Do the Twist

August 21, 2012 at 10:07 am 8 comments

I’m pleased to say that my lack of posts in the past 4 days does not reflect a lack of activity. In fact, I have gone for a morning run four times and I was lucky enough to have a Chi Running check-in workshop with my local instructor Cheryl last week. The workshop came at just the right time in my progression of the Chi Running form focuses. Why? Before I get to that let’s have a quick review.

What are the form focuses of Chi Running?

  1. Posture
  2. Lean
  3. Lower Body
  4. Pelvic Rotation
  5. Upper Body
  6. Gears and Cadence

Posture is the foundation and is so critical I have to keep saying it over and over again. I’m constantly working on my posture when sitting, walking and running. Leaning from your ankles is the second fundamental and you need core strength for it. The lower body form focus teaches you how to not use your legs when you run. That’s right. You lean, use your core, and all you have to do is pick up your feet. Your legs should be relaxed and used to support your frame, but not to propel it forward. I’m still not 100% there with that, but the fact that I’ve run 4 times in the last 5 days and don’t have raging shin splints or crazy sore calves if evidence that something is working.

The fourth focus–pelvic rotation–is also key and entirely mandatory.

If your pelvis isn’t rotating you’re not Chi Running.

Explaining the pelvic rotation is difficult, but essentially, it’s like doing the twist. Well not really because you keep your shoulders square and you’re running, but it’s the same idea. When your back leg swings up behind you, you let that side of your pelvis go with it. But the pivot point is actually in your mid-back where your psoas muscles meet your spine–at your T12/L1 junction. When you’re leaning, and you’ve got your core engaged and your pelvis rotating, you can really feel all your core and back muscles working! I’ve had glimpses of this sensation and it’s pretty awesome but difficult to sustain until I get stronger.

Here’s the picture from the book that shows what I’m talking about. I found it online in an article by Danny Dryer (Chi Running inventor), and he talks about this in a much better way. Obviously. Because he invented it.

This form focus has been one of my primary focuses in all my recent runs and we worked on it during the Chi Running check-in workshop last week. A few great A-HA moments during the workshop were A) learning the chi running method of hill running and B) learning how to use hills to get you used to the sensation of pelvic rotation. When you go downhill your legs naturally swing out behind you, and when you go uphill the force of the road also naturally pulls your leg back, although of course the movement is less exaggerated than going downhill. This was awesome to learn because my neighborhood is all hills and it was my intention to really focus on pelvic rotation starting last week.

Since the workshop I’ve practiced the form focus running up and down hills and on flats, with some success. Like I said above I know I’m not doing it all the time, but for me, the key is bringing the intention to my mind, relaxing and letting my body move the way it wants to. Sometimes I have found, though, that thinking too much about rotating my pelvis prevents me from doing it correctly, and I get off rhythm and tighten up. However, and here’s my secret (which I’m sure is no secret at all) when you pump your arms, your pelvis naturally rotates. Think elderly speed walkers in the mall, or Olympic speed walkers. Whenever I feel mud-brained about my pelvis I just focus on pumping my arms, relaxing my hips, glutes and legs, and all of a sudden my pelvis is moving like cotton around a needle. That’s why I’ve been tweeting about focusing on my stride length and arm swing during my recent runs. (Oh and if you want to follow me on Twitter you are totally allowed to. :)

So that’s my two cents on the fourth Chi Running form focus and now that I’ve discovered it’s more effective to focus on upper body to get your pelvis rotating, I’ll be back with more on the upper body form focus this week. I’m also due for a Cleanse update, and maybe I’ll talk a little bit about yoga too. Stay tuned, but I’ll end this post with some pictures from my morning runs.

Last Friday some smoke from a wildfire or two made it to the valley. The sky and sun were crazy.

On Saturday I made a new friend.

And here’s a random high desert sunset for ya.


Entry filed under: Arm Swing, Body Sensing, Chi Running, Morning Workout, Pelvic Rotation, Relaxation. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Color Me Rad Remember the Olympics?

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Week 6 Training Plan « Ch'I Journey  |  November 14, 2012 at 11:32 am

    […] amount of upper body rotation will decrease your amount of lower body rotation, create unnecessary tension in your neck, and create an inefficient stride” (Chi Marathon, p. […]

  • 2. Week 5 Training Plan « Ch'I Journey  |  November 6, 2012 at 4:05 am

    […] get to spend a week focusing on pelvic rotation. I’ve written about this pretty extensively here, so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice it to say that pelvic rotation is one of the keys to […]

  • 3. YogaEssence  |  August 22, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I’m a fan of chi running as well! It changed my entire perspective on how to run effectively.

    • 4. Steph  |  August 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

      It’s pretty great, isn’t it?! I’ve been teaching myself how to run all over again, which has been such a challenge but it’s starting to pay off!

  • 5. Jane Fritz  |  August 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Great post. You really have Chi Running nailed, at least in written form! Lately, when I’ve been running I’ve been using your “floppy ankles” mantra rather than the “peel your feet” that is in Freyer’s book. I like the mental image. And it took me a few years to figure out that pumping my arms ensures my pelvis is rotating. Lots of mental activity!

    I love the pic of the snail. That’s me!! :)

    • 6. Steph  |  August 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Thanks Jane! I know, so much mental activity! The book recommends working on pairs of focuses at a time and then switching every few minutes or so. I think that helps not getting too overwhelmed but also covering all the bases.

  • 7. John  |  August 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I like the illustration, I was reading about the pelvis rotation in the book last night.

    • 8. Steph  |  August 22, 2012 at 8:24 am

      When you start practicing, remember the arm swing!


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