Running With Less Impact (Run with Less Impact)

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One of the basic goals in ChiRunning is injury prevention. And basically, almost all running injuries (outside of accidents) fall into one of two categories: overuse and impact. Overuse injuries happen when you ask more of your body than it is currently capable of delivering. Overuse injuries commonly affect your muscles. Impact injuries are caused by impact between your body and the Earth. These injuries most often affect your bones and joints. Today I’m talking about impact and how to reduce the danger of impact injuries.

We all experience impact when we walk and run. We feel it in our joints, feet, ankles, knees, quads, hips,  lower back, or even our neck; it depends on where our particular weak spot is. So, if you’d like to reduce the impact to any (or all) of these body areas, one of the basic thoughts running through your head should be, “How can I walk or run in a way that creates less impact?” It’s a question I’ve been pondering for years, and here are some of the answers I’ve come up with. I’ve come up with a lot of images I use. My body responds better to images than words.

When I’m running, my ruling idea is to do everything I can to not touch the ground when I run. I know, it’s impossible… but just having that thought has actually brought me closer to reducing my impact. Here’s my thinking: if impact happens when I come down, then I want all of my thoughts to be in the opposite direction… up.

Here are some fun images to try out on your next run. If you use any of these, always try to sense if you actually less impact in your stride.

  • The parasail: I imagine the crown of my head is attached to a thin cable being pulled up, and forward, by a parasail.
  • Ankle balloons: I visualize little hot air balloons tied to my ankles and they’re gently lifting my ankles at the end of each stride.
  •  Holding up the clouds: I imagine that I’m holding up the clouds with the top of my head.
  • Running on thin ice: I imagine I’m running across a pond that has only recently frozen over… and I don’t want to break through the ice.
  • Sneaking up on someone: I run like I’m trying to sneak up on someone without them hearing me. This forces me to focus on picking up my feet and landing softly, instead of coming down hard.
  • Leaving no footprints: There is actually a stanza from the Tao Te Ching that says, “A good runner leaves no footprints.” Try it sometime… whether you’re running on the beach.. or on concrete.
  • Floating across the surface of the Earth: A very wise friend of mine once said, “Why run somewhere you could float to?” Mohammed Ali also famously said, “Float like a butterfly…”

    These are a just few of the images I use to take away impact. See if you can come up with some of your own. We’d love to hear them and we can certainly all use them!


Posted in Mindfulness

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