Daily Practice of ChiRunning Focuses
Once in a while, life happens (an accident, medical or family issues, traveling, etc.) and one is forced to stop running for a while. In my case I broke my pinky toe, when I stubbed it on a root. Stationary objects are great for practicing your y’chi, but they really hurt when you hit them! I had to take a few weeks off from running, but the timing was good. I traveled to the Texas Gulf Coast, where it was too hot and humid for me to go running. After that, I worked at mile 80 of a 100 mile run, and I needed to stay rested to help runners who would be coming through from about midnight until noon the next day. So for those few weeks, I left the running up to others and continued to practice my running focuses.
There are many ways to practice the focuses of the ChiRunning technique while you are not running. The body learns best by repetition, so the more practice it gets, the easier these focuses are when you start running. Your posture is better and your movement is more efficient. During sitting, I practice my posture by sitting tall in my chair, balanced on the two sitz bones, right in the middle, with my upper body balanced over my hips. I really feel my deep core muscles working to hold me in this position while my arms, shoulders, and upper body feel relaxed.
While standing, good posture helps you feel comfortable on your feet. Remember that you want to balance the upper body over the lower body, with a nice straight column running from your shoulders to your hips to your ankle, and relaxed feet at the bottom. I find that if I do my posture focuses – aligning the feet and legs, lengthening my spine, leveling my pelvis (there go those deep core muscles again!), and creating that balance, I can stand for a very long time without getting tired. It’s great when you have a sore toe and you want to take any unnecessary weight off of it! If the bottoms of my feet are balanced in the sweet spot, then it feels like that toe gets a break – the good kind! The body sense I feel is when someone does the pull-down exercise, found on page 77-78 of the ChiRunning book. If I’m solid in my center, I can relax everywhere else.
Walking with good posture, upper body slightly forward, and lower legs loose and relaxed, striding to the rear, is the key to comfortable walking when your pinky toe hurts. In fact, the discomfort of a cracked toe and inflamed soft tissue served as a good signal for me if I was out of alignment. Engaging those deep core muscles and lengthening the spine helped lighten my step as I walked along. I did have a little homemade splint taped to my shoe under the pinky toe and part of the fifth metatarsal to provide support and limit the mobility when my toe was at its worst. But being mindful that my lower legs and ankles were loose helped keep me comfortable in all phases of my recovery.
I’m back to running now and building mileage gradually to where I was before. Soft tissue takes a while to heal, but by adhering to the principle of gradual progress, and backing off when it tells me, I have confidence I’ll be back running on the trails soon. Now if it would only stop raining!