When I first tried to read the ChiRunning book after a friend recommended it to help me qualify for Boston, I couldn’t get through it.
I really wanted to like it — the friend who recommended it to me is the same one who ran Badwater (135 miles) and Western States (100 miles) within two weeks of each other last summer, so he knows his stuff.
But while I picked up a few tips from the ChiRunning book that I still think about when I run today, I found the book itself mind-numbingly boring and ineffective at getting me to really understand the feeling and movements it described.
Enter the DVD
The ChiRunning people got in touch a few weeks ago to see if I’d like to review the ChiRunning DVD, and I agreed, with the caveat that I had found the book less than stellar.
When I turned it on, I remained skeptical.
First, the production and music were cheesy. Chi-sy, perhaps? (Sorry. Now that is cheesy.)
Second, there was really nothing at the beginning to inspire. As I’m sure you’ve found, one of the best parts of taking on a new fitness program, approach, or pretty much anything claiming to be “revolutionary,” is the beginning — the anticipation you feel as you crack the spine of a promising new book, the overwhelming feeling of “this is the answer I’ve been looking for and I can’t wait to get into it,” and the renewed motivation to work hard to make it all happen.
There was none of that. A few camera shots of an Asian guy twisting around (presumably harnessing his Chi) and some mention of waterfalls and gravity and physics.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t get me all hot and bothered and eager to grab a bag of popcorn to learn about running form for an hour. Some data or even just some testimonials about how ChiRunning has changed people’s lives as runners — which I know from other sources it has — would have been fantastic for holding my attention as we plunged into the material, which is necessarily dry.
And yet, it grew on me
I kept watching. Though the presentation wasn’t all that exciting, the information was. And (crucially), the DVD format allows you to actually see the running form in action, a huge advantage over static images on a page. (Note: A ChiRunning clinic, like the one Susan reviewed last year, would surely be even better.)
As Danny Dreyer, the inventor of ChiRunning, went on about proper form, guiding you through several interactive exercises designed to demonstrate why the ChiRunning principles lead to painless, injury-free running, I found myself nodding my head. Nearly all of these principles were things I had gathered from other sources, the tidbits I had pulled out of other sources and pieced together into the running form that feels best:
- Keeping your core engaged and pelvis level, from Core Performance
- Turning your legs over at a rate of 180 steps per minute, from Jack Daniels
- The mental image of holding butterflies in your hands, from Stu Mittleman
- Striking with your midfoot rather than your heel, from the barefoot running movement and others
In other words, the philosophy behind ChiRunning — the aim of minimizing the stress your body feels and of moving in a way that’s extremely comfortable and efficient above all else — is very much the criteria I’ve used in deciding what advice to listen to and what to throw out over the years as I’ve read and learned from various running books and coaches.
The ChiRunning signature: the forward lean
Someone once half-jokingly told me that ChiRunning could be summed up in just two words: lean forward.
While there’s way more than that, the forward lean is what ChiRunning is built on, and it’s something you don’t hear much about from other sources. (I believe the POSE method teaches something like this, but I haven’t yet gone into depth with POSE.)
It’s not a lean from the hips, which would only make running harder, but rather from the ankles, so that the whole body forms a straight but forward-leaning line. With this lean, the act of running becomes a matter of moving your feet forward to catch yourself from falling, thus using gravity rather than a deliberate push from your legs. Lean more, and you’ve got to go faster to keep up. Lean less, and you’ll run slower.
Along with this lean come a few mental images that I like, of which there are many more in the DVD — but my favorites are those of swinging your arms and legs backwards from your forward-leaning body, rather than reaching forward with them, a common mistake that causes instability, a heelstrike, and a lot of injuries.
So, after watching the ChiRunning DVD, I guess you could call me a convert. I do hope they up the production budget for the next version — after all, they’re still on the 2009 edition… and how lame were we all back in ’09? But really, there’s a lot of great stuff here, and it’s something I’ll watch a few more times and incorporate, for sure. If your form is something you’ve never thought much about, or you’re struggling with injuries, ChiRunning is a great place to turn.
How you can win a copy
I mentioned above that the people at ChiRunning were nice enough to give me another copy to give away to one of you. So let’s do it! Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered. I’ll choose a winner next Monday. The only condition is that you contribute something useful to the conversation — “Hey Matt, you and your blog suck. Enter me, ass!” won’t do much for you.
Have a great day.