When I signed up to do the 2008 ING New York City Marathon, I sprained my ankle about a month before the start of the race. So after my doctor confirmed the micro tear in my left ankle. I've worked from never breaking a sweat for the past 15 years to running up to 20 miles alone. I told him that there was no way that was going to bow out of this marathon. So I wasn't going to let some pain stop me from finishing. And so I hobbled across the finish line in over 6 hours and enjoyed every second of an experience of a lifetime. If I didn't cross that finish line, I would have never gotten a very special chance to run with my wife, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and a couple of friends to raise over $15,000 for Team for Kids and run together in the 2009 ING New York City Marathon.
After receiving my finisher's medal, I was hooked on being fit. However, I've been running with some kind of injury, ailment or ache in the limbs of the lower extremities. Do I suck it up or run with shin splints, knee pain, hip pain, and/or foot pain? I grew up in a family, where you don't give up. All I know is that running started to become unfun. Dealing with all these injuries made me want to avoid running.
So I was at my local gym, and one of the trainers, actually two of them both recommended a method of running called ChiRunning. They basically said that the program would teach you how to run injury free. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.
Earlier this year, I find myself with my wife, who also is dealing with similar injuries, sitting in a renovated manufacturing plant that has been converted into a artist colony, and towards the end of the building was a yoga studio. In attendance, was a small group with different backgrounds, shapes and sizes.
Danny Dreyer created ChiRunning during one of his Tai Chi classes. He noticed the inner focus and flow of Tai Chi and wanted to combine it with the power and energy of running. With ChiRunning you become more aware of your running so you can run more efficiently by running naturally with less pain. Danny is a renowned running/walking instructor with over 35 years of experience, and has run many Ultramarathons (26.2+ miles). Danny has written ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running in 2004 and ChiWalking: Five Mindful Steps to Lifelong Health and Energy 2006. He is also a sought after speaker, and has spoken at the Boston and Chicago Marathons.
ChiWalking was created from all the ChiRunners who walked to share ChiRunning for all the walkers in their lives. The basic principles are similar if not the same to ChiRunning.
Like most martial arts, it's about technique. By having the right alignment and balance, you can avoid injuries. For example, by having your shoulders lined up over your hips, over your knees, over your feet, you make sure that the forces you create from running are maximized into the ground, and minimized in other directions. It's the same principle of having all of the blocks lined up. If you start deviating just a little bit, you will notice the blocks will eventually collapse. Also, if you ever run or walk with something out of alignment, you tend to over compensate. This compensation results eventually an injury because you overuse that side of the limb.
Another technique is to use gravity to help you run. Gravity is everywhere, so why fight it. You can use it to help you run. When you lean enough into your stride, you end up having to move forward, so take advantage of the technique by continually falling. Most people, while trying to catch themselves from doing a faceplant, would put on the brakes by landing with their heel. If they practice enough they can then "catch" themselves and land in a way that would push off to the next step.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes. So I've been running since the summer with the ChiRunning method, and I have become very comfortable running like never before. I have been able to recover faster after long runs, and the pains that I usually have are no longer a hindrance. I've recently dropped 2 minutes off my pace, and I am looking forward to running more efficiently and faster as a result.