July 19, 2012 at 8:16 am 7 comments

Last week was my first Chi Running workshop. Our instructor broke up the whole class into two parts so we would have time to practice and absorb some details in between learning so much. During the first class we were recorded running in our normal stance and then spent a lot of time critiquing everyone’s form and identifying areas of improvement. Then we went outside and started practicing posture, forward lean and chi walking. We learned about relaxing your ankles, peeling your foot off the ground (as opposed to pushing off), the importance of small strides and cadence, and just in general how to start being aware of your body.

My problems were that I was running vertically, I was bouncing and I was taking huge strides and doing some weird thing by pointing my toes as I reached out. In other words, I’ve been bouncing and stomping down the road for the past 6 months and calling it running. No wonder I’ve been in so much pain. On the other hand, I did have good posture and good arm form, even if I was rotating my shoulders.

I bought the Chi Running book and have been reading that over the past week. It’s a really interesting read and in terms of form I haven’t read any surprises–it was all pretty much covered in the workshops. The book does emphasize the mindfulness part of chi running more than the workshops did, but mostly just hammers home all the main points. This is the book:


There are also dvds and a whole bunch of other swag to help you learn but I think if you’re interested and lucky enough to have an instructor in your hometown then take the class. At the top of my blog there is a tab called “What is Chi Running” and it will take you to the main chi running website. You can look up and see if there are instructors in your area, or buy some materials to do a self tutorial. If there aren’t instructors near you the dvds are designed to teach and I’m sure can be good starting places.

So last night was the second part of the workshop, where we were really going to start running. First, however, we reviewed the material from last week and I learned that I’m still not totally chi walking. My strides are much too long–you want your feet to land under your body mass, not out in front of you.

An a-ha moment for me with this was when Cheryl, our instructor, told us to envision the movement of walking as if we were contracting our psoas muscles. Well, not really “as if” because you actually are using them, but just to be focused on really using them. The psoas run from the inner groin, through the abs and around to our backs where they attach at our spine. They are responsible for holding us up and lifting our legs. Our quads, hamstrings, or calves do not lift our legs–it’s our psoas muscles. So once I thought about that I was able to connect the dots that you’re supposed to lift your legs UP, not OUT. This makes total sense if you are trying to keep your feet under you, I just hadn’t been able to make that connection.

I think focusing on this will help me with my stride length. Stride length is really important because the whole point of chi running is to learn to work with gravity and the force of the road. If you are overreaching your stride you aren’t doing either of those things and that’s where the pain and injury come along. In order to work with gravity that’s where you have to learn the ankle lean. For example: stand straight up with good posture. Relax your ankles. Now start leaning forward from your ankles. At a certain point you have to put your foot out to keep you from falling on your face. That’s gravity, and that’s what you do when you run. You lean to have momentum. Then, working with the force of the road comes with letting your feet swing up behind you and rotate your pelvis. That’s where you get your speed. That”ll be a focus for me later when I really learn to shorten my stride and trust my core enough to lean from my ankles and not my waist.

See this picture of Danny Dreyer? He developed Chi Running and wrote all the books. He’s got the posture, nice forward lean, arms at 90 degrees, one foot swinging up behind him, the other landing right below his center of mass, and relaxed legs.

That’s definitely not what I look like running. Cheryl videotaped us running again and I had some good moments but I was breaking at the waist, tensing up my legs and taking too long strides. I was also in pain–my shins were hurting pretty bad even though we were just running around a parking lot. The rule in chi running is to take pain as a sign that you need to change your form.

I have a lot to work on. I also felt pretty frustrated last night during the workshop because I had wanted to make more progress. But this is part of the game and I’m going to have these moments. Patience and persistence. Persistence and patience.

For this next week I’ll be focusing on stride length, in addition to continuing to focus on relaxing and engaging my core. Yoga tonight and this weekend I want to go on a hike, do some swimming and maybe even do some core work! gasp! And, of course, walking and running practice.

Stay tuned.


Entry filed under: Practice, Relaxation, Running, Stride. Tags: , , , , , , .

Relax, get to it The Odyssey

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. You Might Be A Runner If… « Ch'I Journey  |  August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

    […] to get myself to lift my legs up I focus on contracting my psoas muscles (which I talk more about here) and it helps […]

  • 2. Jane Fritz  |  July 20, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I’ve been using Danny Dreyer’s book for the past two years, and it helped me turn around a bad overuse injury from the previous year of running. But I envy you having a Chi Running instructor. I think that would make a big difference. I’m glad you are sharing your workshop experiences!

    • 3. Steph  |  July 20, 2012 at 11:07 am

      That’s too bad you don’t have an instructor in your area, but at least the book is helpful! Do you know anyone else who’s trying to learn? Having a running/learning partner could be nice. Have you tried any of the DVDs? I’m curious if they are helpful too.

      • 4. Jane Fritz  |  July 21, 2012 at 6:59 am

        My husband and I share each other’s observations often, but whether either of us really has it figured out is another matter! There is no doubt that, as you posted, all the things you have to think about keeps you busy. :) I haven’t tried any of the DVDs, but I have looked at a few YouTube vidoe clips, which were a bit helpful. I’m a convert, instructor or no instructor!

    • 5. Cheryl Lloyd  |  July 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Hi Jane,
      I don’t know where you live, but there are instructors all over the world. If you go to and click on the “learn it” link you can search for an instructor in your state, or search for a workshop with a location and dates that might work for you. I was so eager to do a workshop that I flew to Denver to do one because the dates worked for me! Good luck!

  • 6. Cheryl Lloyd  |  July 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Congratulations, Steph on your commitment to learn ChiRunning. You are a wonderful writer. The well known quote comes to mind: “A thousand miles starts with a single step.” Stay with it and stay in touch. I’m here to support you in your journey! Cheryl

    • 7. Steph  |  July 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks Cheryl! That’s a great quote; I’ll have to keep reminding myself!


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