Chi Running for Beginners
Whether you're just starting to run, or coming back from an injury or a long break from running, there can be, at any given time in your entry-level process, a mixture of excitement, anxiety and anticipation going through your body. Once you’ve decided to get in shape and reclaim your health, there is 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.”
But, whether you’re reading these words, or you've picked up a copy of the Chi Running book, you’re intrigued nonetheless. Maybe it's because you remember that great feeling you had when you used to run. Or, maybe you're just looking for the quickest and easiest way to reclaim your health.
Well, you can put your fears to rest by knowing that for most people, running is a safe and effective way to get some great exercise… at any age.* Humans are meant to run. We’re built for it. And when you learn to run with good, sound biomechanics combined with a sensible program, you can significantly reduce the possibility of hurting yourself. It doesn't have to be hard to get started, but it is wise to get started carefully and with a plan.
To begin your program, we highly recommend spending 20-30 minutes, every other day to get yourself started. At first you won’t be running for the entire time, but including transitional activities like the Body Looseners or practice drills as seen on the DVD (starting on page 96 of the book) will take some time. We suggest starting every workout with the Body Looseners. 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 the Chi 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 Chi Running book and viewing the DVD once through before you get started. It will, at first, seem like an awful 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. If you feel you want to take two weeks per lesson, do so, by all means. 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. This approach takes all the comparative notions out of the picture.
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 your 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 feel yourself being out of breath or not keeping your focus ... stop and walk until your breath recovers. Then get “running” again in the same way. Check in with your posture alignment and then 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, in Chi Running, form comes first, so only run for as long as you can keep your focus on the one-legged posture stance.
In the Chi Running progression of Technique, Distance, Speed, distance comes after technique ... meaning that you should 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 Chi Running 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 ... if your posture stance is solid, you will feel your speed pick up with just a slight lean. It is really only about an inch of lean at your nose. 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. If you can maintain your one-legged posture stance, it is good to engage and disengage the lean several times. In this way you'll be really getting a feel for the affect leaning has on your running. 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 to 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
For week three, you have a choice. You can continue to practice Lessons One and Two or continue on to Lesson Three. I suggest going back and picking out individual parts of posture and lean and having them as your focus. Lesson Three can be learned next week. I know that everyone needs to always come back to leveling their pelvis. You won’t remember all the time. And your pelvis, as with most people, is probably not used to being engaged. So spend this week getting really solid with your posture and lean by having 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. There is no need to push yourself beyond your limits. However, if you start with 10 minutes of running and walking, (perhaps alternating a minute of running and a minute of walking) here's how to increase your endurance. Run for a longer time (12 or 15 minutes, depending on your fitness level) while decreasing the amount of time you walk. Play with what feels good for you. Chapter 6 in the book gives great advice on how to increase your program safely.
Chi Running is based on the principle of Gradual Progress. When you learn to run slowly and carefully, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of healthy running. Take it step by step. Even though it’s about running, there’s no need to rush the process!
*It is always advised to check in with your health practitioner about starting any kind of exercise program.