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November 2021 Instructor of the Month: Phillip Young

Phillip Young 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.

I’m a running coach, Oxygen Advantage Advanced breathing coach and recently qualified My Foot Function instructor. I’m based just outside Sunny Manchester out in the Hills in a beautiful village called Edgworth on the rolling West Pennine Moors that border the Lake District. I’m lucky I can step out of the house straight onto the famous Pennine Way or around the trails of Entwistle and Wayho Reservoirs which have some amazing forest trails that can be challenging.

I work full time during the day for a Finnish global packaging company as a European Business Excellence Manager. Evenings and Weekends are dedicated to my other business which I run with my partner Julie which is Julie is a CHEK practitioner and is an expert in the fields of corrective and high-performance exercise kinesiology, stress management and holistic health, so we joined forces as one of her specialism’s is runner’s corrective rehabilitation, so it was a no brainer to start to join the two together to offer an all-in-one package.

I was certified as a Chi Running technique coach in 2018 and as an Oxygen Advantage Advanced instructor in early 2019. Onwards to recent years and I started my foot fetish as Julie calls it. My knowledge of all thing’s feet started with, anatomy of the foot, how the foot interacts up the kinetic chain. How windlass works and the effects of incorrect foot function can have on gait cycles. See you got me going there…. So cut a long story short I’m now a registered My foot function practitioner which has taken all told 18 months to complete and as I’m a glutton for punishment and personal development, I’m a third of the way through my certification as a Blackboard Pro coach with the guru of all thing’s feet Armin Hasser from Germany.

How did you start running? 

I can honestly say, I can’t really remember, I use to love cross country at school but never really did anything about it at the time. I loved playing rugby and that was my running at the time, I’ve dipped in an out of running really up until probably 2010, Life just took over, Children, Work etc, then it’s really come around again but now it’s turned into a passion and a business.

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

Weirdly from an injury unrelated to running, I was recovering from a climbing injury Julie bought me the book, I read it and when I was able to, started to put it into practice with small runs and the rest is history, 2017 I started my journey with ChiRunning certification, and the journey continues…

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far from your running/walking journey?

Patience, nothing happens overnight, your body has to be ready to walk first then run, our bodies are masters of adaption, imagine you throw a pebble into a stream the water flows around the pebble.

Same thing for the human body, if something doesn’t work the way it should, let’s say you have ankle restriction or poor hip extension, you still walk and run, your body just finds a way to work around the restriction, it is the master of Jenga!!!

Balance!!! Get good at balancing on one leg, just watch how much you’re running will improve, don’t do the normal balance exercises, be creative make it challenging for your body and your brain.

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

It’s so similar to what I do and practice in Climbing & Bouldering, your break a route down into small pieces, practice the moves and slot another piece of the puzzle together, one route may require balance and slight adjustments in where you put foot or hand pressure  So just like ChiRunning you break the whole into smaller pieces, practice and then piece another practice on, whether its breathing, posture, cadence, running up hills.

As with climbing, there is no perfect style, what may work for the road may need adjusting for trail or mountain, you just need to be mindful of not falling into the rabbit hole of perfection because it just doesn’t exist even the pros aren’t perfect. Everyone is an individual, none of us are alike, we were all born with the hardware to move, the software has just got a virus that needs to be removed and reset.

There are so many elements to running that I think sometimes we overanalyze everything into a one size fits all and you just can’t do that with human bodies.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?

I believe most runners think that they don’t need to do anything, and they have a perception that they are a good runner but define good. Bad habits can sneak in, Lifestyle’s change, sitting at a desk all day, sitting in the car commuting, slouching Infront of the tv. Just being aware of what your body is doing is an eye opener, there have been some amazing moments when we review people’s videos where they look in horror as they realize good actually needs some work!!

Since I have working with My Foot Function and Blackboard the importance of correct foot function is so important as what goes on at the foot has a dramatic influence on what goes on further up your body in your knees, pelvis, lower back etc.

What motivates you to run?

It’s my time to switch off I have a very pressurized job with multiple deadlines that need to be hit across Europe, So it is my meditation for the mind. if I’m out on my own I’ll settle into a run and switch off, it’s my passion, I love being in the mountains. I run more fluidly when I switch off into wind down mode as I call it. I’ve stood on the summits of some amazing mountains and seen some amazing sunsets and been completely alone which is perfect, relaxed in body and in mind.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I have to say training Julie to do her first ever 100k Ultra, let’s say when she crossed the finish line a few tears were shed, mainly from exhaustion but also the fact that she had beat her race demon and came in 18th Female to cross the finish line and in barefoot trainers on rocky trails in 35 degree heat.

Then I would have to say The Bob Graham Round Recce this year, 36 hours to run 42 peaks in the Lake District with 8000 meters of ascent. To officially join the BG club you need to complete in less than 24 hours so it’s game on for 2022!!!

And last but not least I’m so proud of all the runners and walkers that I’ve had the pleasure to train. Whether it was reaching 5K, rehabilitation from injury or preparation for a race they all keep in touch with their achievements and goals for the future.

What led you to become an instructor?

There are thousands of online coaching programs but mainly geared to race preparation, It’s all about race goals, strength, conditioning, nutrition, all very important, but the vital element of good running form wasn’t very apparent or missing completely. The obsession with watches, trainers and what is a good time for 5k, 10k blah, blah blah….for me sent the wrong message. Something rang true with the back to basics of ChiRunning, my values and actually enjoying running for what it really is as a practice, rather than a timed slog of sheer willpower and pain no matter what the outcome.

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

I really enjoy the whole process of breaking down running technique to it’s very basic movements, the little details that can transform how you move within the gait cycle and what can go wrong and lead to injury.

I try to make everything fun, we don’t do fun in everyday life, it’s so dull and boring, so we bring games that have a tangible outcome into all the training we do, whether its balance, mobility, strength it has to be fun. Also developing new concepts that work in addition to the running aspects, Biomechanics, Gait has helped me no end in giving clients a more fulfilling experience to their own practices.

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

It really does depend on what time I get out from work during the working week, I try and get at least two runs in of 5 to 15k each and we get out at the weekend for a big one in the mountains of anything between 20 to 40k. If I’m training for an ultra, most weeknights will be doing either coached mobility work, conditioning and runs in between with big runs every 2 weeks. Weekends in the summer you won’t get hold of us as were out with clients on the trails or in the mountains.

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

My other outdoor love is rock climbing and bouldering, it does blend well with balance, strength and mobility required for running. I’m not a gym monkey, lifting a load of weights is not fun in my book, I get more out of bodyweight moves and when I do get the chance to get to the indoor walls, I do some calisthenics with my climbing crew that I’ve known for years who also ultra-runners are as well.

I do lots of walking as well as a form of cross training and we plan every walk and run with a traditional map and compass. Being out in the mountains is great but you need to know where you are and I never rely on phone and GPS as batteries don’t last forever and cell tower coverage in the mountains is scarce so old school is best.

Advice for people new to ChiRunning?

Gradual progress is key, take one and only one focus at a time, Posture, arm swing, cadence  Don’t get overwhelmed and frustrated, you’re at the controls, breathe, relax and go easy on yourself, I’ve seen so many people starting out get so frustrated that it’s not fitting together they end up back where they started.

Short answer! Okay, GO.

Most memorable race: Liverpool Rock and Roller Marathon time(3hrs:48mins), Live bands along the course, and it was the only road marathon I’ve ever done. I prefer the long haul races, pace becomes irrelevant and beating mind demons is the name of the game. What the human body can actually achieve is amazing.

Ideal weather for running: Cool and bright.

Focus that currently dominates your running: Sorry, not short answers!!!

Mountain Uphill leg endurance is my weakness, so my Coach is working with me on some of the big mountain elevations, yes I have a coach too!

It’s a mind thing I have it in my legs but my mind just says NO!! and no matter how many kites or balloons I put up my mind pulls them down, but I’m working on it…

Favorite place to run: I have two, can I have two?

The Lake District – There are so many places to run and every time it’s a different experience, from skyline ridges to coastal classics and it’s on our doorstep. My current favorite is the Wasdale Head to Ska Fell Pike (Englands highest mountain) via the corridor route, big scrambles, very technical and you need a head for heights!!!! And the views are to die for.

Glencoe in Scotland, we go every year and run ourselves into the ground. Current favorite is Mamores’ Ring of Steall ticks four Munro’s (Scottish mountains over 3000 feet) it’s 10miles in distance but the total elevation is the killer 5167ft!!! yes, we are mad!

Go-to before race food: Porridge and figs

Celebratory food after a race: Vegan Protein shake topped off with a massive bag of crisps 🤣 generally family size

Upcoming race/goal: Ha…. Covid put paid to races this year but next year is busy, we have 4 Ultras lined up two 50k races and two 100k races so far, but the ultimate goal next year will be completing the Bob Graham round in the Lake District, it’s a lifelong ambition. We’ve done the recce in 36 hours this year 42 peaks, 8000 meters of ascent basically like running up Everest in 24hrs. It’s not really a race even though you are against the clock it’s more about endurance and mental toughness, your legs will be screaming stop, your mind will be doing the same… There are less than 3000 people that have completed the course in 24 hours so it’s an even bigger challenge and I have twelve hours I need to knock off!!!!

Run with or without phone/music: Without music, I’ll always take a metronome out with me, especially if I’m practicing something, I run a lot during the evening and in the summer you miss all those fantastic sounds that nature delivers, I rarely take my phone with me!!! But I always have a map and compass.

Repeat on your playlist: I’m a massive Radio head fan – so it has to be Burn the Witch

Fill in the blank.

If I didn’t… run in the mountains, I’d be sat in a corner blowing bubbles driving Julie up the wall.

I can’t run without… Very bright head wraps and Sunglasses

My first race was… If we’re talking official race then Manchester Half Marathon – hated every minute of it!!!! Have I told you I hate road running!!!

My current favorite shoe to run in is… Vibram Five Finger V Trail 2.0  and Vivobarefoot trail. Socks are important too but let’s not go there…

I moved very gradually to running in minimalist footwear, people make the mistake of confusing zero drop with minimalist of near barefoot. It takes a lot of patience and knowing now what I know I would have taken even longer to transition down; I know now how the foot should work optimally which has made life in barefoot a happy experience and even better for clients.

My most difficult run ever was… RatRace – Man versus Mountain in North Wales, I learned so many lessons on that day, pacing, nutrition on the go, Run your own race, not someone else’s, don’t head off with the lead pack, mistake no.1 that I made chasing elites and suffering on the mountain climbs. 

I’ve run… 1 road marathon the only one (have I told you I hate road running)

3 half’s, 15 50k ultras, 8 100k Ultras 1 bob graham but not in 24hrs 2 DNF’s (did not finish) first through lack of preparation and the second heat exhaustion and plenty of 10k and 5k trails.

The longest distance I’ve run…. Continuous has to be (BGR) Bob Graham round 70 miles 42 peaks, 8000 meters of assent – Lake District National Park – Great Britain, we added a few miles just for fun with a navigation error in the fog!!!

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