I'm about a week into my ChiRunning adventure and I'm liking it very much. It seems to be all I talk about these days: posture, mid-foot strike, swivel hips. I'm preaching the gospel of Chi! (Actually, I'm just thrilled to be running again on a regular, if painfully slow, basis.) After 45 years of running on my heels, I feel sort of reborn. A mid-life re-birth of running.
The basic idea of ChiRunning, meticulously detailed in Danny Dreyer's book and oft repeated by yours truly in and around Mystic, CT is this: stand up straight with a long neck and neutral pelvis (held in check by your lower abdominals), lean slightly from your ankles keeping your "column" nice and straight (huge challenge for me), let your feet and legs relax (again, almost foreign) and break your fall with a soft midfoot stride. The idea is to let gravity do the work. The midfoot stride eliminates the "braking" process of the heel strike. You simply lift your foot and put it back down a little further down the road. Effortless! Simple!
The book has ten lessons to work through before you start adding distance or speed. A major tenant of the ChiRunning philosophy (not a cult, not a cult) is the idea of Gradual Progress. Because of my injuries, Gradual Progress is just what I need. Because of my obsessive running personality, Gradual Progress is difficult for me to embrace. You see the problem. I'm working on it.
I have spent almost a week on Lesson 1: Posture. My posture is terrible. I'm well on my way to becoming a bent over old lady. So this is good for me. Holding myself up straight takes a tremendous amount of concentration. It's borderline frightening how many times each minute I have to remind myself to pull my pelvis straight and lengthen my neck. And as soon as I do that, I start to heel strike again, then I forget to relax my lower legs, and by the time I've fixed my feet, my butt is sticking out well behind me. Pull the pelvis back in. Woops! the feet. Long neck. Heel strike. No!! Midfoot. Butt back under.......etc, etc.
After 45 minutes of this at something like a 12 minute pace, I'm exhausted.
But I am making progress. Each run feel a little teeny bit more natural. My foot and knee don't hurt at all while I'm "running." Every once in a while, for very small intervals, I get that effortless feeling, like my legs are just along for the ride, that Danny Dreyer promises me will in time become more of the norm. Though even he admits that he still has to think about this stuff while he's running.
It's a practice. Like yoga or something. Almost a meditation. I like it.
There's one exercise in the book you can do with a friend. Stand in your regular, everyday posture and have a friend pull down on your shoulders from behind. If your everyday posture is anything like mine, you'll slump like a ragdoll. Then get into proper ChiRunning posture (long neck, straight pelvis, neutral feet), and when your friend tries to pull you down you'll stand solid as a statue. It really works! I have been doing it to people at the gym, Other Mothers at birthday parties, friends and family. It's all I can do not to stop people in the grocery store and teach them how to stand properly.
I like how all of this fits into my everyday life. I practice my posture all day long. I run in place a little bit to try to figure out the ins and outs of the "lean," which still somewhat eludes me. I try to walk like a supermodel to get the swivel hips part of the run down. (Your supposed to swing your hips from the middle of your back to alleviate pressure on your hip flexors). I'm quite a sight to see, you can imagine.
I still can't tell if this is just a chapter in my running life, or if this will define the rest of my career. For now, it doesn't matter. I'm outside again, sort of running pain free, and I'm excited about it. Can't ask for anything more than that.