Monday, 25 April 2011

Chi-p on running...

A couple of months ago a colleague at work recommended a book called "Chi Running" by Danny Dreyer, which claimed to have taught thousands of people to run comfortably, and without injury.  And whilst generally I'm a bit of a cynic, when it comes to running, cycling, and other endurance activity I seem to be prepared to suspend disbelief, and give many wacky theories a chance.  So I bought the book.

Once you get through the first two or three chapters of American west coast New Age-ism, including why it's called Chi Running (as in Tai Chi), there's a lot of stuff around technique that seemed to make a lot of sense intuitively to me - so I've been trying to incorporate it into my running.  There's lots of aspects, but the crucial ones seem to be 1) always strike the floor first with the ball of your foot, not your heel; 2) lean forward, but from the ankles rather than waist; 3) make sure your feet hit the ground under your body rather than in front of you; 4) maintain a relatively high cadence of 75-80 small-ish strides per foot per minute rather than fewer, bigger strides; 5) keep your pelvis level rather than tilted down and 6) swing your arms as if you were elbowing someone rather than punching them.

Doesn't sound too hard does it?  But heck, where once running was strictly a mind-in-neutral, take-in-the-surroundings type activity, I now find myself concentrating just as hard as I have done in plenty of exams in my life.  I guess it's like learning any new physical activity requiring co-ordination of lots of bodily parts - at first it's really hard, but then becomes easier as you get to that 'unconscious competence' stage.  But it seems to be worth persisting with, as (whisper this and touch wood) I'm doing plenty of miles without any significant problems to speak of at the moment.  Since the last blog when I promised myself I'd up the activity I've done 5 runs covering 44 miles, including a 22 miler yesterday, and whilst I'm quite tired and stiff today, there isn't anything too traumatic.  I'm beginnning to believe I really can run a marathon in under 4 hours.

So what else of all the stuff I've read and experimented with seems to work?  A few examples:

- breakfast: generally, I'm a big believer in breakfast, most important meal of the day etc.  And I'm a fruit and porridge man; lots of high quality carbs.  However, on race days I've stopped having breakfast and just have 750 ml of a pre-exercise carb loading drink.  As long as you start eating (bike), or taking gels (running) in the first hour, it seems to make you much livelier in the first part of an event without sacrificing anything later on
- eating (1):  for me, during non-running long events (6 hours plus), real food is much more effective at sustaining performance than gels, sweets, energy bars and so on.  Sure I have some of those in my pocket for a rapid energy boost when I really need one, but generally a cheese sandwich will do the trick
- eating (2):  now this really is setting myself up for a fall, but the fabled runners' "wall" - are they eating enough?  Maybe it's because I've learned my endurance on the bike, where there's a culture of eating, but runners seem to eschew eating in the same way.  I totally appreciate that you can't be taking on the aforementioned cheese sandwich half way through a marathon, but a steady flow of gels and jellies surely would stave the problem off?  We'll see won't we? 

I'm getting boring with that so I'll stop.  Where I can be a bit rubbish is drinking enough, particularly on cooler days, and 2 years ago on the Monster I had a slightly embarrassing 10 mins lying down in the St Johns Ambulance section at the finish at 2am.  I'm pretty sure it was nothing more than dehydration, as I hardly drank a thing after 11pm.  It's the Monster again next weekend, so I'll be consciously drinking plenty, and not just water.  We head up there on Royal Wedding day, and hopefully I'll be in a fit enough state next Monday to record whether we achieved our target of finishing in 15 hours.  With a 6.30am start (which means rising at 5am), I certainly hope so...

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