How to Avoid Sore Quads - Chi Running

How to Avoid Sore Quads

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Thu Jan 31st, 2008, 9 comments

I’ve been focusing lately on relaxing my quads so that I can get them to work even less than they already do. (It’s a regular practice of mine to use efficiency as my mantra.)  Here’s what I’ve been working on. As my leg swings out behind me I allow my spine to twist which in turn allows my hip to go rearward along with my leg. (This is covered on pages 179-180 in the ChiRunning book.)

But, here’s an important aspect of allowing your leg to swing to the rear instead of thinking of swinging it forward. If I think of my leg as swinging to the rear instead of forward, my leading leg (opposite) is much more likely to come down in a mid-foot strike. Whereas, if I lift my leg forward it is more likely to swing too far forward, creating a heel strike. In order to avoid lifting my leg forward, I found that as soon as my rear foot leaves the ground, I need to relax my quads so that I do not engage them to lift my leg forward. The reason why I want to avoid using my quads is because they are the largest muscles in my body; they require lots of fuel and oxygen; and they take time to recover.

What I discovered today was this; in order to keep my quads from engaging I need to keep my knees as low as possible as my feet return to the midfoot strike position. The job of returning my leg to the support phase is left to the recoil action of the tendons in my psoas and hip flexors, which are stretched like elastic bands with each rearward leg swing. The recoiling action of the large tendons in the core muscles takes the place of the quads having to do the work of returning the leg to the support phase.

BUT, keeping my knees low does not imply that I’m keeping my feet low. Quite the opposite. I make sure that my feet are coming up behind me and that my knees bend more as my speed increases.

I know this probably sounds a bit technical, but just take your time digesting it. And when you think you grok what I’m talking about, go out and try it. I will say that this gets into some of the advanced material. I would not expect (or even require) a beginning ChiRunner to be able to apply this to their running in the early stages of learning the ChiRunning form, simply because the basic focuses are more important to think of when you’re first learning this technique.

Happy trails,



  • midfoot strike,
  • chirunning,
  • mid-foot strike,
  • running tips,
  • chiwalking,
  • leg swing,
  • biomechanics of running,
  • hip flexors,
  • psoas,
  • quadraceps,
  • running efficiently,
  • training tips

9 CommentsLeave a comment below

Bill Barker Feb 3rd, 2008 09:36am

In light of marathon distances, interesting thought to shut down the quads “because they are the largest muscles in my body; they require lots of fuel and oxygen”  With these guys used sparingly, you are conserving precious fuel.

maria crompton Feb 8th, 2008 06:53pm

Any one have issues with trigger points in quads/It bands? I’ve had them for a year and a half since my marathon and just found out that is in fact what they are, muscle knots throughout It bands and quads. My legs are more sensitive than ever to the point where I can’t run. It has been 2 weeks since I’ve been able to run. After a few massages, I still can’t get rid of them. Can any one help? I’ll do anything. Thank you!

Jonathan FitzGordon Feb 15th, 2008 01:23am

I don;t think of relaxing my quads as much as never getting into them in the first place. For me the work is all psoas and very little quads. The work of the leg itself determines that. If I strike correctly throught the foot I feel like I am accessing the inner upper thigh bipassing the quad in a way. Overuse of the quads limit the rotational possibilities of the pelvis

I am curious as to if ayone knows about sore quads with the Chi Running technique with the push to increase lean/speed.  I am two weeks out from my first Ironman and I am trying to push my lean a little forward, but I m afraid that when I do I may be bending at the waist a bit.  My question is really this:  If I am pushing my speed (doing some mild speed work for longer intervals = 20 minutes), is it normal to experience some quad soreness as my legs get accustomed to the new experience, or is it a sign that I have migrated from my form back to a power running technique?

Thank you in advance.  Not quite sure how this blog works, but I guess I iwll find out.

Thanks again,


i’m not a runner at all - i stopped by because i thought this might be just the thing for a friend of mine who loves to run but had an injury that prevents him from training as much as he used to (read, “would like to”).

as i read, it seemed it might help me, too, as i always think running sounds like a fine idea, but i hatehateHATE to do it. i walk at least an hour a day just because i love walking, so i was intrigued to see a chiwalking section too, but i was still wavering on whether to actually pursue any of it.

then you properly used “grok” in a blog entry. it’s a sign. i’m sold. as soon as i get my next paycheck, the books will be mine.

mike danenberg Apr 8th, 2008 10:56pm

The “trigger points” in your quads and IT bands are from the ischemic tissue due to over use and the result of the inflamation process.  The scar tissue that has built up will not go away by themselves or massage like you have experienced.  This method of running will be very helpful to you.  Try to find someone in your area that is fully credentialed in Active Release Techniques.  They can remove the scar tissue and help you to get on the road to Chi Running quickly.

I am a post heart transplant of 22 yrs. and just finished my first Marathon. I have run 1/2 Marathons and a 1/2 Ironman but never a full before. In the past I have had trouble with sore quads and experienced the same thing at the 35 Km mark of the full Marathon. It was so bad I lost about 15 minutes to my time on the last 10 K. I appreciate the pointers and will give it a try. In your experience does this have to do with diet and fluids or is it more form related? I am registered to do a full Ironman at the end of the summer so any advise is appreciated.

I have trying the chirunning method for several weeks now and now am experiencing a pain in my left leg quad. It appears to be getting worse. In letting my lower legs to dangle, I am now using my quads to push my leg forward. Help? What am I not understanding from the book?

November 16, 2009 Chi Running: Saving your quads & Nov 16th, 2009 09:27am

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