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.
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
To 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.