Would you like running to be easier and more enjoyable?

I would like to share how you can transform your running so it is a more enjoyable and satisfying experience resulting in more benefits and greater happiness.  Running with a more efficient technique results in less effort and is the foundation to finding more joy in running.  Also, if you change how you approach running, it can be a more meditative, relaxing and effortless experience instead of just a workout or a way to stay in shape.  You still get the results you want but with more freedom, joy and energy gained.

Practicing a more natural and efficient technique has many benefits.  By bringing awareness to your physical body, you are more likely to be in the present moment.  And instead of thinking about your worries and stresses, you will be able to experience and find joy in this moment.  The present moment is truly a gift, for it is the only moment we have.  Also, running more efficiently is easier, obviously.  This alone makes running more enjoyable and fun.  I have found Wholistic Running to be the most effective way to run efficiently and naturally.

Why do you run?  Is it to stay in shape?  To get a workout?  I suggest letting go of those ideas.  Instead, run because you want to.  Because it is truly a gift to be able to use our physical bodies to move through space.  Run to get outside and see the beauty this world has to offer.  Run to say hello to other runners and smile because we are lucky to be able to do what we love.

Running can be a moving meditation with similar benefits to yoga and sitting meditation.  With mindful practice, remind yourself to bring your mind into the present moment.  You can do this by focusing on your form and the physical body as well as your breath.   I recommend just noticing the breath and not trying to control it.  If you are relaxed and efficient, your breath will be optimal.  Running can be more enjoyable by being aware of and appreciating the beauty of the places you run.  Appreciate the little things: seeing an old friend, the textures of trees, the smile of a child, the feel of the wind against your legs, the sound of your soft foot falls…

Remember, the choice is yours.  If you consciously allow running to be more enjoyable, you will open a door to allow running to be just that.  Focus on the physical body, technique and breath.  Allow your mind to find the present moment and give thanks for doing what you love.  Allow your spirit the freedom to enjoy this movement by giving up expectations, time, goals and just appreciate the movement and joy of what we are born to do.

Yoga and Running

What can yoga do for you?  Give you more energy.  Reduce injuries and recovery time.  Increase patience, courage, and clarity.  Increase endurance, lung capacity, performance, speed and mental determination.  Reduce dis-ease including aches and pains, digestive issues, arthritis, tendonitis, sleep issues, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, skin issues and more.  Yoga will help bring you more into the present moment and give you abundant peace of mind bringing more happiness and joy.  Now who doesn’t want that?

For runners, yoga can be an incredible asset and complement to your training.  I have experienced many benefits in my running because of yoga.  I often say,

“yoga keeps me in better running shape than running does.” 

And it isn’t a joke.  As an elite ultramarathon runner, I don’t run as much as you may think.  Yoga and Wholistic Running allow me to run far and fast.  Some benefits I have experienced from yoga include reduced injuries, faster recovery time, increased performance, more speed and endurance, and less effort and more joy while running.  This all sounds too good to be true?  Let me share how yoga may benefit you.

How does yoga reduce injuries?  Yoga is all about balance.  Contrary to what many people may believe, yoga isn’t just about stretching.  Yoga brings the body, mind and spirit into balance bringing overall health and well being.  Hatha yoga (physical yoga) increases flexibility and range of motion, strength, and balance.  In order to prevent injuries, the body must have a balance of flexibility and strength.  Too much or little of one and you are more susceptible to injury.  Yoga challenges the entire body bringing strength to every muscle and encourages your body to move correctly and efficiently.  By practicing balancing postures, we teach the body to move with strength and fluidity.  Increasing flexibility promotes a more graceful and light running pattern which reduces impact and effort.

How does yoga increase performance?  Yoga increases lung capacity, efficiency, mental strength and reduces recovery time allowing you to train harder and more often.  Breathing exercises in yoga expand your lungs allowing you to run faster and harder while more efficiently bringing oxygen to your muscles.  Breathing with your entire lungs, especially the lower lungs where more oxygen exchange occurs, is a more efficient way to breathe requiring less effort and producing more energy.  You will run more efficiently because of increased range of motion and flexibility.

By ‘opening’ up the body, you will run more like when you did as a kid.

With ‘open’ hips, your stride will be more graceful and fluid.  Yoga promotes spinal twisting which will allow your body to move effortlessly and efficiently.  Yoga reduces recovery time by detoxifying metabolic wastes produced by the body when running and increasing the healing potential of your body.  This is done by ‘squeezing’ and releasing body parts which flushes the body of wastes and opens the body bringing healthy, healing oxygenated blood to your whole body.  Yoga greatly increases mental strength and determination allowing you to train and race harder and faster.  You will develop patience and acceptance while practicing yoga which will help you accept the increased effort and sensations of running harder.

Yoga helps reduce dis-ease.  Everyone experiences dis-ease of some sort whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  Yoga benefits your entire physical body including your organs promoting overall health and well being.  Yoga treats your entire body, it is a wholistic practice.  Many times, we suffer physically and the cause is mental or emotional.  Yoga brings your whole life into balance encouraging health on all levels.  With yoga, you learn and experience Self awareness and therefore you can treat the real cause of your symptoms whatever they may be.

Experience an increase of joy and happiness by practicing yoga.

This will help you be a happier, healthier runner as well.  Yoga teaches you to be in the present moment. By being in the present moment, you will be released of unnecessary suffering and on your path to happiness and health.  Acceptance, love, gratitude and patience are experienced while practicing yoga.  How does yoga do this?  I’m not exactly sure to be honest.  But from my experience as well as many other practitioners, it just ‘happens’.

Wholistic Running has many similar benefits to yoga.  They are both a great complement to each other and will enhance your running as well as your entire life.  Just like yoga, Wholistic Running is a practice.  I highly recommend finding a yoga practice that best suits you.  In my opinion, it usually isn’t the easiest practice.  Find a studio, teachers, and community you connect with.  I personally connect most with Bikram Yoga and it is the most physically healing practice I have tried.

Most importantly, practice.  Reading about it and wondering if it may help won’t get you anywhere.  Experience the benefits of yoga for your Self by practicing.

Why I Love Running

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I love running for the beauty, simplicity, community, love, pain, courage, struggle, and patience it brings into my life.  I hope to inspire you to love what you do and do what you love.

“The music of a marathon is a powerful strain, one of those tunes of glory.  It asks us to forsake pleasures, to discipline the body, to find courage, to renew faith and to become one’s own person, utterly and completely.”   -George Sheehan

I love watching other runners. The simplicity, grace, beauty, efficiency and joy.  I love seeing them smile, struggle, laugh, and cry all in one race.  I love running with other runners.  The community and compassion that builds between runners.  The friendships that form and the encouragement and struggles we share.  I love running alone.  The peace, tranquility, and quietness becomes a journey into my self.  The smile across my face when I find my self a part of nature.  The vastness of being in the mountains and the realization of how lucky I am.

I love running because it teaches me about my self and life.  The simplicity of running is a beautiful thing.  The more I can learn to live simply, the happier and more joyful I am.  Running has taught me the value of patience and determination.  An ultra running quote is “If you feel good, just wait”. The beauty of the quote is the truth it reveals.  If you feel miserable all you have to do is wait.  And the same is true in life.  Things change whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Running has taught me to accept either and enjoy the beauty of both, the ‘good’ as well as the ‘bad’.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned from running is that pain is part of life.  It is suffering that is an option.  Suffering is truly a choice.  It is how we react to pain which determines if we suffer.  Because of running, I have learned that anything in life is possible.  Sure, it may take a lot of work.  It may take a lot of time, effort, sweat, tears, stress, and many ups and downs.  But with patience, courage, determination, anything truly is possible.  We have no boundaries!  

Running has become a moving meditation for myself.  I dwell within my self and ponder what else life has to bring.  Because I treat running as a practice the benefits are more intense, the positive feelings are more rewarding, and I experience more joy, clarity and peace.  Better doesn’t mean faster.  Most of the time for me, it means slowing down.  ‘Better’ at running to me means being able to go deeper within my body, mind and spirit.  I accomplish that by enjoying nature, focusing on my technique and by loving the activity and people I share it with.

I love running for how it makes me feel, the lessons I learn, and the people whom I share it with.  I hope you find this as well in whatever it is you love to do!

“There will never be a day when we won’t need dedication, discipline, energy, and the feeling that we can change things for the better.” -George Sheehan

Why a focus on running form?

There is a lot of interest in more efficient and low impact running form these days.  The reason being that many runners are finding fantastic results (less injuries, less effort, more joy, more speed) when they adjust their running technique for maximum efficiency.  There are several popular running methods (Pose, Evolution) out there and I have tried several.  For myself, I have found ChiRunning to be the most effective and the one I connect with the most.  ChiRunning is all about alignment and relaxation and allowing the body to flow in its own rhythm.   Proper alignment and relaxation both lead to efficiency and injury prevention.  Efficiency and injury prevention lead to less injuries, less impact, increased speed and distance as well as increased joy and fulfillment. 

Example of common poor running technique.  Notice the heel strike, foot landing in front of hips, and a lack of lean resulting in more impact and wasted energy.

I found my passion for running in college but a severe knee injury in 2002 kept me from running for over two years. I tried everything!  A few doctors and physical therapists even told me I would never be able to run again!  I knew it wasn’t running that caused the injury but how I ran that did.  After over two years, Bikram Yoga and specific nutrition finally helped heal my knees but running was still painful.  After researching and trying several running methods, ChiRunning changed my life.  Finding ChiRunning was truly a gift.  Not only did ChiRunning change the way I ran, it has allowed me to run injury free and enter the world of ultramarathon running.  Even running up to 100 miles a week, ChiRunning has allowed me to be injury free for over 6 years while running faster and with less effort.

 Another common poor running technique.  Notice the lack of core strength resulting in excess fatigue and tension.

There were a few reasons that ChiRunning really connected with me.  I believe that it isn’t running that causes injury but how we run that does (again, read that sentence a few times).  Children can run for what seems like forever and not get tired.  Native peoples including some in Africa and the Tarahumara in Mexico seem to be able to run forever without many injuries at all.  But why as Americans do runners get injured so often.  We have found it acceptable to get injured as a runner.  It just happens.  Runners expect it.  For me, it is unacceptable!  An injury is our body telling us that something isn’t correct.  When we watch many (not all!) elite athletes, native peoples, and especially children run, they run with very similar form.  And that is what ChiRunning is all about.  Teaching us to run the way we were born to run.  The way we did as kids.

Proper ChiRunning technique leading to a very efficient way to run and less impact.

Why don’t we run like children anymore?  There are many reasons but I will address what I believe are the major factors.  Our lifestyles promote poor posture.  We sit most of the day.  We drive a lot.  We carry old injuries which produce ‘bad’ habits and improper ways of moving.  What happens then is the body adapts and changes in ways that aren’t normal.  The body is designed to move a certain way.  Our lifestyle has taught us to hunch over and have poor posture which causes muscles to become ‘tight’ and ‘weak’.  Strong, reselient muscles that are meant to support us become weak.  Our core muscles become weak and aren’t used when we run.  Smaller, weaker muscles need to compensate and perform work that they were not meant to do.  Then, when we run, we run less efficiently and with poor biomechanics which causes injuries and can make running less efficient and just plain not fun.  Notice that runners with poor form look like they aren’t having fun.  Or are they not having fun because they have poor form?

Children running naturally with great ChiRunning technique.

Another major reason we run with poor form is that we learn quickly from the people we surround ourselves with and watch, whether it is concious or subconciously.  And most people in America have poor posture and run with poor technique.  A great story I like to tell is about when I was flying from Pennsylvania to Denver one day.  Next to me was a blind lady, about 50 years old.  The whole flight she sat with ‘perfect’ posture.  Very upright, not even using the backseat for support.  To some people, maybe she looked stiff.  But I could tell she was very relaxed during the whole 4+ hour flight.  I finally asked her if she knew that she sat with good posture.  She said “I do?”.  I replied,  “you didn’t know, you don’t try to”.  She responded “Everyone doesn’t sit like me?  Hm, I never knew, I just sit the way I was meant to sit”.   Not being able to see the way most people sit, she sat naturally.  She never ‘learned’ to sit poorly.  When I watched her walk, perfect ChiWalking technique.

Another reason we don’t run like children anymore is because we are taught not to.  Many runners I know are taught to ‘power run’.  Power running encourages pushing off with the legs to propel ourselves and over stride to increase stride length.  ChiRunning believes (and science confirms) this is a very inefficient way to run.  And it shows!  With all the injuries runners suffer from as well as all the people who believe that running is bad for us.  ChiRunning teaches us to run the way we were designed to run.  Instead of using the legs to propel us, we lean from the ankles and allow gravity to propel us.  Much more efficient.  We also don’t over stride which acts like a brake on the body.  Power running is like driving with one foot on the gas pedal and one on the brake.  Who would do that?  Most likely, you!  Instead, with ChiRunning we use gravity to our advantage and we cooperate with it to propel us.  Our legs naturally open up to the back cooperating with the force of the road/trail which dramatically reduces impact and injuries.  Less muscular energy used, less impact.  Not only does science back this up, it makes sense.  And the results are out.  Thousands of runners are finding that ChiRunning dramatically improves their running experience.

As a certified Chi Running instructor I would like to address as well as correct quite a few misconceptions about ChiRunning.   And I only speak for ChiRunning.  I have tried other methods out there and found Chi Running to be the one that works for me.  Also, as a scientist, it just makes sense.  ChiRunning is not ‘very similiar’ to the Pose and Evolution methods of running (which isn’t to say they aren’t good!).  That would be like saying apples and oranges are very similar.  Sure they are tasty fruit, not very similar in my opinion.  I would not like to get into too many details about how ChiRunning is different.  The technique is different and ChiRunning gets into the ‘spiritual’ element of running if desired by the runner.  It also brings in the concept of body awareness and being in the present moment which can result in a running meditation.  This is not taught, it happens.  A runners high, the zone.  Focusing on technique when running is like yoga.  It gets you into these happy states easier and quicker.

Should runners worry about their form?  Of course not!  Would becoming more efficient allow you to have a more positive experience and to possibly run faster and with less effort?  For some people sure.  It is silly to think that working on technique does not have a beneficial affect on speed and efficiency.  A simple refinement of changing a runners arms to swing back and forth versus side to side can significantly decrease energy expenditure.  Many runners do not realize they are running inefficiently.  That is one reason I video tape.  And most importantely, many runners do not know how to change their running form to become more efficient.  ChiRunning has found the most effective way to do it with easy to learn lessons.

Some folks believe ChiRunning would only benefit ultrarunners or runners who appreciate ‘eastern’ wisdom.  It is true that ChiRunning is not for competitive sprinters who run 800 meter events or less.  They want to maximize power by pushing off with the legs and that is fine.  But how many runners actually run sprint events?  ChiRunning will benefit beginner runners, recreational runners, injured runners, and competitive athletes.  Also, runners looking to do 5K races as well as runners doing long events such marathons and ultras greatly benefit from ChiRunning.

A major misconception I would like to address is that ChiRunning is all about ‘minimalist’ footwear and getting rid of heel striking.  We teach runners to run in whatever shoe they are comfortable in and appropriate for the terrain they are doing.  Does running barefoot once in a while improve running technique (therefore speed and efficiency)?  Yes.  Does it help teach you to run lighter and reduce injuries.  Yep.  ChiRunning teaches you to run as if you were barefoot while wearing the shoes you want to wear.  Lighter, more efficient, less impact.  A holistic running approach.

In ChiRunning we teach the idea of ‘Gradual Progress’.  Results do not and should not happen over night.  ChiRunning is a practice and is not goal oriented.  It is process oriented which results in a much deeper sense of joy from running then if it was stricly an exercise or work out.  Also, every aspect of ChiRunning is not for every runner or person out there.  And that is great, we are all unique.  Science backs up that ChiRunning is more efficient.   In ChiRunning, we cooperate with forces and use gravity instead of working against it.  Sounds simple to me even though I know it isn’t.   But ultimately, it needs to work for the runner.  We introduce many concepts and hopefully the runner will connect with some of them.  For many runners, they connect and love the whole concept.

There are literally thousands of runners who have benefited from ChiRunning.  If readers are interested in how Damian and Chi Running has helped many runners check out some testimonials. https://wholisticrunning.com/damian-stoy/wholistic-running-testimonials/

I would like to emphasize that readers try these different running methods (Truly give them a shot, ideally from a certified instructor) and make your own opinions.  There are studies out there showing how low impact methods do help with efficiency and speed.  But who cares, try it and determine for yourself!

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