Freedom To Run - Ease, Efficiency, Speed

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

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...

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.

 

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.

 

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 ....

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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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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Mountain Training
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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