By Chris Finlayson
I hate going running.
I really do. And that’s a problem, because I love running.
Let me explain. If I could be magically transported from the warmth of my bed, or the comfort of my very cushy (too cushy) office chair onto the road in full stride, I’d be apt to run every day. But alas, there is no magical transporter, and when I want to run I have to motivate myself to get off my duff and get out there.
But when I’m out on the road, oh the joy. There in a nutshell is my love/hate relationship with running. I love actually running, but I hate going running. I remembered the first year I took up running and how I would look forward to getting up early and going for a run, but not lately.
It was with this conflict firmly seated in my brain that I read the description for Donna Melville’s ChiRunning program. I signed up expecting to get a recharge and a new appreciation for running. Something that would make it easier to get motivated and improve my technique along the way. I was unprepared for what I was about to experience, and the things I would learn about myself.
Right off the bat Donna talked about Newton’s Laws. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. While she intended to explain how we can use gravity in running, what I heard was, “Chris, you are waiting for an outside force to move you.”
Have you ever had an “aha” moment that felt like someone struck you on the forehead with their palm? I grew up out in the wilds of Surrey (yes, Surrey had wilds, and still does if you know where to look), with two brothers, so I had some idea of what a smack in the forehead actually felt like, and when I realized that I was waiting for that outside force, my brother Richard’s hand appeared out of the ether and gave me a good smack right on my third eye (fitting, as one aspect of the third eye is clarity on an intuitive level).
Now, please understand that I have had a lot of guilt around running, or rather, around not running. If I missed a day, or only ran once in a week, I had guilt. I should have run today. I should be running more. I should run further. I should improve my 10K time, I should… I should… I should…
I was “should-ing” all over myself.
This became clear to me after one of our first exercises about alignment. Proper alignment is the key to core strength, and Donna showed us just how strong we can be when we are properly aligned. She had one of our participants, Sue, stand up straight, and then leaned heavily on Sue’s shoulders, and predictably, Sue collapsed (don’t worry not to the floor or anything). Donna then spent a couple of minutes showing Sue how to achieve proper alignment and then did the same test, and it was like she was leaning on a bronze statue. No movement.
When we are aligned, body and mind, our true strength reveals itself. This alignment isn’t just about physically being straight, but about aligning the mind, and my mind and body weren’t aligned. My body loved running, but my mind threw up all these shoulds and I translated them into guilt.
I needed to body and mind to be in alignment. Rather than bring guilt into my body, I thought, why not forgive myself and just enjoy it when I can. Ha ha! “JUST!” That’s an inside joke. “Just” ask Donna when you come to ChiRunning at The Haven in November.
If I aligned my mind with my passion for running and not my guilt or worry and focused on the elation I feel on the road, my “shoulds” and guilt evaporate and all that is left is joy. As I accepted this, my form improved immediately and the effortlessness inherent in ChiRunning revealed itself.
ChiRunning is about efficiency and the reduction of injury. I’m one of the lucky 35% of runners who are mercifully injury free (and with what I learned, I expect to stay that way), which means that 65% of runners have experienced some kind of injury. That’s a staggering number.
We learned how to align ourselves to prevent injury, how children were running right all along, how to place our feet, how to focus our Chi, and then… to not worry about anything we just learned. Notice I didn’t say “forget”, I said “not worry.” We can be aware of our body, and check in with our selves and our form, but not actually worry about it.
As the man said in the song, “Don’t waste your time worrying, but know that worrying is effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.” Worrying doesn’t solve anything, action does.
So I acted. I ran, didn’t worry about my form, but was aware of it and corrected it when I could, and a few things happened:
- I easily ran almost 6 km. Normally I would have knocked it off before 4 km, but today I could have kept going even past 6 km.
- I actually went looking for hills. Donna taught us this amazing way to ascend difficult hills. I can’t describe it here, you’ll just have to come to ChiRunning at The Haven to find out, but for the first time in my life, I went out looking for hills. I found a couple, and blew them away.
- My dog couldn’t keep up. This was a real win for me, because he’s always been faster than me. Whenever we would run, I’d have to rein him in because he’d want to drag me along. Today, I could pace him fine, and ended up dragging him back up the hill toward home. I don’t think he was looking forward to the hills as much as I was.
- No pain, no soreness, no twitching, just sweat. The good kind.
- I had the most enjoyable run I’ve had in years.
Here at The Haven, we often talk how we do things as being a “different way” than what we’re used to. In many respects, ChiRunning is a different way. It’s a better way, and it’s a way to connect with yourself, your body and your fitness.
Running is the oldest form of exercise known to man. It’s one of the cheapest, if you go minimal with the gadgets (ie none), and don’t worry about numbers. When it’s done right, nearly anyone can do it. Anyone can excel at it and anyone can enjoy it.
Thank you Donna for helping me find my Love/Love relationship with running again.