Transitioning Between ChiWalking and ChiRunning

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I appreciate all the follow up comments about my first Chi Walk-Run blog. There seems to be a lot of interest in this new and exciting collaborative approach to fitness and health – for many people, walking and running together may provide more benefits than either does alone – and may be more engaging to do.

As you know from the Chi Walk-Run DVD, the first step in learning and using Chi Walk-Run is to learn the Basics of ChiWalking and ChiRunning. The DVD as well as other ChiWalking and ChiRunning resources (DVD, books, classes, etc) will take care of developing that foundation; then, the question is when and how does one make the transition from walking to running, and vice versa.

Briefly stated, the transition (or change) process from walking to running, or running to walking, is an individualized decision combined with some general principles and timing guidelines. First, it is key to pay attention to yourself, to “Body Sense” so that you are aware of your own energy as you decide to continue with what you are doing as opposed to making the transition: exertion level? heart rate? attitude? current form? And further, what's going on around you: are you running or walking on level terrain, uphill, downhill? what point in your workout or race? personal goals? aid station coming up? how long have you been either walking or running?

Once you've decided that it is time to make a change (note that I'm emphasizing the “choice” aspect at this time even though there also may be pre-set time periods for each mode), in order to make the transition as easy and energy efficient as possible, it helps immensely to bring into focus your cadence (turnover rate) at that time and then to increase or decrease it as desired. For example, if you are ChiWalking, you may want to increase your cadence as you begin to transition to ChiRunning, say from 130 to 140 to 150 or more since your ChiRunning cadence will soon be in the 170 – 180 steps per minute range. At the same time, as you start to transition, you will be increasing the minimal lean of ChiWalking to slightly more lean as you transition to the “first gear” of ChiRunning. Awareness of your walking and running technique allows for these changes in form as well as retaining certain aspects of form that are the same in ChiWalking and ChiRunning, e.g., 90 degree arm swing and a good pelvic rotation.

In a hilly trail run in Corvallis, OR recently, I had many occasions to transition between ChiRunning and ChiWalking. Although I began the 15K race intending to run as much of it as possible with a fast finishing time in mind, I knew that the many steep hills would mean that I would frequently be ChiWalking – cooperation with gravity translates to ChiWalking being more efficient than ChiRunning when dealing with steep uphills (see: On the other hand, ChiRunning is the choice when going downhill. This strategy worked very well and, as well as attaining my target time overall (1hr 30 mins), I had the satisfaction of ChiWalking past many competitors who insisted on trying to run on the steep uphills or who were forced to walk but did so more as a last resort with no awareness of their inefficient form while doing so.

Although Chi Walk-Run is not the only Walk-Run program that exists, it has a number of features that make it unique and more beneficial for the trainee. I plan to address this topic in my next blog. With the above ideas about transitions and dealing with steep hills, you have plenty to work, or play, with: be aware, Body Sense, and enjoy your Chi Walk-Running.


Posted in Technique

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