How is Chi Running Like Playing the Fiddle? - Chi Running

How is Chi Running Like Playing the Fiddle?

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Mon Apr 27th, 2009, 6 comments

View looking uphill and south along the Matt Davis Trail - Marin County, CA

View looking uphill and south along the Matt Davis Trail - Marin County, CA

Funny you should ask that. I was just out running this morning and came up with the answer.

Since I moved here to Western North Carolina almost three years ago, I’ve been learning how to play the fiddle (when in Rome…). I have a great fiddle teacher named Jamie Laval and I highly suggest you check out his website if you’re interested in any form of Celtic or Scottish music. He’s one of the best around.

I’m still very much a beginning fiddle student and so Jamie has me do these great warm-up exercises where I’m learning finger placement. I begin by playing one note at a time with my first finger, and then matching it with an accompanying string so that I get the right pitch. Then I do the same thing with my second finger and so on until a four fingers of my left hand have practiced their respective positions on all four strings. When I can hit a good pitch with all 16 notes I get to move onto playing the songs I’m learning. What this does is get my fingers to always land on the right spot on the finger board so that playing the song is much more fluid and  accurate. I’ve already noticed a huge difference in my playing when I do these warm-up exercises.

So, I was out on my run this morning doing my 1-minute intervals on the trail. It was a one-hour run and I started out the first five minutes pretty easy and then got into alternating one minute of race pace focuses with one minute of easy resting pace. As I progressed through my workout, I noticed that my body was feeling more and more relaxed and the speed intervals were feeling easier and easier. So, I started doing 2-minute race focus intervals with one minute of rest. Throughout my run I gradually increased the length of the fast intervals and kept the resting intervals at one minute. By the end of my run I finished the last ten minutes at race pace feeling very little effort because I’d spent the better part of the run warming up and working on focuses.

My goal is to get to the point where I can run at race pace for an hour without stopping for a rest break. My race is at the end of August, so I don’t see any problem with working my way up to that. And, as you can see, it is absolutely the same thing I’m doing with my fiddle practice. It’s built on the premise that if you do your technique work up front, the rest just falls into place. I meet many people who think that speed comes strictly from strength and I couldn’t disagree more. Speed with running, just like speed with the fiddle, comes with efficiency, accuracy, and most of all relaxation. If you don’t have all three, you’re going to have to work harder to get that speed you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter whether you’re watching Salina Kosgei (the Kenyan woman who won this year’s Boston Marathon) or Itzak Perlman, they’re both doing the same thing underneath it all.



  • running,
  • trail racing,
  • trail running,
  • race training,
  • speed intervals,
  • race pace

6 CommentsLeave a comment below

RICK'S RUNNING Apr 28th, 2009 12:45am

Hi Danny, I like that photo, it looks so much like the English hills I run on!
Yes its very true far too many of us runners practice running intervals and speed session with tension that ties us up in knots and makes running fast a very painful experience indeed!
I only have to look at my dog Tess to see it need not be so as she bounds along at great speed with a big smile on her face!

This is a wonderful analogy! One of the mistakes young or otherwise inexperienced musicians frequently make is to focus exclusively on playing pieces at slow tempi and then trying to ramp up the tempo gradually using a metronome. This is fine up to a point, but the problem is that the patterning needed to play something at 180 bpm is quite different from what’s necessary at 60 bpm. so it’s important to take difficult figures in chunks and learn them at tempo from the beginning—and this is not different from what we do in speedwork. Thanks, Danny!

P.S. Have you seen the new Nike video by the great designer James Jarvis? It features a little running figure who appears (at least to my untrained eye) to have terrific ChiRunning technique!

I was nearing the finish of 40k bike at St Anthony’s triathlon in Florida last month when I rounded the final corner I lost focus for a moment because I saw a spectator that looked just like you!  It was a timely reminder to start thinking about my run and using the Chi running techniques.  Thanks for your help!

What a fun post to come across!  I’m just starting to work on Chi Running so I’m looking back through the blog and this one certainly caught my eye.  Living in West Virginia, I’ve also chosen to learn the fiddle as an adult.  It’s been quite a journey but this post puts into words, some of the similarities I’ve seen in both learning processes. 
  My fiddle teacher moved and so I’ve been working through practicing on my own, which has taken some real discipline.  I have to admit that I’ve stumbled a bit in that department since taking up running (for the first time as an adult) last spring.  While I was still taking lessons, one of my teacher’s favorite methods for helping me to better develop my ear for the tunes was to send me home with a recording of one for a week, tell me what key it was in and see how much I could figure out before my next lesson.  Then, at the lesson, he wouldn’t play the tune on the fiddle, but on the guitar; forcing me again to think for myself and become more aware of what I was doing.
  Suffice to say, I’ve seen the similarities between the two learning experiences myself so was excited to see someone else writing about it.  As an educator (speech-language pathologist working in the public schools) it’s been a real gift to find myself in the role of student and remind myself about the process of learning.  It can only help the kids I work with every day!

Hi Lori,
Glad to hear I’m not the only adult out here trying to learn the fiddle. It sounds like you were blessed with a gifted teacher. If you ever need another good fiddle teacher, we’ve got more than we can handle down here in NC. Best wishes with your fiddlin’ and runnin’.


  Not the only adult by far!  Hoping that my teacher eventually moves back to the area.  If you want a chance to study fiddle for a little while in a new, lovely spot, check out the workshops through the Augusta Heritage Center!  Amazing experience.
  Had a great run yesterday and a good one today.  Thanks so much you’ve put into this program.  The healthy, mindful approach is an enjoyable challenge!

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