Exponentially Improve Your Running and Walking with Imagery
We’ve all heard about the use of guided imagery and visualization to help athletes perform better. It has been used by everyone from Olympic skaters and swimmers to pro football players. But, what I’ve discovered from my study of T’ai Chi, is how the Chinese have used imagery for centuries as an integral part of learning how to direct one’s chi, as well as one’s movement.
My T’ai Chi master would explain how he could make a punch more powerful with imagery. When striking an opponent, he would imagine he was actually directing the force of his punch to a target some distance behind his adversary. In this way his punch wouldn’t stop when it touched his opponent, but would continue on through his opponent… to its destination beyond. Fortunately for me I never got to experience this firsthand.
He would also create an abundance of energy in a punch or kick if he imagined all of the energy of the environment behind him moving through his body like a huge tailwind magnifying the power of his movement. Amazing stuff.
This use of imagery to move energy is very much a part of ChiRunning and ChiWalking as well.
Y’chi is a Chinese term for directing your movement with your intent. You create intent in your mind and then direct that intent through your eyes. To explain Y’chi in the ChiRunning Book I use an example we’ve all seen, of a cat stalking a bird. The cat’s gaze is locked onto the bird and his body movement appears to be nothing more than an extension of this visual connection to its prey. He moves slowly and precisely, almost unaware he even has a body. His intent is focused on the bird… until it’s time to pounce. Then, there’s an explosion of energy, released in a flurry of claws and jaws.
I’ve used my Y’chi to pull me up a hill, or to catch someone up ahead in a race. I just lock my eyes onto a target directly ahead and relax everything else, and it feels like I’m pulled forward by a giant bungee cord. When I focus my mind on something ahead, all obstacles in my way seem to disappear… including time. My visual focus aligns and unifies the movement of my body and the runner in me seems to simply disappear. I have had entire miles vanish when using this focus.
One of my favorite images to use is to imagine my body inside of a big wheel rolling down the road. The upper half of the wheel is rolling forward while the lower half of the wheel is rolling rearward. This image allows me to feel a wonderful sense of balance in my body as I move. In addition to this image I also use the image of my feet moving in a circular path, like the wheels on a car or bike. This keeps my lower legs from overworking and allows me to avoid an inefficient pendular stride.
So, if trying to remember five ChiRunning focuses, or focusing your mind on a target ahead had the same net effect, which would you choose? The caveat I’ll throw in here is that, in order for this trick to come off as planned, you must first have integrated the basic Chi focuses into your running or walking. Then, your mind becomes the driver… and your body a well-tuned and highly responsive vehicle.
Here are some other examples you might try using on your next run or walk:
• For running downhill: feel yourself as water flowing down a mountain creek
• An Indian runner with a crucial message for the chief
• Feeling the playful lightness of a Bach fugue
• Ankles hooked to a hot-air ball gently lifting them with each stride
• Gathering up energy ahead of you
• Run across the Earth (not into the ground)
• Floating in silence
The expanding science of neuroplasticity shows what the T’ai Chi Masters have always known: when the mind is creatively engaged with your body’s movements, body and mind both benefit.
Imagine every Chi focus working in your body to improve your enjoyment of running, walking and moving through life.