52 Things I’ve Learned From Running - Chi Running

52 Things I’ve Learned From Running

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed Jul 31st, 2013, 13 comments

danny-dreyer… a weekly blog from Danny Dreyer, co-author of ChiRunning and ChiWalking. Subscribe to this blog series here.

Welcome to my new blog series about what I’ve come away with from my many years of running – besides a lot of miles on my legs, and more shoes than Imelda Marcos (actually, I’ve given most of them away). Running plays a significant role in my personal practice to improve myself and evolve. These blogs are the nuggets I’ve discovered that have deeply impacted my life and my life choices. As I have come to discover, most of what I’ve learned goes way beyond running itself and has much deeper personal applications. These “lessons,” combined with the principles and philosophies of T’ai Chi, help me to touch on the Universal laws that now guide my everyday life.

What running provides is a unique set of challenges that are best met with a full body/mind, whole-person response. In the next 52 weeks I’ll go into what those challenges are and how they’ve helped me in my life. Enjoy this journey, and join me in a conversation to celebrate the sacred place running has in our lives. I’d love to hear your stories.

#1 – You are here… always in the perfect time and place for positive change
At this point in my life I’m convinced that none of us was put on this planet just to take up space. My suspicion is that we’re put here to evolve; and if you want to get specific, I think we’re here to grow beyond where we’re at right now, even if it’s in miniscule increments. Change is the only constant in this physical Universe of ours. Every moment has potential for growth and understanding, or on the other hand, for stagnating or degrading to our lower selves.

What I have learned from my running practice is that the best time and place for change to occur is right now, because this moment is the best launching pad for growth. And, nothing helps me get to a more present state than running. I know from coaching that this isn’t the case for everyone. Many people find that running challenges throw them directly into a state of self-judgement. But, for me, at the age of 63 with 40 years of running and 28 years of coaching experience, running is my haven of neutrality, despite (and actually because of) the challenges that arise.

I like to see challenges as gateways for change and opportunities to grow. One thing I’ve noticed about challenges is that in reality they never happen in the future. I think they are in the future, but those are not real challenges; they’re simply thoughts popping out of my mind. Real challenges only happen in the present moment; and how to respond to the here-and-now is the most important issue that is ever in front of me. That’s why I love running as a practice; it puts me squarely into the present moment and requires me to respond to what’s happening right under my nose.

Today, it was raining and I didn’t want to run in the rain. So, I got over myself and went running anyway, but decided to run on the streets (I knew the trails would be a total mud bath). My neighborhood is nothing but hills. So, I decided, in the moment, to do some hill intervals. As I ran each hill I used every hill focus I know. In fact, I got so involved in practicing my hill focuses that I not only forgot about the rain, but I discovered a new teaching tool to use in my next classes.

What’s the lesson here? You can’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are.

There are 3 steps for creating change:
Step 1: Body Sense what you feel right now.
Step 2: Given what you feel, what is it that you need?
Step 3: What could you do, in response to your need, to create positive change?

Try these out, and I’ll see you next Tuesday.

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13 CommentsLeave a comment below

Pastor Rob Bruendl Aug 6th, 2013 11:00am

The best part of this first article, Danny, is your comment"So,I got over myself and went running anyway.” Us preacher type folks would call that a “preachable comment.” So very often it is that point where we either wallow in ourselves as we are or just get over ourselves that makes the differences and notable changes towards living a better life physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.  Thank you.

S.K. Sherman Aug 6th, 2013 11:09am

I started practicing Chi Running principles about 6 or 7 years ago and have progressed from 71 bpm to 85 bpm while running on a left knee that (according to the doc) has minimal to no cartilage on the inside part of the joint.  I can now go for 80 to 90 minutes at that rate with little to no pain.  If I feel pain the I run a “Body Sense” and adjust my form. See Step 1,2 and 3 above.
I’ve also found that doing the full gamut of stretches AFTER my runs is extremely advantageous for reducing any latent soreness.

Life is what it offers.
Our life is what we offer in return.

S.K. Sherman

VICTOR ANDRADE Aug 6th, 2013 11:57am

Hello Danny. I’m 43 years old. I live in Manzanillo, Mexico, in the pacific coast near by Puerto Vallarta.
As you have said, running is my passion, one of my very greatest treasures in my life.
Since I live in practically a tropical weather the whole year, I enjoy running in the morning before dawn and it feels like a communion with earth, life and god; even when I go for a run when I don’t want to go o feel tired, when I finish I have never feel repentant, but grateful for having used my body for communicating with the planet, with myself and with god.
Congratulations for your excellent books, web page, and all your ideas, comments and advise from you to many people who feel things like you do.

Best regards.
Víctor Andrade

Danny, I’m 65 and I’m in my 38th year of running, that is, I’ve been keeping a log book now for 37 years, 2 months.  I used to be fairly fast for my size, ran 4 sub 3hr marathons.  But miles, years, and injuries had reduced me to not enjoying my miles so much.  Had one heel surgery in ‘02, and have the same issue now with the other heel.  In Oct of ‘10 a friend told me about Chi Running and lent me his DVD.  I scoffed at first, thinking I knew everything there is to know about running.  Wrong.  I gave Chi a try in hopes of getting a few more miles out of my sore heel.  33 months and about 7,000 miles later I’m enjoying running as much as I did in my 30s.  Average 40-50 miles per week, and as you preach, I approach running now as a practice, not just a sport.  My heel still hurts, but seldom when I’m running, as long as I remember perfect footprint, proper alignment, and relaxation.  Non running friends of mine ask me why I run.  I tell them I’m a collector of miles.  I can look back at my log books from 10-20-30 years ago and remember where I ran, what the weather was, how I felt.  The more I run, the more I add to my collection of miles, and memories.  Thank you for extending my life in the sport, er, I mean the practice I love.

Sean Fleming Aug 6th, 2013 01:14pm

Thanks for the information. Hit a wall recently, looking for the inspiration to pick myself back up and keep going. Great advice, patiently waiting for next weeks post. Thanks again,  Danny.

Thierry Lerinckx Aug 7th, 2013 05:32am

Dear Danny,
Thanks for this opportunity. I am 55 and used to compete in triathlon till 6 years ago, and in the process I learned Chi running (8 years ago) because of the 3 sports running was most challenging to me. Here is my experinece with the 3 steps you describe.
Recently I lost my job: CHALLENGE !! But I realised I didn’t regret it because that job didn’t fulfill my need for growth and sharing. So after taking leave of my colleagues with an Email telling them not to fear change (the company is restructuring heavily) that change is good, that change is life. I needed to apply this to myself. Since Chi Running is still a “work in progress” to me and I never had the opportunity to realise the dream of becomming an instructor. I decided to seize it and instead of chasing after a “new job” similar to the previous one. I will be joining the team of Chi Running instructors and I am looking forward to the challenges, change and growth ahead in this new endeavour.

What a great idea to blog running experience from the perspective of the present…prior to reading this blog, I decided today 8/7/13 to run without music & stay present with my thoughts….what an invigorating experience occurred…paying attention to body sense, recognizing the present need & what to do in response to the need to effect positive change will also be my mantra for the next 52 weeks….Thank you for inciting a practice of remaining present…..blessings Tulsa

Connie Wright Aug 7th, 2013 01:58pm

I live on a lovely farm in Scotland and get to run on country lanes and across fields.  Chi running and Pilates both remind me to breathe correctly and have good posture and to be right there in the moment.  Soon I will be running in Texas while on holiday and will have to get used to running in the heat.  In Scotland you just have to decide to do things - such as running - no matter what the weather - sunshine, rain, snow, wind, ice.

Aaron Childs Aug 29th, 2013 11:49am

Good comments from all!  Danny, I think you would have been just fine to not go running in the rain.  smile  I live in the pacific NW and experience rain often between October and June each year.  I put the tread mill here @ work to good use.

I am still in goal- and strenth-oriented running and hope to experience what everyone else seems to be enjoying from ChiRunning.  Looking forward to your 52 weeks of blogs and advice.


I stopped running 2 years ago, and now I am back into it. I have heard about Chi-running, and i did the research and watched U-tubes videos. However when i start to run, I use my old habits and forget about Chi-running. How can I add the Chi-running?and does it take time before I can get into this art?

Thank you

Jeff Carnivale Jan 30th, 2014 01:46pm


Like any new activity or attempt to build a new positive habit, it takes some time. You are, in effect, trying to create new muscle memories - a new way of moving and it will take around 6 weeks to break many of the old habits. You also may want to contact a local instructor to help.

It’s great to see you are still “running” Dan! Been a long time since I last saw you; how’s the kids?

p.s. don’t forget to come to my gardening store if you ever need to stock up on some butter sunflowers!

Still yours truly,
Jill gigan

your articles kept me motivating….

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