Saturday, January 28, 2012

ChiRunning Part 1

My mom recently came across this book while searching for something else, and recommended it to me.  A book about running? You had me at injury-free. 

I've only read the first two chapters so far, but I've found it to be very interesting and worth sharing. 

First, let's discuss kids.  Have you ever spent time and watched kids play outside?  I've had many jobs that required me to do just that.  The pure enjoyment on their face as they run around chasing each other is something that we don't necessarily experience as adults.  As kids, they don't think about the fact that they are running, they think about whether or not they are going to tag the other person.  The running just happens.  They pick up their knees and go.  All with a smile on their face.

Kids run so naturally, and little effort is involved in their movements.  They don't experience shin splints or bad knees when they run.  They only experience the occasional face plant when they run too fast. 

What do kids know that we don't? 

The author tells us that it's because to them, running is fun.  Somehow we've lost that. 

To many adults, the ones who don't have a natural love for running, it has become something they have to force themselves to do.  Running isn't much fun anymore, but a means to an end.  The stress we endure on a daily basis is taken with us on our runs, making it even harder to enjoy what used to be something we loved to do. 

While running is a natural movement for us all, and so much good can come from it, so many bad things can, too.  Injuries ranging from damaging your knees, shins, hips, back, feet, and even your eyesight from all the jarring and pounding on the road.  Eyesight?  Interesting...

Mr. Dreyer believes that all these injuries happen because of over-training, more specifically, poor running form and poor biomechanics.  Poor biomechanics means that we move our body in unnatural ways, leading to stress on our muscles, joints, and ligaments.  With poor biomechanics, injuries can happen at any distance or speed.  Fix that, and your odds of getting injured just got reduced. 

What he considers the root of all this evil is what he calls "Power Running".  Basically, develop strong leg strength and leg speed and you can run faster and farther.  It's what everyone is trained to do since middle school. You get stronger and sure it helps recover from injuries, but it doesn't address why you got the injury in the first place.

Power running is result-oriented, which is the primary cause of over-training.  You have a goal in mind, and you set out to do it. 

            Running a marathon
            Losing weight for a special occasion, like a wedding
            Keeping up with your running parner
            Trying to run faster than last year

Hmm.  All those pretty much describe me to a tee. 

Mr. Dreyer says that while there are plenty of reasons to motivated by, instead you should really be focused on what motivates you from the inside.  Listen to your body and do what is best for it. 

Enter: ChiRunning

The whole idea of ChiRunning is to listen and focus internally rather than on external goals so that you can run and/or train in a more effortless and efficient way.  Meaning, go back to Nature.  Nature knows all.  Nature knows how to operate all by itself.  So does your body.  Don't force it to do something it's not ready for.  It'll only backfire.

The benefits of ChiRunning include:
  • Great posture
  • Relaxed limbs
  • Loose joints
  • Engaged core muscles
  • Focused mind
  • Good breathing techniques
  • More energy
Who wouldn't want all that? 

Here's an interesting analogy that Mr. Dreyer presents:

"Have you ever tried to swim upstream?  You can do it if you're strong enough.  And if you're not strong enough, you can work hard and build big muscles so that you can eventually do it.  But no matter how you look at it, you're swimming against the current, and that's going to take a lot of work.  I mean, salmon do it, but they die when they get there.  So, as long as you're in the water, you have to follow the law of the water.  On the other hand, if you want to get upstream with less effort, simply get out of the water and into a different set of laws, where getting upstream might involve nothing more than a gentle walk up a fern-lined path.  As Cecil B. DeMille said regarding his epic film, The Ten Commandments, 'It is impossible for us to break the law ourselves.  We can only break ourselves against the law.'"  (page 31)

The whole salmon dying part might have made me laugh a little, but it's true.  They do die after they make it.

Don't kill yourselves, people.  Just go with the flow.

Until next time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I've done it again.

Happy New Year!

After the last few months of craziness, it's time to get back into the running groove. We were able to keep up with running here and there with our busy schedules, but not as consistently as we would have liked.  Now that the new year has come, our schedules are going to keep us in town to get more miles in.

I'll admit that it's been frustrating that I'm back to where I was a few months ago, in that I'm slower and struggling to get the same quality of runs that I had before.  The new house is located in an area that is jam packed with serious hills, whereas the old house had much more gradual ones.  I'm sure this has a lot to do with my slower pace.

The Silver Comet back in November

Luckily, the Silver Comet trail is right next to my house, and it is probably the most continuously flat path that we have around here.  It's great for the necessary breaks from constantly running up and down all the hills.

I've decided that for now, I really need to be more concerned with just getting miles in, instead of worrying about my pace time.  Better pace times will come eventually.  Getting back into the routine has got to be a priority.

And so we run.

Last week we were off to a good start.  Phillip kicked butt on his runs, tackling the hills like they're no big deal.  I, on the other hand, pretend to enjoy them as I slowly run my routes.

Tuesday turned out to be what felt like the coldest day ever as I unknowingly set off for a 7 mile run in 29 degree weather.  I thought I had dressed appropriately, but unfortunately for me, I couldn't feel my fingers or toes until at least halfway through the run.  My body did not seem to really warm up at all, and felt stiff and was hard to move the whole time.  Worst.  Run.  Ever.  Never again.  It is so important to dress warmly on those cold days.

Thursday was supposed to be another 7 mile run.  Originally the plan was to start on the Silver Comet trail for about 2 miles and get off into a neighborhood to complete a loop, but I felt so good running on the trail that I just kept going.  In the end, I ran just over 8 miles.  It was awesome.

Except for my poor knee.

About 7 miles in, my left leg started to feel like it was being pinched around my hip muscles.  At one point the pain was in my entire left leg.  Eventually the sensation in my leg simmered down while a pain in my knee really began to flare up.  It hurt for the entire last mile, but I kept going, determined to finish.

Once home, after putting ice on it and doing a little research, I self-diagnosed myself with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, most commonly known as "runner's knee".


Read: Injury #4

Basically, it's considered an overuse injury.  Overuse?  Really?  I knew those hills would kill me...

It happens mostly in young, recreational runners, and twice as many women than men.  Ah dang, I'm  both of those. 

I feel the pain mostly on the outer side of my knee, and occasionally just under my knee cap.  It is definitely more noticeable when I'm walking downstairs. And we definitely moved into a two-story house.  Lovely.

The good news is that it's been a few days since that run, and the pain is slowly but surely subsiding.  I took Friday off from all running.  Saturday I went on a short, low-impact bike ride.  Sunday I ran a little over a mile to see how my knee would do.  It was still aching, so the run was kept short.  Today, I ran just over 3.5 miles.  It took longer for the pain in my knee to flare up, but flare up it did.  More ice was applied once home.


I don't want to stop running altogether, but I'm nervous about making anything worse.  I think riding my bike on off days can help, since I wouldn't be putting a lot of pressure on my knees.  And these stretches have been recommended on a lot of different sites. 

At least this injury won't leave a scar.