Loosen up. Lighten up.
You’ve heard these phrases before, especially if you’ve been in a grouchy mood.
But it’s also sound advice to transform you into a stronger, more efficient runner.
Keeping your body relaxed is one of the keys to ChiRunning, a form of running that integrates the foundations of T’ai Chi. The more fluid and forgiving stride reduces the risk of a running injury.
“It’ll change your perspective on running,” says senior instructor Maurice Wills.
One of the most important elements to ChiRunning is altering mechanics so the impact of your feet striking the floor repeatedly is alleviated. A lot of people land on their heels in their traditional running gait, which is a significant drain on the body. The force travels up the legs, making you more susceptible to injury.
“But when you do that, you absorb three to five times your body weight,” explained Wills with regards to heel runners.
Rather than the brutal shock of heel-first technique, ChiRunning’s aim is for a mid-foot strike while your foot is relaxed and floppy. For ideal form, try to have your feet land right under, or slightly behind your hips. The softer landing should ease joints in the legs, preserving them for potentially longer, or faster, runs.
Two other important points of form are keeping your core engaged, and leaning forward with a straight spine. This technique utilizes your center of gravity to give you a forward boost, meaning less exertion is needed to move; you aren’t fighting the forces of gravity as hard.
“It’s the way Kenyans and Ethiopians have been running for centuries. And what kids do when they first learn to walk,” says Wills.
And though it may look and feel awkward at first – okay, it will look and feel awkward – or that you’re about to fall face-first, maintain your technique. It’ll pay off.
“[Leaning forward] is definitely something that can be uncomfortable at first, but that’s a sign you’re doing it right.”
Using correct form in ChiRunning will make you a far more economical, speedy runner. It sounds odd, but remember: the lazier runner you are, the better.
“My goal is to be the laziest runner to exist,” says Wills. “Running shouldn’t be work and it shouldn’t be painful. It should be relaxed and comfortable.”