December 2015 Instructor of the Month: Alan Miller
ALAN MILLER, FLORIDA
Alan has been an avid runner since 1978. He has paticipated in almost 80 marathons, including 30 New York City Marathons. He was the first place finisher in his age group at the 2008 NY Marathon.
He has a doctorate degree in education and has been teaching adult learners for over thirty years. His background as an educator, counselor, and coach, combined with his enthusiasm for the topic, enables his classes to be enlightening and fun. He loves teaching and feels extremely fortunate to be able to share the benefits of ChiRunning and ChiWalking with others.
Read more about Alan below, and get more info on his upcoming February workshop here.
Tell us a little about you, where you live, what your background is
I live in Cooper City, FL which is a small suburb just Southwest of Ft. Lauderdale. I consider myself semi-retired. I had a very satisfying and growth producing career of 34 years in counseling and then Staff Development & Training. I say semi- retired because I am teaching ChiRunning and Walking and also teaching psychology classes as an adjunct professor for Barry University. I do not plan on a full retirement anytime soon as the energizing effects from teaching keep me fired up. I am so grateful for this current situation because I am actively contributing to others without having to work a 9-5 job. In fact, the only time I set my alarm now is to wake up for a race or long run.
I just want to share a quick anecdote showing how our thoughts and desires can manifest into reality, even if it takes years. Part of my role in Staff Development & Training was designing new in-service programs. Feeling the personal benefits of running, I was motivated to design a program to train human service staff to run with their clients. To field test it, I personally trained developmentally disabled people to run long distances. After seeing the huge success, I ran workshops for staff. Eunice Kennedy Shriver even wrote me a letter requesting a curriculum that she could use for the Special Olympics. I remember thinking, ”How great is this? Teaching people the Joys of Running as part of my job?” Well, my job description included many other duties so eventually I had to put the Therapeutic Running on hold. My boss appreciated my efforts, but it was not an organizational priority. So you can imagine how grateful I feel now years later being able to teach ChiRunning without having to ask my supervisor for approval. Thank you, UNIVERSE for creating the conditions for my personal CHI to flow!
How did you start running?
I was an athlete growing up, but never liked running for running’s sake. In fact, doing laps was usually a form of punishment. Early in my career I was a counselor for delinquent kids and went on an Outward Bound therapy trip as an assistant. The leaders of the program required the kids to run every day, culminating in a 10 mile run at the end of the two week trip. Of course, I had to run with them. I never ran close to 10 miles before and it seemed a bit daunting. But when it came time, it was a breeze. The kids were all pooping out and I felt great. The head counselor remarked, “Hey, Alan. You’re a very strong runner.” I guess those words resonated with me, because I started to dabble in running when I got home.
When and how did ChiRunning come into your life? (The short story)
I met Danny at the NYC Marathon Expo in 2004 and bought the book. Danny suggested reading just Ch. 4 before the race. In the race I remembered 3 focuses: Moving from the CORE, falling forward, and lightly lifting my feet to keep up with the forward fall. My target goal was 3:10, but I ran 3:03 for 5th place in my age group. Better yet, I wasn’t nearly as sore as usual. When I got home, I went online and saw that an Instructor Training Program was scheduled for February in Miami Beach. I knew that this was not a coincidence and that it was meant to be. So I seized the opportunity and signed up. I spent 2005 becoming certified and taught my first class in 2006.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?
Many people think they will learn it all in just one workshop.
What motivates you to run?
There isn’t just one motivating factor that keeps me running. I teach a Stress Management class for Barry University and 5 Dimensions of holistic health are identified that help create a powerful wellness lifestyle.
- Physical – I run to exercise and communicate with my body
- Mental – I run to relax my mind and clear my head
- Emotions – I run because I feel so good afterwards
- Social – I run races and with training partners to be with people
- Spiritual – I run to connect with my spirit
These 5 dimensions interact resulting in a pretty powerful reason to keep running.
What does your average week look like, run-wise?
When training for a marathon: Key workouts- Long run on weekend, hard tempo run, and ¼ mile intervals (work up to 20). Easy runs the rest of the week. I am much less serious now about training.
When not training for an event, I just get out there and have fun. Regardless of training for an event or not, I usually run every day and only take a rest day when I feel like I need one.
What other forms of exercise do you practice to complement ChiRunning?
A few basic yoga postures, lifting light weights, swimming, and meditation.
What led you to become an Instructor?
See the short story above on how CR came into my life.
What do you most enjoy about instructing?
The interaction with so many interesting and diverse people. The opportunity to share the Chi material and seeing those “aha” moments in students. Helping people learn the form that will allow them to run for a life time. The positive feedback I get from former students either in e mails or in person as I run into them at races. During a workshop or a private training session, I get so engrossed in the flow of the moment that the time just flies by. It’s an amazing feeling. Gratitude is a trait that I have been cultivating lately and as I look back I am thankful for the opportunity to share with others through teaching. “To teach, is to learn again” (anonymous)
What advice do you have for people new to ChiRunning?
Patience and Practice with a smile. Relax and focus on just one thing at a time. Stop trying too hard and limit your “stinking thinking”. Instead of thinking too much Just Do It! and Feel your body. Run with a SMILE!
Favorite race you’ve run and why:
After 30 times it is still the NYC Marathon. The crowds, the excitement, the tour through all 5 boroughs and mostly because it feels like returning home. I get to visit my brother , cousins, and old friends from High school. I enjoy hanging out in the city before and after the race marveling at the sights, sounds and the food. My wife and daughter have accompanied me the past several years which has made the family thing really nice. We usually stay at least 5 days.
Most memorable race:
I would have to choose two different NYC Marathons: 1992 and 2008. In 1992, I was in great shape and ran 2:38. Everything clicked. I finished with a bundle of energy and even helped my brother move into his new apartment. I was 44 and finished 200th overall and 25th in the age group.
Then 16 years later at 60, I ran 3:08 and finished FIRST in the age group. I had no idea about my place until my cousin called me the next day to congratulate me. Then I got to thinking about the 1250 other runners in the age group representing the US and dozens of countries all over the world. It hit me that this first place finish was really cool in such an international event.
Ideal weather for running
Cool in the mid 50’s , low 60’s with 50% humidity or less. Unfortunately, running in FLA rarely meets that criteria. Humidity is often in the 80’s and 90’s.
Focus that currently dominates your running
Breath work, arm swing, cadence, and pelvic rotation. The breath is the best. It’s so relaxing and energizing to feel the lungs fill up on the move.
Favorite place to run
There is a nature park almost two miles from my house called Tree Tops Park. I run there 2-3 times per week and enjoy the peaceful feeling, beautiful vegetation, and winding trails. It’s a little paradise in the midst of a busy, bustling area.
A1A Fort Lauderdale ½ Marathon on Feb. 14, 2016. As a warm-up, I will be teaching a ChiRunning workshop the day before in Boca Raton. New York City Marathon, Nov. 6, 2016
Run with or without phone/music
Usually run without music…once or twice a week with a ipod shuffle.
Repeat on your playlist
Springsteen, Tom Petty, David Bowie, Beatles, Stones, Van Morrison, Electric Light Orchestra(ELO), the Guess Who, and a few more old rockers. Whoever could have imagined that the Rolling Stones would still be going strong more than 50 years later.
If I didn’t run, I wouldn’t feel right. I would find a similar alternative to blow off steam or better yet direct my CHI
My first race was in 1978 and it was called the Perrier Fort Lauderdale Heart Run and was an odd distance at 7.8 miles. I remember running it in basketball shorts and sneakers. Knew nothing about training or pacing, but got hooked on racing. I think I finished 57th overall. 5 months later, I still knew very little about training or pacing and ran my first marathon in Hilo, Hawaii. I registered for it because I was there on vacation. The farthest I had ever run was 10 miles. I was so naïve that 2 days before the race I thought I better do more, so I went out and ran 14 miles thinking that would help. I ran 3:18 for 69th place overall. I was 7 weeks shy of my 30th birthday. I think the power of youth trumped the wisdom of training in this case.
My current favorite shoe to run in is Brooks Pure Cadence or Pure Flow. The Cadence has a bit more cush which I like for longer runs.
My most difficult run ever was the Grandfather Mountain Marathon near Boone, NC in 1994. It started on the track at Appalachian State University ran around town a bit on flat terrain. But after 3 miles we began the climb of Grandfather Mountain so it was 23 miles not just uphill, but up a steep mountain. My mind did me a favor by focusing on the beautiful views and vistas taking a break from the tough, tough climb. We finished on a cinder track that was the site of the Scottish Highland games which were in progress.
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