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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Gradual Progress - Step by Step

Gradual Progress - Step by Step

I've written several blogs on this principle before. I just keep coming back to the belief that this is one of the fundamental cornerstones for runners, and wanted to put this right at the top of my list for client advice in the next phase of my coaching. I meet so many runners who have broken this principle. If that's you, don't be hard on yourself, it's really very easy to misjudge and there are a lot of people out there who seem to believe in the old paradigm or the 'push push push, mind over body' approach.

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The Chi Marathon Principle

The Chi Marathon Principle

I thought I'd put a few thoughts together to summarise some of the key messages from the Chi Marathon book by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

"I had won three major marathons, Berlin (1997), London and Amsterdam (both 1998). I had very fruitful years with four world cross country silver medals, one European cross-country gold medal, countless national titles, two Olympic games, the Irish records in the 10k, half marathon and marathon, and a smattering of European and world championships achieved.

But I began losing my battle with niggling injury. Irish newspaper headlines regularly led with stories of me pulling out of big events due to injury. Running is meant to be enjoyed, not endured, I thought... I got my hands on a copy of Danny and Katherine Dreyer's book Chi Running, and I couldn't put it down. After enduring years of pain and injury and wondering what was the cause of it all, I found that Danny's book was providing me with all the answers."

- Catherina McKiernan, the forward to Chi Marathon

There is a reason why my business name is suffixed with 'Ease - Efficiency - Speed.' it's because I believe we need to get form right before we build up distance. Running beyond our form is not good for us. You've all seen that marathon runner who has lost all form and is struggling to keep going even at a walk. Chi Running is about listening to your body and enjoying your running more!

I think of the essence of the Chi Marathon principle as:

Form - Distance - Speed

or

Form then Distance then Speed

Perhaps you prefer to imagine it in the form of a pyramid, where we build up the basics first:

Speed

Distance

F     O     R    M

The Chi Marathon book actually has a 24 week training programme, with no fewer than 7 separate phases. These are all focussed on training the whole person, and keeping you enjoying your whole experience. The principle of gradual progress is an essential for Chi Running, and this also underpins the Chi Marathon approach.

The seven phases are as follows:

1 Vision, Goals and Planning

2 The Technique Phase

3 The Conditioning Phase

4 The Mastery Phase

5 Taper Time

6 Race Weekend

7 Rest and Renewal

It's the development of technique first and foremost that makes the Chi Marathon principle so powerful. Building up the distance over which you can maintain good technique comes next. The speed at which you can run, maintaining that form, is the 'icing on the cake.' 

How many runners do it the other way around? They launch themselves into speed intervals or massive mileage. It is only when they are injured that they think 'why.' I'm not wanting to sound judgemental here - I must assure you I've been there too and I feel the draw to get pulled in to that way of thinking. The truth is that it is only when I put technique first that I find I can run pain free.

What can you do to help prepare for your marathon?

  • Remember Form - Distance - Speed ... in that order. Trust the principle through your training
  • Work on your technique early on - Use Chi Running focusses such as posture, relaxation, alignment, cadence, lean
  • Be very strict with yourself about gradual progress
  • Remember speed work is fine, in facts it's GREAT, but it's not more important that anything else. The same applies to distance and mileage.

 

Chi Running isn't magic and it isn't a guarantee, but it has helped a lot of people and it's worked for me. I can't see how you can argue with the principles. Comments anyone?

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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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Recovery

In Chi Running we teach the principle of gradual progress (see my recent blog on that subject.) So don't rush from a race straight back to your normal training regime.

Here is a bit of advice on post race recovery. Supplements and Sports Drinks are mentioned, which I believe do have a place for some runners.

Optimising Recovery after a Run

Depending on how seriously you train– recovery from exercise can potentially become a huge issue. 

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Gradual Progress

I talk to my clients about the idea of gradual progress, but I don't really get enough time to focus in this in depth during a workshop. I've noticed that we all vary in our understand of what gradual really means, so thought I'd write in a bit more detail than my previous blog on this subject.

I'd like to suggest that most running injuries actually come from breaking the principle of gradual progress - people run beyond what their running form is able to deal with - whether that is a change in distance, speed, gradient or just footwear.

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London Marathon vs Fairfield Horseshoe Fell Race

From one of the best City Marathons in the world, to a classic Cumbrian fell race. I ran a totally contrasting challenge just 3 weeks after the London Marathon. You can read my blog on the London Marathon here. 

Fairfield was a totally different (and wonderful) experience. These photos testify to the amazing views.

fairfield3

I really enjoyed the race, finding the challenge of the incredibly steep hills and technical ground a refreshing change from flat tarmac. I'm not as well practised on technical downhill at the moment (never my strength anyway). This meant all my overtaking was confined to the smooth grassy and bridleway sections.

 

Here is my attempt at comparing the two events, if that's possible. 

londonvsfairfield

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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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My London Marathon advice and tips

I absolutely loved the whole experience of training for and running the London Marathon.

I normally run and compete on hilly trails and fells, so this was a bit of a departure. I found myself really enjoying my training sessions because running on the flat is so easy compared with running off road and on hills. From a Chi Running perspective, doing most of my running on the flat meant I could really get a strong sense of running from my centre, and allowing my running to feel like a controlled fall. Getting lean right and using that to create and control speed became much easier during these sessions. This lovely feeling of floating along is what Chi Running is all about and it brought back the reality to me that Chi Running is best practised at a slow pace on the flat. This really helps bring out the joy and effortless of the technique.

 

London Marathon and Marathon Running tips

The following are my own points to myself for next time. I hope they help you too. They are very much a collection of things I've read and conversations with people, so it's nothing too new really. Advice to myself for next time...

Before the event

Blue Start, London Marathon

Race specific training. I very much believe in training on routes that are as similar as possible to the race you are doing. Therefore I got serious about long flag runs - hard to find in Yorkshire. If I'm doing a 5 mile steep race that starts up a hill, make sure I train on the course or on a similar route, so the same principle applies whether it's a matathon, a night race or whatever.

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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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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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Stuck for which running book to read next? Let me help ...

I've read all these and they are great reads. They all all highly relevant to the Chi Runner (or in fact any runner.) Why not pick your next read now?

bookchooser

Chi Running Books

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MORE FIRE - How to Run the Kenyan Way by Toby Tanser

 

These are my thoughts on this inspiring book from my perspective as I train for a marathon next April, as well as with my Chi Running hat on.

I mentioned I was reading this book recently whilst on a training run with my club, Holmfirth Harriers. I was immediately asked what advice the book had for runners. Well it's packed full.... but is there a Kenyan secret that we're all waiting to hear? In this blog I will try and distill the essence of the advice given in the book. I'll also discuss a few themes that are considered by some to be the reasons why Kenyans make such good runners. I'll also consider the book from a Chi Runner's perspective.

More Fire Book Cover

The Author, Toby Tanser, runs the Shoes For Africe charity.

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How to start learning Chi Running after your workshop

Please comment below and let me know if you find this a helpful infographic.

How to get started with changing your running technique

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High Peak 40 Mile Challenge 2014 - a Chi Runner's review

Phew! I just completed my first Ultra Marathon.
 
Why did I enter?
When I took up Chi Running a few years ago, I had made a decision to run regularly and be determined about becoming injury free - hence Chi Running. Chi Running was developed by Danny Dreyer, an ultra runner from the U.S. and together with stories of ultra running from various books such as Feet In The Clouds by Richard Asquith (see my blog) and Born To Run (see my blog) I guess I couldn't resist entering an event like this eventually.
Friends also inspired me to run an ultra (thanks Wil) and I guess I've been through a process of breaking through mental boundary after mental boundary over the last through few years. I hadn't done a marathon before this event, but I had taken on a succession of long fell races including the Holme Moss Race, the Three Peaks Race, and various Dark and White Challenge events. My aim would be to complete the race and be comfortable the next day.
 
How did I prepare?
I'm not the only person in my family wanting to train and take part in leisure, so I knew from the start that training for long hours and mileage wasn't going to happen. Also, I was coming back from some time off after an operation, so was mindful that I didn't want to over train. After completing the Holme Moss Fell Race in July I put 4 long training runs in the diary. 15, 18, 22 and 30. It wasn't ideal in terms of gradual progress, but I was determined to get to the 30 mile distance in training. Also, I had easier weeks after each long run in order to allow my body to recover. During August I ran a total of 102 miles. This seems pathetic compared to the distance that many do in preparation for events like marathons, however it was the most intensive month of my life and it would need to suffice. Worrying about inadequate training would be counter productive, and experience told me that I could run for many hours in the hills without needing to stop.
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Holme Moss Fell Race 2014 - a review of my race from a Chi Running technique perspective

The 20th of July found me running my 3rd Holme Moss Fell Race. The course has 3300ft of ascent over 18 miles of rugged moorland in the beautiful Peak District. 
Chi Running principles involve focusing on alignment and relaxation, and so these became my main aims for the race. Given that I had competed minimum training I knew that using technique to preserve energy would be vital. This course is varied, with a few seconds of  unrunnable, rocky hillside sections, especially in the first half. My main tactic was to preserve energy on some key sections, applying power and energy to run faster on other strategic sections eg. The descent from Tooleyshaw Moss and the return from Black Hill to Holme Moss. Also, I wanted to remain strong for the final scramble up a steep valley side at Ramsden Clough before the final 1.5 miles to the finish.
After setting off I found myself behind a large group of lead runners who I had no desire to keep up with.  Just behind me were another large group of runners. I held my own on the way to Holme Moss summit, focusing on lengthening my spine and  maintaining a good head position with the right amount of lean for the various different gradients. 

 Race Route trace:


Using my upper body to shift the work away from my legs was going to be important as the ascents were extremely challenging. I used the Chi Running technique for gradual up hill, adjusting my lean and stride length as well as engaging obliques and upper body. This worked well in the main, and I reached Holme Moss in about 38 minutes, feeling fresh. 
After passing Holme Moss there was a steep descent and then a hands and feet scramble up to Tooleyshaw Moss. This was climbing pure and simple, no running technique was involved! 
Then came a nice springy decent to Crowden on wide boggy paths. There were times here where I was able to bring in some downhill technique to good effect. I also used y-chi to focus on distant points. The issue here was keeping an eye on the technical nature of the path whilst still staying focused on distant features to use add mental targets. I will continue to work on exercises to train my peripheral vision. 
An energy gel and water at Crowden and off to the steepest sections - Bareholme Moss and the legendary ascent of Laddow Rocks.  
These required pushing down on my knees with my hands and keeping my upper body and centre of gravity add far forward as possible. When I got this right, I felt I was using my lower legs as little as could be expected given the severity of the climbs. Local knowledge and training on the course paid off here as I was able to find a decent line. Another energy gel ... the side of Laddow Rocks was more climbing than walking in places! 
2 hours in to the race, I was conscious that the rest of the course was mainly runnable, but had I paced the first half right?
A lot of runners had already told me that they were not looking forward to the next ascent, Black Hill. I know that section well, and was able to settle in to a more determined pace. Then the heat really started to kick in. The wide open moors started to feel distinctly oven like. I was hoping to use more of a lean and create some speed on that section, however I felt preserving energy was important in the heat. A group of runners just ahead were visible all the way up Black Hill, but started to pull away during the intricate weaving through peat hags on the return to Holme Moss summit. Another energy gel. 
I was expecting to feel strong in the return to Ramsden Clough,  and was on track to get close to my target time of about 3:35. For some reason I was starting to feel tired?! The downhill section to Ramsden Clough felt like it was getting longer as I continued. I kept going, mindful of my cadence and posture, determined to maintain mental focus no matter what.
Just the small matter of running straight up the banking and then 1.5 miles to the finish. I say run up the banking. .. It was pulling up the heather using your hands. One poor chap asked if we had anything for cramp. Another runner asked where he was cramping. The reply? "Everywhere! "
I reached the top and was glad to find Phil with water. A nice bonus, thanks Phil. One final push needed.
Despite not catching any of those ahead of me I ran well on the final 1.5 miles, focusing to posture and arm swing to achieve decent split times. I finished with a personal best time. This still wasn't the time I'd hoped for, but I'd not gone the whole distance in training and I'm sure the heat made a big difference to everyone. 

Here is me finishing the race - good to see my rear leg lifting nicely behind me:

A Chi Running finish to the Holme Moss Fell Race
It was a great event, and one I intend to make an annual event. What did I learn? On a course like this, knowing the route really well is extremely useful. I'd like to do even more training on it next year. I also need to work on the Cartworth to Holme Moss section before the race. Chi Running wise, I'm convinced I need to train longer and slower ahead of my next long race, the High Peak 40 in September.

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Working in London with Danny Dreyer - posture tips

 

I just got back from an absolutely inspirational weekend with Danny Dreyer, founder of Chi Running and Chi Walking. I was part of a crowd of 13 Certified Chi Running and Walking Instructors from the UK and Europe who flew in to assist Danny in teaching the large group of clients who came to Lee Valley Athletics centre, London for Level 1 and Level 2 workshops.
 
I have so many written and audio notes from the weekend that I will be adding further blogs with follow up advice, so keep an eye on my blog. 
 
To start with, I'm going to share advice and tips from the day that will help Chi Runners stay focussed on maintaining good posture.
 
Tip 1: use the Sit Up In Your Chair exercise
Revise the 'sit up in your chair' exercise and repeat this hundreds of times as part of your mindful practice of Chi Running. Yes I said hundreds! This is an important way to help you engage your core muscles to help you maintain good posture. This exercise is one I have worked on with all my clients, is a part of the level 1 workshop course, and is also in the Chi Running book.
 
A quick reminder of the exercise:
  • Sit in your best posture about 2 inches forward from your chair back. Remember the Chi Runnjng posture focusses that you have been working on.
  • Feel balanced, with your shoulders over your hips.
  • Now relax back in to the chair like you are watching TV.
  • Without using your leg muscles, come back upright in to best posture. Do this slowly, and lay attention to the muscles you are using.
  • Repeat this a few times, memorising the sensation of sitting up.
  • Now prepare to repeat this motion when walking, driving your car, and throughout your every day life. Whenever you catch yourself out of balance just remember the motion of sitting up.
 
Don't worry if you forget to stay in the posture - you won't be able to. As soon as you do realise that you are out of alignment, remember and repeat the motion of bringing your shoulders back over your hips and feel the light tension in your lower abdominals.
 
Tip 2: find a mental image to get your posture aligned
You might have a wide range of different ages in your head that help you align your posture. I have used 'reach for the coffee cup' for a long time, imagining I'm reaching to the top shelf in my kitchen. All this depends on your own mental imagery.
During the workshop, we used the image of a parasail, and imagined it tethered to the crown of our heads. It's important to lengthen your spine from the crown of your head. This will mean your chin drops slightly. The nice thing about the my image of the parasail is that you can let it take you up, and then take you forwards, as you apply lean and use gravity to take your body forwards.
 
Here is an infographic to help you remember this exercise:
An Image to help Align Your Posture for Running
 
Hopefully this has been a useful post. I'd be interested to know which mental images you use to remind you about good posture. Also, how successful are you at sitting up in your chair? Please do feel free to comment.

 

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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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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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Chi Running Android App

The Chi running app for android is finally out. I immediately bought and gave it a whirl.

I really love the video library that is built in to this app. It's great to be able to remind yourself of the chi running focuses, and the visual reminders you get from video really help here. I would say that you need to read the book or, even better, work with an instructor before you start using the app as I feel it's strength will be as a reminder rather than as a main teacher. However, the facility to select and control the audio reminders that you during your run is absolutely fantastic. The mindful, mental focus side of chi running is incredibly important and these clips will really help with the 'form intervals' method of training which is so important to the chi runner.

All in all, this really is quite a unique app.

If the app was developed in the future to give it more of the features of more mainstream running apps such as runkeeper, endomondo and strava it could be even more popular I feel.

There is a further review and description here that is worth a read. http://www.androidpit.com/en/android/market/apps/app/com.chiliving.chirunning/Chi-Running-Training-App

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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:

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

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