So I’m officially through chapter 4 of ChiRunning and, so far, it’s a pretty good read but there are some things that are starting to get a little repetitive. As I’m fairly curious to see if this will help me run sans-injury, while casually walking at school today, I decided to try out a few things that are in the book. Dreyer talks about keeping the spine nice and straight, letting it rotate and twist as the hips and shoulders move opposite each other. And, as the hips move, they should act like a springboard of sorts, providing propulsion for the legs to move back and forth.
As I walked and paid attention to my spine, how it moved and how my hips and shoulders interacted. And, as I was doing this, my body started to relaxing fairly significantly. I also noted that a pain that I have in my lower left leg wasn’t there. It seems to me that this pain that I experience is at its peak when I’m pulling my left foot off the ground — when, as I push my ankle through the step, release the tension and start to move my foot forward. While I was walking today though, I noticed that I wasn’t pushing my with my ankle at all as I went through the step. Rather, my foot felt like it was sort of along for the ride. Cool! When I got home, I decided to take this technique out for a 5 mile run.
The first 200 yards or so was painful as usual but, after that, the pain noticeably deadened. As I ran, instead of focusing on my stride and my foot strike, I was focusing on my spine, my hips and my shoulders — feeling my spine twist, my hips move back and forth, recoiling as my shoulders smoothly rotated to counteract the movement of the hips. And, once again, my ankles and legs were loose, I wasn’t physically pushing. Then, I thought about how Dreyer writes about paying attention to your whole body — being aware of everything that’s going on as you run. I listened to my feet, my shoulders, my legs, everything. I found though that, the more I concentrated on one part, I’d sense another part that was failing. For example, I focused on keeping my shoulders relaxed when I noticed that I was falling back into a heel strike stride. Mental note: fix that. I switched back to a mid-foot stride and I became aware that my ankles were pushing again. Crap. Ok, that’s fixed. Now my shoulders were tightening up again, but I was carrying my phone. Was that the reason or was it because my form was bad? Throughout my run, I found that my brain was on overdrive, paying attention to so many things that everything started to suffer. It brought me right back to golfing. How, on my down-swing, my mind cycles through more pieces of information than I thought was possible. How, in the .61 second that that make up my down-swing, my shoulder’s drop too much, too much arm and not enough hips, my left foot isn’t planted firmly enough, hands aren’t at the right angle, etc… In the end though, my run did wind up being more comfortable and I didn’t experience anywhere near the same level of pain that I have over the last few weeks. And, as I sit here writing this, I’m still not feeling all that uncomfortable, which ain’t normal.
A few years ago, I read a book by Jack Heggie called Running with the Whole Body. In the book, he takes readers through exercises that teach spine rotation and focusing on the movement of hips and shoulders. Honestly, my experience with ChiRunning today brought me right back to Heggie’s exercises. I was also reminded of an article that I read by Matt Fitzgerald of Competitor.com. In the article, Fitzgerald wrote that the body, when enough miles are put in, will naturally develop a stride that is both comfortable and economical (he’s written a book that I bought on the topic — it’s two books away on my list). I then began to wonder if ChiRunning, Running with the Whole Body, Matt Fitzgerald and other are all saying the same thing — if they’re all talking about the same destination, but also happen to be promoters of different paths to that destination. As far as I’m concerned, I really don’t care, I just want to get rid of this pain in my leg. So, if ChiRunning will do that for me, call me a ChiRunner. Then again, I spent actual money on books from Fitzgerald and Heggie and, since ChiRunning’s on loan from the library, I’ve spent nothing on that. So, the fights more likely to be between Heggie and Fitzgerald.
Run far, run often, run smart.