Ha, I am no Yoda, but I do have some wisdom of experience to share about how the running skies opened when I finally chose to focus on my form.
Over the past 30 + years of running, playing soccer, and countless races, I learned to train, run slow, fast, short, medium, and long distances, to hydrate, eat well, and get sleep (if you can) before races.
But I never thought about my form as a runner.
As a result, I ended up with a slew of injuries and extra gear; pain in my metatarsals (across toes), IT band pain, piriformis pain, rotator cuff pain, heel pain, shin splints, a ganglion cyst on my ankle, x-rays, the “boot,” and $350 orthotics, and many clunker stabilizing shoes.
It’s just the life of a runner!
With each visit, the doctor would say, “Don’t run for at least six weeks!”
Gasp. I just HAD to run, you know?
Alas! The running skies opened back in 2005.
That was the day I read a small article about running form in our local paper, The Charlotte Observer. The author suggested that we consider our body mechanics and alignment while running versus just the shoes. It made so much sense!
But who knew? My previous foot doctors had never analyzed my form, nor had I! Was the author saying it might be me, not the SHOE?
He suggested we poor injured runners reach out to ultra runners “Barefoot Ted” or Danny Dreyer for additional help. Dreyer had just published a book called “ChiRunning,” which combined good running form with physics and the ancient martial art of Tai Chi.
I was not ready to go barefoot then but decided that day as a trainer, and an injury-prone runner, to pursue ChiRunning with all my might.
When I did, my injuries went away almost overnight.
You can imagine how I became a RAVING fan! I decided to become an instructor and have been teaching this form and philosophy along with instructors worldwide since 2007.
ChiRunning decreases injury while enhancing energy efficiency, speed, mental clarity, and joy (because you are not injured and probably faster).
The key components of ChiRunning form:
Excellent posture. Alignment and relaxation of our shoulders, arms, and feet. An engaged core, a quicker, shorter mid-foot stride, and a very slight lean from the ankle (Why fall forward? Physics).
The cost? Free. You just have to be mindful. As we instructors like to say, focusing on your form with every step you take is a tiny price to pay if it will enable you to run injury-free or get back to running post-injury.
Are you currently injured?
Check your posture. Do you stand, work, walk and run hunched over or with poor posture? This creates stress in your neck, upper and lower back, hamstrings and knees. Pore posture also compromises your ability to inhale and exhale when exercising. Tip: Run and walk tall.
Look down at your feet. Do you splay your feet? That splay in your right or left foot may explain your ongoing knee, IT band, and hip pain on the same side. Tip: Align your feet hip-width and parallel.
Check your body alignment. To avoid extraneous movement and related injuries:
Get tall and align your feet hip-width and parallel.
Align your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles in a vertical column.
Check what this sweet posture looks like in a mirror.
Tight shoulders? Stressed? When running, do you ruminate about your job, the family, boyfriend, girlfriend, bills, competitors, and your to-do list? Tip: Let it go. Use runs to focus on just you – your form, nature, and breathing. You will become more focused and relaxed.
Consider your arms. Do you even use them when you run and walk? You should! Do your arms “sashay” or swing laterally as you run? Hello, IT band and hip pain! Maybe even rotator cuff pain. Tip: Align arms parallel and at a 90-degree angle on flats. Allow them to glide fully back as you run. It will make running and walking easier and more efficient.
Check your shoes. Are the heels of your shoes built up? Are they clunkers? Not everyone needs a minimal light shoe. But I learned that you, not the shoe, need to work harder to prevent injury. Tip: Try on a more lightweight neutral shoe.
Why? If you have a shoe with nosebleed heels or a high heel-to-toe drop, it will simply encourage heel striking and related pain (think shin splints, plantar and Achilles pain, fractures, runners knee, and back pain). Note that if you still prefer a cushion, several popular cushy rides on the market are relatively neutral.
Run to cadence. Our military figured this out. Our bodies and minds love rhythm. Tip: Run with a small metronome you can carry or strap on your shorts. Or, find songs you can listen to with a 175-180 bpm. Or run to your own waltz, right 2,3, left 2,3, and so on.
As you focus on your form and relaxing, whether running solo or with groups, you will run more efficiently, faster, and feel better running. Eventually, you will look or feel like you are gliding.
Use these free tips!
Your running life may truly change.
You may change!