Improve Your Running 10 Ways with One Simple Focus

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I admit it. I'm an efficiency nut. I'm always trying to come up with simple activities I can do that will create the biggest results. Here's one that came to me last week while teaching a group of ChiRunning Instructor candidates. It's so simple it's crazy. But, the number of things it accomplishes is remarkable.

“Lift at the crown of your head”
There is probably no ChiRunning focus I mention more than this. And, it's one of the first focuses every ChiRunner learns.

Here's what Lifting at the Crown of Your Head does:

1) It's one of the basic ChiRunning posture focuses, used to “lengthen your spine” and, for some people, straighten it out a bit. This allows your body to rotate more easily around your central axis.

2) As you lift at the crown of your head you can feel how it engages your core muscles to support your torso while walking and running. This is felt as a slight tension in your lower abs… one of the only sets of muscles you should feel actively engaged while ChiRunning and ChiWalking.

3) Every runner should always be aware of how hard they hit the ground during the support phase of their stride. Gravity wants to pull you down into the Earth, and one of the ways to counteract that downward pull, and run light on your feet, is to lift the crown of your head with every stride.

4) It straightens your cervical vertebrae and allows your neck to decompress. This works wonders to relax and elongate  your neck muscles.

5) Your SCM (sternocoleidomastoid) muscle connects the base of your skull with the top of your clavicle. So, every time you lift the crown of your head, your chest lifts… giving your lungs much more room to breathe. This is great if you're ever slumped at your desk and need some brain power to kick in, or if you're running out of breath.

6) It's the best way in the world to refresh your posture and save your lower back whenever you're driving a car… especially on those long distance trips.

7) It's also one of the best ways to keep your chin and your shoulders down while running and walking. You'll never come back from another run with a sore neck or sore shoulders again.

8) For those of you who tend to bend at the waist when you run, this is a great way to straighten up your posture and save your legs some work. Having a slump in your posture is a total drain on your efficiency.

9) As a teacher I use it as a way to project my voice because it straightens my larynx, allowing my vocal chords to function better.

10) And, lastly, when lift at the crown of your head, you cannot help but feel how it tunes you into your entire body, from head to toe.

I can honestly say that this focus has changed the quality of my life in many ways. Make it a simple, mindful practice of your own and you'll quickly see what I mean. Spend some time noticing these various things: Lift… and then don't lift and then body sense the difference it makes in each of the areas of your body mentioned in the above list. My guess is you'll be hooked.

Posted in Technique

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