Born to Run … But Have We Forgotten How?

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According to Harvard research scientist Dr. Daniel Lieberman, et al, we are born to run. He’s right. Somewhere in our long line of ancestors there was most likely a carnivorous humanoid hunter/gatherer type who got his dinner by persistent hunting, which to this day is still done by certain Kalahari tribesmen. If you wanted to eat, that’s how it was done. My ancestors must have been reasonably successful because I’m sitting here at my computer today as an indirect result of someone three million years ago who was a runner.

It’s absolutely true that we are all born to run, but the responsibility for remaining a runner for our lifetime rests completely on our shoulders, from childhood through adulthood. As children, most of us spent a fair amount of time running, not really to get anywhere in particular, but because it felt good to move fast and play and jump and running to chase our friends across the playground, or running to kick a soccer ball across a field. When we were kids we were much freer in our movement, much looser in our bodies and more relaxed overall. Running came easy to us and we didn’t have to “try” to do it. It was as simple and easy to do as taking a breath or a drink of water, but as kids we didn’t know (or need to know) what we were doing.

My T’ai Chi teacher, George Xu, also tells me that we are born to run, but that we are meant to lose that natural ability at some point in our lives so we can learn how to run consciously. Self-awareness is essential if we want to evolve and grow as human beings.

Yes, we are born to run, but because most have us have not run barefoot for most of our lives as they did 3 million years ago, our bodies have not had the same “running lessons” that our ancestors did.  Our bodies are sitting at desks, in cars and are not being used as they once were. Modern living means we don’t have the strong core muscles that came from the constant labor of living. When we do walk or run, it is often on asphalt and wearing shoes that are more stylish than functional.

This is not all bad news, as you can train your body to start running as it was born to run, but you do need to consciously reclaim that knowledge and make it your own.

So, what does it mean to be a conscious runner, or a conscious person, for that matter? It means engaging in your activity, be it running or anything else, with a sense of awareness on as many levels as possible. All of the ChiRunning and ChiWalking materials are designed with this theme of self-awareness. First, you become aware of how your body moves and then, you educate your body to start running and walking in the way it is meant to. Through the simple acts of walking and running you learn how to pay attention to the details of how to move with the ease and efficiency with which you were born.

The idea is to become more mindful in your movement so that running and walking are injury-free, and meanwhile you increase your level of enjoyment and improve your quality of life.

Our body is our vehicle to get us from this end of our life to the other end, so it behooves us all to try to live as mindfully as we can, day to day, week upon week and year after year.

Yes, you are “born to run” … but the rest is up to you.

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