26 days: Technique Tuesday – ChiRunning

February 9th, 2010 · Lisa · book review, Review, Wellness · Comments

I took up running during graduate school because I needed an excuse to leave my computer and a really efficient form of exercise that would fit into my already stuffed schedule. Up until the RunningRoom taught me to run…I was terrible at it. I still remember being in elementary school completing the 12 minute run (or complete torture as I called it) with a bright purple face. I wasn’t unfit – I was a dancer for most of my life – but I was not a runner!

Running came into my life as a form of stress release. It works for me. However, I have never had the urge to subscribe to a running magazine. I don’t feel the need to try out each new piece of performance enhancing equipment. I just like to go out, run, feel the wind and reach my goal.
But along the way there is one resource that has been recommended over and over again. ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer. From my massage therapist to my aunt (a sports psychologist), the people I respect in the fitness field all love this book. On this technique tuesday, let me share some of the helpful hints that I learned from Danny.
ChiRunning: A revolutionary approach to effortless, injury-free running.
Danny applies the lessons he learned from a t’ai chi master to his approach to long distance running. Here is my take on Danny’s technique.
1. Your Lean is Your Gas Pedal: Posture is extremely important in ChiRunning. While running you focus on keeping your spine straight and long and you lean forward from your ankles. This allows gravity to help pull you forward and engages your core muscles to maintain your alignment. It is surprising how much a slight lean really does increase your speed.

2. Pick Up Your Feet and Push Them Out the Back: Other than your core muscles, your body should be relaxed while you run. Try to land on your midsole with each step, pick up your feet and let them swing out behind you (rather than in front of you). This happens naturally if you’re leaning and your legs are relaxed.

Check out this image and a number of informative posts on ChiRunning here.


3. Stride and Cadence: Danny says that you should maintain a cadence of 85-90 steps per minute regardless of your speed. In order to increase your speed you lengthen your stride and of course, to slow down you shorten your stride.
4. Arm Swing: Focus on swinging your elbows behind you. They should move in time with the cadence of your steps.
5. Relax: This is a reminder with all of the above lessons bouncing around in your mind the most important thing is to keep your core like steel and the rest of your body limp and relaxed like cotton. Work to keep your mind and your breathing calm.
6. Pre-Run Plan: ChiRunning provides a list of body loosening exercises and mental preparation tips that you can use to start your run ready to rock.
7. Smile: Remember how lucky you are to have a body healthy enough to take you out on a run.
8. Body Scan: When you’re out on a run take a few minutes to mentally scan your body from head to toe looking for areas of tension or soreness. To me this is a moving savasana session. It helps me to remember to relax my shoulders.
9. Leg Drains: Danny is an ultramarathoner and enjoys a good warm bath after a long run. After the bath he suggests laying on the floor with your legs up on the wall (push your tailbone up to where the wall and the floor meet) for 3-4 minutes. Then starting at your ankles, squeeze down your legs as if you were wringing out your legs.
10. Tuck your Laces: This was one of my favourite lessons. After you tie your laces tuck the loops down under the other laces to keep them from coming undone while you’re running. Fantastic!!! Why didn’t I think of that?
Those ten tips are really just a taste of the ChiRunning technique but if you start to incorporate some of Danny’s ideas you will notice a level of efficiency in your running that allows you to go longer and faster.
If your a visual learner check out www.chirunning.com (there are even some vegan recipes there!) or videos of Danny on YouTube. You can find ChiRunning as a book or a DVD.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, ChiRunning trainers offer workshops as well. I noticed there are a couple coming up in March in the GTA.
Today’s Totals:
Walk: 1.5 hours
Run: 9 km (with 2 x 1.6 speed intervals)
Pace: 5 min/km and 4:20 min/km
Fun: Raw Energy arrived for me to review. I love mail.
Are there resources you have used to improve your fitness regime? Have you tried ChiRunning? Do you smile when you run, exercise, dance? I always do if I am listening to Flight of the Conchords! Sometimes that garners some funny looks for those passing by me.
ChiRunning did not sponsor this post in any way. I just wanted to share what I have learned from Danny’s book. These lessons are just my interpretation of his techniques.


  1. Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Welcome to ChiRunning; great summary post.


    PS. That picture under #2 looks mighty familiar …

  2. Posted February 9, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Hi David,

    I found the image using a google search. Would you like me to remove it? I would be happy to give you credit and add a link to your site if that would be your preference.

  3. Posted February 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    No, not necessary to remove it.

    At your option, a link reference to my blog (or specific post) and diagram would be appreciated.

    Enjoy your ChiRunning and upcoming event,

    PS. I am also vegan (well, about 98%).

  4. Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Thanks David!

    I'm excited to hear that you follow a (mostly) vegan diet. Is that something you advise to the people you train?

    I haven't perfected the ChiRunning technique but I focus on it each time I head out the door.

  5. Posted February 10, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Have fun with your ChiRunning 'practice'. There is always another level to work towards as more and more becomes habit.

    If people ask me about diet, I share my suggestions; which is a primarily plant-based diet, lower protein (~10%), lower fat (~10%), low/no processed fat (oils), limit all processed foods, limit wheat/gluten, eliminate dairy, eliminate soy.

    All of these seem to work very well for me. Of course everyone is different and has to experiment to find their own balance.


  6. Posted April 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Thought you might be interested in this new resource summarizing the key ChiRunning principles and providing an analogy to put the potential differences into perspective:
    – ChiRunning Simplified!, Efficient and Injury Free Natural Running Technique


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