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 :)

Reasons I Run Every Day

Reasons I Run Every Day

 

30th Nov 2018 finds me at the milestone of running every day for 2 years. I thought it was time to explain a bit more about this.

What is the challenge?

I run at least one mile every day. I don’t use treadmills and I don’t run inside. This means I have various different 1 mile loops from my front door – trail, flat, uphill, and in various directions. When I would normally have a rest day in my training programme I just pick one of my one mile routes.

There has been a lot written about the mental health benefits of running. Running every day is essentially about learning to make positive, life fulfilling, healthy choices. It's about learning to say YES instead of NO, learning to drop the excuses. These choices affect you mentally as much as they do physically.

 

I have run

 

So, why?

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The Mindful Athlete, Secrets to Pure Performance, by George Mumford

The Mindful Athlete, Secrets to Pure Performance, by George Mumford

Chi Running is purely and simply, in my view, a way of moving mindfully - being fully mentally present in the body and using mental focus as one of the primary ways to improve our running. How do we maximise the positive effect of mindfulness to improve not just our well being, but our level of performance in running? 'The Mindful Athlete,' by George Mumford tackles the subject brilliantly and is sure to become a classic. It's an absolute must read for anyone who is an ambitious runner, and is interested in exploring the mental aspects of the sport. I think we all know that so much of our performance in running is 'all in the mind,' but actually unpicking how to hone our mental landscape can be very slippery. In my experience there are several interrelated pathways here. For example many people, including myself, have benefitted greatly by using sports psychology approaches such as Neuro Linguistic Programming, or other techniques from modern positive psychology. Some people seem to just be born with a huge level of grit and determination - a 'race winning' kind of mindset. My personal feeling is that developing mindfulness based habits has the potential to revolutionise a persons athletic potential. It is my preferred method of 'sorting out my head' as a runner in the long term.

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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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Run for your life

Run for your life
A friend mentioned Dynamic Running Therapy on facebook a short while ago and when the book title 'Run for your Life' grabbed my attention I was immediately hooked. This book, subtitled 'mindful running for a happy life' brings running and therapy together. We seem to be scared of the therapy room (for some reason) in this country. If this is you then you will love Dynamic Running Therapy because it gets you outside! You can also learn the techniques on your own, with a carefully chosen running (therapy?) partner, or through the app. The environment itself has healing qualities, and so does moving through it, so us runners are off to a great start when it comes to mental health. The book explains how to harness and maximise the potential of the healing qualities of running.

As a Chi Runner, I'm always looking for ways to develop mindfulness approaches when I'm out running so it wasn't long before I got in touch with @pullentherapy on Twitter for a tweet based interview. Here are the results.

 







(Sorry for the typo - I meant two words that really strike a chord.)


















I hope you enjoyed reading the conversation as much as did talking to William. I also hope this has encouraged you to look again at the mindfulness element of your running. Mindfulness is right at the heart of Chi Running. Chi Runners believe running can enrich your whole life - not just whilst you are running. As Justin Whittaker puts it here: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/chirunning-a-sitting-meditation-justin-whitaker/

" It's a lot about mindfulness of the body and really feeling what's going on, learning appropriate posture and then relaxing into it. "

I personally think that's just the tip of the iceberg in what Chi Running has to offer. I use regular and specific mindfulness based exercises whilst I running. It's great to be able to add a bit to my collection of techniques. I think it's safe to say I will be blogging more on this subject. If you have any interest at all in mindful running, or in using running to improve mental health then give this book a read.

If you would like to explore this area more, get in touch, or book on to one of my Mindful Fitness Weekends. If you are interested in finding out more from William Pullen about his book and his therapeutic approach, his website is here. I also recommend reading Running with the Mind of Meditation which I have also blogged about.

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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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The Mindful Runner Part 3 - Non Judgement

I've just got back from a wonderful 'Introduction to Mindfulness' workshop lead by my good wife Becky, a trained mindfulness teacher. So I'm fresh and full of ideas for how mindfulness and Chi Running overlap (if indeed they differ at all.) In this series of three short articles on 'The Mindful Runner' I have already explored how "mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way On Purpose and In the Present Moment." (Jon Kabat Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living.) This final article focusses on being 'Non Judgemental'.

 binit

Unhelpful thoughts dominate our minds, if we let them. Our thoughts and words create our reality in a very real way, and we are only just discovering in the West the power of the mind and the difference it can make to the body.
I asked Becky to explain how important this principle can be, and what power these unhelpful judgements can have over us. Here is what she said:

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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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The Mindful Runner Part 1 - Running Mindfully and On Purpose

Chi Running and Walking are more than just a way of moving our bodies, more than a running technique. They are a way of practicing being present in each moment of our lives.

Are you interested in finding more relaxed flow and focus in your running? Do you want to explore ways to mentally and physically get 'in the zone?'

With Chi Running, I think about how I can apply the principles to my whole lifestyle, not just running and walking.

How can we cultivate a deeper awareness of the unity between mind and body?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:

  • On purpose
  • In the present moment
  • Non judgementally

 

In this short discussion, I'm going to explore what we mean by 'On Purpose.'

On purpose means we make a choice. To me, paying attention on purpose means setting your mind intentionally on a specific ChiRunning focus. You can start by choosing a focus from the Chi Running book, Ch Walking or Chi Marathon book. If you've worked with an instructor, try watching your video analysis again and considering whether the advice is still current.

Do you know what focus is currently affecting your running efficiency or would help you relax more as you walk? If not, it's a case of reviewing a few of the possible focusses and then listening to your body to find a focus.

Find triggers in your day to remind you of the focus. When your trigger is clicked, go back to your focus and concentrate your mind and body on it for a period of about 60 seconds. Ideas for triggers ... Maybe it's going to be every time someone says your name, every time you run last a lamp post, or every time you look in the rear view mirror of your car. Whatever your trigger, as you become more experienced at focusing 'on purpose' you will find things start to become more automatic. You may be work on pairs of focusses together, or even choose a mental focus to help release tension and anxiety from your whole mind and body, your whole emotional state whilst you are running.

How else can we learn to be more purposeful in our running? A few pointers:

Make a plan and stick to it. We clear and decisive. When you have made a decision then don't let tired thoughts drag you away from it. Stay positive and you will go a long way! If you plan to run up a particular hill, run up it.  If you plan to run fast, know your Chi Running focusses for running at that speed and stick to them. If you get tired, know which focusses will help restore your energy whilst you are running. If you really can't stick to your plan, adjust or reduce the intensity and stick to the revised target.

Keep coming back to the basics. Whatever focus you have chosen, try starting the first part of your run by lengthening from the crown of your head and feeling the ground inder your feet as you settle in to the right amount of lean for whatever Chi Running 'gear' you have chosen to run in. Use this focus to get grounded. If it's a long run such as an ultra, you will probably need to come back to this grounding focus as various points during the run. Remember to run from your centre.

When your mind wanders (and it will) just keep bringing it back to the focus you have chosen.

Coming soon, The Mindful Runner Part 2, 'In The Present Moment'

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What does mindfulness mean to you?

When I was out running the other day, a friend asked me how Chi Running helps to focus your mind. I explained how I think I use my mind as much, if not more than by body when I am running. My intention is to stay in the present moment, using my mind to listen to and focusing my body in order to become more aligned and relaxed (and ultimately more efficient.) I went on to explain that energy flow and chi are about, for the runner, trying to find that special moment where 'everythign just clicks' and you have a fantastic run. We're setting up the conditions for energy to flow - but what does that really mean? This got me thinking about how to explain mindfulness to those who are less familiar with these concepts. Let's start with the word mindfulness as for me, Chi Running and Chi Walking are about mindful exercise.

Mindfulness comes from Buddhism, however the idea of living with an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness has a wider religious and non religious bases. Secular techniques have now been developed and mindfulness is taught across the whole of society for many different reasons. The word itself can get in the way, so why not pick a word from this list that suits you and forget about the jargon?!

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The spiritual side of exercise

Is technique important in running?

Is the mental side of things important?

Are the mental and physical parts of ourselves interlinked?

Most people would answer yes to all these questions, but few have explored the combination of the two, or indeed the link between exercise and the spiritual side of their life.

From long distance pilgrims, to marathon running monks, the spiritual and physical are not separate in any sense. Focussing the breath and focussing the mind are some examples of how exercise and spiritual practises can be linked together by those seeking to explore these links.

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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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Focus your mind and body with Chi Running

Danny Dreyer has written a very interesting Blog recently on Chi Running's Strength Training Triad. It's work reading now if you haven't already.

I have 3 running goals for the year, one of which was to reach under 40 minutes in a 10k road race. I had a race yesterday (the Joe Percy 10k in Huddersfield, which is an undulating course) and finnally achieved that goal. So how did I prepare?

With Danny's blog in mind, I realised that I already fit as much running/ physical training as I can in to my weekly schedule. I was drawn to the sentence at the end of the blog:

"a strong mind directs your body well"

Well since working as a Chi Running and Chi Walking instructor, I spend a large percentage of my time focussing on the mental aspect of my running - ie body sensing and being aware of the ways I need to move my body to improve my Chi Running form. I have quite a good idea how to 'allow' speed to happen by focusing on the way I am moving my body. That's one of the things I love about Chi Running - if you already running as fast as you can physically, you can use mental focus to relax and allow your body to move that little bit faster. I also do a lot of form intervals, so as I prepared for my race my guess was that I had worked quite a bit on the mental part of the strength training triad as well. So that just left the emotional and psychological strength.

That element is something I've been pondering for a while. I have been very attentive to my self talk, and I asked myself a few questions. Why do I always feel I could have given a bit more when racing? Do I hold back? Why? Why do I feel I can't keep up with runners when they overtake? Or maybe even don't have the right to chase after them.

I completed the Huddersfield Half Marathon recently (hilliest in the UK) in a time I was very happy with. In that race, I very much felt that starting the race with a deeply relaxed mental attitude had a huge impact. So one principle I had in mind when I started preparing for the 10k was to start with a calm and peaceful mental attitude. No more pumping rock music on in the car on the way there - serene classical music went on instead. I warmed up on my own, slowly, focussing my mind n relaxing my body. A few Chi Running body looseners and I was ready to go.

king of the hill

Mental training on 'King of The Hill' race - maintaining a mental focus even for a 25 min race can be hard sometimes.

So what else brought me to the start line? Well my wife Becky is a hypnotherapist, counsellor and mindfulness teacher and has worked with me several times to explore the mental barriers and self defeating internal talk that goes on in my head during a race. When I was young, I was bought up in a good Christian household. I still affirm that faith, but I am very open minded and tend to critique a lot of the things I was taught that have nothing to do with the centre of Christianity. I am very often far too polite and 'nice' and have sometimes found it hard to stand up for myself and be assertive when needed. In a race this can come out as letting people who overtake me get away with it - bring polite is def. not a quality needed when deciding how to respond if someone overtakes in a race! In my quest for more mental steel, I have undergone hypnosis and counselling and hopefully I'm a lot less 'nice' about being overtaken now!!!

This certainly seemed to be very effective in the race - after about 1k in I was overtaken by about 6 people and I overtook each and every one of them back again, 3 of them just before the finish line. How? Well various mental gymnastics went on, but the main thing was to be very attentive to my self talk at those key points when I was looking at the runner in front and deciding whether to overtake or not. As soon as I caught myself considering this, I gave myself the answer 'right now.'

It's amazing how if you make a mental decision to catch someone up and overtake, your body can respond - even if you are tired or already running fast.

I've added a poll to the front page of my website regarding mental focus - please consider responding.

Thanks Danny Dreyer if you read this for an interesting and inspiring blog post. It's so easy to get stuck with all that mental focus stuff.

So what do you do to maintain mental focus? What's your running mantra? I'd love to hear what you think helps you challenge the mental demons and keeps you going - especially as I now start to prepare for my first ultra - The High Peak 40. Please let me know ....

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Running with the Mind of Meditation

I've never seen anyone out running who enjoys themselves. Someone actually said that to me. I said I felt the opposite, all the runners I know enjoy their running. (Well most of the time.)

That got me thinking. In 'Running With The Mind of Meditation' by Sakyong Miphram he discusses how much runners complain about pain when they are running. He think points out the best way to deal with this by accepting the pain, but not making more of if than you need to. It's very illuminating to hear a blend of eastern and western perspectives and this is just one chapter of the book that is packed with wisdom and understanding.

The book is full of gems that nourish the runner's mind, and there is even a free download from the website.

Danny Dreyer talks about how Chi Running should become a holistic practice that percolates in to every aspect of out life. There are various sides to Chi Running - the running form, the focus on posture, relaxation, high cadence, running at different speeds etc. For me personally the mind body link is one of the main things which sets Chi Running apart from other approaches to running. Running with the Mind of Meditation is an absolutely essential read if you enjoy the Chi Running philosophy and want to look deeper in to the mindfulness and meditation side of it.

I'm going to blog a lot more about this book as I feel it's an absolutely essential read for the Chi Runner if you have any interest at all in mindfulness. You might not all be ready to 'get in to' that side of it right now, but when you are, give this one a read.

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Gradual Progress ... a personal reflection

I’ve started my ultra training … by walking for 5 minutes. I had an operation 8 weeks ago (not running related) and I was told not to run for 8 weeks. I asked if I could walk and was told exercise would promote my recovery (?!) As a Chi Runner, I immediately explained about low impact, relaxed techniques and the four gears of Chi Running. I asked ‘can I run if it barely alters my breath rate?’ and got the answer I was looking for.

And so I found myself, 2 days after the operation able to walk for 5 minutes at a pace that was far too slow for my 7 year old daughter (but she didn’t mind.)

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The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd - Book Review from a Chi Running perspective

I've been to the Cairngorms on expedition once. I've walked past quite a few of the landscape features mentioned in this beautiful and enticing book. And that's what I did. I walked past them. There's a huge difference, in my opinion, in walking up mountains and walking through them. Nan Shepherd did teh latter. She embraced, took note, internalised, and breathed the Cairngorms in. Her writing portrays the beauty and character of the mountain range in such detail and with such awe that I challenge anyone who loves the outdoors to read this book from cover to cover without planning a trip. This book had me reaching for a map from the word go.

The book moves through different aspects of nature, and of the Caingorms - the plateau, the recesses, snow, water, air etc. The way Loch Coire an Lochan is described is so moving I can just feel myself walking out in to the cool depths of it's waters. A trip to sleep beneath Shelter Stone is also beckoning, although I imagine the way a few modern hillwalkers care for their environment may mean, sadly, it's not such a welcoming spot to spend the night.

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De-Stress with Chi Running

Just getting out in to the outdoors and exercising releases endorphins and has a calming, healing effect. So what makes Chi Running and Walking more beneficial than other ways of moving? These are just my thoughts, no grand claims or scientific evidence (yet.)

Ever heard that our words create our thoughts, and our thoughts create our lives? Well I'm reliably informed that our thoughts, feelings and actions are locked in a lightning fast circle of cause and effect. We are so often living in a way which reacts to our emotions and state of mind, with no idea how to 'put the breaks on' and slow things down a bit. How do you intervene and reduce stress when everything is whizzing around in your head?

Well, we could have a long discussion about mindfulness here, which in my opinion underpins the whole of chi running. But lets leave that for another blog post and step back a bit. Let's get back to the thoughts, feelings and actions whizzing round in our brains. What's the most effective way to tackle stress? Well we could try and tackle the thoughts and feelings ... well let's face it. Here in the UK we are terrible at talking about our feelings or even admitting to anyone (or even ourselves?) that stress is getting to us. We can see it as a sign of weakness, or maybe we don't know just how good life can be when we let go of some of the stress and find the peace at the centre of things. Those who do seek help often spend a long time with a councillor or psychologist going over their past experiences and painful feelings. Maybe there is another way that might help us sometimes, or at least form part of the picture.

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Mindfulness Based Improvement in Running

I've been reading quite a bit about Chi Running for a while now as well as other similar topics. These blogs are just my personal ramblings, so I'd be really interested to see if this one makes any sense to any other runners out there.

I thought I'd explain a model of learning that I find very helpful and relate it to Chi Running. This 'Stages of Competence' model came from research by Noel Burch in the 1970s,

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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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I'm UKA Leadership in Running Fitness qualified.