I thoroughly enjoyed this informative and entertaining Run to the Top podcast interview with Danny Dreyer, inventor of the “chi running” technique/process, and author of the book by the same name. Danny took up ultramarathoning in 1991 at the tender age of 42, and ran over 40 hundred-mile races, almost always placing in the top 3 of his age group, before he retired from ultra-running in 2005.
He may not be running 100-milers any longer, but he’s still teaching and preaching chi running – an approach that incorporates principles of tai chi into running. In my first post, I mentioned that my accidental discovery of Danny Dreyer’s book, Chi Running, let me start running again after a ten+ year “break.” I had undergone two knee arthroscopies, and still couldn’t get clear of the stiffness, swelling, and pain that made running terribly unpleasant at best, and impossible at worst. But the testimonials inside the book – and some follow-up research I did before I actually purchased it (including, I confess, reading some of the chi running “love letters” Danny Dreyer talks about in that podcast) – convinced me that there was something to this approach: with proper body alignment and a slight forward-lean (from the ANKLES, not from the waist!), your legs simply support your body weight while gravity moves you forward. In a conventional western running form – body straight-vertical and legs striding way out ahead of your trunk – your knees act like actual brakes when your foot hits the ground (usually heel-first). No wonder they hurt! In proper chi running form, your knee is never out in front of your body at impact, and the midfoot strikes the ground first, instead of the heel, better distributing the impact. To run faster, you increase the angle of forward lean slightly. Is that hard to picture? Look again at that picture on top of this post. Then watch the short primer-video on chi running technique at the end.
If you are running pain-free and injury-free, there’s no reason to change your stride. But if you’re someone who, like me, had to give up running because of pain and injuries – or if you never even considered trying, then chi running might be just the ticket to get yourself back on the roads and trails.