Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chi Running Lesson 10 – Gears and Stride Length

In Chi Running, every runner has four different gears.  And like the gears on a bicycle, we use them for different running scenarios.  Directly quoting Chi Running, the gears are as follows:

First gear is your lowest gear and your slowest speed.  It’s the speed to use for your warm-up.

Second gear is the speed you would run if you were going out for an average training run.  It’s an easy, conversational pace you run when you’re doing longer distances.

Third gear is a distance race pace, meaning any distance over a mile.  Whatever distances you would race, this would be the speed you would try to average.  It’s at the high end of your aerobic capacity, so you’ll be a little more out of breath.

Fourth gear is a sprint or anaerobic pace.  You could not carry on a conversation at this pace.  In an anaerobic state, your lungs cannot provide enough oxygen for your muscles to sustain this speed indefinitely.  It’s only for short distances.

In Chi Running, you “shift gears” using your lean and your stride length.  A lower gear has less lean and a shorter stride; a higher gear has more lean and a longer stride.  Cadence – the number of times one foot hits the ground in a minute – always stays the same.

In the exercise for Lesson 10, you use the countdown timer and the metronome to practice the first three gears.  Start with a 5-minute warm-up (first gear), then for the next 10 minutes shift between first and second gear every minute.  After that, shift between second and third gear every minute for the next 10 minutes.  After that, play with the different gears for the remainder of your run.

Since my smart phone isn't smart enough to run two apps at once, I started the metronome and ran to about the 10 minute mark on my usual course.  Then I let the ballet training kick in.  Since the metronome was beating 88 bpm, 88 right footfalls – or 11 counts of 8 footfalls – equal a minute.  I "shifted" gears every minute per the exercise.

Keeping pace with the metronome was pretty easy in first and second gears, but when I leaned into my third gear I found I wasn't quite keeping pace.  Aha moment – if I can learn to keep my cadence at 88 bpm with the longer stride, I will run faster.  

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