Learn to run well? Who needs to learn to run? Actually, most of us. If you find running challenging, and the idea of running 13.1 miles daunting, and if you’ve ever felt pain associated with running, the Chi Running technique will help you lighten your step, steady your breathing and make running truly enjoyable. It’s all included in my new book Chi Marathon: The Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-Free Half Marathon and Marathon.
You too can run a pain-free half marathon, replete with the deep joy of true accomplishment, if you train mindfully and pay close attention to what your body really needs.
Here are 10 tips to help you get started:
1) Start from where you are. Sounds obvious, but most people try to do too much too soon considering their current level of fitness. Many runners consider pain a natural part of running, and try to run through the pain. Start by doing an assessment of your running level and note any aches and pains associated with running. Then move to step 2.
2) Give yourself plenty of time to train. For an absolute beginning runner or anyone who has pain or injury associated with running, we suggest a minimum of 16 weeks of training for a half marathon.
3) Have a vision for how you want to feel during and after completing your half marathon. See yourself at the finish line, feeling strong, centered and with a grin that you can’t contain. Visualize how you’ll feel during the training as you get stronger, healthier and more confident.
4) Take time to learn good running technique. In our training programs we create phases of training, the first being The Technique Phase. During the first 8 weeks of our beginner half marathon training program, you do not build miles very rapidly because, first and foremost, you learn to run well. Good running technique means that you are running highly efficiently because you’re using your core muscles, relaxing deeply, keeping your posture straight and tall, leaning slightly forward to engage gravity, and landing with a midfoot strike.
5) The second phase of your training is the Conditioning Phase where you start adding more miles. Only add additional distance and miles to the extent that good running form allows. This means if you feel pain or discomfort, you go back to your toolkit from the technique phase and continue to work on technique–not necessarily strength–to increase your distance.
6) If it’s your first half marathon don’t worry about speed at all. Too many runners get injured trying to live up to an unreasonable time goal. Speed happens as a result of good technique and conditioning. If you let the Technique and Conditioning phase do their job, speed will come.
7) After the Conditioning Phase comes the Mastery Phase of your training. This is where you will master your event by practicing different aspects of your event during your workouts. Visualize yourself at the start line and see yourself keeping centered, starting at your own pace, and not getting caught up in the frenzy of going out too fast. Starting an event too fast is the demise of many a runner. Keep your wits about you and start at a slower pace; let your body find the pace that is best for you.
8) Have a plan for hydrating and fueling during your event, and practice your hydration and fueling strategy during the Mastery Phase. Your Mastery Phase is the dress rehearsal for your event. Never eat anything at the event you have not ingested while training. Know what you’re going to eat, and when, from your pre-race banana to the water, electrolytes and gels on the run.
9) Reduce your mileage and learn to contain and store your energy for the last week before your event. Your runs should be shorter, but not slower. Practice your pacing during shorter workouts, while saving as much energy as possible for your event.
10) Enjoy yourself at your event. Smile at others, thank volunteers, cheer others on, feel the joy of having a healthy body that can run 13.1 miles.
Danny Dreyer is the co-founder of ChiRunning and ChiWalking, revolutionary forms of moving that blend the subtle inner focuses of T’ai Chi with running and walking. His work is based on his study of T’ai Chi with Master Zhu Xilin and internationally renowned Master George Xu, and his 35 years of experience, running, racing ultra marathons and coaching people in “intelligent movement.” He has taught thousands of people the ChiRunning and ChiWalking techniques with profound results. Danny resides in Asheville, N.C., with his wife Katherine and their daughter Journey.