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May 2021 Instructor of the Month: Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith ChiRunning & ChiWalking Certified 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.

By day I work in the tech industry and by morning, weekend, and evenings I follow my passion of helping people move through ChiRunning and ChiWalking. I am also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer which is an advocate and voice for children in the foster care system.   I live in central Massachusetts with my husband, two boys in college, our dog and two cats.

How did you start running? 

As part of my health journey to lose 100 pounds, I started walking in place in front of the TV because that was all I could do.  I eventually worked up to walking outside and then running.  My son, when he was 13 years old, was my first running coach and he did my first race with me.

When and how did ChiRunning come into your life? 

I read the ChiRunning book while I was recovering from two surgeries on my legs.  I started practicing ChiWalking when I could walk again and then went to my first ChiRunning workshop and I have been practicing ChiWalking and ChiRunning ever since.

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

Since practicing ChiWalking and ChiRunning I no longer have hip pain, plantar fasciitis, or knee pain.  I can move!  I’ve learned how to breathe and relax.  And I’ve been able to bring this same joy of movement without pain to so many other people.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?

ChiRunning is not a quick fix, it is a practice and the more you practice it the easier it becomes.  Trying to focus on everything at once will be frustrating so pick one or two things to focus on at a time. Over time you will start to feel a difference.  Give yourself grace and time.  Gradual progress will build mountains. 

What motivates you to run?

I love how I feel after a run. I never regret going for a run.

What achievements are you most proud of?

Learning to climb a rope and then being able to do it at the end of Spartan race, you know when you are really tired.  That might sound silly but it took me three years to learn to climb a rope and a boatload of persistence.  The first conditioning class I was in, everyone else could get up that stupid rope.  I was very overweight and I couldn’t even get a foot up the rope.  That rope was my nemesis.  Dear Rope, hear me roar!

What led you to become an instructor?

After watching my health and weight loss journey, I had many people ask me for help.  I desperately wanted to help them however I felt that I didn’t know enough.  So I reached out to Danny Dryer to ask if I would be a good candidate for an instructor since I am not a lifetime runner, ultramarathoner, or health professional.  He welcomed me with open arms and I went down to Asheville, NC to get my instructor training with him.

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

Helping people learn to enjoy movement is my passion and being a ChiRunning and ChiWalking instructor makes it so easy and fun.  It brings joy to my heart when people who were about ready to give up on running tell me they can now run without pain, or when I hear I’ve inspired someone who thought they could never be a runner start running and even enjoy it.  ChiRunning is a continual practice for all of us, even instructors, and I learn more every day.  I too can now move without pain.

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

I run four days a week and average between 15-20 miles.  My runs include variations of an interval run, a hill run (my favorite now), sprints, and a long slow run. 

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

I walk about 10-15 miles a week, swim, and strength train, but my favorite is biking.

Advice for people new to ChiRunning?

Don’t try to do everything at once.  Focus on one or two things at a time.  Your next time out, pick two different things to focus on. It is ok, preferable even, to stop during the middle of a run, reset, and start moving again.  Be patient with yourself but also be persistent!  

Short answer! Okay, GO.

Most memorable race: My first sprint triathlon.  I finished dead last but I finished.  It was my first run after having surgery on both of my legs.  It was both my hardest race and my best race.  Victory!

Ideal weather for running: Cloudy and about 50° F.  I also love running in a light rain.

Focus that currently dominates your running: Ankle lift and relaxing my shoulders

Favorite place to run: Central Mass Rail Trails

Go-to before race food: Nothing – I don’t usually eat before a race.  I also don’t do very long races.

Celebratory food after a race: Fireball!

Upcoming race/goal: With covid, I have not signed up for any races yet.  I’m looking forward to doing more triathlons next year.  For now, I am working on heart rate training.

Run with or without phone/music: Both!  I love running to music but I also love listening to the birds and the wind or just talking with friends out on a run. 

Repeat on your playlist: Danny Dreyer’s ChiSchool audio lessons.

Fill in the blank.

If I didn’t…have to pay for college or a mortgage I’d quit my day job and just coach.

I can’t run without…my metronome and a good sports bra!

My first race was…a 5K and I ran it with my son who was 13 at the time.  He finished way ahead of me!

My current favorite shoe to run in is…Altra Escalante.

My most difficult run ever was…my first triathlon – Summer Solstice sprint distance.

I’ve run…85ks, 10ks, half marathons, sprint triathlons, mid-distance triathlons, Olympic triathlons, and obstacle course races.

The longest distance I’ve ran…. A half-marathon.

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