ChiRunning in the Pool

Where do you use your ChiRunning and ChiWalking focuses? I use mine in the pool – running! Years ago, before my pain-free ChiRunning practice, I got a metatarsal stress fracture. I was committed to running the Hood to Coast relay, which motivated not to lose fitness, so I started pool running. I bought a float belt and started taking aqua jogging classes. I had trouble with keeping my head comfortably above the water line so I could breathe easier. It was not a fun experience and I abandoned it for the road once my foot healed.

A few years later, after establishing my pain-free ChiRunning practice, I returned to pool running to keep an injured friend company. One night another friend showed up, hopped in without a belt, and began running. In 12 feet of water. He chatted with me and ‘ran’ for almost an hour. Inspired to give it a go sans belt, I took mine off – and started to sink. Then I started thinking in terms of my posture, Needle in Cotton, and getting more aligned and relaxed. This was something the belt was supposed to do for me, but now that crutch was gone (does this sound like something you’ve heard regarding overly structured shoes?). As I engaged my core, all the way down from my pelvic floor, the water level moved to about my collarbone and I could talk, laugh and sing without fear of taking in water!

ChiRunning focuses are really helpful in being able to run without a belt, and work on core engagement at the same time. Here is a quick recap of one of my deep water pool running sessions, using my running focuses. I start off easy (think: first gear), allowing my body to find its way in the water. I feel my column, and think about ‘sitting up in my chair’ and reaching for the sky with the crown of my head. As I begin to feel the water and get more comfortable, I add a very slight lean, feeling one long column from my feet to my ears. When I do this, speed happens, even if a little! I play with this back and forth. For a reality check, occasionally I relax my core (making sure I’m ready to go underwater!). As I start to sink, just realigning my column and engaging my core brings me back up.

Another focus to check is how much I’m depending on my arms to keep me afloat, versus my core. I allow my arms to float a little, and check in with my alignment, and if I sink, that’s a sign I’m over-using my arms, and not engaging my core enough. I also drop my shoulders away from my ears, just like on land, to keep the shoulders relaxed. The pelvic rotation is fun to feel in the water, and fairly easy to feel happening from the T12-L1 pivot point. Partly that’s because in swimming, that’s where the moment of kick happens. Relaxing the low back (breathe into it) allows me to feel that even more.

Keeping the focuses going in pool running make the transition back to the road even easier. Practicing those pain-free running focuses in the pool also alleviates the boredom and keeps me looking forward to the next session!  

Posted in Technique

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