Chi Marathon: Higher Education for Runners in Seven Simple Steps

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My T'ai Chi teacher, Master Xu, has a way of describing athletes who become really good at basic skills, but never get beyond using physical force to be successful at their sport or activity. “Top of their class in grade school,” he would say, with laughter in his eyes. Those basic skills are integral to efficiency, relaxation, and in preventing the body from overworking. The key is integrating these skills into every movement and trusting them to do their part. 

In running terms, “grade school” can be thought of as the time spent improving your running technique. Once your running technique is more efficient and comfortable, you can begin to build distance – the “middle school” phase. With good running technique under your belt – minimal style, natural form running with a midfoot strike – and a solid conditioning base, you are fully prepared to graduate to “college,” or half marathon and full marathon distances.

Every year, the number of runners choosing “college” continues to climb. Endurance running is a challenging way to reach physical and mental goals, and it can be a life-changing and joyful experience. Unfortunately, just as an unprepared student struggles when they move up to the next level too quickly, so does a running beginner who takes on too much with an unprepared body and mind. Injury, disappointment, and an unfinished race are just a few consequences of inadequate training.

If you’re a beginner runner ready to get started running with a half or full marathon in mind, a seasoned distance runner, or a performance athlete looking to improve your race times, ChiRunning offers an effective way to train for longer distances. Traditional training strategy is to run, run and run some more – it’s only about increasing mileage so you can finish your race. Simply completing the distance is a great goal, but ChiRunning believes you can do a lot more than just cross the finish line. You can set a new PR, and spend little to no time recovering, and do it all with a smile.

This is why “grade school,” or the preparation phases of your training, is even more important than running endless miles. As you train for your next distance event, follow these seven manageable phases laid out in Chi Marathon: The Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-free Half Marathon and Marathon, ChiRunning’s course curriculum for mindful, productive training:

  • Visioning and Planning: Take time to plan your goals for training and the race itself. Ask yourself why you want to take on the half or full marathon distance. Real purpose helps motivate us and makes training and racing more fulfilling.  
  • Technique Training: Learn the ChiRunning technique and practice specific Form Focuses on every run. You’ll begin to sense Chi (energy) in your body and learn that tension (and pain) is where chi is not flowing, where injury might occur, and how to relax and make the right adjustments.
  • Conditioning: Increase your mental focus and hone your running and energy management skills. Do specific workouts, such as time trials, form and speed intervals, tempo runs, and surges to build your lung and heart capacity and practice running at your projected race pace.
  • Mastery: Mimic the specific terrain and conditions of your event and apply the Form Focuses that best suit those conditions.Research the race course, aid station locations, parking, and all other race logistics.
  • Taper Time: Don’t over-train. Scale back on your mileage the last two weeks before your race, but don’t reduce the intensity or pace of your runs. This allows you to stay mentally and physically sharp without depleting your energy stores.
  • The Event: Make sure you have enough time to prepare yourself on race morning.Stay focused and relaxed. Soak up the positive energy around you at the start line, but don’t get distracted. And don’t start out too fast!
  • Rest and Renewal: Relish in your accomplishments and review your race experience. It’s important to keep moving after your race, so spend this week doing light runs and easy cross-training workouts.

Here’s a sample of what Chi Marathon offers:

Ask me the single most important aspect of what raining for a marathon is and I’d answer you in a heartbeat: It’s having your technique perfected while being as relaxed as possible. This is arguably more important, in the long term, than conditioning. Here’s why: the more relaxed and efficient your running form is, the more easily you’ll be able to run any distance and any speed and to enjoy running for as many years as you choose to do so. Whether you’re running for an hour, six hours, or all day, it’s never as much fun if your body is hurting or working harder than it needs to.

Most people think that running long miles is the hardest part of marathon training. We’d like you to disbelief you might have that running a marathon can be easy, fun, and healthy. In my mind, the hardest part of a marathon is the effort it takes you to train your mind to stay focused and maintain good running technique for the whole distance.

As Catherina McKiernan, world class runner and ChiRunning Master Instructor, says in the Forward of the Chi Marathon book, “Running is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.”  The same holds true for running a half or full marathon. It can be fully enjoyed by your body, mind and spirit.

To find out how to successfully run a half or full marathon, check out Chi Marathon: The Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-free Half Marathon and Marathon by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

Posted in Beginners

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