Reducing your leg work: A couple of great running and walking tips - Chi Running

Reducing your leg work: A couple of great running and walking tips

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Sun Feb 24th, 2008, 5 comments

Here are a couple of tips for runners and walkers from Mary Lindahl, one of our master instructors who lives in Seattle. She was with us on our recent trip to China and came home with these pearls of wisdom, I’ve added my own notes in italics. These are great tips. The walking one is for anyone interested in making their own walking easier and more efficient. That means you runners need to read it too…it’ll help reduce effort in your leg swing.  -Danny

ChiRunning Tip – Your Body Moves First
Tai Chi Master George Xu repeats the phrase “Your Body Moves First,” like a mantra. To apply this to running, he advises visualizing your body three or four feet in front of where you are, letting your body move first toward that vision and relaxing your arms and legs.  I repeated George’s mantra to myself while running up a long hill in China and visualized my body several feet in front of me. That experience has forever changed my uphill running.  It is as if an invisible force is pulling me up the hill. I lean more into the hill and I can feel my shoulders relax. This works on the flat and downhill also, though I notice the difference most on the uphills. Your Body Moves First.
George once told me to visualize that I had a cord attached to the top of my head which was being pulled upward and forward by a giant kite (like the kind the kite-boarders use). It made an instant difference in my ease of running. Like Mary, I use this one on the uphills with great success. I also use it to help balance myself in my forward lean for extended periods of time, so that I’m not too far forward and I’m not too upright. It’s amazing how most activities we do seem to always come down to something about balance.  – Danny

ChiWalking Tip —  Training Your Leg Muscles to Relax

• Lay on your back, with your left knee bent and your right leg straight.

• Visualize a string attached to your right knee cap. Slowly raise your right knee as if someone was pulling upward on the string, letting your right heel slide closer to you.  Slowly slide your heel away until your leg is straight again.  Repeat while placing your hand on your lower abdominal muscles. Feel how your core muscles are engaged and notice how your hamstrings, quads, calves and shins can stay relaxed.

• Repeat with your left leg.

• Come to a standing position, align your posture and repeat the exercise. Feel how your core muscles are engaged as your knee tracks forward and notice how your leg muscles stay relaxed.

• Repeat daily, gradually increasing the speed which with you can do this exercise while keeping your leg muscles relaxed.  Memorize and reproduce this feeling when ChiWalking.

This is one of the best tips I’ve come across in ages. If you really take it on and practice the exercise, you could reduce your leg swing effort substantially within a month.  -Danny



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5 CommentsLeave a comment below

Laura Houston Feb 25th, 2008 06:33pm

I agree about the “string” exercise (I’m fortunate enough to live in Seattle and help Mary in workshops). I’m ramping up for another ultra, and especially when I am tired (near the end of a long run), this little exercise is a real leg saver!

The visualization of a string coming out of your head and aiding you a forward motion, particularly on a hill, has been very useful for me in my own running, although I do it slightly differently. Instead of the string coming out of my head, I visualize it coming out of my torso, just below my belly button—from my center. And I don’t picture it as a string. I picture it as tenticals, a physical manifestation of my chi. I got the idea from reading Carlos Castenada, particularly his third and fourth books, Journey to Ixtlan and Tales of Power. Don Juan and his followers describe using this extension of your center to grab onto the “lines of the world,” which enables them to perform amazing feats. Castenada maybe full of it, but it is an extremely powerful visualization when running.

FANTASTIC!!! The kite analogy will surely help me. I can envision it already. My problem (as analyzed in chi running class) is not standing tall enough thus not leaning properly. Now I will visualize the string pulling me high. That is just such a great vizualization! I really appreciate it thank you!

Running Weight Loss May 13th, 2009 09:01pm

Great article about running.  Thank you!

I’m a newby, folks. But I do have a question.
I am a 5’4” male. And I think to ‘get taller’ it has become habitual for me to tend to lock out my knees. I’m still not sure about the degree of “looseness” in the knees—ie bend 1” from hyperextension, or deeper bend, say, with knee 3-5” forward of where it would otherwise be (in hyperextension). Comments appreciated.

What are your thoughts?

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