Running Habits to Kick or Keep: ChiRunning & Lent - Chi Living

Running Habits to Kick or Keep: ChiRunning & Lent

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed Feb 18th, 2015, 10 comments

I'm not Catholic, but for almost 20 years now I've celebrated the forty days and forty nights of Lent. It's a time of year when some Christians give up something for forty days to represent the forty days before the Crucifixion when Jesus went into the desert and fought off the temptations of the Devil.

When I was growing up I used to really feel for the kids that had to give up something they liked to do, or liked to eat or whatever they were most  attached to. I mean, geez… six weeks is a long time to go without. But, since I've adopted this practice as an adult, I have not only seen it's value, I actually look forward to it every year.

The "value" that I see, beyond any religious meaning, is that it simply presents an opportunity to either break an unhealthy habit or to build a new one. I've used it both ways, and I have to say, it's arguably one of the most effective practices I've ever seen. Every year I embark on what I call a "pragmatic ritual." I see it as a way to create or eliminate neural pathways, simple as that. The longer you do anything, the stronger the neural links responsible for doing it, become. Likewise, the less you do something, the weaker the neural pathways become, until they eventually dissolve. So, if you want to get rid of a habit, not doing it for forty days can give you significant leverage over it. If, on the other hand, you'd like to take on a new quality or learn a new way of being, you challenge yourself to do it "religiously" for forty days.

My three targets this year are giving up sugar, dairy… and being self-critical. But, I'm going to go about my third challenge in a slightly different way. Instead of trying to "give up" self-criticism (which we all know is near impossible), I want to build a habit that works in a positive direction. So, every time I catch myself being self-critical, I will stop what I'm doing and take the time to listen to the voice that's speaking. What is that part of me upset about? What's underneath that? What is it really trying to tell me? I want to build the habits of asking and listening.

I also see using the season of Lent as a great time for ChiRunners to sharpen their skills by approaching their running in a similar way. What habits do you have in your running that could be detrimental to your running health? And, which of these would you be willing to commit forty days, to breaking or altering in a positive direction? Do you heel strike; tighten your calves; hold tension in your neck and shoulders, breath shallowly, start off too fast? Take some time to look at what you could change. You could even ask a friend if there's something they see in your form that doesn't allow you to run as smoothly as you could. Whatever it is, practice the correction for 40 days in a row and you could significantly change, for the better, how you move your body forever.

So, if you want to take it on, the challenge is on the table… to come up with one thing in your running you'll work to improve, every day between February 18th and April 2nd.  Good luck, and please let us all know what you pick, and don't wait for divine intervention (injury) to happen.


10 CommentsLeave a comment below

I’ve read ChiRiunnng and have the app. I’ve found that my running feels better and I’ve gotten faster bc I’ve been practicing “letting gravity ” do the work. I do tend to slip back to my old habits on longer runs. So for the next 40 days I will focus on letting gravity do the work for my entire run- long or short.

I think I’ll practice Pilates for forty days

John Stanley Feb 18th, 2015 09:54pm

Hello Danny,
  I was in a DC seminar 2 years ago that you taught. I just read this article and wondered why you wanted to give up dairy? I was diagnosed with osteopenia after a stress fracture so I added 1% milk to my diet every day per docs order to intake natural calcium vs. pills. Were you concerned about another health risk?
John stanley

This is a great post. I’m an Alexander Teacher and a runner and the principles you teach are so in line with the principles I learnt doing my AT training. Especially the thing about changing habits. Stopping, reconsiddring and then making a choice is a great way to improve at anything. After two years of working on my running form I’ve managed to change a lot of things. the key has been to take baby-steps and not to expect too much too quickly. During lent I’m actually going to change WHERE I run. I’ve got stuck into the habit of following the same route on every run. It’s good in some ways, but I’m going to vary it by exploring new routes at least once a week.

Love this post, Danny! For the past few years, I’ve given up fiction books for Lent (that may not seem difficult, but I’m a huge book worm smile I have to focus on spiritual reading instead. This year, I’m adding walking my dog EVERY day. I suffered a calf injury recently, so I’m not running at the moment. But as soon as my PT ok’s it, I’ll focus on proper ChiRunning!

Danny, I love this concept.

What I really wish is that you would come to Albuquerque, NM.  (We are a part of the United States, contrary to what some believe.  smile )


Great piece. We seem to need a date to start a ‘resolution’, like New Years or Lent. One of the advantages of Lent is the tighter time frame. I find I do better with a three month or six week goal, than an all-year goal. I’m working towards a 5 k race, so this timing is good.  Cheers.

I am going to see if a gluten free diet affects my running for forty days.

sigmar oskarsson Feb 22nd, 2015 04:11am

Good post an I have read yore book chirunning, with PB 1:30 ín half +50 Men and can I walking the same way as crosstraining day. 
Thenks from Iceland

Deena MacDonald Feb 23rd, 2015 07:29am

Changing habits is difficult, and giving up something that is second nature to you is difficult.  I like the concept behind Chi running and as practice make perfect I am hoping to become a better runner.  For me, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner so this is what I have decided to give up.

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