Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running
By Danny Dreyer, Katherine Dreyer
One of our main goals in writing this book was to make your learning process as easy and understandable as possible, so we've divided this chapter into two sections. We'll begin with an overview of the ChiRunning technique so that you know what to expect: how the technique works, what the process will look like along the way, and what the future holds for you as you improve your ChiRunning skills.
In the next section we'll explain all the component parts of the ChiRunning technique, which we call the Form Focuses. It's like a list of job descriptions for all the parts of your body that will be involved in your running.
Part I: An Overview of the ChiRunning Form:
A Revolutionary Approach to
Effortless, Injury-Free Running
We just want you to have an overview of what you'll be working toward-a carrot to keep you on the path to learning good running form.
When ChiRunning is more fully incorporated into your running, there is a wonderful opportunity to experience the effortless aspect of the running mentioned in the subtitle of this book. Learning ChiRunning is not effortless. We know that. But as more aspects of this form become incorporated into your running, there will be times when you may experience that delightful feeling of "I could run forever." I experience truly effortlessness running about 60% of the time. The other 40% of the time I am working toward those moments of bliss. I am always making corrections, trying something new, practicing, and focusing on my weak areas. I love that part too, but when I do drop into "the zone" it is pure delight.
Many of our clients have sent letters chronicling that effortless experience you'll be working toward. Jeanne wrote, "Danny, I just have to say it again ... ChiRunning rocks! Seriously, this morning it was like I had no legs running-I was just floating! Love it! Thanks!"
Consider this chapter a complete and detailed reference of all the ChiRunning focuses, but be aware that it is not presented in the sequence in which you should learn the technique. We will give you the best sequence of learning these focuses in Chapter 5, where we get you started with ten specific lessons. After successfully teaching thousands of runners ChiRunning, the sequence of these lessons has proven to be the quickest and easiest way to learn the technique.
The Form Focuses fall into six categories: posture, lean, lower body, pelvic rotation, upper body, and the triad of cadence, gears and stride length. In this chapter we explain the logic and the how-to of each Form Focus. Since all of the details about every Form Focus are in this chapter, you will be referred back to this chapter extensively in Chapter 5 and throughout the rest of the book. It's a good idea to add plastic note tabs to mark each of the Form Focus areas for instant access anytime you have questions about a particular aspect of the technique.
As you read this chapter, just take in the information ... and relax. You don't need to learn it all right away and there will be no pop quizzes.
The Six Form Focus Groups
The most basic concept behind ChiRunning and the way it optimally works is that you create a straight line with your posture, from the crown of your head to the bottoms of your feet. We call this your Column. When your Column is aligned properly, your body weight is supported primarily by your structure, not your muscles.
The idea with ChiRunning is to allow your Column to fall gently forward in a controlled way, allowing gravity to pull you forward. As you fall forward, the rearward force of the road pulls your support leg out behind you, allowing your leading foot to land underneath your center of mass, catching you from falling. You then land on that leg, momentarily supporting your weight as your Column passes over it. The foot gently lands, with a midfoot strike at the bottom of your Column (never in front of it) and the force of the road then pulls that support leg out behind you.
As you fall forward, you gently peel your feet off the ground to keep up with your fall. You do not use your legs for propulsion in any way. You don't push off with your quads, calves, or toes and you don't pull with your hamstrings. We call it the "passive lower leg" because your legs are used only for support between strides and nothing else.
The movement of your legs creates a counter-rotation between your upper body and your lower body, and your pelvis (if allowed) rotates around its central axis (along the spine). If your pelvis does not rotate, you'll absorb the force of the road with your knees, quads, hips, or lower back. Allowing your pelvis to rotate allows you to cooperate with the force of the road coming at you, without your body absorbing any of it.
In ChiRunning your upper body is leading the show. One of our instructors says, "Run with your heart first." In this way you're cooperating with the pull of gravity as you allow yourself to fall forward. The counter balance to your upper body falling forward is your elbows swinging to the rear.
Cadence, Stride Length, and Gears
The next part of the technique that you'll learn is cadence, gears, and stride length. In ChiRunning there's one thing that never changes: your cadence. That's the rate at which your feet strike the ground, measured in strides per minute. One thing in ChiRunning that does constantly change is your stride length. It's simple: as your speed increases, so does the length of your stride. Likewise, as you slow down, your stride shortens proportionately. Having your stride length change relative to the speed you're running equates to the gears in a car or a bicycle.
With ChiRunning, your recommended cadence will probably be quicker than you are used to at first. You'll also notice that at slower speeds, your stride length will be shorter than you're used to. You can watch a very clear example of this on the ChiRunning DVD. I run in four different speeds, all with the same cadence, but you'll clearly see the difference in stride lengths with each successive gear.