Soaking in the Winter Chi
That’s right, rest. You sleep for a reason. Your body goes into a repair and recover phase. When is the last time you took sometime for recovery, when you were healthy?
I think that is the big question; can you take a little time off when you are healthy? I am writing this because I just got back from Tahoe and today I had the best run in months. I didn’t turn my computer on for four days. I am still catching up on emails.
For the past 11 weeks I have been recovering from a herniated disc in my lower back. I got it from a lifting, twisting movement. I couldn’t move for days and truthfully I am still in a recovery phase of my injury. At the time I looked at the injury as some time off. Now I realize that recovering from an injury can be more taxing on the body then regular training. As soon as I could move again, I was coaching and training. Looking back, I haven’t rested, just pushed through.
I also realize it is difficult to rest lying around the house. There is too much to think about and you can’t fully recharge your energy cells. For me, the mountains supercharge my cells. The beauty, clean air, activities and the ability not to do any activity works much better. Taking some time away from running gave me time to practice my snowboarding skills, learn how to x-country ski and chill. I didn’t go all out, all day just found a few hours for each over the course of four days.
So, if you haven’t been on a vacation lately, schedule one soon, even if it is a weekend trip. Get away from your usual surrounding. And, if you can’t go soon, make sure you plan some rest into your training schedule in 2007.
I felt good today and I’m back.
Running Rested, Steve Mackel, USA Triathlon Coach
The ultramarathon was 50K which works out to about 32 miles. It was all on trails and as a chirunner/trailrunner, I was in 7th heaven. I love running on dirt, rocks, leaves, pine needles…God’s surfaces.
It was very hilly and parts were technical so it is a difficult 32 miles. Much harder than a road marathon.
Watch the video to see how I did.
The race was very well organized and certainly the best food I’ve ever had at the rest stations. I highly recommend doing a race with this race company.
Enjoy the video. Its kind of long just like the run was. Pay attention to what Chuck Wilson, experienced ultramarathoner tells me in the middle of the race that enables me to finish the race strong.
Happy New Years
ps I fly off to warmer temperatures (Thailand) for a month Thursday. Take care Beach Runners. I’ll write something from the land of a thousand smiling faces.
Music by Rusted Root. Please buy their albums.
Merry Christmas everyone.
And a happy New Year.
The mind thinks 72,000 thoughts a day.
Okay, you think that’s a high number. Then set your watch to beep in five minutes and just sit quietly counting your breaths and see how many thoughts pop up in your brain.
Now do you believe?
Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah
“The restraint of the modifications of the mind is yoga”.
This is from Patanjali’s sutra’s written 2,500 years ago. Before that were the Vedas…poems stories, epics, songs, of ancient India. Patanjali was an ancient scholar who read through the Vedas and extracted its most important teachings which he summarized in the Sutras. Kind of a Yoga for Dummies of the ancient texts.
A sutra is a strict concise saying of truth. Sutras are the heart of yoga. The teacher is the prana (life force) that brings them to life. Like a good Shakespeare teacher, a good yoga instructor can make the sutras seem like laser beams of wisdom. I heard somewhere that doing yoga without studying the sutras is like having spaghetti without the sauce, and well while some people might like the plain noodles, most prefer to be cleaning the plate with a soft baked breadstick.
So what is the goal of yoga? What is the point of some of these crazy poses we put you through?
The goal of yoga is is clear your windshield of dirty thinking. Imagine your mind is a windshield. Ideally you want a clean windshield (VIDYA) which enables you to percieve life clearly, calmly, and peacefully. When your mind is clear, you can see the truth and then take the appropriate action. However, according to the sutras, our minds are dirty like they’ve been in the Baja 100 race. Instead of correct understanding (VIDYA), we have incorrect understanding about life (AVIDYA), So with this dirty windshield, we go through life discontent, anxious, angry, fearful, unhappy, and other assorted ailments because we don’t see life correctly but with a twisted warped perception.
For example of this, say you have finished a hard day at work and return home. You planned to run (Intention) 40 minutes as part of your training schedule. Then a little thought comes into your brain “but its cold outside”. The thought then gets worse, “and I don’t have any warm running gear”, and “besides, its getting dark”. Then the thought comes across your mind, “I won’t run tonight”, “I can run tomorrow”. But your intention all along was to run. In this way your actions now contribute to an even greater level of misunderstandings until it gets to a point of habituation called SAMSKARA.
This SAMSKARA now becomes your life. You sit driving to work. You sit at work. Your thinking prevents you from working out at night, and then you sit in front of the TV eating junk to hide the guilt you have from a broken obligation to yourself to go for that run.
So yoga can help us break this cycle. Yoga allows us to take action mindfully, gracefully, elegantly, with strength, focus, and breath all of which we work on in practice. So by cultivating a focused mind in practice, and by doing all the other wonderful things such as elongating the spine, opening the lungs, stimulating the inner organs, stretching the muscles, we open ourselves to new possibilities in our bodies. We learn the truth about our bodies, our strengths, weaknesses, flexibilities, tightnesses. We learn some truth about how our bodies move and breath.
And all this knowledge will illuminate all aspects of your life. You won’t even have to strain or overexert yourself. Your life like your practice will find more peace, grace, and energy.
And you can come home, put on running shoes, leave your house and have the most amazing spiritual run noticing the thousand colors of a late fall in our beloved Southern California…without your mind getting in the way.
Ultimately, this creates more focus, and the ability to see situations for what they really are. Thus we don’t see through a dirty windshield anymore, but rather the light of life comes shining through so clearly that we know what to do for our health, happiness, prosperity, spirits, and relationships.
This is the promise of yoga.
How can you apply this to your practice and your life?
1. Quit thinking so damn much.
2. Roll out your mat everyday and do your yoga. Don’t think about whether you’re doing it right or wrong. Just do it.
3. Tune into your breath in your practice instead of your scattered mind.
So today after you’ve practiced your yoga, and had 71,599 thoughts instead of 72,000 then you’ve been doing your yoga.
Gary Yoga teacher and fellow overthinker
Music and lyrics by Krishna Das on album Live on Earth.
Best album I have bought in a long, long time.
Gary Smith, Certified Yoga Instructor
*video cast – God and Gary Smith, recorded by Steve Mackel
Jon Blais “Blazeman” was the first ALS patient to complete an Ironman race. “This is where you’ll win the battle… in the playhouse of your mind.” In Strength and Honor – Blazeman
Hopefully you read about Jesus and how he took almost a minute a mile off his old marathon PR (personal record) scroll down. Since then I have received many more emails from SoCalRunning.com members that smashed PR over the last two weekends, all of them using the ChiRunning® techniques and Marayoga mindset that Gary and I coach.
Last Saturday, the Ironman world championship race was broadcasted. There were some very inspirational stories shown and watching Chirs McCormack chasing down Normann Stadler during the marathon portion of the race, and coming up just short was amazing. I feel that triathlons are won and lost on the run and I can personally attest to this. I came in second by 1 second this year in one of my triathlons. I couldn’t hold off my competitor in the run. You still have to be strong on the bike and in the water but the run usually separates the men from the boys. Stadler was strong enough to hold on to a 10-minute lead off the bike but barley. Stadler and Michellie Jones, the women’s new world champion, both had their best runs ever.
The one story I am going to touch upon is the story of guys named Brian Breen and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) patient Jon Blais, the “Blazeman”. Jon was diagnosed with ALS the previous year and completed the Hawaii Ironman in 2005. He literally rolled his entire body across the finish line. Now, he is confined to a wheelchair. Brian trained for his first Ironman in the spirit and honor of John. They both went into this to raise the awareness of this horrible disease. When they asked Brian if there was any chance of him quitting during this race, and many people have to, he said, “There is no chance, they would have to drag me off the course unconscious.” He ran on emotion and passion. Over the months of training Brian and John became close friends. Brain made it to the finish line, laid down rolled across it and met John and his family with hugs and tears.
So be inspired to run, run fast every once in a while and run for others by remembering just how good you have it to be on two feet on the top side of the pavement.
SoCalRunning.com is going to make a donation to the Blazeman’s charity. Please visit his web site and consider supporting his efforts too. Donate Now
To visit the Blazeman’s web site Click Here
And another good story on Jon is posted here: Click Here
Train Focused and Inspired, Steve Mackel – SoCalRunning.com Co-Founder, Certified ChiRunning Instructor
Beach Runners Jesus and John after the Las Vegas Marathon
What an experience it was last weekend at the Las Vegas Marathon. Who would have thought I was going to PR in a city that is known for partying. We flew in on Friday December 8th and met up with some friends. It was definitely a test of will right from the beginning. I could only sit there and watch as my friends partied and drank all night, calling me “boring” and a “party pooper”.
I knew I had to focus on what I had gone out there to do. I didn’t want my training gone to waste on one night. I wasn’t sure how well I was going to do because this was going to be my 3rd marathon this year and my legs were feeling a bit fatigued. I modified my training after the Long Beach Marathon by alternating between long runs with medium short runs usually 8-10 miles every other week instead of doing only long runs and also limited speed work to only once a week. What a difference it made the week before the marathon. I felt a new spring in my step and felt better than I had in months.
When I showed up to the marathon I decided that I was going to shoot for a Boston qualifying time based on how I was feeling and the quality of my workouts that week. I knew I had my work cut out for me because I would have to clock in at 3:10 in order to qualify. As soon as the race started, I immediately tried to get on a 7:15 minute mile pace but encountered very strong head winds for an extended period of time and fell off pace. Halfway through the marathon I knew that my chances were going to be slim because I was already about 4 minutes off pace for a 3:10. I kept pushing trying not to let up and finally came through the chutes clocking in at 3:19 crushing my previous PR of 3:47.
I learned a valuable lesson with this marathon as far as training is concerned. Before the Las Vegas Marathon I was running all my long runs at or above race pace and running all my weekday workouts hard. I felt that if I didn’t push hard during training I wasn’t going to get faster, not knowing that I was only hurting myself. I modified my training immediately following the Long Beach Marathon to include only one hard tempo run during the week, including easier runs during the week as well and finally alternating between slow long runs with slow medium distance runs every other weekend.
I felt my body was better able to recover from the long runs by using this method of alternating long with medium distance runs every other weekend. I definitely feel I went into the race with fresher legs than I did at the Long Beach Marathon and it showed during the final push.
The moral of the story is, that you should cut down on the hard workouts to once a week, cut down the pace of your long distance runs to at LEAST 1 minute per mile slower than expected race pace and finally listen to your body by resting when you’re feeling over trained and fatigued. As Steve says, you won’t loose your fitness if you take a week off. This is the philosophy I used for this marathon and it worked great for me. I hope it can help other people realize that sometimes training a little slower can actually make you faster on race day.
Jesus – Beach Runners’ Mentor and SoCalRunnning.com Member
And, believe me, no one more than I is surprised. I trained for and finished the Long Beach half-marathon in October, and the farthest I’ve run since then is 11 miles so I started out at 5 a.m. this morning looking forward to having a good time stopping off at Denny’s for a Grand Slam breakfast if the mood so struck me.
At mile 13, I was feelin’ good so I kept going. At mile 17, I still felt pretty good other than needing to make some “adjustments”; at mile 20, it struck me as being ridiculous to stop so, at that point, I just kept going and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line!
Did I PR (personal record)? No, but for anyone hoping to do so, the Honolulu Marathon is definitely not the ticket.
Having now completed two marathons, my “expert” opinion tells me Honolulu is a slow one –from the course to the temperature to the participants but, ultimately, I had a good time, I’m still alive to talk about it and, hello, I’m in Hawaii!
Thanks to anyone and everyone who motivates and inspires me on a daily basis by being who you are on the way to becoming whom you hope to be!
My friend, Becky, arrived today, and we now have thoughts of doing a Hawaiian themed Christmas on her Internet radio show Friday night, the 22nd of December. I’ll keep you posted.
With much love, maholo,
Larry – Beach Runners’ Sergeant at Arms & SoCalRunning.com Member
According to the Tai Chi Classics, “the root is in the feet; issued through the legs; controlled by the waist; and expressed through the fingers. From the feet through the legs to the waist forms one harmonious chi.”
This week I would like to talk about your feet. The feet are so important in ChiRunning. I cannot stress this enough. The reason why the feet are so important is because they are the only point of contact you have with the ground.
That’s it. Your hands don’t touch the ground. Your arms don’t touch the ground, just your feet. So in ways ChiRunning instruction must begin with a discussion of your feet.
1. New shoes
But any discussion about your feet I need to ask this question…
Have you bought some new running shoes yet?
Because if you haven’t you need to. As a general rule you should buy a new pair of running shoes with every season: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Which means about 4 times a year if you are running marathons. I know that can be expensive but let me tell you, the new cushion on a pair of new running shoes is essential for taking the impact of the rest of your body.
Steve and I are both big fans of RoadRunner Sports for buying shoes. They will analyze for foot strike and put you in the right shoe.
2. Foot Position
On page 65 of the ChiRunning book, Danny Dreyer demonstrates proper foot position.
Feet should be pointed forward. Even when standing. If your feet are pointed out when standing, lift up your whole leg and rotate it in in the hip socket to align it forward.
Danny himself said he battled years of knee pain because his feet turned out when he was running which over stresses the knee joint. He corrected with lots of focus on pointing his feet forward in running and everyday life.
Okay. So you’re standing with your feet pointed forward now? When you are running keep focused on making sure your feet are pointed forward. Take a quick peek every now and then. Even better is to ask a running partner to observe you especially from behind.
Run with Steve or I and we can give you tips for adjusting your feet forward when you are running. It can be tricky.
3. Loose Laces
Next thing to do is to loosen your shoe laces so that you can take your shoe on and off easily like a slipper. You must create SPACE in your shoes for your metatarsal bones to pancake out and take the impact of your foot landing thousands of times each run.
Wearing tight shoes is a major cause of foot, shin, and knee injuries in my opinion. Plus who wants to be all tight, constricted, and inflexible? Does not go along with the principles of Chi.
Loosen up those laces. Do it! I say this over and over again as a coach yet I see many runners just looking at me. My brother, amazing runner and athlete, claims years of lower leg issues just disappeared after running with loose floppy shoes.
4. Pancake Relaxed Feet
Next, relax your feet and feel them spread out in your shoes. This is the sensation you want when you are running. Relaxed. Feeling the ground, rocks, grass, dirt, sand, whatever you run on. It helps to make sure you walk around barefoot a little every day either in your house, park, or the beach to not only massage but give more sensation to your feet.
Make sure you are not gripping with your toes. Very typical for runners.
Now turn your attention to where you are balanced on your feet. Are you on your heels, toes, arch? Just observe it.
To begin make sure your weight is evenly distributed on your feet. Imagine the feet are being pancaked down on the ground allowing all your metatarsal bones to spread. If you are a beginning ChiRunner, I recommend that you focus on landing evenly on your foot every time it hits the ground.
5. Midfoot focus
As you master some of the basics of ChiRunning you can eventually turn your focus onto landing on the midfoot.
Now adjust so that you are on your mid-foot. That is the area right behind the ball of your foot. This is the center of your foot. Not your arch. A martial art teacher would direct you to the same focus.
Got all that? Feet pointed forward, loose shoes, relaxed pancake feet, or centered on your mid-foot?
Good, now stand there for a few minutes. Just feeling your feet.
Practice this as many times as you can today.
And then take that focus with you on your next run.
Until next time,