Dr. Joe Sumaquial Shares His ChiRunning Success Story

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Dr. Joe Sumaquial recently wrote us about his success with ChiRunning. After years of being a “reluctant runner” and suffering pain and injury during training, he completed his first marathon in December 2011, injury-free! He also achieved a personal best at a half marathon just six weeks after he started practicing ChiRunning. We asked him a few more questions to find out more about his inspiring story:

1. It sounds like your marathon training went well. What was your race experience like?

My marathon training went fairly well. I did use the ChiRunning Marathon training book and tried to abide by the schedule for the most part. I did run into some problems with some shin splints when I started running 14-16 miles as my long run. I was able to fix it by concentrating on my mid-food strike. Something that had helped me at the time was running on a trail (around the levee where I live) instead of the hard pavement, and this helped me concentrate on my mid-foot strike. After this, I had my mid-foot strike down and had good training.

Overall, my marathon race experience was good. I knew my pace and didn’t try to overdo it, trying to pace myself for the whole race. It was a great experience and even though I started cramping (my hamstrings) for the last 2 miles, I was able to relax them enough where I could still run, but at a slightly slower pace. I didn’t have to stop.

2. What aspect(s) of the technique have helped you the most?

There were 3 main concepts of ChiRunning that helped me:
1. Mid foot strike: this helped me immensely with my shin splints and foot pain. I had participated in two half marathons prior to starting ChiRunning, and both half marathons were completed with pain! The first half marathon was with pain in the foot, so much so that I had to run more than a third of it backwards (believe it or not) to help with the pain. I had gotten new custom arch supports and stabilizer shoes for my second half marathon and started getting hip pain, which brings me to the second concept which helped:
2. Leveling my pelvis: this helped stablize my pelvis and prevented the hip pain I was getting.
3. Forward lean: this really helped me to become faster with less exertion. Over long runs, it keeps me from feeling “beat up” after a long run.

3. Are there any aspects of the technique that are still challenging? If so, what are they?

I think the most important thing to remember with ChiRunning is that there is always time to practice other aspects of the technique. For me, I usually only have a few things to remember for the most part and try to be cognizant of each during various parts of my run. Usually the three I mentioned above.

4. Do you have any visualizations or images you use to help you with certain aspects of the technique that might be helpful to others?

I imagine the Road Runner from Looney Tunes. The road runner has a forward lean and his “circle”, which represents his foot movement, is behind his center of gravity. The faster he goes, the more forward he leans.

To help relax my feet, I try to relax my hands, making a conscious effort to mimic the minimal tension in my hands as my feet land.

5. Many people believe running injuries are inevitable, and their only options are to either run through the pain or give it up completely. As a doctor, how would you respond?

There are many things I tell my patients. The first is an analogy I use for running. When you want to try a new sport, you usually will see a teacher, whether it is a golf pro for a golf swing or a tennis pro to learn tennis. But, no one ever tells you you need to have someone teach you how to run or walk. They simply assume that because you can walk or run that you are doing it correctly. However, our running gait changes as we age, whether it is due to injury, certain sports we play, or whether we were taught incorrectly. It amazes me how many people, even former high school track and field athletes, were taught to heel strike. I explain to them briefly some of the concepts of ChiRunning and that ChiRunning can help them get to the effortless pain free running that they used to experience as children.

The second thing is that I like to dispel the myth “No Pain, No Gain.” I let them know that pain is an indicator of something going wrong. Usually when you do something for a longer periods of time, such as in running, the prolonged activity can cause pain if your technique is wrong. I try to encourage patients never to run through the pain. Trying to run through the pain can lead to injury. Pain can be your indicator of improper form and you can use the type of pain to help you self-diagnose the areas where you need to focus. For instance, sometimes when I am running, I may feel some pain in my shins (previously a common occurrence for me). When I have pain in my shins, it gives me a clue that I may have too much tension in my feet when running and/or I am not mid-foot striking correctly. I have successfully changed my focus in the middle of a run and have been able to resolve pain symptoms when implementing those changes. I have done this many times.

I try to tell my patients that they can be successful in running if they try using ChiRunning. Yes, it is dependent on the patient and his or her medical problems. However, if it is a young individual that has no contraindications to exercise, I let them know that running can be pain free and one of the best ways to stay healthy! Oftentimes people who experience pain from running get frustrated and give up. I let them know my story, of how I was not able to run even 3 miles without getting excruciating hip pain (although I was able to ride 60-100 miles at a time on my bike). But, with ChiRunning, I was able to change the way I run and become more efficient and pain free! Like me, many of my patients who have given up on running and have then gone back to it because of ChiRunning have started to enjoy themselves again.

Posted in Technique, Inside Chi

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