I won't bore you with why there's been silence on the blog front for ages, suffice to say that I've been too busy sitting and writing to sir down and write a blog.
But of course, running blogs, especially for Chi Runners, aren't about writing, not really; they're about learning. Running blogs for many runners don't just tell the stories of our runs; they're an opportunity for reflection; a means of taking time out to look back at what we've done and what we've learnt and a space to work out what we need to focus on, what challenges to seek next.
So it's with a sense of relief that I sit and write my first running blog in two months and so try to make some sense of it all.
The biggie since the last blog has been attending the first UK Chi Running Camp up in Perthshire. It's been 18 months since my first training session with Nick and the time was definitely right for lesson 2. I was really looking forward to focussing in on form and improving my running under the masterly tuition of Nick and a host of Chi runners from across the country. Added to this was the chance to link Yoga and running through working with Mark, who brings two of my favourite things together in happy union.
The location was superb, just outside Callander in beautiful Perthshire with green rolling hills, fine trees and beautiful scenery. Of course there's a reason why it's so green and lush. It rains a lot. But as our tour guide in Madeira said as the heavens opened on us again 'it's only water' and after running in the wind and rain of last winter, a bit of rain wasn't going to deter us.
Running and yoga - what a brilliant combination. I loved starting the day with Mark's early morning yoga session. It felt very special to get up before dawn (quite late this time of year!) and head to the lovely communal space which was quietly and gently lit. Slowly we opened up to the day ahead; what a great way to start the day. Mark advised that if we did nothing else, we should start each day with sun salutations. Ever since I've made sure that I do. I'm convinced that it makes an incredible difference all round, especially to my iffy hips. Working with Mark I was also able to get my Yoga moves much more accurate, and I learnt a lot about how to use my Yoga moves to improve my running. Another change has been that I now end every run with a Yoga sequence rather than a stretch with a much more mindful appreciation of the work done by my muscles and joints.
The running was great. I was a bit nervous that I'd picked up some bad habits since I last saw Nick and that everyone would be a better runner than me. But Chi Running is about being your own runner so it matters not a jot how you compare to others (though there is always something to learn from others). As I trotted off down the path to give Nick a chance to assess my form (feeling a bit like I was in a dressage competition!) I was delighted to find I automatically went through my Chi Running checklist, what a relief!
Nick pointed out that I was bending forward at the hip. We'd looked at this the night before when Nick ran us through the basics; it's quite a common fault. I needed to pull up and out of my hips a bit more. You can see from the photo below the sort of thing I mean by bending forward. I also got some great teaching on using my gears. Using a rope round my hips, Nick demonstrated how I just needed to lean into the different gears, so much easier than trying to explain in words! And I find I can remember that sense of leaning against the rope really clearly, it's imprinted in my muscles.
We trotted along quiet winding country roads, going through our paces, working on our form, using the gears. Jon, one of the trainee Chi instructors gave a master class on hills. I have the picture of Jon going up the hill in my head every time I set off up one and it works like a dream. Another Chi Instructor, Andrew, showed us how to change gears using our arms, it worked like magic. In the photo below, there's me changing gears - I'm the one in the pink waving her arms around. You basically bring your arms out in front of you in a swimming motion til you're reaching forward holding onto an imaginary beach ball (think Pilates). Don't mock, it works, though you get some odd looks at times. Having several Chi teachers gave an opportunity to see different teaching styles too which was great.
Sadly I could only stay for one day of the camp, but I learnt lots of important things and that day helped me make significant improvements to my running. On the first run after I got back, I focussed on pulling up and out of my hips. It felt amazing and I found that I could use the gears better and my hips felt pretty good after the run too. I need a few more of those as it's quite an ingrained habit I think.
There's something about Chi Running that works for me. I like the philosophy about energy and form and practice. I like the science of alignment and line. I like the fact that everyone of us has our own path to follow and that none of us know where that path is going to take us.
So a festival of learning and running transformation which has yet again led me to make permanent changes in how I run. If only everything in life worked as well! If you get the chance to try a Chi running workshop or camp, there's a growing body of great instructors running workshops across the UK. What's great is that they work together and support each other and learn from each other.
That feels much better! It's worked out well to have some distance between the doing and the reflecting, it's given me the opportunity to see what learning has actually stuck! Once again I'm impressed by the effectiveness of the Chi Running approach.
A final sentence to mark the departure of Nelson Mandela. What a privilege to have been on the earth during his life time. What a gift to have had him with us for 95 years. He set the bar for humankind very high, but we owe him to aim high. Farewell Mandiba.