At Wanderlust Whistler I was introduced to many new ideas and concepts, and one that has really stuck with me was a class called ‘Chi Running.’ The description touted the method as a style of movement to cut out injury, improve speed, and increase distance. We ran around Lost Lake, learning the basic principles and putting them into practice. The short introduction has entirely changed the way I run, and I can already attest to the ease it has introduced, improving my ability to go long distances.
The course was led by Chi Running senior level instructor, Angela James. Angela is a firecracker Brit who now resides in Vancouver, BC. She’s a fantastic teacher and was a lot of fun to learn from. Below are some of the notes I took away from her brilliant introduction to Chi Running. Next on the bucket list, take one of Angela’s extended Chi Running workshops in Tuscany. A girl can dream…no?
Stand with your hips over your knees, and your shoulders over your hips. Elongate your spine, lifting the crown of your head toward the sky, and rolling your pelvis under to engage your abdominals. Keep your pelvis and shoulders level, your neck and head relaxed. This allows the structure of your body to support you, rather then engaging all of your muscles to do the work. The more tension you hold in you muscles, the more likely you are for injury.
Keep your upper body leaning forward without losing your alignment or tensing up your ankles. So often we lean back when we want to run faster, but that is incorrect. Leaning forward will enlist gravity to help propel you. The added force will take pressure off your legs and allow them to work with more ease and efficiency.
Enlisting Your Muscles
In Chi Running, you want to utilize the larger strong muscles to avoid injury. Much like in yoga, keeping your lower abdomen strong and moving from the core will take pressure off the smaller muscles. Use the strength from your core to lift your legs off the ground. Don’t bring your knees forward as you pick your legs up, but bend at the knees to pick your feet up behind you. Land in the middle of your foot underneath your body. If your foot lands out in front of you, it acts more like a brake and causes a lot more impact that can then lead to injury.
Your arms should swing to the rear, so you are pulling your elbows behind you. You never want to pump your arm so far forward that your elbow comes bast your abdomen, and you never want to swing them so far back that your fists come behind you. Using this motion will help to keep your balance.
It’s important to keep a consistent rhythm and cadence while you’re running to eliminate stress on the body, and to move with ease. There is a free iPhone app for a running metronome called Running Cadence, or you can pay $9.99 for the full Chi Running app which includes a metronome along with videos and other guidelines. Ideally, you should be setting your rhythm to 85-90 beats per minute, but if you have to start lower, and build up, that’s fine too. The reason 85-90 is ideal, is because below 85 beats per minute probably means that your strides are too long, placing stress on your joints. Taking small faster steps at a constant rate is better for you.
To begin with, concentrate on fully exhaling out the nose when you run. You want to make sure you are emptying your lungs with each exhale to ensure that you’re bringing in a good amount of new oxygen with each inhale.
Tackling Uphill & Downhill
To soften the blow on your joints, you’ll move your body into different positions whether you’re climbing uphill or descending downhill. When going uphill, lean further forward into the incline without losing your alignment. When going downhill, bend your knees and sit down a bit, almost like you’re going into the chair yoga pose. You will notice right away that this helps cushion the impact.
Point of Focus
When running, you don’t want to look down at the ground, or up and around. Rather, you should have a steady gaze forward. Concentrate on one thing in front of you – a sign, tree, person – and run towards it. Once you reach the destination, set your sights on a new point of focus. For those of you that are yogis, you will recognize this concept as your drishti.
I hope you all feel encouraged to try out a bit of Chi Running. Running is an amazing, freeing thing, but a sport that can cause a lot of injury and stress on the body if done incorrectly. Utilizing Chi Running should keep us all running well into our later years. Thank you Angela for introducing the concept!
Have you ever tried Chi Running? Let us know in the comments!
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