"When I first started to run...my mind would tell my body to go out and run. Then I would run until my body said it was tired, which would then trigger my mind to call it quits for the day. That was the extent of the communication between my body and my mind." --Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer, ChiRunning
That quote aptly describes the relationship my legs and brain had for about twenty years. Pre-run, I'd think about how far I would go. During the run, I'd think about anything but my running form. Post-run, I'd think about how good I felt.
Until I didn't feel so good anymore, and I was forced to think about why.
So this July, I invested in a book a couple of people, including some of you, had recommended: Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer. The book's subhead--A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running--was so enticing, I couldn't wait to break the spine. I wanted effortless. I wanted injury-free. If it took a revolution to get there, so be it.
I studied it like I was cramming for the bar exam. I took it to the pool and ignored my kids as I read. I picked it over People magazine, even when I was wiped on a Friday night. I dog-eared so many pages, the book is about twice its normal width now.
Brief summary. The Chi in the title comes from T'ai Chi, a discipline Danny Dreyer has studied extensively, and means the energy force that animates all things. A tree's chi is its trunk. A cheetah's chi is its spine. (The Dreyers note how spindly a cheetah's legs are; its spine emanates power with each stride.) Similarly, a human's chi is our core/spine/trunk. By tapping into the strength of the chi and--this part is key--relaxing all the other parts of the body, you can run, as the Dreyers describe, like you are, "skimming along on a conveyor belt...I would better at the end of my run than I did when I started."
For the record, I have never had that skimming sensation. And I've never, ever felt physically better at the end of the run than when I started. Mentally, yes, but physically? Heh.
Two other quotes of many that resonated with me:
"Power running [the no pain, no gain mindset] does work, but it can be quite costly in terms of energy expenditure and injury rates...16 million runners get injured each year."
Are you talking to me? The one who powers through things--8 miles, even if my left leg falls off--and doesn't deal with the consequences until I absolutely must?
"We all need and crave some spaciousness in our lives, whether it's figurative or literal. I conjure the image of focused spaciousness while I'm running. I imagine having openness in my joints and lots of ease in my motion. Nothing feels forced. My movement is free and loose."
That concept makes me feel almost euphoric just thinking about it.
The Dreyers go on to teach you to tune in, not out. They preach patience, recommending a year to train for a marathon if you're serious about making changes. (Confession: despite their words, I thought I could cram in Chi and be ready for NYC. Back to the drawing board, this time with, um, patience.) They explain posture in specific, doable lessons. One of their runners summarizes their technique as thinking of your body as a needle with noodles, which I love: the needle is my spine (erect, strong, unbreakable) and the noodles are my limbs (limp, relaxed, moldable). They go through pre-run warm-ups, post-run stretches and, in 12 detailed chapters, turn running into holistic, almost healing activity.
I'll conclude my book report here by saying this: If I have a future in running, it will only be through ChiRunning.
Obviously, would love to spread Chi to the RLAM community. But let's be honest: have I read every word of the book? No. I'm a mom. Any book longer than Giggle, Giggle, Quack takes me months to get through these days. I promise to be be patient with running, but I refuse to be with this giveaway.
So we have three ChiRunning DVDs up for grabs this week to three random winners. Hitting the key points of the book without the time commitment--and potentially more helpful since the DIY exercises and running techniques are demonstrated, not just pictured--the DVD deserves to be watched, studied, implemented in your daily miles, and, when the time is right, shared with your pals. I realize a plastic disc doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of a cute running skirt or some of our other giveaways, but trust me: If you're struggling with injury, if running feels like a mental and physical grind, if you want to figure out how run both easier and faster, you want this DVD.
In order to be entered, though, we want to know a tidbit about your running form--or lack thereof. (Promise, we won't judge: those in glass houses...) Do you ever pay attention to it? If you do, what cues do you give yourself? If not, why not? Let us know, and, with a little time and dedication, you might be that effortless, needle-with-noodles runner who is the envy of all the runners on the block.
P.S. Still in the dark? Three RLAM'ers won't be anymore when we announce the winners of the three Petzl headlamps on our Facebook page today. We love it when our winners chime in our page, so please like us today if you haven't.