relax (aka we-wax)

I didn’t run Tuesday… how could I? With the election, my brain was too a-twitter to focus on a run. So I went this morning instead. Went down to Carrier Park and ran mostly on the pavement. There are a couple sections of raw earth where I ran, but mostly I had the concrete or asphalt below me.

The toal run was about 45 minutes and it was another of the speed workouts.

I bundled up because I was quite chilly: 3/4 pants, long sleeve tech shirt, over ankle socks, ear warmer headband and thin fleece gloves. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I almost always over dress when I run. I am happy to say that until the very end, I was appropriately dressed, although very sweaty.

Last week, I wasn’t impressed with my running during this workout, so I was a little anxious about it, in addition to the fact that I was a day late.

I spoke to Katherine last week briefly about my intervals and how I had felt. I explained the basic discomfort during my speed sections, even though they were only 60 seconds long. I was trying to keep in mind what Danny had said about being long and loose, but it just wasn’t working. So Katherine said, “You know, I had a great experience with that once. I needed to go out for a run and I just wasn’t really feeling like I wanted to. When I got outside, I just told myself to get really relaxed… like loosey-goosey ridiculously relaxed. I knew I needed to keep my core engaged, but I just let everything else be relaxed… I ran the fastest loop I’d ever done. Ever.”

That was awesome to hear, but I just couldn’t get my head around it. That’s one of those things about ChiRunning that’s so hard for me, and I think hard for a lot of people:

  • How can you actually relax that much and run faster? It really is so counter-intuitive that I just want to dismiss it as impossible. My brain doesn’t want to dismiss, but my body certainly does

BUT, I had a breakthrough today! It really DOES work! I am so giddy about it I can hardly stand it.

I started my run very relaxed. In gear 1, I just started off nice and easy. [I did do Body Looseners of course.] Even at that pace, it was really focusing on what it felt like to totally relax. I kept my core engaged, and then I let that relax and feel an anterior pelvic tilt, just for comparison. It didn’t feel good, so of course, re-engaged my lower belly. But I then played for the first 15 minutes, moving out of gear 1 and staying in gear 2 for most of the warm up, with just being relaxed. RELAXED. It’s such a hard word to physically manifest when you’re running. Isn’t it? Well, I started with my feet, and noticed that I started to scuff a little but just ignored that and moved up my legs, loosened my calf muscles, my quads, my butt, my back, my shoulders (tough one), my neck, my arms, my wrists, my fingers (also tough)… I didn’t get so loose that my hands bounced or made unnecessary movement, but I felt like cotton: it will hold form, but it certainly doesn’t hold tension. T’ai Chi named the Needle in Cotton very well.

Anyway, so I just stayed loose. The warm up went well and then the intervals started: 2 minutes in gear 2, 1 minute in gear 3, 1 minute in gear 1, start over. Do 4  of ‘em. I am happy to report that I did all 4 of them and I did them joyfully.

All I focused on was relaxing. That’s it. Every time my calves engaged, I made them let go. Anytime my hands wound tight, I forced them to let go. I really focused on falling. It felt like I was just doing a series of falls, over and over again. I didn’t really even focus on keeping my legs behind me or anything, or even keeping my chin down. My only focus was relaxing.

When I moved into gear 3 for each of the intervals, I forced myself to relax more. [I have a girlfriend who used to say, “We-wax”… when she was young. She didn’t have a speech impediment or anything, but her Mom used to say that to her all the time to get her to chill out.]

So while I was running, transitioning into 3rd gear, I said, outloud, “We-wax, Liz… we-wax”. It worked, that’s all I can say.

I just let go. I let go of feeling pressured to run fast, I let go of feeling like I had perform at some speed or level. I let go of gripping, of getting too excited, of power running.

I noticed that when I started to move into gear 3, unless I very consciously told myself to calm down and relax, my heart rate jumped big and my legs tensed almost immediately. It was a very important recognition, and if you’re reading this and have a hard time ‘letting go’ when you’re in faster speed: Go try this run. Be gentle with your expectations, but really try to see the miniature changes in your body and mind when you force yourself to relax. It’s amazing.

I told Ivan last night when we went to the gym to lift weights (I do very minimal weight and lots of reps: like 30 lbs for 12 reps, 3 sets for arms, maybe 50 lbs for legs… FYI. I am not trying to bulk up at all, but I do sometimes like to lift some metal)… anyway, I told Ivan that my run was fabulous and I had this breakthrough moment and finally understood that business of relaxing more to go faster. I said, “I just got ridiculously loose and goosey and let myself fall. It was easy!” He looked at me a little sideways and frowned. I don’t blame him, because just 24 hours earlier, I had felt the same way.

But people! A breakthrough! I hope I am able to recreate it and I hope too you can feel it if you have a hard time… And guess what else? The end of the intervals is supposed to be 10mins/1 mile of gear 3. I was also very leary of that because I only did 6.5 minutes last week and was fighting it every step…

Today was awesome! I took the 1 minute jog break after the intervals and then gradually started moving into gear 2, then gear 3. I would say that within 2 minutes I was up to gear 3. I tried not to think about anything except that silly relaxation stuff. “We-wax, we-wax, we-wax” It was my mantra. I really let the relaxation translate to a lean and let myself fall. I kept falling over and over again, but thankfully my feet prevented a face plant. It was so cool, and when 10 minutes was up, I felt like I probably could have gone longer, and I am sure I ran more than 1 mile.

I jogged it out at the end and then walked. I ripped off my gloves during the gear 3 and my head warmer after starting to walk: I was so sweaty I didn’t even want to put the warmer on my kitchen table. Ewwww.

Total scale: 8.


Posted in Technique

Related Articles