Why all ChiRunners need to learn ChiWalking
Exactly two years after the launch of the ChiRunning book, we launched ChiWalking. If we had it to do over, it may have been reversed. ChiWalking is now a part of how we teach ChiRunning because we have found that many of the movements that we teach in ChiRunning are more quickly learned in ChiWalking.
Danny was once a bit of a speedster. He may not have been breaking any records, but if asked to run slower than a seven minute pace, it was painful and uncomfortable for him. When he started practicing T’ai Chi he taught himself the importance of relaxation by forcing himself to run very slowly. In our T’ai Chi class he quickly understood why each movement was taught at such a slow, deliberate pace. He found that moving slowly allowed him to find the weak spots in his technique. When applying the principles of slow movement to his running, he could notice when his arm would waiver, where his legs felt strained, when his posture was not in balance. Speed was a great camouflage for those weak spots, until he experienced running injuries. Then the game was up, the weakness revealed … but too late.
In T’ai Chi class everyone is taught to move slowly and mindfully. We’re always telling the story of how in the first three months of class we worked on just our posture. Our teacher would not allow us to learn more moves until we could feel that our posture was aligned. Maybe we were slow learners, but our T’ai Chi master knew the value of time and patience to build a good foundation. Learn more about gradual progress in Chapter 4 of the ChiWalking Book and Chapter 2 of the ChiRunning Book.
When we began moving into other exercises, the movement, again, was very slow and methodical. Our T’ai Chi master would tell us that if you could move your arms and legs correctly at this very slow, deliberate pace, adding speed was relatively easy.
When Danny applied this to his running, he ran long, long miles at a very slow pace, working constantly on his running technique. A 10 minute pace became his norm for a long time. He would still have some speedier runs, but his distance runs were s…l…o…w (for him). To train for races he picked up the pace again, but not without starting each run at that slow, careful, deliberate pace to check in with his body alignment and slowly loosen up tight places.
By the time he began teaching ChiRunning he could run with anyone … he could comfortably run a 14 minute pace and enjoy himself while helping his client learn to run correctly. Some days he was doing three to four runs a day, all various paces and distances. He was in great shape, as was his form. With good technique, he could do a lot of things that could have created injury or pain previously.
ChiWalking has taken this concept to another level. In ChiRunning, the way to increase one’s speed is to hold the cadence at a steady rate while allowing one’s stride to increase (learn more about cadence and the metronome on page 80 of the ChiRunning Book, and page 67 of the ChiWalking Book). The best way to increase one’s stride length is to allow the pelvis to rotate in the direction of the rearward swinging leg. For many who are practicing ChiRunning, how to correctly rotate the pelvis takes a lot of time. We have found, however, that when runners practice the same rotation in their walking, they learn it more quickly and can then easily incorporate it into their running.
The same is true for holding the pelvis level. This is a conscious act that we must return to again and again. Leveling the pelvis is a prerequisite for rotating the pelvis, but in our classes people seem to feel their posture and their pelvis better while walking versus trying to do it while running. We have found that practicing pelvic rotation at a walking pace allows your body more time to feel and learn the new movement. The slower movements also create a deeper core strength. See Lesson 2 of the ChiWalking DVD for a visual aid of the Lower Body Focuses.
Even if you are a runner, you still walk, and the lessons learned while walking will transfer into your running. You can be “practicing” your running form all day long … while walking to your car or while you’re pushing a grocery cart around or while moving around your home. Practicing your posture while standing is highly recommended, but practicing it through the slower movement of walking is where you will notice the smaller deeper places that need your attention and work.
There is nothing like running, we have to agree, but walking is our most natural mode of movement, and therein lie the lessons that will make your running a true joy.
— Katherine Dreyer
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