by Heba Hosny in Training Tips

Chi Running 101

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Danny Dreyer is the Chi Running pioneer. In addition to being a renowned ultra-marathon runner, Danny also practiced TaiChi several years until he decided to incorporate TaiChi techniques into his running by developing Chi Running (CR). In addition, some CR features were influenced by “Total Immersion Swimming” principles, created by Terry Laughlin.

The primary focus of CR is maintaining optimal running form by teaching runners to move in a more efficient, natural way. CR promotes Injury-free running, improving running efficiency with a mid-foot strike, and above all increasing running speed while reducing effort.

How does it work?

CR is based on two main principles: good running posture and relaxation. When you maintain the right posture while running, chi, namely energy, flows through your entire body completely unhindered.

But how to maintain a good posture? Practice Practice Practice! Stand in front of the mirror and straighten your upper body. Then, look down at your feet. If you are able to see your shoelaces, it’s a good indication that your dots are connected in a straight line and that you have the right posture.

Tight muscles can’t possibly get the needed amount of oxygen. The solution is simple: relax! To reach total relaxation, it helps to drop your shoulders, relax your gluts, and even more importantly lighten up and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Basically, CR instruction focuses mainly on:

  • Body looseners
  • Aligning the body in a vertical Column
  • Leaning forward while running. This way, the runner is pulled by gravity
  • Running with a mid-foot strike.
  • Opening the stride out the back.
  • Minimizing arms swings by keeping arms from crossing the center line of the body.
  • Maintaining a set intonation throughout the run by using a metronome
  • Slowing down or speeding up based on the stride length, not the cadence
  • Relaxing the entire body, especially lower extremities
  • Body scanning in order to eliminate tension, discomfort or pain.
  • Proper alignment  and  correct form

Revolutionary concept

“It ain’t the muscle, it’s the motion.” is the revolutionary concept which forms the foundation of CR. The “no pain, no gain” philosophy of other running methods was strongly opposed and questioned by CR as it passionately promotes effortless running. Traditional running methods emphasize conditioning, relying heavily on leg muscles during the running process. CR, on the other hand, utilizes stronger and more efficient muscles, namely the core muscles which are mainly located in the belly and the mid and lower back. CR teaches people the correct bio-mechanical running principles that are inline with the laws of physics combined with the ancient TaiChi movement techniques. By mainly depending on the core muscles, CR takes full advantage of the power of gravity.

The beauty of CR lies in its magnificent integration of body, mind, and spirit. Conditioning the mind is as important as conditioning the body. CR is ideal for those who which to add a spiritual component to their fitness program because CR is essentially a very powerful meditative practice that focuses on enhancing self awareness and making the runners feel “One with the road”.

Moreover, a recent independent study made by West Virginia University has confirmed that CR runners managed to successfully prevent recurring injuries. In addition, Runners that have been sidelined due to injuries claim that they were able to return to running thanks to CR.

Whether you’re a beginner runner, a marathon runner, an endurance runner, or even someone who runs to stay fit, CR has helped thousands improve their running technique, eliminate injury and achieve personal goals. CR is proved to be very effective in reducing and ending: back pain, hamstring injury, hip problems, shin splints, IT band syndrome, plantar faciitus, and above all the most famous running injury: knee injury

It’s noteworthy that CR is not by any means a weight-loss program. In fact, it’s recommended for overweight runners to practice Chi Walking before getting into CR.

A new type of running shoes?

As an additional enhancement to CR, New Balance, a leading global athletic products company, started a partnership with ChiRunning & ChiWalking in 2008. Danny Dreyer designed the New Balance MF800 shoe that utilizes a mid-foot strike, especially for CR runners. The shoe is very durable and comfortable enough to tolerate high weekly mileage, while being very versatile to use on trails or roads and very light to use in races. One thing that CR recommends in shoes is minimal cushioning and having no built-up-heel.

Happy Chi-running!

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