Archive for August, 2012

Why Chi Running?

I’ve become a Chi Running convert not just for the injury free running–sure, that is totally awesome–but because I am also seeking a larger connection between my body and mind. At the beginning of this year I was fed up with feeling like I had no control over my body and no tools for changing that. The cleanse I did in February helped me start to learn more about nutrition and food as fuel, and I was hoping my training for the Reno Tahoe Odyssey would help me connect more with my body. To a large extent it didn’t and instead showed me that I had a lot of work to do to reach my goals in terms of weight management specifically and healthy living and balance more generally. Chi Running arrived in my consciousness as exactly what I was looking for.

I bought the Chi Marathon book recently. Even though I haven’t finished the Chi Running book yet I heard there were training programs in the book and figured I would go ahead and add it to my library. So far I really like it because it outlines the Chi Running approach to a training program for a marathon, and whether you want to run a marathon or not, preparing for such an endeavor will naturally have positive effects on the rest of your life.

So now, since I’m traveling (I’m currently in the Denver airport on a 3 hour layover)I’d like to share a passage that really inspired me this morning. (i apologize in advance for any typos).

“The unifying of mind and body can be seen on many levels in the ChiRunning programs.

Alignment, relaxation, leaning, allowing gravity to move you forward: all of the Form Focuses in ChiRunning have a mental and emotional correlation to being successful at any long-term endeavor. The deep core of your body is where your deepest dreams reside, along with the power to make them real. When you strengthen the physical center of your body, you are also strengthening your ability to be centered emotionally. When you learn a new Form Focus, you are also strengthening your mind’s ability to stay focused on your goal. When your physical center is strong, it allows the rest of your body to b relaxed, flexible, and responsive to whatever comes your way. When you have a goal to accomplish, you will be most successful when you are strong in your resolve but flexible and responsive to the daily influences that can ultimately create or undermine success.

Alignment in the physical sense means getting your head, shoulders, hips, ankles in alignment. On another level you are aligning your vision, feelings, and desires with the physical movement of your body to create truly unified movement” (p.26).

I think this passage sums up nicely why I’m so into Chi Running and why it was necessary to start a blog about learning it. It’s not just running. It’s mind and body and it will help me achieve my healthy-living lifestyle goals.

I’m a month and a half in and I’m starting to see the effects. There’s a lot more work to be done, but I can’t wait to see where it will take me.


August 31, 2012 at 10:34 am 2 comments

You Might Be A Runner If…

you wake up in the morning excited to run?

That’s how I felt this morning and it was so weird! Awesome, but weird. Last spring when I was training for the RTO, sometimes I looked forward to my runs, but there was such a cloud of training anxiety hanging over my head–I knew I didn’t have enough time to get fully prepared–I was never purely excited. And prior to 2012, if anyone had told me I would one day look forward to running I would have laughed really hard. I always thought running was the worst thing ever, aside from pimento cheese.

This morning, however, I woke up to my alarm and was actually looking forward to getting out there! Tuesday’s run was basically a wash because my training partner and I were both out of sorts and not feeling very well. My back especially was still really sore and we did some light jogging but otherwise it was a very mellow morning. Today I felt like I hadn’t gone for a run since Saturday and was itching for it.

I guess that’s it. Now I’m hooked. I’m not totally ready to call myself a runner, but I’m inching along…

I’m also waking up looking forward to seeing the sunrise. Although I’m still waking up a little too late for it, the low sun on the horizon is so pretty.

This fall I will start seeing the real sunrise though and I’m looking forward to those views! It will also be nice to not be so blinded on some parts of my route.

So in addition to just being generally excited about running, I was also looking forward to practicing my chi running. Here are some things that are starting to become second nature: stride length (thank you metronome!), midfoot strike (most of the time), posture, and lean (I think). The things that I still have to focus on are: picking up my legs (instead of reaching out in front of me), arm swing (and thus pelvic rotation), and relaxing my whole body. Chi Running things I have thought about but haven’t integrated yet: breathing (from the belly and through the nose), gears (aka going faster), connecting with my chi. Obviously I am breathing while running and I have practiced the y’chi exercise–focus on one object in front of you and don’t break your gaze–but I have decided to get my form down and then to start more fully focusing on the breathe, chi and my speed.

The elements that aren’t second nature yet were my focuses today. It’s amazing how hard it’s been to break the habit of overreaching with my legs. Even though I don’t do it so obviously anymore, it’s a subtle thing and just a little bit of overreaching will send some pain signals to my shins. So to get myself to lift my legs up I focus on contracting my psoas muscles (which I talk more about here) and it helps me.

In terms of arm swing, it’s just a matter of remembering to do it. When I pump my arms sufficiently my pelvis automatically starts rotating. Because my lower back is still pretty sore, when I was focusing on my arm  swing, I immediately felt better. I can see why Danny Dryer wrote “if you’re not rotating your pelvis you’re not Chi Running.” When your legs are swinging up behind you, you are working with the force of the road, instead of fighting it. So, naturally, I felt less impact and stress on my body. Now the trick will be to just do it all the time.

Another discovery this morning was that when I allowed my pelvis to rotate I was also better able to fully relax my legs. I’m sure that has to do with working with the force of the road instead of fighting it, but I was much more able to think about my spine as my “needle” and the rest of my body as “cotton” moving around it. So far I’ve been mostly thinking about relaxing my legs, and the next step will be relaxing my shoulders and back as well.

So, all in all, I still have a ways to go, but I’m definitely making progress with both my Chi Running form and my general cardio. I’m building up to three miles for the Color Me Rad, and I’ve got one more run this week to round out week 2 of my 5 week training plan. D and I are travelling to the East Coast tomorrow for vacation, so the plan will be modified a bit, but I’m determined to keep at it. I’ve also decided to set my sights, ultimately, on a half marathon next spring, with some 5 and 10Ks sprinkled in between. You know, because I’m a runner now. :)

August 30, 2012 at 9:11 am 2 comments

Weekend Adventures: Conquering Fear

I had a fabulous weekend playing in the Sierras with D and friends. The fun involved several fear-busting water activities.

On Saturday, after my long run (3 miles!) we went to Emerald Pools, a spot on the Yuba River about an hour away, where a small but powerful waterfall feeds a small canyon, for lack of a better word.

Where the waterfall empties into the pools, cliffs rise 80 feet high, and there are at least a half dozen ‘platforms’ for jumping ranging from 40 -85 feet, depending on the water level.

There was no way I was jumping off a 60 or 80 foot cliff, but I was willing to find a smaller one, so my girlfriend and I climbed down to a ledge about 40 feet high. That felt really high and standing up there I almost had a panic attack but there was no way out than down. After my girlfriend jumped I hesitated, took a deep breath and went for it. I didn’t want to have to jump and climb back up the rocks alone. The fall itself was fun, compared to getting up the nerve to jump it was not a big deal. But, did I mention how cold the water was? It was shocking. Took my breath away. But I did it. I know it doesn’t look very high with the angle of this picture but it was, and it was the highest thing I’ve ever jumped off.

Bucket list 2012: jump off cliff into Emerald Pools. Check.

On Sunday I fulfilled another bucket list item when we went out on a friend’s boat. We’ve been boating with our friends since last summer but I hadn’t sufficiently tried my hand at wake surfing. Wake surfing is like wake boarding but with a shorter rope, you’re not strapped into the board, it’s much less intense (in terms of speed) and you have to use your whole body and subtle movements to work the board. D is an excellent wake surfer and so is everyone else I’ve gone boating with for the past two summers, but I had only tried it once with no success. Embarrassment and fear of failure–I really don’t like doing things I suck at–prevented me from trying again, until Sunday. I knew it would be our last day on the boat, and I didn’t want to go another three seasons regretting not trying.

So, I tried, and failed at getting up about a half dozen times.

I was getting ready to throw in the towel when D got in the water and showed me more clearly where to place my feet on the board. After that I got up like it was nothing and then had to practice staying up, which is much harder than it looks. By the end of the day I had progressed a little bit, but I still have a ways to go before I am actually surfing the wake, but that will have to wait until next summer. For now, I am just happy  that I finally did it.

The accomplishment was not without a little bit of pain though. I worked my back a little incorrectly, and now my lower right back is really, really sore and inflamed. The rest of my body is a little sore, but that’s to be expected. My back, however, is in pretty bad shape, but hopefully with the yoga I did tonight and will do the rest of the week, the epsom salt baths I’ve been taking, and the compression tights I’ve been wearing, it will work itself out over the next few days. I’ve also got a Thai Massage scheduled for Thursday and that should help. I’ve never had that style of massage before, so I’ll be sure to report on what it’s like.

Tomorrow morning marks the start of my second week of 5k training; it will be interesting to see how my back holds up with the increase in running.

Stay tuned…

August 28, 2012 at 6:00 am 11 comments

Update: The Cleanse

I’m almost through with the third week of The Cleanse and thought a quick update would be good for a Friday post. The first week was really hard in terms of hunger and cravings, and I struggled, but stayed strong. Since then, the cravings have subsided and I am no longer so hungry between meals. I’m finding that I’m hungry right around when it’s time to eat again. And when I do get to eat I make delicious meals like this. (Sorry that the picture of off-center. It’s something to do with my blog theme…)

That was my breakfast last weekend: kale and quinoa sauteed in a bit of coconut oil (the quinoa was already cooked, just threw it in the pan to warm it up), poached egg, avocado, berries. YUM!

The Cleanse has also improved my energy level (gotta love that clean burn), my sleep cycle, and my skin is showing the results–my pores have shrunk and I generally have less redness in the T-zone.

I have, however, fallen off the wagon a few times the past two weekends.  It’s the summertime (duh) and with summer comes things like the Shakespeare Festival in Lake Tahoe (and how can you be there, with your toes in the sand watching Two Gentlemen of Verona, and not have a glass of wine?!). See?

I also went to a bridal shower and an appetizer-wine pairing ladies night. Friends were in town and we went out to a special dinner. Naturally, sugars and glutens (is that a word?) were eaten. Several times. Oh well. The difference for me this time around is that I’m not beating myself up about it, and I’m quickly forgiving myself. So I splurged a little on my food. So it took me a few days to detox again and lose the pounds. So what? In the bigger picture, everything I’m doing is so much more important, splurges are going to happen, and wallowing in the self-loathing does not do a body good. In between the splurges I stuck to the Cleanse where I could (breakfast smoothies) and on Mondays jumped back on with the same discipline I had on Fridays.

Perhaps most importantly, falling off the Cleanse wagon teaches me how quickly my body reacts to things like sugar and gluten, so I’m planning on being extra careful next week when the Cleanse is over and D and I travel to the East Coast for an 8 day vacation that will include a wedding, a reunion with dear friends, a football game and beach days.  Overall, I’m feeling more confident in my ability to take what I’m learning about my relationship with food to “real life,” where my main goals will be to eat every 4-6 hours, to NOT SNACK, and to stay away from gluten, at least in the form of breads (so I might have a beer or two), and limit sugar intake as much as I can.

However, despite my less than by-the-book Cleanse, I’m down 10 pounds, which is fantastic. That means that, since February, I’ve lost 18 pounds. I want to push for a few more pounds to lose over the next week, but all in all I’m super psyched and feeling good. This is kind of how I feel, in sky form:

August 24, 2012 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Reblog: 4 Simple Steps to Good Running Form

In my morning runs this week I’ve continued to focus on the basics of Chi Running and this infographic from John, illustrates these basics very nicely. Add in arm swing and pelvic rotation and you’ve got the principles of Chi Running boiled down nicely!

August 23, 2012 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

Remember the Olympics?

And, more specifically, remember when Mo Farah won the 10K final in dramatic fashion, and Galen Rupp, his training partner, took silver? I do. It was so cool, and it might be my favorite moment of the whole games. D and I had just finished moving and were grabbing a bite to eat in a local bar. The 10K final was on and it was so exciting on many levels–the ridiculous pace and the amazing finishes by Farah and Rupp. That look on Farah’s face and his tearful celebration. So heartfelt and so moving. If you didn’t see the race go here and watch the highlights of it.

I also watched Farah win the 5K race with maybe an even more exciting finish–at the beginning of the race he was dead last, just chilling and reserving his energy, and then he pulled out in front over the course of a few laps (according to my sketchy memory).

Well I was reminded of all this when I was catching up on the Chi Running blog this morning. A few weeks ago, Danny Dryer wrote a post about Farah and Rupp’s training schedule leading up to the Olympics, and the importance of race-specific training. I wanted to reblog that post not only because it reminded me of how moved I was by Mo Farah (seriously, just reading their training schedule and remembering the look on his face brought tears to my eyes again), but also because I am now training for my first 5K and want to make sure I’m doing it right. I don’t know if I am, but I have a plan and am sticking to it. We’ll see on race day.

Here’s Danny’s article on race-specific training.

“I’ve been a solid proponent of race-specific training for years and here’s an example of just how effective it can be when you have a plan and follow it through.

The men’s 10K final in the 2012 Olympics was an example, not only of two very talented and hard-working runners, but of a very talented and insightful coach, Alberto Salazar. Mo Farah (UK) and Galen Rupp (US) were both trained by Salazar, who was brilliant in his race-specific training strategy for the pair. He knew the race would be won in the last lap, so he designed their training program accordingly. I’ve posted two of their workouts below to illustrate what he was doing.

Knowing that the race was going to be decided in the last 400 meters,  Salazar designed their interval workouts to have slightly slower, but longer, intervals up front. Then he had their interval distances shrinking and the speed increasing as the workout progressed. This trained them to hold a very strong pace up front, knowing that they’d have to have enough conditioning and mental/emotional drive in them to sprint at the end of the race. This runs counter to the way most people run a race, where they run their fastest up front and hang on for as long as they can… usually finishing much slower than they start.

Here’s an example of two of their workouts leading up to the Olympic 10K finals: (I’m paraphrasing from Tim Layden’s great article on

Two weeks out from the 10k final, they did 6 x 1,000-meter repeats averaging of 2:38 (longer, slower) with a 500-meter jog between reps, then 3 x 400-meter sprints in 52 seconds each (training them to sprint after doing a lot of work up front!)

Six days before the Games, they ran an inverted ladder of:
3 x 600-meter sprints averaging 1:36 each
Then, 400 meters in 61 seconds
Then, 300 meters in 44 seconds
Then, 200 meters in 27 seconds
Then, a blazing 300 in 37 seconds flat
Then, finishing the workout with an all-out 400 in 51 seconds (just after they’ve run their fastest interval of the day, he asks them to do a longer interval in almost the same speed.)

Both of these workouts offered Farah and Rupp the experience of what it would feel like to be running at a high speed for 6 miles and then have to throw in a 400m sprint to top it off. This type of training has not only an obvious physical benefit but a huge psychological benefit. They knew they could do it, because they’d already put themselves through the mental/emotional challenge beforehand [bold added].

In this case of race-specific training it was specific to the nature of this event and the challenges the competitive field would offer. In other events, race-specific training might be designed specific to the terrain challenges. If you’ve ever run the Marine Corps Marathon you know that there’s a 200m steep hill at the finish, so at the end of every LSD training run, you should plan your route so that you end your run at the foot of a very steep hill (which, of course, you run up… smiling).

So, no matter what distance or event you’re training for, do yourself a big favor and make sure you know what to expect and train accordingly.”

Yes, sir. How do you train for your races?

August 22, 2012 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

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