ChiRunning and the Art of the Long Run

With ChiRunning technique, distance running--whether a 5K, half marathon, marathon or ultra marathon--can be a pain-free, core strengthening and deeply relaxing process that you can enjoy for a lifetime. The health benefits of distance running may also increase the length and quality of your lifetime as well.

The myth is that distance running (anything over one mile versus sprinting) is what causes injury and pain. With ChiRunning, that myth is put to sleep by teaching you to run longer distances with a simple, three-step training program based on the ChiRunning formula: Form first, then distance, then speed.

Form first means focusing on good running technique, which is at the heart of ChiRunning. In power running, you are led to believe that distance running is based on building strong muscles; preventing injury is based on building strong muscle; and speed is based on building strong muscles. The only truth in this is that building strong core muscles is important for distance running, but the focus on the rest of your body should be relaxation--getting loose and softening that which is rigid or stiff.

Try it right now. Feel where there is tension, and take three deep breaths focusing on that area with the intention of getting circulation into the tight spot. Feel that tension drip out of you.

You can learn the ChiRunning form on the ChiRunning DVD and book or by joining a workshop with a certified ChiRunning instructor.

One of the main differences between power running and ChiRunning is the relaxation of all muscles except your core muscles. If you let them, your core muscles can do the job all those other tense muscles are trying but failing to do--keeping your body in alignment. Using your core muscles for that job allows your other muscles to respond with flexibility and grace to other needs.

Running Pain from Distance Running -- It's a Myth

Whether your goal is to complete your first 5K or your 10th marathon, following the three-step ChiRunning Formula for success will help set you up for overall health and well being. Distance running does not cause running pain; poor form does. Injury, pain, and hitting the wall can happen at any mile or distance if you do not have a solid foundation of good running form.

With proper form, distance running can lead to better health. This does not mean you have to run more than your three miles four times a week, or more than the 60 miles you are already running per week. It is good to simply have one long run each week that is farther and slower than your other runs.

How often do you really practice being relaxed? The long run is your weekly practice of being centered and relaxed. To train for distance running of any length, you want to make sure you have one long run per week, where you really focus on keeping that great posture that is the basis of the ChiRunning technique. The long run is where you learn what a strong core and deep, deep relaxation are all about. You may come back from your long run more centered and relaxed and focused than you were all week. That is when you know you have been successful.

On the physical side, the long run helps you build your endurance by triggering your circulatory system to create new capillaries, tiny blood vessels within your muscles and other tissues that bring nutrients and oxygen to more cells within your body. The cells themselves will then respond by building more mitochondria, little power factories that produce usable fuel for your muscles.

Another important benefit of running long at a slower pace is that it teaches your body to rely more on your fat stores for fuel, which are almost unlimited, and less on the carbohydrate sources stored in your muscles, which are very limited and last only about 40 minutes if not replaced.

Breath Rate and Distance Running

Another benefit of the long run and distance running is learning to breath deeply and relaxed. Shallow breathing (running fast) increases your breath rate which activates the sympathetic survival instinct "fight or flight" response. This stimulates stress receptors in the chest and increases your heart rate, triggering the release of the stress hormones coritsol and adrenaline. This causes the body to burn blood sugar and store fat and raises blood pressure as a result of lower oxygentation rates, which ultimately overloads the adrenal glands.

Diaphragmatic breathing, (slower running) on the other hand, draws breath into the lower lobes of the lungs where the oxygen-rich cells reside, thereby stimulating the body's parasympathetic response. As a result, the body releases a beneficial cocktail of hormones (namely seretonin and beta-endorphin), lowers heart rates and blood pressure, improves circulation, and produces an overall calming effect and feeling of well-being.

5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon Training

No matter what distance your run, learning the ChiRunning technique and using your long run to train your mind and body to focus and relax is a discipline that will allow you to accomplish any goal that you set yourself. Focus on your core, relax all else. Keep yourself centered, and be responsive to anything that comes your way. Take it slowly and stay in there for the long haul. These are key principles to any successful process.

If you are training for an event, you will become so sure of your ability to finish that half marathon, or 50 mile ultra marathon, or your first 10K, that the event itself will be a celebration of good training and of a healthy body, not a measure of how much pain and stress you can endure.

When you practice distance running with your long run every week, these principles become part of you and help you to live long, and truly prosper.

For beginners and competitors, practiced by thousands of runners, ChiRunning combines modern physics with the ancient wisdom of T'ai Chi to create a running form that is easily learned and makes running more effortless and enjoyable. To learn more, visit

Copyright ChiLiving, Inc. 2009

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