Chi Running - Causing injury
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I recently had someone tell that they had tried Chi running and it made things worse, not better, and they would not recommended it to others. I asked him if he could still do it, he said he could. I asked him to show me.
He did run with a faster cadence, but he bent at the waist, rather than the ankles, thus his bum stuck out his back supported his trunk and he landed on up on his toes, which of course engaged his calve muscles. His feet were not well aligned, and so, while he was doing his best understanding of Chi Running, he was not actually doing Chi Running, and to blame Chi Running for making things worse was not really fair to Chi Running.
I come from what I call the “Forrest Gump School” of running, that is, I started to run and then I run some more. On a running site in Nov 2009 runners were posting their distance for the month. I noted that I had run 298 km and that this was not bad for a 54 year old guy who had been 244 pounds at 5’ 8” a little over a year before, had done no exercise, and who did not consider himself a runner.
My point is that I was running a lot. I tried to improve, and to pay attention to small aches and pains and to make adjustment to prevent hurting myself. The fact that I had built up to between 250 and 300 km a month and was running injury free indicates I had some success. Every now and again I had a great run, what I called a “Magical Run”. In these runs things just worked. When I came across Chi Running, Danny’s description mapped nicely as an explanation of some of what happened and of course, suggested ways to make these more common, and more with in my control rather than chance.
I used to walk in a way that my wife termed “Farmers walking”. This was toes out, heels in, and with a fairly heavy heel strike even when walking. I made some adjustments through trial and error and good luck, when I started to run.
When I began to switch to Chi Running, I had some ITB and hip pain.
Was this as a result of my changing to Chi Running. I would say it definitely was.
Was it caused by Chi Running? I would say it definitely was not. It was related to my attempt to Chi Run, and not doing it correctly. I moved my toes in a bit to fast, I brought my feet closer to centre so that I could land over them (kind of running the line), but I over did it. So some of these changes lead to fairly abrupt changes in my running form. Chi Running is about gradual progression. Should Chi Running be blamed for my over enthusiasm and incorrect execution of the form? I do not think so.
Some of my problems were related to lateral movement of my hips instead of pelvic rotation. Again, is Danny or Chi Running’s fault? Of course not.
So what fixed these problems with my execution of the form?
Built into the form, and somewhat central to the form is body sensing. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Figure out what works and what does not. Through a combination of body sensing and talking with more experienced Chi Runners I discovered what I was doing that was not working and have been working on correcting it.
I could have taken the position that on my own I had been able to get to a point where I ran 250-300 km a month with no pain, but when I started Chi Running I started to have pain, so it was obviously the fault of Chi Running. I did not take this position, because the explanation for why Chi Running is what it is, made sense, and I therefore decided to figure out if I was doing it correctly before I blamed the problem on Chi Running.
I discovered that the problems seemed to be related to how I did Chi Running and as I made corrections things got better. As I continue to make corrections things continue to get better. Built into the practice of Chi Running are a set of “Meta Practices”, one of these is “body sensing”, another is gradual progression. If these two practices are followed then there is a good chance that you will make changes slowly enough that your body sensing can help inform you if you are doing things correctly.
I remember working with a woman who wanted to loose weight, she had tried everything. In exploring with her the specifics of everything, she had done weight watchers for six months, she had gone to a meeting and even bought a couple of meals, they were tasty but not sufficient so she ate them both together. At the end of our initial meeting I did not think it was likely that I would be able to help her. I also did not think the problem loosing weight necessarily lay with Weight Watchers.
So I think that some people who try Chi Running may end up getting injured, and some of these may not have been injured before. The body has an amazing ability to adjust to thing. So someone who runs badly like I did, but who introduces speed and distance slowly enough for the body to handle may remain injury free even though his/her form is not very good. When I moved to Chi Running, I was already running an average of about 10 km per day, therefore the gradual changes I introduced were multiplied by 10 or more km at a go. One of the problems with this is that some small thing that is not quite right, gets multiplied by distance and it requires being more vigilant from the start of the first run, in order to catch things before they have time to hurt you. A newer runner or a runner doing less running, may take a few runs to discover a problem, but may still do less harm. It is easier to introduce things gradually at a few km a day, than at 10 to 20 km a day.
So for those who give Chi Running, or just running a try, and complain that it is too hard on them, or resulting in injury, I would say, perhaps you should get some assistance from someone in the know, and make sure that if there is an issue, it is not that you’re a using bad form when trying to learn proper form on your own.
Good Running and be careful out there.