Running with a metronome can help you stay light on your feet

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Have you ever been out on a run and felt that the weight on your feet was heavier than usual? I’m not just talking about the day after eating a serious Thanksgiving meal … sometimes I experience this heaviness if I haven’t had enough “down time” or if I run at a time of day that I’m not used to (I almost always run first thing in the morning). Some people probably even feel themselves hitting the ground hard all the time. I’ve got a cure for this that I tried out at a recent ChiRunning Instructor’s Weekend here in Asheville. It’s easy to do,and everyone that tried it felt the immediate sensation of being much lighter on their feet, seemingly floating across the ground. It works well for walking, too. You’ll feel like you’re moving along the ground light as a feather.

You’ll be practicing with two ChiRunning focuses that work in tandem and complement each other: One focus lightens your footstrike; the other lightens your whole body. The steady, rhythmical beat of the metronome gives you a way to maintain a steady stream of focus and keeps your mind from wandering. You can do it without a metronome, but it’s more difficult to hold the focuses for long periods of time.

Begin by setting your metronome to a beat that is 2/3 of your current cadence (multiply your current cadence by 0.66). For instance, if your cadence is 90 strides per minute, you’d set your metronome at 60 bpm and run to a “waltz beat.” This means that with each beep, you’d alternate which leg you focus on: Right, 2, 3 … Left, 2, 3 … Right, 2, 3 … etc. If you’re not using a metronome, you’ll still focus on the opposite leg on every third stride.

Once you feel yourself running (or walking) to the rhythm of the metronome, try this: When the metronome beeps, place your focus on the ankle that is coming up off the ground, not on the foot that’s coming down onto the ground. It helps me if I say to myself, “Up, 2, 3 … up, 2, 3 … up, 2, 3 …,” and so on, and every time I say “up,” a different ankle is floating up off the ground.  Don’t force your ankles to come up … simply be mindful of your ankles coming up. Continue this way for five minutes or until you get into a nice rhythmical groove with it. That’s the first focus.

For the second focus, all you have to do is lengthen the back of your neck, like you’re trying to reach into the sky with the crown of your head. Think of removing all the wrinkles on the back of your neck. This will have the effect of lengthening your spine and you can even imagine yourself being “pulled” upward and forward by a rope attached to a hot air balloon.

When you can run or walk with both of these focuses going at once, you’ll immediately begin to sense the lightness of moving. The heaviness in your footfall will lift, and you’ll feel like you’re gliding along like a hovercraft.

Posted in Technique, Gear

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