Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chi Running Workshop

Last spring, while I was training for my first duathlon,  I started to experience hip pain. It was very frustrating and I will post about that injury and how it was resolved in another post. But during the process of trying to heal it I stumbled upon Chi Running. I had first heard about it when I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  In his quest for more of a mid foot strike he mentioned Chi Running and POSE. I didn't really think much of it until my hip was bugging me and I was searching for answers.

One day, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Shut up and Run and she had a post about a Chi Running Workshop she went to.  She was invited to a workshop that the author was putting on in Denver. How cool is that? I checked out their website for workshops in my area and lo and behold they were  all over the place. I couldn't convince my hubby to go with me so I signed myself up. Oh...I did buy the book as well but I bought it the day before the workshop and basically just looked at the pictures an hour before I left. What a loser, huh?

I was a little intimidated because I really had no knowledge about Chi Running and expected all the other participants would be Chi clones with all their fancy minimalist shoes. But they were all so nice and most were new to the Chi Running idea. There was about 8 of us in the group ranging from experienced marathoner/triathletes to brand new runners who had never run more than 3 miles. So that made me feel better. ( they did have cool minimalist running shoes though)

The workshop was held at a nice little park in San Jose and the instructor was Ed Malley.  He is from Santa Cruz if you are interested in a workshop in the San Jose/Santa Cruz area click here for a link to his site. 

The workshop was from 9am til 1 pm and we were to bring a snack or light lunch but we never really had a lunch break. We stopped a few times for water but never did eat. It was very interesting and he kept it moving and informative the whole time. Never was a problem that I hadn't read the book and most hadn't read it either. Most of the others  had been referred by friends. 

We learned about the basics of Chi Running:
Posture- straight line from crown of your head to the bottom of feet (column)
Lean- column is gently falling forward
Lower Body- gently pulling feet off ground. You don't propel your legs forward but more like kick your feet up towards your butt. 
Pelvic Rotation- I don't really get this part. Basically your pelvis rotates as your legs move
Upper Body- basically you imagine your upper body pulling you forward. 
Cadence, stride length and gears- learning cadence we ran with a metronome. I think I need to work on faster cadence and shorter strides. 

We learned new ways of warming up. Then he had us run for him while he recorded us. Let me just tell you my form really stinks. And I was even trying to look good. 

The pic on the left shows me not leaning forward enough and my arms are always too far forward. We learned our arms should be at a 90* angle and we should swing back like we are elbowing the person behind us not reaching ahead. My arms are always at more of a 45* angle and I constantly work at it. 
The pic on the right shows my heel strike. Not too bad but not good. Also my right leg should be falling right underneath my body not reaching forward. 

Then he taught us all the moves. We practiced, practiced, practiced. As a group and individually. Ed spent time with each of us giving us all one on one feedback.

We also learned the Chi method of hills, both gradual and steep and downhill. Downhill was more difficult to master for sure.

After we were done with all the practicing he recorded us again.

The pic on the left is my after. Better for sure. Leaning forward, legs underneath me. Arms still tight though.
And the pic on the right is the author in the book do we could compare.

He also emailed us the video of before and after and gave us more feedback and pointers.

Ed also gave us a take home flyer on pointers to keep in mind as we practice at home. He explained there is a learning curve and it would take time to see the results. The idea is that over time with better form you would have reduced injuries and lower level of perceived exertion, so you fatigue less. 

Ed recommend that we start slow. He said we should start focusing for a short distance just on one aspect like posture or leaning or mid foot strike and then focus on the next thing. Then he said to do that for a bit and then just run. Go have fun because if your spending the whole time focusing on it then it would suck. 

After a couple of months I think it has helped. Overall I heel strike less. My posture is better. My arms still are hard for me to correct. I find them at a 45* bend alot. 

So do I think it was worth it? Absolutely! It cost about $120 and it was so nice to have the feedback from someone. It was great how he recorded us running critiqued it and sent it to us. Ed also encouraged us to come back in about 6 months for a tune up. We could take the whole workshop again or he could meet with us individually. I think that would be a great idea and I'm planning to go back again. Not sure when but I think it would be helpful. 

I would also like to get the Chi Marathon book. On Amazon they have a deal for the Chi Running book, Chi Marathon and a metronome for $36. I did read the Chi Running book and it has a great section on injuries covering most of the common ones with tips on healing and prevention. 

So, if you find yourself with repeated injuries or are just interested in improving your running form I totally recommend attending a Chi Running workshop and get some feedback. 

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