5 Ways ChiRunning Can Improve Your Running (guest post by Danny Dreyer, creator of ChiRunning)

by Kim on July 5, 2013

Hi friends! Hope you had a wonderful 4th! Please tell me you ate at least one thing that involved strawberries and blueberries. (Bonus points if it had something white, too.) I’m still relaxing with friends and fam through the weekend, but I’ll be back Monday to tell you all about it!

In the meantime: I’m SO thrilled about today’s post!

Remember when I talked a little bit about ChiRunning last week? Well, the ChiRunning folks noticed. First, they were kind enough to respond to the concerns some of you expressed on my original post, so be sure to check the comments for those answers!

Next, they reached out to me to ask if they could write something more for the blog. My response was a no-brainer. Since I’m completely new to the chi concepts, I’m more than happy to step aside and let the experts explain.

Before we get to the post, here’s some quick info about Danny Dreyer, ChiRunning’s founder.

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Danny Dreyer is the creator of ChiRunning and ChiWalking, revolutionary forms of moving that blend T’ai Chi with running and walking. ChiRunning and ChiWalking by Danny and Katherine Dreyer are No. 1 sellers with over 350,000 copies sold. Chi Marathon hits shelves March 2012. The ChiRunning app is now available for iPhone (Android version available Fall 2013).

As an accomplished ultra-marathoner, Danny speaks at prestigious wellness events across the country. He has taught training groups, including the AIDS Marathon and Team in Training and USA/FIT. Danny, along with more than 180 Certified Instructors, holds capacity-filled clinics around the world. Danny’s lifestyle is steeped in holistic living, meditation, and personal wellness and is the foundation of what he teaches.

You can learn ChiRunning and ChiWalking through books, DVDs, training programs, and workshops. Visit www.chirunning.com for more information.

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And now, here’s Danny’s post!

5 Ways ChiRunning Can Improve Your Running

By: Danny Dreyer

More and more people take up running every year. As a result, a lively debate on running form has bubbled up. While there are differing opinions, it’s an important debate to have. Running is a great way to stay fit; however, many people jump into it unprepared. We put on our shoes and head out the door. We’re natural runners, right? Who needs to learn how to run?

Running is a sport like any other. We take lessons for tennis, golf, swimming and countless others. Lessons teach us the best way to practice these sports. When we lift weights, we need to have good form to get the most out of our workouts and prevent injuries. It’s the same with running.

Our bodies are designed to run, but over time, we pick up habits that make it challenging. Other than for exercise, we don’t run much in our everyday lives. We spend more time sitting than we should, and we have poor posture and weak core muscles as a result. It’s not surprising that 70-80% of runners get injured every year.

But, the good news is that running doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to hurt. We can teach ourselves to run in a better way. Since 1999, ChiRunning has helped hundreds of thousands of runners transform their technique. Here are five ways ChiRunning can improve your running, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned marathoner:

Reduce pain and injuries. If you think of the road as a force coming at you when you’re running, every step you take is a force in the opposite direction, causing impact to your body. Constant impact is hard on muscles and joints and leads to common running injuries like “runners’ knee,” shin splints, and IT Band Syndrome. ChiRunning teaches you how to reduce that impact* through:

· Correct alignment and posture

· Landing with a midfoot strike instead of a heel strike

· Leaning into gravity slightly from the ankles

· Engaging core strength for propulsion instead of using your legs

· Keeping a quick cadence

· Relaxation

correctposture

Many runners tend to run with their legs out in front of them, landing on the heel and pulling their body weight forward with every step. This makes your small lower leg muscles work harder than they were designed to. When you land with your feet underneath your body and lean forward with an engaged core, your legs can simply support your weight instead of pushing or pulling it forward. Since most running injuries occur at the knee and below, it’s important to work your legs as little as possible.

Run farther and faster with less effort. The ChiRunning formula is Technique + Distance = Speed. When all the pieces of the ChiRunning technique are working together, you become more efficient. Your muscles don’t have to work as hard – don’t get me wrong, they’re working, but they’re doing the right jobs. You feel less fatigued and can run farther. Once you feel comfortable with your increased distance, you can gain speed. Speed is mostly about relaxation, leaning more, and allowing your stride to open up instead of forcing it. You become better at relaxing through longer runs and good technique. Over time, most ChiRunners find they get faster without consciously trying.

Training is more fun and beneficial. If you’ve ever run a half marathon or marathon, or want to one day, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can I actually do it?” What if you get sidelined with an injury? If you have a time goal in mind, will you be able to reach it? Most traditional training programs just tell you how often and how far to run. Depending on the program, the goal is to build mileage and/or get faster. That’s achieved by running, running, and running some more. But with ChiRunning, the emphasis is on the quality of all that running. You may as well improve your technique while you’re out there. Not only will you have a better chance of reaching your race goals, you’ll become a better runner in the process. You’ll also be more engaged on those long training runs.

Get to know your body. The mind-body connection is an important part of ChiRunning. Listening to your body (we call it Body Sensing) helps you troubleshoot your technique to prevent pain and injuries. When you’ve felt, through Body Sensing, what adjustments you need to make to your running technique, your mind can tell your body what to do until it has learned the new technique and just does it naturally. Not only can this save you some pain (and a few trips to the physical therapist), it can also be meditative to become deeply attuned to your body’s sensations. Body Sensing is good physical and mental exercise.

Run for the rest of your life. By helping you stay injury-free, ChiRunning makes it possible for you to continue reaping the benefits of running as you get older. For instance, studies show that those with good posture need significantly less care as they age**. ChiRunning also makes running more enjoyable, which mean you’ll be more likely to consistently do it. Finding long-lasting joy in your running will keep your relationship with it from fading over the years.

On your next run, practice these tips to feel the difference ChiRunning can make:

· Lengthen your spine and engage your core muscles. Stand tall and engage your abs like you’re doing a very tiny crunch forward. Make sure your lower back and glutes are relaxed.

· Lean forward slightly from the ankles. The lean is very slight – if you lean too much you’ll engage your calf muscles. Play with the forward lean and let it be the control of your speed. Add a little lean to speed up; lean less to slow down. Be sure not to bend at the waist.

· Use a metronome to regulate your cadence: Experiment using a metronome on runs. Set it at a cadence of 170-180 steps per minute (that counts both feet). This will shorten your stride and most likely increase your cadence. Notice what a consistent cadence does to your running form.

· Relax. Relax everything but your core muscles. Start with your shoulders and arms. Relaxing your lower legs and feet may be hard to do at first. Allow your lean to create movement.

*University of North Carolina, 2012

**The Gerontological Society of America, 2013

Questions for Danny?

Thoughts on ChiRunning?

Leave them below and get responses from the experts!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Casey Colahan July 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Great question, Rachel. In general, ChiRunning promotes wearing “less” shoe. You get more instant feedback on your running form when you don’t have a lot of cushion between you and the ground.

That being said, we definitely DON’T recommend suddenly switching from a cushioned shoe to a minimal shoe without transitioning. The muscles in your feet need time to strengthen, and if they don’t, you can get injured. If you’ve been wearing a shoe with a lot of cushion, such as a stability shoe, we’d recommend moving down to a neutral shoe. Walk in them at first to get a feel for them, and then start running in short distances with them. Gradually phase out your old shoes over a few weeks, and make sure you pay attention to any aches, pains or soreness you experience. And, always keep your focus on your form.

Here’s a great article on our site about transitioning to minimal shoes: http://www.chirunning.com/blog/entry/how-to-avoid-injuries-with-minimal-shoes/

And, the number one thing to remember when getting new shoes is to make sure they’re comfortable. Everyone’s feet are different, so don’t let a salesperson talk you into a shoe that doesn’t feel right to you.

I hope this info helps!

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Rachel B @ Busy Mama Fitness July 5, 2013 at 11:07 am

Oooh good info! I do chi run for the most part, though sometimes on my long runs after a while I lose it… and I do have a question about chi running: is there an ideal shoe for chi running? Like, minimal vs cushion… I know a lot of people say minimalist is the way for natural running types but I don’t know if that’s hype over Vibram and Newton or if that’s really true.
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