Chi Running for Beginners
Whether you're just starting to run, or coming back from an injury or a long break from running, you might feel a mixture of excitement, anxiety and anticipation going through your body. Once you’ve decided to get in shape and reclaim your health, you have a real sense of purpose. ”I’m going to do this. I’m going to get myself out there and run three or four times a week!” The sense that I get from many beginning runners is one of determination and purpose ... combined with some fear.
Many of the fears that come up have familiar voices, like:
- “I’m too out of shape. I get winded running down the block.”
- “Why the heck am I planning on running? Everyone knows you shouldn’t run after your 40. I’ll ruin my knees.”
- “Running is just too hard.”
- “I’m too old to start running.”
- “I’ve heard running can even ruin your eyesight.”
- “People who run all seem like fanatics.”
You can put your fears to rest by knowing that for most people, running is a safe and effective way to get fit at any age.* Humans are meant to run. We’re built for it. And, when you learn to run with good running form combined with a sensible program, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury. It doesn't have to be hard to get started, but it is wise to have a plan.
Many, many beginners have had great results with our ChiWalk-Run DVD & program. The walk breaks make it easy to build endurance, and as your walk breaks get shorter and the time you spend running increases, your confidence and motivation will grow after every workout. The best way to get into a good habit with your fitness is to set aside a half hour of time for your program and block it out in your appointment calendar, just as you would any other important event. By practicing good running form every other day, you will get a clear body memory of what you’re learning. If you wait too long between practice sessions, your body will forget and need to be retrained.
To get yourself comfortable with the concepts, I highly recommend reading the ChiRunning book and watching the DVD before you get started. At first, it might seem like a lot to remember, so here we’ll break it down into a Getting Started Program, spread out over three weeks.
Practice one new lesson from the DVD each week. Feel free to take two weeks per lesson if that's better for you. This is about taking your time to learn to run safely and joyfully.
One last tip: when you're beginning a running program, run for minutes, not miles. Adding two more minutes to a workout is much easier than adding two more miles, and this gradual increase is much better for your long-term aerobic conditioning.
Lesson One: Get Started in a Simple Way by Practicing Posture
For everyone…beginners, seasoned competitors, everyone, the most important element of running to work on is your posture.
Watch the DVD and practice along with Lesson One: Posture Alignment (or read pages 63-70 in the book) in your living room. The most important piece of this lesson is to memorize how the One-legged Posture Stance feels. Notice the difference when your pelvis is level and when it’s not. Practice all of Lesson One at least two or three times before you go out running for the first time.
When you’re ready to go out for your first run, focus on one thing ... feeling that one-legged posture stance. Before you start to run, practice getting your posture aligned (as explained in Lesson One) and practice your one-legged posture stance. Move from one foot to the other, feeling the straight line from your head to your toe. Really FEEL it in your body.
Then, as you start running, the first thing you should do is ... pretend you're not running. That's right. Instead, just imagine that every time your foot hits the ground, you're doing a one-legged posture stance.
The first time you head out for a run, you'll be taking TINY, tiny steps ... not really running, but moving forward doing one one-legged posture stances after another. Every time your foot lands, your weight is supported by that foot, and you are in a one-legged posture stance. Just go for as long as you're comfortable, whether it's 30 seconds or five minutes. If you feel yourself being out of breath or not keeping your focus, stop and walk until your breath recovers. Then, check in with your posture alignment and begin doing your one-legged posture stances until you have to rest again.
The first time you go out you should practice this walk/run method for 10-15 minutes. If, at the end of this time, you feel you can handle more, wonderful! But, form comes first in ChiRunning, so only run for as long as you can keep your focus on the one-legged posture stance. Only increase your distance for as long as you can hold your running technique. As a new runner, you have the opportunity to learn good habits right from the start. So, take your time! You'll be able to run joyfully for a mile or 26 miles, when you're running safely and efficiently .
Practice your one-legged posture stance for one week, or until you can feel it every time your foot hits the ground. Do this every other day for a week.
Lesson Two: Engage Your Lean
The next phase of learning ChiRunning will be learning to engage your lean. Read pages 70-75 of the book and practice the lean in your living room along with the DVD.
One of your half hour workout sessions can be devoted to doing the lesson along with the DVD.
In your next scheduled running session, review the DVD lesson one more time, then take it out for a run:
Start with Week One’s Lesson, moving along in your one-legged posture stance down the road. Then add in the lean with this simple 3-step process:
Step 1: While moving down the road, check in with your posture line (making sure your pelvis is level).
Step 2: Drop your focus to the bottoms of your feet.
Step 3: Keep your feet hitting where they are while you let your entire posture line tilt in front of where your feet are hitting.
The lean is very slight - only about one inch. If your posture stance is solid, you will feel your speed pick up with just a slight lean. Feel the effect of the lean by running for 15 seconds or so. Then, bring yourself back to your original upright position, but keep moving forward. Then, stop running and walk for a bit. Then, do it again. It's good to engage and disengage the lean several times so you can feel the benefits of leaning. Over time, you will find your comfort zone with your lean, so play with it. If you begin to feel any tension in your calves or shins, you're leaning too far forward. Back off a bit. You don't need to lean as much as you think.
Practice adding the lean to your one-legged posture stance for a week or more.
Continue Practicing Lessons One and Two
I know that almost everyone needs to practice leveling their pelvis. You won’t remember all the time, as most people aren't used to engaging those muscles. Spend this week getting comfortable with your posture and lean by practicing specific focuses, like leveling your pelvis, or feeling your feet touch the ground, or tucking your chin.
Continue to run for only as long you’re comfortable, then walk until you’re recovered enough to run again. If you need more guidance in planning your workouts, the ChiWalk-Run program tells you exactly how much to walk and run during each workout. From there, you can adjust the length and frequency of your walk breaks depending on what feels best for you. Remember: take it step by step. Even though it’s about running, there’s no need to rush the process! Get started the right way, and you'll have many years of happy running in your future.
*It is always advised to check in with your health practitioner about starting any kind of exercise program.