Thursday, July 9, 2009

‘No Pain, No Pain’: The ChiRunning Experience

‘No Pain, No Pain’:

The ChiRunning Experience

By: Amy Duquette

I have been running and racing consistently for the past five years. I’ve also had knee pain that ranged from dull and achy to throbbing, keeping me up through the night for the past five years. I’ve been to physical therapy to treat my condromalasia (the irregular movement of the kneecap as it wears away at the cartilage), ice the knees often, take ice baths after long races and wear knee braces for any distance over a 10K. “Running is killing my knees” has been my thought process, but it is too bad because I certainly love running and have no plans to stop.

For this reason, while looking over the Kripalu (yoga and health center in Lenox, MA) calendar of retreats to pick one for my summer vacation, the caption for ChiRunning grabbed my attention: “An approach to effortless, injury and pain-free running.” I was debating enrolling in Pleasure Boot Camp but I’m glad I picked ChiRunning. While driving up to The Berkshires I told myself that although I was certainly skeptical, just be open and take whatever works for me and leave all the rest. At least the YogaDance at noon and overall retreat vibe (hot tub, wholesome food, messages) would be worth it.

Four days later I completed the workshop. I feel that my running has had a rebirth. I can’t believe how different ChiRunning is from power running, what I and most of us do when we just go out there and run. In power running, we fight against the two forces that are coming at us; gravity and the road. Now I use them both in my favor, extending less energy and not feeling the pounding of the pavement in my tender knees with every step. It’s not running that hurts the body; it’s the WAY we run. It’s also a myth that overtraining causes injury, it’s the WAY we run that does. If power running is about “no pain, no gain”, then ChiRunning is “no pain, no pain.”

ChiRunning’s technique is taken from T’ai Chi, which opens and balances the body allowing energy to run through it and teaches that less is more. In ChiRunning, if you provide the optimal conditions in the body then running will just happen. Now, providing these conditions in your body takes constant concentration and a lot of practice. There is a specific way to carry your entire body, from your toes all the way up to the head. Everything is relaxed, especially your ankles, but in control. Your posture is balanced and you tilt the whole body forward. You land right in the middle of the foot, not on the toes which tenses up all the muscles. There is no knee lift, but you let your feet peel off the road lifting your ankles high behind you. This felt the most different to me. And so much better! I won’t go into the specifics of the posture because they are so detailed, but it is actually the most natural way to run.

I realized that the ChiRunning technique was all worth the concentration when I went on a trail run with the instructors after our third day. The run was 20 minutes uphill and about 10/15 to get back down. Hill work on this steep of an incline used to KILL my knees but after this run, focusing on my Chi form, I had no knee pain. Zero. I almost did not believe it myself.

I love running again, in a new way. I had been loosing motivation with my running, feeling very sluggish and unhappy with my runs. Now I can’t wait to get out there, off the treadmill, and feel the relaxation that comes to me through running with this new form. Not all will respond to it, but if you are interested you can get more information at

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