In ChiRunning, speed becomes a test, not of your physical endurance, but of your ability to use good technique to run faster with less effort. Instead of pushing as hard as you can through each speed interval, your focus will be on relaxing your body, leaning forward into gravity, and going faster in each interval while decreasing your perceived rate of exertion. The results can be immediate and surprising. Less effort can result in greater speed.
ChiRunning Form Focuses
You don't have to change your form altogether or immediately. Improving your running technique can become something you work on regularly, like a golf swing. To make it easier to learn, we've broken ChiRunning down into individual Form Focuses to help you target specific areas of the body.
Here are some Form Focuses you can begin to experiment with during your runs. They don't need to interfere with your training but can be part of an exploration to find your running "sweet spot."
1. Lengthen your spine and engage your core muscles: Right now, and on your next run, practice lengthening your spine up the back of your neck and through the crown of your head. Your chin will probably come down a bit. Don't overdo it; just feel a nice gentle stretch. Then, engage your abs like you're doing a tiny crunch forward. These two Form Focuses are the primary lesson in T'ai Chi and ChiRunning. Try them together or individually as you run, walk, or sit at your desk. As one client says, "Good posture in my new mantra." Good posture and a strong core are simple practices that will improve your running and, potentially, your whole life.
More: 13 Essential Core Exercises for Runners
These Form Focuses can be practiced in intervals as you run. Intervals will help you feel the difference when you're running with good posture and an engaged core. Notice the difference on how your feet land—generally much lighter and quieter when engaged.
2. Gentle lean or controlled forward fall: When you want something new to focus on, practice using a very slight forward lean during your run. Play with it. If you lean too much, you'll engage your calf muscles. Play with the forward lean and let it be the control of your speed. Slow down with a little less lean. Add a little lean and feel your speed increase. Lean from your ankles and keep that good posture.
3. Use a metronome to regulate your cadence: Experiment using a metronome while you run. We recommend a cadence of 170 to 180. This will shorten your stride and most likely increase your cadence. This could make a significant change to how you run, so again, just play with it. Use the metronome for the first 10 minutes of your run, then turn it off. Start it up again to check in. Begin to notice what a consistent cadence does to your running form. We recommend a consistent cadence no matter your speed, and even on rolling hills (there are different metronome Form Focuses on steep hills).
4. Relax: Experiment with relaxing while you run. Eventually, you want to relax everything but your core muscles. Start with your shoulders and arms. Relaxing your lower legs and feet may be hard to do at first. Most people don't notice how much they use their calves to pull their body forward then use their feet to push off from the ground. It's just an experiment, so see what it feels like to run without using your lower leg muscles. Allow the slight lean to create movement. Feel how light on your legs and feet you can become.
More: How to Run Relaxed
Changing your running technique doesn't have to slow down your training. If you are in pain, or want to make a bigger leap, then yes, you may want to cut back on a few miles or not push so hard in your next event.race.