Even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I was first introduced to Chi running about four months ago when I got an e-mail from 3:09 marathoner and Boston Marathon Qualifier, Nick “The Quick” Dlouhy. Nick was going to be in Columbus for work and wanted to get out for a run while he was here. Since Nick’s marathon pace is more than one minute per mile faster than mine and we had never run together before, I was a little apprehensive about how I would be able to keep up with him. But Nick, like a lot of runners, loves the sport above all else and didn’t feel the need to leave me in his dust just because he could.
So we churned out four brisk miles at a pace slightly below 8’00 per mile. This isn’t an overly difficult pace for me. But to be fair, it is moderate. As someone who typically trains alone, I immediately noticed two things. First, I was breathing a lot harder than Nick was, which was no surprise. Secondly, it seemed like Nick was taking five strides for every four strides that I took. I thought, “How can he be exerting such little effort when his feet are hitting the ground that much more often than mine?” The answers are in the principles of Chi technique.
Chi running is about creating forward momentum based on your posture, so that the impact of each stride is absorbed by your core instead of your feet, shins, and knees. This will not only reduce injury and soreness, but it will improve your running economy as well. Dlouhy explains, “The largest concentration of slow twitch muscle fibers is in the core–not the legs. So if we are using our core to run, instead of pushing and pulling with our leg muscles, we’ll be much more efficient from an energy expense perspective.”
Like any change to your normal technique, you should start off gradually with Chi running. “It’s changing your form. It’s changing the way your body is positioned. It’s changing how your foot falls,” Dlouhy points out. “If I’m doing it correctly, it feels like I’m moving easily, even at higher speeds.” Here are some key principles of Chi to help you do it correctly and move easily:
- Run Tall–Straighten your spine, elongate, look straight ahead. Good posture reduces the amount of work your legs have to do.
- Lean Forward–Slightly! Don’t bend at the waist. Focus on leaning from your ankles, if that makes sense. Remember that the primary goal is to keep your entire column in a straight line. Leaning from the waist will throw you off balance and make your run harder. Chi running should feel easier.
- Strike Mid-Foot–This will be a change for most novice and even many intermediate runners. We tend to be heel strikers. With Chi running, your foot should land in line with your shoulders. Dlouhy warns, “The ligaments in your lower legs will feel it in the beginning, until you learn the proper Chi running form.”
- Relax–Let the arms swing naturally. Don’t let your shoulders tense up. By relaxing and running tall, this enables your body to open the chest cavity and allow for deep, recuperative breathing.
Dlouhy said, in summary, “I moved to Chi running after I dropped out of a race when I was trying to BQ. I drank the Kool-Aid, and it put me over the hump to achieving a BQ time.”
I’m guzzling a glass of Purplesaurus Rex as we speak.