Running Doesn’t Have to Hurt: Giving Chi Running a Try

Late last summer my husband Renald and I were out for a walk when a man sprinted by and waved.  He had a powerful stride and a fast pace, and even sped up as he approached a long hill.  I’d just started running again and envied his form and speed.  “He’s an amazing runner. Fast. ” I said.  Renald knew him.  “I know that guy. He can run, but that’s all he can do.  Running has taken such a toll on his body that he told me he can’t walk without pain anymore.” I’m injury-phobic. The last thing I want is to end up like Renald’s friend.

My first turn at running in my twenties ended in hip pain that forced me to quit after just a few months.  I’d jumped straight into a five mile loop in Boston-Cambridge: across the Harvard Bridge, then the Esplanade along the Charles River in Boston, the Longfellow Bridge, back to Cambridge, and then by the river on Memorial Drive right back to the Harvard Bridge. The beauty of the route and the company of other runners kept me motivated for a little while. But I didn’t ease into it. In short, I didn’t run smart.  Twenty-five years later, I’m taking a more gentle approach.

This brings me to Chi Running. I’ve been reading Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury Free Running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. Using a method and posture that stresses the core muscles — much like yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi — this form of running is supposed to make knee pain and shin splints “a thing of the past [and] dramatically reduce your potential for injury.”

The authors say many runners typically land on their heels and this taxes the body. Landing on the midfoot, they say, is much more efficient and guards against injury. In running circles this technique is known as ‘the midfoot strike.’ The authors also claim that their 10-step training program will “transform your running” so you’ll run faster, farther and with less effort.  The promises of Chi Running are pretty enticing.

It’s a bit challenging to learn a physical activity from a book because it doesn’t tell you whether you’re getting it right. But this book is a good start for anyone interested in learning a new technique. It includes detailed explanations, photos, and exercises to teach the posture, the midfoot strike, the forward lean, and the other features of Chi Running.

I’m going to keep at it through the winter and then find a Chi Running workshop in the spring. I think a face-to-face session with a certified instructor would be the best way to ensure that I’m getting it right.  So far, just using the book, I’m finding it easier to run further with this method.

Where I used to have some shin pain and lower back pain before I tried Chi Running, the posture and foot placement alone have dealt with both. If I feel any discomfort when I am running, I just re-focus on my posture (they call it ‘leveling the pelvis’) and check in with my foot placement.  Giving this kind of attention to the form of running helps me address the source of discomfort as soon as I start to feel it, and to correct it right away.

Learning to run without serious risk of injury means a lot to me. So far, I feel optimistic that Chi Running, once mastered, will help me achieve that goal.  I recommend the book to anyone interested in a gentler approach to running. Reading the book will give you enough of an idea of what Chi Running is about to decide whether you want to follow up with a workshop. I plan to do just that in the spring and look forward to reporting back once I do.

10 thoughts on “Running Doesn’t Have to Hurt: Giving Chi Running a Try

  1. I’m definitely a believer in chi running; allowed me to start running again after a nearly 10-year sabbatical imposed by my knees. And I agree: the book is great, and you’ll find demos on Youtube that help you visualize, but it really helps to attend a workshop and have an instructor correct your form – and watch them correct others, as well. The authors have a good DVD, but if you’re dealing with a tight budget, save that money for a workshop!

  2. Thanks, Marilyn, for confirming the workshop’s usefulness. I see one in my future, for sure.

      1. I’m not sure where you both live, but I’m in a bit of a mecca for this kind of stuff (San Francisco), and was able to take a discounted 1/2-day workshop (as a refresher) from a certified chi running instructor who was also a Physical Therapist with a prominent managed healthcare company: he offered the class at a discount to plan members! You might discover an arrangement like that wherever you are.

  3. We’re not so lucky, Marilyn. I’ve looked into it and there no one at the moment *right* in our town. But Toronto is nearby and there are some instructors there who offer half day workshops of the kind you describe. Our health care works a bit differently, so it’s unlikely that we’ll have that further perk!

  4. I’m such a chi running convert and will blab on about it to anyone who listens! I’m glad you’ve found it and that it’s helping! I’m still learning the technique myself–there’s so much to take in but I agree that it can take just a few tweaks to tremendously help your form. Good luck and definitely get into a workshop!

  5. Running is a fun sport – seriously. Each day, people all over the world partake in the sport. Some run on the track. Others run in their neighborhood. People run in trails and even on the treadmill. No matter where you run or how often you do it, chances are you are either at risk for injury or you have at some point dealt with an injury.Injuries can be frustrating. For most people, this means that some time needs to be spent away from the sport. For someone who loves it, this is not an easy task. But it is important to note that the easiest and quickest way to heal a running injury is to stop running.”

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