ChiRunning Form Intervals Improve your Running and Speed

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The key to running faster, easier and injury-free is not just engaging the ChiRunning Form Focuses…it is re-engaging them, over and over until they are a natural part of how you move. We get many letters about first-timers having incredible experiences with the ChiRunning technique, which is wonderful, but it’s even better when someone uses the focuses over many years and continues to improve their running over time.

The best way to maintain and improve good running technique is through Form Intervals. Everything you practice while running using your Form Intervals will train your mind and body to be able to do more with less effort. Form Intervals are foundational preparation for hill running or speed intervals, especially since in ChiRunning, increasing running speed and easily running hills comes from technique, not harder work.

Maintenance of your pain-free running form is essential. Slipping into old, bad habits is easy if you are not mindful of your technique. We also get a lot of letters from people who have the ChiRunning book and DVD but did not practice the technique consistently. The consequence is often injury, or pain, which reminds them to get back to practicing the Form Focuses. As expected, the pain disappears and the ease and joy is back in their running again.

Form Intervals make workouts more interesting and keep your mind from wandering to that business report due. Instead, your mind becomes engaged in moving your body well, strengthening your core, and relaxing all other muscles. The Form Focuses teach you how to move from a centered and relaxed place. When it’s time to work on that business report, your mind will be clear, focused and more creative.

Here are some different ways to practice running with Form Intervals:

1-on-1-off: This is the best type of Form Intervals for running beginners. Choose a Form Focus and practice it for one minute, then don’t focus on it the next. Pay close attention and Body Sense the difference between using the focus and not using it. Here’s an example:

  • Try it with the “C” shape. Run one minute with the “C” shape and then rest for a minute. Notice how holding the “C” shape changes your running form. Practice for one minute-on-one minute-off for ten minutes with the “C” shape.
  • Next, switch to bending your knees out the back. Focus closely on bending your knees and letting them go out the back with each stride for one minute, then rest for a minute and notice what your legs do when you don’t concentrate on bending your knees. You may find that you tend to shuffle and that bending your knees takes some attention, but it is worth the attention in terms of energy efficiency and injury prevention.

Double Focuses: Choose focus pairs. Do one focus for one minute, then the other for one minute, then practice doing two focuses at once for 1-3 minutes.

Relaxation Intervals: Devote an entire run and all your Form Intervals to relaxing different parts of your body. Really let each part of your body loosen and relax. (Make sure before running you start with your Body Looseners.)

One Focus Run: Devote a run and all your intervals to practicing one Form Focus such as pelvic rotation. Practice for one-on-one-off or set your countdown timer to go off every two minutes to remind you to go back to your focus. Re-engage that focus as often as possible and feel what your stride is like when you do that one aspect of the ChiRunning technique really well.

Body Scan of Focuses: Once you know the Form Focuses pretty well, you can scan through the focuses and use them for different parts of your body during a run, focusing on one focus for 1-2 minute intervals. Start your run with your feet, focusing on landing with a midfoot strike for one minute, then one minute of not pushing off, then one minute of loosening and relaxing your ankles, then one minute of bending your knees when you land and then one minute of bending your knees as the leg goes out the back (always, always have your knees bent). Move onto your pelvis: one minute of leveling your pelvis, one minute of rotating your pelvis. Stop and do several minutes on any area that you are unsure of or that gives you some trouble. Move up the body and check in with all your Form Focuses, noting where you need to go back and do some extra work.

When you practice in this way, your Form Focuses become such an ingrained part of your movement that just a quick reminder will adjust your body into correct form; thought and movement, mind and body as one.

Below is a list of some ChiRunning Form Focuses. In any given run, you can practice running with several focuses or focus pairs:

Start with Good Running Posture 

  • Align your legs
  • Lengthen your spine
  • Engage your core
  • Sit Up in Your Chair
  • The “C” Shape

Upper Body & Arm Swing 

  • Bend elbows to 90º (don’t pump)
  • Curl fingers with thumbs on top; relax hands
  • Hands don’t cross your center-line
  • Swing elbows to the rear
  • Shoulders low and relaxed


  • Upper body ahead of your feet
  • Feel your core engage as you lean more
  • Your lean is your gas pedal

Lower Body

  • Relax lower legs and ankles
  • Lift your ankles
  • Midfoot strike – Feel the Bottoms of Your Feet
  • Create a Circular Stride

Cadence & Gears

  • Set metronome to 170-180 strides per minute (spm)
  • Cadence always remains constant
  • Stride lengthens as your running speed increases

You’ll find more Form Focuses to make your running technique easier and more enjoyable in the ChiRunning DVD and book.

Posted in Technique

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