Instructor of the Month
DAVID WILBURN, NY
David is a Certified Senior ChiRunning & ChiWalking Instructor teaching in New York City and Tokyo. With training in both running and Tai Chi, David has a unique blend of skills that allow him to teach ChiRunning & ChiWalking from the inside out.
Q&A with David....
Tell us a little about you. Where you live, what your background is. What you do in addition to being a Certified Instructor.
I live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn with my wife and 16 month old daughter. I am a lighting designer at the Rubin Museum of Art during my day job. As a designer, ChiRunning and ChiWalking make since to me because it works with the design of the human body and in harmony with the design of the natural world. As a lighting designer mindful observation is essential to what I do so a mindful approach to fitness is appealing to me.
How did you start running?
I was working a desk job at a design firm and became overweight and unhealthy due to the sedentary job. We had recently moved near a park so I wanted to get in shape. I wanted to ride a bike because I knew running was so bad for your knees (my uncle was a marathon runner during the running boom of the seventies and had sulfured some injuries) but bikes were so expensive so I bought a pair of running shoes. I did an Internet search on injury free running for the best way to run without damaging your body and found the first ChiRunning book which had just been published. When Danny came to NYC for the first workshop I signed up. I had studied a little Tia Chi and meditation so it was an instant fit for me.
When and how did ChiRunning come into your life? (The short story.)
The strange thing is I hated running. I played soccer and rugby in school and the worst part for me was always the warm-up laps before practice. I could sprint pretty fast and loved to run fast but could not run far or long because I would get agonizing shin splints. I had always assumed this was just part of my body structure and I was not built to run long distance. The notion that I would ever run a marathon or even a half marathon was not even in the cards for me. When I found ChiRunning it made since to me. I could feel that it was different and now, so many years later I have never had one single shin splint or even tightness or a single leg cramp. It still boggles my mind.
In what ways has Chi changed your perception of and success in running?
For me all I knew was ChiRunning and this way of running. Because I started from scratch with it I did not have a lot of bad (running) habits to break. However, because I started running overweight (I have lost over 65 pounds since I began running) I have had to address a lot of habits around body image and self-confidence. ChiRunning has helped me immensely in these areas. With a mindful approach I am able to be patient with myself and understand that the big picture is what is most important although it is still a daily struggle for me. This kind of perspective change-away from a negative way of seeing things and towards a positive way of seeing them has been instrumental in my recovery and that for me is success in running and life.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?
The single biggest misconception I see of ChiRunning is that it will fix your running problems-the notion that it is a quick fix for your running ills. This is a tricky misconception because it is half true. If you are a runner or walker and you are experiencing pain or injury it is highly likely that you will experience immediate relief after taking a workshop or class. You will come away with no more shin splints, IT band tightness or leg cramps for example. While this may be the case, the most important thing is that you continue to use the focuses of ChiRunning and ChiWalking to ingrain positive habits and soak them into your core. We refer to this as Gradual Progress and it can be very difficult for folks today, especially “type A” athletes to grasp. If you can understand how to apply gradual progress you will be unstoppable in pursuit of your goals-in this sense it is very much like a martial art, you have to practice often.
What motivates you to run?
This is so hard to answer. I should have a quick answer to this, I know. I moved to NYC two weeks before 9/11. After that experience I was really in a bad way, much more so than I realized at the time. I just felt so powerless. One day later on I came across the expression "Être fort pour être utile” by Georges Hébert. It translates to something like “Be strong so that you may be useful”. I like to think that it has a much deeper meaning that extends too being able to be present in the moment in the most useful way and being strong enough to be able to do that. This is my motivation to be as fit as I can be and as healthy as I can be and if you boiled down all the other answers I could give they would come down to this: I run to be useful to myself, my family and others.
What achievements are you most proud of?
16 months ago I would’ve said running in the New York City Marathon or two Ironman Triathlons, but then my daughter was born. Having the honor of being her dad is an achievement for which I am most proud and grateful. Everything else is training for that.
What led you to become an instructor?
Initially it was quite selfish, as I simply wanted to deepen my own practice and learn more about ChiRunning. Eventually, I was able to assist so many great teachers and instructors and see so many people improve their running and walking that I wanted to teach others.
Why do you enjoy being an instructor, and how has it affected your life?
I enjoy seeing people reconnect with why they wanted to run or walk in the first place and what it feels like to move with the flow of gravity, to run like my daughter-without limits.
What does your average week look like, run-wise?
I have been mostly concentrating on form focuses and bringing one or two of these into my practice. I am also training for a triathlon so I try to get 2-3 runs in during the week and a long run on the weekend. Lately, I have been focusing on riding my bike for a 20 mins. before I run and interval work which is new to me, especially this early in the season.
What other forms of exercise do you practice to compliment ChiRunning?
Tai chi first and foremost. It is very helpful. I began assisting a Master Instructor several years ago at Tri-Mania Triathlon Expo and met so many Triathletes there, so many great people and became interested in triathlon. I was not comfortable with the idea of teaching them ChiRunning if I had never swam or biked before running so I committed to doing a triathlon at every distance within a year. That was a really stupid thing to do but it culminated in me finishing IRONMAN Mt. Tremblant. I was hoping I would dislike cycling and go back to running but unfortunately I love cycling, swimming and running and the combination and all that entails is even better. There is nothing like it!
Advice for people new to Chi Running?
I would say commit to allowing yourself time to understand what is going on with your running. Leave the ear buds at home, take a break from the treadmill and undertake a study of what you are experiencing with every step you take, what are you feeling? Allowing your self to go through this process will do more for your running than anything else. Be strong enough and disciplined enough to let your ego take a break and objectively inventory where you are at this moment.
Short answer! Okay, GO.
Favorite race you’ve run and why: IRONMAN Chattanooga-It is my hometown!
Most memorable race: Probably my first IRONMAN Triathlon in Mt. Tremblant. It was a long day and went well into the night. I have never experienced anything like that in terms of testing myself and pushing my limits.
Ideal weather for running: I like the Fall in NYC the best. Running with leaves changing color and crisp Fall air.
Focus that currently dominates your running: Running tall!
Favorite place to run: I think it will always be The Central Park in New York City. I swear I saw a Turkey there once. A real live turkey! If you are bored running there then you should have your pulse checked.
Go-to before race food: Anything that is whole food and plant based. Dates and Japanese Sweet Potatoes are my current favorites.
Celebratory food after: Buckwheat Pancakes!
Upcoming race/goal: I have signed up for the PEASANTMAN Steel Distance Tri this year. Then I will be looking to return to IRONMAN Chattanooga. My goal is to steadily improve my long course time!
Run with or without phone/music: I want to be as fully present as I can when I run so for me it is almost always without music.
Repeat on your playlist: Sirens, dump trucks and car horns.
Fill in the blank.
If I didn’t run I would think about running way too much.
I can’t run without gratitude.
My first race was New York City Marathon and I understood why people run marathons.
My current favorite shoe to run in is Altra 3-Sum.
My most difficult run ever was Jacksonville Marathon-Florida in December is only for Floridians and alligators.
I’ve ran _5 marathons/races.
The longest distance I’ve ran 26.2 miles…after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 114 miles. Where? IRONMAN Chattanooga 2014.