Recently I was able to assist at a weeklong ChiRunning and ChiWalking program at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY. The program was taught by the authors, Danny and Katherine Dreyer. It was a great opportunity to learn, share and support others.
During the intro one of the discussion points reminded me that T’ai Chi was developed with a main objective of longevity. As I do with most concepts, I related it to my running and since ChiRunning is based on T’ai Chi … I then asked myself the question whether my own running, both technique and program, resembles “Longevity Running”? My answer was … a little bit more in that direction everyday.
My next question was “how was T’ai Chi developed”? … so I could consider whether my longevity practice was following a similar approach. I deduced it was probably “developed” with a combination of instinct, of body sensing and of principles; and that these three inputs supported each other in balance. Meaning their practice was a conscious combination of “let’s try this”, “what does it feel like?”, and “is it consistent with principle?”. And this is the same way that ChiRunning and ChiWalking was developed and is now taught. The principles guide the practice; and the practice provides experiences that remind us of childhood instinct and allow us to body sense new habits.
Unfortunately our world allows us to lose much of our instinct and our ability to body sense, which means we can be easily missing two-thirds of the equation. Our modern world isolates us from our natural environment in many ways. Our modern world also allows us to lose mobility and severely compromise our physiology, yet still allow us to survive. So our world challenges us but we can always come back to the remaining third, the principles, to get started again or help us make progress.
There is a very simple concept of “form follows function” which might be adapted into “principle follows objective”. Meaning objectives determine principles; and then principles can govern conscious actions. These relationships might be applied to all aspects of life.
Recently I have noticed more and more online advice along these two lines:
- Do this, this is what this elite runner does.
- Just remove your shoes and let your body figure it out.
In the first case the elites’ short term objective is maximum speed for their chosen distance. If that is not your objective or your distance or your objective is more long term, then does it make sense to blindly do what they do or try to mimic their form? Note I am all for watching what elites do as input. But I don’t assume that translates directly to me and my sorted history, limited resources, and longer term objectives.
In the second case the advice suggests everyone, even a person who has lost a great deal of their instinct, body sensing ability and functional posture, can just take off their shoes and figure (feel) it all out without a conscious application of principle. Is this advice not missing between one and three thirds of the “practice” equation? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for using less or no shoes to enhance body sensing. But I see people running all the time in less or no shoes with inefficient and injury-prone dysfunctional postures.
Let me ask it this way: When you go the grocery store, do you shop using someone else’s list? If you shop with someone else’s list there could be a big disappointment coming after wasting a lot of time. And do you shop completely by feel or do you shop by principle (a conscious list)? If you shop by what immediately feels good you might get faked out in the cookie aisle and never make it over to the veges.
Thoughts on this post? Leave your comment or question below …
David Stretanski is a holistic health, fitness and wellness coach – and Certified ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Instructor. For more information on David, please see his About Me, Contact page or his website at http://www.eChiFitness.com.
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