The Beginners Guide To The Chi Running Method

Humans were born to run, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to work on improving our running technique. In fact, over the past few decades, many running technique schools have developed, each promoting a certain style.

One of the most popular methods is the Chi running method. Experts from this running style claim that it’s the best way for more efficient and injury-free running.

So what is the Chi Running technique, and how does it improve running efficiency? That’s where today’s articles come in handy.

Keep on reading for the answers.

Chi Running Explained

In essence, Chi running is a mindfulness-based running technique inspired by Tai chi, the ancient Chinese martial art. This method is the brain child of ultramarathoner Danny Dreyer, who mixed the physiological, mental, and spiritual components of Tai Chi and sound running principles.

The premise is simple. By putting your attention on your running form and technique—the running process—you’ll help reduce stress on your body. This, in turn, may improve your speed, reduce injury risk and make training much more enjoyable.

According to advocates, Chi Running may help promote a more natural running technique that works with the laws of physics instead of against them.

The Science

As far as I can tell, most of the acclaimed benefits of Chi running come from the inventor of the method, Dryer, or anecdotal sources.

I did some research, and the only independent study about Chi Running I can site is a study out of the Journal of Orthopaedical & Sports Physical Therapy.

In a paper named “Comparison of Negative Joint Work and Vertical Ground Reaction Force Loading Rates in Chi Runners and Rearfoot-Striking Runners,” the scientists concluded that the method did reduce loading on the hips and knee. Still, it also increased the loading on the ankles.

This might be great news for runners with a history of hip and knee issues, but Chi Running might not be the best thing for runners suffering from ankle pain.

Another but less reliable study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported that the Chi Running method might improve efficiency and produce less impact when compared to other common types of running styles.

How about running economy

This is where I hit a dead end. A research paper named “A Novel Running Mechanic’s Class Changes Kinematics but not Running Economy” published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that although the method did lessen the impact, running economy remained unchanged.

So What Should You Do?

It’s really up to you.

Give Chi Running a try and see for yourself. If you feel like your running has improved, then keep doing it. If not, then simply go back to what you have been doing.

Now let’s get into how you can get into Chi running—enter the principles of the method.

The Principles of Chi Running

To practice Chi Running, try implementing the following form cues.

Run Tall

The ground rule of Chi running comes down to alignment. The method requires proper posture, with the head, shoulders, hips, and feet aligned.  When aligned, you’ll help reduce the work that your body has to exert to keep standing and propelling forward.

Proper posture reduces the amount of work your muscles exert and move more efficiently. This is, after all, the foundation of an efficient running economy.

Lean Forward

Adding a slight forward lean while running lets your body fall forward. This, in turn, lets gravity help with propulsion instead of just your legs.

What’s more?

The forward slight lean will also force you to hit the ground on the ball of your feet instead of your heel, which may reduce injury risk.

The lean also helps you maintain proper body alignment, allowing your feet to land under you.

But here’s the little caveat. When most runners lean forward tend to do it from the waist, which is a big mistake.

To do it right, tilt your body forward and lean from your ankles, not your waist, so that gravity propels you.  Remember to keep your back straight.

What’s more?

Keep the lean subtle—avoid leaning too far forward as it might cause you to lose control and fall.

Engage Your Core

The Chi Running method involves running with a level pelvis instead of a forward-tilted pelvis, which is common in the running world.

To keep your pelvis level, you’ll need to embrace your core muscles while running. To practice this, visualize leaning against a wall and try to press your lower back against it to master a level pelvis. This can help you shorten your stride, which is key for preventing overreaching and heel striking.

What’s more?

Having proper core strength is essential for preventing injury.

Performing core training like planks and Russian twists help you build that core strong. A strong core will help maintain proper posture when running—and keeping this good posture is essential for all runners.

Land on The Midfoot

Heel striking happens when your foot hits the ground too far out in front of your hips.

When you run with a heel strike, you’re putting on the brakes on each step you take. This undoubtedly increases the stress through your muscles and joints, which, in turn, puts you at a higher risk for injury.

To practice proper Chi running, aim to land with a mid-foot strike. You can do this by taking fast and shorter striders.

Running with a mid-foot style may help take the brakes off and reduce the impact. This, in turn, might help you run more smoothly and improve your running economy.

Relax Your Body

Many runners start tightening their shoulders and other muscles during a run, especially when fatigue sets in. This is a big mistake because tension wastes energy and limits running efficiency.

On the flip side, when you’re relaxed, you’re saving up your energy and making sure you’re not working against yourself. That’s from where your energy should come in Chi running.

How To Implement Chi Running into your Running routine

So what’s the best way to change your running technique?

One word: gradually.

Here’s the truth. Behavior change is tricky, and it takes time and practice to break away from old movement patterns. This is especially the case when it comes to running form.

In other words, it’s not going to happen overnight.

You’ll need to keep your first few runs slow to focus on the principles. The more you practice, the faster you’ll develop and form the movement patterns.

It might take them 4 to 12 weeks for their muscles to get used to a new movement pattern for most runners.

At the very least, you should devote one session per week to technique. Don’t think about pace, talk to a friend, or listen to music.

Energy goes where attention goes.

Instead, pay attention to your posture, and make the necessary changes as you run to move efficiently.

What’s more?

Remember to practice one principle at a time. Don’t try to bite more than you chew.

Once you build the movement habits, it’ll become intuitive. You won’t have to think about it anymore.