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Getting My Chi On, or, The Blog Post that Took Me Four Days to Write


When I coached lacrosse, I must have said “A good offense is a good defense!” a couple dozen hundred thousand times. And I’ve carried that mantra into running. The past 10 months I’ve been building a defense against injuries. I’ve limited my running to 3 days a week and have diligently cross trained and weight lifted. But I have also spent the past 10 months waiting to get hurt. I’ve been staving off injury but not really preventing it. There is only so far squats and lunges and the adductor machine are going to take me before I find myself on the DL again. So instead of building up my defensive line, I am changing my offensive strategy, i.e. biomechanics.

At first glance, my running form seems pretty good. I don’t shuffle my feet or hunch my shoulders. For the most part my form is pretty relaxed–I do what feels natural. However, upon closer inspection, there are definitely flaws in my stride–the most serious being my heel strike. I land completely on my heels even though I know a mid-foot strike is not only more efficient but lessens the chance of injury. But how do you change something you’ve been doing all your life?

Even though I believe the human body was made to run and it is one of the most natural movements in the world, I also think there is nothing wrong with a little tweaking. So how do I “tweak”? Well just like I would tell my lacrosse players, if you want to nail that corner shot, you practice. You go to the field and you take shot after shot after shot after shot, until that upper left pocket is all yours. Golfers spend lifetimes perfecting their putt and tennis players work endlessly on their serve–why shouldn’t those same practice principles apply to running? Duh, Suzanne!

Instead of shelling out $50 for a gait analysis (which in the new house translates into 2 gallons of paint), I turned to a book that has been highly recommended by Dimity McDowell, co-author of Run Like a Mother. The cover of Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running says it is “A revolutionary approach to effortless, injury-free running.” So far, so good. Even better was this passage from Chapter 1 that tween-spotting-Justin-Beiber-SCREAMED to me:

“If you reach forward with your legs when you run, you are actually swinging into the force of the road coming at you… It’s like a mini head-on collision between your foot and the road. The impact of a heel strike can send a shock wave up your leg, potentially damaging… where your weakest link lies. Having your foot strike in front of your body is, in fact, the same as putting on the breaks because your feet are basically stopping your forward momentum each time they hit the ground… Would you ever drive your car with one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the break at the same time?”

Holy heel strike, Batman! I knew that my stride was just baiting overuse injuries but having it phrased just like that made me realize it was also extremely inefficient–my heel strike was not only making me work harder but it was slowing me down. Hot damn and eureka!

Basically I need to lean into my stride to get my foot falls under my hips and pelvis, instead of reaching in front of me forcing a heel landing. I’ve been working on this forward lean during my runs this week. It isn’t hard but does take a concerted effort when you are used to running upright. You also have to make sure that you aren’t rolling your shoulders forward or hitching at the waist. By getting your feet under you and slightly behind your center of mass, you force a safer, more-efficient mid-foot strike. Ryan Hall (whose arm swing I’ve also been trying to emulate) runs with this lean. As the US Half Marathon record holder at 59:43, no doubt that he has one of the best forms in running.

I am not going to make the mistake of speed-reading this book and then overhauling my entire form in one day. It’s a process, a marathon not a sprint (to use a bad running pun). As I introduce each new element of the Chi Running I hope to see improvements, not only in the effort exerted trying to turn my legs over, but in my race times and injury prevention. I’ve already noticed that my hip does not feel sore after my runs this week. Could I have finally found the answer? Fingers crossed and laces double knotted!

Monday’s Workout:
Ran 3.3 miles/29:58
Abs 30:00

Tuesday’s Workout:
Ran 3.3 miles/30:53
Upper Body 30:00

Today’s Workout:
Ran 3.8 miles/33:27
Abs 30:00

One Comment leave one →
  1. 06/15/2013 4:09 AM

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