Sunday 15 April 2012

Chi running - I think

Sandy path for running
   Last Thursday I set out in glorious sunshine to do a nice bumbly six mile route around our local woods, listening to birdsong, striding out by the babbling beck, smelling the gorgeous blackthorn blossom, all at a nice easy pace - but it didn't quite work out like that. At the precise spot where I'd normally finish a two mile warm-up before launching into some serious intervals my old brain automatically switched into training mode so that I churned out the next 200m along a wonderful stretch of sandy path in precisely 44 seconds.
    Hmm, I thought, that felt good, perhaps I'll do a few more. So I did another eleven, enjoying the sense of speed, and was quite surprised to learn from my trusty Garmin that I was getting progressively faster without actually trying. From the initial 44's I got down to 42's with the odd 41 to finish. So I was happy with that and trotted home full of the joys of Spring - literally!
    Now, the surprising thing is I haven't run that particular set of intervals so fast, or so easy, for quite some time. Lately I've averaged around 48 seconds for each one and been happy to just maintain that pace - apart from the very last one when I'll put in an extra effort that inevitably leaves me gasping. So what brought about this amazing change of speed when all I'd set out to do was a relaxed run in the sun?
Will it really do all this?
    Well, all I can think is that for some weeks now I've been dipping into Danny Dreyers popular book, Chi Running, that's subtitled 'A revolutionary approach to effortless, injury-free running'. Without a qualified coach to correct my faults and explain the finer points my old brain is finding it difficult to absorb. As the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and dogs don't come much older than this one. But each time I go for a run I spend part of the time trying to put some part of Danny's theory into practice.
    What supposedly makes it 'effortless' is the use of gravity to propel you forward, rather than using muscles to push off with your legs. All you do is lean forward to a point when you have to stick your foot underneath you to prevent yourself falling flat on your face. Rather than wasting energy pushing off with your feet, all you do is lift them up and plant them down again. Speed and stride length are governed by the amount of lean - more lean, more speed - although cadence remains the same.
    It was that forward lean I was practicing while doing my set of intervals last Thursday and for once it seemed to work. Each run did indeed feel comparatively 'effortless', and when I increased my lean I found myself running faster without any extra perceived effort. I was enjoying myself and could probably have done another set of twelve without tiring. Problem was, I felt a bit self-conscious as bemused dog-walkers constantly had to move aside as I swept past. I really must get into the habit of running in the early mornings before things get busy.
    That's the theory of Chi running in a nutshell but, believe me, it's a lot more technical than that. I'm persevering, ever hopeful of learning the perfect art of running that's truly effortless and injury-free - before it's too late.  And hopefully without crashing forwards to the ground and giving myself another serious injury! 


  1. Danny's book is amazing! I'm glad it's starting to pay off for you. I remember a post earlier when you weren't too sure :)

    You've inspired me to read his book again.

    Take care!

    My Running Shortz

  2. I've found runnning in 5 Fingers has helped my running style (not my fashion style)...

  3. Well done... my brother also swears by Danny's book, so it must be good if the running fox and the o'hara fox vouch for it! Good to see you flying again...

  4. Sounds interesting. Anything that can help prevent injury is worth looking into. Without being rude, if you can change the way you run at your age, then I should be able to at mine!

  5. Liz, it's not easy changing one's style of running. After breaking ribs last October, and being rendered inactive, it's so far been impossible to rediscover my old form. Danny's book seemed to make sense and gave me hope - but I still haven't mastered the technique. It seemed to come together a bit last week but I can only manage it over short distances. I'm still a bumbly runner who runs the hills for pleasure, but after my birthday celebrations in May I hope to be back racing again - or at least do one or two Park Runs.