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February 2022 Instructor of the Month: Nick Constantine

Nick Constantine ChiRunning & ChiWalking Certified Senior Instructor

Tell us a little about you. Where you live, what your background is. What (if) you do in addition to being a Certified Instructor.

I am 56 years old and have been active in some form all my life playing many sports at many different levels.  Played golf extensively in the 80’s and my claim to some form of fame was I caddied and played with a professional golfer who qualified for the British Open. He was good, I was only OK😊 After my first degree in Physics, I left to join the armed forces, was in for a few years, left and requalified with a postgraduate degree in Sport and Mathematics. After about 15 years in schools, I became a Vice Principle before I moved to working in Adult Education teaching Mathematics and Mathematical education. I am also a yoga student, have been for 25 years and study with the Mohan’s (www.svastha.net) and I also teach sometimes. Developing a personal practice is number 1 for me. The yoga practice keeps me grounded. 

How did you start running? 

When I was about 11, I would run in my old ‘flats’ to the tennis club, then run back home. Change up, then run over the hills to the golf club😊. I would probably run and walk around 13 miles a day over the summer holidays. I officially started to run in events during my time in the armed forces. You get fit, but those combat runs with a full pack and running all night being chased by a pack of dogs is not quite the same as an athletic full gas hill run. I really enjoyed my first ‘proper’ event. 

When and how did ChiRunning come into your life? (The short story)

Very short story. I have an American family, they knew I was running and into yoga, my niece from NYC sent the Chi Running book in about 2006. I almost did not read it, but I was training extensively at the time and have an enquiring mind, so I read it and to be honest, the technique chapters were not as transformational as the first 4 chapters. Practice mind, the focus, the move to a holistic practice was the connection I needed to read about. Connected very well to my yoga practice of course.

In what ways has Chi changed your perception of and success in running?

It is a movement practice. The focus on an energy management system (Chi/Prana for yogi’s) and bringing some focus to your movement creates a frame for you to use outside of running. I always say to folks ‘does running make you a better person, and ‘how do you feel when you run. It should feel open, spacious, relaxed and you should feel at ease with yourself. As an old yoga teacher (Erich Schiffman) states ‘if you are fighting yourself you are pushing too hard, don’t fight yourself…..’ Look at Eliud Kipchoge, he milks his goats, drinks gallons of tea, practices yoga every day, and runs in a very focused and relaxed way. Keep it simple, running does not need to be a cluttered activity. 

What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?

It is all about technique, it is not. It is also about bringing awareness to you as a runner, a mover, changing your relationship with gravity. Becoming tuned into the physical and mental you. Developing a practice mind is the BIG message for me and my clients. Practice your running as you do anything else. Of course, technique allows you to sense feeling better and at ease with your movement then things happen!

What motivates you to run?

It is a practice, I enjoy feeling fluid, at ease, balanced and relaxed. It is like tuning your body in via your breath, The mind settles, in some senses, it is the yoga of running I enjoy. The feeling of running 3 miles, or 20 miles is the same to me. 

What achievements are you most proud of?

Honestly, none. I don’t keep a hold of stuff like this ever not even in my other life. I am a forward mover and thinker ‘I don’t think about what I have done, but what needs to be done. The achievements I am proud of are the folks I teach. From ex Olympic runners to brand new runners first 5K it does not matter. What matters is they feel they can carry the practice with them until a ripe old age! 

What led you to become an instructor?

At the time I signed up to refine my own knowledge, I could see Danny was coming over to Holland and thought ‘hey, great idea, why not….’ I thought to myself if I can help a few people over my time, that is good. I had no ambition to develop a big business but over time, particularly in Scotland workshops (before the Pandemic) used to fully book within weeks!

Why do you enjoy being an instructor, and how has it affected your life?  

Helps people a little, gives them a sense of what running can feel like. I have made some great friends and colleagues over time, particularly with the retreats I co-organize with my friend and yoga teacher. 

What does your average week look like, run-wise?

It is usually a mix of long-distance (13 miles), interval training, barefoot beach running, running in the mud and cross country with the usual daily practice of yoga and strength work. Usually around 35-40 miles a week(ish) The practice of mixing up distance, terrain and intensity is important in my opinion. 

What other forms of exercise do you practice to compliment ChiRunning?

Yoga, strength work, cycling in Summer, lots of walking and generally choosing to walk rather than car!

Advice for people new to ChiRunning?

Practice, slow down to speed up. Be attentive the rewards are there but that is the hard choice to move from a Garmin orientated external sense of running(I like times by the way but not only a focus on time!) to an internally focused running mind.

Short answer! Okay, GO.

Most memorable race: It was an event called the Hedgehope Winter Wipeout. The title of the race was exactly what it was, 6miles up into the snow and ice and back down again. Mad😊

Ideal weather for running: For me, I like going soft. So a wet, snowy winter’s day with loads of mud, hills and crisp sunshine. 

Focus that currently dominates your running: A very simple focus but very important for me is keeping those heels floating high away from the ground. As we get older and something I have observed in many runners, is the older we get the lower those legs descend towards the ground and we shuffle along. One great and easy mantra is‘ heels lift and drop under you’. 

Favorite place to run: My local beach or the Scottish border fence around Northumberland. Lovely routes, not many folk run around the borders where I run, lots of sheep though.😊

Go-to before race food: Green smoothie😊 celery, spinach, green apple, pear, blueberries, orange, and woosh all gone.

Celebratory food after a race: Dirty Beer

Upcoming race/goal: Maybe just maybe eye up some super senior vet races next year up in the high fells of Northumberland.

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