What a Real ChiRunner Looks Like
So, what does a real ChiRunner look like?
I get asked this question all the time, and the answer is actually twofold:
1: How does a real ChiRunner appear to you?
2: How do they “feel” as they cruise past you?
One of the first and most basic things you’ll see is a runner with great posture. In this case you’ll see someone who looks “tall”… not slumped at the shoulders or bent at the waist. Their chin is slightly tucked as they lift at the crown of their head to hold their posture tall. They seem to be floating across the earth, rather than “running themselves into the ground.”
The next most notable thing you’ll see is a person running with a slight forward lean (head-to-toe), just like the Kenyans but not quite as extreme.
As their body floats along effortlessly in this gliding fall, you’ll notice their legs don’t reach forward like most folks’. Instead, as their upper body falls forward, their legs swing rearward, as they should.
Most people who lead with their legs end up overstriding and landing with an abrupt heel strike. That’s where “runner’s knee” comes from. Because of a soft, mid-foot landing, there’s near-silence as a real ChiRunner lightly touches the ground between strides.
You’ll see a lot of hip extension in the rear leg. Herein lies the trick of increasing your speed without increasing your leg turnover. It’s akin to having a cool set of gears, where your “engine” idles at a set speed while you simply shift gears to gain speed. A longer stride length equals a higher gear. It’s using relaxation, instead of power, to increase your speed. And, all of this, without your perceive rate of exertion going through the roof.
Another thing you might notice is that a real ChiRunner seems to be bucking a very old tradition by running with her mouth shut. That’s right… it’s called nose breathing and it’s the icing on the cake. It has been scientifically proven to help increase your VO2 Max, ship higher levels of oxygen-rich blood to your muscles, lower your effort level, calm your brain and increase serotonin levels in your body all at the same time!
So, when you see a real ChiRunner, you’re watching someone who appears to not be working as hard as everyone around him or her. That’s because he/she is so relaxed and efficient in their movement so that they really aren’t working that hard.
Add up all of these great qualities and you’ll see a runner whose body moves in a very unified way; where no body part is having to work harder than it is supposed to because another body part is being lazy or tense. It’s like the difference between a tightly-knit basketball team, and an all-star team (loaded with talent, but lacking unity and flow).
2. The “Feel”
But, more than all of these visible qualities, what you’ll sense is a contented runner who just loves to run whether that be for the mindfulness aspect, the energizing movement of chi through his/her body, or for that sense of true freedom. The most notable being that even though there’s always a lot going on— underneath it all, it’s as though the running is just happening, and the runner is simply being taken for a quite enjoyable ride.