It's all in the lean.

This morning I had the opportunity to attend a ChiRunning/Walking workshop. It was up north, dontchya know, in the Twin Cities. The one to the right if you are approaching from the south. Therefore, with the snowfall from the evening previous, the hubster suggested I give myself an hour…which I did. And I got there 20 minutes early. No worries! I’ll just sit in my warm car and Facebook on my iPhone.

It was rather brisk this morning, and I was informed we’d be doing a 2-ish mile run. So, I dressed in my UnderArmour Base II with an outer pair of leggings and long sleeved lined top, plus my Gap reflective wind-breaker. Not to mention a hat and gloves.

There were about a dozen attendees. All different ages, all different experiences, all different stories. Even though I didn’t speak to many of them on a one to one level, it is always nice to gather with a small group of folks who share your interests. This was no different.

The speaker at the workshop is a Chi-Running certified instructor. Just observing the build on this man tells you immediately that he is a runner…lean. Very cool. And he can carry on a conversation while running. Super cool. We did some warm up exercises, some of which I don’t remember seeing in the book. And Chris filled us in on some little facts about the art of Chi. Most of it I already knew from reading the book, but there are always a few tips to be learned here and there.

The run was dicey because of the newly fallen snow, and since we were already behind schedule, was cut short. But that was OK, because I did get to chew his ear a little about my personal concerns as a runner and I got some nifty advice. The biggest thing is that I need to go back to the metronome. I really enjoyed this training earlier this year, but I put it on the back burner and I’m not sure why. The theory behind ChiRunning is that your cadence really never changes. You run at around 180 BPM (beats per minute) no matter how fast or slow you are going. The difference occurs in the lean, and therefore the stride. The further you lean forward during the run, the longer your stride becomes and the faster you will travel. The more upright you stand, the shorter your stride becomes and the slower you travel. This, among other form checks, can help you to improve your run.

There is a great Chi-Running video on You-Tube that shows the marriages between cadence and speed. It is really quite interesting.

I purchased the Chi-Running book out of desperation to try and determine why I was so injury ridden this season. Clearly, I was doing something different this year as compared to last. And it took this book to pinpoint it. I was running straight up and down…like a bobber in the water. Therefore, my foot was striking ahead of my knee, allowing my heel to hit the ground first. This puts undue stress on your shins, calves, ankles, knees…you name it! Once I learned to hit with my foot directly below my knee, it all changed. And you can’t do this unless you lean.

I also have an upper body issue. My shoulders and neck get tense during and after runs. I find that near the end of a long run, I’m looking down. This puts stress on the neck and shoulders, and breaks up the breathing pattern. Clearly, you can’t get enough oxygen if your head is bent forward, or if your chin is too high up. Instead of looking with your head, you have to learn to look with your eyes. Keep your head where it is and move your eyes! Seems simple, right? Well, it is, actually.

An exercise that Chris suggested we do is to find a mile long shallow decline. Run it practicing the lean and your form checks, and see how fast you can move. We have the perfect hill for this on one of my regular routes. So today I tried it. When I finished the mile, the little voice in my ear said my pace at that 5.5 mile mark was 7:15. I wasn’t even winded! Sweet!

He also suggested we run in some fresh snow to determine our foot strike. I recorded some foot prints after I was done running today. I’m not sure what I’m looking at, but it appears to be fairly uniform. I think I may see a little toe push, too. I will work on correcting this. But I don’t see any glaring heel strike.

I would have liked to have had more time with Chris one on one. I’m looking forward to more workshops, but in the meantime, I picked up enough bits and pieces to get me through some winter training.  I also would have like to have practiced more today. But I know my limits, and had to call it after almost 7 miles. That, on top of the two I jogged this morning made for a great workout day. Good thing, because it will be tough to get on the road for a while.

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