about in the past. Once you’re caught up simply read new posts when their newsletter comes out and you’ll still have plenty of time to read TRC at work instead of agonizing over those boring spreadsheets all afternoon.
So the big question is…is Chi Running helping? Yes, I think it really is. Don’t take that lightly because I’ve always been a skeptic but for some reason I’ve finally had that “AH HA!” moment and it all makes sense to me. I’ve also finally made the commitment to stick with it and really try to learn it.
In writing this blog post my goal is not to teach you how to do Chi Running, that’s Danny Dreyer’s job. My first goal is simply to pass along unbiased information, tips and ideas that you won’t find in the Chi Running books, DVDs and website. Secondly, if you’re not already practicing Chi Running to get you interested enough to start.
Do you have questions or comments about Chi Running or anything I’ve written here? Submit your comments below and I’ll try my best to address them.
To get more information on Chi Running, other Chi Running Training Programs and to purchase Chi Running products visit the Chi Running website at www.chiliving.com.