Three Kinds of Food

Many people ask me what they should eat when they’re on a regular training program. Well, there are lots of ways to answer that question, and this article will try to cover not so much what to eat as how to approach nourishment in general. By doing this, we hopefully can gain a perspective on the value food plays in our lives as compared to the value of other forms of nourishment.

The famous Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff had a very sensible and helpful way of talking about food. He said everything that nourishes us can be divided into three areas or three types of “foods”: edible food, air and impressions. All three are crucially important to sustaining our existence, and here’s the reasoning. If you stop eating regular food, including water, you’ll gradually die of starvation within a matter of days. If you stop taking in air you’ll last only minutes before you expire. But, if you stopped taking in impressions from the world around you, you would be instantly dead. Just think about it. If you suddenly stopped taking in any impressions of the world around you (meaning no thoughts, feelings, or sensations) you could not experience life. I don’t mean to sound morose, I’m just trying to illustrate the relative importance of these three types of “food” and especially the importance of impressions.

So, although a blend of all three is optimal, it seems that the most important type of food is that provided by impressions, since it’s the one that we can live the least without. What do I mean by “impressions”? They can be anything that falls into the categories of thoughts, feelings or sensations. For instance, have you ever had thoughts of a person you feel close to, followed by a nice feeling of warmth in your chest? Have you ever sat watching a beautiful sunset with brilliant colors dancing in the sky and come away feeling fuller? Have you ever spent the day skiing or hiking in the high mountains and come home feeling renewed and joyful, even though your body is tired? How about the feelings you are left with after running along a trail through a forest of giant redwoods? These are all things that deeply nourish you as “food for the soul.” And, of all the “foods” you eat, this type has the highest octane rating. They provide you with a source of energy you can use over and over again.

When you’re in a race, it’s just as important for you to be taking in what is around you as it is to be drinking water, electrolyte drinks or breathing air. You can get fueled by them all, but the highest energy will come from your experience of the impressions around you and within you. Two weeks after your race, do you remember the air you breathed or the food you ate? Usually not. But I’ll bet you can remember some of the feelings that you felt or encounters that you had.

So, when it comes to thinking about what to eat when you’re training or racing, just be sure that you are paying attention to getting some of all three foods. A good, high quality diet gives your muscles the right fuel to burn. Breathing relaxed and fully will give your muscles and your brain the oxygen needed to function properly. And feasting on the impressions of what is going on, inside and around you, will feed your spirit and add wings to your feet.

This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes focus and practice, and all of the focuses that are taught in the ChiRunning classes and books are the foundation for being able to make it a part of your experience. For starters, constantly remind yourself to pay attention to how you feel while you’re running. How does your posture feel? How does your foot plant feel? How do your muscles feel? How does what you’re looking at make you feel? How does it feel to be out running? You don’t get answers if you don’t ask the questions.

Once you learn how to take in energy from what you see and feel around you, you’ll be approaching ChiRunning in the truest sense.

Bon appetit!

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"Running doesn't hurt your body. It's the way you run that causes pain" -Danny Dreyer, author and founder of ChiRunning

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