ChiRunning for Middle and Long Distance Runners

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I get lots of questions about whether or not ChiRunning can help sprinters and middle distance runners. I’ve posted a blog on sprinting which I’m sure I’ll add to over time. But, if you’re a competitive runner in the 200m – 5K range, ChiRunning can definitely help your running too. One thing it will take is constant practice. In the ChiRunning book, the training paradigm that I promote is F.D.S. ….practice Form, then train to hold your form for longer Distance, Speed. That’s the order in which the highest level of success is guaranteed. Work on your form first. Then, as you get better at the form, you learn to hold the form at greater distances (or for more time), once your body is acclimated to running with a new technique and has the core-strength conditioning to withstand greater distances, then and only then should you work on adding in speed.

The longer the distance you run, the more amount of time you’ll need to spend landing on your midfoot instead of your forefoot (as sprinters do). If you spend too much time up on your toes, the small muscles of your legs will become overworked and/or over trained and you could end up being a candidate for some form of overuse injury of the lower leg (shin splints, calf pulls, achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and even metatarsal fractures).

This runs parallel to much of what Arthur Lydiard promoted with his runners…a very deep base of conditioning before adding in speed. When learning the ChiRunning technique, if you add speed in too early on, you risk defaulting back into power running and/or overusing your legs. This is a technique which uses less muscle because you rely much more on your forward lean to reduce your leg muscle usage. Being able to hold a forward lean over a period of time takes additional strengthening of the core muscles of the body. The more you train yourself to rely on your core muscles to run with, the less reliance you’ll have on the small peripheral muscles of the lower legs.

At the same time, looseness in the hips, spine and pelvis are needed in order to get to faster speeds. The idea is to take most of the work off the legs by running with your center of mass, over or slightly ahead of your center of gravity (your point of contact with the ground), while training your body to let go of any extraneous tension which inhibits fluidity in your motion.

For this reason, relaxation is a key component of the ChiRunning technique. You don’t get faster by being tense, or by using more muscle. The Kenyans are not fast because they have the strongest legs. They are fast because they have a great training base, AND they are the most relaxed and most efficient runners in the world. They have relatively low VO2 max numbers compared to athletes they’re competing against and beating. They are also extremely light on their feet and very loose in their pelvic area…something which their competitors have much to learn about.

I’ll be talking about advanced techniques every now and then in this blog. I have been reluctant to talk about speed, because ChiRunning is more about the process than the result and many competitive runners tend to be result oriented. Needless to say, if you work on your technique and then holding your technique for longer distances, the only thing you’ll need to add, in order to pick up speed, is more lean and more relaxation. Speed is a byproduct of having good technique, a relaxed body, and the ability to hold more of a lean (Core muscle strength) for a longer period of time.

Happy trails,


Posted in Technique

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