Friday, June 5

Book Review: Chi Running

"So what IS Chi Running, afterall?" you ask.

Well, let's start with the easy part...

Running is a common form of exercise for people looking to get/stay fit. Technically, it differes from walking by the fact that both feet are off the ground at the same time. (When walking, one foot remains in contact with the ground at all times.) When done properly, and with good technique, a runner can run for a lifetime, pain- and injury-free.

Some good reasons to run are:

  1. Running is easy because the only equipment required is a good pair of shoes and an open road.
  2. It is inexpensive because it doesn't require monthly membership dues or joining fees.
  3. It "travels" well, and is actually a super way to discover the lay of the when visiting new places.
  4. When you get fitter and want more challenge, just run faster...
  5. These days, there are running groups galore to join when you're looking to make new friends.
"But that's not my experience!" you say. I HEAR you loud and clear, because I've been there... limping on cranky knees, hobbling on be-bunioned feet and wondering how in the world something so "easy" and "healthy" could land me on the sidelines of my first marathon. Well let's talk this through.

When did you learn how to run? Well, when you were just little tyke, careening toward your mother's outstretched, cookie-laden hands. As a kid, you most likely ran well and often on the playground. Then as you aged, if you picked up running as a form of exercise, you probably just laced up your sneakers and plunged head-first in... until the pain.* Some people run through the pain, eventually ending up with surgeries... and some people just quit.

But here's another question for you: if you were going to take up the sport of golf, wouldn't you enlist in a few lessons to get you started off on the right foot? Or if you were going to take up watercolor painting, wouldn't you take a class? If you were new to the gym, wouldn't you enlist the expertise and guidance of a personal trainer to show you proper form and technique? Why on Earth then would we think that we could take up a sport like running with no instruction, class or guidance, and expect to succeed?

In his book Chi Running, author Danny Dreyer teaches us about the beautiful, wonderful machine that is the human body. With lots of photographs and exercises for illustration, this book describes how, when properly aligned and using its chi, your body is naturally equipped with all of the shock absorption it needs to avoid injury due to overuse. Of course, this isn't quite as simple as it sounds and involves such details as: perefecting your posture; using a forefront footstrike; keeping your cadence withing a certain range, and lots more. I read through the book easily, and its conversational tone left me wishing I could meet Danny Dreyer himself.

I can just hear you now, "What is chi, and where and where can I get me some?" Well, you can't go out and buy it, that's for sure! Chi is an Eastern concept, and it is essentially your life force... your personal energy. It exists in all living things, even in plants, and space. When you are properly aligned, using your chi, running is easy, and will feel natural like a lope across the plains, as opposed to an obstacle course through treacherous woods. Harnessing your chi is a "less is more" concept and one that is learned over time and should be practiced regularly (just like almost anything worth doing!).

For me personally (I'm a hands-on learner), the book wasn't enough for me to really feel the concepts of Chi Running. I tried it a few times and did not quite get the pain-free results I desired. So I turned to Chi Living, the parent company of Chi Running. Their web site has all sorts of helpful tools on your journey toward perfect running form . I highly recommend the site as a resource for you if you are interested in learning Chi Running, (There is also Chi Walking, if you're so inclined...) enrolling in a Chi Running workshop, purchasing products, or even reading Danny Dreyer's inspiring and informative blog (often with video clips!). I ended up enrolling in a Chi Running workshop, and it did not fail to satisfy! Six months later, I'm still running, and not a complaint from any joint in my body! More about that next time...
*Note: if you know of someone who has run for years without a complaint, they probably are running with beautiful, natural chi running form... it does come naturally to some people!

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