Tuesday, June 2

"Chi Running" or "How I Became a Runner in Recovery"

So, last week, I shared a little with you about my journey toward becoming fit for the first time, way back when I was in college in the early 1990s... "learning" to run through the lush green and undulating hills of the Black Forest inspired me so much that I decided to continue the journey when I got back to my college in the States. As soon as I arrived back on campus, I purposefully joined the Women's Cross Country Team at my small college. That's me on the right end of the front row. Weren't we cute? And YOUNG??? I was an "athlete" for the first time, and my newfound strength and endurance imbued me with a sense of personal power that carried me up through what was a very dark time of my life... my magic elixer then, and it continues to be as well today... you're only ever one workout away from a better mood.

Anyway, there I was - a senior in college and a member of my very first sports team in my whole life, and I felt ecstatic just to be on a team... nevermind that I was ranked last place on the team when I started. I worked hard and ended up in fourth place. Not only was I in the best shape I'd ever been in, my placement in the top five earned me a coveted Varsity letter and Lettermans jacket. Oooh! Aahh! Actually, I never wore it very much because the style wasn't exactly flattering... but I was happy to get it all the same...

In the years after my short but sweet "NCAA athletic career," I continued to run for fitness and fun. When I'm in a running phase of my life, I feel like I can do anything. So in 2004, having just moved to a new town, the next running accomplishment I wanted to check off of my list was completing at least one Marathon. So I joined a training group, and things were fine... except that my back always hurt... my knee ached when I ran... and I was starting to have constant foot pain. This was not the fun I had imagined.

So I quit running for a while, thinking "old age" had finally won. I became a "runner in recovery from running. I trained to be an indoor cycling instructor (spinning), and tried (in vain) to find satisfying ways to reach that same cardio peak of running... but nothing geled for me the way running had for all of those years. After a few half-hearted (read: painful) attempts at picking up running again, I heard about a book called Chi Running. This book recommends a running technique that enables runners to do what they love pain and injury free. I bought it immediately.

Turns out, it involves adjusting your stride so that when your foot hits the ground, the part that strikes the ground is the front half of the foot, instead of the heel. Now, if you look at the photo above this paragraph, you can see me in the back with a most prominent heel-strike, vertical posture and leg reaching forward, therefore causing shock waves to run up my legs eventually landing me with foot, knee and back pain over a culmination running for ten years. The runner in front if me, with her beautiful forward lean and forefoot strike, had been trailing me for the last mile,of this race and as we pulled into the last tenth of a mile, she had plenty of gas to give which left me breathing her dust. Her form was efficient, easy and effortless. If I had only known then what I know now.

Now actually, even if my competitor did leave me awhirl like Wile E. Coyote just buzzed by Road Runner, it was my fastest 5K that I ever ran, and for that I am still very proud. For years, I held a grudge against my mom for snapping that photo of me in a moment of "defeat." However, today, I don't mind so much... it's nice know that was ever so fast... and it inspires me to keep going today.

Later... more on my successful journey toward becoming a Chi Runner.


Callie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Callie said...

I heard an article on NPR the other day about one of the contributing editors to Men's Health who has been learning how to run again. He studied with a tribe in Mexico who run 200+ miles. BAREFOOT.
I gotta figure this out...
his book is "Born to Run" btw

Swestie said...

Callie, I read a WONDERFUL article about them too at http://www.menshealth.com/cda/article.do?site=MensHealth&channel=fitness&category=motivation&conitem=3b4b1ca01e91c010VgnVCM10000013281eac____&page=3

Some of them actually wear sandals. I've actually started wearing less supportive shoes to help develop more strenght in my feet... not necessarily recommended to start barefoot running off the bat! But a great way to feel what good form is naturally...(= It's impossible to run comfortably for long w. a heel-strike barefooted! Try it next time you're at the beach!

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