Chi Running: Trying Something New

More Information at
www.chirunning.com
As most of you know, running is not my forte. I struggle with it, mostly due to my weight and past injuries, so I have been searching for awhile for something, anything to help with this part of my training. Unlike my swimming, which is not a physical thing (I can swim forever in a pool) but a mental thing, running is more on the physical side for me. To be blunt, it hurts when I run, and the longer the run, the more pain I am in during and afterwards.
 
Last week we experimented with a technique we had heard on the Vinnie Tortorich podcast, especially the episodes with Serena Scott Thomas (@serenast09), who is Vinnie’s better half and a Chi Running instructor. Especially the ones where she talks about training Anna Vocino (@AnnaVocino). If you have yet to hear this man speak, please do yourself a favor and search for this on iTunes or on his website (linked above). He knows about what he speaks, although it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. If you go in with an open mind (I know that is hard for some people) I guarantee you will learn something new. The technique was something called “Chi Running”, developed by Danny Dreyer. It is centered (pun intended) on the practice of your energy coming from your center, or Dan Tien. It’s tool is the metronome. Never one to not try something new, Jennifer found an app on iTunes that we could use to test this technique out, so we found a comfortable rhythm (in our case 83, or 166 beats per minute) and set out last Sunday. I ran 7 miles without walking, something I had NEVER been able to do. Jennifer ran 9.
 
OK….maybe there is something to this….
 
Coincidentally, this weekend there was a day long clinic in Orlando being taught by Danny Dreyer himself. It was a bit pricey, but at this point, if it is something that can team me how to run efficiently and without pain, that is more than worth the cost. Forgoing our long scheduled run, we snagged the last two spots open with the blessing of KC. I went with high hopes and a bit of trepidation, because although Tortorich buys into the plan, it also said it was a bit too “chi” for him. I kept an open mind though, and figured even if I learned one thing, it was worth the effort.
 
One thing was a bit of an under reach. I learned quite a bit during this workshop. Some new things, but I was also pleasantly surprised to see that there were some things I do, we do, in triathlon that went along with the training.
 
First off, Danny Dreyer is an amazing instructor. He was approachable, understandable, and not as “chi” as I was expecting him to be. There were some “chi” moments, but not to the point where I was tuning out. When he brought it up it fit was he was explaining, so it made sense. I am not going to go through the whole program, because I am in no way an expert after one clinic, and I don’t want to misquote or present something here that I may have misunderstood as fact, so I will go over some things I found useful, and what my impression was of the experience.
 
He spent most of the morning explaining the basics, that being the two themes … Energy efficiency and Injury Prevention. Two of my favorite things. We spent the morning learning about balance and the importance of the “dan tein” which translates to mean the center of qi, or life force. The lower dan tein, approximately three fingers below your belly button, is where your center is. Danny spent a lot of time explaining and demonstrating how, by controlling this center, you control your body. As much of a “skeptic” I am about this type of thing, I have to say that when you did what he was demonstrating, it does work. The dan tein is in control of rooted standing, breathing, and body awareness.
 
There is a lot of information that is thrown at you, even for a full day. It helped when we went outside and could put some theory into practice, but it still is evident that even with the concepts in your brain pan, the method takes practice. Some of the things that I liked about the clinic were:
  • The use of the metronome is a definite help. It allows me to relax and get in tune with the rhythm. As I had stated earlier, I can run seemingly forever with this thing beeping at me. Now my question is, would this be allowed for use during a race? I need to email and ask this question.
  • Along with the metronome was the lesson of gears. You control speed NOT by moving your legs faster, but by your lean. Another thing I was skeptical about, until I put it in use outside. This works! I was running along at 180 bpm, then the instructor called out “2nd Gear!” which means lean about an inch more forward, but maintain the 180 bpm. The “gear 3!”, another inch. I ran 1/4 split at 6:40 pace. This is UNHEARD of with me, and though I was breathing hard, it never felt like I could not do it. It was amazing to me.
  • The concept of the wheel made a lot of sense to me. Your body is split into an upper and a lower. When one moves one way, the other moves the opposite, like a wheel. When a wheel rolls, the top moves forward, and the bottom moves to the rear.
  • Another great metaphor he used was the swimming pool. I will tell the story here, but obviously it is paraphrased. When you’re a kid at a public pool, you have contests to see who can get to the diving board the fastest. So on GO everyone gets out and runs along the side, which of course prompts the response from the lifeguard of “No Running”. Being kids, you hear the “no running” but what is not said is “slow down” so you start walking, but at the same speed. He used this to demonstrate the pelvic twist, so he point at the end of the parking lot and told us when he said GO we would all start running for that “diving board”, but at some point he would yell “No Running” and we would all start walking, but try to maintain our speed. Our hips, magically, started twisting. Brilliant.
  • One of the main lessons was learning to stay pointed at the goal. Meaning shoulders stay square, feet point straight, arms pumping to mid point (not in front of body) and not crossing the mid line. I have a number of friends that arms swing in front and cross over mid line (no names but you know who you are! LOL).
  • Pick up your feet. Leave “clean” foot prints. Imagine a tripod under your foot and keep pressure evenly on them at all times. This was difficult for me, but I will keep practicing. Another cool drill was when he had us all take our shoes off. He then made us run across the gym floor and to pay attention to the sound. Because it HURTS to run without socks, we all started to alter our run to lightly tread. Now, the trick is, to run like that with shoes ON. So we put them back on and ran. Amazing. So quiet. To further illustrate, he told us to run across the floor in our “normal” style, but when we hot the end, to turn around and run like we were barefoot. The difference in sound was startling. And drove the point home.
I know I am missing some points, but I am reading the book now, and have the feeling I will be a devote of this style from now on. It doesn’t hurt me, and makes me feel like I could run forever. That’s the feeling I am missing, and need to find. Hopefully this helps me find it.
 
I highly recommend looking into this style, especially for those of you, like me, who struggle with this. The book, Chi Running, is on Amazon (but of course don’t go straight to Amazon, go to www.VinnieTortorich.com and click through the banner, because it puts a little coal on the fire and keeps the train moving down the track … sorry … little NSNG insider humor there). They also have DVD’s which go over the basics. If you have the wherewithal attend a clinic, which you can find at www.ChiRunning.com. As I found, even if you learn ONE thing, it is worth the cost.
 
Because we are Fat Slow Triathletes …
… and we WILL be reckoned with!

6 thoughts on “Chi Running: Trying Something New

  • June 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm
    Permalink

    Have you been listening to VT long? Chi Running really helped me. I’m not sold on the minimalist issue but the method works.

    • June 6, 2014 at 4:01 pm
      Permalink

      I’ve been listening to Vinnie for a few months but went back to mid-2013 and listened to old episodes.

  • June 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm
    Permalink

    John- ChiRunning linked to your post on FB today… I clicked over and read it… I listen to Vinnie as well and have read his book – imagine that! Loved the coal / train reference!. I’ve listened to Vinnie’s podcast with Danny – one of the reasons I’m interested in ChiRunning. Reading the book now.

    • June 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm
      Permalink

      Have you been listening to VT long? Chi Running really helped me. I’m not sold on the minimalist issue but the method works.

      • June 6, 2014 at 4:01 pm
        Permalink

        I’ve been listening to Vinnie for a few months but went back to mid-2013 and listened to old episodes.

  • February 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for post this John!! Seems like there are a lot of great points to this method!! It's cool that you are excited about running!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: