Chi Running

Chi running promotes running efficiency through proper body alignment and balance between mind, body and spirit. Quite simply, chi running is meditative running. It focuses on creating a balance between mind, spirit and body, therefore achieving something much more than just physical fitness. While this holistic approach to running might sound too hokie to warrant further consideration for many runners, it's important to recognize that running and racing well for any distance requires a good portion of mental control in addition to physical preparedness!

CR was developed by Danny Dreyer, an American Ultramarathon runner and Tai Chi practitioner. Having seen the benefits that holistic living offered to many aspects of his life, he decided to apply some of these principles to running. Much of the focus of CR is on body alignment and in 2008, Dreyer began a partnership with New Balance to promote a running shoe for runners who use a mid-foot strike.

What I like most about chi running principles is the emphasis on learning how to RELAX while running. Relaxing is not referring to a slower running pace but rather to the release of unnecessary tension throughout your body, to create a smooth fluid movement. The late great Arthur Lydiard emphasized that relaxed running always leads to greater efficiency and therefore enhanced speed and endurance! So while chi running does tend to down play the focus on speed and conditioning, consider that learning to relax leads to these very desirable gains just the same.

Since chi running encourages running in a balanced and effortless manner, some critics consider it to be less effective and powerful than that of traditional running. The same argument has been presented for Dr. Romanov's Pose running technique. Since both methods are less about a powerful push off and more about working with the natural laws of gravity. And since it encourages running with a low-support shoe, some retailers are less likely to recommend it, as they will be selling less expensive running shoes!

Chi Running Technique

Perhaps the strongest merits of the chi approach is the emphasis on proper body alignment. As you may observe from the list below, adopting chi running technique means being conscious about having correct running form. I am a huge fan of focussing on running form, because fast and long running with bad form will only lead to less than potential running performances or worse, acute/chronic running injuries .

The following is an overview of the chi technique elements:

  • Perform body loosening exercises prior to running
  • Perform regular 'body scans' or self checks to maintain proper alignment making sure the head and spine are vertically aligned
  • Lean slightly forward, letting gravity work its magic
  • Do not strike the ground with the heel, rather, land on the midsection of the foot
  • The stride is opened up out behind rather than leaping forward, kicking the heels up quickly, as though trying to hit the buttocks
  • Minimize arm swing and try to avoid letting arms cross the midline of the body
  • Maintain a constant running cadence throughout the entire run
  • Focus on relaxing the body, especially the lower extremities
  • Perform frequent body scans while running, to eliminate tension and maintain body alignment

As you can see, there is little to no difference between chi technique and plain old correct running form!

Running chi fashion also means placing much less emphasis on pace and finish times. What is extremely powerful about this concept, is learning to live in the present. While it's SO important to have clear goals, it's also important to enjoy every single day of training. In fact, every workout should be treated as a mini goal in itself. This valuable lesson did not come clear to me until having to deal with a few mild post marathon depression experiences. Solely focussing on a future goal, with little to no mind of the present moment will create a tremendous build up for one single event. Once over, there will be a sense of 'what now'? Learning to enjoy the journey such as the next day's recovery run is a much more rewarding way to live and train.

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