Chi Running is a technique that aims to reduce the wear and tear on the body in a runner’s training regiment. The program is based on many principles drawn from a Chinese form of martial arts known as T’ai Chi, customized for the runner. Chi (rhymes with Free) running was developed by Danny Dreyer, a marathon runner who has authored many books about running and injury prevention. Proponents of the chi running technique claim that it is effective in the prevention of plantar fasciitis and other overuse injuries in distance runners.
In Chi Running, more emphasis is placed on using the large core muscles to help with the running movements. There are two very obvious benefits to this. First, it will lessen the load on the leg muscles, allowing you to run more efficiently with less chance of overworking those muscles. This will reduce the chance of injury, which generally occurs when muscles are tiring. Second, you will be working out the important core muscles more when you are running. Most modern workout strategies incorporate more core muscle exercises, and this is an excellent way to combine running and core activity at the same time.
Another important aspect of Chi Running is detailed attention to proper posture to keep stresses off the back and legs. The technique advocates using gravity to help with your run by leaning forward slightly. It has been described as effortless running, which is really not accurate. It is running which requires less effort than traditional running, but it is still an excellent workout.
Many traditional runners tend to have a pronounced heel strike, usually a result of over-striding. This heel strike is thought to aggravate the plantar tendon and its connection to the heel bone through the fibrous membrane known as the fascia. Landing heel first can create a force of up to six times your body weight to be applied to the heel. This pounding often leads to the painful plantar fasciitis condition.
With Chi Running, however, shorter strides are emphasized to eliminate heel striking. You strive to have your foot land directly under your center of gravity instead of slightly out in front. Your weight is distributed more evenly over your feet if you land on the middle of the foot instead of on the heel. The result is significantly less stress on the plantar fascia area, and much reduced risk of plantar fasciitis.
Other differences between Chi Running and traditional running include an arm swing that help keeps a proper cadence, and a pelvic rotation which engages the core muscles to aid in the running process.
For the novice, there is a less intensive way to begin the program, known as Chi Walking. Many of the principles are the same as Chi Running, with some subtle differences. This can progress into Chi Walk-Run, and eventually to Chi Running. There are some good Chi Running books and DVDs available for purchase on this site which provide details to ensure you get the maximum benefit out of the program.
Additionally, Danny Dreyer maintains a good Chi Running website which provides additional details about all aspects of the Chi family of fitness techniques.
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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net