Women’s Bodies, Women’s Running

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Running Techniques Just for You

Since your body is different than a man’s, it’s good to know there are running tips and techniques that serve a woman’s body specifically. For instance, women happen to be ideally suited to run longer distances and a bit more challenged than men to run shorter distances at a very fast pace.

If your fitness goals include maintaining good overall health, managing your weight, reducing stress, or getting a personal best at an event, you can learn how to run in a way that is best suited for you and your body.

Women’s Hips, Pelvis and Core Strength – The Chi Perspective

In ChiRunning, we work towards creating a fluid stride, which must include two key components: strong core muscles and a pelvis with free-flowing rotation.

In all our materials, books and workshops we teach engaging your core in the correct way and how to allow your pelvis to rotate. I can’t go into every detail here, but suffice it to say women are generally better able to accomplish both of these aspects of the Chi technique more easily than a man.

However, women don’t generally or naturally have as much core strength as men. We women have less muscle mass and greater flexibility. The nature of the fact that we are physically designed to give birth means our hips are wider and more flexible.

Women’s Higher Injury Rates

According to many statistics women get more running injuries than men.  Some research shows this is in part due to the fact that women’s core muscles are not as inherently engaged as men’s. 

But the truth is, it’s easier to add in core strength than it is to add in flexibility. Men have a much more difficult time allowing their hips to rotate. This is not true of all men. Many men “get” pelvic rotation quickly.When Danny and I were in Costa Rica, we were impressed with the, relaxed, fluid movement of the men there. We noticed an undeniable, fluid pelvic rotation as they walked and worked.

But for most men we teach getting fluid pelvic rotation is a challenge.

Women however, both physically and emotionally, have much more ability to move their hips and pelvis. In ChiRunning this is a significant advantage since awareness and connection with the pelvic region is so helpful and important in gaining a smooth, fluid stride.  

Core Strength is Crucial

For women, once you work on engaging and strengthening your core muscles, pelvic rotation comes naturally and is a great support in learning to run fluidly, easily and with less potential for injury.

However, engaging and strengthening your core muscles is absolutely crucial to preventing injury and in getting your pelvis to rotate correctly. The pelvic rotation you want is not the side-to-side swish of the runway model. We call that the Mae West swish and it causes injury. When your hips move side-to-side (not rotating) you hyperextend your IT Band, which stretches it in an unhealthy way, causing pain and stress known as IT Band Syndrome.

With core engagement, your hips don’t swish side-to-side, but rotate front to back, a very healthy movement that prevents injury, is healthy for your back, creates a more relaxed stride and makes running easier.

The Upside of More Body Fat

Women have less muscle mass and more body fat than men. Fat is never a great word to associate with women, but when it comes to running longer distances, that extra fat gives women an advantage over men.  Fat is the most important fuel source for running longer than 30 minutes. Some studies show that women’s bodies might be better than men’s at burning fat and conserving glycogen.

Ann Trason was one of the lead ultra runners in the world when Danny was running most of his ultra races. Danny ran with her sometimes and we saw her all the time. She was winning these super long distance of 50, 62 or 100 miles, not just winning the women’s event, but winning the entire event, beating all the men too.

You don’t need to run ultra events to take advantage of the extra fat we naturally carry. After 30 minutes of running at an aerobic pace you will begin to burn more fat.

More body fat and less muscle mass does mean that women have a disadvantage in short fast races of less than a mile.

Women Heel Strike more than Men

Studies show that women heel strike more often than men. We don’t know why this is, but it is no longer news that a heel strike is a major cause of injury. ChiRunning has been explaining the danger of the heel strike since 1999, way before it was conventional wisdom.

We’ll help you transform your heel strike to a midfoot strike, landing directly under your center of mass, which creates a more grounded, softer landing than reaching in front of your body.

A midfoot strike helps eliminate shin splints, knee pain and many other injuries that plague women runners more often than men. Although, men are hardly immune to these injuries.

The Chi Skills – Listening to Your Body

ChiRunning has a set of skills that do not pertain directly to running, but to healthy movement in general: Body Sensing, Non-identification, Relaxing, Breathing, Focusing your Mind. These skills are crucial to learning to approach your running in a mindful, body-centered way, where you are sensitive to your body’s needs and are responsive in the moment.

This is where ChiRunning does the most to align with women in their running. Yes, there are physical differences that ChiRunning fully addresses, but what really matters is the mindful approach to running where we learn with open curiosity and practice compassion for ourselves and others.

We women have incredible potential to listen, respond, and appreciate our bodies for their feminine strength, fluid energy and overall magnificence.


Posted in Women

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