Article From: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/chi-running-tips#.
Despite unseasonably warm temps in the northeast, fall marathon season is upon us. And for those gearing up for the New York City Marathon on November 3, you’ve probably already logged most of your key training runs. At this point, staying healthy and injury-free is priority numero uno. And while massages, foam rollers, and compression tights are all great ways to stay race-ready, there’s something else you can do during your runs that may help prevent injuries, shave time off your marathon, and ensure you actually enjoy every mile (really!).
Chi Running, a running technique inspired by Tai Chi, is catching on among distance runners. In a nutshell, Chi Running is mindfulness-based running. But there’s a physical element, too. “In Tai Chi, everything moves from your center,” says Danny Dreyer, co-founder of Chi Running and an ultra-marathoner. “Your core is a physical representation of your center, so engaging your core—and having a strong core—is a key principle in Chi Running,” he says. Relaxing the rest of your body is also essential in both Tai Chi and Chi Running. “The goal is to get to the point where your body is a tool of the mind,” says Dreyer.
If you think this all sounds a little too hippy dippy for you, consider this: There are studies that prove the effectiveness of this technique. And even seasoned pros and top running coaches are on-board. Andrew Kastor, ASICS running coach and coach of the Mammoth Track club in Mammoth Lakes, California, says Chi Running can definitely be an effective technique for distance runners. “I love the whole idea of relaxing before and during a run,” he says. “It helps you get and stay focused.”
If you’re interested in learning all of the ins and outs of the technique, you have your pick of how to do so—from the book ChiRunning, to DVDs, to online training programs, to Chi Running-certified coaches. And there’s even an app!
Signed up for a fall race and don’t want to shake things up so close to the big day? You can still adopt a few key techniques from Chi Running. In fact, Dreyer’s talked to runners who did just that—and then went on to run their fastest marathons ever!
Here, five ways you can integrate Chi Running into your runs—whether you’re a few weeks out from a marathon or are brand-new to the sport:
Strengthen Your Core
Having good core strength is key to preventing injuries like IT band issues and hip problems, says Dreyer. Engaging your core while you’re running is one of the key principles of Chi Running, but doing core exercises like planks outside of your runs is important, too. “Having a stronger core will actually help you to maintain great posture when running uphill—and maintaining good posture is a must for all runners,” says Kastor.
Shorten Your Stride
“If your stride is too long, that means you’re reaching with your legs trying to ‘eat up’ ground, which is inefficient,” says Dreyer. Instead, try to take quicker, shorter strides, which will also help you to land mid-foot instead of on the ball of your foot, says Dreyer. “Keeping a shorter stride length—and quickening your cadence—helps minimize impact,” says Kastor.
Think about areas in your body where you’re holding tension, and try to release them, says Dreyer. For instance, let your arms swing naturally instead of pumping them. “Running relaxed is always best,” says Kastor. “A relaxed muscle is a fast muscle.”
Run in the Moment
Pay attention to what’s happening right now (instead of thinking about, for instance, the bagel you’re going to scarf the minute you’re finished!). Ask yourself questions like: What does my body need right now? Am I thirsty? How am I feeling?” This will help prevent injury because you’re maintaining focus on your form and technique. Just make you’re thinking productive thoughts about how you feel in the moment—complaining (“Oh my gosh, I have 16 more torturous miles to go!”) is counterproductive and will just drain your energy, says Dreyer.
Chi runners lean their entire bodies forward to allow gravity—instead of just their legs—to propel them forward. This forces you to land closer to the ball of your foot instead of your heel, which may help prevent injury. “It’s a very slight forward lean using your core to maintain good posture and avoid relying on your quads and hamstrings,” says Dreyer. “Think of it like a controlled fall—you don’t want to just bend at the waist.”