Chi As Fuel
When it comes to running and walking “fuel” is usually thought of in terms of nutrition…healthy food, supplements, power drinks, gels, and gu…they all promise high performance and lots of energy.
Clean nutrition is important and we’ll talk more about Chi Fuel in upcoming articles.
But, Chi itself is a source of energy that is within you. As you learn to manage the Chi in your body you’ll be tapping into a source of energy that is somewhat akin to the energy of the sun. It is the energy in you that gives you life. If it were not there, you’d be dead. While you’re still breathing, you can cultivate, contain and issue that potent energy to the benefit of your running, walking and the rest of your life as well.
Feel Your Chi
To manage it, you’ve got to become practiced at feeling Chi in your body. The beginning of every run or walk is the perfect time take a few moments to evaluate the quality of the Chi in your body: is it quiet and subdued? stuck? flowing? vibrant? jittery? calm but powerful? difficult to feel at all?
If you are having a hard time feeling or imagining Chi, take a moment and think about something you really love: fresh Spring growth, a new child in the family, a mountain view, a beautiful piece of music. The energy that moves in you from the feeling of love is Chi. Notice how you feel when you get some really good news. Even when you're feeling sort of tired, good news can suddenly make you feel awake and alive, as if you could do anything.
As our T’ai Chi Master says, “Your mind moves your Chi. Chi then moves your body.”
Cultivate Your Chi
There are many ways to cultivate Chi. Sitting and watching TV is not one of them.
T’ai Chi and Qigong are practices that cultivate and teach you how to manage your Chi; as are all the focuses in ChiWalking® and ChiRunning®: good posture, relaxation, focusing your mind on your dantien. The Body Looseners are great exercises to open up the channels for Chi to flow. Gentle movement also builds Chi.
You don’t want to start running using just muscle power. If your legs feel heavy and lead-like, the Chi isn’t flowing yet. Try to focus on running over the ground instead of running into the ground and you'll feel the Chi begin to flow through your legs again.
You can also cultivate Chi in your body by thinking positive thoughts, doing things you love to do, having clear, meaningful goals, and connecting regularly to friends and family. And, yes, eating foods that are close to their original source: lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will give you plenty of Chi.
Contain Your Chi
The real key to storing energy is not to waste it in the first place. We sometimes leak energy with emotional drama, repeating the same thoughts over and over in our minds, or over reacting to small stuff (and doesn’t the book say, it’s ALL small stuff).
Many people say they just want to let their mind wander when they are walking or running, which is fine if it is wandering to energizing thoughts and feelings. But, if your mind wanders into the mine fields of negativity, you can use your Chi management skills to contain that energy. The best way to keep your mind from wandering is to focus on what's happening in your body.
The only place that Chi should be gathered, rather than flowing, is in your dantien, that lower abdominal area, below your navel and in toward your spine. Dantien means reservoir. You want to build your reservoir of Chi so you can access it when you need it.
If your energy is scattered, jumpy or nervous, it’s a great time for a Chi walk or run. Start by feeling your feet connecting to the ground. Notice how your foot lands, whether your heel, midfoot or toes hit the ground first. This will help drop Chi out of your mental and emotional centers into your dantien. Then focus on your dantien. Feel your pelvis rotating around it. Imagine your dantien as that big reservoir into which all your troubles can fall.
Where your mind goes, your Chi flows! So to contain and build Chi you want to feel, be aware of, and pay attention to your dantien.
The truth is we have a lot more energy in us than we realize. If your Chi is flowing you’ll have more energy to cook good food, play with your kids, tackle that big project at work, and get up each morning to exercise.
Life is demanding. So, it’s really good to have your Chi management skills honed to meet those demands, and still enjoy yourself as well.
You can use your storehouse of Chi for all the things you love to do: run a half marathon, be active with your friends and family, and live life fully!