Chi running is a form of running that draws on elements of tai chi and mind-body-spirit philosophy. Its founder, Danny Dreyer, drew from his study of tai chi and his decades of experience with running and racing to create this unique approach to running. Chi running is intended to help you draw on your inner strength and energy to run in a way that leads to fewer injuries.
Chi refers to the life force and energy that is present in every individual. This energy runs through your mind, body and spirit. In Chinese and alternative medicine, illness is thought to exist as a result of blockages of chi or energy throughout your system. When your chi flows smoothly throughout your body, you experience good health and greater levels of energy.
The goal of chi running is to focus your chi, direct it, increase it and make sure it does not get blocked. Chi is known to be most concentrated in the center of the body. In chi running, your movement is to be initiated from that center. When you do this, you increase your stamina, energy and strength. The belief is that chi is stronger than muscles. Muscles get injured and give out, but chi is rejuvenating and recoverable.
The Chi Running Method
In chi running, you run with a mid-foot strike. This is in contrast to the common approach of running on the balls of the feet. Dreyer sees the mid-foot strike method as healthier for your body and considers running on the balls of your feet as an inefficient way to run long distances. When you run on the balls of the feet, your shins and calves become tight and you may experience fatigue. Dreyer argues against training your muscles to be stronger just so you can endure this type of physical stress.
For longer distances, the mid-foot strike method is more efficient because you are leaning from the ankles, resulting in a safer and more efficient landing. When you reach with the legs, run straight upright or even lean back when running, your heel hits the ground first. You then push off the balls of the feet to move forward, which Dreyer argues results in more injuries, especially if you are running long distances. Leaning slightly forward when running and landing on the mid-foot makes for more efficient movement and reduces the chances of injury and excessive fatigue.
In chi running, you initiate movement from your abdominal center. The idea is to relax the muscles usually associated with running, which are the muscles in the legs, ankles, glutes and shoulders. You are to place your focus on the alignment of your spine and the strength of your abdomen. When your body is in alignment and you are leaning forward slightly, you can relax and gravity will do more of the work.
Chi running allows you to be more in touch with your body and make the most efficient use of your muscles. If you love running but do not want to deal with the injuries of traditional running approaches, you may want to try chi running to see if it works for you.