Whether you're just starting to run, or coming back from a long break, there can be a mixture of excitement, anxiety and anticipation going through your body. Once you've decided to get in shape and reclaim your health, there is a real sense of purpose: "I'm going to do this. I'm going to get myself out there and run three or four times a week!" The sense that we get from many beginning runners is one of determination and purpose?combined with some fear.
Well, you can put your fears to rest by knowing that for most people, running is a safe and effective way to get some great exercise?at any age.* Humans are meant to run. We're built for it. And when you learn to run with sound biomechanics combined with a sensible program, you can significantly reduce the chance of hurting yourself. Getting started doesn't have to be hard, but it is wise to do so carefully and with a plan.
To begin your program, we highly recommend spending 20 to 30 minutes every other day to get yourself started. You won't be running for the entire time at first, but including transitional activities like the Body Looseners or practice drills as seen on the DVD (starting on page 195 of the book) will take some time. We suggest starting every workout with Body Looseners.
The best way to get into a good fitness habit is to set aside a half hour of time for your program in your appointment calendar, just as you would any other important event. By practicing the ChiRunning form every other day, you will get a clear body memory of what you're learning. If you wait too long between practice sessions, your body will forget and need to be retrained.
One last tip: when you're beginning a running program, run for minutes, not miles. This approach takes all the comparative notions out of the picture.
Week 1: Practicing Posture
For every runner, the most important element of running that you should work on is your posture.
Watch the DVD and practice along with Lesson One: Posture Alignment (or read pages 64 to 79 in the book) in your living room. The most important piece of this lesson is to memorize how the One-legged Posture Stance feels. Notice the difference between when your pelvis is level and when it's not. Practice all of Lesson One at least two or three times before you go out running for the first time.
When you're ready to go out for your first run, focus on one thing—feeling that one-legged posture stance. Move from one foot to the other, feeling the straight line from your head to your toe.
Then, as you start running, the first thing you should do is pretend you're not running. That's right. Instead, just imagine that every time your foot hits the ground, you're doing a one-legged posture stance.
The first time you head out for a run, you'll be taking tiny steps?not really running, but moving forward. Every time your foot lands, your weight is supported by that foot, and you are in a one-legged posture stance. Just go for as long as you're comfortable, whether it's 30 seconds or five minutes. If you feel out of breath, stop and walk until your breath recovers. Then get "running" again in the same way.
The first time you go out you should practice this walk/run method for 10 to 15 minutes. If, at the end of this time, you feel you can handle more, wonderful! But in ChiRunning, form comes first, so only run for as long as you can keep your focus on the one-legged posture stance.
The ChiRunning progression is form, distance, speed. You should only increase your distance for as long as you can hold your form. As a new runner, you have the opportunity to learn good habits right from the start, so take your time.