Running form – Feeling What it Feels Like
I spent last weekend near Asheville at Highland Lake Inn attending the ChiRunning Instructor retreat, put on by the ChiLiving team. Each morning, before running, we started with the Morning Exercise, a guided body sensing meditation designed to get you in your body, in preparation for running in a mindful way. Katherine or Danny guided us through each part of the body, starting at one foot and ending at the other. Feeling the body is essential to feeling what good running form feels like.
From there, we moved outside and went through the body looseners, led by Danny. Again, this is an essential part of running mindfully, as it loosens up the joints and ligaments, and warms the body up to begin running. The weather was cool, but by the end of the looseners, I was warmed and ready to go. We started running in first gear, keeping it light and easy. By moving that slowly and easily, you can feel if you’re not relaxed and if your running form is out of alignment. And by feeling what it feels like, you can make necessary corrections while running. For instance, if my feet are aligned when standing still, they might not be when I go to run, since my focus isn’t directly on them. But by going easy and feeling (and looking) I can notice more and make the adjustments.
Soon we were on trails and by a beautiful waterfall. As I picked up speed, I focused on keeping my pelvis level, stride length short, and feet landing behind my hips. One habit I have going uphill is not leaning enough. Fortunately, I now have Danny’s voice stuck in my head when I go uphill telling me to lean more into it. When I do that the running becomes more effortless. As we ran over grass fields and up small hills, I felt like I was dancing! It became such a pleasure to turn my running into playing, all because I was feeling what good form felt like – aligned and relaxed! That was the first day.
The second day, after the morning exerises and body looseners, we ran on roads. Danny had taught us some new tricks to apply when running up and down hills, and we headed out to a deserted road to try them out. For me, those tricks will come in handy as I go running in the mountains near my home. We ran up and down the hills several times, and then headed back to a field near the lodge. We ended the run with a grounding exercise – so beautiful to do and watch in the early morning sunlight! From there, Danny asked us to walk silently towards breakfast. Either not all heard him or monkey minds took over and chatter began. Holding back from the group and feeling what that peacefulness felt like was its own reward.
Back home, I’ve gone running twice and enjoyed feeling what it feels like. My favorite is the hill climbing. As I ran home from work tonight, I purposely left the trail, headed up some stairs and took my running up a long hill to reach my street. I tried out using my obliques more and tried to neutralize my legs as much as possible. Once I got into the rhythm, I felt as if I was floating instead of running. As I ran the last downhill towards my house, I relaxed as much as I was comfortable with and floated easily in the front door. I was grinning ear to ear feeling what it felt like.