Making Running a Practice
Practice: Repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill.
The above definition is from “Dictionary.com,” and is a bit limited, though adequate for the general masses. But here is a definition that really strikes to the heart of what a true “practice” is. It’s from “The Daily Tao,” by Deng Ming-Dao:
Build your life brick upon brick.
Live a life of truth,
And you will look back on a life of truth.
Live a life of fantasy,
And you will look back on delusion.
A practice, in these terms, is a regular activity which you do intentionally, to either enhance your quality of life or to improve some aspect of yourself. In other words, it’s a vehicle for personal growth that you work with every day. A truly good practice will help your body, emotions, mind and spirit to evolve and progress. You can make running strictly a fitness activity, but approaching your running as a practice elevates it to a much higher level of importance and fulfillment.
When I began to develop ChiRunning as a practice, it became much more than just repeating an activity to perfect a skill. I learned how to approach every run in a mindful way. I began to listen more carefully to what my body was telling me. I learned how to release tension and run faster without increasing my perceived rate of exertion (PRE). I found ways to use less leg muscle for propulsion and I learned the value of a midfoot strike. I also learned useful qualities, such as patience, consistency, planning and non-identification, which I could apply to the rest of my life.
When approached in this way, running becomes elevated to more than just a sport. It can be like a combination of a best friend, a mentor, a teacher and a spiritual guide. Our job is to do the practice, be a good listener, a good student and a good practitioner of what we learn.
By focusing less on power and more on running technique, you can learn deeper levels of sensitivity. It allows you more opportunities to delve, explore, Body Sense, try things, experiment, fall on your face, and come away with wisdom.
Here are some tips for how to make running a practice:
- Be consistent in your running program. Plan your weekly workout schedule and stick to it. This will teach you persistence.
- Know which focuses you’ll use during every run. This will teach you planning and mindfulness, and improve your mind/body connection.
- Constantly practice relaxing your muscles. This will help to relieve tension and train you to relax no matter what activity you’re doing.
- At the end of your run, spend a few minutes doing an “end-of-run review.” Ask yourself how well you did with keeping your focuses, how your body felt during the run. What did you come away with that will help your next run? Then, the next time you go out for a run, you’ll have something to work on that you brought forward from your last run. In this way you’ll build a healthy, growing and sustainable running program.
A practice is something you do indefinitely. It may change form or emphasis, but you sustain your practice nonetheless. Treat it as a regular event, but try to not let it become mechanical. There’s a reason why it’s called a practice: because it is process-oriented instead of goal-oriented, which makes every run more interesting, challenging and enjoyable.