Chi Running for Beginners - Chi Running

Chi Running for Beginners

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Thu Oct 6th, 2005, 15 comments

beginner-runnerWhether you're just starting to run, or coming back from an injury or a long break from running, you might feel a mixture of excitement, anxiety and anticipation. The sense that I get from many beginning runners is one of determination and purpose...combined with some fear.

Many of the fears that come up have familiar voices, like:

  • “I’m too out of shape. I get winded running down the block.”
  • “I’ll ruin my knees!”
  • “I’m too old to start running.”
  • “Running is just so, so hard.”

You can put your fears to rest by knowing that for most people, running is a safe and effective way to get fit at any age.* Humans are meant to run. We’re built for it. And, when you learn to run with good running form combined with a sensible program, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury. It doesn't have to be hard to get started, but it is wise to have a plan.

Many, many beginners have had great results with our ChiWalk-Run DVD & program. The walk breaks make it easy to build endurance, and as your walk breaks get shorter and the time you spend running increases, your confidence and motivation will grow after every workout. The best way to get into a good habit with your fitness is to set aside a half hour for your program and block it out in your calendar, just as you would any other important appointment. By practicing good running form every other day, you will get a clear body memory of what you’re learning. If you wait too long between practice sessions, your body will forget and need to be retrained.

To get yourself comfortable with the concepts, I highly recommend reading the ChiRunning book and watching the DVD before you get started. At first, it might seem like a lot to remember, so here we’ll break it down into a Getting Started Program, spread out over three weeks.

Practice one new lesson from the DVD each week. Feel free to take two weeks per lesson if that's better for you. This is about taking your time to learn to run safely and joyfully.

One last tip: when you're beginning a running program, run for minutes, not miles. Adding two more minutes to a workout is much easier than adding two more miles, and this gradual increase is better for your long-term aerobic conditioning.

Week 1

Lesson One: Get Started in a Simple Way by Practicing Posture

For everyone…beginners, seasoned competitors, everyone, the most important element of running to work on is your posture.

Watch the DVD and practice along with Lesson One: Posture Alignment (or read pages 63-70 in the book) in your living room. The most important piece of this lesson is to memorize how the One-legged Posture Stance feels. Notice the difference when your pelvis is level and when it’s not. Practice all of Lesson One at least two or three times before you go out running for the first time.

When you’re ready to go out for your first run, focus on one thing ... feeling that one-legged posture stance. Before you start to run, practice getting your posture aligned (as explained in Lesson One) and practice your one-legged posture stance. Move from one foot to the other, feeling the straight line from your head to your toe. Really FEEL it in your body.

Then, as you start running, the first thing you should do is ... pretend you're not running. That's right. Instead, just imagine that every time your foot hits the ground, you're doing a one-legged posture stance.

The first time you head out for a run, you'll be taking TINY, tiny steps ... not really running, but moving forward doing one one-legged posture stances after another. Every time your foot lands, your weight is supported by that foot, and you are in a one-legged posture stance. Just go for as long as you're comfortable, whether it's 30 seconds or five minutes. If you feel yourself being out of breath or not keeping your focus, stop and walk until your breath recovers. Then, check in with your posture alignment and begin doing your one-legged posture stances until you have to rest again.

The first time you go out you should practice this walk/run method for 10-15 minutes. If, at the end of this time, you feel you can handle more, wonderful! But, form comes first in ChiRunning, so only run for as long as you can keep your focus on the one-legged posture stance. Only increase your distance for as long as you can hold your running technique. As a new runner, you have the opportunity to learn good habits right from the start. So, take your time! You'll be able to run joyfully for a mile or 26 miles, when you're running safely and efficiently .

Practice your one-legged posture stance for one week, or until you can feel it every time your foot hits the ground. Do this every other day for a week.

Week 2

Lesson Two: Engage Your Lean

The next phase of learning ChiRunning will be learning to engage your lean. Read pages 70-75 of the book and practice the lean in your living room along with the DVD.

One of your half hour workout sessions can be devoted to doing the lesson along with the DVD.

In your next scheduled running session, review the DVD lesson one more time, then take it out for a run:

Start with Week One’s Lesson, moving along in your one-legged posture stance down the road. Then add in the lean with this simple 3-step process:

Step 1: While moving down the road, check in with your posture line (making sure your pelvis is level).

Step 2: Drop your focus to the bottoms of your feet.

Step 3: Keep your feet hitting where they are while you let your entire posture line tilt in front of where your feet are hitting.

The lean is very slight - only about one inch. If your posture stance is solid, you will feel your speed pick up with just a slight lean. Feel the effect of the lean by running for 15 seconds or so. Then, bring yourself back to your original upright position, but keep moving forward. Then, stop running and walk for a bit.  Then, do it again. It's good to engage and disengage the lean several times so you can feel the benefits of leaning. Over time, you will find your comfort zone with your lean, so play with it. If you begin to feel any tension in your calves or shins, you're leaning too far forward. Back off a bit. You don't need to lean as much as you think.

Practice adding the lean to your one-legged posture stance for a week or more.

Week 3

Continue Practicing Lessons One and Two

I know that almost everyone needs to practice leveling their pelvis. You won’t remember all the time, as most people aren't used to engaging those muscles. Spend this week getting comfortable with your posture and lean by practicing specific focuses, like leveling your pelvis, or feeling your feet touch the ground, or tucking your chin.

Continue to run for only as long you’re comfortable, then walk until you’re recovered enough to run again. If you need more guidance in planning your workouts, the ChiWalk-Run program tells you exactly how much to walk and run during each workout. From there, you can adjust the length and frequency of your walk breaks depending on what feels best for you. Remember: take it step by step. Even though it’s about running, there’s no need to rush the process! Get started the right way, and you'll have many years of happy running in your future.

*It is always advised to check with your health practitioner before starting an exercise program.


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15 CommentsLeave a comment below

Hello, I just wanted to say thanks.. I have started working out and began walking and made it up to a walk /run. I looked up the art of running and I found Chi. It has been great every since. I ran my first 2 miles without stopping and it was great. Looking forward to tomorrow.
Thanks again

Hi Harold,

This is what we like to hear! Thanks for sharing your positive experience. Feel free to keep us posted on your progress.

Casey Colahan, ChiLiving

Hi, I just ordered the Walk-Run program. I will be doing this program on hills and wonder if I should make any adjustments for that.
Thank you!

I am 70 yrs old and have psoriatic arthritis, which is largely controlled by medication. Nevertheless, I have gone through bouts of plantar fasciitis, peroneal tendonosis, and most troubling now tenderness in my left external lower leg along the tibula/fibula. I have orthotics, but still find walking very difficult due to discomfort. In my right lower leg I have some calf pain despite no apparent MRI deficit. I was interested in your concepts and wonder if your approach might help me with basic walking. I have not gotten anywhere with PT, orthotics, NSAIDS.  Is there someway I might be able to taste your recommendations, if you feel they might be of value.


I am confident that if you put a few of the walking concepts into your movement like good postural alignment, core muscle engagement and shorter strides you will feel different (and better).


There are some adjustments on hills; such as smaller strides going up, a slight change in angle of arm swing to name a couple. It will be touched on some, but not in depth in the program. We do also have a Hills Made Easy DVD you may wan to look into.

I took a class about 2 months ago and have been running ever since. At a couple months shy of 70 I didn’t think it would be this much fun or as pain free. I’m running daily with a 5K twice a week. I don’t want to push to hard as I have both hips replaced. Running is not only fun but quite refreshing. Hope to just keep on going….....

I have been running on and off for years while living with Type1 diabetes—close to 40 years. Earlier this year I had an accident that required my thoracic vertebrae to rebuilt, T6-T11, fused using rods and screws. I have might my mind up that this will not get the better of me—I may have broken bones but my will to fight remains strong. I was getting geared up to run a full marathon in February 2015, but now been convinced that I should set my goals on a half. I have been working on my posture while running and my core is close to being 100% ready to sustain a steady increase in mileage. Any helpful tips from your training tips DVD/Book that would include the back?

I have been running for 36 years. I have run many 10k races and I do a 15k and half marathon every year. I have often placed in the top three in my division. Recently I have slowed down dramatically. Most people who see me now think I’m walking. I still think I’m running, but I say I am now “jogging.” I think my form has always been good but I am looking to improve. I am hoping Chi running will help. I will be 68 next week.

Although I have run 5 marathons, I am, in many ways, a beginner.  I am hoping to run again.  Haven’t run regularly since 2007 due to a torn meniscus.  At 62 years old - I still want to run. I am starting the 2 week guide and seeing how that goes.  I am wondering what courses would be recommended after that?  Do the courses include post work out stretching?

Can you books/DVD be bought retail?

I am 52 and decided to start running 5mths ago. 3 days a week, I have been trying to teach myself to slowly build up to running, but the problem is I have chronic shin splints. I have looked at many different beginner programs, I have bought 2 types of shoes for my neutral foot. I have watched videos about mid-foot/toe running, I have tried shortening my stride, speeding up, slowing down, I wear compression socks, I do strength building for my shins & calves, I have worn Ktape and nothing has worked. I have been on the verge of giving up. I have not been able to go past running more than 2min. intervals for 20mins because the pain becomes too much, even on the recovery day.  I recently found a chi-running video, and have ordered the book.  Prior to finding it, I decided to take 2 weeks off to completely heal my shins.  I am watching and reading and anxious to try the Chi method.  I am so hopeful, I really want to run. I have one more week and hopefully my shins will be good enough to get out there.  Do you have any other recommendations/suggestions that will help with my issue?

Grant Miller Apr 28th, 2015 03:03pm

I am a 52 yr old male. Recently read Born To Run. Loved it. Have been an overstriding heel-striker all of my adult life and thought my long stride was a “good” thing. No wonder I was never much of a distance runner. Am working on the transition now and hope to someday maybe to run a marathon or long-ish trail race-assuming the transition goes well and I don’t give up. Pretty motivated right now though. Have a few other health issues, including PF in my right foot, but I am working them out, too.

Kathleen Grehan Jul 4th, 2015 01:09pm

Hello everyone, I will be 57 in August and am trying to run-walk every five mins up to 30 mins four times a week.

I have been reading about ChaiRunning but what if I order the DVD - maybe there is no subtitles as I am Profoundly Deaf.  I wonder if the DVD has subtitles, please let me know before I purchase the DVD.  Smiling Kathleen

So interested in knowing more on this topic!

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