The True Rewards Of Teaching ChiRunning & ChiWalking

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Instructing Others Is A Surefire Way To Deepen Your Own Practice

I’ve been privileged to teach ChiRunning and ChiWalking since I became a certified instructor in 2007. It’s a wonderful thing to get paid to do something that I love. But the biggest rewards aren’t monetary. How would I put a price tag on the satisfaction of witnessing the moment when a client suddenly moves with greater ease than they’d ever imagined was possible? Or on the occasional pleasant surprise of having a group of workshop participants spontaneously burst into applause at the conclusion of a session? Receiving thank you notes, reports of recovery from injury, enthusiastic race recaps, and jubilant finish line photos are all pretty special, too.

Just last Monday, I was reminded of another, perhaps somewhat more selfish, benefit of teaching ChiRunning and ChiWalking – how unbelievably fantastic I feel in my own body during the next few runs and walks after having taught a workshop.

The previous afternoon, I had taught a ChiRunning Half-Day Introductory Workshop. We spent roughly the first 3 hours indoors in a gymnasium. First, we methodically explored postural principles, experiencing the difference between what it feels like to sculpt the body towards an aligned, relaxed state versus what it feels like to lapse into some common, tension-riddled postural habits. Then, we progressed through a series of ChiRunning drills and exercises, moving back and forth across the room. Sometimes demonstrating, sometimes leading my clients in the drills, and sometimes observing them and offering suggestions from the sidelines, I led the group through the basics. We practiced incorporating a lean to create and sustain forward movement. We experienced the difference between lifting with the heel to softly release the foot from the ground instead of aggressively pushing off with the toes. We refined our arm position and arm swing range of motion. And we experimented with pelvic rotation, which not only creates a relaxed, fluid stride but which also unlocks the potential for faster running.

During the final hour or so of the workshop, I led the group outside, so that we could run together on the track. Covering somewhere around ¼ mile at a time, I ran beside the group and called out ChiRunning focuses, visualizations, and imagery to help them practice and build upon the skills we’d covered indoors.  We measured each individual’s current running cadence; then used a metronome to experience the benefits of running at the 170-180 strides-per-minute cadence recommended in ChiRunning. Finally, I videotaped each participant as he or she ran for a short distance on the track. I then played back the video clips for the group and offered each runner my observations, suggesting which ChiRunning focuses would be the most beneficial for him or her to concentrate on in the weeks to follow.

Once back indoors, I distributed handouts. As we were saying our good byes, one workshop participant gave me a hug of appreciation before heading out the door. That’s always a nice surprise. It had been a good day. I was very satisfied with how well the workshop had gone.

After packing up from the workshop, I drove home and enjoyed a nice dinner with my family. The rest of my Sunday evening was devoted to laundry and to generally getting organized for the week ahead. 

On Monday morning, I was lucky enough to meet a few friends for a 6-mile run on Portland’s Leif Erickson Trail. As we greeted one another, the previous afternoon’s workshop was not at the forefront of my mind. Yet the moment I took my first steps on the trail, I was instantly struck by how “on” I felt.  Drawing upon similar occurrences from the past, I knew that this wonderful feeling was directly attributable to how I’d spent my Sunday afternoon.

Ordinarily at the beginning of a run, it will take me a few minutes to find my groove. Not unlike tuning up a guitar, I often find myself “tinkering” with various ChiRunning focuses until everything clicks. No such tinkering was required at the outset of Monday morning’s run. The process of repeatedly leading my students through the nuances of aligning posture and the methodical review and repetition of so many fundamental elements of ChiRunning on Sunday afternoon had reinforced the technique in my own body.  It had laid the groundwork for Monday morning’s experience of stepping straight into “running nirvana”.

Every now and then you hear someone use the expression, “Those who can’t do teach.” I would question whether that old adage is true in just about any context, but when it comes to ChiRunning and ChiWalking I know it’s completely off the mark. The rigorous and comprehensive certification process ensures that every certified ChiRunning and ChiWalking instructor can most assuredly “do” the technique.  But ChiRunning and ChiWalking are practices. As such, it is always possible for any practitioner to improve. I’ve found that teaching the techniques to others – particularly by following the well-constructed lessons that Danny and select Master Instructors have developed and refined over the years – is a phenomenal way to deepen my own ChiRunning practice.

Whether you’re new to ChiRunning and ChiWalking or have practiced for awhile and are motivated to hone your skills, I encourage you to seek out a certified instructor in your area.  Register for a workshop, or perhaps arrange for some individual instruction. And if you’re eager to really immerse yourself in ChiRunning and ChiWalking, consider participating in an upcoming ChiRunning/ChiWalking Instructor Training. The experience of sharing the techniques with others will undoubtedly bring your own ChiRunning and ChiWalking practices to a whole new level.

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