This last year I’ve become curious as to how I might improve my running with the same kind of mindset and tools I use in TI swimming. I picked up a copy of Chi Running some time last year and have been studying the concepts. From what I read from others it was a great companion to what we practice in the water with TI.  I don’t have experience with other technique-oriented running improvement programs so I can’t compare, but I easily grasped the Chi Running concepts, agreed that they are well-suited to a TI-minded athlete.

I don’t get to run so much these days because I just have enough going on in my life. I swim often as my top priority, then rock climb if I can afford a day away, but running is so convenient and invigorating it’s a shame to not maintain basic running condition.

However, I’ve had some strange tendon pains in the knee the past few years which has discouraged spontaneous running to my great grief. Because of this I’ve been even more keen on overhauling my stride to remove unnecessary risks in my mechanics. Now that the weather is much more inviting I am putting some Chi Running and Grant Molyneux’s “Effortless Exercise” ideas into practice.

So today I took these three focus points and went for a run:

  1. Lean-forward (with aligned posture) to run.
  2. Use nasal breathing.
  3. Maintain high cadence, adjust stride length to adjust speed.

The idea behind lean-forward is to take the pull of gravity over the well-aligned body, and convert it into forward motion- “precession”, as it is technically called. The idea behind nasal breathing is to trigger relaxation and improve cardio efficiency.

And high cadence, shorter stride is about opposite of what we practice as swimmers in the density of water. In a simplified way, in swimming, because of the enormous resistance of water (about 800x more dense than air) we need to maintain long Stroke Length, and then increase Stroke Rate, in order to go faster. In running, we need to maintain high Stride Rate, and adjust Stride Length to go faster.

So I took my Tempo Trainer along in hand and set it at .70 seconds to start, which is a cadence of 85 revolutions per minute (the right foot hits the ground on every beat, or revolution). About 8 minutes into my run I clicked it down to .67 seconds which is a cadence of 90/minute.

And taking my TI values applied to running I identified the main skill I was going to work on today and designed my practice around it: cadence conditioning. Since I have spent most of my running life striding along in the mid to lower 80’s I need to build the neuro-muscular pathways for running at a higher cadence. 85 was fine at the beginning, and 90 required my continual concentration to keep it, though it was not ‘hard’ to do.  Still, I can tell I will need several weeks of imprinting to make 90 my new normal cadence.

And I did this set:

10x 3 minute run at 90/minute cadence, 1 minute walk, all with nasal breathing.

I realize this is not much distance (since I like to run for 10k), nor very intense, but because of these strange tendon pains, I have often not been able to run more than 15 minutes before sudden tight pain in back locks my knee from bending. Today, however, I was able to run a cummulative 30 minutes without any tendons tightening up, and no soreness afterward. From my past experience in dealing with this, I know it is actually the patient, gradual build up of kilometers over weeks that will somehow help that tendon soreness disappear. Though here I was able to rise above it in just one run today. Sweet.

Since I am not running for any particular reason other than the pleasure of it, I have nothing to pressure me to ‘perform’ at any particular level  (though the memory of how fast I used to run does give me something to aim for). This is so helpful because I can wake up, see what my heart and what the weather inspire me to do, isolate my simple skill-building goal for the day, and without pride or pressure to distract, design a well-focused, productive practice driven purely by the intrinsic pleasure of the activity itself.

And indeed, I have a wonderful run today.

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