I have written about my struggle to run in a more gentle manner (click here to read that post). In my fight against knee pain, I discovered Chi Running. Chi Running mixes up Tai Chi with running to give the user a pain-free running experience. That’s the promise that the founder, Danny Dreyer, makes to devotees of the cause.
I recently took a one day course in Vancouver BC to learn how to “change the landscape of the sport of running and make running accessible and appealing.” What’s not to love about that promise?
One day of hypothermia and shock later, I’m questioning my initial delight but still excited about learning more. Never one to think things through fully, I embarked on my one day course after 7 days of modified cleansing (2 protein shakes, and 400 calorie meal daily). The coursework said that the workshop was appropriate for all levels and there would be some short-distance running. I downed my protein shake, took some almonds and an apple, and proceeded to sneak over the US/Canada border with my (gasp!) fresh fruit.
I knew I was in trouble when the runners were doing their introductions. There were three Iron Man racers and two runners trying to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon the next weekend. My introduction went along the lines of: “I run to stay sane and fit. And I don’t run over five miles. And I run really slowly.” The next gal was, “I work at the Running Room. And I’ve already qualified for Boston and I’m here to shave 10 minutes off my Marathon time.” And the gal after that was training for the Iron Man (which she had done multiple times). The introductions were equally impressive from there on out. There was even one guy there trying to break a sub 4 minute mile. I felt out of place and intimidated. But, my printed-out course material said “Appropriate for all levels,” so I sat patiently and waited to be instructed. After all, baby steps need to start someplace.
The morning passed without major incident. We learned how to pump our arms properly, we were taught to float lightly while running at a sprint and we tried the concept of a pelvic tilt. It was all very interesting. Keeping the main posture correct while moving faster than an elderly man in a walker will be a challenge.
After a healthy lunch and a rousing discussion about nutrition and shoe choices, we did some easy running in the gym. And that’s where the trouble started. We were all heavy footed clogs. As a group, we sounded like a thundering herd of wildebeests. The teacher started lamenting the lack of a sandpit to examine the depth of our footprint. The sub-4-minute mile guy piped up and said that there was a sandpit “close by.” And off the class went to find this sandpit.
Unfortunately, the “close by” ended up being a little over a mile and a half away. With all the ultra marathoners and iron men and women, the 1.5 mile “close by” ended up a very fast sprint. The weather was not cooperating. While not a monsoon, it was raining and cold. Having dressed for inside running, I was not dressed appropriately (see my comment from above regarding not thinking things through very well). Despite the sprint, I cooled off far too quickly as I waited for my turn at the sandpit.
The sandpit was underwhelming. It told me that my feet sink in sand and that I have a long way to go until I float lightly on my feet. I felt certain of both of these facts long before the sprint in the rain.
The special time outside was not over however. We next did hill practice. Hill practice is what it sounds like – running up and down hills. It was still raining. There was light grumbling by the wet, bedraggled novices but the iron men and women were more than fine. They were downright chipper. Whatever drugs they take, I needed some.
We finished with a fast 1.5 mile run back to the gym. My back ached. My legs felt like lead. I was wet, cold and had a 2 hour drive ahead of me.
It is a testament to the power of Chi Running that despite being cold, wet, hungry and embarrassed at my slothful pace, I still want to perfect the Chi Running technique. It’s clear after just one day of using a more proper, mindful posture that I could easily run for longer distances and have less pain. I also understand why there is a ‘no iPod’ ethos with Chi Runners. With all the internal monologue that needs to go on to maintain posture, concentration is paramount. An iPod would distract and hinder full focus.
I am going to try a short Chi Run tonight. Wish my knees luck and soft landings!