Tips for Energy-Efficient Running

The subject of clean energy is an important one today. There are many good reasons to reduce our over-reliance on carbon based fuels, become more efficient in how we use energy, and use clean fuels that don't create as much waste and environmental damage.

The same is true for the way we take care of our own bodies, which can be viewed as a microcosm of the world around us. ChiRunning and ChiWalking are meant to set up the conditions so that:

1. You are more energy efficient.
2. You are using clean energy sources that don't cause waste.
3. You're not setting yourself up for injury.

In our many discussions about energy efficiency and clean sources of energy, it was difficult to narrow down the topic. We could (and may) write a series of articles about clean energy that could include: how your thinking can be either a toxic fuel or a source of energy and inspiration, clean energy from a clean diet, the relative energies of chi and sunlight, and so many more. The subject is as vast as it is important.

It's worthwhile to stop and ask yourself, "What is my energy source?" Is it coffee, sugar and white flour? Or, is it clean, slow-burning carbohydrates? Is it a desire to win, or a desire to learn? Are you using force or finesse? Are you wasting energy, or making the most of the time and energy you have? When you ask yourself these questions it can help you make wise choices in your life.

As you become more efficient with your running, you can reduce your reliance on inappropriate muscle usage. Three negative things that can happen when you overuse your muscles are wasting fuel, producing excess amounts of lactic acid and running the risk of overuse injuries such as tendonitis, muscles tears and strains. Examples of inappropriate muscle usage include: using your hamstrings to pull yourself forward, using your calves to push yourself off the ground, and absorbing shock with your quads.

Running with tight glutes, tight shoulders, or a tight pelvis can increase the workload to other muscles. Whenever you are using muscles that should not be used, or are overusing them, you are misusing energy and wasting fuel.

Every aspect of ChiRunning and ChiWalking is about creating energy efficiency and preventing injury. The first thing we do is set up the conditions for energy to flow easily through the body by creating good posture. Good posture also allows the body to take advantage of gravity for propulsion, and therefore need less energy. Engaging your core muscles helps keep your posture in line, which then allows many other muscles to relax. Using gravity for propulsion significantly reduces muscle usage throughout your body.

Just as there is coal and there is solar energy, which we might look at as different densities of fuel, (coal being a high density, high waste fuel and solar energy being a low density and low waste fuel) there are high and low density fuels available for use by the human body. Muscles require high density fuels in the form of carbohydrates and fats. By far the cleanest and cheapest source of energy for running the human body is chi.

Master Xu uses his mind to direct his chi to move his body. Now that is clean burning fuel, because chi energy does not burn, it just moves, leaving no waste behind. Movement that is aligned and relaxed actually increases the amount and flow of chi in your body. Moving chi through your body nourishes all the muscles, organs and soft tissue of the body leaving you energized and feeling a sense of ease and flow instead of soreness and recovery.

Moving With Efficiency

If you're relaxed enough, the oncoming force of the road will pull your leg to the rear, which pulls your hip to the rear, rotating your pelvis. This, in turn, twists your spine and basically loads the rubber band of your connective tissue and tendons that runs all the way from your elbow to your opposite ankle. Once your foot comes off the ground, that rubber band wants to recoil to its original shape.

This recoil of your tendons and connective tissue acts as a rubber band, bringing your legs forward into the support stance without your leg muscles contracting. When you can run this way, you'll be burning only a tiny percentage of the fuel you are presently using to swing your arms and legs. When you can tap into the propulsive forces of gravity, the recoil of your tendons, and the flow of your chi, your running will make an octave leap into a much higher level of efficiency. Your body will then require less fuel, less recovery time and be much less susceptible to overuse injuries of any kind. Then you can look forward to gaining energy as you run or walk instead of expending energy. It's not just a concept. Through constant practice it can become your reality.
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

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