One morning, in my (Tom) qi gong and ba gua class, when we were walking in a circle, the teacher, mixed it up a little by getting us to jog, calling out directions of body alignment all the while. It dawned on me then that ba gua would be great for runners.
Sports medicine is my focus, so I see runners all the time in my practice. I would say the majority of injuries are due to muscle imbalances from improper training.
Muscle groups are divided functionally into agonistics and antagonistics. For example, when the hamstrings contract, the quadriceps stretch: this supports the femur (the upper leg bone), and allows the hamstrings to work correctly. Physiologically, quadricep strength should be 60% and hamstrings strength 40%. If this ratio is off, one can get what is called “runners knee.”
Ba gua training balances and connects the body as a whole so your movements are not isolated, but flow together, continuously. When the body is in proper alignment the muscles work efficiently, with much less stress.
The feet are extremely vital for standing, walking, and running. The feet reflect the whole body, so when the feet are tight this translates upward, causing problems elsewhere, for a structure is only as strong as its foundation. Ba gua works a lot on the feet to strengthen and open them, creating a good support.
Running can be hard on the leg joints due to the repetitive pounding on hard surfaces. When runners get tired, they commonly use the force of gravity versus muscles, which eventually takes its toll.
Ba gua challenges the body to incorporate multiple disciplines. You simultaneously work on the inhaling and exhaling of breath , the compression and decompression of joints, the winding and unwinding of tissue attached to bone, and on internal and external conscious focus. This multi-disciplinary approach creates a dynamic movement in whatever you do, so practice is not limited to class time, it’s something you take with you into your daily life.
Ba gua is based on the I Ching and is one of the three Chinese internal martial arts (tai ji and hsing yi are the other two). Qi gong is the basis of all three , and all offer tremendous health benefits.
Runners should always cross train to keep the whole body conditioned and reduce the chances of injuries. I highly recommend ba gua as an adjunct in training, because the body’s mechanics are explained in a new way that is both enjoyable and practical for the long-term.
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