A deeper and more connected life

A deeper and more connected life

Mindfulness is a word that is batted around in every other magazine article nowadays but it’s really very simple, and you’re probably doing it anyway.

What do I love most about Chi Running? I think it’s that it is a holistic practice – so much more than just a running technique. The skill of stopping yourself in your tracks and resetting your alignment becomes something you do all day, every day. And what’s more this is not just a physical thing but a mental, emotional, even spiritual practice too.

Mindfulness is a word that is batted around in every other magazine article nowadays but it’s really very simple, and you’re probably doing it anyway. Focussing your mind on just one part of your body, or on your breath, or on the ground beneath you are all great ways to become a connected, more relaxed runner. Learning to simplify our thoughts and focus on one element of our movement is a great way to reduce stress.

If you have been working on your Chi Running technique for some time or just a few days I’d encourage you to explore the body sensing skills that are discussed in the Chi Running book. Make a body scan part of your daily routine. Scan your body from head to toe and get a sense for what it is telling you. I’d suggest including your feelings and emotions within this scan as well – they can tell you a lot about how your run is going to go! The Chi Walking book is also a fabulous starting point for this journey, full of exercises to help you connect mind and body.

If you have worked with an instructor they have no doubt given you some ‘form focusses’ to work on. Use a form intervals approach to work on these. To run form intervals, you focus your mind entirely on the one small aspect of your form for an interval of about one minute. After that you give yourself a break mentally before coming back for another repetition. This is a great way to build on the physical components of Chi Running and start to work more on the mental aspects. Be non judgemental and just observe yourself. If your focus wanders, just make a note that has happened and then allow your mental focus to return to the chosen focus.

Yes, Chi Running can help make you a better runner. Yes, Chi Running can help prevent injury, but if the physical component is all you get from it I personally think you’re missing out. What do I love most about Chi Running? It can lead you to a deeper and more connected life – all day and every day.

Jon Burdon

Jon Burdon

Jon is a qualified teacher who has been exploring and sharing the great outdoors with others for over 20 years. He has a holistic philosophy and believes a relaxed, natural technique, together with a mind-body approach to running can enhance your whole life. He is proud to present a very special Mindful Fitness Day, Saturday 24 June (with an optional trail run on the Sunday) in the beautiful Holme Valley. Here the teaching of Chi Running is blended with that of mindfulness and yoga.

Area: Huddersfield and West Yorkshire, Peak District, Snowdonia, Lake District, Manchester, Shropshire.

New Year – New You?

New Year – New You?

Reading this and thinking about some kind of change to your health and fitness in the new year? There’s a lot to be said for a ‘kickstart’ to the new year. It’s good to take back control of drinking and eating – this can help re-programme the body and its cravings. When it comes to fitness, what works for one person may not with the next. We all know that gym memberships peak in January. Good fitness intentions often don’t last. In this spirit, I’ll share how Chi Running has transformed my own fitness, and helped to make lasting changes. You can then judge whether it might work for you.  

A new attitude 

Chi Running is an excellent and sustainable approach that has, for me, led to a new attitude to exercise. It is energy efficient, reduces injury, and increases enjoyment of movement. Many people who take up Chi Running find it the start of a journey towards improved fitness and lifestyle.

A ‘Chi Running journey’ can lead to less stress, greater relaxation, sustained weight loss, improved breathing, and a more positive outlook in general. Interested?

You may already appreciate some of the positives about running. Getting outdoors, natural light, green space and the open air boost your mood. The more you do it the more you crave it, and you become less wary of the cold and the wet. And when the sun is finally shining, all the better. However you may not be aware that good running form gives a whole body workout. Chi Running will help protect your ankles, knees and hips, and increase overall body strength, starting at the core.

Gradual progress

The concept of gradual progress is key in Chi Running. A Chi Running instructor works with your current level of fitness and your available time. Your need for replenishing sleep, recovery, nutrition and relaxation are all taken into account. As you become fitter and stronger your commitment and motivation is likely to grow. That’s when you might feel like ‘stepping it up’, in a way that feels natural and sustainable. When energised and confident you might be more motivated to lift weights, join a class, take up Pilates – who knows where it might lead?

Often our fitness goals are related to external appearance. We develop a stomach or flabby arms and resolve to ‘look better’. We look for some kind of ‘instant’ new year fix.  However, too intensive a programme requiring a continual effort of will can result in injury, burn-out (overtraining) and a return to slothful ways. Just as a crash diet often results in putting the weight back on when you stop, if you’re not careful you may end up with even less motivation than you had at the outset.  

Often goals based on intrinsic motivation are more sustainable. I found it more useful to focus on how you feel. More alert, more energetic, more lust for life – a regular Chi Running habit can really help you here – and the external changes will occur as a consequence. 

Benefits of working with a qualified instructor

When we join a gym we expect to get advice on form and posture, and a balanced and varied programme, if we are to avoid injury. We tend to view running as something we simply ‘do’. However many runners (statistics vary between 30% and a whopping 80%) will experience injuries of some kind in any given year. Chi Running training sessions really focus on your form. They are likely to enrich your running experience and boost your confidence and enjoyment significantly. Consider investing in a Chi Running coach to make 2017 a year of fitness transformation.

Bernard Bulaitis

Bernard Bulaitis

Bernard Bulaitis is a Chi Running Instructor in Training. Having run for pleasure on a regular basis for many years, upon approaching middle age, with family responsibilities and lack of attention to eating and drinking he began to  put on weight, became ‘lazier’ and started to neglect exercise. If this sounds a bit like you – you can be assured of a sympathetic and understanding coach who can help you to get back on track and re-discover the relaxation, energy-conservation and the deep pleasure that running can bring.

“Chi Running helped me to change my life. I am fitter and have more energy now at 58 than I had at 35. The last five years have been an inspiring Chi Running journey. I’m by no means a high-powered athlete, but I will have a lot to offer as a running coach. I can help you make a real difference if you are interested in sustained, pleasurable running with a reduced chance of injury.”

Building a Chi Running Habit

Building a Chi Running Habit

You want to change the way you run. Maybe your knees are giving you bother. You’d like running to feel a little less heavy going. Or you just want to run as well as you can, for as long as you can. So you’ve read the Chi Running book, or you’ve taken a workshop. You understand the principles and ideas behind it. Now what? How do you take those ideas and make them part of how you move? How do you build a Chi Running habit?

Begin and end with alignment

Now, I’ll admit it, when I first started learning to Chi Run, I skipped quickly over that alignment stuff. Shoulders, hips and ankles in a line? Bish, bash, bosh – got it. Now get me to the part where I can START RUNNING!

But through the years, this is the lesson that I keep coming back to. Everything builds on alignment. The better I can organise my body, the more stable and supported I feel while running; the less muscle effort I have to use; and the better all the pieces of Chi Running seem to fit together.

It affects everything, from how easily you breathe, to how well your core muscles can function, to how tired you feel at the end of a run.

If you don’t know where to start with Chi Running, or what to focus on, start with alignment.

Throughout the day, tune in to how you’re holding your body. To begin with, you’ll probably have to keep reminding yourself to be aware. To notice when your hips are drifting forwards, or your shoulders are drifting upwards. But the more you build an alignment habit, the more you’ll instinctively sense when it’s off.

At first, it may not seem like the sexiest part of Chi Running, but the time you invest in practising and sensing alignment will reward you hugely, in your running and beyond.

It may feel weird  – and that’s OK

Your body gets comfortable with how you habitually use it and how you move it. You probably always step up first with the same foot, cross your legs the same way, clasp your hands with the same thumb on top. So when you try something different, it can feel a bit… well… weird.

Trust the weirdness. The more you practise, the less weird it seems. Until suddenly, going back to your old habits feels wrong.

Weird is fine. Painful is not. Chi Running is about gently working with your body to make changes, not forcing yourself into strange and unnatural positions. If you’re feeling tension or a lot of discomfort, ease off. Try less. Work within your boundaries. Gradual progress in everything.

Use the right amount of (mental) effort

Chi Running is all about being efficient, using the right amount of effort, and that includes mental effort too.

It takes some focus to make changes, but there’s such a thing as too much focus. It’s really, REALLY hard to relax when you’re concentrating really, REALLY hard. Ease up on yourself a bit.

Treat each focus as an experiment to be played with, not a command to be obeyed. Be curious. Sense what happens and what changes. And if you forget, and slip back into old habits? No problem. Just notice and gently bring your attention back.

Take your time

“Expect anything worthwhile to take a really long time” – Debbie Millman

We’re living in the age of the instant fix. Life hacks and HIIT. We want results and we want them NOW.

The bad news is that there’s no short cut to changing your running technique. Which isn’t to say that the benefits can’t come quickly. I came to Chi Running in despair at yet another injury, and found myself moving with less pain almost immediately.

But to really make long-term change that lasts demands practise, persistence and patience. After all, it’s taken years to develop the movement habits you have now.

Slow down and take your time. Build your skills baby step by baby step. Piece by piece.

Sometimes you’ll feel buoyed by your progress. And sometimes you may feel as though you’re stuck. But know that even when change is so slow that it seems as though nothing is happening, it is. Suddenly something shifts, a new connection is made, and the seemingly impossible becomes easy. Or at least, easier.

Which brings me to…

Celebrate your successes

It’s an easy trap to fall into. We’re so busy looking forward to where we want to get to, we forget how far we’ve already come.

Notice what feels easier, not just what seems difficult. Sense what’s working well, not just what needs practise. Celebrate the times you stayed focused, and the times you became aware that you’d lost focus.

Measure your runs not just by how far and how fast, but by how present, how light, how enjoyable.

Never stop learning

“Better to explore with precision and attention for one minute, than to practise without precision and without attention for a lifetime” –  Edward Yu

 As a Chi Runner, I’ll never stop being a work-in-progress. And that’s just fine.

Even on the days when the chi ain’t flowing, there’s always the chance to learn something new. To discover how to relax and let go of tension I didn’t even know I had. To try a different focus or visualisation, and notice what changes. To move with just a little less effort.

It’s what has brought the joy back to my running.

Never just go through the motions. Keep exploring, and you’ll build a Chi Running habit for life 🙂

Hannah Kirkman

Hannah Kirkman

Hannah is a Certified Chi Running instructor based in Somerset. You can find her at www.blueskyrunning.co.uk

The Five Element Theory

The Five Element Theory

The five element theory

Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space

In order to progress in Chi Running think in terms of the five elements found throughout Chinese philosophy. There are many variations but Chi Running uses earth, water, fire, air and space (or ether). Elements have their own distinct characteristics and are hierarchical in terms of density, earth being the most dense and space the least. Earth creates the stable foundation on which to build strength and refine the subtitles of your movement allowing power, fluidity and speed through unified mind and body.

Earth represents physical and emotional strength and stability

Earth represents physical and emotional strength and stability

Earth represents physical support and stability predominately from the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. This is the foundational support that needs to be in place especially during the load and support phase of your stride. Restful sleep, relaxation and nourishing food restores the strength and quality of earth.

Water provides fluidity to motion. Your water band is located above the pelvis where your ‘water’ organs reside. It is often considered the ‘moving centre’ of the body. Water provides fluidity to motion (ROM). When you can sense controlled movement in this area your stride takes on a more fluid feel with less bounce and impact. It lends elasticity to skin, muscles and joints, and allows you to face obstacles with grace and pleasure.

Fire symbolises work and transformation. The fire band is above your water band and houses the hard working organs – heart, liver and lungs and muscles such as obliques and transversus abdominus. Fire adds ‘drive’ to your movement and also provides smooth and natural energy that can sustain activity over a long period of time and without strain. Fire keeps water from turning to ice, allows it to be wet and flow.

Air represents the power of breath, the mind and thoughts. Air represents inspiration in terms of breath and imagination. Air is an upward moving element. The key quality of air is movement and speed.

Space is container for other elements. Space is the whole body physically and energetically integrated, not just internally but with external environment and energies. Space has no beginning and no end. Makes space where things can happen. Space in the ribs allows lungs to expand. Space in head allow breath to pass. Anything is possible in space.

Incorporating these elements into your running will help to give structure to your practice.

 

Gray Caws
Director Chi Running UK & Ireland

 

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