I WonderedMight ChiRunning Improve My Form?
My running technique consists of putting one foot in front of the other until my iPod runs out of Britney Spears songs or someone hangs a medal around my neck, whichever comes first. Some people put a lot more thought into it than that: If you wanted to, you could spend more time reading and learning about how to run than actually doing it.
One of the methods getting buzz over the past few years is ChiRunning, a way to run developed by West Coast ultramarathoner Danny Dreyer. As you might guess from his method's name, ChiRunning (its offshoot is ChiWalking) is built on the principles of tai chi, the martial art that emphasizes integrating mind and body to achieve health. Fundamentally, ChiRunning is about making running easier by relaxing your legs and relying instead on your core ab and trunk muscles to do the work of propelling you forward. Dreyer, the author of the book ChiRunning (Fireside, $14), compares it to swimming downstream as opposed to struggling to swim against a current. The method promises to cut the chances of getting injured as well as make your stride more efficient.
Sounded good to me! So I found a ChiRunning instructor in New York, Joel Matalon, and met him in Central Park dressed and jazzed to run.
As it turned out, only a small part of our 90-minute session included running. We started with posture. Joel helped me align my feet properly straight aheadit turns out I have a tendency to tweak my left foot outward, which can make my legs hit the ground unevenly. He also taught me how to straighten my spine and open up my chest by pressing one hand against my chest and the other on my lower abs. Given that I spend most of my day hunched over a computer or clutching a phone between my ear and shoulder, even this simple exercise made me feel better. I should think of keeping my shoulder, hip, and ankle in a straight line, he saida quick check is to look down and see if my shoelaces are visible. If they are, I'm properly aligned.
Step 2 in ChiRunning is the lean: You tilt that shoulder-hip-ankle axis forward, which provides momentum. Next, Joel told me to pick up my feet, keep my lower legs and glute muscles relaxed, and activate my ab muscles. I had to work to keep my elbows close to my waistnot splayed out in the way that made a friend call me "Chicken Wings" until I refused to answer to itand to focus on relaxing my shoulders and swinging my elbows to the rear.
Finally, we put it all together. I got my posture right, leaned, and let myself go, trying to picture my feet churning in a circle beneath me as my trunk led the way. I'll admit, it wasn't easy; I've been running the same way, more or less, for 13 years, and at this point, my old method (dragging left foot and all) feels natural. Joel says he has to work on it every time he runs and that he looks forward to marathons so he can spend 1 mile focusing on posture, another on his head alignment, and so on. He says he loves the underlying philosophy of ChiRunning, too, which requires striving to give off positive energy rather than focusing on race times or outdoing the jogger next to you.