No, you don’t do Tai Chi while you run and no, it’s not that you run around with a chai latte in your hands either!
ChiRunning combines the principles of tai chi while teaching proper running biomechanics. It’s a great way to get started as a runner, and even if you’re experienced, to simply improve your technique. Everything in ChiRunning goes back to the guiding principles of energy efficiency and injury prevention. Those principles are interwoven into each lesson, from posture to the lean and the arm swing.
With proper posture (aligning your shoulders, hips and ankles all in a straight line), a slight lean and relaxed ankles you can feel the pull of gravity when you walk or run. It makes a huge difference in terms of efficiency and injury prevention, as you will not be relying on muscles for the main source of propulsion. When you’re heel striking (and then pushing off), not only do you stop your momentum, you also use muscle to get started again in every step.
One of the great benefits of the technique is that it really teaches participants how to be gentle to the body, as there is less pounding. If you’re lighter on your feet, not only will your body thank you down the road but you will also enjoy your activity a lot more and incorporate it into your day-to-day. It becomes a wonderful self-realizing prophecy, since the more you get out there, the better you get and in turn the more you will enjoy it!
Although it’s not the main goal of the technique, you can get some great speed going with ChiRunning. Since you cannot physically sprint for very long, distance running (considered to be anything above 800 metres) is all about efficiency and sustaining speed. If you ever get to see the marathon champions up close, you soon realize that it’s not their muscle that propels them to victory. A nice aligned body, good hip rotation and relaxed limbs will really help you over the long haul.
Another great point about the technique is the mind-body connection. It changes running from a sport/activity to more a practice, very similar to yoga. It also makes you go inside yourself so you’re way more aware of how your body moves and gives you points to focus on every run.
I get a lot of questions about shoes. ChiRunning believes that less is more, especially in the footwear department. Most people wear big bulky shoes so the feet lose the connection with the ground. Your feet provide a great feedback mechanism but you need to actually feel the ground in order for your feet to pass on the message to the rest of your body. It’s great to be able to use smaller and lighter (and less expensive) shoes while reducing the risk of injuries and increasing the sensations in your feet.
The downside of changing your biomechanics is that, unfortunately, your form will not change overnight as old habits die hard. The average person will take some time to learn the technique and really feel it inside their body. A lot of the principles will help you right away (posture, cadence, relaxation, etc) but to be honest, it will probably take you a month or two to truly feel the “Chi”, as I call it. Doesn’t everything that is worthwhile take a bit of time though?
One of the main benefits of working on your posture as well as your running technique is the awareness that it builds within you. Like I tell most people, I don’t really teach you the technique as much as I teach you to teach it to yourself.
Although I`m based in Ottawa, I teach in Nova Scotia on a regular basis. My next workshop in Halifax will be in February 2012, after my appearance at the OptiMYz Live Health Expo in January. For all the details or more information, you can simply check out my site at www.ecinc.ca or better yet, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Collard is one of 13 certified ChiRunning instructors in Canada and he has taught the technique to close to 300 people from coast to coast in the last two years. He is also an NCCP-certified triathlon coach and a Lululemon Running Ambassador.