Freedom To Run - Ease, Efficiency, Speed

Jon Burdon, Chi Running and Chi Walking instructor based in England and Wales

Freedom To Run - Blog

This blog is all about my journey with Chi Running. I try to discuss all aspects of the practice. I also write a book review for every book I read about running. Please DO post comments below - you don't event need to have an account - just leave your name :)

Finding flow

Finding flow

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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The Geneva Marathon 8th May 2016 - Review

Why Geneva?

We headed out to Geneva to run Becky's (my wife’s) first marathon. To be honest we hadn’t heard of the event when it popped up in a Facebook advert. We looked at the cost of the event (£50 each) and then waited until Easyjet flight prices from Manchester (£50 each) were announced. It was only when we had worked out the combined price of the race, flights and hotel that we decided it was pretty good value really. Plus, of course, we were really drawn by the chance to visit a beautiful part of the world.
 swissflag

Organisation

 
The way the whole event was organised was pretty much flawless. The registration (also the race finish) is easy to find right in the centre of the city. It was so easy to find your way round as each area (bib collection, race information etc) was all signposted very clearly. Everyone was very helpful and even though we had a few questions these were all handled quickly and efficiently by people who had all the information that they needed to answer our questions. There was plenty to drink, and it was nice to be provided with some free sun block as the forecast was hotter than expected.
 

Photos and Video

The HD quality race video that you receive afterwards was great. We bought the extended version and thought it was worth the money. The photos were also great but it was a bit disappointing that they were all taken in the city and there were no shots of the spectacular mountain backdrop.
 
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Course information

The course was flat. Very flat. The finish is actually 50m lower than the start. There are some very gentle inclines in the first half but these are nothing to make a difference to speed by more than a few seconds. The last half of the race is absolutely pancake flat. It runs along the side of the lake and in to the city centre before a spectacular finish on the Pont De Mont Blanc (the big famous bridge right next to the jet d’eau fountain.) If you are looking for a PB course this could be it, especially as there are relatively fewer runners (less than 2000) compared with most big marathons. That is in part due to the fact that 16,000 people do a wide range of events over the weekend. 6,000 did the Half Marathon and there is also a relay marathon.
 

courseprofile

 

Did we enjoy it then?

You bet we did. The warm air was such a welcome after training in freezing temperatures in England. We also loved running through stunning yellow fields of Rapeseed with swiss villages peeping out and, of course, a backdrop of snowy Alps which kept our attention in the far distance. The atmosphere was very friendly and it was great to be amongst such an international group of runners.
 
genevaroute
 

Hints and tips for anyone considering running

 

Stay central

Even though you will have a ticket for free transport around the city on the day of the marathon, I suggest staying within walking distance of the city centre. We stayed near the airport and although we benefitted from cheaper restaurant prices and it was only a 20 minute bus ride this is a long way when you are tired and you could access some of the city centre hotels more easily.
 

Check the weather

We have very hot (26 degrees) running conditions. In 2015 the weather was very wet and colder. As you would expect with any running event in Spring, be prepared for anything and make sure you check the forecast carefully before you travel!
 

How to prepare yourself for the this race

This is a pb course with relatively less support from the crowd compared with most big city marathons. Get used to motivating yourself and also using the natural environment around you for motivation - there’s enough of that around the course.
 

Remember you are well supported with energy

The aid stations were excellent - water (in cups), isotonic drink, energy gels, crackers and fruit were all easy to access and handed out by really friendly people.
 

It’s in French!

Of course everyone speaks some English but we LOVED the international feel to this event. There were people from a massive range of countries and we all had our national flag on the front of our race number which was great. You might need to be prepared to cheer your fellow runners on in their language but you’ll soon learn what to say just by listening.
 

A final word

This was a very emotional race for me as I ran it alongside Becky who had previously suffered from C.F.S. / M.E. for over 11 years. During that time she couldn’t even walk without becoming exhausted. Crossing the finishing line was such a great testimony to the progress she has made. If you would like to sponsor her to raise money for our local hospice (Kirkwood Hospice) we would really appreciate it.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Becky-Burdon?utm_id=13
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Why do we struggle to do things that are good for us?

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!

Frogs-in-hot-water

 

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."

- Yoda.

 

 

 

 

 

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I just ran at 4000m altitude ... in London!

I just got back from an inspirational workshop with Patrick McKeown, leading global expert on the buteyko breathing method and developer of The Oxygen Advantage approach to breathing for runners.  The day included a combination of the theory and science behind the Buteyko method and how it applies to running. We had plenty of practical opportunities to practise a range of exercises which help correct dysfunctional breathing and also that simulate high altitude training. This blog is a bit of a mash up of links, quotes, tips and pictures that give a quick flavour of the day.
 
If you're not sure whether this might be of interest to you, Patrick's bio on his Buteyko Clinic website says this:
 
"Did you know that mouth breathing significantly increases the risk of abnormal development of children's faces, crooked teeth, snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, poor concentration, ADHD, respiratory problems including asthma, hay fever and poor sports performance?"
 
During one of the sessions I used a pulse oximeter to measure my oxygen saturation, which went down to 90% - so according to this graph that's 4000m altitude!
 
Oxygen Saturation at Altitude
 
Since reading the book and writing my previous blog on The Oxygen Advantage I have realised that I have been habitually over breathing for the whole of my life, and have already taken steps to correct this and am regularly simulating high altitude situations whilst running through the use of breath holding techniques. The book made a link between many of the health conditions that have affected me throughout my life, and the way I have been breathing, so I'm really hoping to improve my running but also my whole health bu following this method.
 
I particularly enjoyed Patrick's soft, non judgemental and supportive approach. Despite there being a clear history of over breathing in my case, I didn't feel 'like I'd been doing it all wrong' because of Patrick's non-judgemental attitude. He also spent a great deal of time encouraging us to accept our current BOLT (Body Oxygen Level Test) score and habits and just start from wherever we are now.
 
I've also started to experiment with a nose clip from rhinomed to expand my nasal passages and help me nose breathe- thanks for that Patrick!
 
So I'm left feeling really positive about the future of my health, wellbeing and improvement in running. I'm expecting to see some real improvements in my running as well as some great health benefits. I'm also hoping that my children might not go the same way I did!
 
If you didn't make it to the day, here is a graphic that I made from all the notes I took on my ipad. 
 
Photo 28-02-2016 19 26 25
 
A few videos from the day were fascinating. You can watch quite a few of them here.
 
 
 
To finish with, here are a few inspiring and memorable notes, tips and quotes from the day. These are my own notes, so please don't think they are word perfect.
 
When breathing is difficult, the running often isn't the issue .... Everyday breathing is usually the issue.
 
Identify if you have the signs of dysfunctional breathing - breathing through the mouth, dry mouth after sleep.
 
You can tell if someone is a lifelong mouth breather by their facial structure
 
Question. Can you run with absolute relaxation?
 
Light breathing causes more oxygen to be delivered to cells
 
Co2 is needed for oxygen delivery to cells it is not a waste gas
 
Do you understand the physiological aspects of stress?
 
The Oxygen Advantage simulated high altitude training exercises can improve vo2 max and running economy.
 
Remember: With breathing, less is worth more. All authentic practitioners of breathing focus on this.
 
If you can run with every cell of your body, then you will be in a state of complete relaxation
 
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The Oxygen Advantage - Book review from a Chi Running perspective

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!

Lungs

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.

Stream

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? 

 OXY2

 

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.

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Learn How To Walk (mindfully)

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.

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Raw Nutrition for Runners

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!

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The Mindful Runner Part 2 - in the present moment

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;

on purpose,

in the present moment,

and

non judgmentally."

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?'

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My Protein 04 Sports Performance electrolyte powder

Photo 20150410195603594

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.

Photo 20150410195603872
 

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.

Photo 20150410195604101

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

 

 

 

 

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Peanut butter for runners - review

peanutbutter

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:

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How is diet relevant to exercise?

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...

Gina Battye Portait"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...

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I'm not a runner

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

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Where to find me

 

I live in the Holme Valley, near Huddersfield and on the very northern edge of the Peak District National Park. Workshops are in venues easily accessible from:

Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Halifax, Wakefield, Barnsley, Cumbria, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Wales.

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I am a qualified Mountain Leader, registered with the Mountain Training Association.

Photos of the Holme Valley Landscape are by Andy Leader of Made in Holmfirth

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