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.