High winds closed down the glacier today. Everyone had to hang around for 2 hours though before the final decision was taken. Once again the lack of a cafe being open near the funicular was a gaping shortcoming of Tignes organisation. While waiting there I took the opportunity to begin teaching Alex about Chirunning. Alex had asked me about this a couple of times so it seemed like a useful way to fill the time. When it was clear that the glacier was closed we all got changed out of ski clothing and set about the Chirunning and Chiwalking a little more seriously.
Chirunning (Permanent page... http://www.skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/chiskiing.html )
It took me handful of years to develop Chiskiing from Chirunning - but it has turned out to be massively important in skiing. Although I teach people Chiskiing directly and sometimes with enormous effect, I'm certain that it can only be fully developed by having a clear grasp of either Chiwalking or Chirunning. When developing Chiskiing there was a necessary intermediate stage of development thanks to Chicycling. Without the cycling I'd never have been able to make the step towards skiing because it is even more counter intuitive than Chirunning itself.
Here is Alex Chirunning barefoot on grass for the first time.
Just as in skiing the key to Chirunning is to move from the centre of the body. All movements need to start from there.
Further Notes (lifted from a subsequent email...):
- Overall the aim is to allow gravity to generate all forward propulsion. This is achieved through a toppling forward action (of the centre of mass) when the foot is placed directly beneath the body.
- The supporting leg then extends behind the body maintaining the height of the centre of mass above the ground.
- While the leg is extending the hip follows it backwards creating muscular tension
- The leg being recovered requires the heel to be lifted high to make the leg into a short pendulum so it can be easily pulled forward.
- The abdominals and hip flexors are used actively to pull the knee forward and the foot is lowered directly below the body - overreaching ahead must be avoided.
- Unless sprinting fast the foot should strike the ground in the middle or near the front of the heel - but never at the back of the heel. The forefoot can be used for fast sprinting.
- The body is slightly tilted forwards from the ankles - never from the hips.
- To go faster requires more relaxation (especially around the hips) and slightly more forward lean.
- Most energy goes into the recovery of the trailing leg - and "pushing off" for forward propulsion must be avoided.
- Optimum cadence is around 90 strides per minute (180 steps)
- Higher speed requires the stride to be lengthened.
Further Notes (lifted from a subsequent email...):
Just a few points I wanted to mention to Alex - but didn't have the time or opportunity: He needs to stop sticking out his tongue - because he seriously risks biting it off during a fall or impact.
When he runs he mentioned that he strikes the ground with the outside edge of his foot. This is caused by reaching for the ground with the forefoot. I figured out some time ago that it happens because we are used to walking in shoes with raised heels. (This also makes flipping over on the ankle joint - to the outside - very easy and tears or stretches the ankle ligaments). The trick is to raise the forefoot instead and extend the heel downwards when the foot is in the air. This also extends the calf muscle. The foot strikes the ground somewhere from the front of the heel to the forefoot depending on speed and forward inclination of the body. Holding the outside edge of the foot "up" uses the anterior tibialis muscle (shin) exactly as in skiing and this engages the adductors on both legs - exactly as in skiing! This also means that when the foot hits the ground there is no further extension of the calf muscle - which is normally referred to as "eccentric contraction" and which is both damaging and very tiring. Basically just holding the forefoot up and engaging the adductors sorts out a whole host of problems. I didn't have the time to go into this amount of detail with Alex but it's easy to apply. I however do recommend that he starts to run on very flat - even minimalist shoes - hence the reason I had him experience the running barefoot. If he starts out this way when still small it will be very easy and natural. Raised heels are totally unnatural and unjustified - it's simply fashion.
Alex is unable to use nasal breathing and feels like the passages are blocked - but perhaps he is just used to over-breathing. Perhaps also his sinuses are reacting to a wheat allergy? The nose is the "breathing organ". In sport you can drink through the mouth without stopping breathing if you breathe through the nose. What concerns me most however is that dentists agree across the board that mouth breathing deforms the jaw - making it narrow and causing the palate to narrow and teeth to overcrowd. He is young enough to catch this and stop it from affecting him for life. This for example is a major issue for singers - because the shape of the mouth internally strongly affects the voice. I know that I suffered this to some extent and required 4 healthy teeth to be extracted and still had overcrowding. I was a definite mouth breather as a child and unconscious of it. I can't blame my parents because they had no idea. I only criticise them for their smoking and subjecting me to second hand smoke constantly as a child.
Once Alex was doing a good job of Chirunning both Alex and Mike were introduced to Chiwalking. The idea here is to apply the same principles to walking and it is easiest to feel when walking up quite a steep hill. We did this on grass again. The goal is to keep the back upright and straight (no forwards bending at the hips) avoid reaching ahead and landing on the back of the heel, extending the leg behind and feeling the glutes and lower back muscles contract. This uses the big core muscles instead of smaller peripheral leg muscles. There is far less strain on the quads because most of the lifting power now comes from the glutes. The coordination of glutes and quads is far more efficient and gravity is exploited constructively for forward motion even when going uphill against it.