Outdoor FunTriathlon Training Tips

Running Techniques: ChiRunning Focuses On Form Over Speed

Photo of author

By Jim P.

running-on-pavement-by-darkmatter.jpg For many triathletes it is the running aspect of the sport of triathlon that is the most demanding.

For some of us, running is the least enjoyable part of training and competing in triathlons. Putting in all those miles on the road running can take its toll on the body.

Most of us have had to deal with one or more injuries associated with running. If you’re over 40, you may especially be concerned about managing the wear and tear of running.

A lot of focus is placed on correct technique when it comes to swimming. But what if I told you that there was a running technique that would result in:

  • Injury-free and pain-free running
  • Increased running efficiency
  • Effortless hill running
  • Increased running speed with reduced effort
  • Greater enjoyment of running

Yeah I know; it sounds too good to be true! There is no magic bullet, but the above mentioned results are claimed to be the benefits of the running technique known as ChiRunning.

A popular ChiRunning site says:

ChiRunning combines the inner focus and flow of T’ai Chi with the power and energy of running to create a revolutionary running form and philosophy that takes the pounding, pain, and potential damage out of the sport of running. The ChiRunning program increases mental clarity and focus, enhances the joy of running, and turns running into a safe and effective lifelong program for health, fitness, and well-being … Conditioning your mind can be just as important as conditioning your body. ChiRunning can be a meditative practice that focuses your mind, lifts your spirits and opens the flow of chi in your life.

Let’s cover a few basics…


What is ChiRunning?

ChiRunning is a method of running, developed by Danny Dreyer, an American Ultramarathon runner and Tai Chi practitioner.

ChiRunning’s primary focus is to teach runners to move in a more efficient, natural way.

Rather than focusing on power and strength to push the runner along the course as fast and as long as possible, ChiRunning instead focuses on efficiency and relaxation, and emphasizes form over conditioning.

In ChiRunning, the runner’s form is more important than the runner’s speed. ChiRunning approaches running as a “mindful practice” done in the spirit of Tai Chi or Yoga. The aim is to become more self-aware and to feel “one with the road.” Finish times and pace times are considered less important than improving one’s efficiency.

Runners who have been previously injured or sidelined due to injuries claim that they are able to return to running using the ChiRunning technique. A recent independent study by the University of West Virginia has confirmed that ChiRunning students have been able to prevent recurring injuries using the ChiRunning method.


What are the specifics of the ChiRunning technique?

peaceful-yoga-by-BartmanSA.jpgComponents of the ChiRunning technique include:

  • Body looseners very similar to Qi Gong exercises are done before running (Here is a series of videos on various stretches.)
  • Aligning the body in a vertical column (shoulders over hips over feet)
  • Leaning forward while running so the runner is pulled by gravity
  • Running with a mid-foot strike
  • Opening the stride out the back
  • Minimizing arm swing and keeping arms from crossing the centerline of the runners body
  • Maintaining a set cadence throughout the run (using a metronome)
  • Speeding up or slowing down based on stride length, not cadence
  • Relaxing the body, especially the lower extremities
  • Body scanning to eliminate discomfort, tension, or pain
  • Form focusing to maintain alignment


Are there non-believers?

Because ChiRunning opposes the traditional power running style that became big in the running boom of the 70s and the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, it is considered less effective by some experienced runners.

Additionally, the effectiveness of the midfoot strike is a point of contention among running experts and various styles of running.

Because ChiRunning promotes the use of running shoes with minimal cushioning and no built-up heel, some running shoe retailers find it a challenge to recommend appropriate shoes.

In this article, a triathlete compares and contrasts the ChiRunning technique with the Pose method.


How can I learn more about ChiRunning?

If you have any experience with ChiRunning leave a comment and let us know about it. Thanks!