Archive for July, 2012

One-Legged Running

As I’ve said over and over again in the short life of my little blog: posture, posture, posture.

Why posture?

“When your posture is correct, energy or chi flows through your body unhindered. Running with your posture out of alignment can create tension, fatigue, discomfort and even pain. When your posture is aligned properly, your structure is supporting the weight of your body instead of your muscles.” I’ll have some of that, please!

I’ve been mindful of my posture for a while now and while I lapse often, especially at work, I’m getting there. I also can’t wait to get back home and start sitting on my ball chair that showed up right before I hit the road! I’ll be sure to write a review once I start sitting on it.

But it’s one thing to practice posture when sitting or even walking, and then putting it into practice while running. The last exercise of the posture focus in the chi running book is the one-legged stance exercise. It’s really straightforward. You stand in your good posture stance (aka mountain pose with feet close together)  and alternate lifting each foot until your shin is 90 degrees parallel to the floor. Really feel your lower foot grounded each time and alternate. That’s it. That’s your support stance. As I’ve also said before, chi running is about learning to transfer your weight from one leg to another, as opposed to pushing off and working harder than you need to, and training your core to do the work. The one-legged stance gets you there and practicing it is important because, basically, and prepare yourself because this will blow your mind, chi running is simply a series of one-legged stances.

In chi running, “all you have to do is pick up your feet to keep up with your forward fall.” 

All you have to do is pick up your feet.

All you have to do is pick up your feet.

This was my mantra for the last few runs because it’s simple and I have a tendency to over think processes. I often hem and haw over details and then finally just buckle down and get it done. For me though, even if I feel like I’ve wasted time, it’s just my process and it’s a process of preparation and learning. So I decided yesterday that I’ve been preparing for a while and holding myself back and that I just needed to go for a run like I used to and see where it took me.

I left my hotel (I’m in a suburb of Portland, OR) today after work and after a bit of walking and some looseners, I started running. For the first mile I felt pretty good. I felt relaxed and my stride felt effortless. I was running to the metronome and practicing using my y’chi (I’ll cover this in a post later) and just lifting my feet. I was also practicing my body sensing and was playing with my lean. Another mind blowing fun fact I read the other day was that if you lean too far you can still give yourself shin splints because then your calves have to do the work to hold you up. My lean needs some work–I can’t tell yet if I’m leaning too far or not enough–but in terms of my lower body focus and doing the one-legged running, it felt good and effortless.

I ran down the road and enjoyed exploring the area. It’s pretty.

I passed a park and then came upon a trail. It was just a small connector trail that ran under I-5 for probably a quarter mile, but it was also pretty, and lined with blackberry bushes. There are so many blackberry bushes in Oregon! Or maybe they’re marionberry bushes, but either way they’ve been all over the place west of the Cascades and I want to eat all of them.

By this point in my run I was starting to tense up and was struggling to relax. My calves were getting tight and I took that as a sign that I was still pushing off instead of relying on gravity, or maybe leaning too far, or maybe both. Again, it’s the lean I have to work on next. But to relax I just started walking and trying to shake out my limbs. I also ran a few feet in my old form and immediately was in pain and the lumbering, stomping, clumsy running felt so awful! I think in my moments of frustration, I should run like I used to and remind myself that I actually am making progress.

In addition to just lifting my legs, trying to relax, engaging my core, and finding my lean window, I also started practicing my pelvic rotations. I didn’t get very far with it but I had one tiny glimpse of what it might be like to run with my pelvis truly allowing my legs to swing up behind me. I can do it while walking but at this point it’s a little too much to think about while running.

After passing back under 1-5, I turned around and headed back to the hotel, alternating walking and running. I passed some office buildings and used the mirror glass to check out my form, which was a bad idea. I think at that point I was getting fatigued and I was definitely not relaxed anymore and I thought I looked awful. It looked like I was breaking at the waist and not leaning at all. I started feeling down on myself and getting frustrated. But now, as I reflect back on the moments of success,  instead of wallowing in the frustrations I just have to keep reminding myself of what it felt like to run with my old form and to remember the moments I had with the effortless feeling. Also, each time I run, the effortless feeling lasts a little bit longer. That’s pretty sweet.

Another thing that’s pretty sweet is remembering to stop and look up.

And getting to hang out in random, beautiful places.

Ooh and I topped off the workout with a delicious recovery shake of organic marionberries, blueberries and passion fruit coconut water. Yuuuuuuuum!

Tomorrow is another travel day but Wednesday hopefully I’ll be back to write about the next form focus: leaning. In the meantime stay tuned and answer me this: how do you work on your posture?

July 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm 2 comments

Back to Basics

As I’ve started to progress down the road of learning chi running I have, in the spirit of trying to understand the big picture, skipped over some important details. Now that I’ve read through Chapter 3: the four Chi skills; Chapter 4: the basic components of the technique; and Chapter 5: how to learn chi running, I’m going to backtrack a bit and go through the exercises and lessons to ensure I have a solid foundation. Many of the technique components and the lessons I learned in the workshop or have already been practicing, but Danny Dreyer, the author, has a method of teaching and learning and I figure there’s no reason to bushwack my way through when a path is already before me.

The first part of my foundation that I need to work on is Body Sensing, which is the second key chi skill. The other chi skills–focusing, breathing and relaxing–I’ve been working on from the beginning but I have neglected the body sensing skill.

“The Chi Running technique is more than a running form. It is an activity that works to build a strong link between your mind and body.”

In order to do this Body Sensing is essential. The few times I’ve run I think I’m doing well but then I end up in pain afterward and I don’t know for sure why. Becoming adept at Body Sensing will help me understand my form and self correct my mistakes. It will also help my yoga practice as well.

There are several exercises to learn Body Sensing: the body scan and the mirror exercise. The body scan exercise teaches you to focus on each major area of your body and just check in with it. How are your shoulders doing? What about your elbows? How do your calves feel? I should be doing a body scan before I start any practice–yoga or running. The mirror exercise teaches you to make the connection between what you think your body is doing and what it is actually doing. Stand up with your eyes closed in what you think is your correct posture. Get grounded and feel what your body is doing. Then open your eyes and look in the mirror. I did this and found that my right foot was splayed outward a bit and my toes were not parallel. My stance was also a little wider than desired. So more homework! The body sensing is going to be key for me.

There are 3 steps to putting body sensing into practice as I move about in my runs and yoga. 1: Listening carefully to my body. 2. Assessing the info and if something feels good (or bad) try to remember what you did to get there. 3. Adjusting incrementally.

In general the four chi skills are going to the overarching themes of the chi running homework. Learning to use my y’chi (focusing), making body sensing second nature, truly relaxing and breathing effectively are going to take time but I think I am well on my way toward engraining these skills.

My next posts will document my in depth exploration into chapter 4: the six form focuses–posture, lean, lower body, pelvic rotation, upper body, gears. I’ve dabbled in a few aspects of all of these and learned the basics in the workshop but now I will go through the exercises and make sure I’ve covered all the bases. Stay tuned…

July 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm 3 comments

Motivation on the Road

Well, I’ve been on the road since Tuesday now and the trip started out well in terms of my motivation. To be honest, it has since waned. Yesterday was a travel day and I needed to pack instead of going for a run before work. An excuse, yes, but I told myself I would make up for it by doing yoga after work and going out for a run this morning.

Well, neither of those things happened. Although I will do some light yoga after I finish this post, I won’t have much time for anything else. And it’s not like I don’t have time; I woke up at 6:00 but felt so tired it took me 45 minutes to get out of bed. I also got back to the hotel feeling really fried and unmotivated yesterday.

So instead of beating myself up, I’ll use this post as my confession and in repentance I will do two minutes of lunges on each side and 10 sun salutes. I’ll eat the healthiest lunch and dinner I can find (unless that bacon wrapped hot dog cart is closer). Tomorrow is another travel day and the likelihood of me doing much this weekend is small, but I will try. I’ve got a new post drafted I just need to do the work. Stay tuned.

Isn’t the southern Oregon sunset pretty? (Taken from inside a car, hence the weird white reflection thingy).

Image

July 27, 2012 at 6:55 am 2 comments

Chi Running Week 2

Two weeks ago I took the first chi running workshop. I’m now 135 pages through the book–about halfway through Chapter 5. I have chi walked about 15 miles and have chi ran a few miles. Baby, baby, baby steps. As I get to the part of the book talking about how to start a chi running program, I’m realizing that I’m on track and approaching this whole thing with the right mindset. It continues to be a challenge in moments to let myself progress slowly but I just have to keep on.

Yesterday morning before I left for my epic 10 day work trip I went for a run around the park in my neighborhood and, dare I say it, actually had fun running!?! I didn’t run very far, no more than a half a mile or so, and I had to stop a few times to regroup my posture and get the forward lean going again, but when I was running it felt ok! I think a big part of it was making sure my stride was small, that I was keeping my feet under me, and running at the recommended cadence of 180 steps a minute.

In order to do that, I looked up a metronome app on my i phone and found the Perfect Cadence app. It’s free and unlike metronome apps made for musicians, this is designed for runners and you can set the cadence to whatever you want but it’s automatically set up at 180.  The only downside to the Perfect Cadence app is that it stops if your phone goes into sleep mode so I was constantly opening my phone or trying to remember to keep the screen alive.

When I was looking was the link to the app I found this Cadence app that matches songs with the cadence you want to keep. It sounded pretty awesome so I bought the .99 cent version and tried it out this morning on my run around Klamath Falls, Oregon.  I liked the app; the songs were like house trance electronica, normally not my genre of choice, but it was good for running and nice to have music. However, I think I need to stick with the metronome for a few runs more to really get used to what 180 feels like and then I can move on to music.

So, my run in Klamath Falls. I was feeling a little tight when I left my hotel this morning. I started out walking and after about a quarter mile I started running. I just ran in the neighborhood around the hotel, which isn’t very exciting, but I’ll throw in a few pictures anyway. Klamath has similar high desert weather as Reno, so at least the morning air was cool and relaxing.

I ran for 10 minutes and by the end my shins were hurting again. I focused the whole run on my stride length and cadence, and I think this was to the detriment of my forward lean. I thought about it but I think my body wants to make me vertical because it’s easier, so unless I’m being vigilant I sneak back upright. I also know that I’m still having trouble relaxing, and I’m not at pelvis rotation yet. Upside: my cadence is improving and I think after a few more runs I will have engrained the new, shorter stride length to keep my feet under me.  Another upside: I got out of bed to go outside and be active. That in and of itself is progress.

The next steps will then be intensely focusing on my forward lean–not breaking at the waist–and relaxing my legs and letting them swing up behind me. I want to focus on these elements for however long it needs to take and then work on focusing on my pelvis rotation. I have it down pretty good in my walking, but it’s not happening in my running yet. Hopefully my lizard training (read more about that here) will come in handy soon. After all that, it’s arm swing and breathing!

So I’m pleased with the progress I’m making, but it’s also a little frustrating to be working through the pain, but I know this can’t happen overnight. Patience and persistence. Persistence and patience. My mantra.

I’ll be on the road for another 9 days and I spent the weekend before my trip visualizing how I am going to train on the road and how I am going to stick with my diet. For training I plan to stick with a similar schedule as when I’m home: walk/run and light yoga in the morning, and more vigorous yoga in the evening right after work. For diet I brought my bullet blender and my protein and fiber powders and when I got to town I went to the grocery store and bought coconut water and fruit for my morning smoothies. For the other meals I’m going to try to eat as well as I can in restaurants and eat in when I can, which is hard in a hotel, but certainly not impossible.

Oh and in between all that I simply must find time to chill at the pool and sit in the hot tub. I don’t think that will be a problem at all.

July 25, 2012 at 7:26 am 1 comment

Yoga Tweaking

On Sunday I had a private yoga session with my friend Jen to work out the issues I’ve been having with my up-dog pose and a few other poses and to have fun with some headstands.

It was a great session and my shoulders are still sore from all the chaturanga-up dog-down dog I did. I needed to do that many to try to engrain good habits. I had some mistake with almost each element of the sun salutation. I was jamming my shoulders in my ears when swinging my arms up, I needed to hold my hips higher in plank, properly place my hands in chaturanga and push farther forward with my feet to get into up dog. I’m still struggling with getting into up dog without putting too much pressure on my lower back, but it’s definitely much improved and for the last two mornings when I’ve practiced I can really tell the difference.

After practicing my up dog for a while Jen got me into child’s pose and realized that my hips are so tight I can’t even get into a proper relaxation in child’s pose. So I have to become a lizard. This is the lizard pose:

I’m definitely nowhere close to being there yet and in fact my homework is to do the level one version of a lunge, and then to work into a high lunge, one minute on each side. So far I’m doing them in the morning and evening and while the discomfort is pretty high I know it will help so much on so many levels–it will help my back pain, it will help my yoga practice and it will also help my chi running practice as I get to the part of really working on rotating my pelvis. Hips are so key, and with so many other elements of this short ch’i journey, I didn’t even realize how tight they were and also how crucial they are to everything else. Learning, learning.

I also asked for some help with my bridge because I was hurting my back doing it in classes. It’s my least favorite pose. Jen showed me how to line up my feet properly and that seems to help. My second piece of homework is to lay with blocks under my sacrum and to just relax. I can do that. And one day I will look like this:

In the last part of the private we worked on tripod headstand and I was able to get into a half tripod pretty easily. I guess because it’s similar to crow, and I love crow, but it was really fun. I can’t stay in it for more than a few breaths, but it’s something to look forward to at the end of a practice.

Now I am on the road for the next 10 days. I brought my yoga mat and my blocks and plan on using this link: http://www.markstephensyoga.com/resources/yoga-practice for guidance through a more concentrated practice. And while I’m watching trashy prime time I’ll be in my lunges.  :)

July 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm 1 comment

Dry Pond Hike

Friday ended up being a rest day and on Saturday morning I woke up feeling really great, and could feel the good effects of the week of activity. To keep it going, my boyfriend, D, and I decided to go on a little hike. There are so many places to hike around Reno and we don’t hike very often so I looked up different options. We settled on a 4.5 mile hike on the Dry Pond Trail and headed out the door. When we got to the trailhead we realized that we could make a loop instead of just going out and back.

It was a beautiful walk that began in a wooded canyon and followed a creek for about 2 miles.

It was a pretty mellow but steady elevation gain. After 2 miles we hit the actual Dry Pond Trail and started an ascent up a ridge to the dry pond. Along the way we passed some huge Ponderosa Pines. I had never seen Ponderosa’s so large, almost as big as younger Redwoods. I should have had D stand beside it for some scale.

The climb up the ride was pretty steep but it wasn’t very long, maybe half a mile? The views were worth it though. We also passed a lot of mountain bikers, trail runners, other hikers and horse droppings. It would be a pretty intense mountain bike ride, but if/when I start trail running, I think this area would be a great option.

That’s Mt. Rose ski resort in the background. I took this picture at the summit, beside the very dry pond. We then descended down the steeper side of the ridge into another canyon and got to finish the last few miles beside another creek and in a wooded path. The Aspens that lined both creeks were my favorite. This would be a really pretty hike in the fall.

We got back to my car after about 2 1/2 hours, and had ended up hiking 6.3 miles because we did the loop instead of just going back the way we came after reaching the dry pond. The hike started at 6100 feet and the elevation of the summit was around 7000, so it was a pretty good elevation gain for a Saturday stroll, but still a very mellow hike for all the different options in the Reno-Tahoe area.

For the first part of the hike I focused on my chi walking, but after about half way my concentration waned and I found myself constantly bringing my awareness back to my body. Because of my lack of focus it wasn’t the best day for my walking/running practice. There are going to be good training days and not so good ones and I’ll chalk this one up to a not so good day. But I was still out there and active and for me that’s half the battle.

Stay tuned for a post about a private yoga session with Jen and my training plans for the epic 10 day work trip to Oregon that starts tomorrow.

July 23, 2012 at 9:16 am 1 comment

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