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No Pain, No Gain?

Perhaps a Different Style of Running is Just What the Doctor Ordered to Remain Injury Free

Not only is running a great way to improve cardiovascular health, burn calories and build strength, it has tremendous benefits for relieving stress and improving mental health. The high impact of running, however, puts a lot of stress on our bodies, causing injuries like shin splints, Plantar Fasciitis, and joint pain.

Certainly, that new $150 pair of high-tech running shoes will provide support and remove some stress, but often times, adjusting your technique can make the biggest difference when running.

Methods that some of our patients have had success with recently that seem to make a lot of sense to use are the Natural Running styles which simulates how you would run if you were in bare feet. The Pose Method and ChiRunning embrace these techniques that emphasize proper form for increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of injury. In short, Pose running stresses the importance of position and balance in achieving the ideal form, and the ChiRunning technique is based on improving posture, reducing the strain on muscles and focusing on the mental aspects of performing. Natural Running is a variable of these styles as well and stresses running where the heel strike is taken out of the equation.

Whether you’re a few weeks out from a marathon or are brand-new to the sport, ChiRunning can be a beneficial way to prevent injury and improve efficiency. Here are the five elements of ChiRunning:

  1. Run Tall: When you’re standing straight, your joints are in alignment and your skeleton is supporting your weight. When you run, you want to keep this alignment so your skeleton continues to be involved. By maintaining good posture, you lessen the amount of work your legs have to do and move more efficiently.

  2. Lean forward: One of the biggest forces we have to fight every day is gravity. Why not make it work for us instead of against us? By adding a slight forward lean when you run, your body falls forward and you use gravity to push forward instead of your legs. This lean also helps keep your body in alignment, with your foot landing under you. To do this, lean from your ankles, not your waist, and keep your spine straight. The lean is subtle; don’t lean so far forward you are out of control or actually falling.

  3. Land on the Midfoot: To keep your posture in alignment while you’re leaning forward and to help reduce injuries, land with a mid-foot strike when you run. You want your foot to land underneath or slightly behind you, in line with your hips and shoulders.This is in contrast to most runners who are heel strikers, which kills momentum with each step and is particularly hard on knees and shins

  4. Run from Your Core: While running, many people suffer from hip problems, often stemming from weak core muscles, which aren’t strong enough to keep the hips and pelvis aligned. To reduce injuries, it’s vital to keep your pelvis level by engaging your core muscles while you run.

  5. Relax, Relax, Relax: ChiRunning is derived from the basic principles of the ancient Chinese martial art of T’ai Chi, drawing heavily on the use of chi, one’s life force energy, to create power and movement in your body. Proper body alignment, combined with relaxation in your joints and muscles, allows chi to flow freely through your body, making movement powerful, yet effortless at the same time.

Similar to ChiRunning, Pose Running is another method that reduces injuries and stress on the body by maximizing efficiency and eliminating unnecessary movements. It teaches high cadence, which means shorter and quicker steps. So instead of long, reaching strides, pose runners focus on increasing their strides per minute.

The Pose Method of Running technique consists of three elements: Pose – Fall – Pull. It accepts gravity as the primary force for forward movement instead of muscular effort. This forward movement exerts the least amount of energy and effort, allowing for faster running times and less injuries.

The Running Pose is a whole body pose, which vertically aligns shoulders, hips and ankles with the support leg, while standing on the ball of the foot. This creates an S-like shape of the body. The runner then changes the pose from one leg to the other by falling forward and allowing gravity to do the work. The support foot is pulled from the ground to allow the body to fall forward, while the other foot drops down freely, in a change of support.

Natural running changes how you run by encouraging you to adopt a mid-foot style, rather than striking at the heel. It’s the most natural gait we have as runners, as it is what humans have instinctively done for millions of years. Additionally, natural running on the midfoot is a more efficient technique than forefoot or heel running styles.

Changing your running style might be hard at first, but just like riding a bike, it will become muscle memory with practice. You will likely notice more soreness in the lower calf during the time it takes to get used to the new style. For the average person, it takes one to three months for muscles to learn something new. During this time, you should devote at least one run a week to technique in order to thoroughly adopt these methods. Eliminate listening to music or talking to a friend while you run; instead, think about your body position and alignment and make adjustments throughout your run to stay relaxed and move efficiently.

For more information on ChiRunning, Natural Running, and the Pose Method, check out their websites:

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