Last week, I stopped by the library to pick up a yoga book (this one, if you’re curious). Since I always have a squirmy, impatient toddler on my hip at the library, I have to write down the exact location and number of the books I want before leaving home, but I also always deeeesperately want to browse.
Sometimes I can get away with 10-15 seconds of frantically pawing at books before Mase realizes we’re not moving. But that’s about the max.
Anyway, as I grabbed the yoga book, I noticed another one called ChiRunning (by Danny Dreyer) on the same shelf. The title itself was pretty appealing and—well, that’s about all I could tell in the 2.5 seconds I had to make a decision about it.
Eh, why not. Into the purse it went.
When I got home, I surprised myself by reaching for the ChiRunning book over the yoga one. I had to know what it was all about. Was this some kind of hypno-running? Meditative running?
Most importantly: can I be running and also, somehow, technically asleep?
Here’s the ChiRunning manifesto, in short:
“ChiRunning is all about setting up conditions that make running easier, more efficient, and injury-free.”
Ok, cool. Those all sound like good things.
My interest started to waver a little bit when I got to the part about “encouraging chi to flow up and down your spine by aligning your posture,” (I’m still kind of squeamish about that stuff) but I kept reading anyway. And then I started getting hooked.
The ideas in the intro alone were totally intriguing—some of them jolting. For example:
–To run most effectively, we have to run like children. When kids run, it’s completely natural, effortless, and joyful. And their posture is perfect: they lead from the chest with a nice forward lean, they have a great stride that opens up behind them, heels high in the air, and a relaxed arm swing.
But we don’t have the same bodies we had as kiddos. The stress and tension we accumulate over the years corrupts our perfect form, and the goal is to get that back by relearning how to truly relax.
I’m starting to think that relaxation is the key to nailing literally every aspect of life. But anyway.
To quote the book:
“Losing the beautiful ease of movement we had as children is part of the process of maturing as a human being. Children move naturally but not consciously. It is our job, as adults, to learn how to move consciously through life with that same flow and beauty.”
–Running does not hurt your body, it’s the way you run that does the damage and causes pain. People treat injury as part of the sport, like it’s inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Dreyer claims. He also says that the idea that overtraining leads to injury is a myth—although it can be a factor, the real problem is form and biomechanics, not plain old miles.
The book includes several stories of Dreyer’s clients, who, once they learned how to run without tension, stopped injuring themselves completely. Dreyer himself claims he hasn’t had an injury since 1998, when he discovered ChiRunning (and the book was published in 2009) despite a heavy teaching, training, and racing (including ultramarathons) schedule.
Woah. This was a revelation to me. I’ve never personally been seriously hurt by running, other than some random aches and the typical post-run tightness, but I did think of injury as a pretty standard hurdle for runners.
–Most people are never taught how to run. At the gym or in continuing education catalogs, there are classes for every sport on the planet except running. We take for granted that we know how.
But there are just as many mechanics involved in running properly as there are in, say, swinging a baseball bat. So why would we assume we’d know how to do it naturally?
–Some people think Kenyans are good runners because they have slender legs and thus use relatively less energy when running. In reality, Kenyans have slender legs because they have such excellent running economy. They don’t have massive leg muscles because they don’t need them.
What they do have is great forward leans, strong cores, and several other ChiRunning elements that make their running form basically flawless.
–Overpronation is not just something you should buy special shoes for. It’s something you should FIX.
This one blew my mind a little bit, too. All this time I’ve been searching for shoes specifically to help address my right foot’s overpronation tendencies. I always thought I was supposed to embrace my body’s natural gait, rather than trying to correct it.
According to Dreyer, that’s not the case. To get your feet aligned, he recommends rotating each leg until your feet point forward, rather than just pointing your feet themselves forward. It might feel uncomfortable at first, he says, so you should work at it gradually, little by little. Eventually, your muscles will get used to the change.
I tried this on the treadmill last night and it was definitely uncomfortable. I’m not sure how I feel about this one yet, but I would love it if overpronation was really correctable.
Like I said, this was all just in the intro. I haven’t gotten much further than that, but I’m excited to dive into the posture lessons next. (And, hopefully, the running-while-sleeping techniques right after that! Haha.)
P.S. I don’t want to bore you if you’re not interested in this stuff, but please let me know if you’d like to hear more about this as I work through the book.
Apparently, there’s also a whole website devoted to ChiRunning, if you’re interested but don’t want to get the book.
Have you heard of ChiRunning?
What do you think of Dreyer’s propositions here?
Is injury-free running possible?
Do you think overpronation is fixable? Or SHOULD it be fixed?