Run with Chi
Run with ChiLearning to Align Body and Mind Can Take Your Running Routine to a New Level
By Andrea Walker
A relatively new concept of running has trained and beginning runners thinking differently when putting one foot in front of the other. “ChiRunning” combines the inner focus and flow of tai chi with the power and energy of running. This technique is meant to make the sport of running more comfortable and can prevent further injury.
Danny Dreyer, author of “ChiRunning Pain-free Marathon Training Program,” created this practice based on his study of tai chi with internationally renowned tai chi masters and his own 35 years of experience racing in ultramarathons.
“I came up with the concept after taking my first tai chi class in 1998,” Dreyer says. “I had been a successful ultramarathon runner, but the addition of tai chi principles in my running movement sparked the idea that this was something worth developing.”
Dreyer has written several books on ChiRunning, conducts workshops all over the United States and has certified training programs for those who want to become a ChiRunning instructor.
“The basic principles of ChiRunning involve good posture, which most runners don’t have,” he says. “We use a lot of the principles of body alignment and relaxation used in tai chi. Posture is key to becoming an efficient runner and is a prominent principle in tai chi.”
For instance, the “column position” teaches to set your pelvis forward and walk with your feet in front of you. Another common mistake among runners is not running flat-footed. In a mid-foot strike, runners should land flat-footed, letting gravity pull them forward. This method can help runners prevent shin splints, which are common when runners push off with their toes.
When practicing ChiRunning, runners are instructed to listen to their bodies and pay attention to using the appropriate muscles. That means working the deep abdominal muscles, leaning forward while running and keeping feet pointed straight. Also, runners studying ChiRunning need to learn good cadence. Instructors recommend counting how many times your feet hit the ground in a minute. You don’t have to run faster, but be sure to pick your feet up.
For people who don’t want to run, there is an alternative to ChiRunning. ChiWalking also was created to blend walking with the inner focuses of tai chi. It emphasizes proper biomechanics including good posture, loose joints and relaxing the muscles of the arms and legs. The technique also has five steps walkers need to keep in mind:
1. Get aligned.
2. Engage your core.
3. Create balance.
4. Make a choice.
5. Move forward.
Like its sister program, ChiWalking makes walking easier on the body by eliminating the aches, pains and discomfort of walking incorrectly.
ChiWalking and ChiRunning also address another need of the body. Letting your body “go with the flow” sounds easy but is actually one of the more difficult habits to attain, because people’s bodies aren’t naturally taught to relax. This can be overcome by tapping in to your body’s reflexes; instead of tensing up, just keep your body in control. Think of it as running or walking down a hill. Instead of naturally breaking with your feet, just let your body roll down the hill.
To learn more about the ChiRunning and ChiWalking programs, or to find instructors in the Emerald Coast, visit chiliving.com or chirunning.com. Most instructors are willing to travel to various locations, and you can always find Danny Dreyer’s books and DVDs at local bookstores.