form focus (4 of 6)

Wednesday: 40 min run on treadmill

Thursday: 30 min elliptical & weights at the gym

Friday: rest day, with a 40 min brisk walk at lunch

I’m still trying to be consistent without over-taxing myself or naively believing I can increase my running mileage in leaps and bounds each week. So, though I want to be running more regularly, I’m sticking to 3 or so runs per week and cross-training or resting on the other days.

It’s kind of odd: while on the elliptical on Thursday, it felt so easy. Even when I upped the incline and tried to push my speed. It’s just a walk in the park compared to running. I can’t believe I used to do the elliptical as my main form of cardio (and it wasn’t just in the last couple years, but for the last 10 or so years). Don’t get me wrong — if you’ve got injuries or if it’s your main form of cardio, it’s still better than no cardio. But it’s just not the same intensity and doesn’t take the same mental toughness that running does. My advice? If you’re a worshipper at the temple o’ elliptical, branch out and try to mix it up with a spinning class, boot camp class or run outside.

Okay, let’s get to the fourth form focus of Chi Marathon: pelvic rotation.

(It bears repeating that I’m only scratching the surface of the book’s form focuses. If you want more details, including diagrams and pictures and such, buy the book.)

I mentioned that the lower body focuses are challenging for me, but pelvic rotation is the most challenging of all. Here’s the gist, according to Chi Marathon:

Pelvic rotation is when you allow your pelvis to rotate around your central axis with each stride. If your legs swing only at the hip joint, your range of motion is limited by the amount of flexibility at your hip. When you allow your entire pelvis to rotate along with the swinging leg, you prevent your legs from ever swinging beyond their own safe range of motion. This adds inches to your stride and allows you to run faster without working harder. Additionally, the rotation of your pelvis allows the hip to safely absorb any shock from the road as the foot lands, because it moves rearward with the force of the oncoming road, not against it. If your pelvis does not rotate and “soften the ride,” the force of the road will be absorbed by your knees, quads, hips and lower back. This impact is one of the causes of runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, IT band syndrome and many other lower body injuries. To allow your pelvis to rotate, release your hip when you feel your foot strike the ground and let it be pulled rearward by your leg.

Well, it sounds straightforward. But it’s hard for me to tell if I’m doing it correctly or enough (or too much). It takes conscious effort for me to rotate my pelvis, and I nearly feel like I’m over-rotating when I try. Then, when I get into mindless-running mode, I tend to stiffen back up and not rotate at all. And a bit of hip pain forces me to remember to release and focus again.

Further proof that I’m not doing it quite right? I still suffer from runner’s knee and IT band syndrome. It’s certainly better than it used to be, but not completely cleared up.

I need a little running elf on my shoulder who rings a bell or cracks a whip — or threatens to take away my post-run snack — when I’m slipping away from proper form. That’d teach me.

How about you? Do you find it mentally exhausting to think about your form all run long? How do you stay on top of it?

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