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What is ChiRunning?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Chirunning, also known as mindful running, is both philosophy and practice of ways to run without injury or pain. This new type of running has been popularized by the book written by Danny Dreyer, Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. In the book, and in several related DVDS, Dreyer suggests that following the practicing of Tai Chi, and adapting it for running will result in less pain and fewer injuries for runners. He suggests baseline fitness is less important than remaining relaxed and meditative through your running practice.

There are several core principals associated with effortless running. These include:

  • Beginning with a slow program
  • Keeping your mind focused while running
  • Staying mindful of each movement of the body
  • Incorporating deep breathing techniques
  • Remaining relaxed
  • Maintaining excellent posture
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Beginning at a slow pace is emphasized in chirunning, since you must listen to your body’s cues and not exceed what your body is capable of when you start a running program. It is perfectly acceptable in the chirunning program to run for a block or two, or a few minutes then slow down to a walk. Dreyer suggests that after a while you will begin to run for longer periods of time if you start slow. In the beginning, if you can only run for half or even a third or quarter of the time, you are still doing a terrific job. This idea is in direct opposition to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy espoused by many athletes.

Mind focusing during running refers to several things. First, you set your mind to a goal. For instance, you might decide to run for five minutes in the beginning. Then you use your mind to push your body to that goal. The mind drives the body and acts as motivator. This is an essential concept of Tai Chi, and other meditative exercises like yoga. If you’re running without thinking about it, it simply isn’t chirunning.

Mindfulness is expressed in the awareness of your body while you are running. You pay attention to things like how it feels for your feet to touch the ground and exactly how they strike. As you run you ask yourself questions regarding what you are doing, and how slight changes to things like posture either make running easier or more difficult.

Deep breathing means breathing fully, in what are called deep belly breaths. The body works best and is most relaxed with adequate oxygen. Through deep breathing exercises, which are a good idea to practice before you head out the door to run, you can significantly increase your ability to run more efficiently.

Relaxation and good posture are essential elements of chirunning. In the first place, many people tense their muscles when they exert instead of keeping them relaxed. As you are mindful of your body, you need to also focused on keeping muscles loose. For instance, is your jaw clenched, are you hunched over, or is your lower back tight? Allowing these muscles to relax results in less injury. Posture, keeping your body straight, and upright, but in a natural pose also lowers risk of injury. Tai chi proposes that excellent posture allows for the body’s chi or natural energy to flow smoothly producing greater energy, while poor posture results in less chi.

If the concept of chirunning is hard to understand, it can help to read a book, or even take a Tai Chi class prior to trying it. Further, as with any exercise program, be certain to check with a doctor before beginning running with chi. Some injuries or medical conditions may make it impractical or dangerous to run, regardless of how you do it.

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