How to Avoid Sore Quads

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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,


Posted in Technique

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