Chi Running is a technique developed by ultra-runner and Tai Chi expert Danny Dreyer. Chi Running combines good running technique with the principles of Tai Chi to work with gravity rather than against it and to use the power of the core muscles to produce a more energy efficient and bio-mechanically correct form of running.
How can I benefit from Chi Running?
- Beginners are attracted to Chi Running because it makes running less tiring and it reduces the risk of injury.
- More experienced runners use it to avoid injury and run faster and more efficiently.
- Triathletes like it because it requires less effort from tired legs as Chi Running uses gravity rather than muscle power to propel the runner.
- Barefoot runners use Chi Running to improve their running technique which is essential when gradually transitioning to more minimalist shoes.
Chi running can improve your running in many different ways. The two main areas are energy efficiency and injury prevention. Better running form means that we can relax as we run and use less energy. This means that we can run further and/or faster than before. To achieve this Chi Running co-operates with the two main forces acting upon the runner. These forces are the downward pull of gravity and the force of the oncoming road.
The runner co-operates with gravity by having a small, whole body, forward lean from the ankles. This produces a controlled forward fall which propels the runner forward. To co-operate with the force of the oncoming road the runner lands with a mid-foot strike slightly behind their centre of gravity. This allows the force of the oncoming road to swing the legs of the runner behind them.
This also avoids heel-striking, which often produces injuries. Most runners reach forward with their legs and land with a heel strike in front of their body. This means they are actually swinging their legs into the force of the oncoming road. The impact of this is quite considerable and can result in injury to the runner's heels, ankles, shins, knees, hips or lower back. So by avoiding heel-striking Chi Running can help prevent injuries as well as making you a more efficient runner.
Do I need different shoes for Chi Running?
You can start Chi Running in your present running shoes. But as you learn the technique it is better to move to a lighter more flexible shoe without a big heel. Danny Dreyer, the founder of Chi Running, likes to use racing flats. I personally tried a few more minimalist shoes when I started Chi Running. I liked the Inov-8 233 which is quite a light shoe and helped me feel the road more. This is a good shoe to learn Chi Running in and get a feel for the mid-foot strike.
However it is best to gradually transition to a minimalist shoe to allow the muscles in the foot to become stronger etc. So I have also bought a pair of Saucony Kinvara. These have a thicker sole and more cushioning so I use these as my everyday shoes and for more long distance runs, using the Inov-8 for shorter and faster runs. The Kinvara is also an excellent shoe to learn Chi Running in for most runners. But everyone is different so it's best to test a few shoes and find which suits you best.
How long does it take to learn Chi Running?
Most people find it easiest to learn from a certified Chi Running instructor. Depending on the runner's preference you can either attend a one day workshop or have three to four one-to-one lessons with an instructor.
After this you will know the basics and then it is down to you to practise the techniques that you have learnt. Most runners will notice a difference in their running as soon as they learn the technique and this inspiration will encourage them to take their running to the next level. The body takes time to change to a new way of moving so you have to practise on a regular basis for at least a month until the body learns to automatically move in a new way. Then it is up to you to perfect your technique so that your running becomes more effortless. The exciting thing about Chi Running is that it is always evolving and Danny Dreyer and the Chi Running instructors are always looking at ways to improve their running efficiency and the best way to communicate their discoveries to their students.
How do I get started with Chi Running?
The best plan is to book a workshop or some one to one lessons with a certified Chi Running Instructor. We have regular one day workshops at Run and Become in London. You can also book one-to-one lessons with me in London if that is more convenient for you – just give me a call on 07828 517531.
We also have a weekly Chi Running Club at Run and Become London. This is a 5k run through local parks where you get a chance to get a taste of Chi Running. Also once you have been to a workshop you can return to the Club to practise your running focuses with other Chi runners. I would also recommend reading Chi Running by Danny Dreyer which is an excellent reference book after you have had some lessons.
See our Run Better area for upcoming dates.