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.

Is Aging Really All That Bad

Yeah, my 57th birthday is this week and while it isn’t one of those milestone years – it does mean that I am that much closer to being 60 than 50.

Sure on my birthday I will enjoy the attention, presents (more running stuff), gift cardss (even more running stuff), a chance to carb load (cake, ice cream, etc.) and everything else that goes along with aging another year.

However, it ain’t all peaches and cream.

Getting older after a certain age no matter how you look at it – sucks…

aging changes your life and what you can do.

Although aging/getting older sure as hell is better than being dead, getting old is not always easy or for wimps.

This is not a post where I whine, piss, moan and groan about the vagaries of getting old (oh I might a little) – I am just going to talk about the realities of some things I have experienced as a result of my aging. Hopefully, you chuckle or nod your head along the way.

Affects of Aging

At some point in everyone’s life getting older does not mean you are getting better, it means this:

Affects of Aging Mind Map
Affects of Aging Mind Map

Yep, a frigging mind map – believe it or not, this is how I think.

Lots of things all convoluted around one central thought and if I don’t put it in something I can visualize, I go off on tangents and down more than a few rabbit holes.

Oh yea – getting back to Aging and getting older – see what I mean, my focus is easily changed, distracted, but that doesn’t have a lot to do with aging, that has more to do with how I have always been. Continue reading “Is Aging Really All That Bad”

Dreams Do Come True

NY Photo 1Today I’m very excited to announce that I will be partnering with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as a contributor to their new Real Health website and blog.

I will be publishing blog posts and vlogs (yes I will be doing video blogs too) to Real Health, every Tuesday. That means my first post titled, Unfinished Business – Part 1, will be published tomorrow and I hope everyone takes the time to read it.

I bet you can’t tell that I am pretty darn excited about all of this – can you! Open-mouthed smile

Introducing Real Health

Below is a video of the Real Health Contributors talking about our health goals on the first day that we met.

As part of becoming a Real Health Contributor, along with the others, I will get to share my personal commitment to good health and progress towards my current fitness goal – to run the Marine Corps Marathon and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

My First Real Health Video

Check out my first video and let me know what you think or what you’d like to see more of from me and/or the rest of the Real Health team.

My Real Health contributor’s page is http://bit.ly/hshawjr and there you can read my bio, current or past posts, subscribe to my posts at Real Health, link to the other contributor’s pages and the Real Health Homepage.

Important Links:

The reality is

I know that finding the time or the motivation to be healthy can be a challenge. Hopefully, as you read my story and the other Real Health Contributor’s stories, that they help motivate you to choose your own health and fitness goals too!

I hope you will enjoy the Real Health site and blog, as much as I am going to enjoy contributing to it.

Yes this is the project that has taken up so much of my time lately, why I went to New York City and the reason I haven’t been on social media sites as much as I have been in the past. As I get used to my new schedule of writing and doing video blogs, I will get back to being active on my social media sites again.

Yes dreams do come true, but usually only when you have done a lot of work to make them a reality Smile.

Saturday Was a Whirlwind Day!!!

P8250031I started to write this post on Saturday night, but by the time I got back to the hotel after 9:00 P.M. (the day started before 8:00 A.M.), I was pretty well exhausted.

All I did was open my email and then shut off the computer. Heck I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to watch the Red Sox game, which I really wanted to watch.

I am finally getting back to finishing this post a couple of days later. It seems as though I have just been on screech, since last Tuesday and it is going to be more of the same for a while!!!

To be honest I felt more tired Saturday night, than when I ran 14 miles in Central Park on Friday night, after flying down from Maine. It has been a long since I have had to be “on” like this and it was tiring.

I know – I must be getting old! Those days of being able to work all day, party until 4:00 A.M., hit the sack for a couple of hours and go to work at 7:00A.M. are over.

Oh well, I left life in the fast lane a long time ago Smile.

What a whirlwind day!

All I can say is that last Saturday was an absolute whirlwind day. I was in New York City working on project that I can’t really talk about just yet, but I believe it will be pretty amazing and begins on September 17th. I know that I am very excited about it and I see so many great things that can come out of it.

Great People

The biggest thing I did that day, was meet some really fantastic people, who are really invested in seeing this project being very successful and they worked hard to make a country boy from Maine, feel as comfortable as possible in New York City.

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I just am not crazy about big cities with lots of people around and all the traffic, but you know something, I had a great time while I was there. However, I definitely suffered from sticker shock!!! Everything was so damn expensive down there.

I also got to meet all the other people on the team, that I will be working with and was very impressed with them and the strengths they bring to the table. I foresee a lot of good, no great things coming from this team.

Comfort Zone

I also did things that I have never done before and were way outside of my comfort zone (but in a great way).

One of the things was to be filmed professionally. I am very proud to say that I didn’t step all over my tongue or freeze up when the bright lights were on me. I am not all that comfortable with being in front of a camera, especially when there are others around “watching” to see how well I would do.

So this was WAY out of my comfort zone, but you know something it wasn’t that bad, once I got by the initial “shock” of what I was doing.

The best part – The camera didn’t break when they turned it on me Winking smile and no I didn’t break a leg either.

The reality is that

I had fun in New York City, learned a lot and met so many GREAT people this weekend. I came away with a smile on my face and a sense of confidence about this upcoming project and myself as a blogger, that wasn’t there before.

Stay tuned for September 17th, when I can tell you more about this project and what it means to me Smile.

On Turning 55

P8060002Today I turn 55 and I have dreaded this birthday more than I have any other!

However, now that it is here it is really not a big deal.

The world didn’t end, my body didn’t fall totally apart. The number itself is just that a number and it sure as hell beats the alternative – dead. So I have had a great day so far, by going for a 3.5 mile hike over at Messalonskee Stream Trail, with Mary and Bennie. Relaxing around the house and writing this post.

I have also been humbled by the number of happy birthday wishes from everyone today.

Someone asked me – What are the biggest things that have I learned in the last 55 years?

1. Don’t dwell on the past

harold%2520graduation%2520picture%25201You can’t change a damn thing you have done in your life. Which means we all have a choice to look back and:

  • fondly recall the memories
  • learn from our mistakes
  • or be totally miserable about things that are over and done and can’t be changed

I have many great memories that I want to recall (one of the reasons why we take so many pictures), to help jog my memory about the good and bad times.

Unfortunately, because I am human I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, done things I am not all that proud of and hurt people as a result of things I have said or done, but I have learned from those mistakes and don’t plan to repeat them.

The one thing I cannot and will not do is live in the past, it is over and can not be changed, so I have to move on and be the best person I can be today. That means letting go of those mistakes I have made, looking forward to living the best that I can, but mostly enjoying the moment I am in as much as I can.

2. Be Happy

P8010012This was the toughest thing for me to learn, is to be happy.

There is always that little voice inside of us, saying all the negative stuff and critical things that it knows about our self and there are far too many people who are so unhappy with their lives, that it seems their goal in life is to make others unhappy.

When you learn to have more self-confidence and that you don’t need negative people around you, suddenly things don’t always seem so difficult.

When we are younger, we all have these dreams of who we want to be and what we want to do. You remember, how we were going to change the world for it to be a better place! The idealism of our youth.

Often in the reality of our lives, we don’t achieve those dreams and we look upon our life as a failure, just because we didn’t achieve those dreams or change the world.

Sorry that to me is a bunch of bullshit.

Okay, I didn’t become an astronaut, professional basketball player, become obscenely wealthy, invent the next great whatever or earn an Olympic Medal in a running event – does this mean my life was a failure?

Of course not!

I have a modest, but fulfilling life doing things today, that I could only have dreamed of not so long ago, but it is much different than I would have thought it would be 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

It does mean that I have accepted a more realistic version of how my life has turned out, based on the choices I have made and have become happy with who I am now.

I may not be able to change the world, but I can work on a little piece of it and make a small difference to that piece.

3. Be Healthy

217924_466592006692298_1499769640_nAfter several years of yo-yo weight gain/loss, inconsistently consistent workouts, stressful jobs that took a piece of my heart and soul to perform at the level I expect of myself, all exacted a pretty terrible toll on my health that culminated in last year’s very unhealthy version of me.

Weighing around 200 pounds last summer and all the assorted ailments that come along with being obese, made me decide to take charge of my own health.

This was something that I needed to do – instead of relying on others to suggest, recommend or “order” what I needed to do, what pills to take or how they expected me to look/feel/be, in order to be their version of healthy.

Once that decision was made it was a lot easier to decide to make healthier choices:

  • You are what you eat – can’t say it any other way
  • Getting my ass off the couch and get moving more – a lot more
  • Who I want to be a part of my life – get rid of the negativity
  • Live more simply – decided what do I really need to be happy and healthy in today’s world

As a result of my conscious decisions to make lifestyle changes, my physical and mental health are now better at 55 than they have ever been in my life and that to me is a major part of being happy.

The reality is that

I have learned after 55 years on this planet that there are no secrets or shortcuts to living a happy and healthy life. The truth is that it does take time, effort and knowing that you are responsible for your life, happiness and perspective – no one else, just that person looking back at you in the mirror.

P8060010

Responsibility and Choices

Living is all about making choices in life and then taking responsibility for the choices we have made.

After all, my life – is my life, not someone else’s and I make the decisions about my life, based on the choices I have available to me, to do or not do things in my life, no one else.

Thankful

I am thankful that I have a fantastic family, friends and opportunities to improve myself professionally. I am comfortable with who I have become and don’t rely upon the opinions of others to validate who I am.

Yes I have a good life and thank you everyone who has been a part of it to this point.

It took a long time to get to this point – 55 years as a matter of fact Smile.

“Do not go Gentle into that Good Night”

In about three weeks I turn 55.

Which in today’s world is not that old, but it is the point where many start to believe that you are old, it is one of those multiple of 11 birth dates and I am eligible for senior citizen discounts in many places.

And to be honest, I am struggling with hitting the double-nickel age-wise more than a little. This birthday is tougher than either my fortieth or fiftieth birthdays – maybe that too is part of the aging process, especially when you refuse to age gracefully.

“Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” – Dylan Thomas

Truthfully I don’t want to get old, but I am getting there and it is a hell of a lot better than the alternative. This post is just part of the process that I am going through to wrap my head around this thing called aging and how it is affecting me physically and my perspectives on many things.

I will try to focus this to running, but I am sure that I will wander every so often Smile.

Yes I am Slowing Down

In conversations on Twitter or when I read their blogs, I see what younger runners are doing in races or training and want to do those things too. Yet I am finding that I can’t. Which frustrates the hell out of me and much like me at their age, they don’t understand why I just can’t go out and hammer like they do, when I say that I can’t do something.

It isn’t that I can’t run or even that I can’t run fast, because I do okay for me and might even surprise many who are younger than me.

However, the problem is that when I run hard it takes longer for me to recover, sometimes a lot longer and when I push too hard without adequate recovery – I get injured. That is part of the aging process and just the way it is.

The other part is that my perceived effort is different today than it was when I was in my 20’s or 30’s. My old 6:00-7:00 minute perceived training pace, has changed to a 8:00 to 9:00 minute pace. When I look down at my watch, I can’t believe how much slower it is, when I feel as though I am giving the same or more effort as when I was younger.

So my training is less efficient for faster running than it used to be, which means that I will not get as fast as I once was.

That is just reality – sorry but that is the way it works.

While I was no where near this level – ask guys like Rodgers, Salazar, Shorter  and all the other greats, who might still run fast for their age group, why they aren’t competing at the front of the pack – it comes down to one thing – their age.

Mental Mind Games

Oh we play the mental mind games of saying we are resetting our PR’s and talking about competing in “our” age groups, but in truth all that is a crock of crap. We all still remember what our actual PR’s are and still want to break them, even when there is no way in hell that we ever will.  Yes I enjoy competing with others in my age group, but hell yes I would like to still be able to compete in the open classes at local races – my old times would be doing nicely up here in some of the smaller local races.

Maybe I am just having a hard time letting go of “what used to be” and “how it was”. Sort of kind of maybe, but at the same time, I think that I have both of my feet planted very firmly in reality and am painfully aware of the limitations and advantages that go along with getting older.

The reality is that

at some point in the not to distant future, I will slow down even more, even though I will fight it every step of the way

That is why I changed my tagline to:

“Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” –
Dylan Thomas

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

This has always been one of my favorite poems and as I get older, I understand the meaning of the message much more clearly.

There ain’t a whole lot we can do to stop the aging process, all we can hope for it to keep it at bay or slow it down for a time, but it catches us all eventually. No I am not as young as I was, but I do know that I will not go quietly into that good night and will rage with all my might against the dying of the light.

However, it still sucks when you see pictures of yourself now, and the picture looks more like your father to you, than it does you ;-).

Turning 55 and a Race Registration

As part of my effort to race more, I went to the Doc and Mardie Brown 5K online race registration page this morning to pre-register for the August 11th race in Waterville.

Now my 55th birthday is a few days before this event and I didn’t realize how big of a difference this birthday would be for me Winking smile.

5K Race Sign-up 55

 

Does this mean that I officially become a senior citizen on my 55th birthday?

I guess having an AARP card and now that I am starting to get senior discounts at races means that I am starting to getting old?

The reality is that

Naw – I don’t feel any different than I did before I found out about this senior discount, I am still headstrong, to damn independent and full of it (whatever it is). Who knows maybe when I actually turn double-nickel in a month, everything will change – but you know I doubt it.

The good part is that I get to save $5.00, because I really don’t feel any older, but boy it was a bit of a blow to realize that I am now “officially” in some people’s eye’s a “Senior”.

It did make me stop and go WHAT!!!

Hmmm saying senior discount and having it apply to me, just seems – well weird, since I really don’t feel like I fit the stereotypical image of a “senior”.

What do you think?