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Chi Running: Use Your Mind to Run, Not Just Your Feet

Chi Running (or Mindful Running) is the latest trend to quietly hit the streets, literally.


WebMD got the basics of Chi Running from Danny Dreyer, an ultra-marathon runner and author of the book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running.

  1. Focus Your Mind: Your mind instructs your muscles to start working or relaxing. Your mind orchestrates the perfect run, starting out slowly, finding the perfect tempo, he adds. Your mind takes in the beauty of your surroundings so that you finish relaxed, and full of energy.

    When you begin running, your mind must also push against the body's natural inertia. "Your body is like a dumb animal," Dreyer tells WebMD. "It will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force like your mind. You have to train it."


  2. Sense Your Body: Pay close attention to what your body is doing. Practice listening to any little nuances that you can detect. Feel your foot hitting the ground. Feel your posture.

    Is your body moving in the way you intended it to? Is your movement easier or more difficult? Are there subtle changes you should make? As you begin running, you must develop body sense. Then you will become your own best teacher and coach, says Dreyer.

  3. There's 4 more basics, so read more

  4. Breathe to Tap Into Chi: The more efficiently your body can take in oxygen, the easier running will feel, Dreyer explains. If you're not breathing deeply into your lower lungs, you're not getting as much air as you could -- a common problem when people begin running.

    To belly-breathe, stand or sit and place your hands over your belly button. Now purse your lips as if you're trying to blow a candle out, and exhale, emptying your lungs by pulling in your belly button toward your spine. When you've blown out as much air as you can, relax your belly and the inhale will occur naturally. Practice breathing out for three steps, breathing in for two steps. Try matching your breath with your cadence.


  5. Relax Your Muscles: Tight muscles can't get the oxygen they need. The cure is easy: Just relax! Don't take yourself so seriously. Drop your shoulders. Smile. Relax your glutes. Float like a butterfly... lighten up, says Dreyer.

    When muscles are loose and relaxed, the oxygen carried in your blood can enter the muscle cells much more easily than if your muscles are tense. Keep telling your muscles, "Softer is better!"


  6. Practice Good Posture: Your aligned body has a centerline that runs from head to foot. It is the "steel" that supports your body, which allows your arms and legs to relax. Running with your posture out of alignment creates tension and fatigue.

    Stand in front of a mirror. Straighten your upper body. Then look down at your feet. If you can see your shoelaces, it's a good bet that your dots are connected in a straight line - perfect. Memorize how this feels. Practice it.


  7. Start Slow: When you begin to run, take it gradually, says Dreyer. "Practice your posture. Really memorize what it feels like to have good posture. Feel yourself standing in straight line. Practice alternating do on one foot, then switch. Shift weight back and forth. Feel yourself keeping posture line straight while on one foot a time."

    Then, it's time for a little jog. Connect with your posture. Feel your feet down at the bottom of your posture line. Start to jog slowly. When one foot hits the ground, feel it hitting at bottom of your posture line. Practice moving from one foot to the next, taking baby steps. Speed is not a factor here," Dreyer says. "That's the very last thing you should think about. You're working on form -- holding it little bit longer each time. Stretch that over a block, two blocks, three blocks. That's building distance, until you can hold your form over distance."

To read Dreyers book on Chi Running, buy it from Amazon.com for $11.21.

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