Last weekend I was on a quiet retreat in Northumberland. After spending a while participating in a discussion I went for a run before night prayers. It was one of those moments when everything flowed and came together. Everything outside was totally and absolutely silent and still. It seemed like all my senses were heightened. I could smell the freshly cut hedges. The only thing I could hear was my own footsteps. I could feel my breath as it filled my lungs and it seemed that I was tasting the air even within my lungs. It seemed more nourishing than normal. As I ran i quickly became able to relax deeper and deeper into a state of joy. I even raised up my arms for a moment out of happiness. Then I just relaxed more, finding balance with my posture line and enjoyed the journey.
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It’s in French!
A final word
This blog caught my attention. I thought I'd post a response.
The blog suggests that there are three reasons why we struggle to do things that are good for us (eg eat well, exercise.) 1. Lack of Awareness - we aren't aware of what to do. 2. Lack of Permission - we don't give ourselves permission to do what we know is good for us. 3. Obstacles or Road Blocks.
I'd like to respond to both of these thoughts, and then add a few thoughts of my own. My thoughts are based on my personal experiences using NLP (Neuro Liguistic Programming) and Mindfulness techniques.
Lack of Awareness
It's true! we're SO unaware of what we need to do to look after ourselves. We live in an unnatural and unhealthy modern bubble that is damaging to our bodies and minds. Fortunately the mindfulness revolution is really beginning to spread. Businesses are changing, the government is seeing that there are benefits in the NHS and in education. I've previously written a blog on the subject of mindfulness based improvement in running. I really do believe a mindfulness based approach is an important one here - learning to increase our awareness of the present moment - surely that's got to be a good thing! There are still a great many people charging around unaware that they are suffering from stress and living with a level of pain and discomfort that they simply don't need to.
Like the boiling frog - we are sat in a pan of boiling water (stress) that is getting hotter and hotter and we're unaware of it. Like a frog being dropped in to a pan of boiling water if we took a step back and realised how crazy our lives have become we'd jump straight out of the pan!
Lack of Permission
It's true! We don't give ourselves permission to look after ourselves. I actually got hostile looks in a meeting on wellbeing for teachers when I suggested that exercise could be a way to combat stress. It's true though, it sharpens our mind and keeps us calm. The research is there to prove it. But still in many work places you are made to feel guilty for looking after yourself. There's a kind of competition to see who can 'do the most' - and it's not healthy. I'm guessing that if you're reading this then you probably already give yourself a certain level of permission to look after yourself. Maybe it's time to take it to a new level?
3) Obstacles or roadblocks
We all have plenty of these! I think our attitude is really key here. There are so many practical barriers here. I actually think that the WOOP method suggested in the blog might be a really good tool for tackling the next steps your might be wishing to take in your Chi Running if you have been 'stuck in a rut' and not able to motivate yourself to keep focussed. Why not choose a Chi Running focus and give it a go?
The Yoda Factor
The very title of the blog is wrong. The word struggle should probably be banned from our vocabulary. What does it imply? The very word implies that we might not succeed. I'd suggest that we should eliminate certain words from our vocabulary and definitely from our self talk when it comes to looking after ourselves. When you're deciding whether to go out for a long run on a wet night or whether to take an easier shortcut to your route listen to your language. Try ... struggle ... these very words imply failure. Our self talk let's us down. Pay attention to some of yours nonjudgementally and maybe you should think about using kinder words instead.
"Do or do not - there is no try."
The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick Mckeown - a book review from a Chi Running perspective. The books starts with some essentials on how breathing works. I love the title of the website 'The Oxygen Advantage - Simulate High Altitude Training.' This is a great introduction and easy for the non scientist to follow. It's fascinating to find out more about the anatomy and functions of the nose. If turns out it's not just two holes in your face!
You will quickly learn how to work out your Body Oxygen Level Test score (BOLT.) The aim of following the Oxygen Advantage course is to improve this score, and along with it gain the wide range of health benefits that the book claims. These include getting rid of asthma, weight loss, improving sleep and increasing sports performance.
As the book moves on and discusses some really useful practical exercises to help improve your BOLT score it also has some really clear examples of groups who breathe through the their nose all the time. This helps make the point about the importance of nose breathing. It also provides a nice link with the Born to Run book for those who have read that.
It may be surprising to think that many of us breath incorrectly. This is much like the way we have got in to bad postural habits and therefore a natural running technique like chi Running can make a huge difference to our running. It's true that learning Chi Walking and Chi Running seem uneccesary to some people, "why do i need to learn how to walk?" When people take the time to learn some simple techniques and accept that there is a link between the way they move and associated health problems, they will be ready to explore ways to change that. It's developing a mindful practice throughout all our lives and living by the principle of gradual progress that make a huge difference here.
I must say I have been utterly convinced (if I wasn't before) of the importance of breathing correctly, and also that so many people don't breath correctly. I've also been convinced that making changes in our everyday lives - when we are just sitting around and going about daily routines - can have a huge effect in our performance in sport. There is another parallel to Chi Running here, as I love the way that some of the best changes we can make to improve our running are those postural adjustments that we make all day every day throughout out routines. As you can see the book fits perfectly with the Chi Running philosophy and the two approaches complement each other very well indeed.
The surprise chapter, which really was the icing on the cake for me, was 'finding the zone.' This chapter spends a great deal of time discussing how important mindfulness is for the human being, and its relevance to anyone wanting to breath better. Again it had a lot of examples of how mind body techniques can be of huge benefits and did a great job of extolling the advantages of using mindfulness techniques together with the Oxygen Advantage breathing exercises. In fact, if you follow the programme properly you need to include mindfulness in it. This image reminds us of the links between breathing and mindfulness.
Here is a short quote from the Finding the Zone chapter to highlight just how close the philosophy is to that of Chi Running. "Scan your body for any tension that may be residing there, and bring a gentle feeling of release to tense areas to encourage relaxation. Tension of muscle groups during sports is counterproductive and consumes energy - learn to recognise areas of tension in your body and practise melting them away with the power of the mind."
The book suggests looking at a video of a cheetah running to see just how relaxed it looks. Here is an example of such a video (opens in new window.)
Can you see just how relaxed it looks? Can you see, yet again, a common approach shared between The Oxygen Advantage book and the Chi Running way of looking at running (and life)?
So this is definitely the start of my journey with the 'Oxygen Advantage' programme. I have used various breathing techniques before but I'm going to give this one some real sustained attention and report back in another blog. Please do comment and ask questions you might have about the book, any resources you have in breathing or any methods you have used yourself.
In summary, read this book if:
- You are a runner who has never thought about breathing technique
- You have had problems with your breathing at some point in your life
- You aren't sure why nose breathing is important
- You are interested in a mindfulness based approach to life
Read the book? Like my blog? Dislike my blog? As always, please leave your comments below.
If you want to learn the breathing technique, why not attend the following workshop, organised by Chi Running UK?
This workshop is only available through the Chi Running UK website and some places are still available at the time of writing. Please click the link above to purchase this, or to find out more information.
Mindfulness is becoming a household term. What if we could develop habits as part of our daily routine that not only help us remain calm and focused but are also good for our bodies? What if we could be kinder to our bodies in the process, developing healthy lifelong habits that help us to exercise for our whole lives?
Learning to walk and run more mindfully can do just that.
The Chi Running book has a whole section on Chi Living and also discusses diet. Diet plays a central role in becoming a better runner. I recently qualified as a Sport and Exercise Nutritional Advisor and am avidly reading through various books around the theme of nutrition for runners. See my previous blog on Finding Ultra, for example. I'm begining to explore more and more what raw and much less processed food can do for us as athletes (and as human beings!)
I'm going to share a few recipes in the next few blogs. Why not post a photo and comment when you've tried one out?
Paul from Paul Poole Mountainreering has let me share this yummy recipe. Make it today!
What do we mean by mindful fitness? How about running with greater awareness, more mental presence and focus?
In my last newsletter I wrote a piece on running mindfully 'on purpose. ' Read the full text here on my blog.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn...
"mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment,
Have you ever been running, say in a race or a challenging run, and suddenly realised you can't remember Runnjng the last mile because your mind was elsewhere? That's an example of mindlessness. Mindfulness can help us be fully focussed in the present moment where we are, whatever we are doing. Wouldn't it be great if our running really helped us leave unhelpful thoughts and the stress of our busy lives behind.
How do we enhance and develop this 'being present?'
My Protein sent me some of this to try out, and here are my thoughts.
When I read the packaging I couldn't believe the scoop size needed to use this powder. I started looking at the measuring spoons in my kitchen. Then I found the v absolutely tiny scoop inside the packet. "This is going to last for ages" were my first thoughts. To compare, a big scoop larger than an egg cup was needed for the last electrolyte powder I used. It's going to last for AGES.
It's supposed to be flavourless, however I am lucky and have delicious Yorkshire Water coming out of my tap and so I confess I do notice a slight taste. No problem though as I'll just drink it with my daily fruit juice, or with water and don't worry about the taste. In comparison other electrolyte I've tried has had it's own taste anyway so I guess it's personal preference. You might prefer tablets or flavoured powder, but you're not going to beat this for value for money. Some electrolytes are sold in single dose sachets, this pouch will go on for many, many doses.
Does it seem to 'work?' Tough to tell but I'm marathon training at the moment and I've not suffered any signs of dehydrating on my long runs so that's a thumbs up from me.
My Protein gave me some of this product to try. I've already purchased some more of my own. There are various discount offered here if you fancy some: http://www.myprotein.com/voucher-codes.list
We thought our peanut butter product was junk free until we read the ingredients list on this one from MyProtein. It has one ingredient. Peanuts. Give the jar a good stir and smell the goodness, then slap it on to wholemeal toast. This is a really great product, and one which would make a great addition to any runner's kitchen cupboard.
The makers have a discount voucher page here and a short video about the product here:
To get the discussion started, I got in touch with Gina Battye, who I met recently whilst she was juicing oranges for my children! Gina is the founder of the worldwide Health and Happiness Movement, best-selling author of 'How to Beat the Biscuit Tin Blues' and international inspirational speaker. She looks at it his way in her book...
"The connection between food and exercise is sometimes forgotten. You need to make sure you eat well for fitness. Do you think about the food you eat and how it impacts on your body when it comes to exercise? You wouldn’t be alone if you overlook this.
In this section [of 'Beating the Biscuit Tin Blues'] we will look at how to fuel up, how to look after yourself during and how to repair quickly and effectively afterwards. Food is a fundamental part to this process so we will be looking at the kind of things you should be eating around exercise.
Why do this? If you get it right, you will allow your metabolism to run efficiently, you will have peak physical performance and maintain your focus and concentration.
It is crucial to fuel and repair your body before, during and after exercise. Most people don’t do this and that is why they have a slower recovery rate, feel tired and have no energy. If you do this correctly, you can cut down on recovery time whilst ensuring your body is repairing fully. You can also maximise the energy you have and give greater performance whilst engaging in the exercise itself."
Taken from 'How To Beat The Biscuit Tin Blues' - Gina Battye, 2014
Want to improve your health and happiness every day? Join Gina's health and happiness movement today! Register your commitment now to receive your free gifts that will get you started on your journey: www.healthbygina.com
Does that sound like a challenge to you? Well do you think big with your exercise and your diet? Do you think your diet is that of an athlete? More on that later, but remember Chi Running advocates gradual progress in all aspects of living, as well as a mindful and holistic approach to life. So with respect to diet, the first thing I'd say is don't beat yourself up. Notice which healthy foods feel good when you eat them. Make gradual changes to your diet and notice the differences. Enjoy eating healthy foods. I think most people are beginning to accept that 'dieting' doesn't really work for many people, however eating a healthy diet is something we all need. Gradual progress with your diet is the only way you are going to make worthwhile changes in my opinion - so why not start with something small? The first steps will build a confident foundation for the next.... let me know how you get on...
I've run less than normal recently due to changes in my personal life. I thought I'd hate less regular training and that has been hard but not as hard as I expected. A quote from the Chi Walking book reminded me that running and walking should be equal in stature with all other important activities in your live (p 56). Walking and running should be a vehicle for personal growth as well a fitness. I must say that never before have I found as many opportunities to develop concepts and try out physical tasks as now. I can find so many ways to play around with posture and lean as well as other elements of the Chi Running technique during every day life. I'm not a runner and I'm