Ah-ha Moments in Running
Last weekend I had the pleasure of hosting and assisting Danny at two ChiRunning workshops in Seattle. It was a full weekend with lots of good energy and inspiration. Danny arrived Friday afternoon, and despite having been up since just after midnight our time, he agreed to go running. There were some trails near the workshop location I wanted to share, in case we needed them. I wore my Bikilas and Danny had on his Treks.
The first serious hill came five minutes after we started running – I was not warmed up. I started to run up it gently, but soon had to walk while Danny made the most of his lateral stride, floating all the way to the top! I usually run at a cadence of 90 but I noticed the I was a little fast; Danny noticed this too and said it’s probably because of the very minimal cushioning. Many barefoot runners have very quick turn over to lessen the impact. In the ChiRunning technique, the impact is reduced as your leg swings out behind, following the force of the oncoming road. Danny suggested I “soften” my hips and allow the pelvis to open up and rotate. I let go just a little – like when your knees are locked, and you let go just enough that they aren’t tense anymore. By doing this, I was able to lean and get more hip extension out the back, which opened up my stride length to the rear. My cadence fell to 90, and the impact was no worse. In fact, it felt better since I was working less! Ah-ha!
The next day at the workshop, while practicing the running posture lesson, one of the participants got dizzy and nauseated, and had to sit down. After a moment, I asked her to stand and guided her back into the correct posture. She still felt bad, so I asked her to feel the bottoms of her feet (in her mind’s eye). She was more on her heels, so I asked her to rock on the bottoms of her feet until they felt even on the ground. As soon as she did, she felt much better. It was pretty powerful to see what grounding could do! It was as if the energy could flow again as she connected to the earth. Wow!
The next ah-ha moments came on Sunday in the Level II running workshop. A fellow in our group had trouble with the pelvic rotation and had been struggling several months to get it – not an uncommon problem with tight hips. I was trying all my tricks (spread the arms to a T, lean a little forward) but no success. Then Danny said ‘Make sure you engage your core. Level your pelvis.’ and he suddenly got it! The ah-ha look on his face was priceless!
In the hill climbing lesson, Danny was demonstrating how to bend the arms relative to the incline of the ground. One of the instructors, Alice Diffely, said she always thinks of the forearms as being parallel to the ground, so that as you climb, you bend them so that they remain parallel to the ground. Danny added to shorten the stride length relative to the distance between the hands and the shoulders. Hills are much more fun now!
There were many more ah-ha moments, but those were the highlights. As I put these insights into practice, the ah-ha moments continue to happen, making my running a whole lot of fun! You never know where your next ah-ha moment is going to come from!